This is a good recipe for those in-between spring days, when the weather isn’t cold enough to feel like beef casserole and dumplings but is sufficiently chilly that you want something hot and satisfying. It’s a very flexible recipe, so you can chop and change the vegetables according to taste and availability – a great user-up of the odds and ends in the bottom of the fridge. And it happens to be vegetarian (vegan if you use only vegetable shortening in the pastry), so it rather suits Lent.
If using dried beans, remember to soak them overnight.
Bean and vegetable pie (serves 2)
3 oz (approx 80 g) plain flour
1.5 ox (approx 40 g) fat (half butter and half lard, or all butter, or vegetable shortening, according to taste)
3 oz (approx 80 g) dried butter beans, haricot beans or canellini beans
Half an onion
4 oz (approx 120 g) carrots
4 oz (approx 120 g) mushrooms
4 oz (approx 120 g) leeks
Stick of celery
4 oz (approx 120 g) tinned chopped tomatoes (or fresh chopped tomatoes if preferred)
Butter or cooking oil for frying
1 Tablespoon (1 x 15 ml spoon) flour
0.25 pint (approx 150 ml) stock, water, or the water the beans were cooked in
1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) dried mixed herbs
Rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add a little cold water and mix, adding more water if necessary until the mixture forms a soft dough. (If it is still floury and flaky you need to add a few drops more water; if it is sticky you’ve added too much water and need to add some more flour).
Or you can buy ready-made shortcrust pastry if you prefer.
If you prefer a different sort of pastry, e.g. flaky pastry or puff pastry, feel free to use it instead.
Soak the dried beans overnight in cold water, or cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 1-2 hours.
Rinse two or three times, then put the soaked beans in a saucepan with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for an hour or so until the beans are cooked, topping up the water if necessary. Dried beans vary in their cooking times, so check the instructions on the packet. Beans are cooked when they are soft all the way through.
If you prefer, you can use tinned beans, in which case you’ll need about twice as much weight as for dried beans. Tinned beans are usually also already cooked, but check the label.
Peel and chop the onion.
Peel and dice the carrots.
Peel and slice the mushrooms and leeks.
Wash and slice the celery.
Heat butter or cooking oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion and other vegetables until beginning to soften and colour.
Stir in the tablespoon of flour, mixing well so that it coats the vegetables.
Pour in the stock or water.
Bring to the boil, stirring until thickened. Add the chopped tomatoes and herbs, and season with salt and black pepper.
Stir in the cooked beans.
Pour the filling mixture into a greased ovenproof pie dish.
Roll out the pastry to make a lid, and put this on top of the pie filling. Trim the pastry edges. If feeling so inclined, roll out the pastry scraps to make decorations, e.g. leaves, and arrange these on top of the pie.
Brush with milk.
Bake in a hot oven (200 C) for 30-40 minutes until the pie crust is golden brown.
Serve with roast potatoes (which need the same cooking temperature and so can share the oven with the pie), and vegetables or salad of your choice.
You can make a double quantity of the pie filling and freeze half for later use.
The vegetables are a matter of personal choice, so if you don’t like one of the vegetables I suggest, just replace it with something you do like, or miss it out and use more of one of the others.