Round one of Euphorium Bakery’s Cake That! competition was the signature bake. I made sweet potato, spinach and goat cheese plaits and came third. Round two of the competition was the technical. I made a Devil’s food cake covered in white chocolate and I won!
So for the third round, the showstopper, I knew I had to make something…well. Show stopping.
The brief we had was that it could either look show-stopping or taste show-stopping. Ideally, I wanted to do something that was a bit of both. Something that would make people coo when they saw it, but then would also make people groan when they taste it.
I thought back to the bake off. What kind of things do they make the contestants do? So often contestants have to make 24 identical things…eclairs, or tarts, or pies. Pastry is my absolute favourite thing to make, so I decided to go for making mini tarts or pies. And then, because this was the final round of the competition, I wanted to do something meaningful and special to me.
Which is where I came up with the idea for these, which I have nicknamed my St. David Pies.
So, in case you didn’t know, I’m Welsh. Here is a photo of me in Paperchase, absolutely delighted when I found a Welsh flag whilst looking for wedding decorations.
I’ve lived in England for 17 years now, but I’m still definitely proud of being Welsh. Every year on St David’s Day, Garry buys me daffodils. I cheer on Wales in the rugby, insist that the best TV shows are from BBC Wales (Doctor Who and Sherlock, bitches), get very animated when complaining that the Welsh flag isn’t represented on the Union flag and tear up when I hear Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. I love hearing my accent seep through, even after all these years. I love being Welsh, and these pies are a celebration of Welsh food.
The filling is lamb (for obvious reasons, although if you make any jokes to that effect I will kick your arse) and leek (the symbol of Wales). I added thyme and mint, just because they go so nicely with lamb. I took inspiration from the Glamorgan sausage, a vegetarian sausage made from leeks and cheese, for the pastry, adding Caerphilly cheese to it to make it rich and cheesey. I topped it with a pastry flower to symbolise the daffodil, the other symbol of Wales. The pastry is so sturdy that you can pick them up and eat them on the go, just like a Clark’s pie.
The effect is quite something.
They look very pretty, especially when stacked together. The pastry swells in the oven so they look plump and inviting. The cheese running through the pastry bakes and makes the crust a deep, rich golden brown. I don’t crimp when I fit the lids to the sides of the pastry, so you don’t get any distracting ruffles – your eyes is drawn to that thick, beautiful flower on top. Considering it’s a fairly rustic pie, that flower still makes them look pretty and feminine.
Then you bite into them.
Cheese is delicious, but baked cheese is better. The pastry tastes like Mini Cheddars, which is the highest possible compliment I can give a cheese pastry. But then you get that rush of buttery leek, the strong hit of lamb tempered by the sweetness of mint and a peppery undertone from the thyme. And then, finally, the cheese comes back. It’s heavenly.
I used lamb mince because these were mini pies, made in a cupcake tin, and big chunks wouldn’t fit. If you make one big pie instead, I recommend using a lamb leg, roasting it slowly in stock with carrots and leeks, then pulling the meat off the bone. Big, moist, chunky strips of lamb are heavenly.
I made 24 of these pies. Garry and I devoured five within fifteen minutes of them coming out of the oven. They are magnificent.
First, make the cheese pastry. Usually I’d do this by hand, but I was making a lot of pastry so I cheated and used a food processor. Blitz butter and flour until it looks like breadcrumbs, then put the processor on a low speed and add grated cheese a pinch at a time so that it gets evenly distributed. Add water a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together, then lightly knead on a floured surface until you get a large ball of pastry.
Whilst it chills, make the filling. Fry sliced leeks in butter, then add lamb, chopped mint and thyme leaves until the leeks are covered in the juices from the lamb. Add some vegetable stock, stir and simmer until the leeks are soft and succulent.
Line your cupcake tin with the pastry – don’t worry, it’s a robust one…
…then add the lids and the flower.
Bake until perfect, and serve.
- 450g of plain flour
- 200g of butter
- 180g of Caerphilly (or strong cheddar)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 600g of sliced leeks
- 450g of minced lamb
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 2 tablespoons of chopped mint
- Salt & pepper
- 100ml vegetable stock
- Start by making the pastry. Put the flour and cubed butter in a food processor and pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Grate the cheese and add it a pinch at a time with the processor running slowly. Add tablespoons of water until it makes a dough, then knead lightly on a floured surface. Split the pastry into two, wrap each section in clingfilm, then chill
- Fry the leeks in a large knob of butter. Add the lamb, the chopped mint, the leaves of the thyme and lots of salt and pepper. Then the lamb is browned, add the stock and stir to coat. Turn the heat to medium, add a lid and simmer for five minutes. Leave the filling to cool completely
- Grease the holes of a muffin tin.
- Roll the pastry out until it's a little thinner than a £1 coin. Cut out rounds of pastry and push gently into the holes. Prick the base of each case three times with a fork, then add a tablespoon or two of filling
- Brush egg round the outside of the pastry cases, then press a lid on top. Cut out a flower and top the pastry. Brush the whole thing with the beaten egg and pierce the top twice with a knife, in a cross shape
- Bake for 20 minutes, until golden and the smell of cheese is leaking from the oven