Vegetable pot pie gone a bit fancy with saffron, porcini mushrooms and an olive oil crust. This vegan, weekend family food recipe will remind you of pot pies of yore, but without the saturated fat.
Growing up in post-60s America, frozen meals – “TV dinners” – were de rigueur. And by meals, I do mean meals. Slim cardboard boxes held such delights as soft-but-not-in-a-good-way Salisbury steak, tomato sauce-streaked meatloaf, greasy fried chicken, bland macaroni and cheese; and even something called a “German dinner”. These would invariably come with a potato product (mash, tater tots, scalloped) and mixed vegetables (usually peas, carrots, corn), and even stewed fruit: all in a sectioned foil container ready to slam into the oven. Weirdly, hideous as they were, I have quite fond memories of these tin-clad meals.I recall once a week being allowed to delve into the snowy cavern of our freezer to choose what I wanted to eat. Rather than food itself, I think the “being allowed to” bit is what I am fond of. We didn’t just willy nilly help ourselves to what we wanted, whenever we wanted. We would all choose a meal, Mom – who would be delighted at her “day off” – would put them all in the oven, and we would eat our little meals together, synchronously peeling back the scalding foil lids. I guess I miss the good old days when delayed gratification and eating together was the norm.
Anyway, at the time, one of my favourites was a chicken pot pie. The tasteless (i.e. inoffensive) beige sauce held preternaturally perky vegetables and specks of dry, what I suppose was, chicken. It was topped with a pale shortcrust pastry that invariably somersaulted out of the foil if you got the fork angle wrong. I usually ended up wearing the scalding pastry rather than eating it. Andrew would say that not much has changed.
Over the years, once the craze for frozen dinners fell away, my Dad would treat us to his own homemade, family-sized vegetable pot pie. I can’t recall exactly what went in it, but I remember completely loving it because he had made it.
Recently I got a major hankering for this nostalgic American dish and set about making it my own way. I could have just topped it with a rolled out circle of bought shortcrust for that old-school vibe, but I wanted to lessen the saturated fat – and keep it mostly whole food and vegan.
Making a vegetable pot pie
The Crust I rarely make pastry dishes these days, but when I do I often turn to my olive oil crust recipe. On the day I shot today’s recipe not only was the light just awful, I had the misfortune of getting interrupted. A lot. The pastry was abandoned a couple of times during the making and photographing, so it wasn’t the best I’ve made. But, I promise, if you aren’t having to dash away multiple times during prep YOURS will be better than mine. 🙂
To make this vegetable pot pie more quickly, of course use a quality bought shortcrust dough. You could also use puff pastry.
The pie filling is pretty flexible. I call it a luxury pie, but you can nix the porcini mushrooms – although I used inexpensive dried ones from Lidl – and saffron. That’s the only fancy stuff, really. My best advice for the vegetables is to cut the hard ones into small, evenly-cubed pieces. This step will help everything cook at about the same rate. Use a mix of fresh and frozen, depending on what’s in season and looking good.
The main seasoning I use is an American blend of spices called Old Bay. It is used in seafood recipes (particularly a New England crab boil), but is an all-round savory seasoning blend that’s been around for over 75 years. In the UK, use a poultry blend (no birds in it, just spices). Or, why not try this homemade Old Bay seasoning recipe from epicurious.com? If you buy or make it, use it as a general seasoning. Try it sprinkled on popcorn, kale crisps, dips, in bread recipes (especially breadsticks), in soup and in other sauces. It’s handy stuff. My spice cabinet is never without it.
Do you have nostalgia for a rubbish food from your childhood? Do you still occasionally eat it? Does it taste as good now? Have you attempted to rehabilitate it?
Luxury Vegetable Pot Pie
Vegetable pot pie gone a bit fancy with saffron, porcini mushrooms and an olive oil crust. This vegan, weekend family food recipe will remind you of pot pies of yore, but without the saturated fat. **One thing to point out is that it is essential to chill the olive oil dough for an hour before rolling out. If time is lacking, use bought shortcrust or puff pastry. ** Enjoy! xx
Olive Oil Dough
Pinch of saffron threads soaked in 20ml warm water
150g white spelt or plain flour, plus extra for rolling
100g wholemeal/wholegrain spelt or wheat flour
3/4 tsp salt
60ml extra virgin olive oil
100ml ice-cold water
Vegetable Pot Pie Filling
2 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, white part only, chopped (about 200g)
200g (7.1 oz) topped and tailed carrots, diced
300g (10.5 oz) potatoes, diced
300g (10.5 oz) cauliflower, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
70g (2.4 oz) fresh or frozen sweet corn
70g (2.4 oz) fresh or frozen peas
70g (2.4 oz) frozen or fresh green beans, snapped into small pieces
5-6 slices of dried porcini, rehydrated until soft then snipped up (save the soaking water)
1 rounded tsp Old Bay seasoning or poultry seasoning – optional
3 tbsp flour or choice
330ml (11.6 fl oz) light vegetable stock
220ml (7.74 fl oz) plant milk of choice – nothing sweet
Juice half a lemon, optional
Small bunch parsley, chopped
You will need: a 28-30cm pie dish or cast iron skillet; a rolling pin; large bowl
1. Make the dough by dry whisking the flour and salt in a large, wide bowl, then gradually add the water, oil, saffron and saffron water. Fork through until the flour disappears. Lightly knead in the bowl to make a ball, then press it into a fat disk. Cover it and put it in the refrigerator for one hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C fan/220C/425F. Lightly oil the rim of your pie dish.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the leeks. Cook over a medium heat until slightly soft then add the carrots, potatoes, cauliflower and garlic, stirring well. Add the remaining vegetables and the seasoning, and let cook for five minutes before sprinkling with flour. Stir the flour into the vegetables, then pour over the stock, mushroom water, and milk. Bring this up to simmer and let it cook away until thickened, stirring occasionally. Count on about 15 minutes. Taste the filling and adjust the flavours to your liking: I always add lemon juice and white pepper. Stir in the parsley then leave to cool if you can. Pour the filling into your pie dish.
4. Once the hour is up put the dough disk onto a floured surface, sprinkle a little flour on the dough and on your rolling pin, and roll the dough out into a circle large enough to fit your pie pan. Turn the dough a quarter turn every time you roll the pin back and forth, adding a little more flour on the dough if it gets at all sticky. Don’t linger or you will get a tough crust. It doesn’t need to be perfect looking. Carefully lift the dough – I loosely roll it onto my rolling pin then drape the pastry over the pie dish so that it either overhangs by about a half an inch. Or, as I tend to do, tuck it in like for a tarte tatin. Cut some vent holes and brush with a little oil.
Put the pie in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling at the edges. Cool a bit before serving with the suggested mint and parsley sauce (below).
Mint and Parsley Sauce
Add a little chilli powder and minced garlic for a chimichurri-style sauce. This is great stirred through grain salads and drizzled over egg dishes.
Leaves from 3-4 stalks of mint, chopped (or perhaps a heaped teaspoon of dried mint)
1 small packet of parsley, chopped (including stalks)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar or similar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
Dissolve the salt in the vinegar, then blend with the herbs in a small food processor bowl, or similar. Stir in the oil. Pour this into a small jug for serving.
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