Last Saturday night had loomed large in my diary for some time. I am no cook, some have even doubted if I even have a palate but I got into bad company when I arrived here in Lewes some three years ago now. It was a neighbourhood thing called Pie Night – a wonderfully random expression of culinary masculinity when six of us were inspired to get together occasionally for a men-only fest of home made pies and large quantities of beer. the home-made element was literally that – we had to make them ourselves. The Holy Grail, at least as far as I was concerned, was the miracle that is a pork pie. Nothing is more tempting and more forbidden by politically-correct niutritionists than those filling, beer-friendly creations that, to my eyes, look impossible to make.
It was too late to chicken out of my pork pie dreams when last weekend dawned in an atmosphere of expectation. It was my turn to host the event at my place. I looked up recipes on-line and decided, like many more before me no doubt, that Delia Smith did it like no one else – she tells it so that even an idiot like me knows what she is going on about.
Look her up here if you don’t believe me:
I set up my camera in the kitchen determined to record for you, my readers, my very first attempt at making, yes, three pork pies from a very non-pork-pie-looking set of ingredients – shoulder of pork, some bacon, flour, lard, various herbs and some milk and an egg yoke. If that is not a good enough recipe….look up Delia’s on-line version. I did as I was told and, still doubting that I would get there, I began to coarsely chop the meat…..
…mix up the herbs and the magic ingredient, anchovy essence…
…before embarking on that most terrifying of ventures, so-called, hot water pastry making. ….
..sifting flour felt OK…..
…pouring in the milk and water was a bit scary……
…and needing the warm dough, well, horrifying in the seriousness of its implications…..I was now looking disaster in the face.
I didn’t know if I had done it right but something that resembled pasty began to emerge….
…ready to be put into the metal cases I had bought in a posh cookery shop earlier that day…..
the oven was warming whilst I squashed the meat filling into the embryonic pies….
….and they sat threatening me with public mockery whilst I had a rare encounter with a rolling pin….
…in an attempt at making the pie lids……
which were painted round the edges with egg yoke….
…which was also used to coat the tops of the pies…..
… I was genuinely astounded when, half an hour later, these things resembling real pork pies emerged from the oven…..
…now it was time to remove them from their casings…..surely the moment when they should collapse into a cooked version of the original ingredients in a pile round my feet……
…but no…..they came out perfectly easily…..
…and almost skittishly dared me to put them back into the oven for another half hour so that the pasty could brown up…..
even then I assumed that I would next see my creations through a cloud of black smoke as carbonised pork-pie-could-have-beens. The camera cannot lie though – readers, take a look at the finished products.
Here they are, three almost perfectly formed wolfiewolfgang pork pies a la Delia Smith. I was genuinely astounded that it was possible to make these iconic symbols of a childhood dream. My favourite dream – well nearly my favourite – was free-range roaming alone and with no restrictions in the forbidden parental larder of home which was always filled with pies – pork, game and, of course apple.
My fellow Pie-Clubbers, almost all better cooks than me, Martin, Adam, Rob, Harvey and Dave, were, I suspect, as surprized as I was but my pork pies didn’t disgrace me when they took their place on a table groaning with the other guys’ masterpieces. Then it was just a matter of tackling that firkin of Lewes Brewers’ Harvey’s Best Ale and getting down to the serious business of over-eating and drinking along with some often unrepeatable conversations.