I love to make hand raised pies – I think hot water crust pastry is the most maleable, responsive and fun pastry type of all. I describe it to others as adult PlayDough! Actually it’s a similar reason as to why I love playing with (umm, making) pasta too. Pressing pasta dough through my machine reminds me of the PlayDough barbers I had as an infant, where you squeezed the dough through little holes in the heads of the little figures to make hair. I digress…
Homemade pies bear no resemblance to a typical shop or supermarket bought pie. Although if you’re used to buying an artisan pie hand made by a true food craftsperson you’ll already know the chasm of difference there is between the two, even if you’ve not yet made one yourself. You (yes I can see you, no hiding) can make a pie just as delicious as any that’s been hand crafted by a local farm, family butcher or artisan pie specialist.
I can’t lie and say it’s totally easy-peasy, but it’s nowhere near as difficult as you might think. After only one or two baking sessions you’ll get the knack for handling this lovely pastry and start making beautiful and delicious pies at home with ease. Honest. Well, that’s what happened to me anyway and I’ve no reason to think that you won’t be the same!
My first tentative attempt at a raised pie (many years ago now, I grant you – I think I had a go while I was a student) was a bit ‘rustic’-looking, but no worse for that as it was still delicious. The next one was much improved in looks and then there was no holding me back. Pies became straight(er), pretty cylindrical, free from bursting and often covered in extra fancy pastry decorations and even started to hold fillings of all different types. If I can do this I’ve no doubt others can.
Be warned though – this is not a recipe that uses a tin. I’m explaining here how I make my hand raised pies. I suppose you could create this by baking it in a tin, but that’s a cop out and there’s nowt so satisfying as presenting a pie that you know has only had your hands to shape it. Plus, those specialist pie tins are a ridiculous amount of money and this is proof you don’t need to spend on them.
For your first attempt at a hand raised pie (or subsequent ones if you’re a bit scaredy, which is totally fine!) you can give the pie a helping hand by giving it a tied baking paper collar to help it keep its shape. I don’t think this is necessary for small or medium-sized pies (up to about 15cm/6″) once you’re used to making them, but if I bake a large pie I will still wrap that with a collar – just for double insurance purposes, you understand.
Notes about hot water crust and veggie and fat content alternatives
Although this is a total meat lover’s pie, please don’t think hand raised pies are only for carnivores. You can make the pastry with Cookeen or Trex instead of the lard and butter mix, making it vegetarian/vegan and then use a veggie filling. I’ve had great results with pies filled with a variety of mushrooms such as a Stilton, rocket and walnut filling and pies with layers of multi coloured veggies doused in spices and dried fruits.
It’s understandable (even for carnivores) to be a little squeamish about the use of animal fats like lard. So even if you have a meat filling, using Trex or Cookeen within the pastry can be an alternative to lard. I only rarely have lard (or dripping) in my fridge and am more likely to have a pack of Trex and I’m all for using what’s to hand or what needs using up rather than another shopping trip. (I often have Trex in my fridge as it’s great when making white icing to keep it ultra-white).
If you’re not of the squeamish persuasion, you might like to swap beef dripping for the lard – especially nice with a beef or venison filling.
Notes on this particular recipe and how I researched it
This is a slight variation on a typical layered pork sausage meat pie I make (that one uses Cumberland sausages and layered apricots with garam masala). This particular pie was created to bake along with a Tudor theme on a Great British Bake Off episode. I know this is a one-off bake (I normally only post recipes I’ve created two or three times to ensure they work), but because it is so similar to my normal pie that I’ve made dozens and dozens of times (the pastry is the same recipe, just the filling differs) I am confident the recipe will work for you.
I have tried to more-or-less stick to Tudor era spices, with a pinch of salt (see what I did there!?).
As I don’t have to make this fully authentic I did want an edible, tasty pie, not one that was historic for historic accuracy’s sake. So I have used a lot of pepper, a bit of mace and some chillies. Chillies were brought back from the ‘Americas’ during the Tudor period. Incidentally, although Europeans didn’t really take them up at the time, it was during the early 1500s that the Portuguese took the plants to their colonies in Asia (such as Goa) and chillies entered the local cuisine there much, much earlier (for info: please read Lizzie Collingham’s Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors). They clearly were less suspicious of new ingredients and more adventurous than us Europeans of the time.
I am taking a large amount of liberty with the chillies. Although chillies may have been around, and may well have been presented and cooked for the European elite as a novelty in Tudor times, they would most definitely not have made their way onto ordinary dinner tables. So a turnip-picker or scullery maid as I would have been would not have even known they existed. That said, chillies were transported in this period, so I’m including them – this would be a fairly dull taste for modern palates otherwise. I’m no Dr Ruth Goodman (whose programmes I adore) so I’m happy to sacrifice full accuracy for something that’s tasty and edible.
