Amongst my very extensive muffin tin collection is a texas muffin tin for making giant muffins. However, I eat enough baked goods as it is without making them giant. So my poor muffin tin does not get a lot of use. But who said that a muffin tin had to be for muffins anyway? Years ago I had a recipe for beef pies made in a giant muffin tin but when I finally got around to making them again I discovered that I didn't have a copy of that recipe anywhere. So I just made up a new one. The filling is a rich beef mince mixture with tomatoes and a thick gravy. The pastry recipe that I have included is shortcrust pastry and is suitable for both the bottom and top of the pie, but you don't have to go to the trouble of making it yourself, you could buy the frozen sheets (they are so easy, they're already rolled and everything!). If you want you could use puff or flaky pastry for the top. The filling made enough for about 8 small pies. I blind baked the bases, then when they were cold I filled them, put more pastry on the top and froze them. Now I can easily take a pie from the freezer, defrost it and bake it for just 10 minutes or so, which is great on these cold, windy Galway days when you are hungry and too tired to go to any effort at all.
2 cups flour
A pinch of salt
125 grams cold butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
Pastry is very easy to make. First you need to measure the flour and salt into a large bowl. Then add the butter and begin to rub it into the flour with your finger-tips, until the entire thing is like fine crumbs. Then, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg, lemon juice and water (I'm not sure why my recipe has lemon juice, you can probably leave it out, but it does not harm so I usually add it). Pour the liquid into the flour and begin to mix it in with your hands (it's easier to incorporate all of the flour with your hands, a mixing spoon won't really do the trick). You mix the dough until it has all come together into a smooth ball. Then you simply wrap it up in clingfilm, chill it for at least an hour or so, then roll it out and use it whenever you are ready. You can freeze pastry dough too, for a few months at least, as a ball or rolled into sheets.
Beef Pie Filling
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400 grams beef mince
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 cube oxo beef stock
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon bisto gravy powder
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 cups frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste
So the pie filling is even easier than the pastry. Simply cook it as you would for any other mince meal - begin by heating the oil, then cook the onion and garlic a couple of minutes. Add the mince and cook, stirring, until it is browned all over and crumbly. Add everything else and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or so, until it's thick. Then, when it is thick and tastes good, take it off the heat and let it cool completely before using it.
To make the pies, roll the pastry out quite thin (about 3 millimetres thick perhaps?). Cut out circles that are going to be bigger than your muffin holes - a texas muffin tin is very large so I used a pudding bowl to cut out my circles. They were too big and had to be trimmed, but that's better than them being too small. Anyway, fit the pastry into the tins any way you can. At this point I should probably mention that of course you are not restricted to muffin tins, make a big pie or use proper small pie tins if you want.
Do your best to push the dough evenly into the tin, so that there are no air-bubble between the pastry and the base of the tin. Leave some dough spread over the side of each hole, because as it bakes it will shrink just a little. It is a good idea to blind-bake the cases so that they don't go soggy - to do this just fill each case with baking paper or tin-foil and then fill them with baking beans (any sort of dried bean, or you can get re-usable ceramic beans). Bake the cases for 10 minutes, then take the beans out and let them cool completely. If you don't want to blind-bake you can leave that step out, but you will have to immediately bake the filled pies in a hot oven otherwise the pastry will get soggy.
Spoon the cold filling into the pies so that it is all the way up to the top. I forgot to take a photo of the filling step, sorry. After the pies are filled place another circle of pastry on the top, pinching it around the edges of the baked case. Make a couple of cuts in the top of the pastry so that the steam can escape. Then you can either bake them immediately at about 180 degrees celsius for about 10 or 20 minutes (since the filling is cooked already you just need the pastry on top to cook and the filling to get hot). Or you can freeze them. But freezing them won't work if you have not blind-baked the cases.