Great British Bake Off Star, Rowan Williams, has used Rhug Organic Bison to make this fantastic pie. Here he kindly shares the recipe and his cooking method…
The pasty has become so well known in its Cornish version that it comes as something of a surprise to learn that for many centuries more elaborate types graced the tables of Kings, Lords and Ladies as centrepieces to great Medieval and Tudor banquets and highly decorative designs appear in recipe books of the 17th and 18th centuries. The rhyme ‘Four and twenty blackbirds’ reflects this tradition and flavourings such as nutmeg and cinnamon are typical of our culinary heritage. This recipe is for a pasty in the historic sense, a decorative pie fit for a feast. However you could make it more simple as a homely winter supper dish or as small individual pies. It eats equally well hot or cold so is also ideal for a picnic.
To serve 8
500g plain flour 1kg Rhug Estate Bison
170g lard Half a bottle red wine
1 teaspoon salt 250g shallots
1 teaspoon dried thyme 250g button mushrooms
200ml water 4 fresh/dried bay leaves
3 eggs 8 juniper berries
200ml milk 500g carrots
1kg waxy potatoes
Large bunch fresh parsley
½ a Nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper
8” deep springform tin
As flavours ideally need time to develop to the full, if you can plan in advance it is worth starting preparatory work two days ahead of when you want to eat the pasty.
The first task is to cut your organic bison meat into chunks about the size of a walnut. Place these in a bowl with the mushrooms, juniper berries and bay leaves and cover with the red wine. Cover and leave in a cool place overnight or longer (up to 24 hours) to marinate. Refrigeration is not essential, a cool kitchen will suffice.
Transfer this mixture to a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and add the peeled shallots. Cover and simmer over a low heat for about 3 hours until the meat is just tender. At this point remove the lid and reduce the juices until only a couple of tablespoons remain in the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt tossing gently to season the meat evenly and keep in a cool place for a day or so (you could refrigerate at this stage, but again, not essential in a cool kitchen or scullery). This period of resting really allows the flavour to develop.
To make the pastry put water, salt and lard cut into chunks in a saucepan and heat until the lard melts, then bring to the boil. Meanwhile measure your flour into a large mixing bowl and add the dried thyme. Pour the boiling lard-water mixture over the flour and, using a wooden spoon or spatula mix thoroughly until no dry flour remains. Cover with cling film or a cloth and allow to cool.
Boil the potatoes (skins on) for 20 minutes or so until just tender. Do not over-boil! Drain, place on a cooling rack or baking tray to allow the steam to evaporate freely.
Wash your carrots, remove the tops and slice into thick rings (1.5 to 2 cm). Cover them with water in a saucepan and boil for 15 mins. Do not cover as you want the water to evaporate and so maintain as much flavour as possible. Once most of the water has gone, add the washed and roughly chopped leeks, cover and cook for 10 mins, then remove the lid, add a good knob of butter and continue to cook over a reduced heat until the water has evaporated. Stir and saute’ very lightly to remove as much moisture as possible.
You are now ready to assemble your pasty.
On a floured board or kitchen table, roll out two thirds of your pastry to a thickness of about 3 or 4mm making it big enough to line the sides as well as the bottom of whatever shaped tin or ‘hoop’ you have chosen to use for your pasty. My example is moulded in a very large copper hoop which is more than 30cm in diameter but I used double quantities and made a pasty to serve 16 persons.
Lightly butter your tin, then line it with your rolled pastry. Do not worry if it tears, simply repair by pressing small bits of pastry to cover any gaps. Use your hands to mould the pastry to what feels like a uniform thickness and cut off the excess NB. Hot water crust pastry is the MOST forgiving of pastries, you cannot make it tough by over handling and re-rolling, so you can enjoy moulding and shaping it.
Roll out the remaining third of the pastry dough to a similar thickness, shaping it to be a little larger than the top of your pasty. Cut a hole in the centre (this could be a fancy, decorative element if you wish. I find a small craft knife to be the most useful tool, but the fine point of a kitchen knife will do. You could also use a small, decorative pasty cutter or a metal piping nozzle to create a neat round hole.
If you are happy with the evenness and impermability of your pastry it is time for the filling.
Using your hands, rub off the skin from the cooled potatoes and cut into walnut sized chunks. Place the potatoes with the carrot-leek mix and add the meat and mushrooms plus juices but remove the bay leaves. Wash and chop the parsley and add. Grate half a nutmeg over the mixture and a teaspoon of salt, a good grinding of black pepper and half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Gently fold together with your hands being careful not to break up the meat in particular.
Transfer the filling to your prepared pastry case and press a little to ensure that there are no large holes in the filling and that the top is flat.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees c.
Now comes the exciting creative part…
Using a pastry brush, dampen the top edge of the pastry lining and place the lid on top. Trim the lid to the tin and seal the edges by crimping with your fingers and, if wished, marking with the tines of a dinner fork.
Roll out offcuts of pastry to 2mm thickness to create decorative elements. Here you can be really creative. I made a template from card to form a fleur de lys motif in reference to Lord Newborough’s family arms and you could think of something relevant to your own family or the occasion. Of course a wide variety of decorative pastry cutters are available commercially.
Use beaten egg to ‘glue’ your decorative elements to the lid of the pasty.
Bake for 1 hour in the upper part of the oven. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes until you see the pasty separating a little from the side of the tin. Very carefully run a sharp knife around the inside of the tin to ensure that the pastry is not stuck at all. Remove the springform ring. Check for any tears/holes in the pastry. Brush top and sides with beaten egg and repair any defects with left over pastry patches. The egg will act as glue.
Return to the oven for 10 minutes until the glaze turns golden.
Reduce the oven temperature to 160 degrees c.
In a jug beat 2 eggs with 200ml milk, season with a pinch of salt and pour into the pie through the hole in the top. Do this slowly and gently looking out for leaks. If your tin was well lined it should not leak, however, caution is advised. Do not despair if this is proving difficult. Pour in as much as you can without flooding your kitchen. This is a good addition but not essential. Give the crust a second coat Return to the oven for 20 mins or so until the egg mix has set.
Your pasty should be a deep golden brown by now.
As a winter supper or lunch dish this pasty sits well with green leaves such as cavolo nero or sprouting broccoli, or buttered cabbage. In summer it could be served cold with salad leaves. A little rowanberry or redcurrant jelly works well as an accompaniment as do grainy mustard or, when served hot, Cumberland sauce.
This recipe does not require precision, so feel confident to experiment a little and make it your own!
I hope you enjoy the fruits of your labour.