Curried lamb hand pies
Take everything you love about pie -- that rich, flaky crust cradling your favorite filling -- and downsize it into a compact package. Behold the little wonder that is the hand pie. Convenient, simple and, dare I say it -- terribly cute -- it’s pie’s answer to the cupcake, without the fussy decorations.
Best of all? Just like a cupcake, you don’t have to share.
I’ve been baking a lot of the little guys of late, and I’m totally smitten. Simple to make, there’s not much to a hand pie: Sandwich your filling of choice between a couple of layers of dough and bake until golden brown. Voila.
I love how versatile it is. Sweet or savory, the hand pie is an easy choice, whether you’re planning snacks, a main dish or dessert. Enjoy a batch at home or pack them to go -- no plates or forks required. Short of a sandwich, can a meal get any more portable when you’re on the run?
Simple as it may be, there are ways to make a good hand pie great.
First, consider the crust. The ratio of crust to filling is greater with a hand pie than with a normal slice of pie, and it will be noticed from the first to last bite. You want your crust to make a good impression, with good flavor and texture.
I’ve seen hand pies with short crusts and crunchy crusts; some are even baked with a puff pastry crust, like turnovers. Personally, I prefer a flaky pie crust, rich and buttery yet delicate, practically shattering with every bite.
As for the filling, get creative. Use seasonal fruit as an inspiration for a sweet pie, or riff on a hearty dish -- Irish stew, perhaps, or curried lamb -- when you’re craving something savory. Keep in mind that, because the pies are small, any ingredients that go into the filling should be finely diced so they don’t burst through the dough. Large apple wedges or carrot slices won’t work. Finally, if you cook the filling separately, be sure it has been chilled completely before filling the pies so it doesn’t warm the dough.
Form the pies however you’d like. You can roll out the dough into a large sheet and cut out squares or other creative shapes, re-rolling the scraps to form additional pies. I prefer to portion the dough beforehand, carefully rolling each into a circle to form simple half-moon pies; this eliminates scraps, which need to be re-rolled and tend to be tough and not as attractive.
Once they’re ready to go, the little pies bake in maybe half the time it would take to bake a standard pie -- a whole sheet of them puffed, golden brown and temptingly fragrant. And just like cupcakes, each little pie is a convenient, compact individual serving.
Perfect for portion control. That is, if you can eat just one.
In a large saute pan heated over medium-high heat until hot, add 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften. Stir in the curry powder, cumin and coriander and cook until the spices are aromatic and begin to toast, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, stirring to combine.
Stir in the ground lamb, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the lamb is lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Taste the lamb and adjust the seasoning if desired. Add the wine and cook, scraping any flavorings from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and spoon the meat into a bowl.
In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the potato and cook, stirring frequently, until it just begins to brown. Stir in the carrot and broth. Cover the pan and steam the potatoes and carrots just until they are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Check while stirring to make sure the potato does not stick to the bottom of the pan.) Uncover the pan and add the peas, then the meat mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in the cilantro. Taste again and adjust the seasoning and spices if desired.
Remove from heat and spread the filling onto a sheet pan, then refrigerate it until the filling is chilled. This makes about 5 cups filling, more than is needed for 12 pies; the filling can be warmed and eaten, added to a soup, stew or other dishes as desired. The filling will keep for up to 4 days; covered and refrigerated.
Divide the prepared pie dough into 12 even pieces, about 3 ounces each, and shape each into a small disk. On a lightly floured board, carefully roll each piece into a circle about 6 inches in diameter and about one-eighth-inch thick. The dough will be flaky and will probably crack on the edges; without working the dough too much, gently mold the dough with your hands as it’s rolled to form as perfect a circle as possible. Carefully set the circle aside and continue rolling until all of the circles are formed.
Assemble the hand pies: Brush the inside of each circle with a very light coating of beaten egg, brushing all the way to the edge of the circle. Place roughly one-fourth cup of the lamb filling in the center of each circle, slightly off to one side (to make it easier to fold over the dough to form the hand pie), but leaving a 1-inch border around the edge on one side. Carefully -- this can be tricky -- fold over half of the dough, lining the edges up to form a half-circle; you may need to support the dough as it’s folded over to keep it from cracking. Gently press the edges down to seal the pie. Trim the edges to clean them up, or gently brush the top of the edge of each pie, then fold the edge in again for a cleaner-looking side. Continue until all 12 pies are formed.
Place the prepared pies on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate them, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the chilled pies and brush them with the egg wash. Use a small knife to slash 2 to 3 small steam vents in the top of each pie.
Bake the pies, 1 sheet at a time (refrigerate the other sheet until ready to bake), on the center rack until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate the pies halfway through baking for even coloring. Cool on a rack. The pies can be served warm or at room temperature.
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