The idea for today’s recipe comes from my Mother. She was telling me about the minced meat pies that her Mother used to make. She didn’t have the original recipe, so I made this one up inspired by what my Mother could recall. She told me that they:
- Were individual pies – ACHIEVED
- Made with minced meat and onions – ACHIEVED
- and nothing else – NOT ACHIEVED
- Were moist pies, not dry at all – ACHIEVED
Sorry Mum, but I just couldn’t resist adding in a few extra ingredients. In some cases I can use the excuse that I had them growing in the garden and just wanted to use them up, but other items I went out of my way to buy…….sorry.
My Grandparents had a walled garden at the back of their house. My Grandmother would open the back door of a morning and feed “her” birds. She had all manner of birds come and visit her, to sample her breadcrumbs or small pieces of cheese. She seemed to have a special way with the birds, but then again she was of course a witch.
(To see my proofs of why I believe she was indeed a witch please click here.)
One day she came scurrying back into the house with the tale of a large eagle perched on her bird table. We all rushed outside but there was nothing to be seen. We assumed she had imagined it, in spite of her being adamant of the contrary.
I seem to recall that the following day we read in the local press that an eagle had escaped from the local Welsh Mountain Zoo. One can only assume that an eagle had in fact paid her a visit, although I had to differ with my Grandmother over the reasons for its appearance. She suspected it was after her cheese, whilst I suspected it had been attracted by her feathery friends.
If you are in the area of Colwyn Bae, Clwyd, then the Welsh Mountain zoo is worth a visit. The zoo is well sited, on top of a hill with good views and has a large variety of animals. The zoo is also relatively small, but for me that is an advantage. Some of the larger zoos are indeed so large you need a golf cart and a full week to see all they have to offer. You see some visitors leaving such zoos with glazed eyes and half-dead children after countless miles of walking and a surfeit of animals…… so tired after their fauna filled day that once home they are more likely to shove their beloved dog out of the door, leaving it to fend for itself on its evening walk!
So birds, both big and small, used to frequent my Grandmother’s garden. I also remember her singing me the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”. I wonder if my witch of a Grandmother wasn’t actually feeding the birds, but was rather feeding them up, to pop in one of her succulent pies? Perhaps they weren’t beef pies at all…….
And one last comment before I let you dive into the recipe. My Grandfather once asked me to name any traditional English nursery rhyme with a happy ending…….. thirty years on I still haven’t found one. It makes one wonder just what we are in fact teaching to our young, impressionable children!
Grandma’s Minced Meat Pies
Serves: 2 individual pies
1 Garlic clove
½ Celery stick
300g Beef mince
1½ tbsp plain flour
250ml Beef stock
2 tsp homemade ketchup
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Bay leaf
1 Sprig thyme
If the butter and lard are hard, take them out of the fridge to soften a little. It shouldn’t be too soft, just take the edge off the hardness.
Finely chop the onion, leek, garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms.
It is better to season at the end as the stock can be quite salty.
Fry the onion, leek and garlic for 2 minutes.
Add the carrots and celery, cook for 6 minutes or until starting to soften. They don’t have to be fully cooked as they will continue to cook in the stock later in the recipe.
Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Turn the heat up a little then add in the meat and fry until nicely browned.
Add flour and fry for a couple of minutes.
Add beef stock, and stir to dissolve the flour.
Add thyme and bay leaf.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan with a lid and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce needs to be nice and thick, so continue to cook and evaporate more of the liquid if necessary. The mixture should be nice and moist but neither wet nor dry. Set aside and leave to cool. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Meanwhile make the pastry.
Mix together the flour and salt.
Cube the fats and rub into the flour mixture.
Cut in enough cold water to make a firm but pliable dough.
Cover in cling film and chill for around 30 minutes. If you have used vegetable fats it can be left longer as these fats do not generally harden as quickly as animal fats do.
For more information of making pastry please see:
Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Lightly grease the inside of the mould.
Divide the pastry into two pieces of approximately one third and two thirds.
Take the larger piece and roll out until it is just big enough to line the inside of the mould and cover the top edge of the tin.
You can either fold the pastry gently over to pick it up and place into the bottom of the mould, or use the rolling pin to pick it up, which is what I tend to do. Just put the rolling pin on one edge of the pastry then roll it across the top, without applying pressure, whilst folding over then hanging the pastry off the rolling pin.
Line the individual pie tin by carefully placing the pastry inside and unfolding or unrolling it off the rolling pin into the mould. In either case, without stretching the pastry gently ensure that the pastry reaches into all the corners. I find gently lifting each corner and gently easing it back down is the best way.
Remove the thyme sprig and bay leaf from the filling mixture then put half in each pie tin.
Lightly beat the egg.
Paint the top edge of the pastry with the egg, to help the lid seal to the base.
Roll out the remaining pastry to form the lid. Place over the base. Trim off any excess then crimp the edge to seal. You can simply press down with your fingers, or for a fancier edge use the tines of a fork. You can also pinch together the pastry with your fingers to make a fluted edge, as I did.
Make two or three slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape, then brush the pie with the rest of the beaten egg.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden-brown.
I often make pastry, for all manner of sweet or savoury pies, tarts and pasties. I guess (hope?) I am a bit of an expert after years and years of practice. Some pastry types, like the one today, are simple to make and I would encourage those who have never tried pastry making to give it a go. If you do not feel up to it however, just use shop bought puff pastry in this recipe.
If you prefer, you can use an oven tin with a wide lip and just cover the top with pastry. It is quicker and easier and, if working with pastry is still new to you, it is a simpler option. Just use half the quantity of pastry ingredients mentioned above.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with making pastry I thought I would suggest this recipe. I have chosen it to help you practice the pastry basics of “rubbing in”:
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
1 inch – 25mm
Common Flour Types:
Gluten: 8% to 10%
Type: ES 70W
All-Purpose Flour / Plain Flour
Gluten: 8% to 11%
Type: DE 550 / FR 55 / IT 0 / ES 200W
Bread Flour / Strong Flour / Hard Flour
Gluten: 12% to 14% protein (gluten)
Type: DE 812 / FR 80 / IT 1 / ES 400W
2017 Lincoln W. Betteridge