Cooking with Mark

LAYERED ROASTED RED PEPPER SPINACH PIE

Whether it’s chicken and leek, beef and steak or apple and cinnamon, this crisp golden circle is one of the most comforting of meals

Who ate all the pies, I ask myself? The humble pie is harder to find than a parking space at The Dubai Mall. I’ve searched ‘the best pies in Dubai’ and the results were a tad disappointing. The crisp golden circle can be the most comforting of meals, whether it’s chicken and leek, beef and steak or apple and cinnamon, they are all winners to me.
There have been lots of discussion as to what a ‘real pie’ is, so let me explain a few things: A filled pie has a pastry base and an open top, often filled with stewed fruits, sometimes partially covered with a lattice of pastry strips.
A top crust has the filling in the bottom of the dish and is covered with a single sheet of pastry, usually a savoury filling.
A two-crust pie, (my personal favourite) is where the dish is lined with pastry and topped with a second layer, so the filling is enclosed in a pastry shell. All of the above are made with shortcrust pastry.
I have made all three pies and I’m often asked how I get the pies to look so golden and crispy. It’s no secret, I buy the pastry. Shop bought, ready rolled is perfectly acceptable, otherwise, why would supermarkets stock it? I love that manufacturers have gotten wise and now sell round sheets to minimise waste. However, I draw the line at buying mashed potato or pre-spiralised vegetables.
Historians trace pie’s origins to the Greeks, who are thought to be the originators of the pastry shell, which they made by combining water with flour. So not much has changed, it’s just evolved, and made in all shapes and sizes.
A favourite place to visit when I’m in London is Square Pie bakery, located in London’s east end. The company boasts more than 150 pies on their menu, including some limited editions. My question is why is it so difficult to source a decent pie in Dubai.
Frustrated by the lack of pastry action, I decided to grab some shortcrust sheets and make my own fast, round pie. Sandwiching leftovers between two pastry sheets is a good way to reuse leftover ingredients. I had some leftover cooked chicken, and after a good rummage in the fridge, I came across a couple of leeks, onions and a tub of cooking cream.

HISTORIANS TRACE PIE’S ORIGINS TO THE GREEKS, WHO ARE THOUGHT TO BE THE ORIGINATORS OF THE PASTRY SHELL, WHICH THEY MADE BY COMBINING WATER WITH FLOUR. SO NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED, IT’S JUST EVOLVED AND MADE IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES

With a few extra store cupboard staples, I set about feeding my pie needs. It’s quick and simple and the recipe is down to your taste. First, preheat the oven to 180 degrees, grease a deep tin, line with a sheet of pastry allowing some to overhang, set to one side.
Next, saute an onion and a chopped leek with some garlic, season it, then add 300ml cooking cream with 2 tsp of dried tarragon. Then add four cups of cubed cooked chicken and simmer for five minutes. Meanwhile, mix 1 tbsp of flour with a little cold water, stir into the sauce until it thickens. Pour the mixture into a lined tin, cover with a second pastry sheet, pinch the edges to seal, glaze with a beaten egg, pierce a hole in the centre then bake for 45-50 minutes.
Everyone loves a pie; sweet or savoury, you can’t go wrong. While appreciating the rising temperatures across the region. A freshly baked, crusty pie may not be the ideal meal in the heat. So after experimenting at home with some lighter ingredients, I decided to change it even more by making a vegetarian two-crust pie, with a lattice top. Healthy-ish, it’s full of vegetables and can be eaten hot or cold. I’m a long way from having 150 different pies on my menu, but my pies will remain round, deep, and widely available.

Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield

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