Helen’s Homity Pie!
Another hectic few weeks, and another late post for the blog – but this one, I assure you, was well worth the wait!
This week I had the honour of catering for a very special event. Working along side the fantastic Rebecca Jane Weddings and Events, I was asked to cater for a after-wedding party in the beautiful, picturesque village of Isle Abbots, in the heart of Somerset.
In the ideal venue of a beautifully appointed marquee, and tailoring to a ‘picnic’ themed party, it was my job to provide a traditional West Country picnic-ploughman’s. Abundantly filled with kilners of pickled onions and beetroot, homemade apple chutney, cheeses, meats and freshly baked bread and quiches, a traditional wicker picnic basket and tartan rug was the rustic centrepiece to every table.
No picnic in somerset however, is complete without a Homity pie.
“But what is a Homity Pie?” I hear you cry! And its not just those of you who reside in other parts of the country that are bemused by this funny sounding pie!
Although supposedly traditional to the West Country, credit must apparently be paid to the Land girls of the Second World War for this vegetable-based open pie. Packed full of potato and onions, Homity was cheap and easy to make using homegrown ingredients, and therefore understandable as to why it became a popular pie in the late 1940’s. And with the West Country at the forefront of the Dig for Victory campaign throughout the war, the connection can clearly be made.
In recent years, the pie has seen some ‘sprucing up’, as the laws of rationing were withdrawn, and people had the tendency of making classic staple dishes that little more satisfying. The addition of cheese and cream thrown into the mix made for much more than just a basic potato and onion pie.
When looking for a recipe to base my pie on, it was difficult to find any two the same. With the exception of keeping two core ingredients – potato and onion – the once traditional recipe has been changed and tweaked as its been passed through the generations.
In an attempt to put my own modern stamp of this traditional pie, I took a selection of my favourite elements from various recipes to arrive at what I call; Helen’s Homity Pie! Choosing a tangy mature Somerset cheddar not only adds bite and creaminess, but makes for a more decadent pie. However, with the addition of the vibrant green of baby spinach leaves, leeks and parsley, the pie avoids being too rich or claggy.
My two secret ingredients are nutmeg and caramelised onions. Nutmeg is your key ingredient to any white sauce, whether it be for a lasagne, a chicken pie or carbonara – a sprinkling of nutmeg simply rounds the sauce and prevent it from becoming too rich. Alternatively, the caramelised onions adds sweetness and intensifies the flavours of the onion and leeks – after all, it is a potato and onion pie at heart!
I am pleased to say, Helen’s Homity went down a storm at the event, which unfortunately meant there was very little for the team and I to sample! But, with this recipe being so simple and satisfying to make, I don’t think it will be long before another of Helen’s Homitys is pulled from the oven!
- 800g potato
- 1 packet short crust pastry
- knob of butter (plus a little more for greasing)
- 1 large white onion
- 1 large leek
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 dessert spoon of caramelised onions
- 200g strong cheddar cheese
- 1 egg
- 250ml Cream
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- Handful finely chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper
- 1 packet of spinach
- Peel and roughly chop the potato into 2 cm cubes. Place in a pan of water – bring to the boil and cook until the potato is soft yet still holding its form.
- Whilst the potatoes are cooking, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface big enough to line a deep, loose bottomed cake/pie tin (a small tin around 6-8 inches is perfect). Allow the pastry to hang over the edge of the tin – the edge of the pastry case can be neatened once cooked. Once lined, place in the fridge to chill.
- Whilst the pastry case is resting in the fridge, roughly chop the onion, leek and garlic, before gently frying in the butter. Cook until they have softened and begun to caramelise. Stir in the caramelised onions and set aside to cool a little. Drain the potatoes and also allow to cool a little before combine with the onion mixture.
- To the potato and onion, add roughly 150g of grated cheese (reserving the rest for the top of the pie), egg, cream, nutmeg, parsley and seasoning, before stirring through the spinach. Remove the pastry case from the fridge and fill with the mixture. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and place in a pre-heated oven at 180c/Gas 6 – cook for 40-45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven once the pastry appears crisp and the cheese is golden. Allow to cool slightly for 5 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve immediately if you wish to enjoy it warm, otherwise allow to cool and refrigerate. Keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- The pie can also be re-warmed simply by placing on a baking tray lined with a little greaseproof paper. Cook for around 25minutes – if the pastry appears to be darkening in colour, wrap in foil to avoid burning.