This leek and mushroom cheesy pie makes not only a wonderful vegetarian meal but is also a bloody decent meal that anyone can eat at any time. Not so long ago, when we were invited to dinner at friends, they would call me in a mild panic and ask what they should cook for The Viking as he’s a vegetarian. Back in the 90’s and 00’s being a non meat-eater was still seen as something that needed to be singled out with a special dish, lovingly prepared by the stressed host as a completely separate thing that had no connection to the meal that everyone else was eating. I think my older friends and parents generation still have this panic sometimes, it must come from a time when ‘meat and two veg’ was drummed into us as the only option for mealtime but of course that’s simply not true anymore and I think the kids today don’t really seem to care. A meal is a meal, as long as it tastes good and is filling and nutritious in some way then you’re onto a winner. However, it’s always good to have options you can pull out of the bag and this light pie is perfect.
It’s midway through September and the weather is doing peculiar things here in the UK. Just as we should be winding down for autumn, all that comfort food to come; soups, stews and pies and the sun has decided to be glorious all weekend and the temperature has risen to a humid 27. I cannot wait to stop making salads and start eating pastry. In the meantime I just got the urge for something cheesy and creamy and thick and filling. Maybe my body is telling me it’s time to fatten up for the winter or maybe I’m just addicted to cheese. Either way this pie is less pie and more sort of creamy hot pot. No pastry, just gorgeous crispy potato slices layered on top of the stunning cheesy sauce. It’s heaven.
for the pie filing
- butter and olive oil
- 200g mushrooms – thickly sliced (i’m using a selection of mixed wild mushrooms and regular closed-cup mushrooms but quite frankly, any mushrooms will do.)
- 1 medium onion – finely chopped
- 2 leeks – thickly sliced
- 5 stalks of tenderstem broccoli – roughly chopped
- fresh herbs – i’m using rosemary and lemon thyme
for the cheesy sauce
- 500ml milk
- 4 tbsp plain flour
- 50g butter
- 100g grated strong cheddar
for the topping
- 200g potatoes – thickly sliced with skin on
- salt and pepper, olive oil
I’m using a 30cm Falcon oblong deep pie dish but any kind of dish would work here, which i’ve buttered well.
Cut your potatoes into thick slices, I like keeping the skin on and this works fine with new or small potatoes but peel them if they’re whoppers. Bring a pan of water to a gentle boil, then add the potato slices and simmer for 5 mins until par-boiled, then drain well, drizzle with olive oil and season with herbs, place the lid on and shake them about like you would with roast potatoes, then set aside.
In a large pan, melt a little butter and olive oil and saute your mushrooms gently until they are soft and golden. Just a word on cooking mushrooms – I like a low heat and plenty of butter and olive oil. I toss the mushrooms to fully coat them in the fat and then gently let them sweat until they begin to squeak in the heat, then I add a lot of freshly milled pepper and a little salt and the fresh herbs, toss them over until they begin to brown. Once cooked, take them out of the pan and set them aside.
Add a little more butter into the pan (leeks LOVE butter) and thrown in the onions and let them soften but not colour, then throw in the leeks and broccoli and saute them with the onions until soft and tender. Add the mushrooms and stir them through then set aside whilst you make the cheesy sauce.
Pour the milk into a large saucepan and add 4 tbsp plain flour and 50g butter. Turn the heat to medium and start to whisk the mixture. Keep whisking fast as the butter melts and the mixture comes to the boil – the flour will disappear and the sauce will begin to thicken. Whisk for another 2 mins while the sauce bubbles then stir in 100g grated strong cheddar cheese until melted.
Pour the leek and mushroom mix into the cheese sauce and stir well, then pour the whole lot into your pie dish.
Carefully lay the potatoes on top of the filling in a pattern (or not) of your choosing and bake on 170C for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are gloriously golden.
eat and of course, enjoy!