You won’t believe how tasty the courgettes get with this method of cooking – it really does take them to another level. You’ve got to find some Lincolnshire Poacher, it’s an amazing cheese made by the very talented Jones brothers, Simon and Tim (see www.lincolnshirepoachercheese.com). The pastry is rich and amazing, so embrace the fact that it’s really crumbly and will definitely break as you’re making it. I’m serving this with a lemony salad and sweet salt-baked shallots, which will get caramelized and gorgeous and pick up the seasoning from the bed of salt. This method is also a great one for beetroots, so if you like this, try that.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Blitz the flour and butter in a food processor with a pinch of salt and a few good pinches of pepper until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Tip on to a work surface, make a well in the centre and add 100ml of cold water. Gently mix until it starts to come together, then – most importantly for a short, crumbly pastry – have the confidence to only just press, pat and almost hug it together to form a rough scruffy ball. Please don’t be tempted to knead the dough or it won’t be short and crumbly. Pop it into a floured bowl, cover with clingfilm and put into the fridge to chill while you make the filling.
Put a drizzle of olive oil into a large pan on a medium heat and pick in the leaves from half the bunch of thyme. Add a few gratings of nutmeg, the zest of half the lemon, the sliced courgettes and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook gently (the courgettes will cook down and become easier to handle), stirring occasionally, for around 25 minutes. Then turn the heat down to low and cook for another 20 minutes, so the courgette mixture becomes dense and the flavours really intensify and sweeten. Allow to cool a little, finely chop and crumble in the cheese, then chop and add the mint leaves. Set aside.
Halve the pastry and roll each half into a circle just under 1cm thick and slightly larger than the pie dish you’ve chosen (roughly 23cm diameter x 4cm deep). Don’t worry if the pastry breaks up – that’s normal. Just patch it. Roll one of the circles around the rolling pin and carefully unroll it over the pie dish. Gently press the pastry into the corners and sides of the dish, then spoon and spread all your courgette mixture into the dish. Carefully unroll the pastry lid over the top, then flour your thumb and forefinger and gently pinch and crimp the edges together. Trim off any excess pastry and brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg.
Now simply throw the rock salt into a roasting tray with the shallots, still with their skins on, and a few thyme tips. Put the pie right at the bottom of the oven, with the tray of shallots above. Cook for 1 hour, or until the pie is golden, then allow to cool and serve with those soft roasted shallots.
PS: All the leftover salt from baking the shallots can be bashed up and reused.