Are you watching The Great British Bake Off on DSTV? OK I appreciate that I have no idea what season I'm watching, or whether it's been and gone in the UK, but in Kenya, I'm loving the unlikely combination of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. They aren't an expected duo like say, garlic and thyme, or eggs and toast. They are really quite unexpected, which is perhaps part of the charm. Hollywood is a bit of a bull in a china shop, whereas Mary Berry looks like she once was a china doll. But last night, Hollywood inspired me to give PIE a TRY.
Being a master baker, Hollywood is good with his hands and makes pastry making look like a doddle. I've had several massive hissy fits over Christmas with mince pie pastry going wrong, and had decided that pastry and I simply aren't going to be friends. I'm just not made like my great friend Jemima, who is the world's best tart creator. I don't know if it's hot hands, or impatience perhaps, whatever it is, this time I decided to try (gasp!) packet pastry. My inspiration for the filling came from Nigel Slater, who came on after Berry & Hollywood had flounced off with a glass of red wine, and whose approach to cooking is incredibly simple.
What I liked most about Paul Hollywood's demonstration last night was that there was no need for using a complicated flan dish or anything like that. Just roll out the pastry, put in the filling, fold it over and bake. Simple! I had mushrooms in the fridge, but really you could go for anything with your pie filling, and it would be particularly good with leftovers (he made a turkey, cranberry and stuffing pie).
4 rashers of streaky bacon (omit if you are feeding vegetarians)
1 punnet of large mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
1 large, or 2 small, onions
A handful of fresh herbs - I used sage, thyme and parsley
Some white wine, or white wine vinegar
A knob of butter and splash of olive oil
A lug of Worcester Sauce
1 teaspoon of mustard (I used Dijon but any will do)
1 packet of (gasp!) Shortcrust Pastry
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and flour a baking tray.
Start by chopping your onion up, and adding it to a hot pan with melted butter. Put on a low heat, and allow your onion to cook really slowly. Meanwhile, chop the mushrooms in large chunks, crush your garlic, cut up the bacon rashers, and chop the herbs. By now, the onions should be beginning to caramelise. Don't let them burn, but do let them cook down until they are soft and sticky. Whack up the head and add a lug of white wine to deglaze the pan, and cook until most of the wine has evaporated off. Then throw in the bacon pieces and garlic. Allow these to cook for five minutes or so on a low heat. Add the mushroom chunks, along with the Worcester Sauce, mustard and herbs. Taste and season - salt will be required but not much because of the bacon content. Allow this delectable mixture to continue cooking, you will smell the incredible scent of the sage, thyme and parsley releasing through the mushroom.
As it cooks down, roll out your shortcrust pastry on a floury surface. Make it long and rectangular if you can, and not too thick. Place on the baking tray and heap your filing on one end, leaving about an inch between the filling and the edge. You'll need that space to seal up the pastry. Then moisten the inch space, and fold over the other end, pinching the edges together so that there aren't any gaps. Stick your knife into the top of the pie just a little to make three incisions where the air can escape as it cooks, and then glaze with beaten egg. Put in the oven for around 30 minutes or until golden brown and heavenly smelling.
For lunch, serve with a rocket, avocado and cucumber salad, with a minty dressing. In the evening, serve with peas and cauliflower cheese for a more substantial meal. YUM!