Tag Archives: lee’s pie

Now with Double Pie Action!

7 Feb

Today was a GIANT day for cooking. My hands hurt from chopping.

First, I went to The People’s Supermarket to make a pie. I’ve been in discussion with them to get an evening job, but based on my irregular student-y schedule I might just be a “special event”  two days a week (paid, though! £7/hour!). They have a lunch deal called The People’s Kitchen where they try to use all that day’s “best-before” food and slightly-wilted vegetables – thus lots of stews, soups, curries, pies, et cetera with little side salads, usually £1.50-4 each; anything not sold that day gets put into the ready-meal section to sell the next. They have a board where they list how many kilograms of waste they’ve saved that week, and the maximum was 210 kg. I mean, wow. The difficulty with starting to serve dinner is that they would have to use groceries as they’d have used up all the waste at lunch. SO they’re trying to do a small pilot program and I’m being tested out for some type of future position once they get it started, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

Of course, I decided to do Lee’s Pie. I tried to use as much waste as I could, which ended up being potatoes, onions, and chanterelles (I hate thinking of them as waste, but they were starting to get all shriveled) and bought the rest on the kitchen account (came to £4 and resulted in two pies – classy!) I hung out in the kitchen, talking to people while cooking, running out to help find things with butter all over my hands… fun times. Laura T showed up just to do her grocery shopping and stayed to help for a bit.

Here is the first mistake I made: I sugared the potatoes. The water was boiling and I reached over to the container of white crystals and threw some into the pot. Only later, when it came time to season the filling, did I take a closer look: indeed, ’twas not NaCl. The kitchen was out. The whole store was out. I was about to run to Waitrose when I remembered the friendly Italians at Ciao Bella. Ciao Bella is a wonderful restaurant. Truly lovely. I think the food is Sicilian in origin, but in the interest of common appeal has dishes from all over. It is always full, even the outdoor party table, even in winter. They have posters of old movies and Italian beer and, above, all, it’s served the way Italian food should be served. Typical scenario: a middle-aged, balding, mustachioed Italian man with a big belly asks what you want. “I don’t know if I wan’t the margherita pizza or the penne arrabiata,” I say. “Oh, have the PIZza, the PIZza! Mwa! Delicious!” he replies. It is delicious as promised. “I don’t think I’ll have dessert,” is met with “Nonono, dessert! The dessert is delicious! Delicious!”

So, instead of running all the way to Waitrose to buy the salt, I went to Ciao Bella. The man I asked (for a description, see above paragraph) told me to hold on and he ran down the stairs. One of the other waiters asked me about the TPS documentary airing on Channel 4. After a few minutes, I started to lose hope, but then I saw a sight of sights: the man was bounding up the stairs with a bucket – A BUCKET – of salt. I’m sure I must have had a look of absolute joy on my face.

I am only eating Italian at Ciao Bella in future.

My second mistake was forgetting the sage, but I think the excessive amount of parmesan I used was fair compensation. The pie turned out nicely – I even attempted a crust from my Easy Pies book (175g flour, 140g butter, 3 T ice water, mix, chill 30 minutes). I split the contents into two smaller pans rather than making it too thick. We’ll see tomorrow how it turns out – I left it unbaked so it’ll be fresh for serving at lunchtime.

While I was waiting around for the filling to cook and the pastry to chill, I thought back to that giant pile of rhubarbs in the waste fridge. Oh wait, I forgot to mention that there was a GIANT PILE OF RHUBARBS. Laura T had not ten minutes before found a recipe for rhubarbs in my Easy Pies book and said how delicious rhubarbs are, and we discussed how to cook rhubarbs. The recipe called for: rhubarbs. brown sugar. pastry. I didn’t want to make another batch of pastry, but when I looked in the fridge, someone had left an extra blob of sweetened pastry yesterday. This was fate. This was b’shert. I was making that rhubarb pie. First I had to pick out the really inedible rhubarbs, which was a lot. However, the remainder were the perfect size to fit in the crust I’d laid out. I covered them in brown sugar and threw in some cinnamon and sultanas (raisins) for good measure and set it in the fridge for tomorrow’s baking.

Although I meant tonight to be pie night, I changed things around a little bit and decided to have Superbowl Chili Night – not for any love of sports but because for the last four years I’ve been the champion spicy chili maker in my college dorm. I figure I’m a real grown-up now, so I should go for flavor rather than just burning people’s mouths. (I did have two chili-burn incidents tonight, fortunately both in my mouth. Much better than eyes/nose/open wounds/etc.) As usual, I made a meat and a veg. The veg used soya mince, which seems to be the British name for TVP, an odd “food product” I came to love on camping trips in high school. (And in college – unlike meat, it never goes off!) It’s the easiest thing to cook: literally, just add boiling water and it puffs up. I only wish rice did that instead of being so annoying. I hate cooking rice. It also had green bell peppers, onions, celery and carrots, all chopped to large chunks and quickly stir-fried; I then let it simmer with tomato sauce and vegetable stock for about 1.5 hours. I seasoned it with chili peppers (the long thin red ones), cumin, garlic, paprika, chili powder, oregano, s+p, and garnished with cilantro springs. It definitely tasted better than the Bob’s Red Mill chilis I used to make, but it did take a lot longer. Worth the effort.

For the meat, I used 900 kg lean beef  (couldn’t find ground turkey), browned and salted, combined with red and green bell peppers, onions, and celery, all simmered in stock and 2 cans for about 2.5 hours. For seasoning I used the same spices as above, but replaced the chilis with aji amarillo and 90% cacao dark chocolate. I was always planning on using my ajis – I had lots of aji dishes in Peru, and really like its warm flavor – but only hit on the chocolate today at about noon. My downstairs neighbor has a very romantic flat, decorated with roses and candles and silk (and it always smells like flowers!), and she keeps a bowl of dark chocolate out on the coffee table. I only used 2 squares of chocolate, but it tasted amazing – it didn’t make it taste like chocolate, but gave it that kind of chocolately smoothness and color, perfectly matched by the ajis. Wonderful. And I have leftovers!!!

Also, the tzatziki is no more. The 1,450 grams of yogurt are now happily gone. I think I can wait a bit before I make more…


UPDATE: I was told that the Lee’s Pie needed a bit more spice (I was missing the sage, after all) but that everyone loved the rhubarb pie.


Lee’s Pie

21 Jan

After a few weeks of experimenting with recipes, in early December I branched out and made an all-new pie from my own head. I was thinking of my good friend Lee, who likes to boil things in cream: I have witnessed her joyfully boil a variety of vegetables in cream, none of which I have eaten. Instead, I stare at them with hungry eyes (and at her with sad eyes) as she tells me how these dishes will clog my arteries and kill me. I might note that she ate all of these while sitting in a dilapidated armchair facing a beautiful bay window and sipping tea. Her life: full of delicious. My life: salivating over her delicious.

So I decided to make a (reasonably) healthy pie for me based on her sumptuous preference for cream. I substituted low-fat cream and skim milk for full-fat cream and decided to boil the things up. And lord, was it delicious.

The Veg: shallots, turnips, 3 potatoes, 1 medium-size cauliflower, parsnips, other white/cream vegetables of your choice

The Other Bits: cream (or milk) – probably about a cup and a bit, flour and butter for a roux, 2-3 chanterelle mushrooms, pie crust (generally puff pastry)

The Seasoning: nutmeg, sage, parmesan, salt and pepper

The Method: Cube everything. Parboil the potatoes.

Steam the cauliflower in milk. That’s right, steam it in milk. It should be chopped into bits as small as possible as it will form the creamy base of the pie.

Make a roux in an American wok or big soup pot. Then pour in the cream. When it’s hot, put in all the vegetables and cook on medium heat until they get mushy and all look like one big wet lump of vegetable. It should be the consistency of one of the curries I make (that is, not liquidy, but still a mush).

While the filling is cooking, lightly fry the mushrooms (cut very, very tiny) in butter. Add in the chopped sage. When the vegs are almost cooked, add this in with some salt and pepper. Add parmesan to taste.

With the crust, make it into a pie. Put a little more parm under the crust just for fun. Bake per the crust directions.

The first time, I spent about an hour trying to get the spices right. It tasted excellent, but the flavor just didn’t stick in my mouth. Fortunately, Max (who is magnificent at all things spice and writes a column for Serious Eats) was available by skype and suggested I put in nutmeg, which really rounded out the flavor. I added more parmesan for a little more umami (my favorite taste, by the way). It was pretty much the most perfect winter taste ever. I have since made Lee’s Pie twice more, and I can not attest that it does NOT taste better with sweet potatoes or without sage (it was an emergency pie situation). This recipe WORKS. It also tastes delicious as leftovers.

Oh yeah, pie leftovers: if you put it in the microwave with crust, it gets squishy, and nobody wants a squishy pie. Instead, save whatever pie filling is left in ramikins. When you’re ready for round 2, put a new crust on the mini-pies and bake. Yay.