dia de los muertos skull pie

© Nick Loven

Aiiiieeeeeee! A savoury dish on *my blog*?!!

Continuing our quest to work through a haul of 65 small-to-medium pumpkins, and in a bid to enter an instructables.com contest, I made Halloween pie! Well, Nick's the filling genius of this particular recipe but I think we'll all agree that the star of the show is my expertly crafted skull! It's actually incredibly simple to make, requiring just a little tin foil and some shaping magic! 

I don't know if I managed to enter the instructables contest after all that, there were major issues with the "publish" step (those pesky CAPTCHAs, even more pesky when they don't show up!), but we did at least get a delicious and entertaining dinner out of it! This savoury pie is perfect as a main course, bulk it up with some veg or another side if you're feeding more that 3 lightly hungry people! You can, of course, make the filling whatever you want, but we have loads of squash and no meat in the house at the moment so veggie casserole style filling it is!

© Nick Loven

Lydia's Dia de los Muertos Skull Savoury Pie - 2 hours. feeds 3ish, for more add a hearty side dish!
Shortcrust Pastry 
225g (8oz) plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
50g (2oz) unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for construction
50g (2oz) lard or veg shortening (or just make the whole 100g up with butter)
2 eggs
splash of water - I used about 2tbsp

Filling: - adjust this to your liking, we go nuts over rosemary!
1 medium brown onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1.5cm discs
13 mushrooms (I used white button mushrooms), cut into quarters
half a small pumpkin, chopped to 1.5cm chunks
2 large sprigs of rosemary
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp gravy granules
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
splash of worcester sauce
1 tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp celery salt
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried sage
¼ tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper to taste

You'll also need a pie dish about 7.5 - 9 inches in diameter

© Lydia, punge.blogspot.co.uk

The key to a good shortcrust pastry is not to overwork it, otherwise it'll turn out chewy instead of melt-in-your-mouth light. Rub the fats into the flour (either with your fingertips or by cutting through the mixture with a knife) until you get a bread-crumb like texture. To this add 1 lightly beaten egg (leave the other egg for an egg wash later) and add the water a bit at a time, while stirring / working with your fingers, until a dough is formed. You won't need very much water - about 2 tbsp was all I needed.

Cut off one third of the dough and flatten both dough balls into discs. Wrap in food wrap / place inside two food bags and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, start preparing the filling.

Heat the oil in your pan and throw in half of the fresh rosemary (chopped, stalk removed), and your herbs.

Add onions and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring.

Next, add the tomato puree, then the garlic, followed by the rest of the veg. Stir well and cook, covered, on a high heat for 5 minutes.

Boil about 250ml water and add to the pan - only enough to reach halfway up the veg in the pot. Reduce heat to medium.

Add the gravy granules, Worcester sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir well, pushing the veg down into the water, place the remaining rosemary sprig on top and continue to cook, covered.

After about 7-10 minutes remove the rosemary and continue to cook covered until the carrots and pumpkin are almost done - about 10 more minutes. Give it a taste and adjust the herbs as necessary. Finally, uncover and cook on low to medium to allow the filling to reduce (liquid to evaporate a fair bit).

© Lydia, punge.blogspot.co.uk
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4).

Shape two pieces of foil (each about 50cm long) to form the cheek indentations and fix in place on the pie dish with a piece of butter.

Roll out the large disc of pastry on a floured surface, to fit the diameter and depth of the pie dish.

Lift the pastry onto the rolling pin and gently place into the pie dish, easing it into the nooks and crannies with your knuckles. Put the dish back in the fridge.

Roll out the large disc of pastry on a floured surface, to fit the diameter of the pie dish.

© Lydia, punge.blogspot.co.uk
Cut out eyes and the nasal cavity and roll out the cut-outs of pastry into a long thin rectangle, and cut rectangles out for the teeth. Make about 20 that are almost square and 4 that are slightly thinner, for canines.

Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush onto the pastry lid in a smile shape, and arrange your pastry teeth onto it.

Transfer your pastry onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until needed.

© Nick Loven
Once your filling is ready, there'll be only a little liquid left. You can either leave the filling to cool to room temperature, which will prevent the filling from melting your pastry and result in a slightly better structure, or you can work quickly (I was hungry so didn't wait, and it turned out fine)!

Ready? GO!

Place the filling in the base and distribute evenly.
Brush the pastry edges with beaten egg.
Place the skull-shaped top, erm... on top, and seal the edges.
Trim the excess.
Brush the top with beaten egg - be careful around the teeth as vigorous brushing may dislodge them!

Bake in your preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until nicely golden.

Remove from oven and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before releasing the skull (I loosened mine from the dish, slid it out and peeled away the foil) and digging in!

© Nick Loven

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