Round and round
One issue, so much pie
Walks – bracing ones across beaches and dunes – filled this last week. Long stretches of sand lined with pine forests on one side and the tempting sea on the other. With the car in sight, we surrendered our toes to the glassy water and splashed our way along the seashore, kicking droplets into the winter sunshine with each step. Back at the car, our rolled-up trousers damp and our toes like ice, we thawed out with tea and a snap of dark chocolate. On the drive home I was fixated on pie, topped with deep comforting mash, which I fantasised about eating with a spoon.
In less than an hour, we were spooning cumin and mustard seedspiced pie from our laps, a comforting cloud-like crust of mashed cauliflower on top of a rich lentil ragu, cooked until the lentils are almost soft. Its warmth soon spread all the way to our feet.
Sometimes, though, I crave more crunch and texture from a pie, like the rosti-topped one overleaf, with its buttery grated celeriac roof. The flavours warm you in a different way, with the round sweetness of nutmeg, custardy butter beans, toasted walnuts, the minerals of kale and a sharp punch of cider vinegar.
Cumin and mustard seed puy lentil pie
I use cauliflower for my mashed topping here as it works brilliantly with the Indian spices. You could just as easily use potato. If you can’t get curry leaves, leave them out – there is lots of flavour in this pie.
Olive oil 2 tbsp mustard seeds A handful (about 20) curry leaves, fresh if you can get them 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 1 tbsp cumin seeds, bashed 1 tbsp of coriander seeds 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped 1 x 400g tin of puy lentils, drained, or 250g home-cooked lentils 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes 1 tsp vegetable stock powder, or ½ a stock cube 2 dates (I use medjool) 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped 1 lemon Flaky salt 2 medium cauliflowers (about 1kg, once leaves removed) 1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
1 Get all your ingredients together. Fill and boil your kettle. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 .
2 In a large, heavy pan, add a good glug of oil. Get it nice and hot, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves, then cook for a couple of minutes until the mustard seeds pop. Take the pan off the heat, reserve half the seeds and leaves, then put the pan with the remaining mixture back on the heat.
3 Add the carrots and onions to the pan and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until soft, sweet and nicely browned. Add the cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger, then cook for 3-4 minutes to toast the spices and allow the garlic and ginger to release their oils. Take care that the garlic doesn’t burn.
4 Add the drained lentils, tomatoes, stock and half a tin of hot water from the kettle. Roughly chop the dates and add to the pan with the chopped chilli and the zest of half the lemon. Season with salt and simmer on a medium heat for 25 minutes, or until thick, rich and flavourful.
5 Meanwhile, make the cauliflower mash. Break the cauliflower into florets and slice the stalk (you can use this, too) and add the whole lot to a lidded pan with about 2cm of water in the bottom. Put on a high heat and steam until the cauliflower is tender – about 10 minutes. Drain well, then put back on the heat for a minute to dry the cauliflower out. Allow it to cool a little, then blitz in a food processor with the coconut oil and a big pinch of salt. When you have a silky smooth mash, fold in the reserved mustard seeds and curry leaves.
6 When the lentils are ready, squeeze in the juice of the lemon and mix well. Spoon them into an ovenproof dish (about 20x25cm). Top with the cauliflower mash and bake for 20 minutes, or until the tips of the mash are golden and the lentils are bubbling.
Kale, walnut and cheddar rosti pie
If you prefer, you could use parsnips instead of celeriac here – they will roast in exactly the same time. If you are after a really hearty meal, you could even serve this with some mashed potato.
Serves 4 For the filling
A small swede (about 500g), peeled and cut into 1cm chunks Olive oil Salt and black pepper 100g walnuts 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced 2 heaped tbsp flour (I used buckwheat flour) 300ml vegetable stock 200g kale 1 tbsp cider vinegar 1 x 400g tin butterbeans 1 heaped tbsp wholegrain mustard 100g cheddar, crumbled into small pieces
For the rosti topping
1 large celeriac, peeled ½ whole nutmeg A small bunch of thyme, leaves picked 2 tbsp butter or ghee 1 Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Spread the swede on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper and roast for about 30 minutes, or until golden-edged and tender.
2 Spread the walnuts on a tray and toast in the oven alongside the swede for 6 minutes, or until golden. Roughly chop and set aside.
3 Heat a little olive oil in a large pan and add the red onion, cooking for about 10 minutes, or until soft, then add the garlic and cook until it just begins to colour at the edges. Quickly add the flour and stir for a minute to cook out its rawness, then add the stock little by little, stirring after each ladleful so the sauce doesn’t become lumpy.
4 Strip the kale leaves from the stalks, slice the stalks really finely and tear any big leaves in half. Add the kale to the pan with the vinegar, put the lid on and allow the kale to wilt for a couple of minutes. Drain the butter beans and add them to the pan, using a spoon to mash them a little. Take the pan off the heat and add the mustard, cheese, walnuts and roasted swede. Stir to combine, taste and season with salt and pepper, then pour into an ovenproof dish (about 20 x 25cm).
5 To make the topping, grate the celeriac using the coarse side of a box grater (you could also use a food processor to do this). Tip the celeriac into a sieve, sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for a few minutes to draw some moisture out. You can squeeze the celeriac with your hands to speed the process up a bit. Transfer the celeriac into a bowl, grate the nutmeg over. Add the thyme leaves. Give everything a quick mix with your hands, then scatter over the pie filling. Dot with the butter or ghee and bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the topping golden.