I have been writing on this blog for less than a month I think, and I am afraid I have already said too many times that I love autumn and that I love butternut squash. So I’ll just skip this bit and move to my love for spices. (Also I know that this is the second recipe with squash I am posting and I hope I am not boring you to death, but I promise that this tastes different from the other one).
So, spices. First of all, when I moved to London I was over the moon because the spices I struggled to find in Italy (like, finding harissa was already a wow experience where I lived during my PhD) were readily available. Especially in Shepherd’s Bush Market, which is one of my favorite places on the whole planet – this is not an hyperbole – there is little shop called Moon shop where they have all sorts of spices and powders and legumes and cereals and different types of coconut oils and I love it. Second, the other meaning of spice: hot food. I like it a lot. I come from a part of Italy where chilies are rarely used, so I found out that I was capable of eating a good amount of spice only in my very late 20s, a few years ago, when I was at this aperitivo with friends in a place where the only vegan friendly things they had were crisps and this spicy pickled mini peppers. The crisps were assaulted by others, so I just started eating these pickles and I think I hate 17 before thinking it might have not been the best way to satiate my hunger. My now husband asked me whether I was okay, since those peppers usually have the effect of “ripping your mouth to pieces” if you ate more than a couple. So that’s how I found out I could dare. And after experimenting with chilli oils and similar things, I tried Sichuan cuisine when I moved here – I tried the plates with the triple chillies drawing and I loved how the Sichuan pepper anesthetised your mouth to allow it to accept more spice.
That being said, this pie is not too spicy – there is one bird eye chilli only in it and when you taste the filling on its own you feel a lovely heat, but when you taste a slice of the pie, the heat is still there but much less pungent because of the crust and the addition of the feta/tofu. However, I feel that adventurous palates could go as far as adding 2 bird eye chillies and be happy with it – not more because it’s a pie and I don’t think it is the type of dish that should be in the spicy Olympics.
Okay, recipe! This is vegan but you can substitute the veg feta/smoked tofu with regular sheep/goat feta if you prefer that.
(for a 22 cm diameter tin)
For the shortcrust pastry
1 tsp salt
90g cold water
Mix flour, salt and butter, cubed, until you reach a consistency of breadcrumbs. Pour in the cold water and mix well, until the dough comes together and easily forms a ball.
Let rest 1h in the fridge and then roll it out half of the dough in the tin, buttered, floured and covered with parchment paper. Freeze for 30 minutes. Roll out the rest in a sheet and freeze for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven at 180 C and when ready to bake, blind bake the crust in the tin for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, remove the rest of the dough from the freezer and start cutting out your leaves and stripes of dough to be braided. Prepare your decorations and put in the fridge until ready to use.
For the filling
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground caraway
1 tsp cardamom pods crushed
10 curry leaves (dried)
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 tsp Salt and pepper
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
1 bird eye chilly
350g butternut squash
1 small potato
Veg stock/miso stock 400 ml
200g vegan feta/smoked tofu
Pan fry with the oil the spices for a few emanates, then add the small onion and let coat in spices. Add a garlic clove finely chopped and one bird eye chilly, and finally add 350g squash cubed, 1 parsnip cubed and a small potato. Sweat them and cover with vegetable stock or a miso stock (enough to cover ~400 ml).
Let dry and cool down. Then mash and add the feta/”feta”/smoked tofu in the end.
When the crust is baked, pour in the filling. If the crust is too tall for the filling, use a sharp knife to carefully lower it. When you are happy with the filling to crust ratio, start covering the pie with the braids and the leaves in a pattern that you like. Finish baking for 25-30 more minutes (this varies depending on the oven): the pie will be baked when the crust will be nicely browned.
Let cool a bit and then slice it and enjoy 🙂