Houston we have an announcement – we are about to put Mr Biggs out of business!!! Yes, you read that correctly. You are about to create competition. As you’ve probably guessed, I am so excited, that I had to blog about this as soon as I had seen the results and tasted it. Baking is my Achilles heel as I said in the last post. Meat pie is one of the contributors of the problem and it is so frustrating because it is the only pastry that I like. Chicken pie – thumbs down, fish pie – double thumbs down. So, you can imagine how painful it is, when you can’t be great at preparing something you really enjoy. If I start to list my disaster experiments with meat pie, I would not finish today.
They say with age you mature because life has happened to you and you have so many experiences under your belt. Not for everyone though, to some age is just a number. Lol. Those words also ring true for cooking. Ask any chef, and they’ll tell you the same thing. You pick up so many tips with time, you’ve made so many mistakes and you’ve learnt from it. You’ve gone through tutelage in so many forms and it shapes the cook that you are today. I have just read you my journey with cooking, and I know that there is still so much to learn. Today the 26th day of June in 2013, all that came to play today and I doubly excited, blessed and deliriously happy. That is why this post is titled, a little bit of Ina, a little bit of Nigella. You must be thinking, Dunni all this for food, and I will respond. Yes ooooooooooooooooo. If you have always had troubles with meat pie, like Pastors will say, all your troubles end today. Lol. Your troubles with meat pie you are dropping as you are reading this post.
Nigerians, we love meat pie. It is the national favourite from Lagos to Calabar to Kano to Maiduguri. It flies off the shelves in confectionaries, especially Mr Biggs who was probably one of the pioneers. The threat of not getting Mr Biggs meat pie will make any child who grew up in the early 90’s behave. I am sure that as you are reading this, you are reminiscing about your many memories of meat pie. Once it became popular, other confectionaries started selling meat pies, but none could compare with Mr Biggs. Sadly as all good things that come to an end, the quality deteriorated badly and Mr Biggs lost its glory. One of the unique qualities of Mr Biggs’s meat pie was the creamy meat filling. Gosh, I am remembering diving into the pastry crust and getting mouthfuls of creamy delicious meat filling with carrots and potatoes. You could also see the hint of dried thyme. Yum, yummy. Many caterers and confectioners have tried to recreate this distinct consistency and they just did not get it, or even come close. Well, all that ends today. No joke, you are about to thank me big time. Lol. I have pictures to prove it and I am going to share the story with you now.
You will need
3 cups of Self raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
250g of margarine
1 cup of cold water – straight from the tap
1/4 of cold milk – surprised to see milk? you will soon understand why below
1 teaspoon of salt
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: if you don’t have the standard baking cups but you do have a weighing scale, click on this link (HERE) to help you work out the grams conversion of all the ingredients listed. Once you are on the site, click on the ingredient you want to convert. e.g. flour, sugar, butter etc
300g of mincemeat
6 baby potatoes
cayenne pepper – dry pepper
3 tablespoons of flour
seasoning cubes – knorr chicken cubes preferred
1 red chilli – you can use ata rodo (scotch bonnet/habanero pepper)
1 green chilli
1 bay leaf
The pictures will be posted on the Ingredientspaedia page HERE
1. Chop the carrots into cubes, and set aside. Chop the chillies into circles, then chop each circle into quarters and set aside. Peel the skin off the potatoes and boil with a little salt. Dice the onions finely and set aside. Once the potatoes are soft, chop into cubes.
2. Heat 1 cooking spoon of Olive oil into a shallow – deep frying pan. Pour the mincemeat into a bowl and season with salt, 1 seasoning cube, sprinkle in a teaspoon of curry, dried thyme and cayenne pepper and combine. Pour the seasoned mincemeat into the pan and fry until the meat turns from pale pink to a lovely shade of light brown.
3. Add the chopped ingredients from Step 1 (except the potatoes) and stir. Depending on the quality of the mince that you are using, you will have some water leach into the pan from the mince.
Don’t worry, it is not a problem. Let the contents of the pan fry for at least 5 – 7 minutes to allow for the veggies to soften properly.
4. The mince will start to resemble the shape of tiny pebbles and it will taste crunchy. Don’t you worry, you are still on track (i worried myself, until I remembered Nigella Lason’s recipe of mincemeat sauce). Add a cup of water to the mixture and stir. Let this cook for another 5 – 7 minutes.
