It looks as though we might fast be heading towards autumn. There have been a few hints lately that the sunny days won’t last much longer. The wind has picked up a few times, I’ve had to start wearing a jacket in the mornings and we’ve had that day where everyone suddenly says ‘It’s a quite chilly today, isn’t it?‘ I was rather hoping that I would get away with autumn until I got back from the States in early October, but it looks as though there will be no such luck. On the plus side, it does mean that there’s a whole new season of food to be enjoyed! I thought I’d celebrate by making a pie.

Pork Apple and Cider PieI know I said that I was going to be healthy in September (after August’s booze and trash fest), but having been out for lunch and dinner on Friday (lunch at Gleneagles on Friday – totally work related – was definitely the highlight of my weekend) and then out for dinner again on Saturday I figured that a savoury pie for Sunday’s dinner wouldn’t really matter. It just so happens that this is being published just ahead of this evening’s Great British Bake Off, where it’s pastry week! Not that I’m claiming that this is GBBO standard (far from it), but as Mary would no doubt mention, there was not a soggy bottom in sight. Let’s face it – no one likes a soggy bottom.

It all came about because I was at the gym last week thinking about food (as you do). The theme for this month’s Baking with Spirit – hosted by Janine at Cake of the Week – was cider and I was struggling to think of something I wanted to make, because to me cider is a very savoury booze. Putting it in a cake or dessert seemed a little too counter intuitive, but what else could I do? Pedalling away on an exercise bike I realised that I was a complete idiot – who said baking has to be sweet? You bake a pie, thus it counts under the ‘baking’ part of the challenge and would work with my pre-conceived ideas of flavour. Soon after my plan for this pork, apple and cider pie was taking shape.

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In my head it looked a bit more presentable than the final exhibit I’m displaying here, but my ultimate prerequisite for featuring on the blog is taste, so it most definitely makes the grade. The meat stayed fairly moist (although would have been better if I’d turned the gas off under the pan when I originally meant to), the chunks of apple were melt-in-the-mouth and the flavour of the cider came through brilliantly. My presentation might not be as I imagined – if I had found my tart tin rather than being left with a loaf tin, that might have been a start – but the end result was a delicious end to the weekend. The next time I make this combination (and there will most definitely be a next time) I might try it with larger chunks of pork and do it with puff pastry on the top, but if you’re looking for something a bit more slicable, then this is your pie!

Pork, Apple & Cider Pie

This is an original recipe from The Usual Saucepans, it was made up as I went along. For time reasons I committed the cardinal sin and bought ready made shortcrust pastry. Sorry. It serves two.

baking with spirit

Ingredients

400g pork mince
2 apples
200ml dry cider
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tbsp plain flour
1 pack pre-made pastry (shamefully)

Directions

First sort out your pastry. If you’ve been bad like me and cheated then roll it out and chop off a strip/circle for the top (put this to one side). Line your tin and bake it blind for 12-15 minutes (with baking beans to stop it rising). If you haven’t cheated, then good on you. The instructions are the same, but you need to make the pastry first (see recipe here).

Chop the onion into thin slices and crush the garlic. Put a large, non-stick frying pan onto the hob and let it heat up until untouchably hot. Tip the mince in and break it up using a wooden spoon, turn the heat down a bit and stir the mince as it starts to brown and release liquid. At this point through in the onion and garlic.

Once the meat is browned, pour in the cider – it will start to simmer. Once the cider is in and reducing, peel and chop your apples in to chunks no bigger than 1cm². These should be thrown in when the cider is about half gone along with the flour (which will thicken the mixture). Stir the flour out using a wooden spoon and continue to simmer until the cider is almost all gone. At this point take the pan off the heat and set to one side to cool.

When both the pastry case and filling are cold, assemble the pie by spooning the filling in to the pastry and pushing it down with a piece of kitchen towel (this will help remove any excess fat). Put the final piece of pastry on as a lid. Glaze with beaten egg or a little butter.  Bake in a medium oven – about 150ºC – for a further 15-20 minutes until the top is golden and the centre piping hot.

Transfer the pie to a serving plate and slice it at the table.