Well, owing to a miscalculation on the "time in which to cook it" front, it happened on Friday (so it's a good job you didn't show up, @JackKnightCooks!) - but how right was I, that it was going to be a goodie? Ooooh yes. A goodie and then some.
I chose to make this pie this week because it uses Bramley apples - and it is currently Bramley apple week. However, just a quick look at the recipe will tell you that this stands the chance of being a very successful combination for use at any time.
The pie filling is a combination of ham, cheese and apple, all held together and seasoned by a béchamel sauce made with cream and a pinch of nutmeg. Encased in a puff pastry shell, just the idea of it was making my mouth water.
The pie itself is a complete doddle to make. The thing that I had forgotten - and what stopped me making it on the Thursday when I miscalculated my timings - was that you don't serve the pie hot. It has to cool down and be served at either room temperature or cold. In fact, I have since had a slice of it that I heated up in the microwave, just to see how it would be hot - and it was fine. The reason you need to allow it time to "rest" (and thus cool down a bit) is because of the cheese and the béchamel sauce. When the pie is fresh from the oven, these two ingredients are very fluid and - once it is cut - stand the chance of flooding out of the pie, taking the apple and ham with them.
|It even looks great, unbaked!|
I suspect, though, that if you allow the pie time to calm down - and if you've put a hole in the top to allow steam to escape, you can tell when it has calmed down as the filling subsides away from the pastry casing - it would be perfect to cut and eat with some light vegetables.
So basically, this is one very flexible pie. It can be eaten hot with vegetables, or warm with potato wedges and baked beans, or cold with a salad or on a picnic.
The very best thing about it, though, is that it is completely gorgeous and moreish!
|We rejected the parsnip mash & peas in favour of potato wedges!|
I was also a little bit concerned about the pastry on the bottom of the pie cooking properly and not going all soggy, so I brushed a little egg yolk across it before I started to build the pie. Goodness knows if that helped, but the bottom pastry cooked perfectly - so I can only think it must have done. It is easy for pastry to be soggy when the first layer of filling is something squishy like the béchamel sauce.
Regarding the bechamel, I was glad that the recipe brought together a sauce that was quite thick and substantial, as I didn't want a river of pie filling as soon as the pie was cut. I have had that happen in the past with meat pies that have contained apple and cheese - and it's not a good look!
So, the upshot of all this was a gloriously golden baked massive pie that was impressive to present at the table and tasted every bit as good as it looked. You can't ask for more than that!
I have detailed below how I made the pie, but do please feel free to go to the original recipe and make it from that. The only things that differ are the quantities of ingredients. The method is exactly the same.
HAM & APPLE PIE (serves 6)
50ml double cream
a pinch of sea salt
a pinch of black pepper
a pinch of nutmeg
425g puff pastry sheets (frozen, but defrosted)
1 egg yolk, for brushing
180g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 large Bramley apple (or 2 medium), cored, peeled & sliced thinly
500g gammon ham (I used Gammon rounds, chopped into small pieces).
1. First make the béchamel by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so, then slowly, bit by bit, whisk in the milk and then the cream until you have a lump free sauce. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time and season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. The sauce should thicken. Once that has happened, set it aside to cool.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 190degC/375degF/Gas 5.
3. Take your pastry pieces and unroll the first onto your baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly mark (without cutting through the pastry) a line some 3cm inside of the edge to mark the boundary over which the filling must not stray.
4. Taking your egg yolk and a brush, lightly brush this boundary with egg to provide a sealant once the top layer of pastry is in place.
5. Begin building the pie's filling by placing a blob of béchamel in the middle of the pastry piece and spread it out until the base is covered by a light coating.
6. The next layer is a little cheese, followed by some ham and then the apple - which I recommend you place neatly in little rows, as it can easily get out of control and start sliding everywhere or poking up out of the pastry!
7. Press down the three layers lightly, then season with a little freshly ground black pepper.
8. Add small blobs of béchamel as the beginning of the next batch of layers and smooth them out as best you are able. Follow this with the cheese, ham and apple, then press, then pepper - until you run out of ingredients or the pile is getting rather too big!
9. Take the remaining piece of pastry - which should be lightly rolled out until it is slightly larger than the base piece - and lay it over the top of the filling pile.
10. Gently press around the edges to form a seal between top and bottom pastry which will prevent the filling from escaping. Take care not to pierce the pastry.
11. I then crimped the edges like you would a cornish pasty, just to ensure the filling stayed where it was and to make an attractive edging.
12. Cut a hole (or two) in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape when cooking, and give the whole thing a good egg wash with the remains of the egg yolk.
13. A light sprinkle of black pepper over the lot, then place into the oven for 40 minutes (remembering to turn the pie if your oven is prone to cooking one side more than the other, after 20 minutes). Once the 40 minutes is up, reduce the oven temperature to 150degC/300degF/Gas 2 and bake for 10 minutes more.
14. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving hot, or allow to cool.