Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Butternut squash pie

I have been the executive decision-maker in this house for some time now.

Famous decisions I have executed executively have been to switch to quilted bog roll, to convert the loft, to stop giving Kitty baby rice and to buy a family diesel estate.

They've all been very successful decisions and riding the crest of this success-wave I have now decided executively that we need to eat less meat in the house.

For one, I don't like buying meat. Since Kitty was born, I haven't been able to eat lamb anymore. First, I've decided that it stinks. And second, I feel like I may as well go up to the nursery and hack one of my child's limbs off as eat a leg of lamb.

Every time I walk down the meat aisle in Waitrose in the back of my mind is the terrible worry that all these animals had a ghastly time, that they died in pain, that I am a monster. This is despite me buying only the most faithfully organic and free-range farm-based meat I can.

But my range of vegetarian cooking - that isn't pasta - is pitiful. I can cook a very good spanakopita but that's it. So recently I have been casting round for interesting vegetarian recipes.

This butternut squash pie is a sort of made-up thing inspired by a pie I saw in the Cranks Bible, which is a vegetarian cookbook, but which I mostly don't find that exciting. It's full of fucking SOUP and you know how much I hate soup. But there is this pie in it. The other ingredients I added because I thought they might be fun. It is also based on the spanakopita principle of using filo pastry as a casing.

I mostly fucking hate butternut squash. It dates back to the time when I was on the Atkins diet and ate it all the time. I grew sick of the sight of it. But once in a while, it's fine, especially when combined with a lot of cheese and spinach and pastry.

This worked very well but it is very rich and I would advise that you eat it with an extremely sharp, cold cucumber or tomato salad. This makes enough for 4-6 people and I used a 25cm flan dish.

So here we go.

Esther's butternut squash pie

1 butternut squash
4 sage leaves
some butter
1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 pack dolcelatte (about 150g)
some olive oil
filo pastry - about 8 sheets
salt and pepper
3 eggs
some cream if you have it but don't worry if not

Preheat the oven to 180C

1 Peel and chop your butternut squash and then cook it gently in a frying pan with a lid on for a good hour with the shredded sage leaves in some olive oil. Butternut squash seems so hard and unforgiving that you may doubt that it will cook down in this time, but it will.

2 Meanwhile wash and wilt the spinach in 0.5cm of water for about 5 minutes

3 Lightly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan and chop

4 When the buttenut squash is mostly soft, combine it with the dolcelatte (torn up by you) the spinach, the walnuts, the eggs and the cream - if using. Sprinkle over a very large pinch of salt and about 10 turns of the pepper grinder.

5 Lay about four sheets of filo pastry in whatever dish or tin you're going to cook this in. Brush olive oil between the sheets so they stick together. Pile in the fillling and then lay more sheets of filo on top. Bung in the oven for 20 minutes.

p.s. if you have any favourite vegetarian recipes that aren't pasta, potato or risotto-based email me: esther.walker@gmail.com or leave a comment.


  1. My go to vegetarian dish (that isn't pasta or risotto) is potato tacos- here's the link
    (Not my recipe but still good- Quick and Easy)

  2. try Paul Gayler's 'Pure Vegetarian' book. It's more dinner party than every day but there's some very good recipes in there.

  3. Hi Esther! Good on yer, you will soon be eating less meat and enjoying new recipes! I really like "Rose Eliot's Vegetarian Supercook" and all of the recipes seem to turn out well http://bit.ly/mT2UU7 - there are both simple and fancy dishes. No preaching here but the Viva site has good info if you are interested in animal welfare. Good luck with it! :-)

  4. I'm just going to go ahead and weigh in on the meat thing - Meat in supermarket: unless it's labelled free-range, organic (not strictly a guarantee of quality, but quite often better than nothing) and RSPCA approved, then the chances are that the animal has been in some way exploited for our benefit (other than the obvious one of being raised and killed for food).

    The solution isn't neccesarily to stop eating meat - it would take a mass vegetarian revolution to really change the way the factory farming industry treats its animals - but to eat less and better meat. Vote with your feet and your wallet/purse/swiss bank account.

