A couple of weekends ago, I defrosted the freezer. At first, it was pure embarassment - huge chunks of ice fell from the sides and I needed copious amounts of Lakeland defrosting stuff to gently release the drawer that hasn't opened properly for months. But then it was pure joy as I put all the food back into baskets that now slid easily open and a top cabinet that seemed vast after I'd removed the iceberg inside. Attention turned to the bottom of the fridge where there's been a build-up of root veg. I loved the look of a Denis Cotter recipe for a Moroccan spiced root veg pie - this is my adaptation based on what was knocking around in the kitchen. It really is gorgeous.
Spiced root veg pie (adapted from Denis Cotter's Cafe Paridiso Cookbook)
400g root veg - I used two fat carrots, a parsnip and half a celeriac
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp black mustard seeds (which I misread and ended up with 2 tbs in the pan - not a problem as I love mustard seeds)
The spice mix: 1 dried chilli, 6 cloves, 2 tsp coriander seeds, 1 star anise, all ground, plus 1/4 tsp cinnamon, several gratings of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp turmeric
150 ml tub single cream
1/2 tsp salt
zest of an orange
100g almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 egg yolk
100g melted butter
Chop your roots into small dice and boil them for a few minutes until they're just tender; add the peas and cook for another couple of minutes. Drain and put in them in a large bowl. Fry the shallots and garlic in a little groundnut oil. Add the mustard seeds, then a couple of minutes later, the other spices.
After a minute, add the cream, salt and zest and cook for another couple of minutes. Pour the spiced cream over the roots and mix in gently with a spoon.
When the mixture has cooled down, add the almonds and the egg yolk.
Now it's time to wrestle with the filo pastry. I couldn't find my usual Tottenham turkish brand, and ended up with a packet of frozed Jus-rol filo. The sheets of pastry were enormous and there wasn't a surface big enough to cope with them fully unfurled, so it was a bit of a juggling match. I used an old pie plate as a base but a flan tin or shallow cake tin would be just as good. Lay out a filo sheet on the plate and brush it with melted butter. Turn the tin by about 30 degrees and lay another sheet on top of the first. Brush with butter again. Continue adding and turning until you have an overlap of pastry that will enrobe your pie filling. Then pile the root mix onto the plate.
Then fold the overlapping pastry back over the roots, brushing with butter as each layer covers the pie. Filo is brittle so you need to work quickly, but Jus-rol isn't quite as thin as my usual brand, so the folding is less fraught.
Bake at gas mark 5 for around 30-40 mins - it's ready when the pastry is golden.
I followed Denis's advice and served the pie with couscous and a yoghurty-minty-cucumber sauce. The pie tastes superb: comfortingly rooty with warming spicey tones. The filling would make a lovely pasty filling, or a base for a veggy sheperd's pie. Or a side dish...