I’m going to disappoint my BFF with this post because I spent a lot of time at a pub describing in detail an idea I had for a savoury pumpkin pie that would see me actually making pie pastry, a thing I have avoided mastering for the better part of 40 years and a thing she makes so well I’d rather just raid her freezer than attempt myself.
I know “it’s not hard” and “you just need a light hand”, but you know what else it isn’t? Fun. It’s fiddly and requires precision and is anti-everything-I-love-about-cooking.
Anyway, I was having a hard time getting over what I foresaw as texture issues with the idea I had in my head, then remembered eating a sublime savoury, cheesy, squashy pie at a wee hole-in-the-wall vegie diner while exploring Bath one crisp November day.
The staff at the diner referred me to Anna Thomas’ The Vegetarian Epicure, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in vegetarian cooking, but never did seek out for this purpose because the idea seemed dead simple: toss a bunch of veg with polenta and bake.
And it really is a very simple idea, however, I’ve riffed on it to the point where it’s become a bit of a labour-intensive undertaking mostly because I insist on using pumpkin I’ve roasted myself.
It’s also really, really worth it. It’s a beautiful, rustic pie that is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, with layers of smoky, creamy, pumpkiny goodness. The tangy tomato sauce is a gorgeous complement to its richness and is super-easy to put together.
It also makes a lot. About 12 meal-sized servings. Much more if you’re using it as a side.
What you need for the pie:
- 1 pie pumpkin (after roasting, this should yield about 1.5 cups of pumpkin and can be replaced with canned pumpkin purée)
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 loose cups leek (about 1 large one, green and white parts), cleaned and cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 cup pecans or walnut pieces
- 1/2 cup fresh sage, finely chopped
- 1.5 cups smoked gouda, shredded (vegan pals, Daiya makes a smoked gouda product that is perfect for this application – just replace all of the cheese in the recipe with this and you’re golden)
- 1/2 cup asiago, shredded
- 1 fresh batch of polenta
What you need for the sauce:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed with a knife
- 6-7 diced roma tomatoes, diced (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)
- 2 tbsp whiskey or vodka (or 2 tsp brown sugar)
- Healthy pinch of nutmeg
- Ground black pepper to taste
What you do:
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Wash the pumpkin, cut it in half and de-seed it.
- Place pumpkin halves on a baking sheet, well-sides up.
- Place 2-3 garlic cloves in the well of each half, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil, cover with foil and bake for about an hour, or until tender.
- Remove the foil after half an hour, but keep the foil as it’s needed later.
- If you’re interested in roasting the pumpkin seeds, this is a good time to prep those and toss them into the oven while the pumpkin itself roasts. I highly recommend a mix of paprika, onion/garlic power, salt, pepper and olive oil. They’ll be done in about 15 minutes.
- In a frying pan, sautée the leeks and sage in olive just until soft, then set aside in a large bowl to cool.
- In the same, frying pan, toss the pecans until toasty.
- Add to the bowl to chill.
- Once the pumpkin is tender, remove from oven and recover with foil.
- Let stand about ten minutes, then scoop the garlic and guts out into a bowl and mash.
- Add the mash to the cooling leeks and pecans.
- Once the pumpkin, leeks, and pecans have cooled, add the cheeses and salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss to lightly combine.
- Make your polenta in a large pot because you’ll mix the other ingredients into this and there is a lot of those.
- Once the polenta is done, lightly fold in the pumpkin/leek/cheese mixture. The idea isn’t to fully combine, but to create strata or pockets of flavour/texture within the polenta.
- Pour into a well-greased large cast iron frying pan, baking dish, or muffin tins and smooth over the top(s) with the back of a spoon so there aren’t any peaks because those will just burn.
- Bake at 375 for 1 hour, or until the top is browned and the sides slightly crispy.
- Once the pie is done, remove from the oven and let stand a good 20 minutes before cutting.
- Start your sauce.
- In a small, heavy sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Add the smashed garlic and cook until softened and fragrant.
- Stir in the tomatoes, whiskey/vodka, nutmeg, pepper, and about 1/2 cup of water.
- Let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve slabs of the pie drizzled in the sauce. Steamed green veg, like beans, broccoli, and asparagus, or a spinach side salad are nice accompaniments to this dish.