Cherry pie

cherry pie

I have mentioned before my generous friend with a wonderful garden. This week he has dropped off several baskets of freshly picked goodies, including cherries and green walnuts. I am very excited about the walnuts as I have wanted to pickle walnuts for a long while and there will be a post about this coming soon. But first the cherries. Here they are in all their glory.

cherries in bowl

Aren’t they beautiful? I love the blushing appearance and they are deliciously sweet. I decided to make a cherry pie with a third of them and the rest have been used to make one of my favourite drinks, cherry brandy, which will make its own post soon.

I have never made a cherry pie with fresh cherries before as it is unusual to have a bounty of cherries in England. You really do need to have access to a tree, either yours or a friend’s, and you need to get in there before the wildlife does. To buy cherries from the supermarket for a pie would seem like the ultimate extravagance as the price can be astounding. Many a time the girls have convinced me to pick up a bag of cherries, for me then to nearly have heart failure when the price appears on the scales. So it felt like a very special treat indeed to be serving this pie for sunday dessert.

500g cherries, stoned
50g vanilla sugar (or ordinary sugar if you don’t have any vanilla flavoured)
1 dessertspoon cornflour

200g plain flour
2 tbsp icing sugar
100g butter
2 egg yolks
1 -2 tbsp cold water

Milk to glaze


I macerated the cherries with the sugar and cornflour for about an hour, whilst the pastry was made and chilled but I don’t really think it is necessary. Mix them together well in a bowl.

Make the pastry by mixing together the flour and the icing sugar and rubbing in the butter using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and start to bring together into a dough, adding the water if necessary. You can do it all in a food processor too for ease. Shape the pastry into a flattened disc and wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Once chilled, remove the clingfilm from the pastry and cut into two pieces one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece to fit your pie dish and press into the sides. Pour in the cherry mixture, spreading to an even layer. Brush a little milk around the rim of the dish. Roll out the smaller piece to fit the top of the dish and seal well around the edges. Brush all over with a little milk and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6, or on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for 25- 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Serve warm with cream or custard, but it’s good cold the next day too.

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Mushroom and Chestnut Wellington

Lurpak are launching a Christmas website and have contacted food bloggers to submit recipes for an alternative to the roast turkey dinner. I was more than happy to contribute an idea that had been bubbling around in my head for a while.  I love a beef wellington and I think it would be a great Christmas Day dinner but if you are catering for vegetarians they want something just as delicious on their plate too and in fact this Mushroom and Chestnut Wellington is as good as any beef wellington I have eaten, so everyone is happy.

On Christmas Day, of all days, you want to eat something decadently rich and this is definitely that with its butter rich flaky pastry and a filling that oozes cream and sherry. But the real beauty of this dish is that it can be made the day before and will happily sit in the fridge waiting for you to pop it in the oven 45 minutes before you want to eat it. This means you get to spend less time in the kitchen and more time doing whatever makes you happy on Christmas morning.

But you don’t have to wait until Christmas to enjoy this. I think it might be even better cold than it is hot and so if you are having a party serve one of these sliced as part of a cold buffet and people will be asking for it every  time they come to yours for a party.


For the pastry
275g plain flour
225g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
cold water
1 egg to glaze

For the filling
60g butter
250g shallots or onions, sliced finely
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500g mushrooms (I like to use a variety, the tastier the better, but avoid button mushrooms as they have little taste)
200g cooked and peeled chestnuts
½ tsp dried tarragon
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp sherry, madeira wine or marsala
3 tbsp double cream
100g breadcrumbs


Begin by making the filling as you will need to allow it to cool before you can assemble the wellington.  Weigh the butter for the pastry, wrap in foil and place in the freezer for thirty minutes.

For the filling melt 40g of the butter in a large pan and gently fry the onions and garlic for three to five minutes until the onions are translucent.  Turn up the heat to medium and add the mushrooms (no need to slice them unless they are large) and the remaining 20g of butter and fry again for a further five minutes.  You want the mushrooms to have taken on a good brown colour with a little caramelisation. Add the tarragon and the chestnuts and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Add the soy sauce and the sherry (or madeira or marsala) and allow to bubble away until the juices have reduced by half.  Add the cream and bubble again for a minute or two.  Stir in the breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool.

To make the pastry put the flour into a large bowl.  Take the butter out of the freezer and, working quickly, grate the butter into the flour.  Use a palette knife to coat the butter with the flour.  Add enough cold water to mix (add the water gradually as you don’t want the pastry to be sticky) and continue using the palette knife to combine the pastry.  Once it starts to come together briefly shape into a disc with your hands.  Wrap in clingfilm or a food bag and place in the fridge for thirty minutes.

Place the cooled filling in a food processor and pulse until you have a chunky texture.

Roll the pastry out onto a well floured board to measure 40 x 35 cm.

Pile the filling in the middle of the pastry to form a sausage shape. Cut the overhanging pastry in each side into strips of 5cm and then take a strip from alternate sides to the top of the filling. Place onto a greased baking dish.  You can now keep this in the fridge until you are ready to cook.  Before cooking, beat an egg in a small bowl and brush over the top of the pie to glaze.

