Saturday, March 22, 2014

Baker's Corner: Vegetable Pot Pie



So I've been MIA for a few days now haven't I? It wasn't intentional really. I have so many recipe drafts ready which can keep my blog going without having me breaking into a cold sweat. But I discovered that it was time to feature my Baker's Corner segment and none of the recipe posts that I had on hold were baking-related. Off late, I've been baking a lot of desserts and the last few recipes on my blog have been traditional regional Indian cuisine. I was thinking of a savoury bake, something on the lines of lasagne or cannelloni but I couldn't quite make up my mind. I asked my husband what dish I should bake next and he said 'pot pie' before I had even finished asking the question! For a food blogger who often gets stumped with what to cook next, it helps to have someone at home who has such specific food cravings doesn't it?!

A pot pie is a mixture of meat and/or vegetables made in a pot, hence the name "pot pie”. Although there are crustless varieties, I went for the type of pot pie which is baked in a casserole dish lined with a crust. I've had pot pies before and I like them. I'd never tried making them myself though. While browsing recipe websites a few months ago, I saw an interesting variation of a vegetable pocket pie which had a vegetable pot pie filling encased in a short-crust pocket and baked till golden. That image stayed with me for a while and I thought of re-creating the recipe exactly as I had seen it. But fast forward to the present where I've received a request for a pot pie. I thought to myself - "Okay....let's try this dish the traditional way then".

I buy puff pastry and filo pastry from the frozen section of the grocery store. Having no experience with short-crust pastry before, I thought I shouldn't take any risks and just buy the store-bought variety. Unfortunately I didn't find it in the grocery store (to be completely honest, I didn't look very hard!). A conversation with a gastronomically gifted friend brought me to the realization that making short-crust pastry at home is really easy and it can be done within 15 min. I watched a youtube video of Gordon Ramsay making short-crust pastry and I was relieved that this was something I could handle. But if you want to get the ready made stuff, please go ahead and do so. I would be the last person to judge you! For the filling, I improvised on the vegetable pocket pie filling that I mentioned earlier hoping that it would turn out the way I had in mind.

A friend had gifted me a lovely square Corelle casserole set during my housewarming ceremony and I thought the two smaller (5x5 inch) casseroles would be perfect to assemble the pot pie in. So, short-crust pastry and filling done, the only thing left to do was put together the pies and pop them in the oven. I was anxiously watching the pies in the oven since they seemed to be taking a long time to brown. But  in the end, brown they did and they came out looking good. They were scalding hot so we were forced to wait before digging our spoons in. The only thing I can say is that it was worth the wait! The crust was flaky and cooked perfectly and the filling was creamy and delicious. Hubby gave his stamp of approval and I was so glad I attempted this dish. There is no doubt in my mind that it is going to feature regularly on our weekend brunch menu


This recipe might look elaborate but trust me, it is quite easy. And since this dish can be served as main course, you don't need anything else to go alongside it.

Okay, that's quite enough of my jibber-jabber for now....won't you be a dear and check out the recipe?

Vegetable Pot Pie

Preparation time: 25 min; Cooking time: 15 min; Baking time: 30 min
Total time: ~70 min
Recipe type: Main Course
Recipe level: Easy
Serves: 2-3 (You can use 1 large deep square or round oven-safe casserole or 2-4 smaller ones depending on the size) 
Recipe source: Inspired from here 

Ingredients:

For the short-crust pastry:

200gm plain/all-purpose flour
100gm unsalted butter, chilled
a pinch of salt
~50ml ice cold water


For the vegetable filling:

1 large onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
100gm button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels 
1/2 tsp dried italian herbs + more for sprinkling into the sauce 
1/4-1/2 tsp red chilli flakes + more for sprinkling into the sauce , Optional
Salt to taste
A sprinkling of freshly crushed black pepper
150ml vegetable stock (I used a vegetable stock cube)
3 tsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp plain flour
150 ml milk
A pinch of nutmeg
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp olive oil


Method:

For the short-crust pastry:

There is an old saying that cold hands make good pastry. The first golden rule of making shortcrust pastry is to keep the ingredients, the mixing bowl and your hands as cool as possible. The cold butter can be rubbed into the flour and salt either with your hands or using a food processor (which you can chill prior to use). Since I tend to have very warm hands in general, I used a food processor to do this. 


1. Just add in the ingredients into the food processor and pulse it until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you are doing it by hand, place the flour, butter and salt into a large chilled bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, working as quickly as possible to prevent the dough becoming warm.


2. Make a well in the middle, add the ice cold water to the mixture and use your fingers in a whisk kind of motion to stir until the dough lightly binds together. Do not over knead. Add more cold water a teaspoon at a time if the mixture is too dry.



3. Wrap the dough in cling-film / plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes.



For the filling:

1. Wash and chop all the vegetables. If you are using frozen sweet corn kernels, thaw it.


2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet or large frying pan, add the diced onions and sauté till translucent. Add in the minced garlic and fry until the raw smell disappears. Now add in the diced carrots and fry for 2 min. Now add in the broccoli florets and cook the vegetables over a medium-low heat for 5 min, stirring every now and then. 


3. Add in the corn kernels and chopped mushrooms and give the ingredients a mix.


4. Now add the vegetable stock, italian herbs, red chilli flakes and salt to taste. Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are fairly soft (they will further cook in the oven so its fine if there is still a slight crunch to them).


5. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, and add the flour. Cook over a very low heat, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour. Add the milk a dash at a time, whisking continually to create a smooth mixture each time before adding more.

6. When all the milk has been added and the mixture is smooth, add a pinch of nutmeg, black pepper and if desired, a sprinkling more of dried italian herbs and chilli flakes. If you are using grated parmesan, add it in now. There is no need to season the sauce with salt if you add in the parmesan.  


7. Add in the vegetable mixture. Mix well to combine. If the mixture looks a little wet, simmer it gently, stirring often, for a while until it thickens to the desired consistency – that of a nice creamy sauce. If the mixture looks too dry, just add a dash more water or milk. Taste the sauce to check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. 



Assembling:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F). 

2. Spoon the vegetable mixture into the casserole or ramekins until 3/4th full.

3. Roll out the pastry dough on a cool lightly floured surface until 3mm (1/8 in) thick. Cut it in a way that it confirms to the shape and extends past the edges of the ramekins/casserole you are using. 


4. Place the dough over the casserole or ramekins, fold gently over the edges and crimp with a fork with desired. Use a sharp knife to make a slit in the dough to vent the steam. I had some leftover dough so I randomly made some lame petal designs on it! 


5. Brush with an egg wash if you want a nice glossy finish for the pastry. 

6. Bake in the preheated oven for around 30 minutes, until the tops turn golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10-15 min. 


7. Serve while still warm




I
Notes:
  • You can use vegetables of your choice in the filling like potatoes, baby corn, french beans, peas, leeks and such. 
  • The pot pie will be scalding hot when it come out of the oven so handle it carefully. Cooling it down for a 10-15 min before eating it is a must otherwise you risk burning your mouth! 
  • You can flavour the white sauce with additional seasonings of your choice like paprika, onion powder or garlic powder. 



Cheers,



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