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Pies are a favoured meal of Britons and have been for centuries, with endless combinations of meat and vegetables, sauces and spices. Contained in either shortcrust or puff pastry, the humble pie has even made its way into high end cuisine.
One popular pie dish is pie, mash and liquor – first originating in the pie, mash and eel shops across London.
The pie we know today was born out of necessity, needing to bulk up meals for those who couldn’t afford elaborate foods.
The crust of the pie protected the meat within, making it easier for workers to transport their lunches.
Pie, mash and liquor shops sold these minced beef and cold-water-pastry pies alongside mashed potatoes and a parsley sauce known as eel liquor sauce.
This sauce was traditionally made from the water which was used in the preparation of stewed eels.
Despite the name, no liquor of any kind is typically used in the sauce – instead it is flavoured with parsley.
Many stores today no longer make the sauce using the water from stewing eels, however jellied eels are often served alongside the meal.
The pies themselves were made up of two types of pastry.
The base is suet pastry, while the top can be either rough puff pastry or short pastry.
If you’d like to have a go at this traditional recipe yourself, below is a recipe for a traditional pie, accompanied by mash and liquor courtesy of BBC Good Food.
Pie and mash with liquor recipe
For the filling
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 450g/1lb minced beef steak or beef mince
- 1 tsp English mustard
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 beef stock cube
- vegetable oil
- 150ml/5fl oz brown ale
- 100ml/3½fl oz beef stock
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the suet pastry
- 350g/12oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
- 225g/8oz beef suet
- large knob of butter, softened, for greasing
For the pie crust
- 450g/1lb ready-made shortcrust pastry, for the top of the pie
- 1 free-range egg yolk, lightly beaten
- For the mashed potatoes
- 2 large potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks
- 100ml/3½fl oz hot milk
- knob of butter
- drizzle chilli oil (optional)
For the parsley liquor
- 50g/2oz butter
- 50g/2oz cornflour
- 500ml/18fl oz chicken stock
- generous bunch parsley, leaves only, chopped
- 1-2 garlic cloves, roasted and puréed, to taste
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First, for the filling, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the onion and garlic for five minutes or until softened.
Add the mince and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, or until browned and cooked through.
Next stir in the rest of the filling ingredients, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside to cool.
Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
For the suet pastry, sift the flour into a mixing bowl with the suet and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Gradually mix in about four tablespoons of cold water, or until you have a moist but firm dough.
On a lightly floured work surface roll the dough out to a two millimetres in thickness.
Generously butter two individual pie dishes then line each with the suet pastry, so that it covers the base and sides completely.
Divide the filling mixture between the two dishes.
For the pie crust, roll out the shortcrust pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a two millimetres in thickness and use it to cover the two pies, pushing down the edges to seal.
Brush generously with the egg yolk and make a hole in the middle of the lid to allow steam to escape.
Then place the pie dishes into a deep-sided roasting tin and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pie dishes, taking care not to get any water on the pastry.
Transfer to the oven and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling steaming hot.
Meanwhile, for the mashed potatoes, steam (or boil) the potatoes for 20 minutes or until tender.
Scald the milk then mash the potatoes with the hot milk, butter and plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper until smooth.
Drizzle with a little chilli oil, if using, and keep warm.
For the parsley liquor, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and whisk in the cornflour to make a paste.
Gradually stir in the stock, bring to a simmer, then stir in the parsley and garlic and stir until thickened and smooth.
Serve the hot pies with the mash, parsley liquor and jellied eels on the side.
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