To celebrate British Pie Week, which runs until Sunday [March 12], Eileen Leahy speaks to a local producer of this much-loved classic food. Annabelle Padfield of Renhurst Farm, Mark Cross, tells us why they are such a popular part of her business – and why pies remain one of Britain’s favourite foods
WHETHER it’s hearty steak and ale, rustic ham hock or a delicately spiced apple and cinnamon offering, you can’t go far without spotting a pie in Britain – whether it’s on a menu or a market stall.
So, given our penchant for pies, it won’t come as a surprise to discover they even have their own week of celebration (this year from March 6-12), which puts a foodie focus on all things pie related – including everything from promoting new fillings to artisan producers.
According to British Pie Week’s organisers, pastry experts Jus-Rol, recent research has revealed that 75 per cent of people enjoy a pie at least once a month, and that 79 per cent would be willing to pay more for a homemade one.
Annabelle Padfield, of Renhurst Farm, who are based in Mark Cross and supply many local farmers’ and specialist markets, confirms the popularity of pies. “We’ve been making them for the last 15 years,” she says.
Her family’s business, which is now run by the fourth generation of Padfields, farm native breeds of Sussex and Aberdeen Angus cattle as well as Suffolk and Romney sheep. Annabelle says they came up with the idea of making pies as a way of using up the less popular cuts and to ‘add value to the meat’.
“The most popular of our pies are the steak and ale and chicken varieties,” Annabelle confirms. And the most unusual? “Our lamb and apricot or poacher’s pie,” she says, explaining that this is a combination of rabbit and venison. “In total, we do 21 different types, including three fruit ones.
“All the meat is produced from our farm apart from the pheasants we use, which come from a neighbouring one. Most pies are sold by ourselves in our farm shop here at Renhurst, and we attend many local farmers’ markets, including Tunbridge Wells and Shipbourne.”
All Renhurst’s cattle and lambs are grass fed, so the quality of the meat – and therefore the pie – is excellent.
So how about having a go at making your own in order to mark British Pie Week? Remember, you can use shortcrust, filo or puff pastry and include pretty much any filling that takes your fancy. Why not try the following recipes to get you started?
Apple and cranberry pork pie
What you need:
For the pastry
300g/2 1/3 cups gluten-free plain/all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons gluten-free Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
140g/good ½ cup lard
For the filling
200g smoked bacon lardons 1 cup thick-sliced back bacon cut into cubes
300g/10 ½ oz minced/ground pork
200g/7 oz fresh pork belly, rind trimmed and very finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons apple sauce
Sea salt and ground black pepper
For the topping
250g/2 cups fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
An 18-cm/7-inch round loose-based deep cake pan, greased
What you do:
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.
For the pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the mustard and salt.
Heat the lard in a saucepan with 130ml/½ cup water and bring to boil, then carefully pour into the flour and beat in with a wooden spoon.
Leave to cool for a few minutes, then, while the pastry is still warm, press it into the base and sides of the cake pan evenly so the pastry comes to the top of the sides. Press the edge into a fluted pattern with your fingertips.
For the filling, in a bowl, mix together the bacon, minced/ground pork and pork belly with the allspice and apple sauce.
Season well with salt and pepper and spoon the mixture into the pastry case, pressing in tightly with the back of a spoon until the pastry case is full to just below the rim of the pastry (you may not need all of the meat).
Cover the top of the meat with non-stick baking paper and press down firmly. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 150°C (300°F) Gas 2 and bake for a further 2 hours until the juices from the meat run clear, then leave to cool.
For the topping, simmer the cranberries in 100ml/scant ½ cup of water seasoned with salt and pepper until the cranberries are just soft and their skins start to split.
Strain the water from the cranberries, leave them to cool slightly, then spoon them on top of the pie.
Heat the redcurrant jelly in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water until the jelly has melted and is of a pourable consistency. Spoon over the cranberries and leave to cool.
The pie will store in a refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Steak and ale pie
From start to serve: 5 hours | Preparation: 30 minutes | Bake: 3 hours
What you need:
800g/1 lb 14 oz casserole/chuck steak, in chunks
3 tablespoons plain/all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons white pepper
2-3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 large celery stalks/ribs, chopped
A 330ml/12 oz bottle of
1 tablespoon tomato purée/paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
400g/1 2/3 cups gluten-free beef stock
1 batch homemade Hot Water Pastry, refrigerated
1 egg, beaten
4 x 500ml/17 oz pie dishes
What you do:
To make the casserole filling, toss the steak pieces with the flour, salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large lidded casserole dish or frying pan/skillet and fry the meat for a few minutes until browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onion and garlic with a little more oil to the pan and sauté until the onion is soft. Stir in the remaining vegetables and cook for a few minutes longer, then lift out of the pan and set aside with the meat.
Deglaze the pan with a large glug of ale, scraping up any crusty bits from the bottom and stirring into the liquid. Add the remaining ale and bring to a simmer. Stir in the tomato purée and balsamic vinegar, then return the meat and vegetables to the pan. Pour over the stock and give everything a stir. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours.
Remove the lid, stir the casserole and simmer for a further 30 minutes, uncovered, before removing from the heat and setting aside to cool for 1-2 hours. When the filling has cooled down and you’re ready to bake the pies, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
Take the pastry from the fridge. Divide into 8 pieces and roll each piece into a ball with your hands. Put all but one piece back into the fridge.
Lay a piece of clingfilm/plastic wrap on to the work surface. Put the pastry piece in the middle and lay a second piece of clingfilm/plastic wrap over the top.
Roll out the pastry to an oval or circle larger than the pie dishes, to a thickness of 2-3 mm/ 1/8 inch. Remove the top layer of clingfilm/plastic wrap and, using the layer underneath to help you, lift and turn over the pastry into the pie dish to line it. Press gently into the corners – try not to break it.
Remove the clingfilm/plastic wrap, set aside and repeat.
Fill each lined dish with the cooled filling.
Take the remaining pastry from the fridge and repeat the rolling-out process to create 4 lids. Press the lid on to the overhanging pastry lining the dishes and then trim the excess with a sharp knife. Cut a small vent in the top of each pie dish and then brush the tops with the beaten egg.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and the filling is piping hot. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Apple and cranberry pork pie recipe courtesy of The Complete Gluten-Free Baker by Hannah Miles, photography by William Reavell. Steak pie recipe from This is Gluten-Free by Victoria Hall, photography by Adrian Lawrence.
Both books © Ryland Peters & Small and Times readers can purchase them for the special price of £11.99, including P&P (rrp£16.99), by phoning Macmillan Direct on 01256 302 699 and quoting the references HT9 and KA3 respectively.