Perfect pies - Annie Stirk's recipes

PUBLISHED: 19:35 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:43 20 February 2013

Beef and Yorkshire Ale Pie

Beef and Yorkshire Ale Pie

Our food and wine consultant Annie Stirk demonstrates some tricks of the trade to improve your pastry-making skills and ensure some perfect pies PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDY BULMER

We have always had a love affair with pies in Yorkshire, and who doesn't have their favourite? Mention pies to most people and their thoughts usually turn to enticing aromas from a variety of delicious sweet or savory fillings, oozing from crisp pastry cases.

Pies are the ultimate comfort food and in the cold dark days of February, as the winter really bites, there is nothing more seductive than the familiar smell of home-baked pies wafting around the kitchen.

But don't worry if you are anxious about your pastry-making skills - hopefully the recipes in this master class will give you the confidence to have a go, even if you are a bit out of practice. Just remember, everyone appreciates homemade pastry no matter how crumbly or misshapen!

Most of the problems with pastry making are easy to solve. If
your pastry is hard, you have probably added too much water. If you roll out some short crust pastry and it crumbles and cracks, you haven't added enough water (different flours can vary in the amount of water they absorb).

If your pastry shrinks, but is not tough, you may not have chilled it enough. If it is greasy and heavy once cooked, it may be because you have over handled the dough. A gentle light touch is all you need for great pastry.

I hope you enjoy my three favourite pie recipes this month, but I would love to hear about yours too. Do send in your favourite pie recipe so that we can share it with other Yorkshire Life readers, or perhaps you know a local farm shop that make great pies? Get in touch with your pie stories by emailing me at


I have used chicken breasts for speed and ease, but you can get equally delicious results by poaching a whole chicken and then cutting it into bite sized chunks.

Serves 4


Shortcrust pastry

350g plain flour

Good pinch of salt

85g unsalted cold butter, diced

85g cold lard, diced

Cold iced water to mix

White sauce

Try using Carrs Sauce Flour -Delia does. It's available from most major supermarkets.

300ml full fat milk

25g Carrs Sauce Flour

20g butter

Pinch of cayenne pepper

50g mature cheddar cheese, grated.

For the filling

4 leeks, trimmed washed and finely sliced

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

50g butter, diced

4 skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized cubes

150g diced ham or bacon

Ground black pepper

1 egg, beaten



Sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.

Add the cubed butter and lard and using your fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Keep the mixture light by lifting the flour into the air as you rub the mixture.

Carefully drizzle in enough cold water and mix with a palette knife to form soft but not sticky dough.

Using your hands pull the dough together into a ball, sprinkle in a little flour if the dough is on the sticky side.

Pat the dough to flatten it and wrap in cling film or foil.

Chill for half an hour.

White sauce

Whisk the sauce flour into the milk (you can also use stock or water instead of milk.)

Bring slowly to the boil, stirring all the time. S

immer gently for 2-3 minutes to produce a silky smooth sauce

Stir in the cheese and the cayenne pepper.

Season to taste


Heat a frying pan; add the oil and butter followed by the cubed chicken.

Cook gently on a medium heat, turning frequently for approximately 10-15 minutes.

Add the ham or bacon and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, add a little more butter and oil and cook the leeks until softened, turning frequently. Season generously with coarsely ground black pepper.

Tip the leeks into the chicken and ham/bacon, mix well.

Spoon the cooled sauce over the filling, stir well and check seasoning.

Remove the pastry from the fridge. Let it come to room temperature for 10 minutes.

Divide into two then roll out two circles of pastry on a lightly floured surface.

Place one of the pastry circles on an ovenproof plate.

Pile the cooled chicken leek and ham filling onto the pastry.

Brush the edge of the pastry with water and place the remaining circle of pastry over the filling.

Press and flute the edges together firmly to seal.

Make 2-3 small slashes in the centre of the pie to allow the steam to escape.

Cut out a few decorative leaves and stick in position with a little of the beaten egg around the steam vents.

Brush the pie top with beaten egg and place in the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes at 190c / gas mark 5.

Serve with seasonal vegetables.


There is no substitute for good quality beef from your butcher or local farm shop for this classic favourite.

Serves 4


900g good quality stewing beef, diced

25g flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for dusting

100g butter

Olive oil 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

250g chestnut mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

400ml Yorkshire ale

500ml beef stock

2 good tbsp tomato puree

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp Worcester sauce

2-3 shakes balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 whole egg beaten with 1 egg yolk

300g ready-made rolled puff pastry


Toss the meat in the seasoned flour, shake off any excess flour.

Heat a large pan and add half the butter and a drizzle of olive oil.

Add the meat and cook, turning frequently, until golden brown and sealed - about 10 minutes

Next add the onions, garlic, mushrooms and herbs then pour in the ale and stock. Add the tomato puree, Dijon mustard, Worcester sauce and balsamic vinegar and stir well.

Cover the pan with a lid and simmer gently for about 2 hours until the beef is meltingly tender.

Taste and season the stew. You may need to thicken it at this point. If you have too much liquid left drain some of it off and then thicken the remaining gravy.

Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof pie dish. Cool.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface.

Cut a strip of pastry roughly the width of the rim of the pie dish.

Firmly place the pastry strip on the pie dish.

Brush with beaten egg.

Cover the filling with the remaining pastry, pressing the edges firmly together.

Pinch and flute the edges of the pastry then trim off any remaining pieces of pastry from around the edge.

Make 2-3 small slashes in the centre of the pie to allow the steam to escape.

Cut out a few decorative leaves and stick in position around the steam vents using a little of the beaten egg.

Brush the pie top with beaten egg and place in the oven for approximately 25 minutes at 220c / gas mark 7, until the pastry is golden brown.


Early forced Rhubarb is a true Yorkshire star ingredient. Make the most of it during its short but sweet season.

350 g shortcrust pastry (for ingredients and method see Chicken, Leek & Ham recipe).

450g Early Yorkshire Rhubarb, trimmed and finely sliced

75g caster sugar

1 orange including zest and juice

Pinch ground ginger


Divide the pastry in two.

Roll out the first piece of pastry and line an ovenproof plate.

Place the finely sliced rhubarb onto the pastry and sprinkle with orange zest, juice, ginger and caster sugar.

Brush the edges of the pastry with a little water.

Roll out the remaining pastry and place over the rhubarb, pressing the edges firmly.

Flute the edges to seal then lightly brush the pastry surface with water.

Sprinkle with a little caster sugar.

Bake at 200c/gas mark 6 for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.

Reduce the oven temperature to 190c if you have a fan oven.

Serve with lashings of thick custard or cream.

Many thanks to Yorkshire's very own 'high priestess of rhubarb' Janet Oldroyd-Hulme for sourcing the fabulous Yorkshire Rhubarb and to D Westwood & Son, 01924 822314 for supplying the rhubarb. E Oldroyd & Sons Ltd 01132 822 245 Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink & Rhubarb. February 27th & 28th, 2009

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