The value of pie

Wed 13 Jul 2011 @ 14:51
Author Paul Dring

Today, lunch was on the boss, as the magazine's editor Andy scooted his way into the office with a whopping great Allotment Pie – a Greek-style filo affair prepared with fresh veg from his own plot.

Last year, Andy secured an allotment pitch near where he lives in west London. Since then he's planted plenty of vegetables - broad beans, runner beans, garlic, onions, lettuces, artichokes, cardoons and tomatoes, and fresh herbs such as dill and mint. At this time of year he goes to his plot every night after work to water his plants and enjoys the atmosphere of the place.

"I like the neighbours," he says. "This lovely Jamaican guy near me grows a lot of kidney beans for his rice and peas and weeds his plot with a machete. Some people keep bees, chickens, pigeons, even ducks. There are all sorts of brilliant people there."

The idea of the Allotment Pie was conceived when Andy harvested his swiss chard and thought, 'What am I going to do with it all?' Starting at six this morning, he sautéed onions and spring onions from the allotment, along with his fresh mint and dill as well as dried mint and oregano. When the onions had softened, he added his washed, chopped chard – stalks and leaves - and cooked it for a further 30 minutes. While the veg mixture was cooling, Andy then mixed together three beaten eggs, pepper, and feta and manouri (a semi-soft Greek cheese, slightly milder than feta, though if you can't find it, just use feta).

The pie was to be baked in a metal tray usually used for baking baklava. "They're just the right size because they designed to take exactly two packs of filo pastry," Andy says. He spread the base of the tray with the first pack, brushing each sheet with melted butter, then spread over the chard-mixture filling, before topping with the second pack of filo and sprinkling over a little of the Lebanese thyme-and-sesame seasoning, za'atar. All that remained was to cut the pie before putting it in the oven ("otherwise you get shards of filo splintering everywhere when you try to cut into it"), sprinkle over a little water to stop it burning, and put it in the oven for between 45 minutes to an hour at 180C.

The pie turned out beautifully, although Andy did experience a few hiccups actually bringing it into the office. "I managed to lock myself out of my flat, with me on one side of the door and the pie on the other," he admits. Happily for me and my hungry colleagues, a quick phone call to an emergency locksmith meant that we were able to tuck into the fruits of his labours.

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