Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Whale pie

Picnic time favours pork pie and while snack-sized pork pies are all very well, sometimes you need a huge monstrosity. 

Well, here's one I prepared earlier... 

It is LOOSELY inspired by whales, although to be honest, that was just because someone made a random (and rather inspired) challenge to make a whale-shaped pie. (you know who you are)

And thus, I give you... WHALE PIE!
(disclaimer - this is only rather roughly anatomically accurate)

It is technically a hot-water crust gala pie (in other words, it's a pork pie with egg in it too.)

Mould making

A big pie needs a big mould. This is about 16" long and 4" high

To make this, I retrieved this lovely sheet of stainless steel from the dark depths of the shed. It is food-grade stainless steel and was previously a panel from a commercial kitchen, that I salvaged from a skip some years ago.

This was cut into strips with a large pair of tin snips...

Up close...

To yield two basic steel pieces (these are about 24" long)

Hammering out the shape

Any excuse to get on the anvil. The pieces were hand beaten to match a crudely drawn profile shape.

Half an hour later...
The drawing is just about visible.
The two halves overlap slightly so they can be rivetted together later.

Here it is after rivetting.

And finally, it needed a wash to clean it up.

Pie making

Moulds aside, the pie itself is a basic pork pie with boiled egg
This starts with a large pork shoulder joint.

2-3 kilos minced by hand in a manual rotary grinder. Not a light undertaking.
Not show here was another kilo and a half of cooking bacon, also hand-ground. This was seasoned simply with salt and black pepper.

Also required, a lot of eggs - boiled for 10ish minutes...

This takes a load of peeling, obviously. On the plus side, the shelled eggs are mesmerising.

The pastry is a basic hot water crust - half beef dripping, half butter, strong bread flour, water, salt.


The mould was lined with pastry, hand moulded to a thickness of about 5mm.
Then a base of meat mix was placed as a bed.

An egg-based spine was inserted.
Note, the eggs were topped and tailed to ensure they kiss yolk-to-yolk.

This was filled up with the rest of the meat mix.

And covered with the rest of the pastry.

And trimmed and sealed.

Bake it

This hunk of tasty needed a load of cooking - three hours in fact. Here it is going in...
It was cooked on about gas mark 5.

Not shown here is that it gets turned halfway - avoidance of soggy bottom etc. Here it is some way into the bake. The glaze was built up by basting the pastry in the proteiny juices that exude.

Later in the bake, a pastry dorsal fin was added...

Hmm... more Godzilla than Balaenoptera musculus.

Mould removal

Baking a monster pie is the easy bit. Getting it out of the mould is a challenge in itself.

Not shown is steaming the mould with a kettle to soften the fat, coupled with some prudent parting of pastry and mould with a palette knife.

Thar she goes...

For scale, that is an 18 inch ruler

And a normal apple...

The final beast. Like a real whale, it is not subtle. Final cooked weight was about six kilos.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Making a mini furnace

Everyone needs a tiny furnace don't they?

I made this one to make blade forging more efficient than using the barbecue...
It's a steel box I found, with some marble inserts to create a thermal jacket inside it. The tube to the right is the column of an exercise that has been modded to create a way to blast air in to up the heat. Here, it is shown with a hot air paint stripper. This is OK, but isn't really pokey enough...

In practice, the air was blasted in from the front hatch. This was much more effective


The metal box I rescued from a scrap metal pile. The tubing is a section of exercise bike frame. The frames in exercise bikes are actually more sturdy than real bikes. This tubing is built for strength, not lightness like any real bike.

The hole in the original tube was way too small, so I reamed it out to the right size with die grinders

Till it matched the girth of the blower that would be inserted later.

For insulation, I used some offcuts of marble to create internal walls.

And the weirdness that is Vermiculate. This is super fluffy mineral granules that feel like polystyrene, but are not affected by heat.

This can be poured into the spaces between the metal and marble.

With a lid on top...

That's about it

In use, I used lumpwood charcoal.

Once lit, this can be fed in from the front. The flame is fanned with a hot air paint stripper.


Here is an old cold chisel I bought for virtually nothing in a shop during a very lovely day. These are made of quite useful tool steel.

After heating in the mini-furnace, this took a battering on the anvil...

Until it ends up a like this. (this takes many passes)

The same chisel after a good hammering.

Once flattened out, the blade face was created by hacking it off with the angle grinder.


This one is an old file.

It has been shaped with the grinder#

Eventually after a lot of grinding and polishing...

They become all shiny and lush like this

Before and after

A cold chisel and it's eventual chisel blade...

Triangular file and its eventual form...

The ones above are number 4 and 5 here.