12 September 2015

Herby lamb and pea pie

I love this pie.  Now I know I sound like I love every recipe I make - which I do - but I just love this pie a little bit more.

I've had my issues with pies over the years and yes, granted, this one is just a top-only pie and not a top-and-bottom version so that's easier.  However, it hasn't always been the pastry that has been a problem, but the filling too.

Mostly, to be honest, it has been the gravy or sauce where I've failed.

However, in the Game Pie and with this lovely example here, I got the gravy right.  None of the "gravy like water", where it has been diluted in the cooking.  Equally, none of the "gravy like glue".  No, just a perfectly thick, covering, tasty, unctuous pie gravy that means every forkful will be as delicious as the last and with no resorting to gravy granules.

So I'm pleased.

The pie itself had been simmering on a low heat in my head for a couple of weeks, while I worked out what "interesting" departure from a usual lamb pie I would use.

Mint and Rosemary - home grown, don'cha know!
I was convinced that it would be the juniper berries that I bought for the game pie, right up until - with a stroke of inspiration - I remembered the pomegranate molasses.  Even when I was cooking the filling, I had the juniper berries sat there beside the pomegranate molasses, as I really wasn't sure which one to choose.  Ultimately, I had a little taste of the way the sauce was going, then a little taste of some of the molasses on a teaspoon.  The combination of the two was just so good, I didn't consider the juniper any further.

Lamb often needs something a little bit sweetly acidic to complement its own earthy sweetness and this is why redcurrant jelly does the job so well.  So, if you don't want to invest in a bottle of pomegranate molasses just for this pie (although why not try it drizzled lightly over strawberries and Greek yoghurt - it's otherworldly), add a teaspoon or more of redcurrant jelly instead.  The difference the pomegranate made to the sauce was just incredible, bring it alive in a subtle but definite kind of a way.

Another departure from the norm, is cooking the lamb in pale ale.  So often, you will find lamb cooked in wine - usually red, but I wanted to use something different.  I also wanted to keep to a "country kitchen" kind of a theme, which ale suited so much better than wine.  My plans for the pie didn't suit a very strong, hoppy kind of ale, but a lighter, milder flavour - so a pale ale was fine and the English Pale Ale (from Marstons brewery) that I chose was perfect for the cause.  If you're in a place where Pale Ale doesn't come easily, choose as light a beer as you can find without venturing into lager territory.

Now one other very important thing regarding this pie is that it takes a fair old while from beginning to end, if you want to do it properly.  So it's definitely something that you don't want to attempt when you've only got a couple of hours to spare.

Having said that, however, you can devoted two days to it and cook the filling the day before, so stretching out the effort and making it a little easier to cope with.  Plus, it means you'll be ahead of the game on the day.

Now, as for Cook's Tips, as ever I have a few for you :

Ordinary frozen peas will do if you don't have petit pois.  Nobody's going to quibble over the size of a pea.

You might be surprised that I don't recommend dusting the meat with seasoned flour, rather than adding the flour later.  Well, what I'm avoiding is the burned flour on the base of your pan.  Maybe it's just me, but it so often happens that way - and I didn't want any acrid burned flavours in my softly flavoured lamb.

Now, when you add the ale/flour mixture, if lumps do form (and it often happens), don't panic over it - just break them down into pieces that are as small as possible with the whisk and think no more of it, as they will finally dissolve during the baking.

Even if you've never made pastry before, do give this pastry a go.  It really is so easy to make!  There's no fiddling about with it, no kneading, very little mixing and so long as you add the water in one go to begin with (the 50ml), mix it lightly, add a little more, mix it lightly (just two or three passes of the knife) and keep the water to as little as possible - just enough to keep it together, you can't go wrong.  It really is SO good and suits this pie perfectly.

My last advice to you is to read the recipe a couple of times before you embark upon the bake.  It is always good to have a good idea of what you're doing, before you do it!

I do so hope you enjoy the process of making this pie and that the end result is as successful for you, as mine was.  I shall be crossing my fingers for you!  (Which makes it very difficult to type, but I'll persevere - as it's you). 


Ingredients :

1 tbsp olive oil
450g diced lamb or lamb neck fillet, diced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, diced finely
2 leeks, halved and sliced
500ml pale ale (I used Marston's English Pale Ale)
200ml water
1 heaped tsp tomato puree
1 lamb stock cube (low salt, preferably)
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp petit pois.

For the pastry :

150g plain flour
50g Atora vegetable suet
50g salted butter
a pinch of sea salt
50 ml cold water as a minimum.

Method :

In a deep frying pan, heat the olive oil until smoking hot.  Gently add the lamb and spread it out into one layer.  Season with a light pinch of salt and a good pinch of black pepper.  Leave it to cook, only moving it once the pan side has begun to caramelise, then turn it.  Leave until the lamb has browned, then remove the meat to a bowl using a slotted spoon to retain the oils in the pan.

Add the onion, garlic and carrot to the pan and fry until the onion is transparent.  Do not allow it to caramelise or burn.

Add the leeks and reduce the heat slightly.  Return the lamb to the pan and stir through.  Fry the leeks until softened, then decant the pan contents into a casserole dish. 

Add all but 150ml of the pale ale to the pan and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to moderate and add the water, tomato puree, lamb stock cube, rosemary, mint, parsley and pomegranate molasses.  Stir through and allow to simmer whilst you mix the remaining ale with the plain flour.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the ale/flour mix.  Whisk through as you are adding, to prevent lumps forming.   Place back onto the heat and stir well as the gravy thickens.

Pour the gravy into the casserole dish and stir through.  Cover the casserole and place into a pre-heated oven at 170degC/325degF/gas3 for 90 minutes.

Once the time is up, remove the casserole from the oven and set aside to cool.

(It is at this stage, if you are making the pie in two instalments, that it would be possible to refrigerate the filling until the following day.  Just remember to bring the filling back up to room temperature before you bake the pie).

Make the pastry for the pie, by placing the plain flour, vegetable suet, salted butter and sea salt into a large bowl.  Rub the butter into the mixture until you have a cross between breadcrumbs and cornflake shapes.

Make sure to stir the pastry with a knife and under no circumstances knead the pastry dough.  Add just enough water to bring the pastry together - just stir a few times with your knife, then pat and push the remainder of the flour into the ball.  Wrap the ball in cling film and leave in a fridge to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Once the meat filling is cool, add the petit pois and decant into the pie dish.

Paint the edge of the pie dish with egg yolk.

Roll out the pastry until it is just slightly larger than the pie dish, then lay it on top of the dish, making sure it meets the edge all the way around.

Press down lightly on the edge, to seal the pastry.  Trim off any excess.

Cut several holes in the centre of the pastry to let out any steam (otherwise the pastry will detach in places) and egg wash with the remainder of the egg yolk.

Place into a pre-heated oven at 180degF/350degC/gas4 for 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden and crisp.

Serve with roasted parsnips, Savoy cabbage and baby corn - or vegetables of your choice.

Printable version


  1. What is Atora vegetable suet - can I use North American Crisco? And what volume is your pie dish? Thanks!

    1. The short answer is yes, you can use Crisco - but you will need to freeze it and grate it (or shred it) and mix it into the pastry quickly before it defrosts, in order to achieve the right consistency. Atora is the trade name for the suet product - they make a vegetable version and the true beef version. Suet is the fat that primarily gathers around the cow's kidneys and it is usually obtained shredded. Real hardcore cooks have been known to obtain the raw fat and do it themselves, but I don't fancy it much personally. LOL As for what volume the pie dish is, my hubby has just measured it - especially for you, lol - and it came in at one and a half litres.


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