This delicious vegetarian pie, containing yummy courgettes (zucchini), tomatoes, and lots more goodies,is a recipe from the first posh (=hardback!) vegetarian cook book I bought with my own money, back in 1992 – The Good Housekeeping Complete Book of Vegetarian Cookery by Janet Smith. It’s a fab book, and one of the most used in my collection, and still very on trend, with the focus on delicious vegetables and pulses, drawing on the best vegetarian cuisines of the world (Mediterranean and Indian recipes feature prominently) for its inspiration.
This pie has a yeasted flour and cornmeal (polenta/maize meal) dough crust, and is packed with lovely flavours and textures that make every mouthful an absolute pleasure. I wondered why it was described as ‘Catalan’ (knowing nothing about Catalan cuisine I am ashamed to say) – and found this article by Claudia Roden, in which she says:
Catalans are known for mixing savoury with sweet and sweet with sour… raisins and pine nuts are common garnishes.
So I could immediately see the influence, as the recipe contains just that kind of mix of savoury and sweetness, with pine nuts and raisins. Hope you enjoy it if you give it a try.
For the dough:
- 150 ml warm water
- 5g dried yeast (fast action if you like), or 10g fresh yeast
- 175g strong white flour
- 50g fine cornmeal (also known as polenta, or maize meal)
- 1 level tbsp sugar
- 1 level tsp salt
For the filling:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 small red chilli (or 1/2 tsp chilli powder) – adjust heat to taste
- 400g fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 large courgette, chopped into small pieces (quarter the courgettes lengthways, then slice into 1/4inch pieces)
- 3 eggs
- 40g raisins
- 2 tbsp capers
- 40g pine nuts
- salt and pepper to taste
You’ll also need a large rectangular baking sheet, lined with baking parchment, or lightly oiled.
- If you are using yeast that needs to be dissolved in water, add it to the warm water and allow it to dissolve. Measure the flour and cornmeal into a large bowl and stir in the salt and the sugar (if you are using fast action yeast, stir it into the flour now). Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm water/warm water and yeast mixture. Bring together to make a dough, then turn out onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Pop the dough into a bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rise whilst you are making the filling.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan (choose one with a lid), add the onions, garlic and chilli, and cook over a medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until the onions are beginning to turn golden, then turn the heat low, cover the pan, and let the mixture cook for 15-20 minutes until very soft.
- Whilst you are cooking the onions, hard boil the eggs, and leave them submerged (unshelled) in cold water until you need them later.
- Add the tomatoes and courgette and cook gently until you have a very thick sauce (this is important, otherwise the pie base will be very doughy).
- Peel and chop the eggs roughly, and stir into the sauce, and finally stir in the raisins, capers and pine nuts, and then leave the sauce to cool.
- Preheat your oven to 220C, Gas Mark 8.
- Sprinkle your work surface with flour, divide the risen dough in half, then roll and press out one half to a rough rectangle, measuring about 33cm by 25cm (13in x 10in) or equivalent (whatever large rectangle shape will fit on your baking tray). Do persevere with this, it gets quite thin, but you can patch up any broken bits once you have moved it to the baking tray – it’s quite forgiving. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking tray.
- Spread the sauce over the dough, leaving about 1cm free of sauce, all round the edge. Roll out the other half of the dough (again, persevere!) and use it to cover the filling. Press the edges of the dough together, folding the bottom edge up over the top and folding the whole lot upwards, using a little bit of water to help stick it all together. If you get any holes/thin bits of dough, you can pinch off bits of the crust to make patches, and use water and a sprinkling of cornmeal to hold it all in place. Don’t worry… it’s rustic!
- Sprinkle the top of the pie with cornmeal, cover loosely with a clean cloth, and leave to rise for about 20-30 minutes.
- Bake for 20 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Then remove from the oven and leave to cool a little on the baking tray. You can serve the pie warm or cold. It’s lovely with a green salad and lashings of mayonnaise.