You may recall a few weeks ago I made a small batch of Vegetarian ‘Pork’ Pies. Yeah, I know it’s a contradiction in turn, but you know exactly what I mean by a ‘Pork’ Pie, so that’s what they were called. Anyway, my folks, Mr E & myself loved them. And if stats have anything to go by, you guys were interested by them also. They were so yummy and full of flavour that I wanted to make another version. Don’t you just love hot water crust pastry?!
This time I decided to use a quail egg encased in a mixture of spinach, sautéed mushrooms, pepper and sun blushed and cherry tomatoes. Pies hiding an egg look so darn lovely when they’re cut through, don’t you think? They were really yummy and made a lovely change. I did need to be careful regarding the water content of the filling; but once the spinach was drained thoroughly and the tomatoes deseeded all was good. They’d be great to pack up to take on a picnic with some chutney. Really scrummy!
Regarding the egg, I chose to use quail eggs due to their size. The hen’s eggs were simply too large for the moulds I had available. I didn’t want my pies to be all egg, call me fussy! Yes they’re expensive, but I think it’s worth pushing the boat out every once in a while.
Now, I’d never used quail eggs up until the other week, and having got them home I was intrigued by how they differed to a hen’s egg. The shell is incredibly delicate and thin, so they do need handling with the upmost care. I would even advocate performing the float test with each egg before using them as our dozen eggs contained 4 which were not fit for consumption despite the date being really good!!! So, I’d definitely advocate checking the eggs in the store and double checking them at home before cooking with them. Of course, hen’s eggs would be just as lovely; though you’d need to use a larger mould and increase the cooking time.
As you know, ‘pork’ pies are usually made by hand-raising the hot water crust pastry around a dolly, a wooden cylindrical block. Given that I chickened out of the traditional process with my vegetarian ‘pork’ pies, and just lined dariole moulds with the pastry, I decided this time to bite the bullet, so to speak, and try that traditional process. I didn’t want to buy traditional dollys as they are expensive, around £10 for 1, so I used six of our hi-ball glasses to mould the pastry. The lovely Angela from Patisserie Makes Perfect made a fantastic suggestion of wrapping the glass with cling film before moulding the pastry. This technique worked a treat apart from….yes there’s a but…..the fact that the base of 2 of our glasses still had some ‘sticky’ stuff remaining from the manufacturer’s label. This unfortunately stuck to the cling film, which in turn damaged the base of those two pies. So, word to the wise, if you do try this at home make sure your mould has no label remnants first! Other than that oversight on my part, it’s actually quite a straightforward process.
Our 6 dinky pies, became 4 dinky pies! Not to worry, it’s all a learning curve.
You will also notice from the image above that I wrapped some greaseproof paper around the pies before filling and baking them. This idea again came from Angela over at Patisserie Makes Perfect; it just helps keep the pie a little more structurally stable.
Hand Raised Quail Egg & Spinach Dinky Pies
Time: about 30 minutes hands on time; 20 minutes resting time; plus 40-45 minutes baking time; and cooling time.
You will need
For the Hot Water Crust Pastry
6 hi-ball glasses
200g plain flour
40g strong white bread flour
50g butter, chilled
pinch of salt
100ml boiling water
1 egg, beaten to glaze.
Greaseproof paper & string / twine
For the Filling
Vegetable oil / sunflower oil
knob of butter
6 quail eggs
395g can chopped spinach, drained
200g mixture of white & chestnut mushrooms, chopped
1 orange pepper
8 cherry tomatoes, deseeded & chopped
3 sun blushed tomatoes, chopped
generous grating of nutmeg
1 tsp dried basil (or fresh chopped)
1 vegetable Oxo cube
1 sachet vegetarian gelling agent
How to make them
1. Place one of your high-ball glasses on a piece of paper . Leaving a 0.5 – 1 cm margin, draw around the rim and cut out the circle. This will act as a guide for the size of the pie lids.
2. Ensure your highball glasses have no remaining sticky label to the bottom of the glasses. Lay a square of cling film on the work surface. Sit a high-ball glass on the centre & draw the cling film up the sides to wrap. Repeat with the remaining 5 glasses.
