A week or so before Christmas, a medium-sized cardboard box filled with organic fruit and vegetables landed on the Thrifty Towers doorstep. (I know! Some bloggers have all the luck/freebies.) It was a pre-festive gift from the organic delivery service Abel & Cole, and was issued along with a challenge: to turn the contents of the box into a delicious dish and to post the pictures of my divine culinary creation.
I note that other bloggers in receipt of the boxes took up the challenge with aplomb. Margot at Coffee and Vanilla went for a Cabbage Carrot Salad with Prunes and Pecans. Sunita at Sunita’s World made a delicious-looking Potato and Leek Soup with Savoury Muffins.
As much as I liked the look of my box, with its soil-encrusted root vegetables and its soft clementines with the leaves still attached, I hit a snafu. Our household of two was about to travel south for a fortnight’s family Christmas/break, and we simply didn’t have time to eat all the vegetables before we went.
The solution? It’s a favourite recipe of mine: Winter Vegetable Pie, a “frugalised” version of an old Delia Smith recipe (not one of Delia’s strange “frugal” recipes, I’d like to add).
This recipe is thrifty for a number of reasons. Firstly, it makes a large quantity of pies. You can cook one there and then, and pop the remaining, uncooked into the deep freeze. This time around, I made one family-sized pie in a large earthenware dish, and three pies-for-two.
They cook from frozen so well, you wouldn’t know that they had been frozen in the first place. (They also cook from frozen very quickly, which is handy if you’re in a hurry.) Secondly, they reduce food waste. If you have vegetables that are beginning to go a bit soft, or if – like us – you are heading out of town and need to use up a lot of fresh produce quickly, this is the perfect recipe. Thirdly, the vegetables that make up the bulk of this recipe – carrots, potatoes and onions – cost little at the supermarket or greengrocer. (They cost even less if you grow them yourself, mind!)
None of the ingredients are out of the way; you are likely to have all of them (apart from the grana padano cheese, perhaps, kicking around already). It’s a very ad hoc dish; basically, chuck in whatever vegetables you have. The pies pictured here contain courgettes and turnip, in addition to the vegetables specified in the recipe.
Here it is:
WINTER VEGETABLE PIE WITH A CHEESE CRUST
450g potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks.
450g parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks.
450g leeks, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks.
220g carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks.
450g vegetable of your choice, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks.
220g cheese (Cheddar, Gruyere or Emmenthal are perfect), grated.
2 beaten eggs, to glaze.
Sauce for Filling
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped.
80g plain flour.
2 pints of milk.
Nutmeg, freshly grated.
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard.
100g cheese (Cheddar, Gruyere or Emmenthal are perfect), grated.
50g grana padano, grated. (You know the stuff: looks and tastes like parmesan, at a fraction of the price.)
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped.
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped.
Salt and pepper, to season.
50g grana padano cheese, grated.
220g plain flour, plus extra for dusting.
50g margarine. (Or shortening, if you’re in the US.)
50g softened butter.
I must admit, this time around I was too time-pressed to make the pastry from scratch. I bought a £1.50 packet of chilled, readymade shortcrust pastry instead, kneaded the cheese into it and just rolled it out.
- Bung the vegetables in a steamer. (Note: unless you have one of those giant stacked steamer things, you’ll have to steam in batches.) Steam for 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Tip them into a large bowl and leave them to cool.
- Make the pastry. Add the flour to a bowl, add the butter and margarine, and gently rub the fat in until the mixture is crumbly. Add the grana padano cheese and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Mix the pastry with a knife and finish off with your hands, adding more water if necessary. When you have a smooth dough that leaves the bowl clean, wrap in clingfilm/saran wrap or a freezer bag, and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Make the sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, stir in the onion and cook on the lowest heat for 20 minutes. Stir from time to time, so that the onion doesn’t colour. Stir in the flour; when the mixture is smooth, switch to a balloon whisk and add the milk a little at a time. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard, cheeses and herbs. Then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
- Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425F or 220C. Add the vegetables to the sauce, stir well and add the mixture to your dishes until they are half-full. You should still have cheese, for the vegetable filling, leftover. Sprinkle this over the top, then add the rest of the filling to the dishes.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly dusted surface. Cut out circles that are around 2-3 cm larger than the brim of each dish. If you have enough pastry leftover, roll it out and cut it into long, 1 cm thick strips, to go around the edge of the dishes. If you are out of pastry, it matters little.
- Dampen the edges of the dishes with water. If you have cut out the long strips, run them around the insides of the rims, pressing down well. Transfer each pastry circle to its dish by first rolling it over the rolling-pin. Press the edges of each circle lightly and firmly over the edges of each strip, to seal. Flute this crust using the blunt edge of a dinner knife. Make a hole of the centre of each pastry lid, and brush the surface with the beaten egg.
- Cover the dishes and pop them in the freezer. Or, bake for 25-30 minutes on the centre shelf, until the pie is hot and bubbling.
Here’s the end result:
I should add, my husband loves this pie. I think it’s the only pie he likes that doesn’t have meat in it.
Update: This post was selected for the Make It From Scratch Carnival #101.