Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Lentil, Spinach and Red Wine Pie - Emergency Christmas Recipe

I've been away from home working for two months. All I have eaten during this time has been restaurant food and hotel breakfasts. By consequence, I am a) as fat as a lord and b) anxious to get back in the kitchen and away from whatever TGI Fridays consider to be a viable vegetarian option. This is, by the way, the reason for the long blog silence - the closest I've got to any type of meal preparation since October has been peeling a banana.

Christmas is tomorrow - TOMORROW - so this post is mainly for meat eaters who have a surprise veggie guest and are freaking out about what to feed them. This pie works really well either as one big pie for a centrepiece, or you can split it down into individual pies (as pictured) if there are just one or two veggie guests. The quantities can be really easily messed about with as long as you keep to the same proportions, and it's really easy to veganise - just use a white vegetable fat (e.g. Trex) in your pastry instead of butter, omit the cheese, and make sure your red wine is vegan - Sainsburys and the Co-op have clear labelling on their own-brand wines.
There's no pastry bottom to this pie, just the lid, to avoid a Bake-Off style soggy bottom crisis. 

I think people tend to panic the most either when they are new veggies planning their first meat-free Christmas, or when they are meat eaters catering for a vegetarian guest. Just remember that there are lots of options beyond the traditional, and largely detested, nut loaf. If your entire family is meat-free, remember that you don't have to stay traditional - why not just bung on a big tapas spread, or curry, or Thai .... anything which lends itself well to sharing! 

To make a 4-person pie, or 4 individual pies
NB this recipe is about a million times easier if you have a food processor
Don't forget to allow time for the pie filling to cool!

What you need

For the pastry

225g plain flour
100g butter, cubed and at room temperature
75g grated mature cheddar
1 tbsp cold water

For the filling

2 tbsps olive oil
2 400g cans of puy lentils
1 onion, chopped
1 small carrot, diced (food processor!)
1 small celery stalk, diced
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 175ml bottle of red wine
100ml stock
1 tbsp plain flour
A handful of fresh spinach

What to do

First, make your pastry. If you are lucky enough to have a food processor, tip all the pastry ingredients in then pulse it until it looks like breadcrumbs. Roll into a ball - if it's too crumbly add more water, if it's too wet add more flour - wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge until it's needed. If you don't have a food processor, rub the fat into the flour with your hands until it looks like breadcrumbs, add the cheese then do as above.

Now, the filling. Heat the olive oil in a largish saucepan then, when it's up to temperature, add the onions, diced celery and diced carrot. Fry over a medium heat until softened and just starting to brown - don't let the onion brown too quickly. Add the crushed garlic and the rosemary then fry for another minute before adding the flour. Cook for a further minute so you don't get that raw flour taste. 

Add the red wine and stock to the pan. Bring it to the boil then reduce the heat down to a simmer. Leave it, stirring occasionally until it's thickened - about 10-15 minutes.

Add the spinach and lentils into the pan and leave to cook for a final 5 minutes before taking off the heat. You now need to leave it to cool - if you add a pastry lid to boiling hot filling it will just collapse into mushy goo.

Towards the end of the cooling time, you could occupy yourself by rolling out the pastry and cutting out one or more lid shapes, and turning the oven on at 170 degrees.

When it's cool, transfer the filling into your pie dish/dishes of choice and lay over your pastry lid. Brush the top with beaten egg if you like, although of course not if you're vegan. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes - definitely check after 15 as pastry can go from golden-brown amazingness to burnt like THAT. 

Serve with whatever trimmings you fancy - we went for herby new potatoes and green veg - and enjoy!

Merry Christmas

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