We saw a photo of one of Genevieve Taylor's pies at 1000 Cookbooks and we were smitten. So we tracked down her book, Pie!. Then we realized this wasn't the first time we had run across Taylor. Egg-lovers that we are, we also have a copy of her book, A Good Egg. Pie! is part of series by Absolute Press. In addition to Pie!, Taylor has published Soup!, Stew!, and Mince!. The titles offer up an idea of Taylor's food philosophy.
Taylor uses simple, readily available ingredients to construct pies that as tasty as they are lovely. Don't be too alarmed at what may seem like longs lists of ingredients and instructions. Yes, some of the pies seem a bit complicated, but don't despair. Take a breath and remember there is a crust, there is a filling, and there is cooking.
Start with the crust. Taylor gives specific and cogent instruction on making the various crusts. Her fillings for her pies explode with flavors. Yes, for you sweet lovers, there is a fine apple pie, a lovely lemon meringue, and more than a few tarts. The book really shines with its savory options. The traditional steak is there along side an ox cheek, oyster, and stout. There are hand pies like Cornish pasties, but there are also vegetable options like squash and cumin yogurt, and pear and walnut with gorgonzola. The is pork, game, fish, chicken, lamb along with lots of vegetable options.
Pie! has a great mix of options that will make you a star in your kitchen. Here is a favorite. It has beef and rich sweet potatoes that are spiked with a spicy horseradish. We followed it with Taylor's recipes for making the shortcrust pastry. In her introduction to her book, Taylor offers up the option to go ahead and use a store bought pastry. That is one of our favorite shortcuts, so go ahead and cheat a bit. But whatever you do, grab a copy of this book.
Roast Beef, Sweet Potato, and Horseradish Pie
For the pie2 tbsp olive oil2 large onions, chopped2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped600g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks300ml beef stock300g cold roast beef, cut into bite-size pieces2–3 tbsp grated horseradish (available in jars), or horseradish sauce for a milder flavourplain flour, for dusting1 batch of Shortcrust Pastry (see page below for the pastry recipe)salt and freshly ground black pepperFor the crumble topping100g plain flour50g butter, chilled and cut into little cubes75g mature Cheddar cheese, gratedTo make the pie, put the oil into a large frying pan and set over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, along with the rosemary, and fry for 15–20 minutes or until lightly caramelised, stirring from time to time. Stir through the sweet potatoes and then pour in the stock, seasoning well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover with a piece of damp greaseproof paper pressed down over the sweet potatoes, tucking it under snugly at the edges – this creates a steamy lid to help cook the sweet potatoes. Simmer until soft – this will take around 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chunks.Remove and discard the paper – the sweet potatoes should have absorbed most of the stock; if it is still quite liquid, then simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, stir through the beef and horseradish and set aside to cool completely.Once the filling is cold, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 4mm (the pastry needs to be slightly thicker here as the filling is robust so it needs a sturdy crust to hold it in) and use it to line a 23cm springform cake tin, bringing it about 4cm up the sides of the tin. Spoon in the filling, levelling it out as you go.For the crumble topping, lightly rub the flour and butter together in a mixing bowl. When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, mix through the cheese and season well with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the pie filling, but don’t pat or press it down as you want to leave it light and airy.Bake in the oven for 40–45 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and the crumble topping is crisp and golden. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes, then slide a knife around the inside of the tin and release the springform. Carefully transfer the pie to a serving plate or wooden board and serve hot. Green vegetables on the side are a great accompaniment for this pie, and perhaps a little extra horseradish sauce for those who like things fiery.Shortcrust pastry recipeMakes about 325gTakes 10 minutes to make (plus chilling)180g plain white floura pinch of fine salt90g cold butter, cut into small cubes3–4 tbsp ice-cold waterFood Processor MethodPut the flour and salt into the food processor and whizz briefly together to mix, then add the butter cubes and pulse briefly a dozen times or so until you have coarse crumbs. If you use the pulse function in very short, sharp bursts (rather than just leave it in the ‘on’ position) to rub the fat and flour together, then I think it works more like super fast fingers and there is less chance of overdoing it. Next, you trickle in the ice-cold water, whilst pulsing all the while, just until the mixture resembles rough lumps and looks a bit like overcooked and dry scrambled eggs. Add only as much water as you need. Don’t keep processing until the mixture comes together in a big ball as that will develop the gluten in the flour too much, so be sure to stop before you get to that stage.Tip the clumped crumbs onto a sheet of cling film and gently squeeze together into a ball without pressing too hard – little air gaps are a good thing and will add a lightness and crumbliness to the cooked shortcrust. Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.Traditional Rubbing-in (by hand) MethodThe method is essentially the same, but your fingertips and thumbs work together to literally rub the flour, salt and butter together until you have coarse crumbs. Lifting your hands out of the bowl as you rub adds air. Then once again, add just enough cold water to bring the mixture together into clumps – I find a blunt table knife is best to use here, using it to stir and cut through the crumbed mixture as you mix. Again, tip the clumped crumbs onto a sheet of cling film and squeeze gently into a ball, then wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.