'...quite simply the best pie you've ever made...' The Viking...
... as you know i'm kind of obsessed with that aniseed flavour that you find in fennel... it's like a warming and gentle hug that populates your nose, throat and stomach as you eat it. It has a natural savoury sweetness that compliments fish and fatty meats really well and I still find it to be an unusual taste, even after all this time... I also love the aniseed kick from the fennel seeds as well as star anise and of course that wicked french liquor, Pernod... although I cannot abide liquorice... absolutely hate the stuff. Funny, aren't we, us humans?
... i've cooked with Pernod before with my Pea and Pernod Risotto but here i've created a very sophisticated and strictly adults-only vegetarian pie... and I know that aniseed get's a mixed reaction from a lot of you out there but I think it's for the same liquorice-hating reasons that I have, so let me assure you that this is a subtle depth of flavour that surpasses that nasty liquorice hit and gets you somewhere else instead... some nice culinary place in your tummy that says 'thank-you.'
fennel, pernod and broccoli pie with a parmesan pastry
the good people at Mermaid have been busy spreading the love and recently sent me a few things to try, one of which is their 8inch Round Pie Dish from their baking range. It's made from hard anodised aluminium so it's essentially the bakeware that Superman would choose because not only is it scratch resistant (perfect for digging out those stubborn slices of pastry) but you can throw it across the room in a fit of rage without it denting*... who could ask for more?
*don't try this at home (with regular bakeware...)
for the pastry
8oz plain flour
2oz grated parmesan (or vegetarian hard cheese)
for the filling
2 tablespoons flour
half a pint of milk and vegetable stock mixed (you can use the water from the broccoli and a little milk)
4oz grated parmesan (or vegetarian hard cheese)
1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 fennel bulb - chopped
1 packet of mini broccoli spears, or a head of regular broccoli
a large handful of frozen peas
start with the pastry by crumbling the flour with the butter in a large bowl until you have breadcrumbs, then stir in the grated cheese, use a knife to stir as you add a little water to bring it together, then in with you hands to form the dough... wrap in cling-film and pop in the fridge whilst you make the pie...
next on a gentle heat melt a little butter with olive oil in a pan and saute the onions and fennel until beginning to soften, then turn the heat up and throw in a teeny dash of pernod and let it bubble away entirely.
place the broccoli into boiling water and boil until beginning to soften, around 4 mins. Drain but keep the water for stock.
take the onion and fennel pan off the heat, add the broccoli and frozen peas to this pan, stir and set aside.
make the white sauce by melting a large nob of butter in a sauce pan. once melted, take it off the heat and add two tablespoons of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it is smooth. Place the pan back on a gentle heat and add a splash of the milk and stock mix, stirring all the time as it thickens... continue to add the stock and stir on and off the heat until the sauce thickens... there should be no lumpbs if you stir off the heat. Once all the stock is gone add a splash of pernod and stir in, then let the sauce bubble away on a very gentle heat for five minutes or so as the flour cooks off... then add the grated cheese and stir in.
flour your board then roll out the pastry... this pastry is very short so you may need plenty of flour and pat it out with your hand first before rolling. Cut a circle to line your pie-dish, then re-roll for the top.
Line the pie dish with the pastry, then pour in the vegetables followed by the cheesy sauce. Place a lit on top sealing with an egg wash, or use a lattice pie-lid like i've done. Brush the top with egg wash and bake on 170C for 25 mins of until the pastry is golden.
eat and of course, enjoy!