The other night Ash was part of a volunteer team cooking up a feast of quiches and pies (450~?) for the homeless people in Sydney. Oz Harvest is a charity that collects leftover food and ingredients from shops and restaurants, and feeds it to the people on the street. Such a wonderful way to a) improve the quality of life for people who are suffering disadvantage, and b) reducing the ‘waste’ food we so thoughtlessly discard.
He came home with a few culinary tips picked up from the chef who had volunteered to run the night. First was garlic; to get the strongest garlic flavour, add garlic close to the end of cooking. Apparently when you cook it for a long time it goes ‘nutty’ and loses a lot of its potency. In stir-fries and other quickly-cooked meals this isn’t such a problem, but for recipes that require long simmering or baking times, it matters. Second, they cut the sheets of pastry into squares instead of circles, allowing the edges to become all crispy. This eliminated waste, and made for a more rustic-looking pie.
So tonight when I was in the mood to make pies, I took on his suggestion, and rather than cut out circles and then cut out a second set of circles for lids, I just cut my pastry sheets into squares. No pastry trimmings thrown away and guess what, I didn’t even need lids! The little pointed corners joined together at the top of each pie, closing them in perfectly and looking super cute!
The filling is an intriguing mix of lentils, shiitake and broccoli, seasoned with Chinese-style flavours and a generous amount of sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are a great source of calcium and healthy fats, and we all want strong bones. Lentils, mushrooms and greens are rich in protein and incredibly high in fibre and other nutrients. So they’re healthy as far as pies go, while being delicious. How cool are they.
I made 12 mini-pies, and ate my pie ‘naked’ (just the leftover filling, no pastry). Up to you if you’d rather eat the filling on it’s own or put it in a pastry shell. It’s not very pretty on it’s own, but it still tastes just fine.
Little Lentil Pies (serves at least 5)
I used a black/purple carrot here, which dyed the entire filling a deep purple. These just happened to be at my local fruit’n’veg for not much more than ordinary orange carrots, so I bought them instead. They’re higher in antioxidants, not as sweet, and a little tougher. If you use ordinary carrot you’ll just have a brilliant orange filling rather than deep purple, and the taste will be slightly sweeter.
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, grated
- 5 mushrooms, chopped (I used shiitake)
- 1 heaped tsp minced ginger
- 3 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 cubes frozen spinach (1/3 box)
- 1 head broccoli, chopped into small florets and pieces of stalk
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp mushroom oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp black Chinese vinegar
- 1 tsp Chinese five-spice
- 3 sheets shortcrust pastry
- Boil the lentils in 2-3 cups of water until tender and pretty mushy.
- Lightly spray or grease a 12-hole 1/2 cup muffin tin and preheat the oven to 180C.
- Over high heat in a large pan, saute the onion, carrot and mushrooms in water until the onion is soft.
- Add the ginger and sesame seeds and saute until fragrant.
- Add the lentils with any of the water you cooked them in, spinach and broccoli, lower heat, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the spinach has defrosted and the broccoli is cooked.
- Add the sauces, vinegar and spice. Stir and taste to check that it’s good. It should be thick enough that if you scrap a spoon across the bottom of the pan, no liquid runs back. If it’s not that thick yet, take the lid off and simmer until it is.
- Cut the pastry into 4 squares per sheet, and tuck a square into each muffin hole.
- Spoon the filling into the pastry, taking care not to over-fill (there’ll be 1-2 cups of leftover filling; you can make extra pies or just eat the filling on it’s own). Pinch the corners together to make a ‘lid’ for your pies.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is golden with browned edges.
- Serve with salad. Lots and lots of salad. You can never have too much salad.
p.s. Ash and I had just done a workout, and his comment on the pies was ‘Mmm… man food’.