Devonshire Squab Pie

English food has a certain reputation that I won’t get into right now, but suffice to say if you ask somebody to name traditional English dishes you’ll probably get the standard fish ‘n’ chips, roast dinner, maybe a cream tea…not a whole lot more.  I’ve always found this to be a real shame, as there’s a whole host of interesting and odd dishes that hail from old Blighty.  I’ve talked before about my love of pies, as well as the interesting history of the pie and mash trade of London.

This pie is not necessarily linked to that.  Instead, it comes from the south-west of England.  The name itself is bizarre, as there is no squab (pigeon) in the pie at all – not even a bird!  The protein of choice here is mutton or lamb – I’m using lamb, as mutton tends to be a bit harder to come by these days.  A rather simple filling, it is essentially just a mixture of lamb, fruit and spices with a little stock in there to help loosen it all up.  The end product is a delightfully autumnal filling that transports you back to a sort of Jane Eyre mind palace.

Traditionally, this would probably have been cooked with a cheap salt-crust that would be discarded, and then a tastier pastry added towards the end.  I am up to my usual tricks, however, and making sure it is fully encased in pastry – shortcrust base, puff top.  I have, however, maintained the tradition of serving it with a dollop of rich, thick clotted cream on the side.  Far be it from me to avoid a bit of decadence!

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet each of pre-rolled puff pastry and shortcrust pastry
  • Approx 500g diced lamb, ideally shoulder.
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 150ml lamb/vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 large apple
  • Handful of prunes
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional clotted cream for serving

Method

  1. Cut your shortcrust pastry so that it is slightly larger than the circumference of your pie dish.  Lightly grease the dish, then lay the cut pastry in, gently pressing (not stretching) to fit the dish well.  Prick with a fork a few times, then line with some grease-proof paper and something to weigh it down – dried rice, ceramic beads etc.  Bake at 180C for around 15 minutes.  This step ensures the base cooks fully and doesn’t end up a soggy mess from the filling.
  2. Slice your onion and fry in a little oil with a sprinkling of salt for 10 minutes over a low heat.  They should end up very soft and almost jammy.  Remove from the pan and reserve in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl add the lambcornflour and spices.  Toss to thoroughly coat, then fry in a few small batches.  You don’t need to cook the lamb right through, but it’s nice to have some browning on the outside.  When it’s all been cooked add it all back to the pan and pour in the stock, simmering for a few minutes until it has thickened slightly and come up to temperature.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Pour the lamb filling into the shortcrust base, then top with the onions in an even layer.  Top with the prunes, then core and thinly slice the apple, arranging on top in an even layer.  Top with the puff pastry, cutting to size.
  5. Brush the pastry with a beaten egg and cook in the oven at 180C until golden brown – around 20-25 minutes.
  6. Serve with a dollop of cool clotted cream on the side.

 

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