The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

squash, mushroom and chestnut pie

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The $66 billion acquisition of controversial US agrochemical multinational Monsanto by the German multinational Bayer will, assuming it passes regulatory tests, come into effect by the end of next year. It has been described rightly as a “marriage made in hell” by Friends of the Earth.

The new company will be the world’s largest seller both of seeds and of agrichemicals, holding the intellectual copyright to over a quarter of the world’s seeds and controlling a similar proportion of the world’s pesticides market.

Bayer/Monsanto will have combined revenues of over $66 billion. If it was a country, the income of this merged multinational would make it the 45th largest nation in the world, just below Israel but above New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Peru.

Why should this takeover be regarded as a “marriage made in hell”?

Well, Monsanto has several times been voted the “most evil corporation in the world”. It is the world’s main producer and promoter of genetically modified seeds and in the past has been responsible for Agent Orange, DDT and PCBs, all long since banned. It also manufactures the popular weedkiller Roundup, which has been declared “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organisation.

Bayer, too, has had more than its fair share of controversy. It made much of its early fortune from aspirin, but until the early twentieth century it also marketed a popular remedy for the treatment of coughs and colds. It gave this opium-derived product the name “heroin”, but eventually had to withdraw it after it became clear patients were becoming addicted. Bayer was later connected to the manufacture of the gas used to murder a million jewish people in nazi concentration camps. In the 1980s the company was involved in a scandal over a treatment for haemophilia which led to thousands of patients contracting Aids from contaminated blood.

In announcing the deal, Bayer predicted it would lead to various “synergies”. We can only hope that in this case the whole does not amount to more than the unsavoury sum of the parts.


Now that it’s December I can safely share with you my recipe for this tasty alternative Christmas dinner. The vegan pie filling and the pastry “lid” are cooked separately to ensure the latter retains its crispness. Ready made vegan puff pastry is widely available.

I used uchiki kuri (Japanese red onion squash) for this dish as I find it one of the most tasty of the winter squashes, but you could use butternut squash, pumpkin or any other winter squash.

squash, mushroom and chestnut pie


350 g winter squash, peeled and cut into roughly 2 cm cubes
150 g organic baby button mushrooms
180 g cooked and peeled chestnuts
180 g baby onions, peeled
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 sheet vegan puff pastry (about 200 g)
400 ml mushroom or vegetable stock
2 tbsp buckwheat flour
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
½ tsp sea salt
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4).

2. Pour the olive oil into a large casserole dish that has a lid and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, and the onions and cook, stirring every so often, for 5 minutes or until the onions have begun to soften and brown slightly. Reduce the heat slightly and add the pumpkin, garlic, mushrooms, sage, thyme and rosemary. Cook and stir for 5 minutes then add the buckwheat flour and stir to combine. After one more minute add the soy sauce, salt and stock. Add the chestnuts and cook for a further two minutes, stirring. The sauce will begin to thicken. Remove from the heat, place the lid on top of the casserole dish.

3. Lightly oil a shallow baking tray. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about a third of a centimetre. Use a sharp knife to cut into six roughly equal rectangles. Alternatively, use a small plate or bowl to cut out circles of pastry. Place the pastry sheets on the oiled baking sheet and prick with a fork, then place a sheet of baking parchment on top of the pastry pieces. Lightly place a second baking sheet on top. This will help prevent the pastry expanding unpredictably as it cooks.

4. Place the casserole and the pastry on separate shelves in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Keep a close eye on the pastry and if it is crisp and golden brown before the full 15 minutes is up remove from the oven and set to one side to cool slightly.

4. Remove the pumpkin, mushroom and chestnut casserole from the oven. To serve, place a generous portion of the casserole on the plate and top with a pastry “lid”. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

Categories: dairy free, vegan

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9 replies

  1. I’m gob smacked, Steve. I’m always learning something new on your blog. I would have thought though, that social media would put its people power to good use for a change and voice its displeasure.

    • It has been Mary, through there was a petition doing the rounds that was signed by million asking the regulators in the US to act. Not surprisingly it was ignored.

  2. Sorry Steve for taking over your comments. The merger of those two immoral companies demonstrates how commercial concerns now dominate the planet, and they have the blessing of our most powerful politicians. What has happened to humanity? Lovely pie for wintertime

  3. I for one am not directly funding either company with my purchases. When people get back to growing their own food (in smaller communities, rather than this giant ‘agribusiness’ we consumers have created) the need for pesticides and herbicides and fertilizers will no longer be required. Agribusiness is simply meeting our demands for cheap, abundant, out-of-season foods without our having to do anything but drive to a store and open our wallets.

    When people change habits, the companies will follow to profit from those habits. So let’s.

    I don’t know where the heck I would get chestnuts in the US. Can walnut or pecan be used instead? Shrooms, nuts, and squash do make for a tantalizing combo! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and recipes.

    • Oh…and another thing. Corn and soy are by far the US’s largest ‘food’ crops, yet less than 5% of that goes directly into our mouths as food. These crops — whose sizes require agribusiness and government subsidy — feed farm animals. Given the math, anyone reading this who also consumes flesh is perpetuating the ‘evil industry.’

      Vegan is the baseline for not only moral compassion for others but also conservation, environmentalism, and — generally — a healthier human population. Just sayin’. 😀

    • Hi Shannon. Thanks for your comments, which absolutely hit the nail on the head. This blog, in its own small way, is an attempt to encourage us all to become more mindful of the provenance of the food we eat and of the path it takes before it reaches our plates. Growing our own food is the very best way to do that.

      I think this recipe would work well with pecans substituted for chestnuts, and they would be my preference over walnuts as they are slightly sweeter.

      Steve 🙂

  4. Fascinating story. A real eye opener!

  5. I haven’t seen vegan puff pastry in the stores here. The dish looks delish.

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