Monday, 20 October 2014

Stilton, Leek and Sweet Potato Pie with Garlicky Carrots and Kale

And so autumn is upon us. Our recent move has found us just around the corner from a large Lidl with a surprisingly excellent veg section. While not huge, it's a lot better than the veg section at the Aldi we lived near in Leicester, and it's currently well supplied with seasonal delights - jazzy and delicious autumn squashes; ridiculously massive celeriac which I've not yet sampled for fear that they're so big they'll be woody inside; plenty of leeks - and not piddly little things, but proper, full grown, full-flavoured beauts; sprouts; cauliflower and sweet potatoes. I've somehow neglected sweet potatoes in the last few years. Every now and then I make Yotam Ottolenghi's scrumptious Sweet Potato Cakes, but otherwise I pretty much forgot they existed. More fool me. So now, as always happens when I rediscover a vegetable (it happened with aubergines too, earlier this year), I can't get enough of them. I love them as part of a big pile of roast veg or in a veggie stew with dumplings, but they were amazing in this pie with stilton and leeks. We had some carrots lurking about, and some fresh cavolo nero from Rowan's parents' garden. Drizzled with garlicky, fennely oil, they made excellent accompaniments to the pie, for a complete Sunday dinner.

                                                                                                                                                          (c) Becca Thorne 2014

Serves 2-4


For the pastry:
6oz plain flour
3oz cold butter or veg lard (eg. Trex), cubed
pinch of salt (a little more if you're using Trex)

For the filling:
3 medium-large leeks, trimmed and outer leaves removed, cut into 1cm thick rounds
1 good-sized sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1-2cm chunks
1 large clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
Approx 100g stilton, cubed
2-3 sprigs of sage, leaves only, finely sliced
Approx 1/4 pint ale
Plain flour
1 Tbs butter
Approx 300ml veg stock
A few drops mushroom ketchup or vegetarian Worcester sauce

For the sides:
2 carrots per person, halved and quartered
1 large clove garlic
Pinch of fennel seeds (optional)
Good bunch of cavolo nero leaves, or other dark green brassica (eg. kale or savoy cabbage)
Olive oil
Sea salt flakes (eg. Maldon)

Preheat the oven to around 220C. Start by making the pastry - combine the salt and flour, then rub in the butter cubes with your fingers to make a rough bread-crumby consistency. It doesn't need to be perfect. Add just enough cold water to bring the crumbs together into a dough, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

Next, start on the filling. Heat a slug of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and cook the leeks, sweet potato, garlic and sage, stirring frequently to prevent burning. While this is cooking, melt the tablespoon of butter in a small pan over a low heat. When fully melted, remove from the heat and stir in just enough flour to make a smooth roux - start with no more than a tbs of flour. Add a little more if needed, or a little oil if you make it too dry. Return to the heat and add the stock and mushroom ketchup/Worcester sauce, a little at a time, stirring until it's all combined and you have a thick, creamy sauce.

When the veg is softened but still retains its shape, add a pinch of salt, a good grinding of black pepper and the ale. Stir to coat and allow the liquid to reduce. When nearly all the ale is gone, stir in the sauce and the stilton. Transfer to a pie dish.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a flour-dusted surface to no more than 0.5cm thick. Place the pastry over the pie dish and gradually twist up the over-hanging edges up so that they create a raised, pasty-like rim around the edge of the dish, gently pressing them down as you go to create a seal. Using the tip of a sharp knife, make two small holes in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape and brush the lid with a little milk (I used Koko dairy free). Place in the centre of the pre-heated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. You may want to place a baking tray on the shelf below to catch any drips that bubble over.

Check on the pie after about 10 minutes and, when it's starting to go golden, put the cavolo nero/kale on to steam (the younger the leaves the less time it will need, so take this into account). Five minutes after that the carrots can go into the water beneath the steamer. While the veg is on, heat approx 2tbs good olive oil in a small pan over a low heat, and add the garlic and fennel seeds. Watch it carefully to ensure the garlic doesn't brown, and after a few minutes you should start to smell the garlic beginning to mellow. At the first hint of it changing colour remove the pan from the heat.

Remove the pie from the oven when it's a good golden brown and allow torest and settle down a little before serving. The cavalo nero should be ready in 10-15 minutes and the carrots after 5. When they're ready, transfer them to a dish, sprinkle with a good pinch of sea salt flakes and toss them in the garlic oil, with all the seeds and bits included. Bon appetit!