3. Make the pastry. Place the plain flour, bread flour, salt and chilled butter into a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes. Rub the butter between your thumb and fingers into the flours until it resembles breadcrumbs. Meanwhile place the boiled water and lard / TREX into a pan over a low heat to melt the fat. Once melted take off the heat. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour most of the water and melted fat into the well. Use a knife to cut through the flour and liquid. It will gradually start to come together. Add more of the liquid as required to create a dough. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and knead it lightly for 1 – 2 minutes to create a smooth dough.
4. Once made, divide the pastry into 7 pieces, 6 being roughly equal. The other being a little larger; this will form the lids of the 6 pies. Cover them with a strip of cling film.
5. On a lightly floured work surface, partially roll out a piece of the pastry. Sit a hi-ball glass in the centre and ease the pastry up the sides of the glass. Try not to make the pastry too thin, especially around the edge between the base and side of the glass. You may find it easier to turn the glass upside down to do this. Repeat with the remaining 5 glasses.
6. With a paring knife, or similar, trim the pastry to make a neat straight top to the pie shell. Place on a tray in the fridge to chill.
7. Roll out the final piece of pastry on a lightly floured work surface, 6 lids will need to be made out of this piece. Lay the paper circle on top of the pastry and with a sharp knife cut around the stencil carefully. Place each ‘lid’ onto a plate and place in the fridge to chill.
8. Make the filling. Place the canned spinach into a good sized mixing bowl. Ensure it is sufficiently drained. Add the chopped & deseeded tomatoes, seasoning, nutmeg and basil. Mix together.
9. Place a little oil and knob of butter into a frying pan, and sauté your chopped mushrooms until starting to colour slightly. Decant into the bowl containing the spinach, omitting any juices which may be left.
10. Meanwhile, char the pepper with either a cook’s blowtorch or gas flame on the cooker. Do be careful doing this. Once charred, wrap the pepper in cling-film. When cooled unwrap the pepper and peel off the chargrilled skin, rinse under a running tap. De-seed the pepper and chop the flesh. Add to the bowl and mix again. Allow the filling to cool.
11. Check the eggs for freshness by performing a float test. Do this by filling a jug with water and carefully placing an egg in the bottom of the jug. If the egg floats discard it. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
12. Cook the quail eggs. Gently place in a pan of warm water. Place over a low-medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Cook gently for 90 seconds. Place into a bowl of cold water. With one egg, gently roll it on the work surface beneath the palm of your hand to crack the shell. Peel the shell, it should come away fairly easily. Rinse the egg to remove any remaining shell. Repeat with the remaining 5 eggs.
13. Pre-heat the oven to 200c / Fan 190c / Gas 6.
14. Remove the chilled pastry moulds from the fridge. Wrap the pastry moulds in a narrow strip of greaseproof paper and tie with a length of string. Carefully remove the highball glass from the pastry mould. Slowly remove the cling film. Place on a baking tray.
15. Carefully place 1-2 teaspoons full of the filling in the moulds and make an indentation in the centre. Sit a quail egg in this indentation. Top with some more filling, carefully easing it down the sides of the egg.
16. Place the lids on top of the pies and carefully seal them with your thumb and two forefingers, gently supporting the sides of the pie with the palm of your other hand as you do so. With a sharp knife cut a small whole in the top of the lid. This will be where the stock is poured into the pie once cooked.
17. Using a pastry brush, paint the pastry lids with the beaten egg.
18. Place the baking tray into the oven and cook for about 40 – 45 minutes. Turn the tray round after 30 minutes.
19. Once your pies are cooked through and golden brown remove from the oven and place on a cooling tray to cool.
20. Make your stock. Crumble your stock cube into a measuring jug. Add your vegetarian gel and make as per the gelling agent instructions.
21. Once your stock is made, use either a funnel or measuring jug with a spout, very carefully pour your stock into the pie moulds through the hole you made in the lid. Do this slowly. Allow it to settle adding more if necessary.
22. Set the pies aside to allow to finish cooling and the stock to set before serving. This will take about 1.5 to 2 hours.