Wheatsheaf harvest pie
The centrepiece of most harvest celebrations, from at least the Middle Ages to today, has been the Harvest Supper, so we’ve tried to come up with a seasonal recipe, fit for a harvest feast. We decided against trying to recreate the Elizabethan banquet described in Robert Herrick’s (1591–1674) poem, ‘The Hock-Cart or Harvest Home’:
Ye shall see first the large and chief
Foundation of your feast, fat beef:
With upper stories, mutton, veal
And bacon (which makes full the meal),
With sev'ral dishes standing by,
As here a custard, there a pie,
And here all-tempting frumenty.
Our harvest meal does feature a pie, one that combines seasonal vegetables, mushrooms, chestnuts and pulses. It’s made special, we hope, by the wheatsheaf decoration, which reproduces the harvest loaves that provided the focal point of the harvest festival displays of my childhood, complete with a little pastry mouse.
For the filling
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1–1.5 cm dice
2 celery sticks, sliced
125 g mushrooms, halved or quartered
1 small to medium squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2 cm cubes
½ tsp of chilli flakes
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
180 g of peeled roasted chestnuts
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 sprig of sage
1 x 400 g tin of Biona Aduki beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400 g tin of Biona tomatoes
300 ml of mushroom stock made by soaking 10 g dried porcini in boiling water (or from a cube)
For the pastry
500g Marriages plain white flour
250g very cold butter or hard margarine
½ tsp of salt
150–200 ml chilled water
1 egg beaten with a splash of milk to glaze
Making the filling
On a low to medium setting, heat 2 tbsp of oil in a heavy cast-iron casserole for which you have a lid. Prepare each vegetable in turn and add to the pan in the order listed. With the lid on, sweat until the vegetables are starting to soften (poke the carrots with a fork as they may be the most recalcitrant). Add the chilli flakes, garlic and chestnuts towards the end of the time sweating.
Add the herbs, aduki beans, tinned tomatoes and stock (along with the rehydrated porcini if using) and bring to a simmer for twenty minutes. Taste and season accordingly. Allow to cool completely before topping with pastry.
Making the pastry
Put the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Coarsely grate the butter or margarine directly into the flour, pausing three or four times to stir the grated fat into the flour with a rounded table knife. Once all the fat is coated in flour, give it a final stir to make sure the fat is thoroughly mixed, but don’t break the fat up into breadcrumbs. Stir 150 ml of the water into the flour with the knife. Then, with your hands, try to squish the mixture to see if it will come together to form a dough. You may need to stir in the remaining 50 ml to get the dough to form, but try to use as little water as possible, so the resulting pastry isn’t too sticky. Mould the pastry into a ball, put it back in the bowl, cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Assembling the pie
We found that the filling fitted nicely into an oval 1.8 litre dish, which was 27 cm long. Roll out half the pastry and, with the dish upturned, cut round the rim of the dish with a sharp knife. Cut a strip the width of the rim of the dish from the remaining pastry. Put the cold filling into the dish and brush the rim with a little water. Press the thin strip of pastry onto the rim, then brush it with water and lower the pie lid into place. Crimp the lid to the pastry strip with the base of a table knife and knock
the edges up with the back of the knife to fully seal the two. Brush with egg wash and then construct your wheatsheaf decoration (see side panel). When the decoration is complete, brush again with egg-wash and put into an oven pre-heated to 175°C for 40 minutes, until the pastry is cooked and golden and the filling is piping hot.