Tag Archives: shortcrust pastry

A (sort of) pork pie for two

You beauty!

The past couple of weeks have been hectic to say the least. We finally moved into our new house (yey!) and managed to get all of our boxes at least half unpacked before the new academic term really ramped up. Then, of course, our lives turned back to grading reports, teaching, and trying to squeeze in our own research where ever we could.

But among the madness there was a moment of calm. Last week, on a particularly chilly Friday, I was working from home and was yearning for something comforting to eat. I’m a strong believer that real comfort food is food that takes it’s time. Food that sputters away slowly for hours on the stove filling your home with delicious aromas. Food that is worth the wait.

When I was back in the UK last Thanksgiving, I spent a good deal of time catching up with all my beloved British ‘TV chefs’, and was particularly drawn to Nigel Slater’s pork rib ragu. So simple it could barely be considered ‘cooking’ at all: pork ribs, onion, celery, carrot, and stock. That’s it. Oh, and time. A good three hours of it. Mounded on some pappardelle, a more comforting dish you could not find. So that is what I made that Friday. You can find the recipe here.

Simple comfort

Another wonderful thing about comfort food is that there are always bountiful leftovers. Leftover pork ragu almost begs to be gently enveloped in a case of shortcrust (equal quantities AP and butter, a pinch of salt, and a sprinkle of cold water) and transformed into a golden, bubbling pie. This (sort of) pork pie – and I say “(sort of)” because it is not a pork pie in the traditional British sense, but rather a pie with pork – was first meant to be two individual pies, but a slight misjudgment on the quantity of pastry led to the rather ample pie for two pictured here.

The resulting meal, an economical homemade pie paired with simple boiled potatoes and broccoli, was more reminiscent of my childhood dinner plate than anything I had eaten in some time. And could there be anything more comforting than that?



Thanksgiving, with a Yorkshire twist

This is the first time I’ve been back in the UK for Thanksgiving since I started to celebrate it and so I brought the festivities with me across the pond. In addition to dinner with friends and family tonight, I could not let today pass without jumping on the opportunity to make one of my favorite desserts of all time: a Pecan Tart.

This is pecan pie with a Yorkshire twist. Once again I reach for the Lyle’s golden syrup, with its complex, almost honey-like flavor, as my trusty secret ingredient. I’m proud to say that this recipe was met with great enthusiasm when presented at an authentic American Thanksgiving dinner last year. “Just how did I get the filling to taste like that?!” guests demanded. Well, ladies and gentlemen, now you know.

I was a relative latecomer to pecan pie. My mother swears that I was fed pecan pie from the grocery store freezer department as a child, but I really don’t remember (perhaps for the best…). No, I first recall eating a slim slice of pecan tart, slightly warmed from the oven and served with a large dollop of clotted cream, at the Queen’s Lane Coffee House in Oxford. It was literally a “Where have you been all my life?” kind of moment. From then on I often sat in that little historic cafe, reading over a scientific paper, drinking their ridiculously strong coffee, and indulging in this rich and delicious treat.

The pecan pies I make are as close to the Oxford version as I can get. More of a tart than a pie, with pecans elegantly arranged in a relatively shallow crust before the filling is carefully poured in. They then magically rise to the surface in the oven and remain there once the filling has cooled and come to rest. It is just perfect served with very thick cream (use whipped heavy cream if you can’t find clotted) and a bitter espresso to balance out the sweetness.

Pecan Tart 

Adapted from a recipe by BBC Food

First make the shortcrust pastry. Put 6 oz all purpose flour, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar in a large bowl. Add 3 oz butter that has been brought to room temperature and cut into cubes.

Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Don’t overwork it as you don’t want it to become greasy.

Using a knife, stir in just enough ice cold water to bind the dough together (I used around 3 tbsp). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 10-15 mins before using.

While the pastry is in the fridge, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 9-inch tart tin with butter.

Place 4 oz unsalted butter, 4 oz golden syrup, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 8 oz soft brown sugar into a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. When melted, remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 10-15 mins.

While the mixture is cooling, roll out the chilled shortcrust pastry and line the tart tin. Leave a little pastry hanging over the edge as it is likely to shrink slightly when baked.

Press pecans into the base of the tart, making a star pattern radiating from the center outwards (or any pattern that takes your fancy). Fill in as many gaps as you can with shards of pecans.

Beat together 3 eggs and stir well into the butter and sugar mixture when it is cool enough. I find it best to add a little egg at a time, stirring well between each addition.

Pour the syrup mixture gradually over the pecans in the tart base. Carefully transfer the tart to the oven and bake for 40-50 mins (although 35 mins was enough in my mum’s fan oven). The pie should be golden brown – and a little more so if using dark soft brown sugar – and the filling should be slightly soft.

Allow to cool for 20 mins in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack so the bottom of the tart doesn’t get soggy. In my opinion, this tart is best served slightly warm but is also excellent cold if that’s what you prefer or if you are making ahead. Dollop with cream and serve.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!