It's another cold, grey day in China.
Summer here was incredibly beautiful, but I haven't seen sunshine for almost a week. It's chilly, and I'm afraid to go anywhere without my umbrella because an even chillier drizzle keeps occurring without warning. Even the mountains look depressed today.
So, today I'm going to share one of my favorite cold weather recipes with you. Known as pasty pie, it originated in Britain, and ended up being common in upper Michigan in the US as well. Like many other wives there, my great-grandmother would make this for her husband to take down into the coal mines where he worked, to be unwrapped at lunchtime and eaten hot or cold.
Now, my dad makes them on special occasions, and I make them whenever I need a pick-me-up.
Today, I'm eating mine hot, savouring the warmth of the meal and of the home memories it brings.
For starters, you need a pie crust. You can use whatever recipe you normally prefer, or buy a pre-made crust, but I like to make my own. I've tried a couple different methods out with the pasties, and I've found that an oil-based crust works best. It's easy, quick, and fairly foolhardy. Most importantly, it holds together well when you're forming the pie, but is still really flaky when its done cooking.
For my crust recipe, you'll need:
-2 cups of all-purpose flour (feel free to try a whole-grain or spelt flour if you like)
-1/2 tbsp salt
-1/2 cup oil
-1/4 cup whole milk
-2 tbsp butter
Mix all of the ingredients except for the butter together by hand or with a spoon. The crust should be fairly moist with a nice sheen, and flaky but not at all crumbly. The butter should be melted, then brushed on top about half-way through the cooking time.
Once you have your crust, decide whether you want a traditional fold-over pasty or a pie-dish style pie. If you're doing the fold-over, roll your crust into one circle about 1/4 inch thick. If you chose to use a pie dish, split the dough in half and roll out each half to fit your pie dish.
Now that your crust is ready, its time for fillings! Some ideas:
-Bits of chicken, pork, beef, or tofu
-Diced carrots and/or celery
-Canned soups without water added
-Peas or any other vegetables
-Seasonings that suit your fillings--don't skimp on this part!
I like how flexible this part is--pretty much anything will taste good baked in a pie crust, although I do recommend always including the potatoes and onions as a starting point.
Think about what fillings you like together, or that you normally pair up in other things, like soups or sandwiches.
The soups part sounds a little weird, but works out really well. I love buying organic black bean canned soup, stirring in the potatoes and onions, and then stuffing that in my crust. It's really savoury and filling.
If you're using the pie dish, lay the first crust in it, fill it, and put the second crust on top. If you're doing the traditional style, put the filling on one half of your circle, and then fold the other half of the circle over top of it, crimping the edges together well.
Slice some nice openings in the top, and then bake at 350F for about an hour to an hour and a half until nicely golden brown--remembering to brush the butter on the top after about 30-40 mins. It doesn't hurt to sprinkle some salt on top at this point, either.
Eat straight out of the oven, or refrigerate and eat chilled the next day.