Tag Archives: baking

Porkie pies

This weekend I fulfilled my year-long plan to make my own pork pie from scratch.

I used Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe from River Cottage Meat. Well… sort of. I used his recipe for the pastry, but screwed around with the meat content quite a bit.

Over 2 kilos of meat plus herbs. Hmmm... meaty.

Over 2 kilos of meat plus herbs. Hmmm… meaty.

Hugh calls for 1kg of pork shoulder, 250g belly pork and 250g salt pork. Well, I didn’t have any belly or salt pork spare, but I did have a pig’s head that needed using up. So I followed the recipe for making brawn right up to the point just before you set it in jelly, then added that to some pork shoulder we had left in our freezer. Making the brawn was actually the longest part of the recipe, as it’s 24 hours soaking in brine and 4 hours simmering in stock. I ended up with about 900g of lean shoulder meat, 900g of fairly fatty head meat, and 250g of fat from the head.

To make up the meat mix, I finely chopped all of the above – the head meat pretty much as finely chopped as if I’d minced it, the shoulder cut into roughly 5mm cubes. (That sentence barely describes the work involved – that’s a *lot* of chopping.) Then mixed with herbs and spices and a little salt.

You probably can't tell how weird this pastry is from this picture, but trust me. It's weird.

You probably can’t tell how weird this pastry is from this picture, but trust me. It’s weird.

Making the pastry was pretty easy. A 50/50 mix of butter and lard is added to some water, and melted over a gentle heat, and then mixed with some beaten egg into plain flour. It’s a pretty weird process – there’s something kind of disgusting about melting lard and butter together, and it gets worse as you stir it into the flour, which looks like it is sort of curdling before your eyes. But if you press ahead and keep mixing, it comes together nicely. The dough is pretty strange though. Texture-wise, it’s light and springy like bread dough, and very moist, almost sweaty, in a way that normally would call for more flour to stop it sticking to your hands – but in this case, it doesn’t stick at all.

After all that faff, it was pretty plain sailing. After an hour in the fridge, the pastry is rolled out and used to line a tin, the meat is packed in and then a pastry lid put on the top. A couple of hours in the oven and it’s done – a crisp, crunchy pastry and savoury meat filling. Yum!

25mm miniature added for scale.

25mm miniature added for scale.

A few of things merit further comment. First, although I had about 50% more meat than the recipe called for, I ended up needing more than double the amount of pastry. I’m not sure if I was just generous in how much pastry I used for each pie, but I ran out on the first batch and had to do a second.

Second, the brawn substitution seemed to work fine. However, the filling’s structural integrity wasn’t all that good. The meat crumbled a bit when the pie was cut. I have no idea whether that is what would have happened with the basic recipe.

Finally, I followed the traditional advice, to pour pork stock in to fill the gap that was supposed to develop between the filling and the pastry lid as the meat shrunk during cooking. The idea is that it fills the gap and then sets as jelly. What actually happened was that I poured the stock in, until it seemed to have filled the gap (a lot of stock used), and left it in the fridge. When I cut the pie open I discovered there wasn’t any gap to fill – evidently the meat hadn’t shrunk at all – and the stock had apparently been absorbed by the pastry, making it look a bit soggy and uncooked. On the second batch I didn’t bother with the stock, for this reason.

One of the disadvantages of spending hours on end processing a lot of pork, especially meat from the head, is that I end up feeling a little over-porked, so to speak. I probably won’t feel like actually eating my pork pie for a while. Nevertheless, it feels like quite an accomplishment.

What is in the cake tin?

Recently we seem to have been buying a lot of cake – I’m not sure why. Probably because chasing after an excited crawling baby is a tiring business; it makes me (and Josh) want to eat cake.

As you know I’m in a constant internal battle on how much we use the mini-tesco over the road.  One day I’ll probably set myself a challenge or something and blog about it but today I’ve just resolved to make more cake so that we always have a cake tin of treats to be eaten rather than resorting to buying cakes.


Ready for the oven...

Ready for the oven…

This will be cheaper in the long run (I think, I’d better cost it up!) will involve less packaging, taste nicer and have things like free range eggs (i’m sure the average cake from Tesco’s don’t use free range eggs although I am pleased that Mr Kipling does) so should be all round greener.

Finding myself with some unexpected baby-free time I set to work making these Black Forest Chocolate Brownies from the Pink Whisk.

Let’s try costing it out:

200g Dark Chocolate (Bournville) – £2.00

140g Butter – £0.56

225g Caster Sugar £0.34

2sp Vanilla Extract £0.47

2 eggs and 1 egg yolk £0.48

85g Plain Flour £0.03

200g Frozen Berries £1.00

33g Dried Cherries £1.00

£5.88 for 900g of Black Forest Brownies

Buying a similar weight of average quality Sainsburys Brownies would cost £4.00 on their current offer.  So not cheaper but the difference in quality is huge – So I feel like I’m not comparing like with like here.  Any ideas for a better comparison?

Surely this is better than a Sainsbury brownie.

Surely this is better than a Sainsburys’ brownie.

I’ve made the Black Forest Brownies before with my homegrown blackcurrants and they are just perfection.  This time I used frozen fruit as the recipe suggests because we are long way off the blackcurrant harvest.  As usual I “adjusted” the recipe –  but only by adding a good handful of dried sour cherries to give it an extra black forest vibe.

If I take all the berries and cherries out of the recipe (because the Sainsburys brownies don’t have any in them) the price is £3.88 for 900g which is a bit cheaper than buying from Sainsburys and it is still a million times nicer!

So frugal does win the day after all – what a relief.


Chocolate Rye Muffins Changed my mind.

I am not normally a person who sees photos in a blog or a magazine and aspires to the lifestyle depicted… with one big exception: Green Kitchen Stories


I am not a vegetarian but I love these guys, I love their recipes (I got their cookery book before I read their blog), I love their style, I love the way they compose photographs and their food is delicious.


Recently I found this post on their blog: http://www.greenkitchenstories.com/double-chocolate-rye-muffins/  for salted chocolate muffins made entirely with wholemeal rye and wholemeal spelt.  Normally I hate cakes and other sweet doughs made with wholemeal.  They are just too heavy to hit the cake spot for me.  Almost certainly because I’ve been brought up on light airy white flour cakes my whole life.  But something about the way they described the combination of the dark rye and the dark chocolate really appealed to me.  Yesterday I broke with tradition and baked these sweet wholemeal muffins.  Well they were incredible, dark, rich not too sweet and the salt really set them off.  They would have been inferior if I had made them with white flour – and that is a revelation!

I’ve even been inspired to try a bit of photo shopping whilst I am at it – first attempt wasn’t great but then the light here is virtually non-existent for taking good starting photos. So one more step along the learning journey.