Master of meat, Jon Thorner, likes nothing more than a traditional pie, whether it’s a quick pasty for lunch, or a slow-cooked delicious steak and ale pie for dinner – good, short pastry, but more importantly, a comforting, decadent and meaty filling.
We spoke to Jon about the key to creating the perfect meat-based pie…
“At Jon Thorner’s we are very particular about our pies. We believe a proper pie has a delicious filling and is completely encased in shortcrust pastry. We want good-sized pieces of meat, and a good ratio of vegetables and gravy. A generous thick sauce is also essential, so it doesn’t all leave the pie as soon as you cut into it. And the pastry – golden in colour, short and crumbly, and cooked all the way round.
The perfect pie flavour combination is always down to the individual. My favourite flavours, and most popular amongst our customers, are generally very traditional like our Steak & Ale, Steak & Kidney and Chicken & Ham. These flavours are tried and tested, and you know will taste delicious, it is a little bit harder to get people to experiment with alternative flavour combos because no one wants to waste a good pie opportunity.
Quality of ingredients is key to cooking up the perfect pie
All our beef pies are made with certified West Country beef. I advise using prime braising or stewing steak, and choose a lean cut to eliminate any possibility of having gristle in the pie. We use chicken breast fillet in our chicken pies, again for a tender, succulent bite. There is nothing wrong with using thigh meat though, if you want to use a cheaper cut. For something a little different, but guaranteed flavour, why not try game meat, such as pheasant, pigeon, duck and venison.
Keep the pieces of meat chunky, with pieces of veg a similar size, and get your gravy nice and thick.
It is important not to over work your pastry, to try and keep the texture ‘short’ and not tough. We favour margarine or lard, as it is doesn’t soften as quickly as butter does.
Our top tips for cooking
Cook your filling first, like a casserole or stew. The important part is to let the filling cool down completely before filling your pastry case – this will avoid the filling spilling out of the pastry during the baking.
Coming up with your own flavour combinations
Focus on just a few key flavours which you know will work well together – such as beef and horseradish, lamb and rosemary, chicken and thyme, chicken and chorizo. Find a flavour which will work within the sauce itself – herbs and spices work very well here, and especially cheese, such as Stilton or Cheddar because they melt into the sauce for a wonderful depth of flavour. You can add flavour and personalise your pie by using your favourite tipple as well, something robust such as a stout, a decent red wine or, as we are in Somerset, a good strong cider. A pie filling is a great casserole or stew, encased in pastry. So if you have a favourite recipe which you normally dish up on a chilly day, just thicken the sauce slightly, fill your pastry case and bake to perfection.
Try using game meat as an alternative pie filling – rich in flavour, game makes for a deep, flavoursome stuffing.”