There is something slightly decadent about a pie that belies their inherent simplicity.
Well, most pies.
I’ve had many a miserable midweek football match warmed by a steaming meat and potato number at halftime and to call these a luxury would be akin to describing X Factor as a singing competition.
But pastry can work wonders. It can turn a stew from sustenance into a centrepiece or even make the most cackhanded of bakers look like a master practitioner: Crème patissiere plus puff pastry equals ‘millefeuille’ – a dessert so impressive that it is near impossible to pronounce, let alone eat.
As a result I’ve taken to keeping a slab of ready made pastry in the freezer for those occasions when potatoes, rice or pasta just won’t cut it and my Northern roots are whispering that sweetest of words down my lughole: pie. Pie. Pie.
This little creation is light enough not to raise the blood pressure but also satisfying, cheap and downright delicious.
Cheese, onion and ham pie
Serves four, or two with enough left over for an enviable lunch the following day.
Half a slab of ready-made puff pastry (save the other half for Eccles cakes – coming soon)
6-8 white onions, depending on their size
3-4 slices cured ham (prosciutto, Serrano – anything of that ilk)
two or three handfuls of young leaf spinach
Any cheese that melts and as much of it as you like
An egg, beaten
Chop/slice/dice the onions any which way you wish but be sure to leave them in fairly big pieces. Cook them slowly in olive oil until they begin to brown. This should take 20-30 minutes, don’t rush it or they will go from crunchy to burnt in a matter of minutes without passing through that delicious sweet stage. Stir them occasionally.
Whilst the onions are cooking, cut the pastry into two squares (so two quarters of the original block) and roll them out to two equal sized rectangles – about 8 x 12 inches. Put one on a suitably sized baking sheet and layer on the ham, making sure to leave a border of about a finger’s width round the outside. Top with a few dollops of pesto.
Once the onions are cooked, stir in the spinach to wilt it down and spoon the whole lot over the ham. Grate or slice the cheese and sprinkle over the onions. Brush the border with beaten egg, lay the second pastry sheet over the top and press it into place round the edges. Brush the top with more egg and cook for 25-30 minutes. Eat as soon as it comes out of the oven. Mouth burns are inevitable.
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