Recipes For Pies and Pastry

A pie is a dish of fruit, meat or other ingredients totally enclosed in pastry. In comparison, a tart only has a pastry base. Pies grew to importance in Europe during the middle ages as bread ovens became more generally available. They provided another means of getting carbohydrates from grains into the diet (pasta was only in its infancy and potatoes had not been discovered yet). As a result a pie provided an entire meal in one dish and pies could also be baked on one day and eaten over several days.

Pies could also be baked in individual portions which made them great as for workers who could take them with them into the fields. However, the history of pastry goes much further back, right to the beginning of agriculture, where a paste of flour with water was often used to spread over meats and fish before cooking in or near a fire. The pastry would harden and protect the meat which would steam within. However, this type of pastry crust would be broken and discarded an only the contents of the crust would be eaten.

Only later was butter added to the flour and water mix, which gave the pastry a lighter and crumblier texture and made it a protective covering that could be consumed along with the food cooked within.

The classic example of both a meat-based filling protected with pastry and a working man's lunch is the Cornish Pasty, the recipe for which is given below.

Cornish Pasty


For the Pastry:
270g plain flour
70g lard, cubed
50g butter, cubed
pinch of salt
enough water to bring the dough together (about 120ml)

For the filling:
450g chuck steak or skirt, cubed
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
half a large swede, peeled and diced
1 large onion, chopped
salt and black pepper
milk to glaze

Sift together the flour and salt into a bow then add the lard and butter and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the resultant mix comes to resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the water a little at a time until the flour comes together as a pliable but stiff dough. Tip onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Cover in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and refrigerate until needed.

Meanwhile, start preparing the filling: Combine the meat and vegetables in a bowl and season liberally with salt and black pepper. Turn the pastry onto a lightly-floured work surface and roll out to about 5mm hick on a floured work top (do not stretch the pastry) and cut into circles about 12cm in diameter. Place the meat and vegetable mixture in the centre of one of the rounds and fold the pastry over the filling. Press the edges together, folding the outer edges over and crimping with your fingers. Continue making the pasties until all the pastry and filling have been used up.

Make a slit in one side to allow steam to escape then carefully lift the pasties onto a greased baking tray and set in an oven pre-heated to 210°C. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the temperature to 170°C and continue baking for about 35 more minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the meat and vegetable mix has cooked through.

Below is a recipe for a classic British mince pie, small pastry cases filled with a rich mix of fruit and nuts that's traditionally served at Christmas:

Mince Pies

500g mincemeat (about)

For the Pastry:
235g plain flour
30g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
145g butter
½ tsp white wine vinegar
2-3 tsp water

To make the pastry, sift the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl. Add the butter and cut into the flour with a knife then rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs in consistency. Add the water a little at a time and mix in until the dough comes together as a stiff, crumbly, paste. Turn this out onto a lightly-floured board and knead quickly until smooth and crack-free. You can either use immediately or store refrigerated in a polythene bag (indeed, the pastry is easier to roll out if refrigerated for 30 minutes).

Roll the pastry on a lightly-floured board then cut out the bases of the pies with an 8cm cutter and the lids with a 6cm cutter. There should be sufficient pastry to make approx 24 pies. Fill pies two-thirds full with mincemeat and use a little milk to seal the lids onto the bases. Brush surface of each pie with milk and pierce the lids with a fork to allow steam to escape. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees C for about 20 minutes or until the pastry has turned a golden brown in colour. Remove the pie from the tin whilst still hot and cool on a wire rack.

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About The Author,
Dyfed Lloyd Evans runs the Celtnet Recipes food website where you can find hundreds of pie recipes for both sweet and savoury pies. You can also find recipes for tens if classic pastry types.