Christmas is a hard time of year for a vegetarian who doesn’t like mushrooms. So many festive veggie offerings are centred around mushrooms, and whilst I’m ok with mushrooms when whizzed up as in a mushroom duxelle, I’d still much rather something else! Enter this pie, which I’ll be making for our Christmas lunch this year. It’s relatively quick, easy, full of my favourite things, and if I say so myself, it’s really good – the pastry is tender and golden, with no blind-baking required, and the filling is so flavoursome; sweet, salty, garlicky, a kick of chilli, and full of delicious seasonal veg. And if you need more convincing, it’s just as delicious cold the next day with a baked potato and coleslaw as it is hot from the oven. I’ll be serving mine with crispy roasted potatoes, shredded sprouts sautéed with shallots, black pepper and lemon, and roasted carrots and parsnips.
Lastly, just a note on the chilli – supermarket chillies vary so much, and I usally find that it’s not necessary to de-seed the chilli for this. However if you’re sensitive to heat, or making this for young children, perhaps de-seed the chilli, or omit it altogether if you really don’t like it.
Also, you will need a 20cm fluted flan tin.
Vegetarian Christmas Pie
- 170g plain flour
- 85g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 150g sour cream
- Pinch salt
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly diced (approx 250g once prepped)
- 2 medium/large beetroot
- 1-2 sprigs thyme
- 80g green or brown lentils
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 150g cavalo nero, stems removed and chopped
- 200g feta, crumbled
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 free-range egg, beaten
- Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, then rub the cold butter into it using your finger tips, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream, then use a butter knife to mix it together to form a dough. Do not knead it, just lightly bring it together to a cohesive mass, then wrap it in cling film, press it into a disc, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Trim the tops and tails off the beetroot, then cut them into halves, or quarters if they’re very large. Put them into a saucepan with the thyme, and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer until tender when poked with a sharp knife – about 20 minutes, but this will depend on the size of your beetroot so keep an eye, as they might be done sooner. Once tender, remove them from the heat and leave them to cool in the water. Once cool enough to handle, rub their skins off – they should slip off very easily, but you may wish to wear latex gloves to avoid pink hands. Once peeled, cut them into large dice.
- Put the sweet potatoes into another pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer until tender, about 10-15 minutes, then drain them and roughly mash them. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.
- Put the lentils into another pan covered with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer until tender, about 10-15 minutes, drain, and set aside.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan, then add the chilli and garlic, and sauté until fragrant but not browned. Add the cavalo nero and keep stirring as you sauté it – don’t have the heat too high beneath it or the garlic will burn, just keep it going over a medium heat until the cavalo nero has wilted and darkened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Grease a 20cm fluted flan tin. Cut one third of the pastry off, wrap and replace it in the fridge – this will form the lid. Take the remaining two thirds and roll it to a thickness of 2-3mm, then carefully line the flan tin with it, making sure to press it into all the corners at the base. Put the lined tin back into the fridge for 15 minutes whilst you prepare the filling.
- Heat the oven to 180’c fan/gas mark 6.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the mashed sweet potato, cavalo nero, lentils, crumbled feta and chopped beetroot. Season with salt and black pepper, then mix well so everything is evenly distributed.
- Fill the pastry case right to the top with the filling, really packing it in so there are no gaps. Brush the pastry rim with a little beaten egg. Roll the remaining third of pastry to 2-3mm thickness and lay it over the top of the pie, then use a rolling pin to roll across the whole thing, pressing down firmly so that the overhanging pastry falls off. Re-roll these trimmings into decorative shapes if desired.
- Brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg, then lay the decorative pastry pieces on top, and brush them with more beaten egg. Use a sharp knife to cut a few ventilation holes in the top, for the steam to get out as it bakes.
- Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes, then check and cover with foil if necessary. Continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes after that.
- Remove it from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before carefully de-moulding it. Either serve it immediately, hot, or let it cool on a wire rack if serving cold/at room temp.
If you can’t find cavalo nero, kale would be a perfectly good alternative. Likewise, butternut squash would be a good substitute for sweet potato if you can’t get hold of it. And if you prefer not to make your own pastry, this filling would work really well inside a filo parcel.