The water will be absorbed into the meats.
5. When you taste the mince again, it will still have the crunchy effect, no problem, add more water to the pan, about half a cup this time and lower the heat. Add 1 bay leaf and re-season with a pinch of salt and half a seasoning cube. You may need to repeat this process at least one more time. Remember to continue on low heat. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: Leave the bay leaf in for about 5 minutes, then take it out. You only want a hint of the flavour.
What you are trying to achieve is a saucy kind of look to the meats. See above. At no point should it be dry, if it is dry my dear, you will be disappointed when you are done with baking. You are trying to re-create the childhood experience of Mr Biggs meat pie. Creamy filling is key. I made the filling yesterday evening, and it was too dark to make the dough and take pictures, so I simply kept the filling in the fridge.
6. By this evening, the mincemeat mixture had absorbed all the water and it tasted soft and plump and delicious. So I simply put it back on low heat, added a little water and the chopped boiled potatoes.
You can do this if you want, but if you want to make meat pie in one day, simply take the frying pan off the heat, and let the mince rest while it absorbs all the water. Once this has happened, put it back on the heat and add a little more water.
Once the mixture was dripping in liquid, I looked at the pan and I knew something was missing. Suddenly I remembered Nigella’s fish pie. When she cuts it out of the pie dish, it is creamy and dripping with juice. I remembered I used to say to myself, that is how Mr Biggs’s meat pie looks. British fish pie you see, is made with milk so I looked at the pan and said nah – milk, no way. This is 9ja meat pie. Dunni, think, Nigella has mentioned something about a guest being lactose intolerant. What did she substitute for milk? A lightbulb just came on in my head. FLOUR!!! Lol. So, I mixed 3 tablespoons of flour with a little water from the tap and I added to the pan. The result was instant, and I was dancing a jig. My neighbours must think they live next door to this crazy woman who keeps dancing in her kitchen. Lol
7. Mix 3 tablespoons of flour with a little water to form the consistency of milk, and add to the pan. Stir and watch as the mincemeat mixture turns all gooey and creamy. It should not be dripping with any liquid at all. Re-season with half a seasoning cube, stir and let this cook on low heat for about 1 – 2 minutes.
is this evoking the Mr Biggs meat pie filling? You bet it is. Lol.
Remember, my measurements are based on the quantities of ingredients I stated above. You may have to adjust based on how much of each ingredient you are using. I haven’t gotten to the pastry section which is an exact science, so you have some leeway with the filling.
Now to the dough
1. Mix the dry ingredients into a big bowl, with the measurements I stated.
- 1 cup of flour plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt = self-raising flour. Short story: I knew I had flour at home, so despite going to the store after work to pick up eggs, I sauntered past the flour aisle and I said, nah, I have flour at home. Only to open the store and see self-raising flour. Oh my GOSH – why didn’t I just pick up the flour? For goodness sake, flour is really cheap and you can’t have too much of it, as it doesn’t go bad. Then the little red devil in my head said, come on, use it like that. Strike 1. Lol.
So, I measured 3 cups of self-raising flour and I decided to throw in a teaspoon of baking flour for good measure. At this point, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just winging it. Lol. Aanu will probably call it dumb luck. Please do not try this at home with other recipes. The goddess of baking is one mean personality, you don’t joke with her measurements. Lol.
2. Break the margarine apart into chunks
rub the flour with the margarine until the consistency of the flour resembles grains
and the colour has changed to pale yellow
Feel through the flour to ensure that the flour has properly combined with the margarine
3. In one hand, hold a cup of water, and pour a gradually into the bowl, while you combine the flour and water with your other hand. Do NOT pour in all the water at once.
