Meat pies with hot-water crust are hearty and delicious. In the middle ages the crusts were thick and hard and not meant to be eaten, just a vessel for the filling. These crusts are tasty; don’t be frightened by the lard, it adds a flavor and texture that cannot be duplicated with butter or vegetable shortening.
Makes 6 pies
For the Gravy:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup beef broth
For the filling:
- 1 pound leg of lamb, cut into 2” chunks (or ground lean lamb)
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 4 teaspoons fresh winter savory or 1 tablespoon rosemary. minced
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground is best
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black or red pepper
- 1 cup gravy
For the Pastry:
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, add more if necessary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup lard, such as Whitecap
- 3/4 cup water
For the egg wash:
- 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Make the gravy: Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and whisk together until smooth. Pour in the broth, a little at a time, whisking continually, until the gravy comes to a boil and thickens. Set aside to cool.
- Make the filling: Place lamb pieces in a food processor and pulse until the meat is chopped into small pieces slightly larger than ground beef. Remove to a large bowl and set aside. Mince the onions and garlic by hand or in a food processor and add them to the meat mixture. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, winter savory, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and gravy. When the meat is well mixed, refrigerate it until ready to use.
- To make the pastry: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center. Bring the fat and water to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour into the well in the flour mixture. Stir together until the mixture is evenly moistened and still warm, but cool enough to handle comfortably.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth, adding more flour a little at a time as needed. The dough should be easy to handle, not sticky or crumbly. Cut off one-third of the dough and place it in a pan with the lid on to keep it warm. Pat the remaining dough flat and gently roll it 1/4″ thick. Using a small plate or saucer as a template, cut out six 6″ circles of dough, gathering the scraps and re-rolling, as necessary.
- To assemble: Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place six English muffin rings on the baking sheet.
- Pat the circles of dough into the rings, gently pushing down and into the sides (using a knob of pastry to pat the dough down is helpful. There should be about 1/2″ of dough sticking up around the edges; fold this over the outside of the rings because you use this to seal the edges of the pies.
- Divide the cooled filling between each lined muffin ring, filling to the top. Roll the reserved dough 1/4″ thick and cut out six 3 1/2″ circles. Cut small vent holes in the circles to allow steam to escape while the pies are baking. Tip: Use a large round piping tip to cut a vent hole in the center.
- Place the lids over the meat filling and fold the outside edges back over the tops, pinching them to stand up around the edge. If you have extra dough, cut out shapes to decorate the tops of the pies. Patch and pinch where necessary to make sure they are well sealed.
- Gently life the rings from the pies. See how they stand on their own?
- Brush the tops and sides of the pies with the egg wash and bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the pies from the oven and serve warm.
- There probably won’t be any leftovers, but if there are, they can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days or frozen for longer storage.