Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pie voltage

Hello. Pop quiz, food lovers: pick the deliberate mistake in this paragraph:
While teriyaki chicken sushi and curried goat with feta pies had the 18 judges salivating, it was a delectable and delicate gingered peach and pear with Cointreau pie which really tantalised the judges' taste buds and took top honours in the 2012 Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards announced last night at the Rendezvous Hotel in Auckland.
That's right, ALL OF IT IS WRONG.

Setting aside the rancidly racist North Island bias of this alleged 'Supreme Pie Awards' which some bunch of industry frauds and idiots has perpetuated upon the fine, heroic and stoically vowel-free nation of Nw Zllnd - what the very merry fark is teriyaki chicken sushi doing in a pie?

This nonsense has to end. Molecular gastronovelty has committed enough crimes against humanity without the humble pie (heh, see what I did there) being dragged into this. There is no place for frou-frou flouncery like this in PIES. None. Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards, and all who sail in her: go and sit in the naughty corner until you can come up with a decent steak and kidney with a squirt of dead horse.*

*Rhyming slang. Not actual dead horse. Though these tossers would probably endorse such a 'NOW' fusion

Truth is, the pie is - or should be - honest, unpretentious fare. Done well - and by this we're necessarily excluding your Mrs Macs 3am-service-station-thermonuclear-pie-warmer-minced-lips-n-arses-efforts - the essence of a pie should be good, simple ingredients, prepared well.

And if you can't find one, do it yourself.

For this I'm employing the cold-climate-chef's best friend, the slow cooker. Mine gets a hammering year-round - it's a cheap, shabby old pile of crap, with cracks opening up in the crockpot like an Eighties WACA pitch, but it works. There is so much you can do (and do well) in a slow cooker, from lamb shanks to corned beef. In this case I propose using it to make the filling for a huge family pie. We regularly have the in-laws over for a big meal and a few bottles of wine on a Saturday night, so this is tonight's feast: beef, bacon and tomato pie, with a potato top. Because potato top pies are teh shizzle. Fact.

This particular recipe is themed (i.e. stolened) off an excellent beef, bacon and tomato pie which Dunedin's Who Ate All The Pies (shamefully shunned in the Supreme North Island Pie Awards) bust out with regularity. Generally, their stuff is excellent; occasionally they verge on the fringes of frou-frou, but even those efforts (eg their ostrich and black beer or their wild hare, sage and fennel) are usually bang-on. As usual for my MF posts I'm quasi-live-blogging this as a mostly untried recipe, and will update the interwombles with results at a later juncture.

  • Beef. I'm using 1.5kg of fairly ordinary stewing (or 'gravy') beef. Another advantage of the slow cooker which might not be immediately apparent is that it enables you to get the most out of fairly average cuts of meat - in fact the cheaper and tougher the better, as long as you leave it long enough. It'll all come apart beautifully.
  • Bacon. I keep a block of butchers' offcuts in the freezer, and just carve off a few chunks to add flavour. Call it 250g or thereabouts.
  • Mushrooms. 200g white buttons quartered roughly, because I had 'em
  • Couple of diced onions and a couple of cloves of garlic. Don't worry about mincing these too finely as the slow cooker will dematerialise them nicely. In general, bigger is better in the slow cooker game.
Brown all that in a pan (not too much, you want the beef to come apart in the slow cooker) and throw it in. Add about a cup of cheap cooking red wine (remember MF's cardinal rule never to cook with anything you wouldn't drink - if it tastes of arse in the glass, it'll taste of date on the plate), a can of tomatoes (any sort you like) and any herbs that take your fancy - a stalk of fresh rosemary would go alright. You can cheat a tad and use one of those slow cooker meal sachets to add a bit of punch, or simply add the same constituent ingredients individually. One thing to note with beef - it releases a lot of fluid when you slow-cook it so you don't need to add too much additional moisture.

Now the important bit: switch the slow cooker to LOW, and leave it alone. I mean it. Do not touch it. NO I SAID LEAVE IT THE FARK ALONE. CAN YOU NOT JUST STOP FIDDLING WITH IT. JESUS HANDSTANDING CHRIST.

Seriously, the one and only golden rule of slow cooking, as Naut pointed out to me years back: no matter what, don't open the lid. Even if the contents are desiccating, or on fire, or appearing to mutate into a sentient being. Easiest way to screw up a slow cooker meal is to keep opening the lid and fiddling about. If you desperately need to mix things up, pick the entire unit up and slosh it about with lid in place. You'll look like a toolbag but it'll redistribute the contents without your dinner losing a head of steam. Literally.

Low and slow, baby. Low and slow.

Nominally, eight hours is the usual figure you work to, but longer is better if you can jag it. If pressed for time you can do a few hours on high then back to low to finish, but it's not going to turn out as well. Should have just got your shit together earlier in the morning, you lazy git.

So that's the pie filling; for the pie, you can either do it as a pot pie or as a proper quote-unquote 'pie' with a lining of puff pastry. Your choice. (Haven't made mine yet, to be honest). Either way, grease up a big casserole dish, line with pastry (or don't), add filling, then layer sliced potatoes across the top. (Or leftover mash from last night if you have a crapload, for some reason) I'd sprinkle some grated parmesan over the top because that's how I roll, but you don't have to. It's not the law. You have free will. Own your future. Do what you want to do. Be what you want to be. Yeah.

Then bake the bugger until the taters are done, serve it up with something green (probably not gazpacho soup, unless you're into that fusion crap like the Bakels muppets) and a couple of bottles of red. Win.

That's the plan anyway... updates later. Pictures at 11.

******* SEAMLESS EDIT *******

Breaking: it was tops.

Dodgy slow cooker is dodgy

Went with the pastry base after all.

Finished arsetickle.

Pie requires pinot. Scientific FACT.

The Doctor is OUT.


  1. I love shin beef in the slow cooker and in a pie. Lamb shoulder is the other favourite. Mash on top is the bomb.

  2. Note to self: always ensure you've eaten before reading food blogs.

  3. Yep, shin beef, neck and tail all come up beautifully. Did a lamb leg in there the other night, just fell apart beautifully. Corned beef of course, and lamb shanks. Pork can get a bit dry if you do chops, but I'm keen to try pickled pork - much the same as corned beef in cooking style, but a different flavour.

  4. Today was interrupted by a dodgy pie at a freezing MCG, but I'll be straight up to e local Good Guys tomorrow morn for a slow cooker, Cue belt loosening.

  5. Bought a slow cooker. Making a straight up beef spew to wear it in.