    If you're forced to buy meat from the supermarkets, make it the free-range, organic stuff - free range chicken thighs/drumsticks are quite often hilariously cheap. Avoid buying pork from supermarkets because 'free-range' hasn't really caught on there. Beef should be dark maroon, not bright red. ETC.

    If you're not, buy your meat, as HF-W is forever telling us, from small, local butchers. Like me. *ahem*. We generally know exactly where it's come from, what's the best for what recipe, and what to do with it if you're not sure.

    /vestedinterest. Anyway, vegetarian recipe: sheet of puff pastry, an array of roasted veg (peppers, squash *shudder*, fennel, yam, beetroot and whatnot, plus a couple sprigs of rosemary and a squeeze of lemon juice. Roll out the pastry, smear with a couple of teaspoons of harissa paste and one of wholegrain mustard, scatter roasted veg, liberally adorn with chunks of a half decent crumbly cheese (feta, goat log, a melty one like taleggio or go nuts and use halloumi), bung in the oven until the pastry's cooked and the cheese is bubbly. devour with great speed before any actual vegetarians get a look in.


    (www.onionsontoast.wordpress.com - well, I had to, really.)

  5. An almost life time veggie my favourite veggie dish is BBC Good Foods Melty mushroom wellington



  6. I spent an unhappy couple of years holed up in Ithaca, NY where there are two (TWO!!)world (ish) renowned vegetarian restaurants in a place half the size of Worthing and have a cookbook from each which even as a really committed carnivore I can recommend as long as you ignore the rather self-conscious kookiness. There's not even that much soup. They're probably available second-hand from Amazon. One is the Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook and the other is called the Enchanted Broccoli Forest (eurgh) from the Moosewood Restaurant. The Mexican stuff is especially good and not at all worthy and also the quiches as long as you swap the earnest wholemeal flour for normal. I cooked mainly from them for a year and tried nearly every recipe, that's how bored I was. Happy to provide selection of best if required.

  7. Years ago, veggie food was all a curious shade of brown and nut cutlets were involved. The only veggie dish I made at the time which wasn't pasta was tomato pie, where you made a LOT of mashed potato, added lots of cheese, lined a pie dish, filled it with chopped up tomatoes, and put more mash on top. I ate it a lot, because it was cheap. These days, I find the Ottolenghi cookbook helps when wanting to eat less meat


  8. That definitely looks worth a try! I use a fair amount of squashes, and each one suits different recipes, sweet or savoury. Far better than pumpkin any day!!
    I'll have to dig through my recipe books...if I remember rightly, Cranks' Spicy Lentil Pie is a good starting recipe...and you can vary the recipe using different pulses and spices

  9. Oh that sounds delicious! I'm not a massive fan of blue cheese, do you have any suggestions for a substitute? Am thinking maybe Boursin or similar...

    As a vegetarian of 17 years who just spent a year living in France (i.e. the land of no Quorn and lots of steak) I've been brushing up my 'proper' veggie receipes recently.

    Jamie Oliver's courgette and rice gratin is absolutely gorgeous. Essentially you add sliced courgette to sauteed onion and thyme, cook for a bit then add rice and double the volume of stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add creme fraiche and stick in a baking dish, shuffling it all around so that the courgettes are on top (if you can find a way of doing this without burning your fingers off then please share it) and toppping with grated cheese (I use grated cheddar in England because I don't share the French obsession with emmenthal). Then bung it in the oven for 30-40 minutes covering with foil/a lid if it gets too brown. The rice steams and the courgettes are gorgeous and crunchy on top and soft underneath. I usually eat it with just a green salad.

  10. Parmigiana di melanzane is always a winner - as long as the aubergine gets cooked properly.

    My mum dips the thin slices of aubergine in egg/flour first but I'm usually too lazy to do this bit. Layer up fried aubergine slices (1cm thick) with tomato sauce and bits of mozzarella/fontina then top off with more mozzarella/fontina and parmesan. Bake for 40 minutes or so.


