I like the idea of winter, but am less than enamored with the reality. I like the idea of going for a dog walk on a crisp, frosty winter morning, until I get outside and my fingers go numb, my nose starts streaming and it hurts to breathe…I like the idea of snow (and do enjoy it for about an hour) but then it gets trodden into brown slush and the pavements turn into sheets of ice.
The one instance in which the reality is as satisfying as the idea when it comes to winter, is the food and drink – mulled wine, gingerbread, stollen, mince pies, eggnog, christmas pudding, panettone, yule logs, crumble, christmas cake…and pies. There is something inherently comforting about wrapping food in pastry on a cold, miserable day.
These little roasted butternut squash and goats cheese pies are the perfect winter snack food -Buttery, flaky pastry filled with garlic and thyme roasted butternut squash, red onion and red pepper, soft, tangy goats cheese and red pesto. Heaven in a crust.
They are just the right size to eat with your hands as a snack, or they make an impressive vegetarian option for a main meal if served with sides.
These pies are very simple to make although they do take a while because the vegetables need to be roasted and cooled before you assemble and bake the pies. You can, however, roast the vegetables in advance and keep them in the fridge until needed – they need to be cold before filling the pies anyway; and the pastry can be made a day in advance, as that also needs to be cold.
I made mine in 12cm round fluted tart tins, but you can use 10-15cm ones, 10cm tins will make about six very small pies, 12cm ones make five small and 15cm ones will make about four slightly larger ones. You can also make free-form pasties if you don’t have tins.
Simply cut out circles of rolled out pastry, I usually use a small plate as a template, pile the filling on one half, leaving a border, egg wash all around the edge of the pastry then fold the uncovered side over the filling, press the edges together and crimp with your fingers or the tines of a fork to seal. And remember to cut a small hole in the top for the steam to escape.
Butternut squash and goats cheese pies
- 300 g (2 +2/3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 150 g (2/3 cup) cold butter cubed
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 5-6 Tbsp ice water
- 600 g (21oz) butternut squash cubed
- 1 small red onion diced
- 1 large red pepper sliced into thin strips
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- salt and pepper
- 125 g (4.5 oz) goats cheese
- 4-6 heaped tsp red pesto (I used roasted red pepper and ricotta pesto)
- 1 beaten egg to glaze
- Sift the flour, salt and paprika together in a large bowl, add the butter and rub it into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs; alternatively, pulse in a food processor.
- Gradually add the ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together and forms a soft dough. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Place the butternut squash cubes, diced red onion and red pepper strips in a large roasting tray. Crush in the garlic, sprinkle over the thyme and some salt and pepper and drizzle over the olive oil, toss it all together then roast for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, set aside to cool completely- do not fill the pies while the vegetables are still warm.
- Take two-thirds of the pastry and divide into the same number of pieces as tart tins you are using, roll out each piece large enough to line a tin, line each one then trim off the excess pastry - I find that the easiest and neatest way to do this (if the tin has a sharp edge), is to roll over the top of the tin with a rolling pin. Add the trimmings to the remaining third of pastry.
- Divide the cooled roasted vegetables between the cases, dollop a spoonful of pesto on top of each and crumble over the goats cheese.
- Divide the remaining pastry into the same number of pieces as there are pies and roll each out into a circle, large enough to make lids for the pies. Brush the edge of the pies with beaten egg and place the pastry lids over the filling.
- Press the edges down well to seal and trim off the excess (with the sharp rimmed tart tins I just press the pastry with my finger on top of the rim to cut through it neatly). Make 3 small holes with the point of a knife in the top of each.
- Place the pies in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes for the pastry to firm up. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
- Brush the pastry with beaten egg and bake for twenty minutes then turn the oven temperature down to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake for a further twenty minutes until golden brown and crisp.