This is where I hit my first snag. By the time I had poured in more than 3 quarters of the cup, the dough was not sticking together, neither was it watery. It just was not combining well. I added the last bit of water, mixed again, and still no luck. I thought to myself, oh dear, not again, if I get the pastry wrong, I’m screwed. I was too worried to take pictures at this point. I addded a sprinkling of flour, thinking it will help, nothing. I repeated that twice, still no luck, then I remembered a tip from Ina Garten, bless her. She said add about 1/4 cup of cold milk if your pastry starts to give you worries. Ding, ding, ding, it worked. Whoop, whoop, it came together just like that. Next thing Ina says is, never overwork your dough. Once it combines, put it in the fridge, and let it rest for 30 minutes. This is to allow the gluten molecules relax, and something or the other, I can’t remember now, but I’ll Google it and update this post. I did that, and 30 minutes later, all the worries I had disappeared, the minute I touched the dough.
4. Mix the flour and water to form the dough. If you faced the same problems I did, just add milk. Remember not to overwork the dough.
It will have the look of rough cement. Lol. The cold fridge is about to change that when the gluten molecules break down
If you have always rolled your dough immediately, please don’t do it again. To get the kind of result I got, Ina is very very correct. You need to let your dough rest under cold conditions. Wrap it in cling film and place in the fridge
5. 3o minutes later, take the dough out of the fridge, and notice the difference in texture. The dough should feel smoother, and more elastic.
see the difference after being in the fridge?
Tear off a chunk enough to fill your palm, coat your palms with flour and knead gently. You should feel the dough respond to your fingers and smoothen into a ball.
I went a little OCD here because I was surprised at how well the pastry had been transformed from staying in the fridge. So, I put the rest of the dough back into the fridge, while I made one pie. I did not want the dough to gain temperature from sitting on the kitchen counter while I made the rest.
6. Coat the rolling pin with flour and roll the pastry till it flattens.You want to roll the pastry till you achieve about a quarter-inch of thickness.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: Another tip with rolling pastry that I have picked up from Food Network. Never put your weight on your hands when rolling pastry. The action should come only from your wrists. If you have been resting your weight on the rolling pin you will over flatten the pastry. Just roll gently with the power of your wrists. You will know the pastry is too thin, when the edges start to have a wrinkly torn and over stretched look. Simply roll back into a ball and flatten again.
7. Using a cookie cutter or the cover of a pot, cut out a circle and remove the extra bits.
Add the creamy filling to the middle of the circle. You will need about a tablespoon and a half. Don’t over fill the pastry
Break the eggs in a bowl and whisk. Using a brush or your hands, lightly coat the inner circle with the egg wash.
Fold over pastry over the filling and press down gently with your fingers.
Dip a fork in water, and press down on the pastry and drag towards you to seal. Repeat this process across, till you completely seal the pie.
8. Rub margarine on a baking tray, place the pie on it and put the tray in the fridge to chill while you make the rest.
9. Take out another chunk of dough from the fridge and repeat Step 5 and 6 till you have exhausted the dough. I was able to make 7 meat pies with this dough. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: When you are halfway through, pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees. his should be Gas Mark 4 or 5 for my readers who live in the UK.
10. Once you have all the pies on the tray, coat with the beaten eggs. This is to give the meat pies a lovely glistening light brown colour. Place the tray into the pre-heated oven and let it bake for 25 minutes.
Despite the kitchen being a mess, I couldn’t bring myself to clear up. I literally sat down and watched the meat pies bake. Lol. I had done everything right, this was the crucial point now. I put the meat pies in at 19.47pm and I sat there watching as it increased in size, and I kept thinking, please Lord, please Lord, let this work. Lol. By 20.04 pm I could see that the pastry had turned golden brown, but 2 pies at the most extreme end of the tray were darker than the others so I brought them out, and left the rest in for another 3 minutes. Ta daaa!!!
Break the meat pie apart, and you will be taken back to that memory of Mr Biggs meat pie, with a meat filling that is gooey, creamy, soft and delicious. The pastry too is very light, flaky and very tasty.
The tips of the meat pie, break apart and it tastes crunchy. You are going to love this, I promise you. This will take you back to those days of Mr Biggs meat pie, and the filling will even taste better as it wasn’t mass produced. I hope you enjoyed reading this, I have described my experience this evening with much detail. You should have no problems making this. No problems at all. I am so psyched with my success with dough, I just might make my own bread one day. Making bread is the big daddy of dough. Aanu to the rescue. Lol
Now, it is time to tackle another confectionary favourite. Yamarita Fries and fried tomato sauce. Luckily, I made this yesterday, so I just have to write about it and attach pictures. See you in the next post.