Kiki's Delivery Service · Miyazaki

Madame’s Pumpkin & Herring Pot Pie

Baked Pie

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Director: Miyazaki, Hayao
Movie: Kiki’s Delivery Service
Difficulty rating: Anna Karenina
Deliciousness rating: Exceeds Expectations

I can’t remember the first time I saw Kiki’s Delivery Service because it was before my brain started hanging onto memories. And I can’t count how many times I’ve seen it since — it’s my mom’s favorite Miyazaki movie, and I’ve found it especially helpful to watch anytime I’ve moved to a new city. And through all these screenings, a question persisted: how on earth would that pumpkin and herring pie taste? It sounded disgusting, but I was still curious. And then, a perfect opportunity to find out presented itself: our annual Pi(e) Day celebration!

Every year, on the closest Saturday before March 14, Jenne and I organize a Pi(e) Day contest among our friends. We all bake pies, taste them, and vote for our favorites. The winners for Best Savory and Best Sweet Pies get a coveted Star Baker Spoon.

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The 2017 Pi(e) Day contestants.

Well, this year, I was determined to bake that pumpkin and herring pie from Kiki’s Delivery Service. I’m not that first to do this, of course. There are a million and a half results if you do a Google search, especially in Japanese. Mine was based heavily on Anna the Red’s recipe, which sounded the most appealing to me.

Did it measure up?

I was obsessed with making my pie look as close to the movie as possible. I went out and bought a pan that looked more like the real thing (I drew the flower design on it in Sharpie), and I counted out the correct # of stripes on the pie. (Now, I look at it, and I wish I’d made the fish rounder and thicker, but at that point, I was in a tearing hurry to get to the contest venue. And also, I know that I’m crazy and this all really doesn’t actually matter.)

Unbaked Pie

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And how did it taste? Well, I tasted the individual layers as I was cooking, and … they were pretty iffy. I imagined all of the parts coming together and baking into a pretty pastry pan of inedible garbage. But the whole point was to recreate the fictional pie, no matter what the results, so I soldiered on …

AND PLOT TWIST! It won the Star Baker Spoon for Best Savory Pie! Now, this result may actually be born of several unfair reasons: (1) I had warned the crowd that the pie would probably be awful, so everyone had very low expectations, and (2) I had run late, so mine had to be baked at the venue till the very last minute, which made it one of the only piping-hot contestants in the pie pool. But still, I’m just SO AMAZED IT WASN’T DISGUSTING!

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MADAME’S PUMPKIN & HERRING POT PIE

This recipe looks ridiculously long, but it’s not that bad if you break it into parts. Basically, you prepare layers (from bottom to top in order):

  1. Shortcrust pastry for the bottom
  2. Pumpkin layer — seasoned kabocha puree
  3. Smoked herring
  4. Sauce layer — a lemon Parmesan bechamel with capers
  5. Puff pastry for the top

Ingredients: 

  • 9″ x 12″ casserole dish
  • Puff pastry
    • 250g flour
    • 250g very cold salted butter
    • 150ml ice-cold water
  • Shortcrust pastry
    • 225g plain flour
    • 100g cold butter
  • Pumpkin layer
    • 1 half kabocha squash (I got mine pre-cut from the Japanese market)
    • Olive oil
    • Salt, fresh-ground pepper, and garlic powder to taste
    • 3 tbs browned butter, melted
    • As much whole milk as you need to make kabocha puréeable. Mine was pretty dry, so it took about a cup and a half. But some kabochas are really juicy, so you might even have to drain yours after puréeing.)
    • 1 onion, diced and sautéed in butter
  • Sauce layer
    • 2 cups milk
    • 2 tbs butter
    • 4 tbs flour
    • Grated zest of 1 lemon
    • Juice from ½ lemon
    • Grated Parmesan to taste
    • 3 tsp capers, drained and rinsed
    • 2 tbs parsley, chopped
  • 3 cans (160g each) of smoked kippers in oil, drained and patted dry
  • Pitted black olives for decoration

I. PUFF PASTRY
(You could buy it in a store, but handmade is a whole lot better. It does kinda take up a half day of hanging around the house though. Watching this video is super-helpful!)

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter
  1. Sift the flour onto a large board.
  2. Break up the butter into little chunks. Add them to the flour and rub them in loosely. You should still see chunks of butter.
  3. Make a little hole in the middle of the butter and flour. Pour in 2/3 of the cold water, and then mix until you have a rough dough that forms in a ball (adding a little more water at a time if needed).
  4. Cover the dough-ball with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. While it’s resting for 30 minutes, clean the board and dry it.
  5. Flour the board lightly. Put the dough on it and knead gently, forming it into a smooth rectangle.
  6. Roll #1: Roll it out in one direction until it’s 3x the length, trying to keep the edges even. It should look marbled with the butter — the butter shouldn’t melt into the flour.
  7. Fold the top third down to the center, and then the bottom third over that.
  8. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  9. Roll #2: Take the rectangle out and re-roll, with folded side up and the open ends away and toward you till it’s 3x the length.
  10. Fold the top third down to the center, and then the bottom third over that.
  11. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  12. Roll #3: Repeat steps 9, 10, and 11.

II. SHORTCRUST PASTRY

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g salted butter, diced
  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add 2-3 tbsp water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill.

III. PUMPKIN LAYER

  1. First, roast the kabocha half (I used directions from Bay Area Bites). Preheat oven to 400 F. Scrape out the seeds and stringy bits with a big spoon. Massage the cut side with oil — I used light olive oil. Put the half, with the cut side down, on a baking sheet. Roast until it’s squishy and browned in some spots — this will take about 45-60 minutes. Take the baking sheet out of the oven. Turn the kabocha cut-side-up to cool.IMG_5352IMG_5355
  2. Purée the kabocha squash and drain if needed. Once the squash has cooled, scrape the flesh out of the skin. Purée in a food processor or mash with a potato masher. (According to Bay Area Bites, you should spoon the finished puree into a strainer and let it drain for an hour, but my kabocha was very dry, so there was no need for this step. Discard the liquid if you do this.)  If the kabocha is too dry to purée like mine was, add milk till it’s pureeable.
  3. Once the kabocha is smooth, mix in melted browned butter and sautéed onions until combined. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste, and set aside.IMG_5356

IV. SAUCE LAYER

  1. Microwave 2 cups milk until hot but not boiling.
  2. Melt the 2 tbs butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the 2 tbs flour to make a paste, stirring constantly with a whisk until it bubbles a little. (Don’t let it brown.) This takes about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil, then turn heat off. Stir for 2-3 minutes more till it sets. Remove from heat, and add black pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, Parmesan, chopped parsley, and capers, and stir.

V. ASSEMBLING THE PIE

  1. Line the bottom of the pan with rolled-out shortcrust pastry. Blind bake for 20-25 minutes.
  2. On top of the parbaked crust, layer:
    1. 1 inch of mashed pumpkin mixture
    2. Kippers
    3. Bechamel sauce (just a thin layer)
    4. Puff pastry
  3. Roll out the extra dough and cut out stripes and fish shape. Add to the top of the pie.
  4. Place black olives.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 400 F — it should be dark golden brown on the top, with the edges to the point of almost burning.

Kiki’s Delivery Service. Dir. Hayao Miyazaki. Studio Ghibli, 1989.

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