This beautiful cheesy potato pie is also known as homity pie. My inspiration comes from the new movie opening this weekend, called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. To me, potato peel pie doesn’t sound appetising but after researching wartime recipes, I’ve come up with the perfect alternative!
In essence, a homity pie is a shortcrust pastry pie with a vegetable filling which is topped off with cheese. The idea is that the potato filling is already cooked, and will just be finished off in the oven, by having the cheese melt into the filling and the pie getting browned at the top. It is easy to make and a great way to use a bunch of leftover potatoes in a new and tasty fashion. Leftovers do not have to be boring. In some way it is the British version of the potato and brie tartiflette, minus the bacon, which could actually be added. Homity pie is text book comfort food, and I am sure you will enjoy it as well!
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
What inspired me to bake this particular pie was when a saw the trailer for a new film opening this weekend, called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
If you have not yet heard of it, I can tell you that the film is based on the bestselling novel of the same name. It takes place on the channel island of Guernsey during the German occupation throughout World War II. The story follows the free spirited Writer Juliet Ashton, who forms a life changing bond with the eccentric members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society upon her visit in 1946. Ashton is intrigued by the people and wants to learn more about the book club they formed during the occupation.
The film opens in cinemas throughout the country on 20 April and I can’t wait to see it. Lily James is in the lead role as Juliet Ashton and the cast is full of great British actors, such as Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson, Penelope Wilton, Tom Courtenay and Jessica Brown Findlay.
While some people may adore loaded potato skins, the idea of a potato peels, let alone in a pie, might not sound that appetising. Instead, to celebrate the upcoming release of the movie, I’ve used the humble potato but also much loved British ingredients, leek, onion and cheese to make a delectable pie. In line with the movie and the wartime era, you can find out more about its history below.
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The origin of homity pie
The exact origin of homity pie is a bit fuzzy and no specific individual has yet been credited for its invention. It is also known as a Devon pie, as some believe as the recipe is from Devonshire. Others call it a wartime pie, invented by the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War. Women’s Land Army, or Land Girls as they were also called, was a civilian organisation. During the war women were trained to replace men on the farms. One of the many struggles at the time was to get by with sparse ingredients due to wartime rationing. That’s how homity pie came about as a way to bring new life to leftover vegetables.
Homity pie started gaining popularity, thanks to when Cranks Vegetarian Restaurant opened up in London in the early sixties. Brits were a meat loving society at the time and vegetarian dishes were not at all the mainstream food that we take for granted today.
Blind baking your shortcrust pastry
For my homity pie, I started with a basic shortcrust pastry. In order to ensure a nice and crispy crust, even with a creamy filling, I decided to blind bake the pastry first. Blind baking is lining a tin with shortcrust pastry, which you the prick with a fork before covering in baking paper. In order for the pastry to stay in shape and bit bulge up, the baking paper needs to be weighed down. This is done by covering the tin with baking beans, which you might also know as pie weights.
Baking beans are basically ceramic or metal beads that will weigh down the baking paper and make sure the pastry stays in the right shape. It also has the benefit that the pastry is not as directly exposed to the heat from the oven and it will not get burned so quickly. Baking beans are available in many kitchen supply store, however there are alternatives. If you don’t have baking beans and don’t want to make the investment, you can simply use any type of pulses you have in the cupboard. Rice, dried peas, beans or lentils will do the trick as well. If you want a nice golden crust, you need to remove the baking beans about five minutes before the end of the baking time.
Blind baking is a great way to get a crispy pie crust, especially when using wet or creamy fillings. So if you are afraid of making soggy pies, this is the technique you need to master.
Variation on homity pie
For the filling of my homity pie I used potatoes, leek and onion. Besides that you can add other vegetables if you like. One example is to replace half of the potatoes with parsnips or Jerusalem artichokes. This will give the filling a slightly more herbal or nutty flavour. You can also add carrots or turnips to the mix.
