As a young girl, I spent a few years, from the late 1969 to the early 70’s living with my mom and younger sister, in a town called Vauxhall, in London. It definitely was an experience and somewhat traumatic. I grew up in New Jersey so this was quite a change for a young girl. What I did love was, learning about my mom and where she grew up. Meeting my extended family, cousins, aunts, and uncles, etc… The other was the food. I tasted dishes, I would otherwise, never would have had the opportunity too. I can remember street markets. Food markets, like I’d never seen before, and smells, that were so unfamiliar to me. One, that stood out, was this specialty small eatery. It had tiled walls and the tubs of jellied eels. I remember it, like it was yesterday. a few tables and chairs where you could sit and eat this street food.The look of pure joy on my mom’s face, when she saw that they offered Pie Mash. I’d never heard or smelt anything like it before. Now, I was only like 8 years old at the time but still. Then she brought it over to the table where my sister and I were sitting. She explained to us that there was bits of eel in the gravy (liquor). I was like no way, absolutely not, I’m not tasting that! Forget about the fact that the gravy (liquor) was green. Oh, and my sister, well she just stared with this blank look on her face. My mom is no longer with us today, so I wanted to pay homage to her by making her childhood favorite, Pie And Mash. From what I’ve read, Pie And Mash is a traditional working- class food. There are only a few stubborn outposts of this cuisine that have survived. The jellied eels were very popular- cooked eels, set in an aspic jelly made from eel bones They were an acquired taste, and not a gastronomic treat. I would have to agree with that statement. To be perfectly honest, I’ve tasted eel at high end sushi restaurants, and it was delicious, Maybe, this is a different type, I really don’t know. Jellied and cold, that’s just not appetizing to me at all. They say that the English eel have a delicate flavor, and that’s why it works so nicely with the bland flavor of the potatoes. Today however: the eel, pie and mash shops are under threat, because the European eel is becoming threatened. Since 1980 the population of the eel has dropped by 95%. Some conclude the over-fishing of the species, pollution, and changes in the ocean current, brought on by climate change may be the cause, but no-one really knows. In 2010 a huge amount of migrating elvers were spotted swimming up the River Severn and maybe that’s a good thing to be happening. Pie, Mash with eel. is still common in east, south east London, and in many parts of Kent, and Essex. Before, burgers, kebabs, and fried chicken, London had its own fast food.
This picture above is a classic, Pie,mash with eel. I’m going to update this dish, without the eel of course. I believe that a dish, that was so important to a way of life in the 19th century London, can be revived.
The first step is to get the potatoes going on the stove. I have three large red skin potatoes working on the back burner in salted boiling water. I added them to a pot of cold water, placed the potatoes in, then brought them up to a boil. I cooking them until a knife will go through the potatoes without any resistance. After about 25 minutes, I turned the heat off and let them sit in the hot water for another 10 minutes or so. I took them out of the water to cool enough to where I was able to handle them and remove their skins. The skins come off super easily.
Earlier, I made some roasted garlic, this is how I did that. I took one head of garlic, slice it in half, lengthwise. Drizzled a little olive oil on each half along with a sprinkling of Kosher salt and pepper. I wrapped the halves up fairly tightly in some foil, then placed the foil package into a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes. I then let it cool for just a couple of minutes before try to unwrap the package. What you have then is, some very sweet garlic. I took one of the halves and with my hands squeezed the garlic out of it jacket, and that happens really easily, into a bowl. Getting back to the potatoes. Once I peeled the three, still very hot potatoes, I cut them into chunks and placed them into a large bowl. I add soften butter, 4 cloves of the roasted garlic, softened cream cheese, half and half, Kosher salt and black pepper. I took a potato masher and mashed away, until the potatoes were creamy and smooth. I wrapped the bowl in plastic wrap. On the back burner, I had a pot with very slow simmering water in it. I placed the bowl on top of the pot, using it as a double boiler. You want to make sure there is enough water in the pot, but not to where the water touches the bowl. This will let me keep the potatoes nice and warm until I’m ready to serve them.
While the potatoes were first place into the water to start them cooking, is when I started the pie filling. For the filling, I have a large saute pan on med heat, where I have a large diced onion sauteing away. I just want the onion to start to soften a bit before adding in the ground beef. I have a couple of pounds of ground beef that I add to the pan. Next, I start to break up the meat with the back of a wooden spatula to start it browning. Once all the pink is gone from the meat, I add in the 4 cloves of the roasted garlic, tomato paste, English ground mustard, fresh thyme leaves ( dried is fine too, just use half the amount you would if using fresh thyme), Kosher salt, and black pepper. I stir all the flavorings through and let that saute for another 5 minutes before adding in some all purpose flour. I then stir the flour all through the ingredients before adding in some red wine and beef consomme. Again stirring everything through. I let this come up to a bubble, then reduce to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes or so until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. This is the point where I would go back to the potatoes and preparing them to be mashed and placed on the double boiler. Now for the pastry dough. On the search bar of my site, type in “Conquering the Crust”, for my home made pie dough, if you’d like my recipe. Homemade pie dough is the best, Another option is, store bought pie crust.
