This is not an immaculate recipe. This is not a gorgeous pie.
Look, presents are great. I am highly in favour of them. But, every day, once a day, give yourself a break. You don’t have to do things perfectly! You don’t have to cook like a pro. If you want to learn how to do something, do it badly. Cook with abandon and moxy. (Editor’s note: And it is in this spirit that Claire wrote this recipe. Her nitpicky editor, Ginnis, made some formatting edits to make it more “recipe-ish,” but don’t be afraid to just go with whatever you feel.)
Oh-kay. Pie and chips! A fine Bri’ish institution. Make it at home for yourself with this (mostly) helpful recipe!
Note: Language is far out, right? “Chips” here means “hot, soft/crispy potato cuboids” not “flat potato, corn, or wheat-based cold snacks” and “pie” means (almost always and certainly at first thought) “savoury.” A pie is a meal, or the focus of it; it is heavy and filling, and what you eat before you get your pudding.
Personally, when I make pie, I tend to be in the mood for comfort. It’s “peasant food,” hearty, hot, and something to ward off nighttime blues with. So I don’t make it with finesse or many rules.
- Meat (if you’re of the carnivorous persuasion)
- Veggies you got laying around
- Whatever the hell else you want
The first thing I do is make the filling. That way, once the pastry is in place, the filling will have cooled a little and thickened, so it’s easier to transfer from the saucepan to the pie tin. I don’t generally leave my pastry to stand because I’m hungry and I want to get fed.
1. So, I start with an onion (half an onion if you’re thrifty). Chop it up and fry it. Good. Wanna add garlic? Do it. Bay leaf? Great!
2. Get your potatoes. How many can you eat? Get that many. Cut them into bits that are longer than they are wide, add salt & pepper, and put them in an oiled oven dish. Drizzle a little more oil over the top. Put the potatoes in the oven at 180 celsius — no need to preheat, unless you’re totally into that. Forget them for now.
3. Look to see what meat you have. Don’t like meat? Skip this step. Cut the meat into small chunks. These will cook faster and also even out to fill the pie better than large pieces. Make them “bite size” I guess. Salt, pepper. Paprika? If you like. Your show, right?
4. Think about the vegetables that you have. Which would go well with this meat? None? Pick a couple anyway. Chop them up small, like the meat (if you’re into that).
5. When they’re cooked as much as you think they should be, add some liquid. Throw in anything you like. I used soy sauce, a tiny bit of fish sauce for stock, a little sesame oil (so good with chicken), and some strawberry wine that I made last month. If you want to use shop wine, that’s OK. Or stock, stock cube and water, just water, fruit juice? Whatever! Just ask yourself: “Would this maybe taste good?” You’ll know, if you use it, once it’s done. They you will have “gained experience”. That’s very good. This is what we call learning.
6. Add something to make your sauce nice and thick. Perhaps cornflour; this creates a nice shine. I have no cornflour, but I have glutinous rice flour. So I use that. Whisk it in — you don’t need lumps. Whisking is a very useful skill.
7. Eventually it will look pretty edible, but still a bit moist. Turn the heat off! Time to make your pastry. This is where, in my photographed procedure, I discovered that I had no butter. Perhaps you’re not aware, but butter (or lard which I did not have either) is pretty important in pastry. Vegans will tell you differently, but I’m not of their flock. And I have no agave syrup.
8. So whatevs, chips-pie it is. Get your pie tin! Line it with grease-proof paper! Bung in the filling, cover it up with chips. Now it’s an odd sort of casserole, but we’re still calling it a pie. Back in the oven, until the chips are as crispy as you like.
9. Now tip it out and yum it up. I was joined in this culinary adventure by my good pal Shelley Winters, who reminded me throughout: in pies we trust. Easy to have confidence, with a wingwoman like that.
Dun. Good. Great!