bacon, egg and leek pie

belinda jeffery's recipes

My recipes are easy. They’re for the food I like to eat. Simple, fresh, full of flavour and just a bit different. You certainly don't need any great cooking skills for them, you just need to like food and like eating – just like me. The rest is simple.

bacon, egg and leek pie

Although this scrumptious pie takes a little more effort than many of my recipes, I do love it and it is a staple on our Christmas Eve menu with leftovers destined for a Boxing Day picnic. In the photo I’ve made it with bacon, however it’s also wonderful made with smoked salmon. The most important thing to keep in mind is that not any eggs will do for this, as the crux of this pie is the eggs...they need to be the best, freshest eggs you can lay your hands on, for they make all the difference in the world to the final flavour.

If you like making your own pastry, I’ve included the recipe for my favourite simple shortcrust pastry below - just remember you need to increase it by half again for the pie.

1 1/2 quantities of Simple Shortcrust Pastry (see recipe below) or 600g bought shortcrust pastry
2 large leeks, white part only, well washed and sliced thinly or 2 large onions, halved and sliced
8 large rashers bacon (rinds removed), fairly finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon snipped chives
11 good, fresh organic or free-range eggs
1/2 cup (125ml) milk or cream
ground nutmeg, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon of water, to glaze

If you are making the pastry, make and chill it.

To cook the leeks, put them in a microwave-proof dish, partially cover them with plastic film and microwave them on high for 2-3 minutes until they’re just tender (otherwise you can steam them). Leave them to cool.

Cook the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until its pale golden, then scoop it into a bowl and leave it to cool.

Preheat your oven to 190C. Sit a 24-26cm shallow-ish, loose-based cake tin on a baking sheet and set it aside.

Divide the pastry into two balls – about two-thirds of the quantity for the base and one third for the lid. Roll the largest ball out thinly on a lightly floured surface so it’s big enough to completely line the tin. Drape it over the tin and gently ease it into the corners, leaving a little pastry overhang all around. Now roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid that will cover the pie, then carefully transfer it to another baking tray and put it in a cool (not cold) spot.

Scatter the cooled leeks and most of the bacon over the base of the pastry case. Sprinkle just over half of the herbs evenly over the top.

Break 10 of the eggs, one at a time, into a cup, then slide each one into the pastry case, being careful not to break the yolks (it’s no great drama if you do, it just looks nicer if the yolks are whole.) Carefully scatter the rest of the bacon and herbs over the eggs. Whisk together the remaining egg and milk (or cream) and drizzle this over the top. Sprinkle on a little nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper.

To finish off, dampen the edges of the pastry case with a little water, and drape the pastry lid gently on top, letting it settle lightly over the mound of each egg. Using your fingers, press the pastry lid and base together to seal the edges. Use a sharp knife to trim away the overhanging pastry, leaving a 2cm rim all the way around. Roll this overhanging rim in to form a border for the pie and pinch it to seal it tightly.

Roll out any pastry scraps and cut them into leaves to decorate the top of the pie – if you mark the veins with a blunt knife they look really lovely. Dampen the bottom of the leaves with a little cool water, then sit them on top of the pie. Taking care not to pierce the yolks, use a fork to poke a few holes in the pastry lid to form steam vents so any steam can escape as the pie bakes. Finally, brush the top with the egg yolk and water glaze.

Bake for 50 – 55 minutes or until the pie is golden and smells wonderful. Sit the tin on a wire rack and leave it to cool completely, before removing the pie from the tin. It’s great served warm or cool and leftovers keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Makes 1 pie serving 6-8 people.

simple shortcrust pastry

This recipe makes lovely pastry – short and buttery without being too difficult to handle. In fact it’s quite forgiving and can withstand quite a bit of push and pull without disintegrating. However, I should just warn you if you’re making pastry in summer when it’s hot, it always makes things a bit tricky as pastry loves the cool and tends to soften rapidly and be harder to handle as the thermometer rises. As it’s terribly steamy here in summer, I try to get around this by rolling the pastry in the cool of the morning before it heats up too much.

To have enough pastry for the pie, increase the recipe by half again i.e. 2 1/4 cups (335g) plain flour; 1/3 teaspoon salt; 185g cold unsalted butter; 90mls iced water.

Makes enough pastry for one 26-28cm tart shell

1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
125g cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup (60ml) iced water

Put the flour and salt into a food processor, and whiz them together. Add the butter and whiz everything again until the mixture resembles medium-fine breadcrumbs. With the processor running, pour in the iced water and process only until the dough forms a ball around the blade. (The time for this varies a bit depending on the weather, when it’s warm it comes together faster.)

Tip the dough out onto a board and shape it into a ball. (If you have increased this recipe to make the pie, follow the directions in the pie recipe to divide the pastry into two pieces.) Flatten it into a disc and wrap it tightly in cling film. Chill the disc for about 40-50 minutes or until the pastry is firm, but supple enough to roll (the timing of this will vary a bit depending on how cold your fridge is.) By the way, you can make the pastry a day or two ahead of when you want to use it, but you will need to bring it back to cool room temperature so it’s pliable enough to roll.

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