I garnished the homity pie with fresh thyme twigs. You can leave these out if you want. However, I discovered that thyme’s flavour to work beautifully with the creamy potatoes and the melted cheese. Another tip is to add bay leaf to the water that the potatoes boil in. The herb lends a subtle yet interesting flavour note to the potato filling.
Depending on your preference you can also substitute the cheddar cheese with other kinds of cheeses, e.g. Gouda, Emmentaler or similar cheeses. The important thing is to use a cheese that melts well.
If you are in the mood for trying out different types of pies, you can take a look at my Lancashire butter pie or my beef and mushroom pies. Fancy something slightly more untraditional? Have a look at the Bobotie or ham en kaas souttert.
The homity pie itself is very rich and filling. So I decided to serve it with a simple green salad to have something light to refresh the palate. The salad dressing was a tangy mustard one to have some acidity to cut through the richness. For something a little more unusual you can serve the homity pie with pickled cabbage and red onion slaw. The refreshing acidic flavours are great for cutting through rich foods such as this creamy potato pie.
This week one lucky reader can win a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society signed by Lily James and Glen Powell.
To celebrate the release of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (in cinemas April 20th) we’re giving away a copy of the book signed by stars Lily James and Glen Powell.
Based on the internationally bestselling novel of the same name, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tells the story of Juliet Ashton (Lily James), a free-spirited, successful writer living in post-war London.
Despite the success of her recent novel and support from her dear friend and publisher Sidney (Matthew Goode), she struggles to find inspiration for her writing after the harsh experiences of the war. Poised to accept a proposal from Mark Reynolds (Glen Powell), a dashing American GI, she receives an unexpected letter from a Guernsey farmer named Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman). Juliet impulsively leaves for Guernsey, where she hopes to write about the curiously named book club that Dawsey has written to her about, formed by his fellow islanders under the German occupation in WW2. Juliet is charmed by the island and inspired by the members shared love of literature. As a lifelong bond forms between this unlikely group of friends, Juliet soon realises that the society are hiding a heartbreaking secret, which they are afraid she may bring to the surface. As Juliet and Dawsey become close, she begins to unravel what happened during the difficult years under the occupation and starts to understand why they are so afraid to tell her their story. Her fate now intertwined with the society, Juliet must decide how to help her new friends and follow her heart, knowing that her life may change in ways she had never expected.
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- 400g (1lb) shortcrust pastry
- 600g (1⅓lbs ) peeled potatoes, cubed
- 30ml (2 tbsp) butter
- 15ml (1 tbsp) oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 large leek, peeled and chopped
- 2.5ml (½ tsp) fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 60ml (4 tbsp) double cream
- 150g (5oz) Cheddar cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
- On a floured surface, roll the pastry out to the thickness of 0.5cm (¼ inch) and 5cm (2 inches) wider than the tin you’re lining.
- Using your fingers, gently press the pastry into the corners of the tin, letting the excess hang over the sides of the tin.
- Using a fork, prick the base of the pastry.
- Line with baking parchment and fill with baking beans or dried pulses.
- Pop the pastry case in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Boil the potatoes in salted water for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set aside to cool.
- Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion and leek gently until soft and caramelised. This takes about 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
- Add the thyme, cream and potatoes and give the mixture a stir. Remove from the heat and wait for it to cool down.
- Stir in half of the cheese then pour the filling in the pastry case.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. [Optional: Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.]
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown.
- After removing the pie from the oven, wait for the pie to cool down for 10 minutes before slicing with sharp knife.
- I used a 24cm (9½ inch) pie tin.
- The onion amounted to 225g (½ lb) and leek 150g (5oz).
- Serve with a green salad and tangy dressing.
- Category: Main
- Cuisine: British
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 605
- Sugar: 3.5 g
- Sodium: 196 mg
- Fat: 37.7 g
- Saturated Fat: 10.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 56 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 12.3 g
- Cholesterol: 50 mg
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