As I sat at my desk, yesterday afternoon, at about four p.m. and gazed into the screen, I noticed no sigh of relief at having written the closing line on Book II of my novel. There was a huge sense of acomplishment, a tiredness, a listlessness, but no relief. Earlier in the week I had noticed myself feeling drained, my body aching, my nose clogged, a difficulty in sleeping, a feeling of depletion, and I asked myself, as the narrative was coming to a climax, am I putting to much energy into writing this, am I draining myself, have I weakened my defenses and thus fallen prey to a cold?
I probably did. So there was no relief as I wrote that last line, because at the back of my mind I know I must soon go back to it for a bit of revising and editing, and that is even before I get started on Book III. There bits and pieces I forgot to add, and stuff that does not need to be there, and that must be tackled with. Sooner, rather than later. But since I am nursing this bitter cold, and feeling tired and drained and in need of respite, this weekend I want to lay low and fall prey to some comfort food and couch residency, as I gobble on my favourite shows - currently obsessing with True Detective - and as I watch a couple of horror movies and reread my Peter Robinsons. My mind needs a break from those pesky dragons and even peskier dragon riders, their political fights and their love interests. I will be taking on a new project, so as to freshen up my ideas and step out of my comfort zone. As much as I fear diving into risky new ventures, this year I decided I will look at them in the eye and think 'So what if it fails? Who will die for it? And what if it doesn't fail? Who's to gain for it?' Since I am the one to gain, obviously, I am welcoming novelties in my life!
These pies are no novelty, and yet they are the essence of comfort food for someone with a cold, in my opinion. You can just gather a platter full of them, wrap yourself up in a warm throw, and laze around the sofa, munching away and watching movies. They won't help cure the cold, unlike the ramen I plan on cooking for tonight's dinner - and I should be getting a head start on that broth by now! - but they will make your tummy feel oh so happy, and get your tastebuds singing. These are duck pies, and I am such a duck person, really, and if you decide to cook these, you must let me know how much you have liked them!
So for the pastry you will need to double this recipe, as you're not making just a top crust for a big pie, you're making individual ones that will need a pastry lid on them. I advise you to season the pastry with a tiny bit of salt and some thyme - go for fresh if you like it, but I find that dried works quite well here - as it will enhance the taste of the duck meat. Make sure the pastry is silky and satiny, and the colder the better, do not hesitate in dividing it into two batches, one for the casings and one for the lids, keep the one for the lids in the fridge as you're making the casings. As soon as the pastry has settled in the fridge for the necessary amount of time, you can start spreading it and making the casings. For these we used one of those cupcake tins, with twelve of them, as the size is perfect for pies as well as cupcakes. If you're used to working with individual pie casings, even better, we don't own any of those, so we use the cupcake tin!
As for the filling, like I said these were duck pies, but you can use practically any meat you'd like, I think even sausage meat would work here - if you're using pork, try substituting the thyme in the pastry for sage, trust me, you won't be sorry!! - as well as chicken, quaile, pheasant, beef, vennison, turkey. If using birds, the carcasses are the best for the filling. Really. We usually buy the whole bird and then cut it up at home, acording to our needs and preferences, so everything gets used - and I mean everything, even the fatty skins and the bones, we use them for stock which we then freeze - and nothing goes wasted. It's a way of life, as any other. So, we normally keep a carcass and one or two wings for pies. There will be still lots of meat around those bones, what you do is get them in the pressure cooker for 30 to 45 minutes, and the meat will be falling off the bones, which is exactly what you want, as you will have to debone it after it's cooled enough. Once you have deboned the duck, chop up a leek or an onion, two garlic cloves and stir fry them on a tablespoon of good olive oil. Let them tenderize and then add the duck, allowing it to gain a little colour. Add a good 500ml of the water you used to boil the duck in, and let it come to a boil. Reduce and check the seasoning, adding thyme, salt, and black pepper. Gently start adding about two tablespoons of flour - plain flour - until the sauce thickens up some and becomes creamy. Let it cool slighty and then dole it out into each one of the pie casings and cover them with the lids - at this point if you have any leftover pastry you can cut some decorations for your lids, as we made these in December, we added some holly decorations, to keep up with the theme of the festivities - and then brush them with a beaten egg yolk and bake in the oven at 190º for about 45m, or untill you see those casings are golden and yummy. Do try to let them cool before diving into them, although I'm well aware it will be hard, as the scent that will by then be filling your house will be just to delicious!!!