Potato, cheese and onion are, for me, the Holy Trinity of flavours. Think Cheese and Onion Crisps (Walkers obviously), they are the best flavour by a mile. Sour Cream & Chives Pringles. Jacket potato with cheese, sour cream and chives (a la Spud -U-Like) the classic, original & best topping. And, of course, the Potato, Cheese and Onion Pie.
Trying to replicate the flavour of that perfect pie with crumbly pastry and that soft, mellow, almost sweet and comforting filling, was a challenge I was very happy to take on. With so few ingredients they all have to be exactly right or you might as well not bother.
- The Potato: something floury for making good mash with no lumps, you don’t want waxy here. There is a fantastic list of which potatoes to use for which dish at Love Potatoes. Apparently Maris Piper and King Edward are good all rounders but they recommend Nadine, Rooster, Saxon or Wilja for mash.
- The Cheese: a personal thing obviously but I recommend using a creamy, white, crumbly cheese like an unmatured Lancashire (The Washer Up’s favourite). Other cheeses to use are a crumbly Caerphilly or, if you want to go more “European”, an Italian Fontina or French Tomme de Cantal.
- The Onion: the classic yellow onion is the onion of choice for me but you could use spring onions for a fresher, green flavour and look. Softened leeks would be lovely especially if you’re going for the Caerphilly option and flying the Welsh flag. Or even chives if you want the full sour cream and chives Pringle effect.
I have opted (controversially,I know) to make a wholemeal shortcrust pastry. I thought the contrast between the soft fluffy centre and a nutty, flaky crust would be nice and I was trying to “healthy” it up a bit I suppose. Potato and cheese guilt taking over maybe. It works really well but feel free to stick to plain flour if you are a traditionalist. My pastry recipe comes from a book called The Art of the Tart by Tamasin Day-Lewis which is where I also discovered the recipe for L’Aligot Tart.
L’aligot is a country dish from south-western France made with mashed potatoes, garlic, cheese (tomme de Cantal) and cream. Sounds amazing doesn’t it. So I decided to add some garlic to my onions (controversially again) and I swapped the cream for sour cream to stay on my Spud-U-Like theme….
Potato, Cheese & Onion Pie Recipe
makes 3 individual pies, double the amounts to make 1 big pie for 4-6 people, vegetarian
- 180 gr wholemeal flour (or plain or a mixture)
- 90 gr cold butter, diced and refrigerated
- a pinch of sea salt
- iced water (2 or 3 tbsp)
- 2 potatoes, about 500 gr peeled and cut into eighths
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- salt & black pepper
- freshly grated nutmeg
- about 150 gr Lancashire cheese (see above for other cheeses) crumbled into chunks
- about 75 ml sour cream/creme fraiche/cream
- 30 gr butter
- 1 egg white, for brushing
Sieve the flour and a pinch of sea salt into a bowl or food processor(throw in the wholemeal bits left in the sieve as well). Put the cold diced butter on top and process (or rub the butter and flour through the tips of your fingers) until the butter is the size of peas. Then drizzle the ice-cold water in, a tablespoon at a time, (with the processor running) until it coheres into a single ball. Don’t add too much water or it will shrink when baking. If you can still see the butter that is good, that’s what makes the pastry flaky. As soon as it forms a ball wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least half an hour to chill.
Meanwhile put your potatoes in a large pan of cold, salted water, bring to the boil, lower the heat slightly and cook for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Saute the onions in a tablespoon of oil or butter with a big pinch of salt, over a medium heat until they are softened, not browned about 8 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook gently for another couple of minutes.
When the potatoes are soft drain them, put them in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher. Heat up the sour cream and butter in a small pan over a medium heat. When the butter has melted pour this onto your mashed potatoes and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add the onions and garlic and the cubed/crumbled cheese. Season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg, mix everything together and set aside while you roll out your pastry.
Preheat oven to 190C. Butter and flour your pie dishes/baking dish, Flour your work surface and cut your ball of dough into three (if you are making individual pies). Keep one piece out to work with and put the other two back in the fridge. Roll the pastry out to about 3 mm thick, cut a third off and keep it for the top of the pie, in the fridge. Push your pastry into your pie dish/ramekins (don’t stretch it) and leave some overhanging the edge. You can cut bits off and stick it in any gaps. Put it in the fridge while you do the other two. Blind bake the pastry shells by lining the bottoms with baking paper and weighing it down with some baking beans (uncooked beans or chickpeas). Bake for 5 -6 minutes, then remove the baking paper & beans, prick the base with a fork and brush the bottom with the egg white. Return to the oven for another 4 minutes to firm up the base. Trim off any rough edges.
Roll out 3 circles from the reserved pastry a little bit larger than the top of your pies. Fill the blind baked pastry shells with the mashed potato mixture, pushing it down so you don’t get any gaps. Top with the uncooked pastry circle and seal the edges with a fork. (I forgot to do this). Make a few holes in the centre of the top and brush with egg white.
Bake for about 15 -20 minutes until the top is browned and the pie warmed through…..
Serve hot out of the oven in the pie dish or leave to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out onto the plate. I think peas are perfect accompaniment to this pie but broccoli or wilted spinach would work too. Maybe even with a salad for lunch….
Once you’ve tried this you will never go back to buying them again. The ultimate in vegetarian comfort food perfect for rainy days like these….
Poor Rufus……Wet dog!!