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And with their hearty rich fillings, they can also be a one pot dinner too! A variety of pastries can be used to make pies: shortcrust, puff or even filo. I normally use shortcrust pastry for more robust fillings, like beef or lamb, to encase the thick gravy, and I usually blind bake the pastry first to prevent the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’. I do this by lining my pastry with parchment paper or clingfilm, which I then fill with rice, dried beans or ceramic baking beans, pop it into the oven until baked, then remove to add the filling.
For the budget conscious, pies are a brilliant way of using up cheaper cuts of meat, such as stewing steak and skirt. These tend to be the ones with more flavour and they melt in the mouth when cooked slowly. I cut the meat into quite large chunks, otherwise it can disintegrate and get lost in the sauce and it’s a good idea to let the filling cool completely before you put on a pastry lid, otherwise it may go soggy and tear - definitely not the desired look!
To make the perfect savoury pie you really can’t rush it. Ideally, cook your casserole filling the day before, which ensures your meat is lovely and tender, and lets the flavour develop. You can also make your pastry the day before you prepare your pie too. And don’t forget to let it rest in the fridge before rolling it out, and again let it rest in the fridge before baking, which prevents shrinkage, when the pastry falls halfway down the pie dish!
Puff pastry is generally more suited to chicken and fish dishes...
...though I have used it in my steak and mushroom pie recipe. A few of my favourite puff pastry recipes include my creamy chicken and black pudding pie and my salmon and spinach pie, with their rich fillings encased in a light and airy exterior. If you’re using shop bought puff pastry to make a savoury pie, add some herbs or a pinch of spice to the pastry for a more homemade feel.
My hake coulibiac is a posh fish pie, perfect for dinner parties as it can be prepared at least a day in advance, once of course the hake filling is cooled before placing in the pastry. For a more everyday recipe, try my fisherman’s pie, which is a lovely creamy fish base covered with a potato topping.
Filo pastry, normally more suited to desserts because it’s so delicate, can also be used to make savoury pies and I’ve used it in my beef Bourguignon pie.
So as long as there’s pies you’ll never be stuck for dinner ideas, and the variety of fillings you can use make them a very versatile dish indeed to have in your repertoire.