Cook in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or the roasting oven of the Aga for 30-35 minutes, turning once, until the pastry is golden.  It is best to leave it to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes before serving.


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Rhubarb and ginger pie

I cannot claim any of the credit for this pie.  It is my mum’s recipe and my mum made it.  However, I couldn’t resist posting it here because it is just so delicious. The addition of the stem ginger really complements the rhubarb.  Every time my mum makes it it disappears almost as soon as it is put on the table. So if I can decipher my mother’s handwriting, this is how she makes it.

For the pastry:
200g plain flour
100g cold butter, diced
cold water

For the filling:
650g prepared rhubarb (peeled if necessary and cut into 3cm chunks)
2 heaped tbsp Demerara sugar
1 tsp stem ginger syrup from the jar
3 pieces of preserved stem ginger, chopped finely


Place the flour and the cubed butter in a food processor and blitz until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Add about 2-3 tablespoons of cold water at first and then pulse the mixture.  You may need to add a little more water until the pastry comes together in a ball.  The important thing is to keep the mixing to a minimum otherwise the pastry will be tough.  You can of course rub the butter and flour together with your fingers until the breadcrumb stage and then stir in the water with a knife until it comes together.  Form the pastry into a flattened disc, cover with a food bag or clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Place the rhubarb, sugar, stem ginger and syrup in a bowl and leave to marinate for about ten minutes.

Split the pastry in half and roll out one half to fit a pie dish or plate.  Place the rhubarb mixture into the dish.  Brush the edges of the pastry with water.  Roll out the second disc of pastry to fit the top and seal well around the edges.

Cook in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or in the Roasting oven of the Aga for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.  Sprinkle on a little more demerara as soon as it comes out of the oven for a crunchy top.

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Chicken pie

We had the leftovers from a roast chicken in the fridge and I needed a dinner that could be prepared ahead and then put in the oven half an hour before we wanted to eat.  This chicken pie was the result.  It was rich and creamy and delicious and probably the best chicken pie I have made yet.

For the pastry top:

75g (3oz) cold butter
150g (6oz) plain, all purpose, flour
3-4 tbsp of very cold water

For the filling:

Glug of olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 sticks of celery, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1-2 rashers of bacon (optional)
The leftovers from a cooked chicken ( I used the meat from a leg and about half a breast worth off the carcass, but this was a big chicken from the butchers to begin with)
2 tbsp plain, all purpose, flour
glug of sherry or madeira (optional)
350ml stock
100ml cream
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper


Make the pastry by placing the flour and butter in a food processor and whizzing until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the water (you may need less or more, so take care) and whizz until it just comes together.  Be careful not to overmix.  If you don’t have a food processor, place the flour in a bowl and add the butter in cubes.  Rub the butter and flour together using the very tips of your fingers and lifting the flour up high to incorporate air. When it looks like breadcrumbs mix in the water using the blade of a knife and then form into a ball when it starts to come together.  Try not to handle the pastry too much.

Wrap the pastry in cling film or a plastic bag and chill in the fridge.

Fry the onion, carrot, celery and bacon (if you are using it) in the olive oil until the onion is translucent, the celery and carrots are tender and the bacon is cooked.  Add the chicken and then the flour and stir to mix well.  Leave to cook for a minute or two to cook the flour and then add the sherry or madeira if you are using it and stir well.  Add the stock gradually, stirring all the time to incorporate the flour and prevent lumps.  Let this bubble away for five minutes.  Add the cream and stir well to combine.  Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

Put this mixture into a pie dish.  Wet the edges of the pie dish.  Roll out the pastry to fit the dish.  Seal the pastry with your fingertips all round the edge of the dish.  Make a hole in the centre with a small knife to allow steam to escape and brush with milk or egg wash.  Cook in a preheated oven at 200°c (gas mark 6) or the Roasting oven of the Aga for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown all over.

You could serve this with a green veg, but it is not really necessary.

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Sausage and sage pie

This is one of my all time favourites.  I can’t remember a party from my childhood, or adulthood, when one of these beauties hasn’t been invited.  The pie in the picture is one of mum’s creations and it is from my mum that I have this recipe.  My mum makes the best sausage pies in the world!

I made one for a party we had over the May bank holiday weekend, but with all the pre party chaos I forgot to take a picture of my creation, so I have waited until my mum made her next sausage pie before posting this recipe.  Luckily for me she makes then quite often.

It is always popular and I rarely get a chance for leftovers.  It is important though that you get very good sausage meat from a very good butcher for this pie to be top notch.

500g ready-made all butter puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten, to glaze

1kg top quality sausage meat
6-7 tips of sage (by tip I mean the top 3 or 4 leaves of a sprig)
200g onion
salt and pepper


If you don’t have a food processor then chop the onion and sage finely.  If you have a food processor, throw them both in and whizz until finely chopped.   Add them to the sausagemeat in a bowl, add a little salt and pepper and using your hands mix really well together.

Roll the puff pastry out into a large rectangle.  I forgot to measure mine to help with this but think about the baking tray you are going to use and it will probably be about the same size as that.

