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Scrumptious British pork pies
Ever since moving to the UK over 9 years ago, I have been a big fan of meat pies. Traditional to British cuisine, the pork pie is extremely versatile and always delicious.
My twist on this traditional pie is a unique pastry and juicy filling. British pork pie is typically served with some good ol’ gravy on the side. However, I like to have mine inside the pie. More juicy deliciousness completely elevates the pie filling, making it really special and easier to eat on the go.
I always encourage experimenting in the kitchen, and these pies are a result of me trying to create a perfect 2-bite snack that’s really juicy inside. The apples and caramelised leeks help keep the filling soft, whilst adding a wonderful sweet taste.
What's hot water crust pastry?
Hot water crust is a traditional British pastry used for all types of hand-raised meat pies. This type of pastry is ideal for fillings that are more juicy, as it keeps the liquid in very well. Hot water crust is also ideal when the contents can be quite heavy (like meat), as it holds its shape very well after cooling.
To make the pastry is made by melting fat (lard or butter) in water over medium fire, then mixing the flour into it and ‘cooking’ it for a few seconds while mixing. The technique is relatively similar to choux pastry, although the pastry does not create pockets of air inside, like a choux does.
Making the British pork pie crust
The first thing we need to do is make our hot water crust, as described above: melting the fat into the water over medium fire. I also like to add coriander directly into the pastry, as it gives a wonderful fragrance.
After ‘cooking’ it on the stove, the pastry needs to be kneaded properly until it becomes smooth in texture. Cover with cling film to prevent it drying out until you’re ready to assemble the pies.
I've got a filling that this pie's gonna be a good pie
Now we are finally ready to assemble the British pork pie. Firstly, chop the leek, onion and apple and set them to seer in olive oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Next, chop the lean pork steak into small cubes, then place over the vegetables and cook. Add condiments and spices, then add the water the chicken stock cube and cook for 5-10 minutes stirring continuously to prevent sticking.
Although we want the filling to be nice and juicy, we need to thicken up the gravy without drying out the meat by cooking for too long. To do this, put a small amount of water (30ml or so) in a bowl, then add in 1 tsp of cornstarch. Mix until you get a runny paste, then add it to the pork, mixing continuously to incorporate well. The mixture should feel like runny jelly; if it’s still too runny, repeat the cornstarch step, but do not add in cornstarch without dissolving it in water first – this will make your filling lumpy. If the pork pie filling is too thick, add more water and cook for 1 minute.
Take the filling off the heat and set aside whilst we prepare the pastry.
Let's assemble the mini pork pies
We start off by dividing the pastry into two parts, one 2/3 and the other 1/3. This will for the bottom and top pastry pieces.
Take the larger piece of pastry, and roll it put onto a floured surface using a rolling pin. We are aiming for around 3-4mm thickness. Use a 10cm scone or cookie cutter to cut out 12 circles for the base of the pie. Re-roll the scraps and cut-out more circles if needed.
Grease a 12-slot muffin tin with butter or lard, then put each circle in its slot, pushing gently with your fingers to put the pastry in place. The pastry should come up to the brim. We can now start filling the British pork pie.
Scoop about 2 tbsp of filling into each little pastry and use the spoon to smooth out the top. The filling should come just up to the top of the pastry, but not go over it.
Putting it all together
To make the top part of the pie, roll out the remaining smaller pastry to the same thickness as the base. Use a corrugated cookie cutter the same size as the muffin slot to cut out 12 circles.
Place each circle over the top of the filling, pressing gently with your fingers on the side to seal the pies. Make a small hole at the top of the pie using a sharp knife to release the steam inside during baking. Brush the top with some egg wash using a pastry brush.
In a pre-heated oven at 200C (or 180C with fan) bake the mini pies for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Check on the pies after 20 minutes to make sure they don’t brown too much, as temperatures can vary on different ovens. Check every 5 minutes afterwards if you don’t fully trust your oven!
Once baked, let the British pork pie cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack and let them cool for a further 30 minutes. The pastry will still be quite fragile until it cools down.
These pies are great served either hot or cold and can be stored for up to 2 days in the fridge or frozen and consumed within 1 month. If freezing them, place them frozen into the hot oven (180C) and bake for 10 minutes.
Pie crust 300g plain flour 40g lard 40g butter 160-170ml water 1 handful coriander leaves 1/2 tsp salt Pie filling 300g lean pork steak 1 leek 1 apple 1/2 onion 2 tsp olive oil 1 cube chicken stock 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 1/2 tsp onion powder 1/2 tsp paprika or pul biber 1 handful coriander leaves 100ml water 1 tsp cornstarch Extra: egg for washing
To make the pie crust:
- In a saucepan, heat up the water, butter, lard and salt over medium fire. Add finely chopped coriander leaves and mix.
- Once the water starts to bubble, add the flour and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough doesn’t stick to the saucepan anymore.
- Flour your work surface and knead the dough until it becomes smooth. Cover with cling film and set aside.
For the pie filling:
- Finely chop the leek, onion and apple. Heat up some olive oil in a deep pan, then set the vegetables and apple to seer.
- Chop the pork steak into small cubes and add over the vegetables. Add your condiments and mix well.
- Pour your water over the mixture and add the chicken stock cube. Mix well to melt the stock.
- Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, mixing to prevent sticking.
- In a separate bowl add a splash of water and mix in the cornstarch to make a paste. Add cornstarch mixture over the meat and mix continuously until the liquid hardens up. It should still be nice and smooth, not clumpy. Add more water to get a semi-runny consistency.
Assembling the pie:
- Divide your dough in half – one larger piece (2/3) and a slightly smaller one (1/3).
- Gently flour your work surface, the roll out the larger dough using a rolling pin. We are aiming for a 3mm (1/8 inch) thickness, to have a lovely thin pastry.
- Use a round scone or cookie cutter (around 10cm in diameter) to cut out 12 circles. Re-roll any spare pastry to make more circles if you’re short of 12.
- Grease a 12 slot cupcake/muffin tin, then place each circle in a slot, pressing gently with your fingers to fit it into place.
- Add the pie filling in the middle, almost up to the brim, but not higher than your pastry.
- Roll out the smaller remaining piece of dough with a corrugated edge cookie cutter, the same size as your tin slots.
- Place each circle over the pie filling, pressing on the sides to seal the pie edges.
- Make a small hole at the top of the pie to allow steam to escape.
- Brush each mini pie with egg wash for a lovely shiny finish.
- Bake at 200C (or 180C fan) for 40 minutes or until golden brown in colour.
- Let the pies cool in the tray for 20 minutes.
- Transfer them onto a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes before digging in. Enjoy!
Baking time: ovens differ in temperature, so please keep an eye on your pies to make sure they don’t burn. I recommend checking after 20 minutes then every 5 minutes. This recipe works well with almost any filling, and if pork isn’t your cup of tea, you can definitely replace it with chicken or beef. If you don’t have pork steaks, mince meat works well too. The larger chunks of pork give the pie a much better texture though. Lard can be substituted for butter. The leek can be replaced with bell peppers, spring onion or even jalapeños. Apples can be replaced with apricots (especially if you replace pork with chicken).