Something I do for my pie fillings to ensure I have the spicing right is I fry off a teaspoon of the meat (or veggie) mix in a saucepan before I make the pie. This way you can adjust the salt, pepper or other spices to taste, rather than just rely on guess work.
If you have a wooden pie dolly (a smaller one – about 10cm in diameter) then please use that. However, I don’t have one and I use instead a medium sized glass pickle jar covered in greased cling film – you don’t have to spend on an expensive pie dolly if you don’t want to. If you do want the ‘proper’ kit as you think you may make more, this is the kind of wood pie dolly I’m referring to from the online Kitchen Cookshop (I will eventually get myself one when I feel flush, but I don’t believe it’s actually much better than my alternative glass jar technique, just pretty sitting on my shelf and always a joy to use a wooden utensil).
I haven’t included any jelly to add to the pie after cooling. There are several reasons for this: firstly, the sausagemeat will naturally give up some of it’s fates and liquids during baking to the pastry and there is a little jelly-like result at the end. Secondly, I like a good pie but I don’t much like the jelly (I always remove it when I’m eating one with jelly). Thirdly and finally, as this is a single pie recipe not one for a batch of pies it does not need to be stored for a long time (jelly was partially used as a preserver so that the meat inside the pie didn’t go off so quickly).
- Bowls – two large, one smaller
- Sharp knife, possibly two small diameter circular cutters (but not totally necessary)
- Wooden spoon
- Rolling pin
- Frying pan
- Cup/small bowl
- Medium-sized glass jar, such a a jar of pickled onions
- Cling film
Ingredients – hot water crust
- Plain flour – 400g
- Lard – 125g
- Butter, unsalted – 125g
- Water – 150ml
- Eggs, medium – 2
- Salt – a large pinch
- Black pepper, freshly crushed – several turns of a spice mill or about 1 teaspoon
- A little extra lard or butter for greasing
Ingredients – filling
- Wild boar sausages (if you can’t find these a top quality pork sausage, preferably from a proper butcher will do) – 400g/6 sausages
- Small strong eating apple, such as a Cox, Egremont Russet or James Grieve
- Nutmeg* – freshly grated, about 1 1/4 teaspoons
- Chillies* – a ‘plainer’ not too hot variety (to keep vaguely contemporary) such as Cayenne – about 3
- Shallots – 1 banana shallot or two smaller round shallots
- Fat for frying: a knob of butter and a dash of oil (to stop it charring)
* all seasoning to taste: add in to the meat mixture and fry off a small amount to tastes. Adjust as necessary
Method – pastry
- Put the flour and salt in a large bowl
- Pour the water into a saucepan and add the lard and butter and set over a medium heat
- While the water and fats are heating, crack one of the eggs into the flour
- Crack the second egg into a cup or small bowl and whisk lightly with a fork – you are doing this because you need one and a half eggs in pastry and it’s easier to divide a whisked egg in half
- Tip half of the whisked egg into the flour as well, and set aside the remaining half an egg, as you’ll use this for the pastry wash later
- Mix the flour and egg together with a knife
- When the fats have melted, tip the contents of the saucepan onto the flour mixture
- Don’t use your hands straightaway as it will be hot – use your knife to start to bring the pastry together
- Once you’ve got as far as you can with your knife, it’s probably OK now to use your hands
- Bring together the pastry and pick up all stray bits of flour from the bowl with it
- Put the pastry in the fridge or somewhere cool while you ready your filling
Method – filling
- Finely slice and dice the shallots
- Gently fry the shallots in the butter and oil over a low heat and let them simmer and go transparent
- While the shallots are frying, core your apple and halve it. Slice each half thinly and place the apple in a small bowl filled with water and a couple of drops of lemon juice or white wine vinegar, to stop the apple discolouring
- Take the sausagemeat out of its casings and place the meat in the large bowl. Discard the casings
- De-seed one chilli and chop very finely – taste the chilli: is it a hot one? If so, you’ll need fewer chillies for this recipe as it should only have a light heat (you may like things spicy but it’s a recipe that is mimicking the Tudor tastes). If it is fairly mild, then chop them all
- Add a large pinch of salt, pepper from at least six turns of your black pepper mill, the freshly ground nutmeg and the diced chillies
- Take the shallots off the heat and tip them onto the sausagemeat too
- Mix the lot together with your hands – this is gooey but it’s the best way
- Take a teaspoonful amount of sausagemeat and fry off until browned and cooked through. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, chilli (though remember it shouldn’t be too hot) and nutmeg to your taste, mix again if you have added more
- Leave the sausagemeat to one side while you start to prepare the pie case
Method – construction
- Retrieve your pastry- it will have hardened as the fats cooled and solidified.