Place the sausagemeat in the centre of the pastry in a line, leaving an edge of about 3cm.

Fold the pastry over to meet at the top and crimp the edges well.  Place the pie onto a lightly greased baking tray and brush all over with a lightly beaten egg.  (You may have some spare pastry that you need to trim away.  If you do then brush this with egg and sprinkle with grated cheese and cut into fingers, place onto a greased baking sheet and cook for about 8-10 minutes for lovely cheese straws)

Place in a preheated oven at 220°c for about 30 minutes until golden brown.

You can serve this hot but I like it much better cold as the flavours really develop.

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Mince pie

Here is a mince pie made with the Christmas mincemeat, shortly before being polished off by me.  I like mince pies in all forms, whether made with shortcrust or puff pastry.  Last night I made them with shortcrust pastry.

As you will see from the picture at the bottom we love mince pies so much in this house that we also make them during the summer holidays.

This makes 24 mince pies.  You can freeze mince pies in the patty tins, once frozen you can then place them in a freezer bag for easier storage. When you are ready to cook simply place them back into the patty tin. They will need a few more minutes if cooking from frozen.

350g plain flour
175g butter
cold water

450g mincemeat

1 egg, beaten
light soft brown sugar or icing sugar to dust


I always make my pastry in a food processor as it means you handle the pastry less and it makes for a crumblier texture.  Place the flour and butter in a processor and pulse until it becomes the texture of breadcrumbs. (If you are doing it by hand rub the butter and the flour lightly through your fingertips, lifting your hands up high in the air over the bowl as you do it until all of the butter and flour is combined and the texture of breadcrumbs).  Add enough cold water to form a dough (probably about 4-5 tablespoons, but add carefully) and mix until just combined.  Remove from the bowl and place in a plastic bag or cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick.  Using a 7.5cm round pastry cutter, cut 24 rounds out of the pastry and using a 6 cm round pastry cutter cut another 24 rounds out.  You will need to re-roll the pastry to use it all up and I normally do this in two batches, splitting the dough into one ball that is two-thirds of the dough for the larger rounds and the second ball that is one-third of the dough for the smaller rounds.

Place the larger rounds into the bottom of each hole in two patty tins. Using a pastry brush, brush a little egg around the top of each pie.

Place a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pie, don’t overfill or it will burst out and burn during cooking.  Place the smaller rounds on top, pressing around the edge gently. Pierce a small hole in the top of each pie with the point of a sharp knife. Brush the top of each pie with egg.

Cook in a preheated oven at 200°c (400°f, gas mark 6) for 25-30 minutes until they are golden brown.  Dust with sugar or icing sugar as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Cottage pie

cottage pie 2We had a roast rib of beef for Sunday lunch this week, if I had not been so eager to eat it I might have remembered to take a photograph of it and a post all about it would already have been on the site.  I will try not to be so eager next time…

With the left over beef I made a cottage pie for tea tonight and I have simmered the bones with an onion, carrot and bouquet garni in enough water to cover the bones for about three hours to make a beef stock for the freezer.

A cottage pie (or a shepherd’s pie if made in the same way using left over lamb) is pure comfort food. It can even be eaten with a spoon if you feel you really need some comforting.

It’s hard to be precise about quantities as you need to adapt according to the amount of meat you have left.  I had 8 oz (225g) of beef so I added one onion, one carrot and about 4 oz (110g) of frozen peas. I then topped with half a medium swede boiled with 2 medium sized potatoes. But it will depend on what you have available in the cupboard.  The glory of something that is made out of leftovers is that it is adaptable to what you have left over.  It may be that you have some leftover mash (carrot, swede, parsnip or potato) from the meal when you enjoyed the roast beef, which would make a brilliant topping.

What I tend to do is whizz the onion and carrot together in the food processor until finely chopped and whilst they are sweating I do the same with the beef in the processor. It makes it into a consistency that is very comforting to eat.

Serves 2 generously

1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
8 oz (225g) roast beef, finely chopped
4 oz (110g) frozen peas
½ pint (275ml) beef stock
1 bay leaf
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the topping:

½ medium swede, peeled and cubed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bigger cubes than the swede
½ oz (10g) butter


Heat a little olive oil in a pan over a gentle heat and add the onion and carrot and sweat for about five minutes. Add the beef and stir and then add the stock and the bay leaf.  Cook for 1 hour at a gentle heat. Add the frozen peas.  Season to taste. Turn the mixture into a deep oven proof dish.

Whilst the beef  mixture is cooking you can cook the potato and swede topping.  Swede takes longer to cook than potatoes so I always give them a five minute head start by placing them in a saucepan and adding enough water to cover.  Add a little salt (½tsp) to the water and bring to the boil, when they have been boiling for five minutes add the potatoes and cook until both the swede and the potatoes are tender (this will depend on how big you made the cubes, you can test with the point of a knife). Drain in a colander, return to the pan and add the butter.  When the butter has melted mash them with a potato masher.

Cover the beef mixture with the potato mixture so that it is completely and evenly covered. Place in a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) for about 30-45 minutes until the top is crispy and browned.

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven
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