Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Nigella Lawson's Spinach, Ricotta and Bulgur Wheat Pie
A homemade pie just screams domestic goddess. This was my vegetarian offering for the lunch we hosted on Sunday, and I was incredibly pleased with how it turned out, especially considering that I was so distracted and making a zillion other things at once. It's kinda like a vegetarian version of a pork pie - all crumbly pastry and high sides.
It comes from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess, one of my favourite baking books. It's more well-known for its sweet recipes, but deserves equal attention for its delectable savouries (e.g. lamachun, courgette and chickpea filo pie, garlic and parsley hearthbreads...)
For this pie, you start by making shortcrust pastry (using Nigella's super-easy freezer method), and then lazily stir together all the ingredients for the filling. The most strenuous part of the whole process is squeezing all the excess liquid out of the defrosted (frozen) spinach and soaked bulgar wheat. It's a pain, but it's got to be done, otherwise you'll have a soggy-bottomed pie.
I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of the filling - it was firm and not soggy at all.
I think it could look quite smart without a separate piece of pastry on top - just by folding over the excess base pastry around the sides. (You'd probably need a larger piece than I used though; I think a one-inch border would look best). Anyway, this time I followed the recipe to the letter, placing a smaller disc of pastry on top, folding the edges over and sealing them down with a fork. Then brush with eggwash, and bake!
Nigella writes that she likes this pie best 25 minutes after it's come out of the oven, and with all the hustle and bustle of Sunday, it was about that much time before I managed to slice into it.
It was a little crumbly, but each slice held its shape really well. The pastry also tasted great and had a wonderful short texture (I love Nigella's pastry method!). My only issue with the pie is that it was a little bland - I forgot ricotta is like a black hole for flavour, absorbing the flavour of anything near it. When I make this again, I'll definitely double all the seasoning ingredients (salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon zest, thyme), and fold through some cubes of feta. I wouldn't go so far as to replace all the ricotta with feta, as it might affect the texture of the finished pie.