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Paul Flynn: Three fabulous pies that are oozing with joy

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A proper pie is an oozing, sticky joy. I am inordinately fond of them. I even on occasion like bad ones. There was a moment in time, in my London days, when a late night stop off at the local 7-11 on the way home from a club on Oxford Street was compulsory. A flaccid Scotch egg and a tooth-shattering pastie were often cradled home. There were inescapable ramifications. My corpulent waddle eventually betrayed my late night secrets.

For those of you interested in how far into the stratosphere pie art can be taken, do an online search for The Pie Room in the Rosewood Hotel in London. You will be gobsmacked. There’s a book just out too, for those who lust after Calum Franklin’s creations. They are as wondrous as a Fabergé egg.

These empanadas are Neanderthal by comparison. They could be made from the leftovers of this very easy Bolognese recipe. Make sure the filling is reasonably dry so it doesn’t seep from the pastry. I’m baking mine in the oven as opposed to a deep-fat fryer.

Baking with filo pastry is easier than you might think. Keep it under a lightly dampened tea towel and you’ll be fine. This pie is golden, theatrical and has a very satisfying crunch. Cauliflower and curry are very happy companions. I was going to do a straight cauliflower cheese, that would be fab too, but I opted for a little gentle spice. Serve it in the centre of the table, it’s quite a showstopper.

The cock-a-leekie pie at Spitalfields pub restaurant in Dublin has become legendary in no time at all, and rightly so as it’s utterly fabulous. When I tested my recipe, I poached the chicken, intending to use the juices as the binding gravy. I wasn’t happy, the naked bird was underwhelming and bland. I missed the roasting juices and the unctuous skin. So I’ve done an about turn and am taking some of the work out of the pie by buying a cooked chicken. Choose the best one you can get, and keep the juices at the bottom of the bag, it’s liquid gold.

BOLOGNESE EMPANADAS, JALAPENO CRÈME FRAICHE

Serves four

Bolognese empanadas, jalapeno créme fraiche. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Bolognese empanadas, jalapeno créme fraiche. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

Ingredients

2tbsp sunflower oil

380g minced beef

2 cloves of garlic

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 chicken stock cube

1tsp smoked paprika

1tsp honey

1tbsp Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce

Salt and pepper

200mls tub of creme fraiche

10 jalapeño slices, finely chopped

1 packet puff pastry

1 egg, beaten with a little milk

A sprinkling of sesame seeds (optional)

Some coriander to serve

Method

1
Heat the oil until it is lightly smoking then carefully add the beef.

2 Let it colour for three to four minutes then add the garlic, tomatoes, stock cube and paprika.

3 Cook gently for 20 minutes, then add the honey and Worcestershire sauce.  Season and allow the mixture to cool down.

4 For the sauce, mix the creme fraiche and jalapeños together then chill it.

5 Unfurl the pastry and cut out 10 circles, re-roll the pastry to get a few more circles.

6 Put a small amount of bolognese in the centre of the pastry. Fold over, pleat or otherwise seal, and brush with eggwash. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top then chill the pies for at least 20 minutes.

7 When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 185 degrees Celsius then bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.

8 Serve hot with the chilled jalapeño cream with some fresh coriander on top.

CAULIFLOWER KORMA, RAISIN AND ALMOND PIE

Serves four

Cauliflower korma, filo, raisin and almond pie. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Cauliflower korma, filo, raisin and almond pie. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

3tbsp sunflower oil

3tbsp korma paste

50g ground almonds

2tbsp raisins

Pinch of caster sugar

1 tin of full fat coconut milk

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

Some melted butter

3 sheets of filo pastry

50g flaked almonds 

Method

1
Set the oven to 185 degrees Celsius.

2 Put the onion, garlic and ginger into a food processor and whizz to a paste.

3 Tip the paste into a saucepan with the oil and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.

4 Add the korma paste and cook for a further two minutes until aromatic.

5 Add the almonds, raisins, sugar, coconut milk and lime.

6 Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, to reduce the liquid by one-third and then set aside.

7 Boil the cauliflower till tender, drain thoroughly then add to the sauce making sure all the cauliflower is coated .

8 Take a medium-sized tart tin and brush lightly with melted butter.

9 Lay a sheet of filo pastry on a worktop and brush with butter then lay in the tin carefully pressing into the edges.

10 Repeat with two more sheets of filo, laying the pastry across each other at angles so it covers the whole tin, overlapping at the sides.

11 Fill the pie with the cauliflower then fold the pastry back over the top scrunching the edges together so it looks attractive.

12 Scatter the almonds over the top then bake till golden and crunchy.  

COCK-A-LEEKIE PIE

Serves four

Cock-a-leekie pie. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Cock-a-leekie pie. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

Ingredients

1 medium sized leek

80g butter

1 heaped tbsp flour

300mls chicken stock plus roasting juices

15 leaves of tarragon, chopped.

10 ready-to-eat prunes, halved.

A pinch of nutmeg (optional)

1 roast chicken, free range if possible  

Salt and pepper

1 packet of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry

1 egg, beaten with a little milk

Method

1
Set the oven to 185 degrees.

2 Trim the leek and cut in half lengthways. Rinse under cold water making sure there is no grit lurking anywhere. Chop into one-centimetre slices then melt the butter and sweat the leeks gently until they soften.

3 Add the flour and cook over a low heat for three minutes before adding the stock and the roasting juices, a little at a time, to get a smooth sauce.

4 Cook out for a couple of minutes then add the tarragon, prunes and nutmeg.

5 Take the meat and skin from the chicken, cut the meat into chunks and the skin into a fine hash. Fold through the leek sauce, then season with salt and pepper.

6 Put the chicken mix into a tart tin or shallow casserole.

7 Lay the pastry out in front of you. Cut three one-centimetre strips from the narrow side of the pastry. Brush the rim of the tin with egg then stick the strips to the sides. Brush the strips with more egg then cut out the lid and place it on top. Crimp the pastry together then decorate. I used a trellis style but feel free to be artistic.

8 Brush with eggwash and bake for 40 minutes until golden and crisp.

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