Make Really Good Pies

Want to make a pie from scratch but worried by how it might turn out? Take a look at our tips for how to make it come out right every time.

Pie

If you've been put off making a pie from scratch, you're not alone - it can seem daunting with all that pastry rolling, stewing and the dreaded soggy bottom.

Step forward expert pie maker Camilla Stephens, founder of pie company Higgidy and a graduate of renowned cookery school Leiths School of Food and Wine.

First things first. "Remember it doesn't have to look perfect," says Camilla. "The most tasty, well-loved pies are those with wobbly buttery pastry, oozy filling bubbling over the side of the dish and crispy edges that have caught during baking."

So get stuck in and have a go with Camilla's tips for pie making -

HOW TO MAKE PERFECT PASTRY

Try to handle the pastry lightly, using fingertips or just a fork so you don't overwork it. Too much handling will result in tough pastry.

Keep cool! Make sure your hands and the butter or lard you're using is cold. Warmth is the enemy of great pastry.

Always let your pastry relax or rest in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes to help prevent shrinkage when you bake your pie.

"I like adding poppy seeds, sesame seeds or caraway seeds to my shortcrust pastry - all add texture and flavour," says Camilla. "Try experimenting with different cheeses too - strong ones like parmesan and extra mature cheddar work really well. You can even add some English mustard powder for extra oomph."

For sweet pies, try scraping out a vanilla pod and adding the seeds to a rich flakey pastry - this works really well with apple or peach fillings.

FILL YOUR PIE

Start off with good quality ingredients and don't be afraid to experiment.

"Never hurry a meat filling - long, slow cooking will produce a rich dark stew with glossy gravy," says Camilla. "I sometimes make my stews a couple of days ahead to allow the flavours to develop.

"As an alternative to a meat pie, try roasting a tray of winter vegetables in a hot oven with garlic, rosemary and olive oil. Season generously, then toss in crème fraîche and a big handful of parmesan. Pile into a pie dish and top with buttery puff pastry."

HOW TO AVOID A SOGGY BOTTOM

To get an extra crispy bottom to your pastry, place your pie tin on a heavy-duty baking tray. This will also catch any filling that bubbles up during baking.

Try to get your oven good and hot - pastry doesn't like moderate or cool ovens, it will just 'sweat' and turn soggy.

These simple steps should help your pie to turn out well every time.

Want to make a pie at home? Take a look at our easy pie recipes.