Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Buttering up

Morrison's do a range of "fresh" pies that I never buy. On a stand by the deli, they sit in rustic-style paper bags. It's the general stodge - meat and potato, chicken and mushroom, cheese and onion. For all of the mentions of "fresh", they're mass produced slop that is delivered every other day and cooked on site in industrial ovens. As I say, I never buy them.

At the store the other day I saw something called "butter pies". There was a small gaggle of little old ladies (LOLs) gathered around, speculating on what these could be. They called over to a staff member behind the deli. This being Morrison's, he pretended not to hear them, then when that wore thin, pretended to be too busy to help. Eventually, his customer service training compelled him to  v e r y  s l o w l y  trudge over and see what the damn pests wanted.

To be honest, I was enjoying this display of customer service #fail, so I continued to eavesdrop on the off chance he'd swear at them and be sacked (or promoted). It was worth it. The LOLs asked about the pies and he explained in the strange, faltering "English" that young people talk in these days. "They're, like, potato pies, like, we only calls them butter pies coz it sounds better than potato pies, like, coz that's like boring, innit, it's a war thing that they had in the old days, like, in the war, so it's just potato and nothing else like."

After I'd translated the stream-of-conciousness and screened out the awful, high-pitched Scouse accent, I was very happy with the result. Back when I was planning this project, I thought that shortcrust pies filled only with mashed potato would work very well, providing bulk, using little rations and going well with anything. But I couldn't find any proof that such a thing existed, then or now, and worried if it would be too bland.

But here they were: butter pies, potato pies, which I could buy to try. I did. And it works. You need salt, or gravy, or a sauce of some sorts, but it works! Of course, the mass-produced nature of the pies meant that the pastry was made with hydrogenated fat rather than margarine and water, so it was greasy and unpleasant and my body rebelled against it mightily (I had dry toast for dinner that night as it was all I could face).

My own version was far better. I boiled and mashed (without fat) plenty of potatoes, then made a cold-water shortcrust pastry. This is 2 to 1 flour to fat (I had butter rather than margarine in for this week's fat ration) rubbed together (I did 8oz to 4oz), a pinch of salt and then adding cold water until you get a dough that holds together but isn't wet. Put this in the fridge for 20 minutes to get it cold, then roll it out and line a pie tin with it. If I did it again, I'd save more fat by adding mashed potato instead of half the fat and slightly more water.

Spoon the mashed potato into the tin, then top. I was making two, so I put chopped spring onions on top of one and a crumbled ounce of cheese on the other. Top off with pastry, brush with milk and bake in a moderate oven for half an hour.

The first one I served with onion gravy and steamed vegetables. For the second, I turned an ounce of cheese into a lot of cheese sauce by bulking with single cream and soured cream in addition to some milk and served this on top of the pie and some more steamed vegetables.

Oh, but it was lovely. A proper pie, good cold as well as hot, and very low in fat. It was so good we didn't end up with the planned leftovers - it was very hard to resist going back for seconds.


Bods said...

Cranks used to do a quite famous pie along these lines called the Homity Pie.

It didn't have a pastry lid so was mash topped. There's a couple of variations, but a little cheese and parsley in it goes a long way.

Michelle said...

Hmm...this is the type of fare that Americans would say is too starchy. And, of course, probably not fatty enough. Glad it hit the spot for you!

Kecske said...

As mentioned in the Paul and Linda McCartney song "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey".