The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

chard, leek and potato pies

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A recently published study by the universities of Newcastle and Glasgow suggest that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by losing weight and undertaking a healthy diet regime.

The trial combined a programme of strict calorie control with counselling, a gradual increase in exercise and a stepped reintroduction of a healthy diet.

90% of those who took part in the trial and who lost 15 kg (30 pounds) or more put their type 2 diabetes into remission.

These are encouraging findings. The number of people worldwide with Type 2 diabetes has quadrupled since 1980. Here in the UK, our National Health Service currently spends 10% of its budget on treating diabetes and its complications.

“Conventional” treatment, which ranges from lifetime medication through to bariatric surgery, is expensive. It also fails to deal with the key root cause: an unhealthy diet.

What the research shows is that just as an unhealthy diet can contribute to Type 2 diabetes, so a healthy diet can help to “heal” the condition.

The best preventative medicine available to us is the food we eat.

Way back in the early 1990s, when I was living in a flat in Tottenham, north London, the Cranks Recipe Book was one of my favourite cook books and, in its day, a vegetarian classic. Dog-eared and spattered with faint traces of my cooking, it was eventually lost in one of my subsequent house moves.

Amongst the many recipes I remember from that book was one for a dish called homity pie. The origins of the pie are obscure, but the fact that it was economical and filling made it a popular stand-by during the war years and post-war rationing.

I recall the Cranks version as being wholesome and tasty without being particularly exciting. In an attempt to update it, this is my version, given a bit more of a kick through the addition of chard and some flavour-packed herbs and spices.

If you can’t source chard, try using spinach or kale. The cooked tarts will freeze if you’re not intending to eat them all in one go.

chard, leek and potato pies


300 g organic potatoes, peeled
150 g organic chard, tough ribs removed, shredded
1 onion, finely chopped
3 free range organic eggs
1 leek, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
150 ml organic double cream
100 g vegetarian cheddar cheese, grated
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives
½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

for the pastry
180 g organic wholemeal flour
90 g organic butter
1 free range organic egg
pinch sea salt


1. First, make the pastry. Put the flour, salt and butter into the bowl of a food processor and process at the lowest setting until it produces a mixture that looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and one tablespoon of cold water and continue to process at the low setting until the mixture forms into a pliable ball. Remove from the food processor bowl, flatten the ball slightly to a thick disc shape, wrap in clingfilm and put it the fridge for 30 minutes.

2. Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes or until just tender. Drain and leave to cool, then cut into roughly 1-2 cm cubes.

3. Pour the olive oil into a frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the onions and the thyme, oregano and fennel seeds and cook for 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the leek and garlic and cook, stirring, for a further 5 minutes. Next, add the potatoes, chard and sea salt. Stir and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the chard has wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes before tipping into a mixing bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together with three quarters of the grated cheddar, then add this to the potato and kale mixture, with the chopped parsley and chives, and mix thoroughly. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3).

5. Grease four small tart tins. Flour a board or surface and roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3 mm. Line the tart tins carefully with the pastry and trim to fit. Prick the base and sides with a fork and line the pastry with foil and weigh this down foil with baking stones or beans. Bake blind in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes.

6. Fill each tart case with the kale and potato filling. Scatter with the reserved cheese. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden.

Categories: vegetarian


11 replies

  1. I am definitely not a vegetarian, but I can’t tell you how delicious this recipe looks. I’m inspired to try it as a Sunday brunch dish. I’ll report back but I think it’s going to be fantastic. What a great idea for a pie.

  2. Thank you Vanessa. Do please let me know how you get on. Steve 🙂

  3. Nice recipe

  4. Might have to give this one a try. Thanks.

  5. Those look gorgeous. Thanks for the recipe and the cravings for them!

  6. Newcastle and Glasgow universities in this case are amongst the last, in this case, to publish the facts!!! I am doing post-graduate studies in this at three universities: actually I do not believe in counting calories at all . . . if you have a healthy diet you simply do not consume excess calories. The old guiding principle of ‘I’ll be better tomorrow than I was today’ is all any of us need !!! Slowly, sensibly, enjoyably . . . And that does not just send Diabetes !! into remission, it removes it from the board . . . Rant over, you have a nice recipe there, Steve . . .

  7. I always have loved cranks homities such comfort food this time of year, this version looks lovely 🙂 print off now! 🙂

  8. Love leeks, def saving this to make later. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Ahhh… Cranks, we are clearly of the same vintage 🙂 And of the same taste in pies – this is one for me, Cranks cranked up – perfect!

  10. Love the crust, these pies are must be so yummy and scrumptious!

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