Dingle Pies

These pies are traditional in Dingle for special occassions, but most notably Lammas Day, 1 August, which marked the first day of the harvest. Fittingly, we ate them the weekend before. Apparently there are many recipes for mutton pies in the area, with differing ratios of meat and vegetables depending on who 's cooking.

These came out really well and, considering the primitive conditions of our temporary kitchen, though it seemed time-intensive, it was well worth the effort. I'm sure I could shave off more than half the prep time in a well-equipped kitchen. (And by well-equipped I mean with basic utensils like a rolling pin, pastry blender and a knife any sharper than a butter knife).

And, like most Irish recipes we've tried so far, the ingredients are simple and results hearty and filling. These pies are also excellent the reheated the next day.

Yield: 6 small pies (This is not true. Oddly enough, it seems that most Irish 'yield' notations totally underestimate themselves. In the US, I never reach the appropriate recipe yields (Yield: 3 dozen cookies - I'm lucky to get 2 dozen), but here I always get much more than originally planned; with this recipe we ended up with 8 good sizes pies.)

1 lb boneless mutton or lamb
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 potato, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
1 egg, beaten
Salt and ground black pepper

For the shortcrust pastry:
generous 1 c butter (or half butter, half shortening)
5 c plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 c very cold water

1. To make the pastry, rub the butter into the flour with the fingertips or a pastry blender. (I think this is best done either with the pastry blender or 2 knives - rubbing with your fingertips makes it easier to get an even texture distribution, but it also warms the butter and makes the pastry harder to work with.) Add the chilled water. Mix with a knife or fork until the mixture clings together (just barely). Turn it on to a floured worktop and knead lightly until smooth (2-3 times should do it). Wrap in foil and leave in the refrigerator to relax for 20 minutes before using.

2. Trim any fat or gristle from the meast and cut it up into small pieces. Plase in a large bowl and sitr in the onion, carrots, potato, celery and seasoning.

3. Preheat the over to 350 F. Cut a third off the ball of pastry and reserve to make the lids of the pies. Roll out the rest and, using a small plate as a guide and re-rolling the pastry as necessary, cut out six circles (I had enough for 8). Divide the meat mixture between the circles, piling it in the middle of each.

4. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out six smaller circles, about 4 in across. Lay these on top. Dampen the edges of the pastry bases, bring the pastry up around the meat, pleat it to fit the lid and pinch the edges together.

5. Make a small hole in the top of each, brush them with beaten egg and slide on to baking sheets. Bake in the oven for an hour. Serve hot or cold.

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