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17 December 2011

Corned Beef Pie - plain storecupboard food!

This recipe was another exercise in recreating a flavour from my past.

Before I owned my own horse, my best friend and I went on a riding holiday in the New Forest.  The very first night we were there, after an afternoon of gallivanting about the countryside on horseback, we settled down to a completely gorgeous pie.  Everyone was intrigued by this pie and much discussion was had, back and forth across the table, about its ingredients while its creator (the housekeeper) sat with an enigmatic smile, enjoying the banter.  The pie's filling was soft, like lamb, but tomatoey like baked beans, quite dense, fried onions, quite peppery, shortcrust pastry and a deliciously savoury thick sauce.
Well, it turned out to be corned beef pie.

Now, in the past, I've had one or two goes at recreating the pie - none of which have been the least bit successful.  However, with my (relatively) new found culinary experience and several very successful attempts at recreating flavours from our youth (the Nasi Goreng and Kentish Pie, for instance), I was quite confident about getting it right, this time.

I felt that the key to the pie was to keep the ingredients for the filling simple.  After all, it stood to reason that something billed as "corned beef pie" was unlikely to have a great long ingredients list.  I can remember going down the tinned tomatoes route and failing miserably, as that made the tomato aspect too tart.  It needed to be softly tomatoey.  Having just made the Green Couscous, which involves frying an onion until it is caramelised, then adding a touch of cumin and some salt, got me to thinking about the worth of doing something similar for the Corned Beef Pie.  The tiny touch of cumin was sufficient to provide a background warmth that just brought the couscous a hidden depth - and so it did for the pie.

Served with beef gravy - you've got to have gravy!
I really enjoyed the end result, as did Son & heir (which tells you that it's child-friendly, depending on how much chilli you include!).  Hubby wasn't so enraptured as we were and reported that the chilli made the pie a little bit hard work to get through for him.  Which is fine - it just means that I'll reduce the amount of chilli in the next one and hopefully it will hit the spot for him.  I may even ditch the chilli flakes and go for a shake or two of cayenne pepper, which will provide a quiet warmth rather than the more frisky heat of the chilli flakes.

I served the pie with a Red Cabbage & Cranberry dish, which was completely gorgeous.  The two went together so well, I suspect I'll be repeating the exercise.  In addition, I served some carrot & parsnip mash which almost made a suitable exchange for mashed potato, but I did miss the texture of mashed potato.  The carrot/parsnip mash came up a little wetter than I would have liked, but I suspect that a greater degree of parsnip to carrot would have helped that along a bit.  The flavour of the carrot/parsnip mash was delightful - especially with some freshly ground black pepper mixed in.

So, with all those Christmas Hampers winging their way around the country, if you find yourself with a can of Corned Beef that you don't know what to do with - try Corned Beef Pie!  I'm sure you won't regret it.  I even ate the remaining piece for lunch the next day, when it was just as nice cold as it had been hot - which makes me think "picnic!".

CORNED BEEF PIE  (feeds 4)

Ingredients :

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
½ tsp ground cumin
1 x 415g can Heinz baked beans
a pinch of chilli flakes if you like a chilli kick, or a couple of shakes of cayenne pepper, if not.
1 x 340g can good quality Corned Beef, fat deposits removed
1 tbsp tomato ketchup

Plus : shortcrust pastry, enough for top and bottom of your 8" pie dish and a little milk.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 180deg C/350deg F/Gas 4.

2.  In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the chopped onions.  Fry gently until the onions have begun to caramelise and are softly golden brown.  Add the cumin and stir well.

3.  Add the baked beans and heat through, adding the chilli or cayenne and the tomato ketchup.  Stir to combine.

4.  Once the mixture is heated through, add the cubed Corned Beef.  From this point on, it is undesirable to stir the mixture very much, or the cubes of corned beef will dissolve into a mush.  What you want, is to retain the individual pieces as much as possible.

5.  Taste to determine whether any more seasoning is required and season to taste as necessary.

6.  Leave to cool slightly, while you roll out your pastry and line the pie dish with the first piece.

7.  Add the filling mixture to the pie dish and spread out evenly, ideally with a peak at the middle.

8.  Brush a little milk around the edges of the bottom pastry and lay the second piece of pastry over the top of the pie, completely covering it.  Press down around the edges and crimp to seal.  Cut off the extra pastry, to neaten the edges.  Remember to make three small cuts to the surface of the pie, to allow steam to escape, then glaze by brushing on the remaining milk.

9.  Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

10.  Serve.

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