I came up with this recipe in defiant response to the constant “but what will you eat on Christmas Day?” questions from the non-vegans in my life. Let’s be clear, vegans can have as delicious a Christmas dinner as anyone else, and you don’t have to rely on meat replacements and the like if you don’t want to.
This pie is tasty, indulgent, Christmassy, and comes with the added bonus of working really well the next day, to eat cold with pickles and Bubble and Squeak on Boxing Day! It’s also really easy to put together, and doesn’t require any specialist ingredients, meaning that even if you’re back with your grandparents in the deep countryside, you should be able to get your hands on everything you need.
Don’t be daunted by the number of steps below, nothing in this pie is hugely technical, and you can swap out ingredients you don’t like for ones you prefer (if you hate parsnips, bring in more carrots, or celeriac – you could even include some gently roasted sprouts here if you wanted. The only thing to bear in mind is the overall water content and stability of the elements of the pie – if there are too many squishy things in there, the pie won’t hold and the pastry will get a bit soggy).
Makes a 10 inch x 6 inch rectangular pie, large enough to feed 4 hungry Christmas guests with a bit leftover for Boxing Day.
I use a veganized version of Delia’s quick flaky pastry which is quite rich – you can use your favourite shortcrust recipe if you prefer:
- 225g plain flour
- 175g butter alternative
- A pinch of salt
- Cold water, to mix
Sift the flour into a bowl, and then add the butter. It’s best to do this with the butter as cold as possible, and in pieces as small as possible. If you’re using a block (Stork, for example, is incidentally vegan) you can grate it in. If you’re using a tub, I’d suggest just using your finger to push small amounts of the fat off the spoon into the flour (but be wary of warming it up too much with your hands). Once all the fat is dotted around the flour, begin to rub them together. I do this by hand (even though Delia says it’s naughty because hands are warm), just rubbing the flour between fingertips until the mixture is even and crumbly. If you’re more patient than me, you can do this with a knife. Add enough water just to bring the mixture together (though you can always add more flour if it gets too wet) and, when the dough is a single ball, wrap it in cling film and rest it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Be careful not to overwork the dough, or it will be slightly tough to eat once cooked.
For the filling:
- 3 parsnips
- 3 carrots
- 1 small butternut squash
- 1 big (or 2 small) leeks
- 340g fresh (or frozen) cranberries
- 450g chestnuts (either fresh and raw, or those vac-packed ones you can get these days!)
- 1 large onion
- 1 lemon
- 100g breadcrumbs
- 40g + 1 tbsp vegetable spread/butter alternative
- Olive oil
- A generous pinch of red pepper flakes (if you can get them, paprika if you can’t)
- 1 good handful of fresh rosemary, stripped from the stalks and roughly chopped
- 2 good handfusl of fresh sage, roughly chopped
- Salt & Pepper
- Whole nutmeg (ground is OK if you can’t get whole, though most big supermarkets have it)
- Stuffing (you can use a pre-made mix, most of which are vegan-friendly, or make your own using the recipe below)
- First things first, prep your pastry and get it chilling whilst you assemble the other elements
- Prep the carrots and parsnips by scrubbing (and peeling if necessary), then chopping into rough even-sized chunks, slightly larger than 1 inch cubes.
- Toss the carrots and parsnips into a roasting tray with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and the rosemary and red pepper flakes
- Peel the butternut squash and cut into similar sized cubes, discarding the seeds in the centre (or saving them for later*)
- Toss the butternut squash into a separate roasting tray with some olive oil, salt and pepper, half of the chopped fresh sage and a generous grating of whole nutmeg (ground is fine if you can’t get whole, I just find whole is more fragrant)
- Roast both trays of veg for around 15-20 minutes at 180c, or until soft and slightly golden around the edges. When they’re done, just set them aside until you’re ready to assemble the pie.
- Whilst these are roasting, prep your chestnuts for roasting (if you haven’t got the vac-packed ones). First, score each chestnut – I’ve tried loads of methods for this, and find that scoring a crescent shape like a big smiley face on the flat side of the chestnut makes for the easiest peeling, but a cross on the flat side is also effective. Once all the chestnuts are scored, place them on a baking tray and into a hot oven () for (minutes). You’ll need to act relatively quickly to peel them, as the skins begin to stick back down as they cool – you’ll definitely need oven gloves and a sharp knife to pry the skins off. It sounds like a chore, but it makes the kitchen smell amazing, and is one of those really satisfying festive tasks best done by a group of you with a drink and a mince pie. Once they’re all peeled, roughly chop them and set them aside for pie assembly.
- Whilst the chestnuts are in the oven, wash the leeks and chop them into rough rounds about half an inch thick. Soften them up in a saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of your butter alternative, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Set these aside too – now you’re building up a nice lot of set aside elements for pie assembly!
- For the cranberry layer, there will most likely be a recipe for cranberry sauce on your packet, but I keep it really simple – put 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and add the cranberries. Bring back to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, as the cranberries begin to break up. Ideally, you’ll be able to let this sit for a little before adding to the pie, as it thickens up wonderfully as it cools, but if you haven’t the time don’t worry, it’ll permeate the pie deliciously!
- Next, the stuffing. If a packet mix feels more manageable then go for it – Christmas is stressful enough! If, however, you’re game for it, this is super easy, I promise! Sweat one large onion in 40g of your butter alternative, add the remaining half of the fresh chopped sage and a generous helping of salt and pepper, grate in the zest of the lemon and cook for a few seconds. Take off the heat and stir the breadcrumbs through, allowing them to pick up the butter and onion and distribute the seasonings. Done!
- Now, the fun part! Divide your pastry into 2, with one portion of around 1/3, and the other around 2/3 of the dough. Roll out the larger portion – you probably want it around 3mm/1/8 of an inch thick, and big enough to cover your pie dish bottom and sides
- Place the parsnips and carrots onto the pastry as the bottom layer of the pie, trying to get a good mixture.
- Sprinkle over the chestnuts, and then layer on the leeks
- Now layer on the butternut squash, and pour over the cranberry sauce
- Finish with the stuffing, either as a layer of its own, or rolled into balls to hold up the pastry lid if you prefer
- Roll out the smaller portion of pastry to the same thickness, and cover the pie. Pinch the sides and top of the pastry together and cut off any excess
- Cut a small hole in the top of the pastry to allow steam out, and decorate the top with any leftover pastry shaped into leaves, letters, or whatever takes your fancy!
- Gently and lightly brush the top with some soya milk for a shiny finish, and bake until the pastry is golden brown, around 15-20 minutes, at 180c
- Serve with all the usual trimmings and a generous slug of onion gravy
P.s. If you miss that Boxing Day sandwich, like Lewis, don’t hold back…