Sunday, September 23, 2007

Four and twenty blackbirds...

I’m not really sure how I ended up with a flock of blackbird pie funnels. I don’t exactly have four and twenty but I have ‘accidentally’ ended up with more than is really deemed necessary. The urge to procure my first pie funnel was when I watching Mark Hix making his magnificent Rabbit and Crayfish Stargazy pie on the Great British Menu and I pondered how I could have managed so long without one. Then a casual glance on eBay with D whilst she was looking for some Clarence Cliff pieces allowed my beady eye to spot a fine Clarence Cliff blackbird funnel, hmmm I really should bid for that little birdy. But when this one flew in, I really felt that it probably should be kept as a thing of beauty and not baked in anything. It is rather old after all and has been well looked after by one careful owner. So I went back to eBay for one with less esteemed provenance and somehow managed to bag a job lot of them. It was an accident I can assure you! But in the usual fashion of eBay browsing I also espied a Royal Worchester darling black bird pie funnel which was unusual as the elegant sculptural bird is inserted into the plain white ceramic funnel after baking. The advantage being that the gorgeous bird doesn’t suffer the ministrations of an unforgiving oven and it adds a certain stateliness to the pie proceedings you must admit.

I had threatened that my next pie would feature all my burgeoning collection of pie funnels randomly gulping for air above the pie crust but I resisted. This elegant bird is my favourite after all, it is rather a little black beauty!

Making a ‘proper’ pie, one with a funnel and all I am immediately transported back to the homely and grown-up kitchen of the fabulous R & G. After a hard day’s work it was so comforting to arrive there and exchange a large bunch of flowers for a fat wodge of the finest of steak and kidney pies. Sat around their antique table, we’d drink wine; listen to music and gossip about just about everything! Happy days!

But what about my pie? I don't have some steak and kidney begging to be given one of the worthiest of treatments so it was rather a let’s use up those bits lurking around the bottom of the fridge again. The filling was finely sliced sautéed leek rounds, chunks of the last of the unsmoked back bacon, sliced hard boiled eggs, one large field mushroom, some double cream and a little thyme, now more dry than fresh. The pie top was fashioned out of the rather stiff leftover puff pastry. It had gotten somewhat dry in the fridge and when I attempted to unfurl it the pastry snapped into four useless slivers. So I had to resort to re-rolling the puff pastry and hoping it would forgive me. I figured that it wouldn’t puff as much as it should but that’s fine, the P - I - E adornments wouldn’t balloon and swell out of all proportions as you’d expect with un-mucked about with puff pastry. I also dampened the pastry a little with a very squeezed out sheet of kitchen towel, I know, you bakers out there are now reading this with eye wide open in terror. I had initially pinched the edges of the pie together in the usual way but then I rather randomly forked around the pie dish also. Hence the extra rustic appearance of my egg and bacon pie. Ah well, I’ll never get a job at Bighams’, Pie Minister or Pukka and I'm sure R & G would be shocked but it was rather gorgeous, extremely delicious and my sweet little bird got to spread its wings for the first time.
Wasn't that a dainty dish to serve before J?

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