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Page last updated at 07:55 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 08:55 UK
In praise of the pie

Ray Winstone as Sweeney Todd
The British love of pies can lead to alarming behaviour

Are you a fan of steak and kidney or would you choose chicken and mushroom?

The pie, humble or not, is a favourite food in Britain, with almost half a billion pounds being spend on cold pies alone every year.

The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association have announced the winner of the first British Pie Competition, with Charnwood Bakery, near Leicester scooping the top prize.

From what are claimed to be Egyptian origins, the first pies, or "coffyns" appeared in British literature in the 12th Century. The pastry was inedible - used as a container for a meaty stew. It took another 200 years for an edible pastry pie to appear on the scene.

Today breakfast pie
The Today pie, recipe by Tamasin Day-Lewis

Pies were usually filled with meat, with the aristocracy getting the best cuts, the peasants offal - the word for which was umbles, hence the phrase to eat 'umble pie.

In 1500, game pies make their first appearance and in 1600 comes the pork pie - although jelly was only added in 1830 to prevent the pies from breaking up as hunters rode over the countryside.

Pie fervour reaches record levels in British villages like Denby Dale in West Yorkshire, where tonnes of meat and metres of pastry go into the creation of record breaking pies on certain national occasions.

The British have even exported their love of pies overseas, with Australians enjoying a layer of cheese below the pastry, and the "pot pie" a popular dish in the US.

Has all this pie talk whet your appetite? Can't wait until lunchtime? Break with convention and try British Pie Competition judge Tamasin Day-Lewis's Today breakfast pie.

THE TODAY BREAKFAST PIE by Tamasin Day-Lewis

Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients

  • 450g / 1lb organic pork sausage meat (suggest you buy from an outlet that can give you meat with hearty texture, you don't want the processed pink tasteless meat)
  • 2 eating apples (they should be sharp to add zing)
  • 8 Agen prunes, stoned and soaked (a tangy treat for the palate)
  • 12 fresh sage leaves (for wisdom)
  • 1 egg (for gloss)
  • 1 onion
  • 30g / 1oz of butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 450g / 1lb of butter puff pastry or if you prefer your pastry short and crusty buy all butter shortcrust pastry (it has to be all butter)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 220c / gas mark 7.
  • Roll out pastry, split it into two making one ball bigger than the other.
  • Take the pie plate or tart case and crease with butter.
  • Line plate with larger piece of pastry.
  • Heat butter and oil in frying pan.
  • Add finely chopped onion and soften it, but don't let it brown.
  • Add peeled, thinly sliced apples. Cook for two to three minutes.
  • Then add chopped sage. Cook for a further two minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Add chopped prunes.
  • Season with salt and pepper - remembering that sausages will be quite salty.
  • Leave to cool down until it is just warm.
  • Stir into your sausage meat.
  • Put mixture into pastry case and top with other rolled out piece of pastry.
  • Brush with beaten egg.
  • Cut two air holes to allow steam to escape.
  • Put on a heated baking tray for 15 minutes.
  • Turn heat down to 180 c / gas mark 4 and cook for a further thirty to forty minutes.
  • Leave for 10 to 15 minutes before serving - if you eat pies hot they lose their taste.


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