Raining snouts and trotters

It’s been raining today; raining rather a lot. It’s been absolutely buggering it down. So much so that the only thing to do seems to be to retreat to a warm kitchen, make pastry and listen to Nina Simone. This is why there are currently in my oven – and pleasing me rather a lot – a batch of Melton Mowbray style pork pies, and a bubbling boeuf en daube. It smells fantastic – there’s an aroma of crisp, piggy, hot water crust spreading through the house, with an undertone of reduced wine and olives. I love days like today.Of course, it could very nearly have been different. The previous attempt at raised pies was a cussing and wailing, dinner with a scowl at half past ten kind of fiasco in which nothing at all seemed to come together. Hot water crust is superficially very simple, and feels like a dream to work with. It’s warm under the hand, and responsive to shaping. At least it was until I tried to slip it off the jam jars I was using to mould the scotch pies. To try and make something main course sized, I’d shaped them around the bases of large oiled jars, wrapped in a ring of greaseproof, and secured with a band of string. They looked wonderfully rustic, and this was in concept at least, exactly the right thing to do.

The fuck up was in the detail. The pastry was too thin, the oil insufficient, and the resting time too short to result in anything other than total pastry collapse. Seriously. When finally wrestled them off the “moulds” the impression was less of rough, hearth and home, pastry casing, and more discarded prophylactic. It’s not a good look at dinner. This time however, I was ready for the little bastards – with time to spare and dinner taken care of. Small jam jars, thick pastry, refrigeration, and patience – huzzah.

Unfortunately, there weren’t pigs’ trotters or any other miscellaneous hoofage to hand, so I’ve had to cheat with the jelly. A batch of rich-ish pork stock made out of spare swine bits, and the end of the week’s organic box with a few sheets of gelatine ought to do the trick. And as a bonus, I’ve been so busy with pie-related tasks that I didn’t fuck with the daube, rendering it slow-cooked, sticky, and delicious.

This is how the pork malarkey goes down:

The filling is around a kilo of pig – mostly shoulder with a bag of bacon offcuts thrown in for good measure. You chop about half of it quite fine, almost mincing. The rest goes into a blender, which is pushing towards gross, even though you stop a way short of puree. The idea is to get it very fine, some of it a little mushy, so that the pork entire holds together. Mix the pork together with a small bunch of chopped fresh sage, seasoning, and some thyme and allspice. The recipe I was cribbing from is from Angela Bogianno’s book Pie, and recommends a dash of anchovy essence. I chopped in a few whole ones, and dicked about with the herbs. I also take issue with some of the timings, but it’s essentially sound.

You pack the amalgamated pig mix into rounds of pastry, shaped in this case around small jars, and structured with string and greaseproof, reserving pastry for the lids. The bit that isn’t a hot water crusterfuck really is that easy. Eggwash and bake, fill with jelly, and have a well deserved glass of wine you didn’t use in the daube. I’m thinking about minced lamb and a, adobo sauce style toasted/rehydrated ancho chilli spice paste for the next attempt.