Not so long ago, vegetarians had to be content with the ‘sides’ and watch while omnivores tucked into the succulent main course. That’s all changed for the better thanks to pioneering chefs like Deliciously Ella and Ottolenghi among many others, who have taught us that vegetarian main courses can be substantial, sexy and good for people and planet.
In fact, cooking without meat is a challenge we take on gleefully here at the palace. It means we can’t rest on our laurels, especially when it comes to Christmas, as a crisp roast turkey and a glazed ham are hard acts to follow when it comes to making a strong statement on the Christmas table.
We believe this Festive Christmas Pie could hold its own at any celebration. Layered with butternut, spinach, ricotta and goat’s cheese, delicately spiced with our own Harissa Paste and encased in the most delicious Parmesan pastry, this vegetarian alternative to traditional Christmas fare is a showstopper.
With love from a festive palace
You will need
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp Pesto Princess Harissa Paste
1.5 kg butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2 cm cubes
2-3 red onions, thinly sliced
4 whole garlic cloves with skins intact
750 g baby spinach
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
250 g ricotta
50 g pine nuts, toasted
200 g soft goat’s cheese, sliced
For the pastry
350 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50 g coarse polenta
150 g cold butter, cut into cubes
60 g grated vegetarian Parmesan (or any hard cheese without animal rennet)
Pinch of salt
4-8 Tbsp cold water
1 medium free-range egg, beaten
For the pastry
1. Using a food processor, mix the flour, polenta, cold butter, Parmesan and a pinch of salt until it resembles the texture of sand. Add the tablespoons of cold water one at a time, while the food processor is running, until the dough starts clumping together.
2. Take the dough out of the food processor and form a neat ball. Knead for about five minutes either by hand or in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes in the fridge.
For the filling
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C
2. Combine the olive oil and Pesto Princess Harissa Paste. Toss the butternut pieces into this mix.
3. Scatter the harissa-coated butternut over two or three large baking trays and roast for 20-30 minutes, until fork tender and cooked through. Remove the butternut from the oven and set aside.
4. Meanwhile, add the sliced onions and garlic to another baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil. Roast for approximately 20 minutes. Once cooked, remove the onions from the oven, squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skins and leave to cool slightly.
5. Finely chop the raw spinach and wilt it in batches in a hot pan, set aside in a bowl to cool. Squeeze the wilted spinach to remove all excess water. Season with white pepper, nutmeg and a little salt before mixing with the ricotta.
For the pie
1. To assemble the pie, grease a 23 cm springform pan. On a lightly floured surface, roll out two-thirds of the pastry and use it to line the base and sides of the pan.
2. Now it’s time to layer the veggies. Start with half the butternut, then all of the spinach and ricotta mix followed by a layer of goat’s cheese discs ending with half of the pine nuts. For the second round, pile on the rest of the butternut, goat’s cheese discs, the remaining pine nuts and lastly the red onion and garlic mix.
3. Roll out the rest of the pastry, cut into a circle and lay it on top of the pie, crimping the edges to seal well. Make a steam hole in the middle (see image) and decorate with any leftover pastry. Brush with a beaten egg and chill for 20 minutes.
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 200°C until the pastry is golden brown. Leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve this splendid pie along side the other dishes in Our Vegetarian Feast and enjoy!