After a mild autumn that saw me outside watching fireworks on Bonfire Night in just shirtsleeves (yes, I also had trousers on) it seems appropriate to stop messing about with salad and get back to the serious businesses of loading up on stodge again for the winter.
As much as I like watermelon and barbecues and steadfastly refusing to wear a coat to work like a badge of honour, there comes a time in the year when you just want to stop the polite pretense of pretending to enjoy drinking your coffee cold and go back to scarfing down piles of buttery mashed potatoes with a gravy chaser.
Somewhat ironically, this warming recipe comes from the Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney - the city in which my Dad and sister now live and where I get 'winter' updates from them if the temps dip to single figures. Although they do remain partial to a pie and pie floater Down Under, whatever the weather.
This Christmas, however my sister and bro-in-law and little Matilda Gingerbread are giving up their prawns on the barbie, washed down with a few tinnies and are coming back to enjoy a month of bright frosty mornings and evenings carolling around the open fire (or, more likely, endless drizzle and drunken squabbling over what to watch on TV).
In honour of their impending visit, combined with the fact the temperature has now reached Officially Freezing, I thought it was time to dig out my Bourke Street cookbook - a Christmas present from my sister, after she took us to the Surrey Hills bakery on our last trip to Oz - and bake what has become one of my favourite pies; the bonkers but brilliant sweet potato, chicken, pea and lime pickle.
Created when the bakery was closed for renovations and the staff filled in their spare time by eating lots of Indian food in nearby Cleveland Street, this is a pie that covers all the important taste bases of hot, sweet, sour and salty. It also helps bring some rays of Antipodean warmth, from both the chilli in the pickle and the bright colour of the filling, that cuts a swathe through the encroaching grayness of winter.
I confess that the original recipe, including how to make two different types of pastry, shortcrust below and puff on top and which runs to several pages long, initially filled me with fear. Not to mention the verjuice and potato flour and the bit where you poach a chicken...
Happily, it seems to be pretty adaptable and I have made it successfully sans the unripe grape juice (vinegar works fine) and using left over cooked chicken, bog standard plain flour and with a mix of homemade shortcrust and bought puff. On one occasion I even manage to utilize some of the Ewing's (unsweetened) rough/flaky, left over after making a batch of eccles cakes.
Sweet potato, chicken and lime pickle pie -
(heavily adapted by a Brit from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook)
The original recipe states it makes 6 12.5cm pies (or an assorted jumble of sizes, as above)
450g shortcrust pastry, rolled to a thickness of a pound coin
450g puff pastry, rolled to the thickness of a pound coin
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g cooked chicken thighs, cut into chunks (or leftover roast chicken)
half a tin of chopped tomatoes, drained
good splash of white wine vinegar
200ml chicken stock
1tbsp plain flour
50g lime pickle, finely chopped if chunky
handful of frozen peas
1 egg, beaten, for brushing pastry
sesame seeds, for sprinkling
preheat the oven to 200c.
Put the sweet potato on a baking tray, add a glug of olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Set aside to cool.
Heat another glug of oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened.
Stir in the flour to the onion and garlic mixture, before slowly whisking in the stock.
Simmer for a further 5 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.
Add the tomatoes and vinegar to the sauce before stirring in the chicken, peas, pickle and sweet potato. Season to taste.
Allow mixture to cool thoroughly.
Use the shortcrust pastry to line the tins and spoon in the mixture, filling each one to the top.
Cut lids from the rolled puff pastry and top the pies, pinching to seal the edges
Brush each top with egg wash and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and cut a small hole in each pie, for the steam to escape.
Turn the oven down to 180c and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden.
Leave the pies to cool a little before serving.
Serve with more peas, and some ketchup if you're True Blue.