Ultimate reestit mutton pie 17 January 2018

With Christmas and  the New Year behind us and Up Helly Aa to come - as well as just for folk coming in for a tune or a good 'sheeks' - what could be more welcoming or warming than our ultimate reestit mutton pie?

(This piece by Marian Armitage first appeared in Shetland Life magazine.)

In the weeks before Christmas the first stages of our ‘national dish’ begin. The mutton to be 'reestit' will be a fine hog - maybe 18 months or a bit older. The mutton lies in a brine pickle for 2-3 weeks. Next, the meat is hung up to dry, which takes about 4 weeks.

Once you have your piece of reestit mutton which is almost always on the bone - it needs to be covered in cold water and brought to the boil. Lower the heat and allow it to simmer for a good half an hour or so. It is important to taste the water and if it is ‘ower saat’ (too salty) pour off some or all of the water and replace with fresh water. Many folk do this the day before making any dish, so that the fat which rises to the top can be allowed to ‘sturken’ and easily lifted off.

Reestit mutton pies are made by Shetland butchers and are very popular for a quick and substantial bite. The pies have shortcrust pastry underneath and a puff pastry lid. They contain lamb as well as reestit mutton, together with taaties,onions, neeps and carrots. This pie is a little lighter with cut up reestit mutton, diced carrots, neeps and taaties, some onions and a pastry lid only.

For 4-6 (depending on hunger levels), you will need:

350g carrots - cleaned and diced

350g neep (turnips) - peeled and diced

150g taatie (potatoes) - peeled and diced

2 large onions roughly chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

A small bunch parsley - roughly chopped

250g cooked reestit mutton cut into pieces

700g flaky pastry (shop-bought all butter pastry is fine)

Prepare the filling by cooking the vegetables in some reestit mutton stock and add a good handful of chopped parsley with the meat according to the size of your dish.

If you can - use a pie dish with a lip - a china pie dish is good and the traditional Falcon enamel dishes are still available and are excellent.

Light the oven to 220°C - good and hot.

Roll out half the above quantity of pastry and use the pie dish to mark out and cut the lid to the correct size.

From the trimmings, cut a half-inch wide strip, moisten the lip dish with water and lay this round the dish.

Make some pastry leaves or other decoration with the rest of the scraps - they are too good to waste.

Add the vegetables and mutton and use enough brö (cooking liquid) to keep the filling moist.

Carefully lift on the lid and use water to press it firmly on to the prepared edge. Flake up the edges using a sharp knife and make an attractive fluted edge with your thumb.

Add the pastry decorations and make a hole in the middle to help steam escape.

Beat a small egg and brush all over the top - but not the fluted sides as you want them to rise.

Place near the top on the oven on a baking sheet and give it a good 20 minutes to get the top of the pastry a good golden brown.

Reduce the heat to 150° and give it a further 45-55 minutes. Lay a sheet of baking paper on top if it is browning too much.

Enjoy this fine pie with some lightly cooked Shetland kale or another green vegetable.

For vegetarians (if the pastry you use is vegetarian) - use the same combination of vegetables and add a bayleaf and half milk/water for the brö. Then add cubes of any good crumbly white cheese and cook as above.

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