Monday, 19 March 2012
Lancashire food for Lancashire Lads and Lasses: Butter Pie
I first encountered a butter pie in Chorley, Lancashire about 15 years ago, and pooh poohed it because I don't like butter per se, (I am one of these weirdo people who does not have butter on her bread, toast, jacket potatoes, vegetables, and so on) so the thought of a pie of butter (yes I really thought that) didn't appeal. Surely it can't live up to the magnificent meat and potato or the cool chicken and mushroom (my particular favourite!)
Then I met Phill and now living in the Pie capital of the world, it was only natural that I would end up eating one of these butter pies, especially since Phill informed me that the pie was in fact butter, onion and potato, rather than a lump of butter as I had first envisaged. They were really nice, like potato, onion cooked in butter should be.
I do love a dish with a history and this one has interesting origins. Lancashire is historically quite a Catholic place and the butter pie originated as an alternative to the meat pie which could be eaten on Fridays so as to observe the law of not eating meat. Because of this, the pie is sometimes known as the Friday Pie or the Catholic Pie. But, if we bring the thing up to modern day, this pie is really quite cheap to make, and it fills you up. Excellent food for hard times.
I tweaked a recipe for pastry that I use which is originally a Nigella creation. I like pastry for pies that is quite short, though your own pastry would do, I have upped the quantity of onion slightly and added a little thyme to the cooking, just because I can and I think it goes well. A word on the humble spud. We have a saying around here called 'pig spuds' which refers to potatoes only fit for the pigs. Unfortunately, plenty of supermarkets sell potatoes which in my mind are frighteningly inferior, which 'fall' when they're boiled and taste of absolutely nothing. Because the potato is the star of the show, you need a potato that will not disintegrate completely and has taste. I like Vivaldi or Lady Balfour which you can get from Sainsbury's. You could use a waxy potato too if you definitely want the potato filling to keep its shape. I wasn't too concerned.
For the record, this was a complete winner with Lola and Finn. It may have the addition of baked beans after the last photograph was taken, but empty plates was the result.
Feeds Lola and Finn, Mum and Dad twice, generously.
For the pastry:
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp cold water, or enough to bind the mixture
50g vegetable shortening
135g cold unsalted butter, diced
a couple of twists of pepper - white if you don't like black specks in your pastry.
Beaten egg, for egg washing the finished pie.
For the filling:
5 large potatoes (or equivalent), cut about a centimetre thick
2 onions (sliced usually, though I diced mine to make it more kiddie friendly)
1 tsp dried thyme
4oz butter to cook the onions, plus extra butter (up to 3 ozs) when you add the potatoes. I used salted butter on this occasion.
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Make the pastry in the usual fashion, that is, rub the flour and the fats together, add the seasoning.
Add the egg yolks and mix in, then add the water; just enough to bind the mixture.
Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and leave to rest for a couple of hours in the fridge.
Begin to make the filling. Parboil the potatoes in salted water until you can pierce the potato with the tip of a knife. Drain and leave until needed.
Meanwhile, in a pan big enough to take the potatoes later, cook the onions gently in the butter until translucent. Don't allow them to colour. When translucent, add the thyme.
Add the potatoes and carefully mix to combine. Allow the mixture to cook for another 10 minutes or so, so the flavours begin to mingle. Taste the mixture and then season appropriately.
Allow the filling to cool.
To assemble. Roll the pastry out into two large circles. Line a pie dish with one, then put the filling on top. Egg wash the edges so that the top layer of pastry will stick.
Lay the second circle on top, trim and crimp the edges securely and then make holes in the top. Brush the top of the pie with egg wash. *
Put in a preheated oven (180c) for about 25 - 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
Leave to cool slightly before serving. A traditional accompaniment for this would be red cabbage I suppose but I went for baked beans, because the slightly tomatoey astringency of beans cuts through the rich butteryness of the pastry and filling. Dee-lish!
* You may have pastry left over depending on the thickness of the pastry in your pie. Lucky you! Refrigerate and make pasties, or freeze if you have no immediate plans. I intend to make a meat and potato pie with mine, the recipe for which will be coming to a blog near you soon.