Picnic Pie

This is a fabulous little recipe that comes from bakingmad.com (don’t worry – I’ve got permission to reproduce it!) – check out their site for more great ideas, including some lovely Valentine’s Day recipes. In this pie, rich sausage meat and streaky bacon is combined with the delicious sweetness of baked apple, and crisp golden pastry tops the whole thing off. It’s marvellous hot or cold, and although I thought it was scrumptious with salad and fried potatoes, you could also make it part of a picnic spread, perhaps with some homemade coleslaw. One final thing – try not to be put off by the idea of making your own pastry. It’s one of those things that sounds much scarier and more complicated than it is! All you need to remember is that you should handle it as little as possible, to keep it nice and cold, so that the butter doesn’t melt.

225g plain white flour
A pinch of salt
195g salted butter
125ml water
A splash of lemon juice
1 onion
250g streaky bacon
1 Bramley apple
675g sausage meat
9 sage leaves
1 tbsp mustard
1 egg

Serves 8 – although since there are only two of us in my house, I did halve the quantities, which gave us enough for dinner and lunch the next day.

First of all you need to make the pastry – start this a good few hours in advance, since the pastry needs to rest in the fridge for a little while. Weigh out the butter and chop into small cubes, then pop it in a large bowl with the flour and salt. Mix the water with the lemon juice and pour into the bowl, then use a round-tipped knife (a table knife will probably be fine) to ‘chop’ through the mixture until it’s roughly combined – remember that this isn’t like making a cake, where you need a smooth lump-free mixture, all you need at this point is for the pastry to come together.

Next, sprinkle flour on a clean flat surface. Tip the dough out and quickly shape it into a rectangular brick (it’s okay to use your hands at this point). Roll it out into a rectangle – you’ll notice that there are still quite large pieces of butter visible, but don’t worry, because these will disappear as you go on. Looking at the rectangle lengthways, fold one side in and then the other on top, so that you’ve divided the rectangle into thirds. Sprinkle with more flour and roll out again, then repeat three times. By this point, you should have a pliable dough that’s even in colour. Sprinkle with more flour, then carefully fold it up, wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for a couple of hours.

When you’re ready to finish off, take the pastry out of the fridge to warm slightly. Start the filling by finely dicing the onion and the streaky bacon, and frying until golden and slightly crispy. In a bowl, mix with the sausage meat (no need to cook this as it will bake in the oven – frying the onion and the bacon is mainly to add flavour), the chopped sage, and the mustard, and season well. Leave it on one side for a little while until the whole mixture is completely cool.

Preheat the oven to 210˚C (190˚C fan). Unfold the pastry and spread it out on a floured surface. Roll it out a bit more if it’s not big enough – you need it to be about 3mm thick, and big enough to put the filling at one end and then roll up so it’s completely covered. Use a damp pastry brush to seal the edges tightly, and place it on a baking tray so that the seam is underneath. Beat the egg in a small dish and then brush the top of the pie with it, to give a nice shiny crust, and then finally use a sharp knife to slash the top diagonally (as in the picture).

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 190˚C (170˚C fan) and bake for a further 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it towards the end and cover with a bit of tinfoil if you think the top is in danger of going too brown. I’d suggest serving with some fried potatoes and a bit of salad, so if you want to do this, once the pie is in the oven, peel the potatoes and cut into slices about 5mm thick. Parboil in salted water for five minutes or so, and then drain and put to one side. When the pie’s got about 15 minutes left to go, fry the potatoes at a high heat in a splash of vegetable oil and a bit of lard, to get them really crispy. Sprinkle with salt and then serve up with a slice of pie, some green salad and a bit of chutney – delicious.