It’s that time of year when it can reach almost 80 degrees in the afternoon but, oh, after the sun goes down it can be quite cold. So, picnic season is now a bit limited in time. Or, you can wear a jacket and tailgate near your favorite team. Or, better yet, stay warm inside. Hang out in the mancave on a Sunday and watch your favorite team.
Rather than the usual nachos or dips, what about something savory of substance. Suzy Ashford wrote Le Picnic, her vision for upscale picnic fair. It’s upscale game fare too. These English/Australian style pies, crafted individually, are a hot and most satisfactory treat. The combination of lamb, potato, onion and stock is classic. If you can, use homemade stock which you can make extra potent. Homebrew is always better!
Lamb and Potato Pies
Yield: 4 individual pies
- 500 g (18 ounces) boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat, cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 brown onions, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 rosemary sprig, finely chopped
- 125 ml (½ cup) dry white wine
- 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
- Melted butter, for brushing
- 6 potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
Season the lamb with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cooking in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, brown the lamb well, for 8-10 minutes each batch, adding more oil if necessary. Remove the lamb from the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion to the pan and cook for 10 minutes, or until softened and golden, stirring to scrape up any brown bits on the base of the pan. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or two.
Return the lamb to the pan. Stir in the rosemary and wine, then cook for a few minutes, until the wine has evaporated.
Stir in the stock, then cover and simmer for 1 to 1 ¼ hours, or until the meat is tender and the liquid has reduced and thickened. At this point you can continue on to make the pies, or chill the mixture overnight in the fridge; the next day, skim off any fat from the top of the lamb mixture.
When you’re ready to bake the pies, preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F (fan-forced).
Brush four 300 ml (10 ounce) capacity ramekins with melted butter. Line the base of each ramekin with potato slices, then spoon in the lamb mixture. Top with the remaining potatoes, arranging the slices to overlap and cover the filling. Cut out circles of baking paper to fit the ramekins. Brush the paper rounds with melted butter, place buttered side down onto the top of the pies, then press down gently.
Place the ramekins on a baking tray, then into the oven. Bake for 1 hour.
Remove the baking paper ‘lids’ and continue to bake for a further 20-30 minutes, or until the potato slices are golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature, with a green salad.
Source: Le Picnic by Suzy Ashford [Smith Street Books, 2017]