Nigel Slater

The plea­sure of pies. Plus, a mid­week radish salad

The Observer Magazine - - News - Nigel Slater Pho­tographs JONATHAN LOVEKIN  @NigelSlater

It has been a full week since the New Year’s res­o­lu­tions, so I think it’s safe to talk about pie. The crust, be it pas­try, mashed veg­eta­bles or toasted bread­crumbs, is there to pro­tect the fill­ing from scorch­ing in the oven and to pro­vide sub­stance. The crust is also there to hold a se­cret. Dig down through the depths of potato, parsnip or pas­try and you will find trea­sure to savour – pieces of lamb with root veg­eta­bles and thyme; minced beef with soft onions and red wine, or per­haps golden smoked had­dock with mus­sels and prawns. I chose to top the one I made this week, a rather nos­tal­gic fill­ing of beef, cel­ery and thyme with frills of tight young kale leaves, with a 50:50 mash of Maris Pipers and Jer­susalem ar­ti­chokes.

Later in the week I capped a smooth purée of roast cau­li­flower, rose­mary and cream with more flo­rets of toasted cauli. The crust this time was on the bot­tom, a crisp pas­try case with pecorino. The top­ping of golden cau­li­flower curds al­lowed it to (just) sneak in un­der the ti­tle of pie. I am not sure whether it matters if your crust is as crisp as puff pas­try or as soft as a roasted bras­sica, what matters is that you have your fill­ing hid­den. A de­li­cious sur­prise as you dig in.

Cau­li­flower and rose­mary tart

I know I go on about it, but pre­heat­ing a bak­ing sheet is a thor­oughly sound idea, al­low­ing the base of your pas­try case to cook crisply. Serves 6. For the pas­try: plain flour 150g but­ter 75g pecorino 35g, grated egg yolk 1 iced wa­ter a lit­tle

For the fill­ing: cauliflow­ers 2, large rose­mary 6 sprigs olive oil 8 tbsp dou­ble cream 250ml

You will also need a 22cm di­am­e­ter tart tin with a re­mov­able base

Make the pas­try first. Put the flour and but­ter in a food pro­ces­sor and re­duce to fine crumbs. Add the pecorino and egg yolk and blend briefly, then in­tro­duce enough wa­ter (about 2-3 tbsp) to bring to a soft rol­lable dough. With lightly floured hands, pat the dough into a ball then cover and chill in the fridge for 30 min­utes.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6 and place a metal sheet on the mid­dle shelf.

Trim the leaves from the cauliflow­ers. Re­move the flo­rets, slic­ing the crown from each (leave about a cen­time­tre of stalk on each), and put them in a mix­ing bowl. Re­serve all the trim­mings, you will use them in the fill­ing.

Roughly chop the stalks and trim­mings and put them in a bowl. Pull the nee­dles from the rose­mary stems and di­vide equally be­tween each bowl. Pour half of the oil into each bowl, sea­son with salt and black pep­per and toss gen­tly to coat the flo­rets and trim­mings.

Tip the trim­mings into a small roast­ing tin, the flo­rets into an­other and roast both for about 45 min­utes, un­til ten­der and lightly toasted. Re­move and set aside. Blend the stalks and trim­mings in a food pro­ces­sor or blender un­til smooth.

Re­move the pas­try from the fridge, roll out and line the tart tin. Fill with foil and bak­ing beans, place on the heated bak­ing sheet and cook in the pre­heated oven for 20 min­utes. Lift out the bak­ing beans and foil, then re­turn the tart case to the oven for 5-7 min­utes un­til dry to the touch.

Lower the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Fill the tart with the creamed cau­li­flower trim­mings, then scat­ter the roasted flo­rets over the sur­face, brush­ing them with any oil form the roast­ing tins. Bake for a fur­ther 10 min­utes then serve.

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