The subject doesn’t come up that often, but when it does, the question I get asked most when I tell someone I don’t eat meat is “… but what do you eat at Christmas?” Christmas, it seems, just isn’t Christmas without turkey. (And I can’t believe I’ve written that word so many times in an October blog post).
What we do eat in place of turkey is Christmas pie – filled with layers of rich tomato sauce and creamy, garlicky cannellini beans. And, before you ask, there is a reason for fast forwarding us through to the end of the year. It’s because I’ve been looking for pie inspiration. An unusual thing to be searching for maybe, but it was prompted by an invitation from the people at Higgidy to join the Higgidy Recipe Hunt. It’s a chance to help design the next Higgidy Special Guest Pie – all suggestions are welcomed, you too can join the hunt.
So armed with a brand spanking new apron and a very smart rolling pin, I set out in search of a perfect pie recipe. Taking our Christmas pie as a starting point, I came up with a variation on the theme. This one takes a little less preparation (although the slow roasted tomatoes need a little forward planning…) Best of all, it can be adapted to use seasonal herbs – making it an all year round pie. Add the fresh young leaves of chives to the onions in spring, flavour the tomatoes with basil for summer, and for the autumn and winter I’m using thyme and sage.
The pastry is another adaptation – a savoury version of the pastry I use for an Italian-style jam tart. It worked well to make small pies. Small pies, because individual servings allowed me to adjust the filling for picky eaters. One pie had to be a Wensleydale-free zone… it seems Wensleydale cheese is fine to crumble into tomato soup, but completely unacceptable in a tomato pie. Someday I’ll work out the logic behind these food preferences, until then I just do my best to keep up.
Herb & Tomato Pie
(makes four 9cm pies)
For the filling –
4 tomatoes, sliced into rounds about 5mm thick
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
2 onions, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp pomegranate syrup
4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
40g Wensleydale cheese, crumbled
For the pastry –
175g plain flour
75g ground almonds
pinch of salt
120g unsalted butter, melted
Heat the oven to 110oC, 225F, gas 1/4. Grease four individual 9cm diameter pie dishes.
Lay the tomato slices in an ovenproof dish. Mix together the sugar, salt and a good grinding of black pepper, and sprinkle this over the tomatoes along with the thyme leaves. Bake the tomatoes in the pre-heated oven for about 2 hours – until the tomatoes are tender and almost dry.
Meantime, cook the onions in the oil and pomegranate syrup over a medium heat until they are translucent, but not browned. Remove from the heat, season and stir in the sage leaves.
Allow the cooked tomatoes and onions to cool before assembling the pies.
To make the pastry, mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the beaten egg and melted butter and stir to form a soft dough. It will seem quite wet compared to usual pastry, but don’t worry. Wrap the pastry in cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 180oC, 350F, gas 4.
Roll out the pastry and line the prepared pie dishes. From the remaining pastry, cut four circles to top the pies.
Spoon some of the sage and onion mix into the bottom of each pie, sprinkle with some crumbled Wensleydale, then top with tomato slices and another sprinkling of cheese. Use the pastry circles to cover the pies and poke a couple of holes into the top of each with a sharp knife, before baking them for 20-25 minutes.
So, that’s my herb and tomato pie… if you have a favourite pie filling that you think would make a great guest pie over at Higgidy, why not hop over to their website and join the hunt? It doesn’t have to be a full recipe – ideas for flavour combinations can be entered too. Just don’t leave it too long before you enter, the Higgidy Recipe Hunt closes on 26th October.
Many thanks to all at Higgidy for asking me to get involved in their recipe hunt, and for providing me with a parcel of goodies to help set me on the way to finding that perfect pie.