- You need to work it a little with your hands – kneading lightly a couple of times to bring it up in temperature and become just pliable enough
- Rip off about a third of the pastry and put to one side. This will be your lid and decoration
- Take your glass jar and encase it in a layer of cling film
- Grease or oil your palms and then rub over the cling-filmed jar to cover it all over but not heavily
- Roll the large lump into a disc and flatten the centre area a little – place the glass jar in the middle
- Using the whole length of your fingers (not just the finger tips – this will create little dents) start to press the pastry up the sides of the jar (see my illustration below)
- Keep going back to the base and press the pastry from it up the sides – the base shouldn’t be left as a thick lump
- You’re aiming for the pastry to be about 4mm thick all over
- Keep pressing and squeezing gently, moving the pastry up the jar
- Try to even the top edge out as much as you can, but don’t stress about it as you will trim it. What I mean by this is try to keep it level all the way round – you are effectively making a pastry bowl
- When you’ve got the pastry up the jar and it’s the right thickness, take a knife and trim the top edge using the shortest point as a guide
- Ease the jar out of the pastry – if it’s still sticky use a knife to tease the pastry away ever so slightly. You can reshape the pastry a little by hand after the jar is removed
- Take the sausagemeat and halve it. Shape the first half roughly to match the inside size of the pastry pie case – and gently drop it in (I’ve seen videos where they’ve thrown the filling in at speed. I can only imagine this will damage the bottom, distort the case and also run the risk of flattening the whole thing completely if you don’t get it dead centre)
- Take the apple slices out of the water and dry them in a clean tea towel
- Layer the apple on top of the sausagemeat in the pie case
- Shape the final amount of sausagemeat and put in on top of the apple slices
- Now roll out the pastry you put aside for the lid to 4mm thickness
- Roughly cut the lid into a circle the same size as the pie case
- Wet the edge of the pie case and place the lid on top
- Pinch together the edges so they seal and using the index finger from one hand and your thumb and index finger of the other, push the pastry ‘in and out’ to create a wave effect all around the top
- Put your oven on to 180C fan / 200C conventional
- With the extra you pastry you have left, you can cut out some decorations. Make some simple leaves, be elaborate and make a Bacchanalian scene with vines and grapes or attempt this relatively simple Tudor rose which only needs a small round cutter and a knife:
|I’ve made this pastry Tudor rose on a tabletop so you can see its construction more easily – I suggest you actually make it one the pie lid, so you can size it better and place it centrally.
|1. Cut out five pastry circles, using a cutter about 2cm wide. Curl over the outside edge of each ‘petal’ by pushing with your finger. If you don’t have a small cutter, take a small ball of dough and press flat with your fingers to create a leaf.
||2. Cut five arrow-head shaped pieces of pastry for your leaves.
|3. Wet your fingertip and just dampen the bottom of the leaves. Tuck each behind the petal shapes, behind the gaps. (It’s easier to place the leaves behind after the petals, even though they are the first layer)
||4. Cut five more petals – this time a little smaller than before and arrange them on top of the petal layer (dampen them first so they stick). Again, place these leaves covering the gaps in between the petals)
|5. Cut five more circles, this time using a slightly smaller cutter (or press out five rounds of dough with your fingers as before). Trim off a little bit at an angle on both sides of each circle so you have a keystone-shape)
||6. Dampen the back of the smaller petals and lay them in place – so they cover the gaps between the petals and in line with the previous larger petals.
| 7. You’ve now got a nice Tudor rose
- Now you need to create a hole in the top. Using the small cutter (or if you don’t have one an apple corer is ideal) make a hole through the centre of the Tudor rose and the pie lid – down to the sausagemeat inside
- Retrieve the half an egg you put aside earlier and using a pastry brush wash the pie with the egg
- Place the pie gently on a baking tray (at this point you can wrap a folded-over layer of greaseproof paper and tie in place with butcher’s twine if you’re nervy – although if you’re doing this I’d recommend that you don’t egg wash the sides of the pie)
- Bake for 30 minutes at 180C fan / 200C conventional, then turn own the oven to 160C fan / 180C conventional for a further 20 – 25 minutes
- The pastry will be crisp and darkly golden when done
- Serve warm or leave until chilled
- Should last a couple of days covered in the fridge