We’re having an unusually fun week in terms of cookery. We had a bunch of people round for dinner on Wednesday, including a vegetarian or two. So the challenge… making something everyone could eat and meat-eaters would enjoy, without realising we’d duped them out of their hunk of flesh. I tend to think that aubergine is a good meat-replacement. It still has the ‘bite’ of meat, and is nicely versatile. And given that we had some beetroot arrive in our veg box, we decided to ‘de-meat’ a dish we’ve done many times before. It’s a great meal which looks impressive, but is surprisingly easy.
The original recipe is for Moroccan Spiced Pie. Below is our vegetarian version, which was a reasonably good imitation! The major differences were substituting aubergine for meat, upping the spices to compensate for the lack of depth from the lamb, and leaving out the cranberries, which would have been just too sweet without the lamb to counter-balance it. It was nice, although the spices were still a little too subtle. So for future, I would increase the cumin and coriander even further; perhaps to 2 1/2 tsp each… or better still, just keep the meat!!
500 g aubergines
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cm fresh ginger, grated
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt
4 medium carrots, grated
1/2 leek (We just happened to have this in the fridge, so chucked it in.)
2 raw beetroot
100 g pine nuts
25 g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
200 g filo pastry
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tsp harissa
200 ml Greek yogurt
2-3 tbsp milk
pinches paprika, to garnish
Cut the aubergines into 1cm cubes. Fry them in a little oil until they begin to go soft. Add the leeks, garlic, ginger, spices and seasoning and fry for 2-4 minutes. In order to grate the ginger, you may find it easiest to freeze it first. It then grates far more smoothly, without any of that stringy nastiness you usually get.
Add the carrots, beetroot, and most of the pine nuts, reserving a tablespoon for decoration. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Take it off the heat and allow to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 220C / Gas 6. Melt the oil and butter together in a pan. Brush a 28cm round loose-bottomed tin with the oil and butter, lay one sheet of the pastry in the base allowing a little to hang over the edges. Brush lightly with oil and butter and continue to layer up to 8 sheets of pastry at alternate angles so that the whole base is covered and there is plenty hanging over the edges and all round.
Pile the filling into the tin and bring the pastry up over the top, scrunching it together. Add 5 or 6 more sheets of pastry scrunched up on top to make it look interestingly textured, and drizzle with the remaining oil and butter.
Bake for 20 minutes and sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts. Continue to bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden and crisp.
Mix the harissa paste with the yoghurt and milk and sprinkle with a little paprika. Slice and serve the pie hot.
We served it with a potato salad and some spring greens, sliced and fried with cumin and garlic.