… back to the cottage after our lovely holiday and it seems that the harvest is almost over! The seasons have swung their pendulum once more and we gradually drift into autumn. I am of course a huge fan of autumn so this is not a problem for me at all but it’s always a shock to come home to find the golden fields gone and now furrowed with dark brown tracks, although what a lot of people don’t realise is that many of them have already been sown with next years crop and before long they will be green again with tender shoots. The Viking and I celebrated our joint birthdays yesterday by chilling out at home and soaking in the garden and surrounding fields, it’s like recharging the batteries, even though we’ve just had a holiday we were rushing around frantically absorbing the culture and so nothing beats coming home… we like to sit on the bench outside the front door, which overlooks the countryside… it’s like watching a movie of the changing seasons. Last year we managed to sit outside every Sunday until November without the need of coats as it was so mild… I wonder what date we’ll reach this year?
as you know, I have a huge love for locally and seasonally grown produce and so when the good folk at tenderstem got in touch to ask me to help celebrate the tenderstem growing season, which is from June to November, I jumped at the chance to show off a little Lincolnshire produce. Tenderstem are a relatively new development on the vegetable scene, created in Japan using traditional plant-breeding techniques they are a cross between broccoli and chinese kale… they have a light and sweet broccoli flavour that is not too overpowering and as the name suggests you can eat the whole stem which is brilliant as we all hate food waste and need more green stuff in our lives. We grown plenty of tenderstem here in Lincolnshire and in fact all over the UK and to celebrate, tenderstem have launched an interactive map which allows you to find out more about where tenderstem is sown, grown, served and celebrated… from finding farmers who harvest it in the UK and recipes from bloggers such as myself who love cooking with it, to restaurants in the local area who serve tenderstem as part of their menu…. all you have to do is enter your city or postcode to get started… well worth the visit.
tenderstem and mushroom pie with lincolnshire poacher cheese sauce and spinach pastry
the Lincolnshire Poacher cheese is really rather wonderful… I’ve written about it many a time on this blog but if you haven’t tried it do hunt it down. In the UK it can be found at any reputable cheese shop but further afield you might want to try ordering it on-line from our local cheese shop who will deliver worldwide. It’s made on a farm all but 2 fields away so it couldn’t get more local and I adore it. It has the taste of a strong cheddar with parmesan overtones. I use it regularly as a parmesan replacement… it makes a knock-out cheesy sauce and works beautifully with vegetables and pasta…
i’ve gone for the green shortcrust for two reasons… firstly I think the green pastry is beautiful and the colour enhances the treat inside and also tastes great but I was also influences heavily by the adorable Kate from Veggie Desserts with whom I worked on the recent Leisure Cooker Tribes To Table event and who made the most glorious and bright purple beetroot pizza. Her brightly coloured vegetable cakes, pastries and breads are such incredible fun and so I was keen to have a go and this seemed like the perfect dish!… plus the aroma of baked spinach in the pastry is quite quite divine!
for the pastry
250g plain flour – i’m using a local flour milled at the beautiful Alford Windmill
75g cold butter – cut into small pieces
a pinch of salt
100g fresh spinach leaves
2 stalks of tenderstem broccoli
a splash of water
for the cheese sauce
40g plain flour
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 pint of milk or 1/2 pint of milk and 1/2 pint stock
75g Lincolnshire Poacher cheese (or a strong cheddar)
for the filling
4 large flat mushrooms (field or portobello) – halved and then thickly sliced
1 sprig of rosemary
1 prig of thyme
2 packs (240g) tenderstem – roughly chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil and butter
to make the pastry, start with the ‘green’ element which is the spinach and tenderstem which you should place in a large pan with a lid, add a little sprinkling of water and season well, then gently heat until the spinach and tenterstem are soft, then whizz them to a pulp with a stick blender – set aside
sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub it into the flour, raising your hands high as you do to allow plenty of air to get into the flour until you have a rough breadcrumb texture
add two tablespoons of the green vegetable puree and using one hand shaped like a claw begin to stir the flour and butter together, it should start to come together into a dough but you may need to add a dash more of the puree to bind it together, knead it well so that the green is evenly distributed but fast as you don’t want the flour to be tough
once the dough is formed, tip it out onto some cling film, pat it out into a flattish disk, wrap it up and pop it in the fridge for 30 mins
pre-heat the oven to 170C and butter a 20cm round pie-dish
to make the pie, gently heat some olive oil and a little butter in a large pan, then pop in the mushrooms and fresh herbs, stir and pop on the lid for 6 minutes.. the large mushrooms should release all their water and soften quickly, then remove the lid, turn up the heat a little add some salt and plenty of black pepper and saute until the mushrooms take on the lovely golden colour
add the chopped tenderstem on top of the mushrooms in the pan, pop the lid back on, turn the heat to it’s lowest and let the tenderstem gently heat through for 6 minutes – you really don’tt need to cook them for very long as they are so tender and the crunch of the vegetables add a great texture – then turn the heat off and set aside until you’ve made the cheese sauce
make the cheese sauce by melting the butter gently in a small pan, once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour into a smooth but thick paste then add a dash of the milk/stock and stir into a paste.
place the pan back on a gentle heat and slowly add a little milk at a time, stirring well between additions… if it looks like it may become lumpy take the pan off the heat and stir until smooth. Continue this way until all the milk is gone and you have a nicely thick sauce – let it bubble away very gently on the heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Stir in the grated cheese and mustard powder and set aside
place the mushrooms and tenderstem into the pie dish, then pour the cheese sauce over the vegetables and set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes before you attempt the lattice pastry crust
roll out the pastry into a large oblong and then cut it into 6 long strips and 8 shorter strips (this is just a guide…)
lay the long strips lengthways along pie dish, with gaps in between, then take one shorter strip and, starting from one edge of the pie dish, weave it over and under each long strip… continue this way until all your pastry strips are woven. I like it looking quite rough and ready but feel free to trim to make it nice and neat
brush with a little beaten egg before baking for 25 mins or until the pastry is golden crisp
eat and of course, enjoy!