It occurred to me the other day that it’s been about twelve months since I made the decision to go vego. In looking back on my journey away from meat it is safe to say that even though it was a big decision, I feel like it was the right one. The transition has been relatively easy and aside from an awkward dinner one night at the German Club, I’ve never doubted my decision. I think one of the best aspects of my deciding to go meat free has been the variety it has brought into our kitchen. These days I am confident in my ability to be able to throw something together based on what’s in abundance in the garden, the cupboard or at the farmers market and where meat used to feature it has been replaced with something equally fabulous like cheese, egg, mushrooms, pulses, legumes, tofu and tempeh.
This pie was a bit of a delicious experiment that I decided was good enough to share. It is based on a recipe I picked up a while ago from taste.com.au that I adapted to make my own and it came into being after a visit to Mum and Dad’s last weekend. Dad has a burgeoning veggie patch, he’s still got massive eggplants, tomatoes and possibly the biggest silverbeet plant I have ever seen. As I was leaving, Dad handed over a huge bag of spinach and a couple of kilos of pears (more on those later). Not wanting it to go to waste I got to work almost immediately and decided it was time to test out my take on Hunza Pie.
I am intrigued by the name given to this pie, what are the origins of the humble Hunza Pie? When I asked the question on Facebook one of my lovely followers suggested it had its origins in the Himalayas which prompted further investigation. I discovered conflicting arguments for and against the pie’s origin – such politics for such a humble pie! What is clear and agreed is that it’s an old hippie favourite (which is something I can live with) and understandably so. You can’t go wrong on a cold winter evening when you’ve got flaky pastry, cheese, eggs and a bucketload of garlicky green silverbeet (or spinach, if you prefer). It’s the kind of dish you can serve with a lush green salad for a lovely, healthy dinner or keep in the fridge for a light lunch during the week. The filling is dense enough to work well almost without the pastry and I could imagine it rolled in puff pastry in a sort of twist on a spinach pasty or vego sausage roll.
I used Careme pastry which is fantastic and makes life just that much easier but you could certainly make your own if you’re so inclined. I also used a trick I picked up from Silvia aka. ‘The Honey Lady’, which is to use raw almonds as the weights when you blind bake the dough. You get a nice even rise and some delicious roasted almonds to munch on when it’s done.
So I hope you give it a shot, and if you’re an old hippie (;)) I’d love to hear what you think of my take on an old favourite.
- ½ cup pearl barley, rinsed and sorted to remove any 'bits'
- 2.5 cups water
- 1 vego stock cube
- 1 tbspn of butter
- 1 tbspn of rice bran oil
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 roasted red peppers (*optional), finely diced
- 1 large bunch of silverbeet, washed thoroughly, ribs removed and sliced into ribbons. note: don't throw away the ribs, finely dice them and fry them with the onions
- 1 sheet of careme sour cream shortcrust pastry
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup ricotta
- 125g of feta cheese
- ½ cup fresh dill, stems removed and roughly chopped
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- ½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, stems removed and roughly chopped
- 1 tspn of mild curry powder
- ½ cup breadcrumbs (I used panko but whatever you've got handy)
- 2 tbspns nutritional yeast (*optional)
- 1 teaspoon of lemon pepper seasoning (*optional, you could whatever dried herbs you like)
- ½ cup mozzarella, grated
- salt & pepper
- Allow the pastry to defrost in the fridge overnight for best results.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
- In a small-medium sized saucepan add the pearl barley, water and a stock cube.
- Bring water to a boil over a high heat and then cook on a rolling boil until tender - about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it and add a little more water if the pot dries out before the barley is ready.
- Once the barley is cooked (it will be a little chewy but tender to bite), remove from the heat, drain excess liquid if necessary, and then pop the lid on until ready for use in the pie.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter and oil together on a medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic and the silverbeet ribs.
- Fry for another minute or two and then add the diced red pepper. Add a pinch of salt and cook for another minute or so and then add the silverbeet in batches.
- Cook silverbeet until just wilted and keep adding more as space in the pan becomes available. Cook the silverbeet until bright green and wilted and remove from the heat.
- Set aside to cool in a colander so that excess moisture can start to drain off.
- Grease a pie tin with a little butter. Then gently load the tin with the pastry, ensuring it covers the base of the tin and the sides. Depending on the size of your tin you might have some pastry leftover. You could make some mini tarts if there is leftover filling or use it to make dessert.
- Pour the almonds over the base of the pie and spread them out evenly (like you would with pie weights). Pop in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the eggs, ricotta, feta, herbs and curry powder in a large bowl.
- In another bowl, add the breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast and mozzarella and combine well.
- Squeeze out the excess moisture from the silverbeet and finely chop. You might have to do this a couple of times, try to get as much water out as possible.
- Add the silverbeet to the egg and cheese mixture with the barley and stir well to combine.
- Remove the pie crust from the oven, pour out the almonds on to a tray to cool and then add the filling.
- Smooth out the top of the pie using a spatula or knife and then add a few of the almonds if you wish.
- Top with the cheesy breadcrumb mixture and season with a little salt and pepper.
- Cook in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the cheesy top is golden brown.
- Serve with a big green salad.