These shortcrust pies are filled with a rich mixture of roasted butternut squash, fresh spinach and creamy blue cheese. The lattice tops represent the seasons: with maple leaves, snowflakes, spring blossoms and summer roses.
Makes: 4 individual pies
Hands-on time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Baking time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Skill level: Needs skill
For the rich shortcrust pastry:
500g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
250g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
3 egg yolks
about 120ml ice-cold water
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
For the filling:
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and flesh cut into 1cm dice
3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1½ tbsp clear honey
10g salted butter
200g baby spinach leaves
175g St Agur blue cheese
2 tbsp crème fraîche
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp whole milk, to glaze
pink and blue food colouring (optional)
You will also need:
17cm diameter saucer or plate
10cm diameter pie dishes x 4 (about 3cm deep)
4 circles of baking paper, each 17cm diameter, crumpled
Shaped cutters: maple leaf, snowflake, small blossom and rose petal
Cake-decorating paintbrush (optional)
Step 1 – Make the pastry. Blitz the flour, salt and butter in a food processor, until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. With the motor still running, add the egg yolks and enough cold water to make a soft, but not sticky dough.
Step 2 – Shape the dough into a thick disc, then wrap it in cling film and chill it for 15 minutes, or until firm.
Step 3 – Unwrap and halve the dough. Re-wrap 1 half and return it to the fridge. Roll out the other half on a lightly floured worktop to 4mm thick.
Step 4 – Using the saucer or small plate as a guide, cut out 4 circles of 17cm diameter each. Gently press 1 circle into each pie tin to cover the base and sides, leaving an overhang. Chill the bases for 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/Gas 7.
Step 5 – Flatten out the crumpled baking paper discs and use them to line the pastry cases. Fill with baking beans and place the tins on a baking sheet. Bake blind for 9–10 minutes, until just set and the edges are beginning to colour, then remove the paper and beans.
Step 6 – Brush the cases with beaten egg, then return to the oven. Bake for another 5 minutes, until the pastry is firm and golden. Leave to cool.
Step 7 – Make the filling. Put 600g of the butternut squash into a roasting tin (use the remainder for soup or stew). Add the oil, cumin, rosemary and honey, and mix. Roast, stirring occasionally, for about 20–25 minutes, until tender. Leave to cool, then drain.
Step 8 – Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the spinach and stir to wilt. Tip the spinach into a colander and squeeze out the water.
Step 9 – Crumble the blue cheese into a mixing bowl, stir in the crème fraîche, then the squash, then the spinach. Mix, then season with black pepper. Turn down the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4.
Step 10 – Spoon the mixture equally into the pie dishes. Roll out the reserved pastry to 3mm thick. Cut 32 strips of 12 x 0.5cm.
Step 11 – Brush the pastry rims of each pie with beaten egg, then weave together 8 pastry stripes (4 down and 4 across) over the top of each pie. Press the ends of the strips onto the pastry rim and trim any excess. Brush with beaten egg.
Step 12 – Cut thinner strips for the plaited rims. Plait 3 strips, then place around the rim of each pie – joining where necessary. Brush the plaited rims with egg glaze. Gather the trimmings to make the decorations.
Step 13 – Roll out the pastry to 4mm thick and stamp out 2 or 3 maple leaves. Mark with veins and attach to the lattice of 1 pie with dabs of egg glaze. This is autumn.
Step 14 – Stamp out 2 or 3 snowflakes. Attach to the lattice of 1 pie with dabs of egg glaze. This is winter.
Step 15 – Re-roll the trimmings to 3mm thick. Using a small knife, cut out a tree shape. Attach to the lattice with dabs of egg glaze. Stamp out small blossoms. Attach to the branches with dabs of egg glaze. This is spring.
Step 16 – Stamp out small rose petals. Wrap 4 petals around each other to make flowers. Attach to the lattice with dabs of egg glaze. This is summer.
Step 17 – Brush the maple leaves with egg glaze. Add the milk to the rest of the glaze and use to lightly brush the tree and branches, the blossoms and the roses (but not the snowflakes).
Step 18 – To add colour, divide the remaining glaze into 2 bowls, add a drop of pink food colouring to one and brush it over the blossoms. Add another couple of drops to darken and brush over the rose petals. Colour the other bowl of glaze a very pale blue and brush over the snowflakes.
Step 19 – Bake the pies for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. Eat hot.