Thursday 14 August 2008

Easy as Vegetable Pie

Last night we had pie for dinner. I had other plans but it I had left my wallet at work. So it was a matter of foraging in the fridge. Luckily E wasn’t at work earlier in the week and had been out doing his hunter-gather thing. He had bought us individual pies at a local bakery. They were very nice (once we had worked out which one had meat in it). We don’t usually have pies frequently but it seems pies are hard to avoid at the moment – they were even featured in my novel I was reading last night. Last week even more unusually, I baked pies from scratch. Yes, I even made the pastry!

As I have said before I don’t really like making pastry much. It is too fiddly and prone to falling apart. But I know there are some who dislike it for its high fat content. A former housemate of mine used to make a pastry from my A Vegetarian Feast cookbook (by Vikki Leng) because it was lower in fat than most pastries.

This pastry has been on my mind for a while because I have fond memories of it. I was inspired to share the recipe by Helen from Food Stories who has been experimenting with low fat pastry. What’s not to love about a pastry that is not likely to fall apart, doesn’t need blind baking and tastes good without being full of butter. So I finally made it last week.

If you expect this to taste like a melting buttery pastry, you will be disappointed. But if you want to try a pastry that is substantial and chewy, that resists the sharp knife rather than crumbling under it, and that is more scone than tart, you will find it pleasing. And it is not just me who enjoyed it. We hadn’t finished our first piece of pie when E was asking that I make this more often.

This is a great healthy pie. Easy to make and packed with vegetables. The vegetables could be changed according to whim and season. My main problem was that our pies were a bit lacking in seasoning and vegetables can be too sweet, especially pumpkin. But this is easily fixed and will not dissuade me from making them again. These pies are great winter comfort food, especially when the pastry presents so few challenges.

Vegetable Cheese Pie
(adapted from A Vegetarian Feast by Vikki Leng)
Serves 8

Vegetable Cheese Filling:
1 kg pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 carrot, scrubbed and diced
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250g cauliflower (I used about 500g)
1 cup (155g) green peas
¼ cup (60ml) water
1 tsp stock powder
freshly ground pepper
sea salt
2 handfuls grated tasty cheese
seeds of choice for sprinkling (I used white and black sesame seeds)

Wholemeal Pastry:
2 cups (250g) wholemeal flour
½ tsp baking powder
30g butter, melted
1 tbsp oil
½ cup (125ml) water (or water drained from the vegetables)
additional flour

To prepare the filling, place all vegetables, water, and stock powder in a microwave proof bowl cover and cook in microwave on high for about 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to check if vegetables cooked through. Vikki suggests alternatively boiling the vegetables in a bit more water but I think pumpkin holds its shape better when you cook it in the microwave.

She also advises you cool and drain the vegetables once they are ready. A nice idea for those organised souls with time. I am sure cold vegetables are easier to drain than hot ones. But hot vegetables can be drained with a slotted spoon, oven mitts and preferably a helpful partner. I kept some of my excess water for the pastry. Set aside to cool while you prepare the pastry.

To make the pastry: Mix flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Melt butter in a small bowl (in microwave) or saucepan (on stovetop) and add oil and water. Mix liquid mixture and flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Mine was so stiff I added a couple of spoons of extra water till it was pliable. Briefly knead dough on a lightly floured surface till smooth (about 30-60 seconds).

Cut dough into two pieces and roll out to about 12mm or ½ inch thickness (that is Vikki’s suggested thickness but I think mine was thinner). She suggests lining two family sized flan tins but I don’t have anything of the sort and just used 2 x greased 20cm diameter cake tins. This means my pastry only went halfway up the side and was more rustic than uniform but it still looked ok to my uncritical eye. (See photo above.)

Pre-bake pie crusts in a moderately hot oven (190 C or 350 F) for about 10 minutes. The pastry cooks only ever so slightly which is plenty for this type.

