Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Phork Pies and other vegetarian longings...

Being vegetarian, well, pesci-vegetarian, doesn't mean you don't have fond memories of meaty foods. I have the occasional thoughts of a BLT, while my sweetheart has the odd yearning for a very English Pork Pie.

Here's the veg version of each.

(halloumi, lettuce, and tomato)

So, halloumi cheese (Whole Foods) has this lovely ability to stand up to being grilled without melting, instead becoming browned and crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. To begin, slice it fairly thin into long, wide pieces, and grill in a skillet with a little olive oil. While it browns, slice open a nice ciabatta or other crusty bread, slather with mayo, and cut some thick slices of ripe tomato. Once the cheese has gone golden on both sides, lay it on the bread, put the tomato slices on top, grind over with coarse black pepper, put on a generous handful of crisp, fresh rocket or other leafy green, the other half of the bread, and enjoy. This sandwich is best made when tomatoes are at their peak of flavor, in the heat of the summer. They need to be sitting on the kitchen counter, begging to be made into a sandwich. No halloumi? Well, a tomato sandwich really only needs mayo, salt, and pepper to be pretty near perfect anyway.

Phork Pies

These pies are a veggie version of a classic English pub treat.
Make a double recipe of pie crust. I make it a bit short, so that the pastry shatters when you bite into it.
Put the dough in a plastic bag in the fridge while you make the filling.
Slice a large onion and let it soften in a bit of oil or butter over low heat. I like to slowly sweat the onion, so that it gets sweetly caramelized. Once the onion's gone soft, add some sort of sausage substitute or real pasture fed pork sausage.  To this add about 5 finely chopped sage leaves,  a pinch or two of mace, and several good grinds of black pepper. While this cooks, in a small pot put about two cups of stock on to boil. Once rolling, turn down heat and add about 2 tablespoons of agar agar (vegetarian gelatin)
Let this simmer for a minute, then set aside to cool and gel.
Meanwhile, take out your chilled pastry dough, and line either little tart cups, tart pan cups, muffin tins, or the cups of a lava cake pan with pastry, saving some for the tops. I like to use the lava cake pan, because the cups have removable bottoms, making the whole process of getting the pies out intact much simpler. The finished product will also look more authentically pork pie-ish.  Fill the cups with the cooled "sausage" mixture, and spoon a bit of the jellied broth over. Put a pastry top on, crimp the edges, and cut a vent. Put a bit more jellied broth on top to glaze while cooking. Bake at 350, till they look like the title picture on this page. Serve cold or hot with good mustard (Maille), sharp English cheddar or stripey raw blue (mmmmm- Seaside, Lincolnshire Poacher, Stichelton), pickles, and a pint of your best bitter. Enough to make a grown man cry, I tell ye.

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