Pie tips from Higgidy Pie's Camille Stephens

  1. You can’t rush good cooking, so take time and care with your recipe and enjoy the process – your pie will taste better for it! In particular, never hurry a meat filling – long, slow cooking will produce a rich dark stew with glossy gravy. I sometimes make my stews a couple of days ahead to allow the flavours to develop.
     
  2. Don’t be afraid to be creative – if you have a favourite ingredient, or an idea for an unusual combination, then give it a go.
     
  3. Good ingredients make a good pie – we choose ingredients based on their quality and heritage. When making a meat pie, don’t mix cuts of meat as they will all cook at a different pace and end up chewy or stringy.
      
  4. Don’t worry if your pie doesn’t look perfect, a higgledy piggledy pie is all part of the home-made charm! The most tasty, well-loved pies are those with wobbly buttery pastry and oozy filling bubbling over the side of the dish.
     
  5. Try experimenting with different cheeses in your pies – strong ones like Parmesan and Extra Mature Cheddar work really well. You can even add some English mustard powder for extra oompf!
     
  6. For sweet pies, try scraping out a vanilla pod and adding the seeds to a rich flaky pastry – this works really well with apple or peach fillings.
     
  7. I like to use the excess pastry to decorate the lid and make the pie more interesting. Hearts and stars are our favourite at Higgidy but you can even try to write your name in pastry. Brush with egg yolks afterwards to give it a lovely golden glaze.
     
  8. The most important thing is not to be afraid and just have fun with it!
     
  9. For those of us with busy lives, there isn’t always time to make everything from scratch– ingredients like good quality ready roll pastry, or chicken stock cubes will taste great and save you time.
     
  10. If you do want to make your own pastry, start with everything cold then use light fingers and a light touch to avoid overworking it, and use butter not margarine, as it tastes better that way.
     
  11. Always let your pastry ‘relax’ or rest in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes – this will help prevent shrinkage when you bake your pie.
     
  12. If you preheat the tin it is going to sit on it will help to get the heat through the bottom of the pie and avoid a soggy bottom! Try to get your oven good and hot – pastry doesn’t like moderate or cool ovens, it will just ‘sweat’ and turn soggy.
     
  13. I like to use a combination of shortcrust and puff pastry in my pies. Shortcrust gives the crust a lovely crunch, and a buttery puff pastry lid makes it look really special, as well as tasting delicious – cutting through it at the dinner table always brings on ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’!
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