Posts tagged ‘pie’

January 10, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Ella’s Shepherdess Pie

Well, it might have been last night’s dinner; it certainly was recently and no doubt it soon will be again. When winter is here, a plate of filling, hot comfort food is a must. Ella’s go-to recipe is this Shepherdess Pie, which our friend over at rather non-veggie The Chilli Source site might call “a plate of sense”.

Sherpherdess Pie? A Shepherd’s Pie without the meat, of course. Over the years we’ve tried many savoury vegetarian options under the pillow of mashed potato and I think Ella’s recipe with Puy lentils is the best.

First, bring a pan of water or, preferably, vegetable stock to the boil and simmer enough Puy lentils to make a inch-deep layer in your oven dish/pie tin when cooked (they’ll take around 20-30 minutes and should retain a little nutty bite). As they’re simmering, finely chop a large onion and fry it in a little olive oil for 10 minutes.

Along with onion, we like to pimp the savouriness of the lentil base by adding a little bit of vegetable variation. So, dice a carrot, or a red pepper, or some button mushrooms – or all three and, like the onion, lightly fry in olive oil for 10 minutes.

Actually, you have some options here: the veg can be fried separately as above (best), or added in with the onion (okay) or you can even skip the frying bit and dump it in with the simmering lentils (lazy). They will all work, but the first option will provide the greatest differentiation between flavours.

When the lentils and veg are cooked, drain the lentils and mix them all together in the pan before spreading into the oven dish. Set aside.

Now for the mash. Do I need to explain mash? I hope not. But keep don’t make it too soggy or buttery – this isn’t a Michelin-star-abused side-dish.

Spread the mash over the lentil base and rough up the top slightly with a fork. Bake in the oven at 190 degrees for 40 minutes and, if you like, grate some Cheddar or Gruyere cheese over the top before returning to the oven for a final 10 minutes. The trick is to get a crisp, almost crusty top to the potato. It’s a texture thing.

Serve with seasonal greens.

Advertisements
December 31, 2011

2011 leftovers: blackberry and apple pie

Over the years I have been known to wax lyrical (which is surely another way of saying ‘bored people rigid’) about childhood autumns spent blackberry picking – the huge buckets of blackberries that our family would bring back and the freezer full of blackberry and apple pies and crumbles. It’s a story seen through purple-tinted shades.

We did go blackberry picking, sometimes as a family, often my dad on his own. And I did love those home-baked pies and crumbles – the taste of autumn. In fact I loved them so much that shop-bought blackberries and blackberry-based desserts seemed a heresy. Only recently have I bought blackberries from the supermarket. Huge fat ones, not the smallish, round, neat little berries of subtle joy that I remember.

But this autumn, freshly settled into our new abode in the (almost) wilds of north Essex, a-blackberry-picking we did go (see our blog from the beginning of November). Not long after, a blackberry and apple pie was made.

We used shop-bought pastry as I was feeling lazy that weekend, blind baking the pie bottom before adding some slices of bramley apple, the blackberries, sprinkling over some sugar, encasing with the pie top and baking for 20 minutes.

The result? Well it wasn’t quite the great pie of antiquity, but then nothing was ever going to match the sublime taste of my berry nostalgia. However, it disappeared very quickly one wintery Saturday evening. And yes, it still delivered that true taste of autumn. Can’t wait till next year!

September 8, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Cheese and onion flan with tomato salad

Monday 22 August

I don’t know anyone who remembers school dinners with much fondness. I certainly don’t. I stopped having them as soon as I could and took packed lunches instead, then dinner money to spend down ‘the street’ where there was a bakers that did a nice old-fashioned cheese sandwich.

One thing I did like at school though was the sizzling hot trays of cheese flan, or cheese and onion flan, or cheese and tomato flan (it was a long time ago). Even in sixth form some of us used to nick into the refectory for a slice. It was so savoury and delicious.

I say flan – and I think I mean it. It wasn’t at all elegant, so ‘tarte’ is definitely wrong. And it wasn’t a quiche. In my mind, a quiche is light, the egg ‘custard’ fluffy and pale. You might eat quiche cold.

But a flan… a flan is unpretentious. There’s no milk added to the egg mixture, it’s not overly whisked, it’s just a plain old simple open pie. That’s what I set out to make, stuffing the pastry case with (in this instance) onion, tomato, eggs and cheese to approximate that old school dinner.

I bought the pastry for this one, rolled it out and flopped it into a 10-inch flan tin. Blind bake the pastry for around 15-20 minutes at 190/200 degrees (ie, cover it and weigh it down so it doesn’t rise, and cook until the pastry is just golden and not raw/soggy anymore). Finely chop and fry an onion. Spread that across the cooked base of the pastry case. Halve four medium tomatoes, take out the pips and finely chop the remaining flesh. Scatter that into the flan base too. Then, beat five eggs in a bowl, add some pepper and grate a fair amount of strong cheddar cheese into the bowl. It should be a cheesy-looking egg mixture, rather than simply beaten eggs with a spoonful of cheese.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case and spread evenly. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes on no more than 140 degrees – the lower temperature means the eggs will set without the pastry starting to burn (hopefully). When the egg/cheese mixture looks set, take the flan from the oven, grate some more cheese over the top and place a few thin slices of tomato across the top too. Put it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

It’s nice to serve this with new potatoes and a green salad, but on this occasion we had a beautiful punnet of mixed tomatoes that came in reds, oranges, yellows and purples, as well as regular tomato and ‘pear’ shapes. Gorgeous. Halve the tomatoes, place in a bowl, season with a little salt and pepper, add a dash of sherry vinegar and a splash of olive oil, mix well and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Job done.