Monday, 30 November 2009

Pie Weather

Rain. There has been so much of it. Every morning I draw the blinds back to find the balcony deluged. My shoes are leaking, my hair is frizzing and the wind? Well the wind only serves to make me look (even more) like a banshee. It has been a trying few weeks. The only consolation in this is that the weather makes me thinks of hearty food. As the rain rolls down the windows and the wind howls around this corner of South East London, thoughts turn to curries, stews and pie.

I spotted ham hocks and immediately snapped them up. They were such great big meaty beasts they needed to be simmered in separate saucepans. Having been cooked for a few hours with some classic flavourings, the flabby skin was discarded and pink hunks of meat carved off the bone. Paired with some greenery in a lightly creamy sauce, the home-made rough puff pastry topped it and added some extra richness. I was surprised by how easy the pastry was to make; I've heard from several people that life is too short to make puff pastry. While it didn't have as many layers as shop-bought, it had enough to be light, flaky and buttery.

This isn't a recipe you can knock up after work - there aren't many ingredients but it requires advance planning. What you are rewarded with is pure comfort to dive into. I found it didn't need any potatoes; just a side of steamed greens to ease the conscience.

Ham, Leek & Pea Pie

Serves 4

2 ham hocks
5 sticks of celery
4 carrots
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
1 leek
300gr peas
100ml milk
100gr butter
100gr plain flour

For the pastry

250gr unsalted butter at room temperature
125gr plain flour
125gr white bread flour
A pinch of salt
Cold water
1 egg

Soak the ham hocks in cold water overnight, changing the water if possible. This is to prevent the meat from being overly salty. Place the hocks in a pan of water and bring to the boil to remove impurities. Once it does so, discard the water and place in another pan of water, bringing to the boil. Add the onion, carrot and 4 sticks of celery, roughly chopped. Simmer for 3 hours.

Remove the hocks, reserving the liquid and leave to cool. Slice off the skin and hack the meat off the bone, discarding any big lumps of fat and gristle. Slice the remaining celery and leek finely and fry in a pan in a little oil. Add the clove of garlic, chopped finely, and the leaves of the thyme stripped off the stalk. Fry until softened. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the flour to make a roux. Add the milk bit by bit, whisking any lumps out as you go. When all the milk is added, take off the heat and set to one side.

Strain the liquid the ham hocks were simmering in. Add 800mls of this (depending on how big your pie dish is) to the pan with the vegetables in and slowly whisk in the milky roux. Bring to the simmer and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes until it thickens up nicely. Lastly, add 3/4's of the meat in along with the peas (they'll cook in the residual heat) and take off the heat. Taste, season with salt and pepper if needed, and then spoon it into your pie dish to cool.

To make the pastry, I modified this recipe, whacked it on my pie, glazed it with egg and baked it at 180 degrees for 40 minutes. It fed 3 of us until we felt sick; I think I even ate it cold (pastry and all) out of the fridge the next day.

The stock made from simmering the hocks makes a great soup - it does jellify but that's a good thing. I added red lentils and pearl barley and with the last quarter of ham in it and some wilted spinach, it made a really delicious dinner.

I am all hammed out... for now.


Patrick Carpenter said...

Nice to read someone making their own pastry, especially (rough) puff.

Martin said...

Dribble. I want this. Now. For breakfast. The breakfast pie is underrated.

Dan said...

Good Work! - the contents of that pie look amazing.

Fabhat said...

Looks great - I love pies in this weather. I'm afraid I cheat with my pastry usually - and if you are going to cheat then Sainsbury's taste the difference all butter pastry is definitely the best (but still not as good as homemade)

Anonymous said...

Yum, this just made me so hungry! It's true also, the weather in London at the moment is making this comfort food all the more necessary. Liver and bacon with mash is probably the ideal one for me, so that's on the menu for lunch on this horrible wet day.
I'll be on the hunt for ham hocks later in the week!

The Ample Cook said...

Excellent. Your pastry looks very very good. Well done you for not just shoving shortcrust on.

Love the combination of the ham and the peas. Ham hocks are just the business. Pie AND soup, you can't beat it can you?

eatmynels said...

Buff!! Good work on the Puff!

Graphic Foodie said...

Yeah the pies kinda makes this crap wather worth while! Good to know there are other people who love cold pie out of the fride too :)

S said...

Lizzie, I dont eat pork, but your photos make it look very, very tempting. shall pass this on to a friend who is a ham-nut.

ps the rain is making my already flat hair even more flat.

guinness said...

I love pie, as you know, and this looks up there.

catty said...

LizZEHH, you had me at the first photo. LOOK. AT. THAT. CRUST.


Christie @ Fig & Cherry said...

Fabulous! Definitely want to give your easy puff pastry a go. Bookmarked for Winter (that starts in June in Oz!)

Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

Great mouthwatering photos, particularly the one of the crust! Well done, and I agree, it's perfect for cold rainy weather...

Greedy Diva said...

I am impressed by anyone who makes her own pastry. Love ham hocks, love pie - sounds lovely!

An American in London said...

Having just cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 13, I have turkey leftovers that are going in a pie tonight after work. You're right that having pie on a weekday requires advance planning (with my pastry crust having been whipped up yesterday and now keeping cool in the fridge).

In any case, I agree that this sort of (crap) weather brings to mind savory pies with crisp buttery crusts.

Wild Boar said...

Do you watch True Blood? I just saw an episode last night that involved a bleeding pie... but as soon as I get over that I'm going to badger the wife to try this out.

Ollie said...

God, look at the colours! I second Patrick - home-made rough puff all the way.

Hollow Legs said...

Patrick - thanks. well worth the effort.

Martin - Excellent idea. I imagine a pork pie would work fr breakfast...

Dan - thanks! Very meaty.

Fabhat - I usually cheat myself but if you've got a bit of time, this works well. I've tried Sainsburys all butter, and really liked it too.

Perlooshed - Mash is one of my favourite wintry foods.

Ample Cook - thanks! I'm not a huge fan of shortcrust myself.

Eatmynels - thanks :)

Graphic Foodie - there's not a lot I won't eat straight from the fridge...

Shayma - The rain wreaks havoc with my hair! I imagine this would also work well with leftover roast chicken - it would also be a lot quicker to cook.

Guinness - high praise indeed!

Catteh - it was a great crust. Almost over-shadowed the innards...

Christie - I can never get my head around winter in June!

Helen - thanks! Proper rib-sticking stuff.

Greddy Diva - thanks. Ham hocks are so cheap too.

AAIL - A leftover turkey pie would be great.

Wild Boar - I am True Blood's biggest fan (blush). I didn't even think about that pie... until now...

Ollie - It drew some wows from my fellow diners.

Anne said...

Totally agree its pie weather and this looks perfect for it, I keep seeing about ham hocks, must nag the butcher next time I'm passing!

ginandcrumpets said...

Mmmmm, pie. That looks like a good, dribbly pie and exactly what I want when the rain is throwing itself at the windows.

Helen said...

A thing of beauty. That is all.

Kitchen Butterfly said...

If only for the crust.....