The winter-herb-spiked pastry hugs the carefully flavoured and individually celebrated layers of winter veg, while a grating of crumbly Lancashire cheese ties them together. A show-stopping pie that tastes even better than it looks.
This goodwill pie requires a bit of time and love – it’s something I make for high days and holidays and it’s almost always the centrepiece of our Christmas dinner. There may seem a lot to do, but everything can happen at once – all the roasting can be done while you get on with the leeks and greens.
The pastry is made with a little butter and a good bit of cold water, so it’s light and crispy. If you are really short of time, a good-quality shop-bought shortcrust could stand in here.
I often make this for my vegan brother and sister. I use vegetable shortening or coconut oil instead of butter, and omit the cheese. The pastry uses baking powder so you don’t need an egg. You can use soya milk to brush the pastry.
- 200g Lancashire cheese
- 1 organic or free-range egg, beaten, or soya milk for brushing
FOR THE PASTRY
- 600g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt?1?2 teaspoon baking powder
- a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked and very finely chopped
- 200g butter or vegetable shortening up to 250ml ice-cold water
FOR THE SWEET POTATOES
- 3 sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean a little butter or olive oil?a good few gratings of fresh nutmeg
FOR THE BEETS
- 5 medium beetroots, peeled and cut into rough cubes
- olive oil?a splash of red wine vinegar
- 2 sprigs of fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE PARSNIPS
- 4 parsnips, peeled and cut into little fingers
- a couple of sprigs of fresh sage, leaves picked
- zest of 1 unwaxed orange 1 tablespoon honey
FOR THE LEEKS
- 25g butter or olive oil
- 2 good-sized leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
FOR THE GREENS
- 2 heads of winter greens, stalks removed, roughly shredded
- grated zest and juice of 1?2 an unwaxed lemon
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
First make the pastry. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl and add the chopped thyme. Cut the butter or shortening into small bits and rub these into the dry ingredients until you have a breadcrumb-like mix. Add the water and knead to a smooth dough, but don’t overwork it. You could also use a food processor: pulse to breadcrumbs, then add the water and pulse until it just comes together. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and chill while you get on with everything else.
Now get your veg on the go – all of this can happen at once. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7.
Roast the sweet potatoes for 1 hour until soft. Meanwhile, prepare the beets and parsnips.
Pop the beets into a roasting tin, with a splash of olive oil and the vinegar, add the marjoram or oregano, and season. Cover with foil and roast alongside the sweet potatoes for 1 hour, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes.
Put the parsnips into a roasting dish with the sage, orange zest, honey and a drizzle of olive oil, mix to coat, then cover with foil. Roast with the other veg for 45 minutes, until golden, removing the foil for the last 5-10 minutes. When all the veg are cooked, remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.
Meanwhile, cook the leeks. Heat the butter or oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the leeks and thyme and cook over a low heat for?20 minutes, until sweet and softened, then set aside.
Add a little more olive oil to the pan, add the greens and cook over a low heat for a few minutes, until just wilted. Season, then add the lemon zest and chilli. Set aside.
Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and mash with a knob of butter or 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a good grating of nutmeg. Adjust the seasoning for all the vegetable mixtures, if needed.
Take your pastry from the fridge and let it sit for a few minutes.?Then roll it out on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin and use it to line a 20cm springform cake tin, leaving the excess hanging over the edges.
Now it’s time to start layering the pie. Start with all the leeks, then?a grating of Lancashire cheese, then the beets, the greens, and another layer of cheese, then the parsnips and finally the sweet potato mash.
Finish by bringing the excess pastry over the top of the mash, twisting the ends and laying them on the mash in a haphazard fashion – the little rough bits of pastry will crisp up and look beautiful. The pastry may not cover the whole of the top, but a little vivid orange sweet potato poking through is ok. Brush with the beaten egg or some soya milk.
Bake the pie at the bottom of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the cake tin and place in the middle of the table. Serve with lashings of gravy.
Taken from ‘A Modern Way to Eat’, By Anna Jones
Photography by Brian W Ferry