“The main problem was how to create the rise of the puff pastry: Fray Bentos pies always ascend beautifully straight, revealing their multiple layers of pastry as they go, like a soil sample from an archeological dig. The answer turned out to be simple: you cut the circle of pastry with a very sharp knife.”
-Stephen Harris, The Daily Telegraph
Inspiration for this dish came from British cookery writer, Christine France, author of some thirty books and countless articles (she was, among other things, deputy cookery editor for Good Housekeeping).
What inspired me was the mix of pork and rhubarb which I think is unexpectedly successful, but all the tasters thought the rest of the pie was a bit drab, so I have brightened it with the silverskin onions and the artichoke hearts, and enriched it with some vermouth.
Because of all the quantities, it’s easier to make two or four pies, and freeze what you don’t need immediately.
Recipe for pork and rhubarb pie
This makes two pies, each serving 6-8 – or you could make a number of smaller pies
- 400g/14 oz rhubarb
- 2 tbsps golden caster sugar
- 150g/5 oz jar silverskin onions
- 530g/1 lb 2 oz jar sliced artichoke hearts in oil
- 400g/14 oz mushrooms
- 900g/2 lbs pork fillet
- 1 tbsp seasoned flour
- 720 ml/3 cups beef stock (made from three stock cubes)
- 80 ml/⅓ cup red vermouth
- Small bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 500g/1 lb 2 oz puff pastry – all-butter if possible
- 2 tsps salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg
- Take the puff pastry sheet out of the freezer if you haven’t already.
- Wash and trim the rhubarb, and slice into 5 cm/1” lengths.
- Sprinkle over the sugar and leave overnight in a non-metalic vessel. Drain.
- Wipe the mushrooms. Drain the silverskin onions and cut them in half. Begin to fry in a large saucepan, using some of the oil from the jar of artichoke hearts. Drain the jar (hang on to the oil), and add the sliced artichoke hearts to the pan.
- Season generously – especially with the pepper, don’t be mean with the pepper!
- Meanwhile dice the pork and coat it with the seasoned flour.
- Add the meat to the vegetables – you may need a bit more oil at this stage – and brown the meat for about five minutes.
- Add the rhubarb, the stock, and the vermouth. TASTE – add more seasoning if necessary.
- Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 210ºC.
- Take the saucepan off the heat, and snip in the parsley, stalks and all.
- Turn the whole thing out into a couple of pie dishes.
- Put a pie bird (or an egg cup) into the middle of each pie. As Stephen Harris, in the quote at the top of this post, suggests, use a VERY sharp knife (or even a Stanley knife) to cut out a shape about 1 cm/½” wider all round than the top of your pie dish. This prevents the pastry from pinching at the edges, and results in an impressive rise. If you have any leftover pastry make leaves, or other bits of artistic decoration, moistening them slightly to get them to stick on.
- Beat the egg, and glaze the pie. Make a couple of slits in the pie to allow the steam to escape.
- Cook for about 20 minutes, but put your alarm on for 15 minutes and check it then…if it looks as if the pastry may begin to burn, turn the oven down to 180ºC and give the pie another five minutes or so – until it’s golden.