Now that the vegetable filling has cooled a little, check and adjust seasoning. Divide up filling between the pie crusts. Don’t worry if the filling is still hot, it will be fine. Sprinkle with grated cheese and seeds. Return to the oven for 30-40 minutes.

The recipe says to serve topped with parley and tomato slices. I preferred to serve it with a little salad and topped with some tomato sauce.

I put one of my pie crusts in the freezer after it had baked for 10 minutes and placed the filling in a separate container so it was an easy dinner to assemble in the week after work. Just make sure you drain the filling again after defrosting.

On the stereo:
Roxy Music: Roxy Music


  1. Looks wonderful! I'm also not a fan of pastry-making--never seems to work out for me. But this sounds a little more reasonable. And I like the fact that it looks rustic, perfect for a veggie pie!

  2. Your pie does sound good Johanna. I am like you and only occasionally make pastry. It has to be a weekend thing for me really. Freezing a portion, sounds like a good idea though.

    Roxy Music, wow, that takes me back to my teens :)

  3. I think I've made those pies...

    Lovely amounts of veg in it. The pastry sounds intriquing. Not so good with pastry myself, I must say.

    They look stunningly good. What are you reading at the 'mo?

  4. Yummmy! I am going to try this pastry recipe for sure! THanks so much...I too hate, hate, hate working with pastry, but this one sounds totally manageable, and should be uber easy to veganize.

  5. thanks ricki - rustic is just right for me as I am not a smooth around the edges type :-)

    thanks Holler - yes I like a pastry that lasts a while - even less work! And E is having a Roxy Music revival at the moment - but I'm not complaining (even though I never listened to it when young)

    thanks Lucy - yes they were choc-full of vegetables. I am reading Trick or Treat by Kerry Greenwood which has me hankering after good bread because it is a baker detective novel

    thanks Vegancowgirl - hope you like the pastry - you are right about it being easy to veganise - in fact I think I might have used nuttalex (vegan margarine)

  6. I am totally loving this! 30g butter and a little bit of oil is hardly anything compared with regular pastry. I totally know what you mean about not expecting it to be like full fat pastry but I really enjoy the chewy texture and the wholemeal flavour of healthier pastry. This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for so I will give it a go!

  7. Sounds good. I like the sound of the crust, no prebaking and healthy.

  8. thanks Helen - have enjoyed watching your experiments and would be interested to hear how you go with this one!

    thanks Katie - there is a little pre-baking the crust but no blind baking which I really dislike with pastry! so it is a good 'un!

  9. that is a gorgeous gorgeous pie. soul food. i'd like to try it.

  10. Delicious. I am intrigued by the pastry. I will try this when the weather gets cooler.

  11. Fabulous - this pie looks so tasty Johanna (and there are so many vegetables packed in there!).

    I like the idea of part butter, part oil in the pastry. Healthy but tasty.

  12. Oh Johanna this is absolutely what I've been looking for!! Thank you!! A wholewheat lower fat pie crust. Just perfect. Can't wait to try this out! I love love love pies and quiches and stuff and now I can make them more often.

  13. thanks Bee - 'soul food' is a big compliment - we seem to be thinking alike with your lovely vegan pastry recently that I must try!

    thanks Lisa - I will be interested to hear what you think of the pastry

    thanks Sophie - I really liked the idea of a pie that was mostly healthy pastry and vegies - glad you do too

    thanks Ashley - glad to oblige - hope you enjoy this one (in my book it is suggested for a few different pies so am sure it will be adaptable to other fillings)

  14. Looks fabulous... and I think those meals we invent out of necessity are the most satisfying, too!

  15. thanks Ann - necessity is a wonderful source of inspiration indeed!

  16. Actually, that does look really quite good. I've never thought of doing a vegetable pie! I like th pumpkin especially -- I'm bookmarking this for autumn. As for the crust, yeah, I have pie crust phobias. It just seems to require magic skills.

  17. thanks Neen - this is a great start for anyone with pie crust phobias - I am sure it would be great in autumn

  18. Trying this tonight...sounds great thanks Erja


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