Love in the time of Corona – Pies

Years ago when I was young, Shirl gave me a copy of Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera. I still have it.

Now we are in a different time.  David and I are holed up here in splendid isolation. Me on my diet – he not on a diet. Sort of Love in the Time of Corona.

Rifling through the cupboard I thought I’d better use some ingredients that have been kicking around for a while – like the rye flour that I noticed went out of date in 2016 which was when I last attempted to make a sourdough starter. I am hoping that maybe some kind soul might send me some to put me out of my misery in being completely incapable to do the sourdough thing. Or if you know the magic please tell me.

This offering is pie. Made with hot watercrust pastry (my version) which must be the most even-tempered pastry in the world. Pie filled with onion, garlic, mushrooms, courgette, tomato, spinach and – it gets better – gorgonzola! The most majestic of cheeses.  Toast it with cheddar. Put it in the cheese sauce to pep it up. Sneak an inch out of the fridge and eat secretly all on your own. Whatever. Try some!

Your oven needs to be set at 190C. Put an empty baking tray in at the same time.

First, gently fry onion, garlic, chilli flakes (a few), plenty of fresh thyme in olive oil, till soft.  Then add about 4 big mushrooms, chopped, or the equivalent volume of their smaller cousins and half a pack of chopped vacuum-packed chestnuts (Use the other half and make a chestnut casserole with onion carrot and jerusalem artichokes – or even better make some chestnut sausages.  Then add a few small chopped tomatoes.  Season with gremolata, quite a lot of black pepper  and if you have some a tablespoon of Burgess’ mushroom ketchup (other supermarkets are available) or some Lea and Perrins or for the  Yorkshire folk – Henderson’s. Then add a big handful of spinach. Put the lid on and let them cook happily together for about 5 minutes till the spinach has wilted.  Put to one side to cool (take the lid off). the mixture should be moist but not watery. If it is, drain it off.

Now the pastry.  I put equal amounts of wholemeal and rye flour in a bowl (about a cup and a half in total). Season with salt (sometimes just with grated Parmesan). Put 150ml boiling water in a jug and 30ml olive oil in the same jug.  Pour  it over the flour and bring the dough together with a wooden spoon. Simple as that.  Rest for a few minutes while you prepare the springform tins. I used two smallish ones, liberally greased and floured.

Roll out half the pastry to the thickness of just less than a £1 coin.  Cut two circles and drop into the tins, push it up the sides so there is pastry beyond the top.  Add the mushroom mixture. Then slice a courgette into very thin slices and put on top. My theory was that these will steam whilst its cooking and add a little structure to the innards.  Then dot with gorgonzola.  Slice off the excess pastry and recombine, then roll out two tops for the pies.  Use beaten egg to baste the edges then put the tops on the pies, knock them up (tap the edges with the blunt side of a knife), make a steam hole, use the rest of the egg to glaze the top.

Remove the roasting hot baking tray and put the pies on it then return to the oven for 40 minutes till golden and toasty.

Remove from the oven. Leave for 15 minutes, slide a knife round the edge, then release the springform tin sides.   Dinner is served!


Low carb pie

As most of you will know, there is a diet going on in the house. Me. Low carb. 800 calories a day. 14 hour fast daily (or rather, nightly).  Dinner at 20.00hrs. Breakfast after 10.00hrs.  I live with a man who can eat a plateful of carbs every meal and still has a waist that is only 2.5cm bigger than when we met 40 years ago.  That’s just not fair. Whereas I only have to look at a slice of bread and gain 2kg.

What’s my favourite diet meal, you might ask.  No it’s not the fish in coconut sauce, or the celeriac chips, or the quinoa porridge.  It’s my invention of a pie.  I needed pie. But not the carbs. So here it is.  My pie. The whole dinner (including 8 celeriac chips, plus lots of greens) is 380 calories and 26g of carbs out of my 40g daily limit).  The most important thing is it feels like I’ve eaten a whole meal. The pie makes four portions.  Two for today for him and me, and two for tomorrow.

I use a 20cm springform tin for this. Line the base first. It just makes it easier.

125g ground almonds in a bowl, add one teaspoon of grated parmesan, two teaspoons of olive oil and a little salt plus one beaten egg. Squidge it together as if you are making the base for a cheesecake with digestive biscuits.  Then load into the tin and press down hard and bring a little bit up the sides.

Steam 8 slices of 1.5cm thick butternut squash and one sliced courgette (or any other vegetables but make sure they are not watery).

Fry half a dozen chopped mushrooms in a little oil with lots of garlic and a few chilli flakes.  Add a dash of Lea and Perrins at the end, when they are cooked and all the liquid has evaporated.

Pile the mushrooms onto the base of the pie and spread them out.  Then layer with butternut squash and courgette on top.

Put 125g Quark or thick plain yogurt in a bowl. Add two beaten eggs, a little mustard and season well.  Pour over the top of the pie.  Cook in the oven at 190C for about 35 minutes. The top should be just wobbly and the bottom will be crispy, like pastry – but not!! Remove from the oven and slide a sharp knife round the edge of the pie. Leave for 10 minutes, then remove the springform sides of the tin.