Posts Tagged With: pie

October Pies

I’m lucky enough to live something where Autumn is a season of joy. Mostly places I’ve lived it’s been far too wet to really enjoy, but currently I live somewhere far enough east that we don’t get the full west coast Atlantic deluges I grew up with and far enough west that we’re sheltered from the worst of the North Sea winds, so the leaves stay on the trees long enough to turn beautiful colours. Long walks kicking or crunching through drifts of Autumn leaves is definitely a thing here.

The other great joy of October is that it’s pie season. We’re at the tail end of harvest season here so – combined with the fact that this area still has a lot of big apple trees – the month starts just as the glut of apples kick in. I didn’t have as many apples as I sometimes end up with, social distancing means my knitting group meets virtually rather than in person, so there were no big bags of crab apple sitting around looking forlorn and tempting me to make jelly. So instead I first made apple sauce and then mini apple pies. One of the joys of moving into my own place was having all my little pastry cutters to hand, so my latest batch involved cute little stars on top, which was it’s own small joy.

I couldn’t tell you when I last made my own sausage rolls, since my mum mastered the art, they’ve become part of her repertoire of vegetarian-friendly meals that she can make when I visit and rely on my dad happily eating too. However, I had nice veggie sausages lurking in the freezer and I wanted to do something different with them, so sausage rolls it was, I even found puff pastry on special offer. (Though I was reminded why I normally just pay the extra for JusRoll puff pastry, it’s just puffier and all round better.) In my old place pies were one of the few baked goods that came out reliably well in the oven there, so I made them a lot, but as after some initial trial and error my current oven is far more widely reliable so I’ve made a wider variety of baked goods and pies have somewhat fallen by the way side. So it’s been a delight to rediscover the joys of home-made pies this season. I even bought some pears the other day, half hoping they’d remain brick-like and I could poach them and make pie. And that’s before we even get to pastries, I haven’t made Lorraine Pascale’s cheats Danish pastries in years but they remain a delightful Sunday brunch – top tip, do the first part of the prep in your pyjamas, stick them in the fridge and then they’ll be chilled and ready to go by the time you’re out of shower – just a shame I can’t actually have friends round to share the joy!

This year I’ve also been enjoying experimenting with savoury flans. I made a sausage and mushroom flan when my parents were visiting, and then made mini marscapone, pepper and mushroom flans for me. Individual pies are just so much easier when you’re cooking for one.

We’re also well and truly into soup season, and I’ve been taking advantage of the glut of leeks that my parents had this year. They normally plant their leeks in batches but due to supply issues they could only get them all in one batch and they needed to get them straight into the ground, so they’ve all come through at once. No complaints from me though, all the home-grown leeks for me! Generally I consider a leek and a potato to be the natural base for any soup, but I’ve had enough leeks to had to make specifically ‘leek and…’ soups, though leek and cauliflower soup is definitely a favourite.

The other delight of last month has been orecchiette. I had a recipe years ago that I was desperate to try but could I get hold of orecchiette? I could not. Then to my delight I came across it randomly – in the middle of Lidl – and snaffled it immediately. Of course, I’ve lost the recipe in the intervening time, haven’t I? So instead I’ve been having fun experimenting with multiple different orecchiette recipes from the Guardian website, orecchiette with chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce is both super tasty and really very different – I haven’t decided if I’d make it again but it was definitely well worth trying. Another new discovery with orecchiette is that it has a longer cooking time than most other pastas I’ve used so I’ve been accidentally developing a liking for my pasta actually al dente! I’m still not convinced by the instruction, to making the cooking water ‘salty like the sea’ but I do now have some decent quality sea salt to cook with.

A collage of four dishes, cottage pie, mini apple pies, soup with soda bread & sausage rolls

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Can’t Cook, Election Will Eat Me

It’s been that sort of few weeks. You know its bad when your go to de-stress activity is too stressful to contemplate. (Also my laptop broke down and was out of commission for about three weeks, adding a whole extra level of unnecessary stress.) However, I have almost been keeping up with my cooking challenges

In February I hit both my targets, making something from my new cookbook and baking something. On the baking front I made a pie, before there are few things more comforting on cold winter nights than a pie. This was a mushroom and chestnut pie, for which I finally got round to buying an actual pie tin, so I managed to actually get the pastry ratio right to give it a full lid! Though I did end up making too much filling for the pie due to it not being my usual ‘deep-dish’ pie, and I found the filling to be a little dry – I think it would have benefited from a bit of spinach of to keep it moist, or made just a more runny sauce. I have the fear of ending up with a ‘soggy bottom’ but I think my insistence on blind baking my pie before-hand probably means I’m safe on that front.

Mushroom & Chestnut Pie

From my new cookbook I made a variation of the ‘Carribean cups’. One of the alternate versions Lorraine suggests is to fill the cups with chilli con carne and I happened to have some leftover veggie chilli in the fridge needing used up. These are a slightly fiddly but delightful little dish. They make a fun lunch, the kind of thing that with a bit of practice would make a good way to turn leftovers into something a bit different when you unexpectedly have guests for lunch. Though probably only the kind of guests that don’t mind getting a little messy.

