Back in 2014 I wrote an article on savoury pies for the American magazine formerly known as Organic Gardener. It’s now called Organic Life and encompasses a little more than gardening. I loved doing all the research on savoury pies and of course coming up with my recipes. I created pies across the spectrum. From sausage rolls to a chicken & leek hand pie, a potato topped lamb and mint pie, and a roast beetroot & onion galette with shaved goats cheese pecorino. All were delicious as is the nature of something so comforting made slowly with love. One of the pies I didn’t get around to sharing on my blog was this roasted butternut and ricotta phyllo serpent pie with toasted pine nuts. I’ve progressed somewhat further down my photography journey so I ran the images through Lightroom to give them a fresh look (like I did with the beetroot galette), so I thought would share this recipe here too.
Some of the words I wrote for the article.
Savoury pies have to be amongst the world’s most comforting foods. They require some effort to make, but the slow cooking and baking process feels like an act of love. There are two main components to consider, the filling and the crust. Pies can be top-crusted, bottom-crusted or double-crusted. Choose between a range of pastries, like shortcrust or puff, potato crusts, like mashed or dauphinoise, or biscuits, dumplings and crumble. Make a hearty filling with the right amount of sauce and you have the formula for success.
The best part about a savoury pie is the flexibility you have as the cook with the filings and toppings being easily interchangeable. So if you prefer to make the chicken pie into one large version and cover with puff pastry, you can. It would work equally well as the filling for the phyllo serpent pie. The lamb pie could be covered in buttery mashed potato or sweet potato and the butternut and feta filling would be fantastic in a hand pie.
Savoury pies date back as far as when man started domesticating animals and growing crops. They were originally developed as a practical way to store and transport food and made an ideal working man’s meal. Featuring strongly in Northern European and English culinary history, an original hand pie, and one, which is still made in a similar way today, is the Cornish pasty. The early settlers brought these recipes from Europe to America where they were adapted using local ingredients, and in particular the use of fruits and berries, to form sweet pies.
Meat pies such as steak and kidney, pork, and chicken and mushroom are hugely popular in England and countries which were colonised by the United Kingdom: Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Savoury pies feature in many more cultures around the world today. The Spanish empanada, Then Indian samosa and the Italian calzone are all examples of delicious and popular savoury pies.
With the culinary world becoming smaller and people becoming more adventurous, there is a huge cultural cross over with mixing up of flavours and styles. There is nothing stopping you putting a chilli con carne into a pasty, or filling a potato pot pie with Thai green curry. Have fun experimenting with fillings and crusts that you love.
This impressive-looking pie with crispy outer layers and a soft comforting filling can be made with pumpkin or butternut. Add additional chilli if you like things spicy.
- 4 cups butternut (or pumpkin), cut into small cubes (aprox 1.5cm)
- 2Tbsp olive oil
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 1 cup (250ml) ricotta
- 100g feta
- 1tsp chopped thyme
- 1tsp chopped parsley
- ½ tsp dried chilli flakes (or more if you like a bit of heat)
- 1Tbsp olive oil
- 8 sheets phyllo pastry
- ¼ cup melted butter
- Toasted pine nuts to serve (optional)
- Toasted pine nuts to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F and spread the butternut over a baking tray. Drizzle over the 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Scatter the thyme sprigs and bake for about 20 minutes until brown.
- In bowl combine all the remaining ingredients. Add the butternut and lightly mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Melt the butter in the microwave and have the pastry brush ready. Grease a 23cm cake tin or pie dish.
- Lay one sheet of pastry down, and lightly brush the entire surface with butter and place another sheet on top.
- Spoon a quarter of the butternut mixture on the bottom edge of the pastry. Brush the rest of the sheet lightly with melted butter, trying to cover as much of the surface area as possible, and roll the pastry log up starting from the filling end. Tuck the edges in as you roll so that the filling doesn't come out.
- Place the roll snuggly in the cake tin and brush each with butter.
- Repeat this with the rest of the filling and the remainder of the pastry and place the logs next to each and into each other to form a serpent shape.
- It doesn't matter if the middle roll breaks as you try to bend it, just patch it up with a few small pieces of phyllo.
- Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Scatter over the tpasted pine nuts to serve
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