It is a long tradition in this house that if you go to the hospital for breast biopsies or any other cancer related procedures you get to go for lunch at St John’s restaurant afterwards to make up for the trauma.
It was thus that we found ourselves last Thursday at about 2pm at St John’s Bread and Wine near Liverpool Street. I won’t bore you with the details but I was at the hospital as I had found some lumps in my breast (they are nothing to worry about by the way) but the sonographer saw something he didn’t like in the lymph nodes of my other breast/armpit. He decided to do a biopsy – and thus my ticket straight to St John’s afterwards.
The food is always good at St John’s – it isn’t cheap – hence you only get to go when you have biopsies or drains removed etc (as I have had a lot of this I have been quite a few times!).
We had braised cuttlefish with alexanders and aioli; roast onions and goat’s cheese (both of these were fabulous) and then we opted for their pheasant and trotter pie. This latter item was a whopping £36 (for 2 people, but even so!!!) – but I had had a biopsy and to be fair I reckoned I was about to die so there wasn’t any point skimping on lunch.
The pie came, it was OK – not much meat, bit watery … £36! I have actually made this pie before as I have Henderson’s cookbooks (book 2: 52-3) and I like his approach to food – the whole nose to tail eating. The pie consists of some game, a little bit of bacon and trotter gear. I know how much trotters and game cost. We asked what breed of pig the trotters were from – I mean why wouldn’t we? They came back and said they didn’t know. This means they got a job lot in a bin bag for 20p or something – no one wants trotters (except me and my friend Mike).
I reckoned I could make the pie better (and cheaper) so that is what I decided to do – nothing like a bit of displacement activity to stop you thinking momentarily about your own morbidity.
Mine is really a chicken pie, but I prefer to call it £36 pig foot pie – to remind myself never ever to spend that kind of money on a pie again – especially a pie that didn’t even come with the option of being floatered – it came with brussel tops which are also very cheap (and not very nice)!
This pie takes a while to make – I made it over a couple of days although you could do it quicker – I mention this now so you don’t start it 2 hours before people come to dinner. It keeps for a bit too so it is something you can eat all week – which is precisely what we did.
See here for how to make Henderson’s trotter gear – it really is the most fabulous stuff – for giving this to the world I will forgive him anything (including the over-priced pie).
£36 Pig Foot Pie: 1 litre of trotter gear, two large chicken legs (we used our naked neck hens – so we know where the meat comes from Mr Henderson!), bit of smoked bacon – not sliced, but in a chunk – (you can buy pancetta like this I think) we used some of our Oxford Sandy and Black streaky bacon; spare chicken stock (well I have half a freezer of this so we were OK on that score too; 1/2 bottle of red wine; some onions; bit more lard.
Henderson recommends beef suet pastry, but as we don’t keep cows, but do keep pigs and as I made my own lard, I used lard – see here for lard making exploits.
Pastry: 250g self raising flour, 125g lard, pinch of salt, water, egg to glaze (enough for one pie).
For the pie. Brown the bacon, chicken legs and the onions in the lard in a large oven proof dish.
Pour in the red wine, trotter gear and enough chicken stock to cover. Cover with foil and pop in a gentle oven for a long, long time – several hours – don’t worry nothing bad will happen to it. Take it out, let it cool. I just left it on top of the stove overnight, but then I like to live dangerously – it was covered by foil as we have cats who are not above a bit of opportunistic snacking. Strip the meat from the chicken legs, take skin from bacon (assuming it has some – feed to dog, assuming you have one), chop up bacon and put all the meat in a bowl.
Strain the residual meat bits from the trotter-gear/stock concoction. Add the bits to the bowl. Add in some stock to moisten. I decided I wanted some gravy in my pie so then I mixed up some of the stock with some cornflour, heated it up until it thickened and added that to the pie mix.
You will have very rich leftover stock – this is fine. Freeze it and use it for onion gravy in the future.
You now have your pie mix which will set quite solid and keeps in the fridge or freezer until you want to make a pie – when it heats up it is very runny though – I might add more cornflour next time. I wanted some vegetarian meals so the pie got put on hold for a day or two. The mix I made is enough for two large pies that would each feed 4 very greedy people – I guess it all depends on how much filling you put in your pies.
Make the pastry: life is short and I had two article deadlines on Monday so I made my pastry the quick way. Whizz up the lard, salt and flour in a food processor, add water until it starts to come together. Take out and squish into a ball, wrap in clingfilm. Leave to rest in the fridge for a few hours. Remove and allow to come to room temperature before you roll it out.
Put some mix in a pie dish (next time I will add more), cover with a pastry lid and bake in a hot-ish oven for about 40 minutes.
This pie doesn’t have a pastry base so probably there isn’t an option of floatering (actually I have no idea how you properly float a pie – I just love the word) and we didn’t have any mushy peas or pea soup, but I served it with some leftover bubble and squeak, leftover braised red cabbage and cauliflower cheese (I am the leftover queen – this is how we eat well with minimal effort).
Pretty much all of this was from the smallholding, but even taking this into account and the fact I don’t need to pay London rents and wages for a restaurant it was a lot cheaper than £36, we had leftover pie for another day and enough pie mix in the freezer for another pie to serve 4 greedy people … just saying … the rest of the food at St John’s is reasonably priced I think, but a decidedly average pie for £36 – the mind boggles.
Mine tasted better as well so there.
N.B. I find out the results of the biopsy on Thursday so I will either be the happiest person in the world and feel as if I have been given a whole new life, or I won’t.
N.B. it was the same sonographer who did the ultrasound and biopsy 6 years ago when the cancer was found – he is very nice and good, but that makes me worry … a lot.
N.B. I am so selling pies in the food-truck – £5 a pie – I will be the pie queen – and when you ask what breed the trotters are I will be able to tell you and show you the field where the pigs free-ranged. You might even get to hold a fluffy baby chick that will one day, when he grows up, be in a future pie!