Who ate all the pies, I ask myself? The humble pie is harder to find than a parking space at The Dubai Mall. I’ve searched ‘the best pies in Dubai’ and the results were a tad disappointing. The crisp golden circle can be the most comforting of meals, whether it’s chicken and leek, beef and steak or apple and cinnamon, they are all winners to me.
There have been lots of discussion as to what a ‘real pie’ is, so let me explain a few things:
A filled pie has a pastry base and an open top, often filled with stewed fruits, sometimes partially covered with a lattice of pastry strips.
A top crust has the filling in the bottom of the dish and is covered with a single sheet of pastry, usually a savoury filling.
A two crust pie, (my personal favourite) is where the dish is lined with pastry and topped with a second layer, so the filling is enclosed in as pastry shell. All of the above are made with short crust pastry.
I have made all three pies and I’m often asked how I get the pies to look so golden and crispy. It’s no secret, I buy the pastry. Shop bought, ready rolled is perfectly acceptable, otherwise why would supermarkets stock it? I love that manufactures have gotten wise and now sell round sheets to minimise waste. However, I draw the line at buying mashed potato or pre-spiralised vegetables.
Historians trace pie’s origins to the Greeks, who are thought to be the originators of the pastry shell, which they made by combining water with flour. So not much has changed, it’s just evolved, and made in all shapes and sizes.
A favourite place to visit when I’m in London is Square Pie bakery, located in London’s east end. The company boasts more than 150 pies on their menu, including some limited editions. My question is why is it so difficult to source a decent pie in Dubai.
Frustrated by the lack of pastry action, I decided to grab some short crust sheets and make my own fast, round pie. Sandwiching leftovers between two pastry sheets is a good way to reuse leftover ingredients. I had some leftover cooked chicken, and after a good rummage in the fridge I came across a couple of leeks, onions and a tub of cooking cream.
With a few extra store cupboard staples, I set about feeding my pie needs. It’s quick and simple and the recipe is down to your taste.
First, preheat the oven to 180 degrees, grease a deep tin, line with a sheet of pastry allowing some to overhang, set to one side.
Next, saute and onion and a chopped leek with some garlic, season it, then add 300ml cooking cream with 2 tps of dried tarragon.
Then add four cups of cubed cooked chicken and simmer for five minutes. Meanwhile, mix 1 tbsp of flour with a little cold water, stir into the sauce until it thickens. Pour the mixture into a lined tin, cover with a second pastry sheet, pinch the edges to seal, glaze with a beaten egg, pierce a hole in the centre then bake for 45-50 minutes.
Everyone loves a pie; sweet or savoury, you can’t go wrong. While appreciating the rising temperatures across the region. A freshly baked, crusty pie may not be the ideal meal in the heat. So after experimenting at home with some lighter ingredients, I decided to change it even more by making a vegetarian two crust pie, with a lattice top. Healthy-ish, it’s full of vegetables and can be eaten hot or cold. I’m a long way from having 150 different pies on my menu, but my pies will remain round, deep, and widely available.
LAYERED ROASTED RED PEPPER & SPINACH PIE
Serves 6, prep time 25 minutes, cooking 45-50 minutes
Butter to grease a 20cm spring sprung cake tin
2 sheets of round pre-made short crust pastry
1 free-range egg beaten
FOR THE FILLING
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 large aubergine
500g jar of roasted peppers, drained (you can find these in most stores)
250g of spinach leaves
250g of ricotta cheese
2 garlic cloves chopped
2 tsp of grated lemon zest
10 fresh basil leaves
Salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Heat the oil in a griddle pan, grill the aubergine on both sides until soft, but not mushy then set to one side. Place the spinach in an ovenproof dish, add a little water, cover and cook in the microwave for three minutes. Drain the excess water, add to a bowl and combine with the ricotta, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Next, grease the tin, line with the first pastry sheet, pushing it into the corners allowing it some overhang. Add a layer of spinach mix, then alternate other ingredients. Top with basil leaves and brush the edges with egg. Top with the second sheet of pastry, seal the edges with a fork. Using a sharp knife, trim off the excess. Don’t discard the pastry; you can use this to add a lattice top to the pie (optional). To make the lattice, cut the excess into 2cm strips. Brush with egg, line the pastry strips equally apart, then at a 90-degree angle add the second layer of pastry strips. Lift every other one to make the woven pattern, push the ends down, then brush with egg, top with rock salt. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until crisp and golden. Finally, when cooked release the pie from the tin, transfer to a serving plate and serve.|
— Photography and food styling by Mark Setchfield. Follow him on Instagram @gasmarksix.