Carribean Cups

I was somewhat less successful in March, but nonetheless I managed some other successes. I discovered I had a bag of pearl barley in the cupboard, that had clearly been bought for a particular recipe many moons before and then forgotten about, as it needed used up that month. So I did a bulk cook of the pearl barley and attempted to fork my way through one of the Guardian’s four ways with a bag of what have you articles. In the end I only made two of the recipes but I made the sausage casserole several times and it’s a thing of gloriousness. Finally I’ve found an effective and tasty way to cook quorn sausages so that they a) taste nice and b) actually successfully quash my occasional bouts of sausage cravings. It’s a really satisfying and filling comfort food this dish and I recommend adding a couple of sticks of celery to it if you have them. Add them just before the spinach, so they get nice and tender but still retain a bit of bite to give the casserole more texture. I only used them because I found some lurking under the spinach in the salad box but I now can’t imagine the dish without it.

Sausage Casserole

In April, despite best intentions involving muffins, no baking actually happened. However, I did actually cook something from my cookbook adapting a chilli con carne recipe for quorn mince. Which was, fine. Over the years I’ve evolved my own veggie chilli recipe that I make a few variations on, depending on what I have in the fridge and this recipe couldn’t hold a candle to it. I mean, how much can you truly believe in a chilli con carne recipe that doesn’t involve kidney beans anyway? Perfectly edible, just a bit disappointing.

Categories: bake more often, being veggie, challenges, cooking the book | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Warmers

Until the last week or so, it seemed that spring was not really ever going to, well spring into action. In line with this, my cooking hasn’t quite shifted out of winter gear into its lighter spring and summer guise, and I’ve been making a lot of warm filling meals designed to line the stomach and keep out the cold. It was also shaped by a couple of unexpected windfalls of bulk loads of free food.

My first windfall came in the shape of a bag of parsnips that, for reasons that were never clear to me, were being given away free in our local supermarket. (Some poor shop assistant was handing out bags of them to somewhat confused punters without explanation.) Free parsnips! But what to do with them? Parsnips aren’t something that I often cook with. I spent hours looking through recipe books and browsing the BBC food pages in search of inspiration to no avail. But finally, inspiration struck. My landlady was away for a few days and left me with free reign of her fruit-bowl to save it from going off while she was away. Said fruit-bowl contained half a dozen apples… Parsnip and apple soup was clearly the answer. I’ve not previously eaten parsnip and apple soup that I could remember but while I’m not sure it’ll steal a place in my regular rotation of winter warmer soups, I’ll definitely be making it again. It’s quite a different soup, somehow sweet and strange; it makes me think of autumn for some reason. An unexpected but welcome treat for those unseasonably chilly evenings. (Well, lunch breaks really, but who’s counting.)

My second windfall was a work colleague whose allotment saw a glut of rhubarb and brought it in to work to share. It was a bit greener than I generally like it, but not being one to turn my nose up at free fruit, I happily took it home and stewed it with some sugar and a little ground ginger. (We used to grow rhubarb in old chimney pots when I was a kid, but I’d never encountered, what appears to be a local delicacy round here, breaking off young pink shoots of rhubarb, dipping them in sugar and eating them raw.) I made little rhubarb tarts, which were lovely with custard, but also delightfully hot and filling as breakfast on days that I slept in and needed to take my breakfast into the office with me.


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Pi Day

Monday was Pi day. (It’s an import from the US 14th of March becoming 3.14 over there.) And is traditionally celebrated by the making and eating of a pie. Ideally one decorated in a geeky math related fashion. However you choose to celebrate it, it’s a good excuse to make a pie. I usually forget and kick myself over having missed it, but handily this year several people I know posted about it so I was reminded. Reminded in time to pick up some pastry on the way home and in time to figure out what on earth I would fill it with.

I’ve made pies before, but they’ve mostly been sweet pies. I have a set of four small pie tins and I make pear pies reasonably regularly because the pears that we get here have an unfortunate tendency to go from hard as bricks to made of squish with very little time in between. (Sometimes they will be both at once, that’s particularly annoying.) In which case the only thing to do with them is to poach them and pies are an excellent way to use up lots of poached pears at once!

Pear pies

Savoury pies are a slightly more daunting task. Why you might ask? Because, having become a vegetarian as an adult, I have very little experience of non-meat-based pies. (Other than that terribly Scottish, utterly delicious but very unhealthy classic: the macaroni pie.) I decided to start with something I knew would work. My mum makes an excellent chicken and mushroom pie. She makes a white sauce, adds mushrooms – I suppose technically making it a mushroom sauce – and cooked chicken, making a lovely creamy pie filling. I knew I had mushrooms in the fridge so that made a good starting place. For some reason, while I make a good mushroom sauce and a good cheese sauce, my white sauce is always a little hit and misses. So I decided to go for a mushroom sauce. I dug around in the fridge and found some rather nice garlic and chive cheese, so I added that to my sauce – along with some actual garlic – and there was a bag of spinach that I reckoned would go nicely so I prepped that and let it wilt in my sauce.

The 500g pack of pastry left me with not quite enough pastry to make a solid lid for the pie. (It would probably have been fine if I used an actual pie tin, but as noted previously I have a set of four little pie tins and no normal sized pie tin. I do however, have a cake tin, so I used that instead and made what I’m calling a deep pan pie!) But as I’ve rather fallen in love with latticework pie tops – blame Pushing Daisies for that one – I made one of those instead. This adds an extra layer of excitement as when it’s cooking you can see the filling bubbling away through the ‘holes’.


I’m massively, unreservedly happy with how my pie turned out. I made mashed potatoes with it and it was excellent. I’ve one slice left which I’m having for tea tonight – I’m doing tattie scones with it tonight for speed so we shall see if that work as well as I hope! All in all an excellent plan.

Pie & Mash

Categories: being veggie, challenges | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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