Recipe: Lamb, fennel & spinach pie

Lamb, fennel and spinach pies are a fragrant and hearty winter meal.
Aaron McLean

Lamb, fennel and spinach pies are a fragrant and hearty winter meal.

This pie can be made as one large pie or, as in the photo at right, 12 small ones, and I've provided directions for both options. The filling can be made a day ahead, as can the bread dough if it's put in the fridge to rise slowly overnight. Once you have made the pie or pies, it's best to cook within the hour as the dough will overproof while sitting.

Makes 12 individual or 1 large pie for 6-8
Preparation 40 minutes plus rising time
Cooking 90 minutes

For the filling

700g lamb leg steaks or a casserole cut, cut in 2cm dice flour for dusting 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, fronds reserved and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
½ cup white wine
1½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
100g spinach, shredded
2 teaspoons cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons water (if necessary)

Lightly dust the lamb with flour seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wide saucepan and brown the lamb. 

Remove from the pan, add the onion and fennel with the remaining oil. Cook gently until soft. Add the garlic, fennel seeds and orange zest and cook for another minute.

Return the lamb to the pan, add the wine, bring to the boil and add the orange juice and stock. Bring to the boil then cover, lower the heat and simmer very gently for 50-60 minutes or until the lamb is tender. If the pan seems to be drying out, add a little more stock or water. 

Add the spinach to the pan along with the chopped fennel fronds and toss to wilt. If the mix seems a little too liquid, add some or all of the cornflour slurry and simmer to thicken for a minute. Cool the filling before using.

For the dough & to assemble

1½ teaspoons active dried yeast 
250g fine semolina
2 teaspoons sugar
350g high-grade flour
1 teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the bowl and tin
1 egg, beaten with a little water

Put the yeast, semolina and sugar in a bowl with 300ml tepid water. Sit for 10 minutes until it smells yeasty (you may also find a few bubbles forming). Add the flour, salt and oil. Knead in an electric mixer with a dough hook or by hand until the dough comes together and is smooth – 5-10 minutes.

Put into an oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 1-2 hours until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 200°C. 

To make individual pies

Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll out to 4mm-thick rounds. Put a large spoonful of filling onto 1 half of each round, brush around the edges with the egg wash, fold over and crimp the edges to seal. 

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Put onto a baking paper-lined tray and rest for 20 minutes to allow the dough to rise. Brush with egg wash and make a couple of slits in the top of the dough so steam can escape. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. 

Serve with chutney, if desired. 

To make 1 large pie

Cut the dough into 2 balls, 1 slightly larger than the other. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 4mm. 

Lightly oil a 26cm round tin. Put the larger piece of dough in the bottom of the tin and press up around the sides.

Put in the cold lamb filling and lightly brush the edge of the dough with the egg wash. Put the top piece of dough on and crimp the edges together. 

Brush the top of the dough with egg wash and make a couple of slits so steam can escape. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden. Serve with chutney, if desired. 

 - Cuisine


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