I decided to make larger size meat pies, instead of the smaller ones. Whenever I make pie dough I always make extra and freeze them. I had to disks of pastry dough in my freezer that I moved to the refrigerator to thaw out. I cut each disk in half. I rolled each half out into a circle about, 12 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch in thickness. I laid them out on 4 sheets parchment paper. One at a time I placed the filling on the bottom 1/3 of the circle. In a bowl next to where I was working, I had some egg wash on stand- by. I brushed the outer rim of the circle with the egg wash. I brought the bottom half of the pie dough up to meet the top half and pressed gently to let any excess air pockets out. Using a fork I crimped the edges. With a sharp knife, I trimmed any extra dough to make a nice clean border around where I had crimped, as seen in the picture above. I then brushed the outside of the meat filled pie with the egg wash and lifted the parchment paper with the pie on it carefully onto a sheet pan. I did this 3 more times. I cut 3 slits into the top of each meat pie to allow steam to escape. I placed the pies into the frig for at least 30 minutes, to allow the dough to rest. This gives me enough time to prepare the gravy, or liquor as the English referred to it, for this dish.
I start with the food processor, fitted with the steel blade. I add in the whole one half of the roasted garlic, To that I add in the leaves of fresh Italian flat leaf parsley. I pulse this all together until really finely chopped. For the gravy, (liquor) I start with some unsalted butter in a sauce pan, on med heat. Once that’s melted, I add in some flour, whisking the flour and butter together for a minute or so, to cook out that raw flour taste. It looks like clumps of paste, shown in the picture above. Next I add in low sodium chicken broth, white vinegar, Kosher salt, and black pepper. I continue cooking this until it comes up to a bubble, and barley thickens..To the sauce pan, I add in the parsley mixture. Turn the heat down to very low, I mix in the parsley mixture.whisking slowly, until the color becomes a beautiful green. I remove the pan from the heat and pour the sauce mixture into a sieve over a bowl to strain out most of the parsley leaves. return the gravy or liquor back into the sauce pan. Turning the pan up to med heat, whisking continuously, bring the gravy back up to a bubble until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. A typical gravy consistency. Cover, remove from heat, and set aside.
Now that the potatoes are still staying nice and warm on the double boiler, and the gravy is just now done and covered it’s time to take the meat pies out of the refrigerator and put them into a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. You really want to keep your eye on the pies once they’ve reached 15 minutes into their cooking time to make sure they are browning nicely.
They should have a beautiful evenly baked golden crust. Let cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into the pie.
When plating this classic dish, use a spatula to scrape the potatoes along one side of the plate as shown above. Next, ladle the gravy or liquor on the bottom of the plate. Then rest the slice of pie on top of the gravy, and drizzle some of that delicious parsley liquor over the top.
Cooking Time For Meat Pies: 20 25 minutes
Cooking Time For Potatoes: 25 minutes (10 minutes in the hot water with heat off)
Cooking Time For Gravy: 5-7 minutes
Oven Temperature: 400 degrees ( 20-25 minutes )
Equipment: food processor and 4 sheet pans
Yields: 4 servings
Tips: 1. Make the pie crust day before and keep in the frig, 2. Start with boiling the potatoes, 3. Make the meat filling and let cool, 4. Mash the potatoes and place them into a double boiler, 5. Roll out the pie dough, 6. Fill the pies and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 7. While the pies are in the frig, make the gravy, cover and keep warm, 8. Bake the meat pies.
Instructions For Pie Crust: search bar- “conquering the crust” or (2 boxes of store bought ready pie crust)
Ingredients For Mash Potatoes:
4 cooked and peeled large red potatoes
3 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter
4 ounces of softened cream cheese
4 cloves of roasted garlic
1/2-1 cup of half and half ( start with half a cup add more if needed)
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Ingredients: For Meat Filling:
2 pounds of ground beef
1 large diced onion
4 cloves of roasted garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves chopped
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of ground English mustard ( ground mustard)
1/2 cup of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon)
1/2 cup of beef consomme
Ingredients For Gravy:
2 cups of fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
1/2 head of roasted garlic
10 ounces of low sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoon of flour
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
Directions; Follow the order above, under “Tips” . Start with making the pie crust in the early morning or even better the day before, and refrigerate. Start with the potatoes boiling. While that’s working, make the filling for the meat pies. After the meat filling is done, let the meat filling completely cool. Go back to the potatoes and finish with the adding of the ingredients for mashing. Set the potatoes on a double boiler to stay warm. Next, roll out the pie dough and fill the pies. After all the pies are filled, place them back into the refrigerator to rest. Last, make the gravy,(liquor). When the gravy is finished, cover to keep warm. Remove the pies from the frig and bake. If you want to make this dish in advance, have the meat pies prepared and in the frig ready to be baked off. You can also have the potatoes done, covered and sitting over a double boiler on low. At this point you could bake off the pies while making the gravy.