Pork pot pie, or a herby pork stew with apple topped with a flaky pastry lid

Pork, apple & leek pie
It’s pie week soon. Eat this all day every day. You know you want it.

I call this a pork pot pie because a British pork pie is something different. This  is actually an elaborate version of a pork, apple, and (hard) cider pie we made to see my friend Mary off last spring, tinkety tonk, old fruit.

Pork, apple & leek pie

(Not gonna lie, I am kind of secretly hoping this pie and the idiosyncrasies of silly posh British English will be a guiding light to her all the way from England.)

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Unfortunately I lost both the magazine and the piece of paper I scribbled the recipe on, so this is what I came up with. It’s along the same lines: crisp, buttery pastry which rustles when you dig into the rich gravy beneath. A special dish, one which takes time: you build up the flavours and textures and are repaid by a deeply comforting pie.

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It is a lot of work, but it doesn’t mean you need to suffer excessively. Personally, I split the tasks into manageable chunks: you can make the spice mix whenever, the pastry and filling can be made a day or two before (the pastry frozen for a month, even), and the whole pie can be baked a few hours in advance.

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In Britain, savoury pies like these are often accompanied by mash or chips and peas, but pie between 2 greedy people is perfect–you’ve got a decent bit of starch, a portion of meat, fruit and veg, and then gravy to dive into. You don’t need anything else, but you may want it; up to you.

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I’m a bit worried the length of the recipe may be off-putting, but let me reassure you that these are guidelines only–a friendly suggestion, if you will. Even if you don’t use the full recipe, you can have a good idea of proportions, cooking times, and flavourings to help jazz up leftover casseroles and similar to revive them, joyfully, as pie the next day.

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Much of this is to taste. If you don’t want leeks, don’t use them. If you’d prefer to use chicken or mushrooms, do so. Swap pears for apples (be gentle, please). Don’t bother with any spices at all if you don’t care for them. Add cheese to the filling or the crust. Make this your pie.

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HERBY PORK AND APPLE POT PIE
A mutation of the pork, apple, cider pie from Waitrose Kitchen, January 2013, p. 41
For 2, generously, no sides needed. If served with mash or extra veg, this will feed 3 – 4.
Best eaten on the day of baking. Can reheated later in the day by baking it at 180 degrees C/160 fan for 15 minutes, or until crisp and singing.If you want to make it in advance, do the filling and pastry separately and chill them. Bake when needed, adding 10 – 15 minutes extra.

Allow 2 1/2 – 3 hours for the whole thing. This fills an oblong pie dish of 20 x 13 x 4 cm dimensions with a 750 ml capacity (just over 3 US cups).

Filling
for the pork:
adjust proportions and spices to taste.
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coarse/rock salt
1/2 tsp paprika, any kind you want
300g – 450g pork shoulder steaks, or similar stewing cut
2 – 3 tbsp vegetable oil

for the rest of the stew:
1 medium leek, cut into thick 2-3 cm (~1 inch) chunks
1 medium cooking onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 tbsp unsalted butter, plus an extra knob or two
1 tbsp plain flour
250ml chicken stock,  more if needed
small handful of herbs, such as:
1 sprig sage
2 – 3 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
(leave whole or chopped as it pleases, or use about 1 tsp dried herbs–as you wish, Buttercup.)
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 small tangy eating apple, e.g. Granny Smith or Egremont Russet
Salt & pepper, mustard, vinegar, ketchup etc. to taste

Pastry lid:

You can use 250g ready-made pastry, or follow the instructions here to make your own, but with these amounts:

125g plain flour
Generous pinch of salt
75g cold unsalted butter, diced
3 – 4 tbsp cold water

to decorate pie:
A splash of milk or 1 beaten egg to glaze
A few herb leaves to decorate, if liked

instructions

  1. spice mix: toast coriander, cumin, and peppercorns in a small pan over a medium heat until warm and fragrant, a few minutes. Transfer to a mortar/spice grinder, add salt, grind til you get a fragrant powder. Mix in the paprika.
  2. season pork: Cut the pork into large bite-size pieces and place in a medium bowl. Toss thoroughly with spice mix (hands are the best tool for this).
  3. brown the pork: Heat a tablespoon or two of oil (just to cover the base) in a medium pot over a high heat til the fat shimmers. Brown pork cubes in batches, searing for a good minute or two on each side, lowering heat if things get too smokey, transferring the pieces to a separate plate as you go. Set aside. Turn off heat and let the pan cool down while veg is prepared.
  4. prepare & brown the leek and onion: I like distinct pieces of leek and onion in the final dish so I cut them pretty chunky, but it’s your choice. Melt a small knob of butter in the pan, scraping at the  stickings. Add chopped onion and leek plus a sprinkle of salt, stirring to coat. Soften them over a medium/medium-low heat for about 20 – 25 minutes, stirring well and splashing in a little water to dissolve crusty stuck bits at regular intervals.  Transfer to the pie dish to cool.
  5. make the gravy:  Have the chicken stock to hand. In the same pan, melt together 1 tbsp butter and flour. Cook over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly, til it smells rich and nutty. The paste will become smooth, thin, and light peanut butter brown. Turn off the heat and gradually pour in the chicken stock; it will seize, but continue beating between additions and it’ll become a smooth gravy.
  6. simmer the pork: Return the pork and any juices to the pan. Add the herbs you want to use, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes til the pork and carrot are on the somewhat firm side of cooked, but can be pierced with a fork.
  7. finish & cool the filling: Off the heat, mix onion, leek, and chopped apple into the pork and carrot. Stir and taste. Add a splash more stock if the gravy is too dry. Season to your liking; make it mustardy or tangy if you wish. Turn out into the pie dish and leave to cool at least slightly–it shouldn’t be steamy.
  8. make pastry: see this recipe.
  9. assemble & bake pie: Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius/180 fan.
  10. Roll out pastry on floured surface to a rectangle about the thickness of a £1 coin (3mm) and 2.5 – 5 cm/1 – 2 inches larger than your pie tin. Cut thin strips from the edges to neaten the shape and provide the anchor for your pie crust. Press the dampened dough strips onto the lip of the dish, then carefully transfer the pastry sheet over the top. Fold edges inwards and press hard with a blunt edge of a knife to create a handsome crust. Cut vents, glaze the top with milk, and press on any decorations.
  11. Bake for about 25 minutes until the pastry is puffed, well browned, and the filling is bubbling.

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