  11. Sounds absolutely bloody lovely.
    I cook this recipe http://lesourier.blogspot.com/2011/05/empress-of-india.html for Dhal quite a lot. Not unlike a curryied risotto but requires less attention. The spice mix isn't set in stone. I just chuck in whatever comes to hand when I've got my head in the spice cupboard.
    Ignore all the bilge about Emmy The Great. I think I had been drinking... Ahem.

  12. I'm a big fan of aubergine parmigiana (not sure about that spelling...) esp if you go easy on the parmesan and put a layer of mozzarella on top under the breadcrumbs. I find veggie stuff hard as tends to be heavy on the carbs, as you mention. Jamie has a good recipe in his Italian book.

    I also recently got this book which is good for cutting down on meat, if not removing it all together.........


    PS Read what you will into the fact that I'm writing this while eating a Leon chicken and chorizo wrap.......

  13. I think this looks delicious. I'm normally a little sceptical of anything that is predominantly vegetable based but it's looks so tasty!
    I shall definitely make this for the plethora of vegetarian friends I put off inviting for supper!
    Thanks. x x

  14. Roast a butternut squash (chopped into small pieces) in olive oil with 3 small onions for 45 minutes, once cooked crumble in a block of chopped feta, chilli flakes and pumpkin seeds. Stir the ingredients as much as you like, I find it's nicer when you manage to get the squash completely squidged around the feta.

    Clearly not a meal, but this is very good:
    http://www.turkeysforlife.com/2011/02/turkish-recipes-garlic-yoghurt-with.html - but i use about half the amount of yoghurt otherwise it's too runny

  15. Read Jonanthan Safran's Eating Animals. Before that I thought vegetarians were self righteous and insufferable. Now I am one. I make a lot of Anjum Anand's vegetable, lentil and potato currys, very easy and pretty healthy.

  16. Firmly believe there is very little that can't be improved with filo pastry and cheese. We've had meatless mondays for a while now, which have been creeping further throughout the week. Makes me feel less like a terrible person. Have had a pearl barley/ chickpea/ spinach/ lemon/ garlic/ chilli thing that I pull out when I need some bulk that's not rice or pasta... http://bit.ly/fv4fQF

  17. Mmmm...this looks good.

    when I first went vegetarian I refused to eat most vegetarian main courses because they were fucking disgusting. Not so the case now. Thank god. Or I'd starve in public. I guess that's partly due to much wider range of ingredients available.

    Anyway, zillions of non-meat recipes over on LLG, as you know. LLGxx

  18. I love the 'Plenty' book from Ottolenghi and this recipe for roasted Aubergine with buttermilk zatar, thyme and pomegranate is a favourite http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/jul/12/recipe.foodanddrink1

  19. Love your blog! I'm not a vegetarian, but I haven't been able to eat lamb or veal for years because of the whole baby animal thing, particularly when you see them frolicking in the fields. Strangely, I don't seem to have the same reaction to suckling pig...

  20. Jamie does a fab vege curry based on butternut squash, cauliflower and chickpea with a carrot salad and lemon pickle in his 30-minute cookbook. The whole family loves that one, though I personally find the average cook takes a bit longer than 30mins!

    Another favorite of mine is an Annabel Langbein recipe for roasted veg and couscous. Mix 2 tbsp olive oil with juice 1/2 lemon, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 tbsp chopped rosemary, 1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste) and 1 tbsp ground cummin and spread over veges of choice. I typically use onion, fennel, beetroot, carrot, peppers, mushrooms, corgette, asparagus etc - you get the picture, basically anything you fancy, season with S&P and roast the lot in a hot oven 15-20 mins until tender and lightly browned. Meanwhile place 1 cup couscous in a bowl with 1 tsp salt lots of fresh pepper and finely grated rind of lemon. Pour over 1 1/2 cups boiling water, cover and stand for 10 mins. Fluff with fork, pile on roasted veg and enjoy.

