Tom Eagle is sous chef at Darsham Nurseries Café, a blogger and award-nominated pickle enthusiast. A committed omnivore, he believes that meat-eating is a privilege: we should look after our livestock and their environment, and eat the whole of the animal – or none of it!
Although now a committed omnivore (and I mean OMNI), I was vegetarian for 10 years and still remember the tribulations involved.
Things are better now, I suppose. Most restaurants will at least pretend to cater for you (even if no one checks which cheeses aren’t vegetarian), and well-meaning friends are unlikely to slip bacon into your meal when they think you aren’t looking (you know who you are).
After years of championing by various chefs, vegetables are stepping, blinking, into the spotlight, and are now cooked and celebrated by the most die-hard of meat-lovers.
Still, in the wider world, the herbivorous are looked upon as something slightly exotic. Vegetarianism, for a lot of people, still carries the whiff of the hippy trail, and everyone feels they have to break out the green curry paste or the ras al hanout in order to cater for it. Nothing wrong with that, of course; but you tire, eventually, of the endless parade of couscous and risotto, the thousand variations on a theme of butternut.
Sometimes, all you (and by you I mean me, of course) really want to eat is a pie. Not some galette or tart, some puff or filo extravaganza, either; something to go with a pint and a mizzling rainy day, something at least on nodding terms with a hefty jug of gravy. This is a pie for those times.
CHEESE & POTATO PIE
Serves two as a main, or more cold as a snack
- 8-10 nice new potatoes (Anya or Juliette are good)
- 250g ripe Brie or similar (this is a good place to use up any cheese that is a bit past its heyday)
- Salt and pepper
- 200g plain flour
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 2 large egg yolks, plus 1 egg to glaze
- 50g butter, melted
- 50ml hot water
Boil the potatoes in salted water until just cooked through. Cool and slice, about as thick as a pound coin. Slice your cheese along the same lines. Grease and flour a loaf tin or small pie dish, and heat the oven to 180C/gas 4.
Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the mustard and a big pinch each of salt and pepper. Beat in the butter with a wooden spoon, then gradually add the water (you might not quite need all of it), bringing the mixture together into a nice dough. Knead for a couple of minutes until firm and elastic.
Working reasonably quickly (this pastry doesn’t like to get too cold), flour your worktop, roll out a suitably-sized piece to line your tin, and do so. Start the filling with a layer of potatoes (tucking them into the corners), a little seasoning, then a layer of cheese; continue until you’re done, finishing with potato. Roll out a lid, and tuck this on top, then trim the overhang to a couple of centimetres on each side; roll this up and press down onto the lid, creating a nice little border. Brush with beaten egg, make a couple of steam-holes, and pop in the oven for half an hour or so, until golden brown and starting to ooze.
Leave the pie to settle for around 20 minutes, then enjoy hot with some greens and that jug of gravy; or let it cool, and eat with pickled walnuts. Both are deeply satisfying.
Meat Free Week encourages people to consider all aspects of meat production and the health, welfare and environmental implications of meat consumption.
For the next seven days, Darsham Nurseries Café is offering a different meat free dish of the day to support the UK’s first Meat Free Week. A percentage of the cost of the Meat Free Week dish of the day will be donated to WLT.
The café is on the A12, next to Darsham railway station, Suffolk IP17 3PW. The café is open for breakfast from 8.30am. Lunch: 12-3pm. Drinks and cakes: 3-4.30pm. Sunday Brunch: 12-3.30pm. Reservations (01728) 667022. Website: www.darshamnurseries.co.uk/
WLT staff have their own Meat Free Week fundraising team, and have already raised more than £400. You can support Meat Free Week by sponsoring the WLT staff team.