Souvlaki Braised Lamb Pie – the flavours of Greek souvlaki meet a British lamb and mushroom pie in this flavorful collision of cuisines.
Several years ago while on vacation in the Boston area, I ordered a beef pot pie from a gastro pub menu and it came out with a disk of separately baked pastry atop what was basically a beef stew. I immediately liked the idea that there was no potentially soggy, bottom pastry in the “pie” and that the pastry disk seemed extra thick to compensate for the bottom pastry. It was very satisfying indeed. I’ve used that idea several times since, especially when entertaining dinner guests; they all seem to love the idea and it does make for a nice presentation too. Because slowly braised stews of any kind are just as good or not better the day after, this idea makes perfect sense for planning a meal in advance too. All you have to do on the day is warm up the stew and bake the fresh, flaky, crisp pastry to top off the individual servings. If you have leftover stew of any kind, this is also an excellent way of stretching it into an interesting second meal.
This time I decided to use the idea on a simple braised lamb dish inspired partly by another comfort food classic in our family, Braised Beef Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping. This time boneless leg of lamb was on sale at the market and I always think Greek food when I think lamb, so the idea occurred to me to add some of the flavour elements of Greek souvlaki to this modernized version of a pot pie. With some simple steamed vegetables on the side, it made for a flavourful comfort food dinner that absolutely everyone enjoyed.
The recipe also includes instructions for baking a single sheet of pastry directly on top of the braised lamb and mushrooms too which also makes for a slightly less time consuming and very homey presentation too.
- 2½ lbs to 3 boneless leg of lamb or lamb shoulder cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- salt and pepper to season
- ½ cup flour to dredge the lamb cubes
- 3 tbsp to 4 vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 cups button or crimini mushrooms cut in quarters
- 2 large onions diced
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 4 cups low sodium lamb stock or veal/beef
- 1 cup red wine or additional stock if you prefer
- 1 1/2 cups pureed canned tomatoes
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 leaves bay
- 1/2 cup very cold butter cut into small cubes
- 1/2 cup very cold vegetable shortening cut into small cubes
- 2 ½ cups flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1/4 - 1/3 cup ice water Only enough to make a dough form.
Trim the lamb roast of excess fat then cut it into 1½ inch cubes.
Season the cubes with salt and pepper, then roll them in plain flour to coat them well.
In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat and brown the lamb cubes well in small batches. Do not crowd the pan with the lamb or it will be harder to brown and be drier when cooked.
Transfer the browned lamb to a covered roasting pan or dutch oven.
Melt the butter in saute pan over medium heat and saute the mushrooms until lightly browned. Add the onions and garlic. Saute over medium heat until the onions have softened but not browned, then add the mushrooms, garlic and onions to the roasting pan with the lamb.
Add the lamb stock, red wine, pureed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, oregano, thyme, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and bay leaves.
Stir and cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil before adding the lid.
Cook in a 300 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the lamb is fall apart tender and the gravy is slightly thickened.
Remove the bay leaves.
There are two ways to approach the pastry for this lamb pie; either as a single sheet over the entire pie or as pre-baked sections of pastry to top individual serving dishes. If using the single top sheet of pastry method, I like to transfer the braised lamb and sauce to a large baking pan like a 9x13, to increase the surface area for the pastry.
Using a food processor or a pastry blender cut cold butter and shortening into the flour and salt until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Small pieces of butter should still be visible.
Pour cold water over the mixture and work in by tossing with a fork until dough begins to form. Use your hands as little as possible and work the dough as little as possible. Divide dough into 2 balls, flatten into 2 rounds, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes.
You can make your dough the previous day but make sure you take it out of the fridge for 10 minutes to warm slightly before rolling out.
If using the dough on a single large baking dish just roll one of pieces of dough out to approximately a half inch larger than the dish on all sides. (The second piece of dough can be frozen to use later.)
Egg wash the edges of the baking dish with a little beaten egg to help the pastry stick. Cut a few slits in the top of the pastry to let steam escape and brush the egg wash onto the top of the pastry. Return to a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is evenly golden brown.
To make pastry toppers for individual serving dishes instead, I roll out the dough a bit thicker than I would for a pie crust and cut the shapes just a little smaller than the tops of the serving dishes. I like to cut them a little smaller so that you can see what lies beneath that golden crust.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place the pieces of pastry onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Brush with an egg wash of 1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp water. (You don't use all the eggwash, a thin coat is enough'; it just aids the browning of the pastry and isn't completely necessary.)
Bake for 15- 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve on top of the individual serving dishes that have been filled with the braised lamb and mushrooms.