The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

chestnut and pecan raised pie

pecan and chestnut raised Christmas pie jump to recipe

Christmas is traditionally a time of overindulgence and, despite the dire economic times we are living through, this festive season is unlikely to be much different to last, when UK households threw away the equivalent of two million turkeys, five million Christmas puddings and millions of tons of other seasonal fare.

Why is this?

Are we are just very bad at predicting the amount of food we actually need to get us through the festivities? Are we worried we will run out of food? Or is it simply down to gluttony?

Whatever the reasons, much of the food we will throw out this Christmas is food that would not have been wasted but for a little planning and imagination. I will be doing my best to follow the campaigning organisation Love Food Hate Waste’s advice. Their website has a number of very simple and sensible tips and recipes to help avoid unnecessary waste of good food this Christmas.

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In my household Christmas is a time when we open the doors, a boisterous occasion where we often end up with up to 14 for Christmas dinner, and later we are joined by yet more for a raucous annual Christmas quiz.

Whilst most of the family and guests will be tucking into a huge organic free range bronze turkey from the nearby Worcestershire village of Great Witley, some of us will be enjoying this lovely, rich vegetarian chestnut and pecan pie. My allotment plot, the Circus Garden, will be supplying most of the vegetables, including potatoes, parsnips, red cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

For this recipe I’ve created a version of hot water crust pastry – usually associated with pork pies, and traditionally using lard amongst its ingredients.

It is possible to substitute vegetable shortening for lard, but unfortunately most vegetable shortening is highly processed and full of harmful trans fats. So I’ve used instead butter, olive oil and egg yolk to produce a pretty good approximation.

Whatever you do and whatever you eat, thank you for reading and supporting my blog, and very best wishes for the festive season.

chestnut and pecan raised pie


for the hot water crust pastry

225 g plain flour
100 g butter, cut into cubes
1 free range egg yolk
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
100 ml water

for the filling

200 g chestnuts, cooked
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 carrot, finely chopped
1 leek, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
100 g Forestiere or field mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
100 g pecan nuts, chopped roughly
100 pearl barley
1 tbsp plain flour
300 ml red wine
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
300 ml vegetable stock
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried chilli
100 g grated vegetarian cheddar
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

for finishing

1 free range egg, lightly beaten


1. To make the pastry, put the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the egg yolk and olive oil and mix. Place the water in a pan over a medium heat and add the cubes of butter and the salt and stir to dissolve the salt and butter.

2. As soon as the butter, salt and water mixture comes to the boil, pour it onto the flour and stir vigorously to combine. Tip the dough out on to a board or and knead it briefly until it is smooth. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and leave to cool. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

3. Now for the filling. Place the pearl barley in a pan with the vegetable stock, cover with a lid and cook at a gentle simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes, or until virtually all of the stock has been absorbed. The barley will have softened but will retain some firmness. Remove from the heat and set to one side. Put the olive oil into a separate pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the leek, garlic, diced carrot and celery, and reduce the heat. Cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the leek is tender, before adding the mushrooms. Stir and cook for a further 5 minutes, before adding the chestnuts, pearl barley, pecans, the chilli, salt and dried herbs.

4. Sprinkle the flour onto the mixture and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring thoroughly. Add about a quarter of the wine and stir briskly to combine fully. The wine will quickly. Add half of the remaining wine and stir again before adding the remaining wine and the soy sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes over a gentle heat, stirring frequently, or until the sauce is rich and thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the grated cheese and set to one side to cool before adding the fresh parsley and chives and stir to combine.

6. Grease a spring form tin (if making one large pie) or pring form tins (for individual pies). Remove the dough from the fridge and keep a quarter in reserve, for the pie lids. Divide the remainder into four smaller disks and roll each disk out to a thickness of about 2 mm. Carefully Place it into the bottom of the greased spring form tin, and then slowly and carefully work the pastry up the sides, ensuring there are no gaps. Once you have made the four pastry bases, place them on a flat baking tray and return to the fridge for a further 30 minutes to firm up.

7. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F, gas mark 4).

7. Remove the pie bases from the fridge and carefully spoon in the chestnut and pecan mixture evenly between them, into a slightly mounded dome shape. Divide the reserved pastry into four, and roll each one out to a circle with a thickness of around 2mm. Drape each lid over the top of the filling. Dampen the pastry edges of the pastry base with some of the beaten egg and crimp to secure the lid to the rest of the pie.

8. Use a pastry brush to egg wash the lids and use a thin sharp knife to make a hole in the centre of each lid, to allow steam to escape. Place the pies on a baking tray in the preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes or until the pies have turned a golden brown colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before releasing the pies from the spring form tins. These pies can be served hot (complemented by vegetarian gravy) or cold.

Categories: vegetarian


7 replies

  1. Vegeterian way of celebrating a festival is always a great way to celebrate!!

  2. What a beautiful recipe (and about to go to the one for the gravy). I am going to confess something. As an American transplant (married to a very English man) I’ve never thought much of the style of British Vegetarian cooking (love the Vegetarians, hate the Linda McCartney sausages and the year-round courgettes and supermarket hummus) but recently I’ve discovered The Parsnip Ship ( and now YOU, and I would say, both of you are doing something that feels genuinely British (in traditions and in ingredients) and vegetarian and delicious and fresh.

  3. The pie looks spectacular.

    It looks like you might have used a fairly deep springform tin . Do you remember the dimensions of the tin?

    What thickness of pastry do I need ?

    Many thanks

    • Thank you!

      You have deduced correctly – I did use a springform tin, and it measured 11 cm in diameter by 7cm in depth. The pastry needs to be around 1/4 cm thick.

      You may be interested to know that I will be posting a brand new recipe for a vegetarian Christmas dinner tomorrow. This one will be (slightly) less challenging to put together but just as spectacular in appearance and taste.

      Best wishes


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