I love autumn. The first evening snuggling up in front of a roaring fire, the wood still hissing with damp. The trees slowly turning, the tips of their leaves tinged with amber. The earthy smells of rotting leaves, woodsmoke and misty air. The return to substantial, comforting food, rather than flighty summer salads.
This pie epitomises the kind of food that I look forward to as the summer draws to a close. The kind of food I crave on a cold night, that provides solace and reassurance. There’s something about a rich, meaty filling topped with buttery pastry that sometimes just hits the spot, when nothing else will do.
This pastry recipe is a Delia (bless her) revelation. The butter is frozen, then grated into the flour, making a very quick flaky pastry that dispenses with all of the folding, rolling and resting that making puff pastry requires. The result is a pleasing mid-point between shortcrust and puff pastry.
I love the combination of lamb and chestnut mushrooms, and I added rosemary to the pastry as well as the filling. The red wine gives the filling an intensity and depth of flavour. I don’t usually drink red wine, as it seems to give me the mother of all hangovers, but I felt it was necessary to have a glass (which magically kept refilling itself) to accompany this meal.
Serves 6 hungry people
I used a rectangular pie dish measuring 30 by 60cm, but any dish that is at least 5cm deep will do.
For the pastry (adapted from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course):
450g plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
300ml of cold water
1 beaten egg, to glaze
For the filling:
800g diced lamb
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
600ml mushroom stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
250ml red wine
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp olive oil
First make the pastry. Place the butter, still in its wrapper, into the freezer for half an hour. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Dip the butter into the flour, then grate into the flour. Gently coat the butter strands in flour and add the rosemary. Add water until the mixture comes together into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refridgerate while you make the filling (or longer if you have time).
Trim any excess fat from the chunks of lamb. Heat the olive oil in the pan. Brown the meat in the pan, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Fry the onions in the same pan, until translucent. Add the carrots, mushrooms, garlic and half of the rosemary, and fry until the mushrooms start to shrink. Add meat, then sprinkle over the flour and cook for a minute. Add the Worcestershire sauce and tomato puree, then mushroom stock and wine. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring now and again.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Transfer the filling to the pie dish. Roll out the pastry to about half a centimetre thick and place it on top of the pie filling. Trim off the excess, crimp the edges, and brush over the beaten egg. Bake for 40 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.