You can't beat a good pie in winter, or at any time, really, be it cheese and potato pie with savoy cabbage or blood orange and vanilla shaker pie
Crumbly, buttery, flaky: I'd happily eat a pie with nothing in the middle if the pastry were good enough. Combine that with a hot filling, savoury or sweet, and there is little more satisfying in the depths of winter. Both this week's pies use 10-minute homemade pastry, but buy a good all-butter shortcrust if you prefer. One bonus of making your own is using leftovers for cheese straws, rollovers, tarts and the rest.
Cheese, savoy and potato pie
Pies are traditional peasant food, but this deeply comforting, herb-laden version adds a layer of luxury to the cabbage and potato with rich cheese and smoky lardons. It just needs a crisp green salad on the side. You will need a 20cm pie dish. Serves four.
3 onions, peeled and finely sliced
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, picked
1/2 bunch fresh sage, picked and shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
300g floury potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 2mm-thick slices
250g savoy cabbage, shredded
130g smoked lardons
200g Lancashire cheese, grated
For the pastry
120g cold butter, plus extra for greasing
200g self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten
First make the pastry. Cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with a pinch of salt until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs (you can do this in a food processor). Add two to three tablespoons of iced water, until the dough just comes together, then knead for a few minutes, wrap in cling-film and put in the fridge.
For the filling, melt 40g butter in a pan over a medium heat, add the onions, thyme, sage and a good pinch of salt, and fry for 10-15 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Stir in the spuds, add a pinch of salt, some pepper and 250ml water, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft but holding their shape.
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and blanch the savoy until just tender - about five minutes - then drain and leave to steam dry. Put the lardons and remaining butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and, once they have taken on some colour and released some fat, stir in the cabbage and set aside.
Roll out two-thirds of the pastry and use it to line the base and sides of a buttered pie dish. Spread half the onion and potato mix on the base of the pie, and top first with half the cabbage and then with half the cheese. Repeat the three layers, and roll out the remaining pastry for the lid. Rub a little water around the edges of the pie, put the lid on top and crimp the edges to seal. Cut three slashes across the middle of the lid, so hot air can escape, then brush with beaten egg and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden. Leave to rest for 15 minutes before eating.
Blood orange and vanilla shaker pie
Thomasina Miers' blood orange and vanilla shaker pie
Thomasina Miers' blood orange and vanilla shaker pie: 'A crazily good pie.' Photograph: Johanna Parkin for the Guardian. Food styling: Jack Sargeson
I can't get enough of blood oranges when they're in season. Here, they are macerated, skin and all, then layered with a makeshift curd for a crazily good pie. Serve with thick cream. You will need a one-litre pie dish. Serves six to eight.
5 blood oranges
250g golden caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g butter, melted and cooled
3 tbsp self-raising flour
For the pastry
315g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
225g very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
15g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, separated
1-2 tbsp granulated sugar, to finish
A day ahead, wash and dry the oranges, then top, tail and slice them as thin as you can (ideally with a mandolin). Toss in a bowl with the sugar and salt, cover and leave somewhere cool overnight.
Make the dough ahead of time, too. In a food processor, or with the tips of your fingers, mix the flour and butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, salt and egg yolk, then add cold water a tablespoon at a time until it just comes together - you'll need four to six tablespoons in all. Knead for a minute or so, then wrap in cling-film and leave overnight in the fridge.
The next day, heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. On a floured surface, roll out two-thirds of the dough and line the buttered pie dish, leaving a few centimetres overhang.
Beat the eggs, vanilla and melted butter, sieve in the flour and beat smooth. Stir in the oranges and juice, and pour into the pie shell.
Wet the edges of the pastry with water, roll out the remaining pastry and place over the filling, then press and crimp to seal. Beat the egg white until frothy, and brush over the top. Sprinkle on the sugar, and cut slits in the lid. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes, turn down the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until golden. Leave to cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
And for the rest of the week...
Make double the cheese pie pastry and use the extra for a delicious onion tart. Roll out and place on a greased rectangular baking sheet. Sweat five or six onions in butter for 25 minutes, until dark, silky and caramelised, spread over the pastry, dot with black olives, anchovies and thyme, and bake. Excess lardons, cabbage, potatoes and herbs make a warming Alpine-style soup: sweat until soft, add stock and serve with gruyere-topped slices of baked baguette. Buy masses of blood oranges and use them in salads - they go so well with the season's bitter leaves: chicory, radicchio, treviso, castelfranco and even rocket. Use up excess sweet pastry in delightfully easy jam rollovers.
Thomasina Miers is co-owner of the Wahaca group of Mexican restaurants.. Her latest book, Chilli Notes, is published by Hodder & Stoughton at £25. To order a copy for £20, go to bookshop.theguardian.com
Follow Thomasina on Twitter
Top Photo: Thomasina Miers' cheese, savoy and potato pie: 'Deeply comforting.' Photograph: Johanna Parkin for the Guardian. Food styling: Jack Sargeson
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