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Recipe: Wild nettle, blue cheese, spring onion and nutmeg pie

PUBLISHED: 13:13 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:13 28 February 2018

It’s time to roll out the pastry for British Pie Week.

Who doesn’t like a pie? I think they’re one of the most delectable inventions ever to have graced our kitchens – and I’ll take them in any shape or form. The flaky Greek spanakopita, with its briny lactic feta tang and whack of lemon. A Thai curry puff, bursting open in a puff of aromatic steam. ‘School dinner’ cheese and onion pie, with its impossibly thick, gut-busting layer of pastry. And good old steak and ale pudding, collapsing on the plate into a puddle of gravy and irresistibly tender meat.

Oh yes. Nothing beats a pie. And as I look out the window to the six-odd inches of snow settling in the garden, I can’t think of anything I’d rather have for dinner. Pies bring with them sustenance and warmth. They’re about generosity. And they should always be made with love.

The Egyptians were the first, it’s said, to have encased ingredients in some form of pastry, followed by the Greeks and Romans, and later on us Brits – who took our baking prowess to the States as the pilgrims settled in their newfound colonies.

You’ll find versions of pie all over the world - an edible thread that binds us all (much the same as bread).

But I’m sticking at home for this week’s recipe, which is packed with spring flavours. It’s vegetarian, but robust enough to satisfy any meat eater. I used two halves of Suffolk Blue to make it, but if you can find small, individual blue cheeses they’d be perfect.

It goes without saying you should wear gloves to pick nettles. Only pick where they are guaranteed to be unsprayed, and choose the fresh new shoots at the top of the plants. If you can find any wild garlic, substitute it for 25g of the nettles.

Wild nettle, blue cheese, spring onion and nutmeg pie.

(serves 4)

Ingredients

125g fresh nettles or spinach

1 whole small blue cheese (or two halves), 400g

6 spring onions, finely sliced

Crushed black pepper

Ground nutmeg

For the lemon pastry:

75g unsalted butter, cubed

150g plain flour

Pinch salt

Zest 1 lemon

Cold water

1 egg, beaten, to glaze

Method

Make the pastry first. Place the lemon zest, flour, butter and salt in a bowl and rub together to make breadcrumbs. Add water, drip by drip and press together into a dough.

Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

While the pastry is chilling bring a large pan of water to the boil and throw in the nettle leaves or spinach. Blanch for 30 seconds, drain the water out and cook the leaves dry over a medium heat for about a minute. Place on kitchen paper and press to remove any excess liquid. Shred.

Pop the leaves into a bowl with the spring onions and season well with salt and pepper.

Roll the pastry out on a floured surface to a round shape, 4mm thick. Place the nettle mix on top in a circle of about 15cm in the centre. Brush the blue cheese with ground nutmeg and plenty of black pepper and pop it, pepper side down, on the nettle mix.

Gather the sides of the pastry up neatly around the edges and bring together at the top of the cheese. Press. Cut away the excess and squeeze to seal.

Turn the pie over and cut slashes across the top – not to the edges or it will burst. Glaze with egg and chill for an hour.

Bake at 200C for 25 to 30 minutes until golden.

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