Fennel and Taleggio pie in shortcrust pastry made from scratch, totally worth the effort. Make twice as much pastry for the freezer!
Pastry from scratch? What a palaver!
What? Making pastry from scratch, you’ve got to be kidding! Life’s too short to be rubbing lard into flour and some of us have a day job. I’m home from work at half seven and weekends are surely for a bit of chilling. I certainly can’t be fussed to clean up the flour from all over the kitchen and to wait for ever for the pastry to chill.
Plus, rolling out dough is a worse chore than ironing.
Okay – I get it.
Very well, I’m not a kitchen fascist. You are perfectly free to use shop bought shortcrust pastry, even a ready-made shell. Go on, knock yourself out. But don’t blame me for missing out on a fantastic dish that you were too much of a lazy bum to cook.
You can’t beat homemade pie pastry
Agreed, some things are completely not worth making from scratch. Puff pastry for one, mayonnaise for two. Anchovy paste is a perfectly serviceable condiment and so is horseradish sauce.
But sometimes it just won’t do to get halfway-ready products because the whole project calls for spending time in the kitchen – and a pie making is one of those.
Fennel and Taleggio pie is so gorgeous, it matters not if you’re a vegetarian or a meat eater – you won’t miss bacon in it.
It is actually better the next day at room temperature, if there’s any left. Fennel tastes gorgeous and the filling is amazingly creamy though there is no cream in the ingredients.
An optional idea: add a few chopped mushrooms to the fennel if you’d like more bite to the filling.
And if you really can’t find Taleggio anywhere, substitute Brie or Camembert with the rind trimmed.
How to make the pastry
This is an excellent recipe for all kinds of savoury pies, so it’s worth to double the ingredients and freeze half for another occasion.
Lard makes the pastry really supple and gives it the ‘melting in the mouth’ texture. But we don’t often cook with lard so buying the whole packet only to use 50 grams – or even 100, if doubling up – is quite wasteful. You can replace the lard with shortening or just use all butter.
If you have a food processor or a standing mixer, it will do the job for you in a jiffy. Otherwise you can cut the fat into the dry ingredients with knives or your fingers, then knead it all into a ball of dough by hand.
The pastry needs to chill for at least half an hour so the gluten can relax and the pastry won’t crumble when rolled out.
Rolling out, on the other hand, is easier when the pastry is at room temperature so in an ideal world chill the pastry, then thaw it before rolling out. And best results are when baking the pastry straight from the fridge – so it’s a bit of fridge toing and froing.
How to make fennel and Taleggio filling
Taleggio is an Italian cow milk cheese, the soft but rubbery type like Reblochon or Munster. It is great to use in these kinds of dishes because it melts but doesn’t run and glues the rest of the filling ingredients together.
And the rest of ingredients is just fennel, thinly sliced and softened for five minutes by salting which speeds up the cooking. And that takes about 20 minutes, sweating it gently in butter and olive oil until completely soft and the moisture has all evaporated.
In goes the cheese and seasoning: black pepper, lemon juice and herbs, tarragon and dill by my preference.
It now needs to cool down before it’s loaded into the pie case, otherwise soggy bottoms are unavoidable.
But both the pastry and the filling can be made ahead and assembled on the baking day, thus making the work completely manageable.
Assembling and baking the pie
This is a proper pie, with bottom and top and filling. I really do not have time for those pretend pies that only wear a crust top and have no pastry bottom. All fur coat and no knickers, those.
When you’ve chilled and thawed again the pastry, roll out the bottom, then the lid, cutting fancy patterns or not.
I brush the bottom of the pie with cream cheese to avoid sogginess, then line it with grated Cheddar but the calorie-conscious may skip the extra cheese. The filling goes in, then lid set on the edge of the base brushed with cold water, so the two stick.
Trim the excess pastry and scrimp it if you like, or pinch decorative ruffles. If you choose to go for a solid pie top, cut a vent in it. Brush everything with beaten egg for a glossy appearance and slip it into the oven for about an hour.
It’s lovely hot or cold, with a green salad or a mash.
More pie recipes
Ottolenghi inspired fondue filo pie, with butternut squash swapped for mushrooms. It’s a combo of Savoyard raclette experience and a Greek or Middle Eastern filo pie, and it’s excellent.
Chicken and mushroom pie with homemade Cheddar crust. Shortcrust pastry made from scratch, creamy chicken and wild mushroom filling, it’s not a very easy recipe but super tasty. Chicken and porcini mushroom pie baked for 40 minutes at 200C.
Pork and mushroom pie served hot or warm, with gravy and chunky tender pork. Not the traditional raised pork pie, this is more like steak or chicken pie with chunks of pork cooked in gravy. Pork pie with crisp crust and flavoursome pieces of meat and wild mushrooms inside.
More fennel recipes
Fennel and Gorgonzola pasta recipe. Gorgonzola cheese makes the nicest sauce for the pasta, pappardelle or fettuccine.
Sliced sautéed fennel, gorgeously caramelised on a knoblet of butter and a glug of maple syrup, sweetness broken beautifully with noble balsamic vinegar.
Baked fennel with tomatoes and plums: three ingredients and what a burst of flavour! It makes a good vegetarian lunch or an interesting side for meat or fish.