Recently I read the book Cold Grave by Craig Robertson. In one of the scenes…
Recently the sun has been shining and it puts a smile on everyone’s faces. Life seems so much more relaxed in the sunshine, you feel you can stop, sit a while and unwind. Food tastes much nicer eaten outside, sat round a table with friends and lively conversation. Now is the time for picnics and barbecues, before the sun decides we have had enough and runs away again. For me no picnic is complete without a picnic pie. There is something about having a nice slice of cold pie that makes it seem really like a picnic. Nestled on your plate with sandwiches and cherry tomatoes, waiting to be savoured. This weekend I decided I was going to try and make a picnic pie.
I wanted to make something that was a little bit lighter than a pork pie so I decided to use a lot of different vegetables to give it a Mediterranean flavour. A picnic pie does need some meat so I also added some chicken and chorizo sausage to run though the pie as the centre layer. This worked really well, the paprika in the chorizo balancing the vegetables and the chicken adding a subtle meaty taste. The pie does take quite a while to make, but you get a lot of servings from it so would be perfect when you have friends round. The vegetables could be prepared in advance and the pie cooked the next day.
For me it was the perfect excuse to get the picnic hamper out and enjoy dinner al fresco in the sun. With plenty of salad, a good crusty bread and a cold drink it was the perfect way to enjoy the sunshine. The different layers in the pie mingle together well and it is like a burst of summer on a plate. I also had plenty left to take to work for lunch the next day which was a bonus.
- 1 medium butternut squash
- Olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 3 red peppers
- 2 onions
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp caster sugar
- 1 aubergines sliced lengthways, 5mm thick
- 2 courgettes sliced lengthways, 5mm thick
- 600 g spinach
- 200 g cream cheese
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 100 g cheddar
- 1 chorizo sausage
- 2 chicken breasts
- 640 g shortcrust pastry
- Chop the chicken and chorizo sausage into small pieces. Add some oil to a pan and gently cook the chicken and chorizo together until the chicken is cooked though. Leave to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 200C, gas mark 6.
- Peel and chop the butternut squash into circles a few millimetres thick. Place on a baking tray and drizzle the olive oil over it. Place in the oven on the top shelf for 20 minutes.
- Chop the garlic cloves and rosemary. After 20 minutes add to the top of the squash and roast for 15 more minutes until the squash is soft.
- Place the peppers on a baking tray and place on the bottom shelf of the oven for 35 minutes. Leave to cool.
- Place the onions in a frying pan with some oil. Cook gently for ten minutes until they are caramelised. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and cook for another five minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
- Place the spinach in a colander and pour boiling water over the top so it wilts. Place in a bowl and mix with the cream cheese and the lemon zest. Add a little black pepper if desired.
- Chop the aubergine and courgettes into slices. In a griddle pan cook for five minutes, turning halfway though, until soft. You may need to do this in batches.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 180C, gas mark four.
- Grease a cake tin, so you can remove the pie easily.
- Roll out the pastry so it fits the side and base of the cake tin and place inside.
- Grate the cheddar and place on the pastry base with the thyme.
- Add a layer of courgettes and aubergines.
- Remove the seeds from the red peppers and cut into strips. Place over the courgettes and aubergines.
- Add a layer of chicken and chorizo sausage.
- Finally add the spinach and cheese to the top.
- Roll out another layer of pastry and add to the top of the pie, using beaten egg to stick it together.
- Bake for 45 minutes until golden.
- Can be served hot or cold