One of my greatest fears is that I will develop a sudden food allergy in my adult life. Until now my body has shown great intelligence in terms of allergies – the only thing it objects to is cats, and they are sent by the devil to plague mankind, so I’m grateful for a good reason not to come into contact with the satanic little beasts. But I would be genuinely heartbroken if my body somehow decided to rebel against nature and react badly to wheat or any other food I know and love. Obviously as a vegetarian I willingly cut a lot of food out of my diet, but it’s different when we have a choice. What could be worse than being forced to stop eating something sublime?
On a smaller scale than something horrific like coeliac disease or nut allergies, my boyfriend can’t (or won’t…) eat mushrooms. It does somewhat limit his options in restaurants, as there are so many dishes with mushrooms thrown in somewhere, but in the kitchen we can just substitute for a vegetable and the dish doesn’t really suffer for it – we replaced the mushrooms in our Christmas nut loaf with sweetcorn and it was absolutely lovely.
Still, I was quite keen to cook something with mushrooms, and so I chose this mushroom and Stilton pie for my Christmas Day main course. Some people might think a pie isn’t really fancy enough for a big occasion like that, but to those people I would say: “Shut up, pies are amazing!”. I just love a good pie, and to make it a bit more special I made mine in star-shaped tins – very festive! Of course, you can make them in standard pie dishes too. It’s a really gorgeous pie – nice substantial chunks of mushroom, the strong flavour of the cheese and a bit of heat from the pepper. Absolutely beautiful! I served mine with buttery sweet potato mash and parsnips (well, it was Christmas).
This is from Simon Rimmer’s excellent The Seasoned Vegetarian and the recipe can easily be halved. It’s just as nice for a special occasion as for a hearty Sunday meal.
Peppered Mushroom & Stilton Pies
For the pastry: 225g plain flour – 100g cold butter, chopped into smallish pieces – 1 egg
1 onion, sliced
500g button mushrooms, halved
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp peppercorns
250ml vegetable stock
1. Make the pastry first: rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips, then pour in as much of the egg as you need to bind it into a dough (be sure to reserve a little for glazing the pies – if you need more liquid for the pastry, use a little milk). Use your hands to bring the pastry dough into a ball, wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge you at least half an hour.
2. While the pastry is chilling, get started on the filling. Heat the oil in a large pan, and fry the onion and mushrooms until soft – about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook through for 5 minutes, then add the soy sauce, peppercorns and stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half. Season.
3. Divide the filling between 4 individual pie dishes (by all means, follow my example and opt for a star dish!). Crumble the Stilton, and divide it equally between the pies.
4. Heat the oven to 200C. Take the pastry out of the fridge and divide it into 4 pieces. Roll each one out on a floured surface so that it will cover the dish.
5. To assemble the pies: brush the rim of the dish with a little water, cover the dishes with the pastry, push the edges down and trim off the excess (the pastry will shrink a little in the oven, so don’t trim it too severely). Cut a little hole in the top, brush with leftover egg, and bake for 20 minutes.