  21. Cook down a frying pan of onion/garlic/tinned toms/cumin/chili/coriander/mint (and whatever else you fancy) until sticky and gooey. put on a layer of halloumi/feta and grill/put in hot oven for 10-20mins.
    Yummy with salad, bread, or a meatball if you fancy it.

  22. Have you got Plenty by Yottom Ottolenghi? It's bloomin' brilliant for vegetarian recipes eg cauliflower and cumin fritters, aubergine, coriander and mozzarella salad, herb sprinkled pumpkin wedges, broad bean, red onion and radish salad.... the list is endless but it is truly my cookbook of the moment! well, it has been so since last year when it came out!

  23. Really? No meat at all? Does that include bacon and/or pancetta?
    There's this vegetarian dish (stuffed peppers, if that's up your alley)that I've wanted to make for a while but haven't got around to making yet.
    It's from a Mormon cooking blog that I like. I've never tried a single recipe from it except for sugar cookies (they're amazing). But there's all this amazing food porn in it, it's disgusting.
    I have a Mormon blog problem. They're very soothing to read.

  24. This is a great recipe from the BBC Good Food magazine back in January 1997! (God that must mean I'm getting old! That was 14 years ago!!!!!!!) Anyway it's delicious and committed carnivores also love it too I promise.
    Vegetarian Chestnut Pie - I will paraphrase the recipe to keep it short but let me know if you want the full version and I can email it. Shortcrust pastry made with 225g flour and 115g fat (It's only required to top the pie not the base as well).
    Filling - melt 50g butter and 2 tbsp oil in a large pan. Fry 1 chopped onion and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves for 2-3 mins. Add 700g button mushrooms and fry for 5-7 mins more until juices begin to run. Add 225g cooked, peeled chestnuts, 150ml stout, 1tbsp treacle, 2tsp light muscovado sugar and 1tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried) and simmer for 10 mins stirring occasionally. Add 175g grated stilton and stir constantly for about 4 mins to prevent it sticking to pan. Pour mixture into 1.4 - 1.7 litre casserole dish (mixture should come almost to top) then roll out pastry and use to top the pie. Egg wash pastry and make a steam slit in top and bake in preheated oven at 200C for 20-30 mins until golden. Serve with potatoes and veggies.

    I thought I'd lost this recipe for many years but to my delight I found it again just recently. Don't know where it was hiding because it was in exactly the place that I thought it should be and had checked several times over the past few years. However - who cares - I'm just glad it's decided to put in a reappearance and I shall be baking this pie myself very shortly.

  25. Would defo try this if I could eat pastry.

    Recipes... where to start! A fave is a veggie chilli that is really satisfying served with brown rice. Because I'm too lazy to type out the whole recipe, a very similar one can be found here:


    I LOVE most of Ottolenghi's recipes too. Have you got his latest book, Plenty? Awesome.

    Also, a go-to dinner for us is stir-fry with tofu (the ready marinated cauldron tofu pieces are really good to chuck into the wok if you can't be doing with the hassle of pressing and marinating the tofu). BBC Good Food has loads of great veggie stir-fry recipes. A fave is...


    Let me know if you need anymore! Perhaps I should blog some of mine...

    Hope this helps x

  26. PS Just clocked that someone else has mentioned O's Plenty in your comments! Doh.

  27. I love roasted portobella mushrooms with pesto and goats cheese - fab with a garlic crouton underneath and a rocket salad. 4 extra-niceness drizzle with thick balsamic x

  28. I'm rubbish, I've been reading your blog for a while now but have never actually got round to cooking anything. Anyway, tonight that has all changed! I was inspired by your pledge to cook less meat and tonight, have cooked this fabulous recipe. Have to say, my hubbie looked far from impressed when I told him earlier but, he was surprised and found himself loving it too. I'm going to stop being rubbish and actually start cooking more of your recipes, rather than just delighting in your writing - which I love! Thank you!

  29. I love panzanella from Jamie's Italy (I don't count anchovies as meat, but you could leave them out). It's a bit of a faff to make, but worth it and makes you feel very virtuous for using up old bread.