Thursday, 29 December 2011

'Porchetta style' Pork Pies

'Porchetta style' pork pie and spiced apple chutney

 "...It wasn't surprising therefore, that when casting around for ideas to pimp my pie, it was to the Italians and memories of one night with Elton that I turned..."
It's become something of a tradition for me to whip up a couple of pork pies for the post-festive period; you know that funny time between Christmas and New Year when you lose track of what day of the week it is and meals seem to consist of odd arrangements of leftover meats, cheese, mince pies and Toblerone (other festive chocolates are available).

To save you from this culinary ennui what you require is a good old-fashioned hand raised pork pie. Think of that golden brown, crisp, flaky pastry on the outside and the moist, intensely savoury pork on the inside. Much more exciting than a turkey and cranberry sandwich, and if you had the foresight to make my spiced apple chutney back in October, you'll have the making of the tastiest mouthful of the year.

The pork pie is unquestionably a key part of the British culinary canon, on a par with Eccles Cakes, Cornish Pasties, West Country Cheddar and the like. But, having gone down the traditional route for a few years in a row, I thought I would try something slightly off-piste this time around.

One of my favourite pork dishes is that Italian classic porchetta, where a boned shoulder of pork is stuffed with a mixture of sage, bay, onion, garlic and fennel seeds and then rolled and roasted. I first had this from a street vendor in Rome on my way back from a free Elton John concert outside the Colosseum. That’s another story*, but it goes to show how my priorities lie, when I say it was the pork and not Elton's rendition of Rocket Man that was the highlight of my evening.

Ever since, I've been a convert to the harmonious marriage of pork and fennel, which really is one made in heaven. It wasn't surprising therefore, that when casting around for ideas to pimp my pie, it was to the Italians and memories of one night with Elton that I turned.

The pie is made with a traditional hot water crust, whereby you combine melted lard and hot water and pour it over the dry ingredients to form a dough. I know that cooking with lard isn't that fashionable anymore, but there really is no substitute for it here, and in actual fact the pastry is very easy to make and to handle. So no excuses!

'Porchetta style' Pork Pies

Makes 4 medium sized pies

300g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
100g lard
125ml water

600g coarsely minced pork shoulder - you need a decent amount of fat to keep the meat moist, so if you think the pork is a bit lean, substitute in some streaky bacon
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10-15 sage leaves, finely chopped
3 bay leaves, finely chopped
small handful parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle and mortar
salt and pepper

1 egg, to glaze

  1. Start off by softening the onions and garlic in some butter and oil over a low heat. Gently though, as you don't want them to colour, just go translucent.
  2. Then add the fennel seeds, bay, sage and parsley and cook for a further 10 or so minutes over a low heat.
  3. Then combine this mixture with the minced pork, season with salt and pepper and give it all a good stir. Here, if you want to be particularly careful, you can fry a little bit of the filling to check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. If you don't bother to do this, make sure you’ve added a decent amount of salt, as you don't want the filling to be too bland.
  4. Leave the filling to one side and turn to the pastry. First of all put the lard and water in a saucepan and heat until the lard has melted and the mixture is at boiling point. Now combine this with the dry ingredients and stir until a dough forms.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead it briefly - until it comes together into a single, malleable, whole. Here you can leave it to cool slightly before assembling your pie, but I like to crack on pretty much straight away.
  6. Divide the dough into four. Now take one of these pieces and divide into two, so you that you have a large piece for the base and sides of one of the pies (approx. 3/4) and a smaller piece for the pie lid (approx 1/4).
  7. Roll out the larger portion of dough into a rough circle, about the thickness of a pound coin and place a quarter of the uncooked pork mixture into the middle.
  8. Now comes the slightly fiddly bit; wrap the rest of the dough around the sides of the meat, so that you end up with your meat almost completely swaddled in pastry, just missing the lid. With a bit of coaxing and folding, the pastry will stick to the side of the meat, so this isn’t too difficult, but might seem a bit trickier than it is. Trust me though!
  9. To make the lid, roll out the remaining quarter of pastry and put this on to the top of your pie, pressing it together with the sides to form your pie.
  10. You can give the edges a bit of a crimp and also trim them to look neater, but I don't spend too long doing this. I quite like the rustic look and it differentiates them from the shop bought pie.
  11. Now repeat this process with the other three pieces of dough, so that you have four noble looking pies ready for the oven.
  12. Place these on a baking tray, make a small hole in their top to allow the steam to escape and glaze with beaten egg. Put in an oven and bake at 150C for approximately one hour.
  13. Check them after 45-50 minutes by inserting a skewer or meat thermometer into the middle and checking the filling is piping hot. They might be ready, but I think they need a good hour in the oven to cook the filling thoroughly and get that nice crisp bite to the pastry.
  14. When they're ready, take them out and leave to cool slightly before tucking in. They will keep for a few days at least in the fridge, but are at their best on the day and still warm from the oven.
Fourteen steps might seem a lot, but this is a slimmed down version of the original Delia Smith recipe I first used to make my pies, which covered about three pages and took two days to do. Whereas my pies should be ready in two hours from start to finish if you’re a quick worker!
    Fresh from the oven...

    By the way, I’m well aware that purists might have objections to these pies for a couple of reasons: number one, the Italian influenced filling; number two, the lack of jelly in the pie. To be blunt, I’m not a big fan of the jelly and think the results you get don’t warrant the effort required to make a proper jellied stock. So no jelly, just delicious herby, fennel flavoured pork and a proper hot water crust pastry.

    *p.s. my other memory was getting a bollocking from the rotund mama, who sold me the porchetta, for getting the pronunciation wrong. Instead of saying it with a soft 'ch' as in church, you have to use a hard 'k' sound, as in 'porketta'. Same thing applies with bruschetta. My Italian must have been bloody awful that trip, as I also had a waiter bring me a can of fanta after I thought I had asked for vino della casa...

      No comments:

      Post a Comment