Sunday, 28 December 2014

Christmas Barley, Butternut and Spinach Pie

Last year at Christmas veggie daughter decided to take a day off from vegetarianism and eat the turkey and all the trimmings with the rest of us. This year she is much more resolute, and turkey is definitely off limits, even if it is a pampered free range bird that spent its life listening to classical music and wandering outside every so often for a stroll in the sunshine. A Quorn fillet just wouldn't cut it, so I searched for a showstopping recipe to prevent her feeling left out on the big day. Various recipes were put to the diner for approval, culminating with her approving a BBC Good Food recipe for a layered barley, butternut and spinach pie with a hot water pastry crust.

With its triple layers of spinach and ricotta, barley and chestnut risotto and butternut and sage, it sounded suitably Christmassy and looked like a fitting centrepiece for a celebratory meal. I diligently read the recipe through, along with all the comments from others who had previously baked the pastry delight and discovered potential pitfalls, the main ones appearing to be that the recipe makes way too much filling for the size of pie, and that it needed a bit of spicing up. Some commentators didn't like the lemon zest, so I reduced the amount to a few strands rather than a whole lemon. 

Here is the recipe from BBC Good Food, with my changes (surprisingly few, as I normally change a lot more in any recipe I find).


For the filling

  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1kg/2lb 4oz), peeled and cubed
  • a glug or two of olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1" cube fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp kochujang (Korean hot chili paste - along with the sesame oil this was a nod to our time spent in Korea)
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced
  • 85g whole cooked chestnuts, quartered (I used Merchant Gourmet vacuum packed)
  • 100g pearl barley
  • 1.2l vegetable stock
  • glug of red wine that was left over on the side
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • zest 1/4 lemon
  • 250g/9oz tub ricotta
  • 200g full-fat soft cheese
  • sage leaves picked and chopped
  • 400g spinach (I used frozen)
  • For the pastry

    • 700g plain flour
    • 140g butter
    • 85g/3oz white vegetable shortening (we used Trex)
    • 100ml milk
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Little basket of garlic purchased at Lidl's simply because it looked cute. Each bulb is a single clove, I'd never seen that before.
  1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 and roast the butternut squash with 1 tbsp olive oil, the ginger, sesame oil, kochujang and a clove of garlic for 25-30 mins until tender, then set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat another glug of olive oil in a large pan and cook the onions and garlic for 10 mins until soft. Remove two-thirds, then add the mushrooms, chestnuts and pearl barley to the pan. Sizzle for a few mins, pour in the red wine and stock, then bring to the boil. Bubble for 30 mins, stirring frequently, until the barley is tender and sticky and there is no liquid left. Stir in the soy sauce, season and set aside.
  3. I don't think I have mentioned cheffy son yet. He is one of veggie daughter's two older brothers and is a keen cook and in fact can genuinely lay claim to the title of chef, being a part time grill chef at a station eatery in London.  During an expedition to the Thai food shop some fresh green peppercorns caught his eye. (We are lucky enough to have a Thai food wholesaler a mile up the road and a trip round their store is a treat. They also deliver online elsewhere in the UK The day we went, they had had an air freight delivery from Thailand and the array of fresh produce was impressive. We bought the peppercorns and cheffy son could not resist adding a few to the barley mixture. 
  4. Cheffy son adding fresh green peppercorns

3. While the barley layer is cooking, make the other layers. Stir the zest, ricotta, soft cheese and some seasoning into the reserved onions until smooth. BBC recipe called for parsley, which I had planned on taking from my parents' garden but forgot. I probably should have added basil instead.Take a third of the mixture and gently fold with the sage and roasted squash. For the final layer, boil the kettle, then tip half the spinach into a large colander. Pour over the boiling water to wilt, then repeat with the rest of the spinach. Tip the spinach into a colander and squeeze out all the moisture you can. Roughly chop, then mix into the remaining ricotta mixture. I foolishly only added half the spinach - if I make it again I would add the whole lot.

To make the pie, brush a 900g loaf tin with a little oil. Make 3 long triplelayer strips of foil and lay these across the width of the tin to help you lift out the pie to serve. Tip flour and 3 tsp salt into the largest bowl you have and gently melt the butter, shortening and milk with 200ml water in a pan. Once melted, increase heat until bubbling fiercely, tip onto the flour, then quickly beat with a wooden spoon until combined. Once cool enough to handle, knead until it comes together, then tip onto your work surface. Set aside a third and roll the rest into a large rectangle – big enough to line the tin with a little overhanging.Ease into the tin, pressing evenly into the corners and sides – you can be rough with it. Cheffy son always insists on checking Escoffier or Larousse before attempting anew recipe. Escoffier did once let us down quite severely with his gnocchi recipe, and he didn't have anything useful to say about hot water crust pastry. Larousse was very similar to the BBC so despite cheffy son's admonitions I stuck to the BBC recipe, although Larousse did let me know not to overmix the pastry in order to stop it becoming greasy.

Spoon in the spinach layer, smooth the surface, then repeat with the barley and finally the squash layer. Dome the squash mix slightly to give a rounded top. Roll out the remaining pastry to fit, brush the edges with some egg, then press the lid over the top. Trim the excess and crimp or pinch to seal, then decorate with pastry trimmings cut into leaves  Can be covered and chilled overnight. The pie was massive - the recipe says serves 4 to 6, but they must have extremely hearty appetites. It would probably serve nearer ten, and we are definitely big eaters.

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 and put a large baking sheet inside. Brush the surface of the pie with egg, lift onto the heated baking tray and bake for 30 mins, then reduce the heat to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and bake for a further 1 hr 30 mins until the pastry is golden brown and feels hard. I pressed a couple of cranberries into the pastry about an hour before the end of cooking. The pastry looked done after about 45 mins, but I covered it with foil and continued to bake it. Stand for 15-20 mins – the pie will stay warm. Gently tip out the pie, or use the foil strips to lift out carefully. This was quite a tricky three person operation, with me, cheffy son and not-so-cheffy son each manning one of the foil straps, but the pie was safely removed from the oven and if I say so myself, looked rather impressive (especially if you ignored the slight bulges on the side, which gradually became cracks. This may have been due to the pie having about 30 mins less than the stated time as I didn't want it to burn, but it would probably have benefited from the full cooking time). And the verdict? Delicious! But very filling. The meat eaters (well, all apart from grandad, who never turns down any food) were too stuffed to try it, but served cold it was a delicious Boxing Day lunch. Cheffy son and I plan to make hot water crust pastry again to encase a lovely pork pie, but that does not belong on veggie daughter's blog.
Anticipation as the pie is cut!

Behold the beautiful layered effect inside the pie!

No comments:

Post a Comment