Standing Christmas pie

…Or how I had a day when the cooking gods frowned upon me…

Standing Christmas pie

Yesterday if felt like everything I cooked turned out wrong. I guess I was trying to do too much at once getting ready for christmas, but nothing was working out for me, and it seemed like every decision I made was the wrong one. First my melted chocolate got a drop of water in it and seized into an impenetrable gritty lump. Then I tried to make hot water crust pastry, and it wasn’t working out at all. The thing about hot water crust pastry, is that there’s always a moment when it seems like the whole thing is a failure, but if you retain a sense of humor about it, and persevere, it works out in the end. If, however, you’re already peevey because of seized chocolate, and you get frustrated – disaster! Anyway. Everything worked out okay in the end.

I made this pie yesterday, based on a very vague recipe I saw for Christmas standing pie, which had minced lamb, apples and raisins. I decided to try something similar with black bean “mince.” I invented black bean mince by accident the other night. It’s not very elegant and doesn’t photograph well, but it’s tasty, cheap, and versatile.

black bean mince

When I made it the other night, I added chipotle puree, sage, oregano and cumin, and we ate it with warm tortillas and guacamole. Last night, I seasoned it with sage, rosemary and thyme, and added a bit of marmite.

The pie turned out fine in the end – not the prettiest I’ve ever made, but surprising and tasty.

Here’s Johnny Cash singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing
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Hot water crust pastry – vegetarian style

In which Claire cements her reputation as a pastry geek and gets all Mrs. Beeton on you.

I’m fascinated by hot water crust pastry! (Also called raised pastry.) I’d thought of pastry as a chilly, hands-off affair, with everything ice cold, touched only by fingertips, and laid out on a cold marble slab. Well, hot water crust pastry is made with boiling water and melted fat, you get your hands right in there and knead it, and then you mold it as if it was play-doh! It really can put some childish fun in making pies. It’s also a bit of a challenge, and it took me a while to find the right proportions. The idea behind this dough is that it makes a pastry so strong that you can pour gravy inside and it won’t leak out. So strong that you can put it in your pocket, and it won’t crumble. So strong that Rogue Riderhood can make it into plates…

Remarkably, it’s very tasty, too. And though I’ve just made it sound like it might crack your teeth, it has a lovely texture. Typically, it’s a crust for a meat pie, and it’s made with lard. I’ve read that you can substitute vegetable shortening, but I just don’t like the idea of vegetable shortening. Flavorless, colorless fat does not appeal to me. So I use a mixture of butter and olive oil. I’ve had good results – it might not be exactly like the original, but it’s very tasty and sturdy enough for anything I’ve ever made. The idea is to mold it by hand, or to mold it around a large jar, and then tie parchment paper around it, or let it cook free-standing and expect the middle to bulge out a bit. I’ve molded it around cups to make small pies, but for anything larger I cheat and cook it inside something with a tall straight edge, and then turn it out impressively at the end.

If you want to make a vegan version, use margarine instead of butter.

I’ve used this pie crust for many pies! It works well with Deep Mushroom Pie, and Vegetarian Pie, Mash & Liquor.

UPDATE! *I’ve changed the proportions a little bit in the recipe. It never made enough, for one thing, and it was more difficult to work with than it needed to be. The recipe now should make a delightfully moldable dough, but still hold its shape when you want it to.*

I’ve got a couple of songs about pork pie hats, because this crust is known for its pork-pie-usage.

Here’s Charles Mingus – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

and here’s Pork Pie Hat by Lauren Aitken
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