Tag Archives: goat cheese

Pie Night: Butternut Bonanza

31 Jan

Great turnout tonight! Nine people seems to be the limit, as we were almost out of glasses and would have been out of knives had everyone decided to use one. We had three new guests, two from class and one whom I met in the grocery store and realized shared my love of pies. I love this city – I feel like it’s so easy to meet people.

For appetizers, I made tzatziki and butternut-pepper dip. I’d been meaning to make tzatziki since Wednesday, when Laura J had her “paella night” as a weekday meal (it was great! Nice theme!) but after visiting every grocery between the lab and home, I was unable to find a single cucumber and thus settled for pre-made tzatziki. (Isn’t it a little weird that I found packaged tzatziki but not cucumbers?) I have been craving it since then. It’s your regular old tzatziki – Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, and I added a little bit of mint to make it more like the Persian yogurt dip I had on Tuesday (Simurgh Persian Restaurant: marry me). The butternut dip was an idea I had yesterday while shopping in M&S – they had a butternut dip with harissa topping, but I thought it would be better economically and as a cook to make my own.

The stuff: butternut squash (about 100 grams), big slice of red pepper, half an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, juice of half lemon

The spice: cumin, paprika, chili pepper, s+p

The method: Roast the butternut squash in a little bit of oil. In a blender, puree the onion and garlic and add the spices and lemon juice. When the butternut has cooled, add it into the mixture and puree. Cut the red pepper into chunks and puree that as well. Serve room temperature with chili sprinkled on top.

I felt this recipe – adapted from a few I found online – was overwhelmingly oniony. It was missing a certain sweet element to bring out the roasted butternut. Maybe some brown sugar? Maybe caramelize the onion? However, it tasted quite good when blended with the tzatziki. I served both of them with little strips of puff pastry for dipping.

In addition, Laura J brought a lettuce and sundried tomato salad with balsamic dressing and Laura T brought crackers and brie.

The main course was, of course, the pie. I somehow (miraculously) managed to make two different dishes with only one pan (confirming the American wok’s place as Best Kitchen Instrument Ever) plus a roasting dish.

The stuff: butternut squash (400 grams cubed), 4 potatoes, 1 large leek, 1 clove garlic, flour, and EITHER [about 2 handfuls venison] OR [fresh plain goat cheese]

The spice: the Simon and Garfunkel quad (parsely, sage, rosemary, thyme), nutmeg, allspice, s+p

The method: Roast the cubed butternut and potato with a little bit of oil and salt until they’re squishy enough to eat. Concurrently, caramelize the leeks in the wok. Remove from the wok and pan-fry the cubed venison. When it’s good and cooked, set in on a plate to rest and wash the pan.

Put the pan back on the heat with 3 cups (approx) and a crushed cube of vegetable stock. Put the leeks and the contents of the roasting pan into the wok and cover. When everything starts to get squishy, add all the spices and keep cooking. When the water has almost soaked away, add some flour to thicken. It’s pretty much ready to eat now.

The amounts in this section are rather arbitrary – since I invited more vegetarians, I made more without venison. I put about 3/4 of the butternut filling into the pie dish; once in, mix it up with goat cheese and cover with the pie crust. Put the venison back into the wok and mix it up with the butternut; season to taste, and throw it in a pie pan with a crust. Bake until the crust is ready!

I would say that these were pretty much perfect. There was not as much general mmmmmming as for Lee’s pie, but everyone enjoyed it all. I think the butternut definitely benefited from being roasted rather than microwaved or simply thrown in the pan. It was also a much simpler process than usual! My kitchen is too small to allow mis en place, but cooking everything in the pan really saved on space and dishes. I think I preferred the sweetness of the venison and pumpkin pie I made in the fall – this venison was much gamier (I think venison is really an autumn meat). The butternut and goat cheese, though -mmm. The goat cheese was one Anna P bought at a market this week – a very simple one with a brie-like exterior but the typical chevre on the inside. Delicious. Unfortunately Anna was not here this week to share in the pie or bring wine per usual, but Liam compensated with a few bottles of red.

Liam, in a brilliant pie night move, brought a New World-themed squash salad with roast squash, pumpkin, small potatoes, wild rice, balsamic, and sunflower seeds. It went really well as a not-overwhelmingly-similar side: it shared elements but had a completely different flavor.

Also, I decided to weave the crust this time! It makes them just darling, eh? Top left is the veg, top right is Liam’s salad, and middle is the meat. For more butternut recipes, check out Hungry Girl’s “Salute to Butternut Squash“. After realizing just how tedious it is to peel whole butternuts, I decided just to go with packs of cubed. This week M&S had some for 80p. Ah, until next week!

EDIT: Oh wait, I forgot to mention that there were nNO LEFTOVERS.

Pie Night Out: Holly Bush

27 Jan

Tonight I went out with my friend Lucia, who has just moved into an adorable flat in Hampstead. She always manages to choose adorable, cozy restaurants, and tonight brought me to her local pub, Holly Bush, located in a 1790s house just north of the tube at the entrance to a winding residential alley. Hampstead is a twee little suburb, mostly built up by Yerkes in his tube expansion plan – he invested in large amounts of land just outside the city and then engineered the tube to go through those areas, earning millions. I thought it was all 1890s, but I guess parts of it are, well, much older and cuter (and not corporate, although that hardly matters when a) your corporation is 120 years old and b) the corporation is the London Underground, which I believe to be man’s greatest achievement. More on this later).

Anyway, the pub had a perfect atmosphere for pies – dark and wood-paneled, with twists and turns and those mysteriously-appearing stairs that characterize historic homes. It seemed to be a free house, but we didn’t order any drinks; Beer in the Evening gives it a 6.8/10 for ales, which is pretty good (the BITE raters are quite harsh). I looked down at the menu and knew there was only one option for me: a butternut and goat cheese pie. YES. The rest of the food was great, too: we greatly enjoyed the carrot and parsnip soup, especially as the bread was thick, fresh, and just slightly charred, making the combination of bread and soup taste gloriously  roasted, and Lucia loved her trout with Jerusalem artichokes, although it looked a bit difficult to eat as it was wrapped in string. But this pie: oh lord, there is no way to go wrong with butternut. It came STEAMING, and even after eating the rocket salad (with a very light butternut-mustard dressing) and roasted cherry tomatoes, I still burned my mouth on the first bite. The pie was two-fist sized with a circular slice of goat cheese on top; the crust was moist and buttery, not crumbly in the least. It was shiny, so possibly coated with egg. The interior seemed to only contain three ingredients – butternut cut into chunks, thin slices of shallots, and thin slices of garlic. Oddly, it was not as garlicky as I would expect for something with slices in it: perhaps it was overwhelmed by the butternut. I couldn’t place the spices, but there might have been sage. The whole thing was sitting on a bed of butternut mash.

I really wish I could have identified the spices in it so I could recreate it, but I was just enjoying it too much to tell. I think I’ll attempt one of these on Sunday and see how it goes. My one change, though, would be to put the goat cheese inside the pie where it could melt in. MMMMMMM.