Pies the perfect picnic fare (+recipes)

By Jan Bilton

My idea of a magic weekend is exploring the countryside and stopping for a picnic beside a river, on a beach or a mountain trail - providing, of course, the day is warm and sunny. Savoury pies make great picnic fare and are a popular family friendly food.

It is believed pies were developed as soon as stone-age men discovered they could grind cereals to make a flour. Galettes - discs of pastry - were wrapped around honey. The Romans made pies containing curd - probably the precursor to cheesecake. The Egyptians were fond of very large pies - there is reference from Abd el-Latif, a physician, to a 12th-century pie that contained three lambs stuffed with a mixture of fried minced meat, many spices and herbs, plus 20 chickens and 50 smaller birds.

Pies today can be large or tiny, with double crusts or a single crust on top or below the filling. Flaky, puff and short pastries are usual for pie crusts, but many things can be substituted, including bread and potatoes.

Short pastry is easy to make at home. The secret is to keep everything cool and don't over-blend as the dough will become tough. Too much water will make the pastry hard. I make my short pastry in the food processor using short sharp bursts.

It can also be made by rubbing the butter into the flour with your finger tips. Do allow the pastry to rest before lining a pie pan. Some cooks like to add a half teaspoon of baking powder to two cups of flour when making short pastry - the raising agent expands the dough and joins any cracks.

Carry your pie to your picnic in the container in which it was baked. Wrap it in a clean tea towel and tie a knot at the top to make for easy carrying.



You will need about 375g short pastry. This pie is cooked in a cake pan.

Rich Short Pastry: 2 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

125g butter, coarsely chopped

1 egg yolk (use the white in the filling)

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1-2 tbsp ice-cold water

Filling: 2 cups frozen peas

9 eggs and the leftover white

1/4 cup milk or cream

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

200g ham off the bone, diced

1 small onion, diced

Place flour, salt and butter in a food processor. Process in bursts, until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk, lemon juice and enough water to make the mixture bind.

Roll into a ball and flatten with your hand. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 200C. Lightly oil an 18cm round, 7cm deep spring-form cake pan. To make the pie shell, roll out pastry to cover the base and sides of the cake pan. Trim the top. Line with foil, pressing it lightly against the pastry. Bake for 15 minutes, remove foil and bake for five more minutes, until golden. Cool slightly before adding filling. Reduce oven temperature to 180C.

To make filling, place peas in a microwave-proof bowl with three tablespoons of water.

Cover and cook for about three minutes, until cooked and hot. Puree in a blender, then sieve. There should be about 3/4 cup of pea puree.

Beat eggs, milk or cream and parsley together. Mix in pea puree. Season.

Place ham in pastry shell. Top with onion. Pour in egg mixture. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the centre is set.

Lay a sheet of foil over the top if browning too much.

Serve warm or cold. Serves 6-8.


Use meat from your favourite sausages. The pastry is plaited over the top of the filling.

400g flaky pastry

Filling: 500g sausage meat

2 rashers bacon, diced

1 hard-boiled egg, coarsely chopped

1 small onion, diced

1 tsp mixed dried herbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200C.

Roll out pastry to make a 30cmx23cm rectangle. Using the point of a knife, lightly mark pastry into three equal strips running lengthwise.

Place on a lightly oiled oven tray. On each long side, cut slits about 2cm apart from the edge to the centre third.

Gently combine sausage meat, bacon, egg, onion and seasonings. Place filling along centre third of the pastry. Plait sides of pastry over the filling, working from one side to the other.

Brush with lightly beaten egg or milk. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve hot or cold. Serves 4-6.


6-7 thin slices brown bread

Spray oil

1 onion, diced

1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 & 1/2 cups milk

Salt, pepper and chilli powder

3/4 cup grated tasty cheddar cheese

Remove crusts from bread. Cut each slice in half diagonally. Spray a 20cm to 23cm pie plate with oil. Line with bread, standing points up over rim of pie plate.

Spray a frying pan with oil. Saute onion until softened. Add corn, stirring until thawed. Pour into pie plate. Whisk together eggs, milk and seasonings. Pour over corn mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C. Sprinkle pie with cheese. Bake for 40 minutes or until set. Great served garnished with chopped parsley. Serves 4.


2 cups cooked chicken, chopped

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

1/2 cup each: frozen peas, whole kernel corn

1/2 tsp each: dried tarragon, thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

420g can condensed cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup cream

2 sheets ready-rolled flaky pastry

Preheat oven to 200C.

Lightly oil a one-litre pie dish or casserole. Layer in chicken, eggs, peas and corn. Season. Mix soup, stock and cream and pour over chicken mixture.

Top with pastry, trimming edges and pressing on to sides. Leftover pastry can be cut into shapes to decorate the top. Glaze with beaten egg or cream.

Bake for 35 minutes or until chicken filling is bubbling and pastry is risen and golden-brown. Serves 4-6.


- Hamilton News

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