Not So Fit Brit Fare: Ham, Sausage and Egg Pie and Alternative
Last weekend, I began mentally composing this post, but I held off because of extreme crankiness. I'm not sure if that was best for this blog or not, because on reflection, said crankiness was rather petty and irrational, but also essentially funny. At least I'm assuming it was, given that I, as the person who was caught in the blackness of the bad mood, can appreciate the humor. Now, a week on, I'm a bit torn, not really sure what I want to say, as sourness has transformed into softer feelings, like being kind of proud of my husband, who stepped out of his comfort zone, albeit to my annoyance at the time, and is the driving force behind this post.
Here's what transpired. Ever since taking a solo trip back to England this August, Dave's been fixated on trying to recreate some of the traditional British foods he has missed since moving Stateside, all the more painfully after going to this family butcher/bakery in Ingleton. Not to shamelessly stroke my own ego, but Dave has generously attributed improved nutrition and eating habits to me, and I've allowed it to buoy my pride a little. His repetitive yearnings for fatty pork pies and sausage rolls (even all natural and locally sourced ones in the lovely Lake District)...well, they kind of bugged me, though they really shouldn't have. Then, when the idea bubbled in his brain that he was going to actually make (what I felt sounded disgusting) pork pies in our (read: my) kitchen, a place so unfamiliar to him (except from the perspective of eating) that I could safely hide his Christmas presents in a utility cupboard without his realizing it, I got childish. I don't know why, really. And I'm not proud of it. But I did nothing to help him get started in the task, and did secretly hope the plan would just go away.
Anyone who knows Dave will know, when he determines to try something, he is patiently unwavering in his resolve, despite the appearance of an even-handed, laid-back approach. Last weekend, the weather felt perfect for a stay-in afternoon of baking, and he got pumped with the plan. I, on the other hand, was feeling spent and irritated, and once again, I can't really tell you why. I was just tired. The idea was, Dave and I were going to work together: he, on this traditional English recipe for a Pork, Ham, and Egg Pie, and me, on devising a healthier alternative. What actually happened was, Dave hogged the kitchen (I thought), and I stomped off and took a (much-needed) cat-nap. Or, I stewed and half-slept while I listened with a grim sort of enjoyment to Dave clattering around, a little lost, in the kitchen, washing his hands repeatedly as he maneuvered between piles of raw meats and buttery pastry. When I got up, he was in the final stages of prep, and I horribly ordered him about without lifting a hand, detailing proper clean-up. Poor guy! But as usual, he bore my spell of bad temper with saintly calm, the mood lifted, and I could appreciate he did a really beautiful job. He especially loved the method used for pastry: the one change I'd managed to enforce on the recipe was that he use real butter instead of the lard that was called for, and he melted it before mixing in with the flour. He loved the warm suppleness of it, and for this type of dish, there was little worry of it seeming over-worked. Being so detail-oriented, Dave was meticulous in following the instructions to the letter otherwise, and it was kind of fun to observe him carefully brushing the beaten egg over his gingerly cut and laid top
The irony of this whole thing--well, actually, there are two: one, Dave was chagrined to admit the next day that he did not really like his pie! That said, on the following day, he decided it was amazing, so it's likely this is one of those recipes best left to set a little while. The other twist is, I had so much fun making my healthier alternative the next day. I used some natural ham, and ground it up with grated carrots, onion, and zucchini. Instead of making the one pie detailed in the recipe to follow, I actually made two little ones. One was basically a ham loaf, without the crust, and I thought it was still really nice. It would never occur to me to put meat loaf in a crust anyway, and that is pretty much what Dave was doing. We shredded half the mini ham loaf into a ham-veggie spread for sandwiches for the work week, and that turned out well, too. The other small "pie" was encased in a whole wheat pastry dough. I did not spend as much time beautifying my pie, nor did I inject the gelatin mix used in Dave's recipe, which perhaps could help it hold its shape but seems unnecessary. Overall, though, this was a really fun project for both of us. Too bad I made it miserable for Dave! I've got a plan, though. Next up, traditional and healthier alternative mincemeat. : )
For the filling:
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
- 2 medium zucchini, grated
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 pound all natural, cooked ham, ground
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/3 cup grated cheese (I used a combination of reduced fat Jack and Swiss)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 cup melted butter (or olive oil)
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup cold water
1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and saute onion, carrot and zucchini lightly until tender, about 5 minutes. 2. Combine ground ham, vegetable mixture, eggs, and remaining filling ingredients in a medium bowl, to blend.
3. To prepare the crust, mix flour and melted butter of oil in a medium bowl. Stir the salt into the cold water and mix the water into the dough. Mix only enough to bind the dough. If it's too dry, add more water, a little at at time.
4. Lightly oil or grease an 8 X 4 inch loaf pan. Cut baking parchment or waxed paper to fit the bottom and up the long sides of the dish, with some hanging over the edge.Take about two-thirds of the pastry dough and roll it out on a floured work surface into a thick rectangle, (roughly the width and length of the dish). Lay the dough into the loaf pan and press it up the sides of the dish until the pastry comes to the top and hangs over the rim a little.
5. Spoon the ham mixture into the loaf tin, patting it down a little. Roll out the rest of the pastry to fit over the pie to form a lid. If you like, brush top lightly with beaten egg or milk.
6. Bake at 400° F for 30 minutes; reduce temperature to 350° and continue baking for 30-45 minutes more, or until crisp and golden on top.
Photo credit (top): Historical Foods Pork, Ham, and Egg Pie