I have a bit of a confession to make. One of my favourite topics of office conversation to have at those pivotal points where the seasons are changing is the inappropriate attire of my fellow commuters. It is barely ten degrees in central London today and I saw three people on Regent Street in summer dresses and sandals. They must have an incredible immunity to cold or not look out the window before leaving the house in the morning.
Yes, London is under its familiar clouds once more. It takes little more than a sharp gust of wind for me to start swaddling myself in knitwear and putting on the heating. I think I have become more like this the older I get. I love the cold weather, I just don’t like to be cold. This is one of the reasons I am grateful for the abundance of coffee shops in London – a great, if slightly expensive, handwarmer.
Last night I was faced with three leeks and a defrosted pack of puff pastry that I took out of the freezer for some apple turnovers that never were. There was nothing else for it but to make a pie.
There are a lot of debates flying around the internet at the moment about pie: most notably about whether it is a real pie if it has only a top crust. Purists believe a pie should have both a top and a bottom crust to be given the moniker, claiming that a pie without a pastry bottom is merely a stew with a pastry lid. Although I am inclined to agree, both do have their place, and the latter is often a good way to use up a small amount of leftover puff pastry that would not stretch to a top and a bottom. Whether my pie would please the purists, I don’t know, as it is made on a baking tray and not in a pie dish. However, it does have a top and a bottom.
This pie is from Nigel Slater’s Tender, one of my favourite cookbooks of all time, despite my inability to grow my own produce. Grouping the recipes by ingredient, not by course, really helps give you some inspiration for leftover vegetables. It is an incredibly simple pie to make – just perfect for a week night.
Leek and Cheddar Pie
650g potatoes, sliced ½cm thick
3 large leeks, white and light green parts sliced
200g creme fraiche
175g mature cheddar, grated
A pinch of ground nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 200ºc. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
Boil the potatoes in a large saucepan of lightly salted water until tender. Meanwhile, heat the butter and olive oil, in a deep frying pan, or chef’s pan, and add the leeks. Stir, cover and cook over a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until tender. Transfer both the potatoes and the leeks to a large bowl. Allow to cool a little. Stir in the creme fraiche, cheddar, nutmeg, sea salt and ground pepper.
Divide the puff pastry in half. Roll out one half on a lightly-floured surface and use to cover the bottom of the baking sheet. Spread the filling out on top of this, leaving a border of an inch on all sides. Roll out the second half of the pastry and lay over the top of the filling. Pinch and crimp the edges to seal in the filling.
Brush the pastry with egg wash and then use a sharp knife and any pastry trimmings to decorate. Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes until the pastry is golden.
Adapted from a recipe by Nigel Slater.