Leek and potato pie is a great comfort food, combining the richness of puff pastry, cream, cheese, the sweetness of leeks, and the filling density of soft potato.
This is not a light and fluffy quiche, but a satisfying, flavourful, energy giving pie – a pie for people who have been working hard, or simply want to give themselves a treat. A pie to enjoy all year round.
Watch How To Make Leek & Potato Pie
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This pie is a great way of using up homegrown leeks. Leeks are one of my favourite vegetables to grow, as they make good use of ground during the winter and spring months that otherwise would be left empty waiting for summer crops. Hardy varieties of leeks can be planted in the summer and left standing on a vegetable patch right through to March, and dug up when needed. Whether homegrown or shop bought, leeks are the star of this pie, with potato adding the necessary fullness to turn the pie into a meal.
The pie uses only a few ingredients aside from leek and potato, including a couple of eggs, fresh parsley, cream, and cheese to provide a rich and sticky glue to hold the fillings together.
Start the preparation by rolling out the puff pastry. Prepare a surface with a liberal coating of flour, including a dusting for the rolling pin. Divide the pastry block in two. A generous two thirds for the base and edges of the pie, and the remainder used for the pie top.
The puff pastry can be a little stiff, especially if cold, but becomes easier the more it is worked. Remember to work the pastry block in different directions, and turnover the pastry regularly to check it is not sticking to the surface. Reapply some extra flour to the surface if needed. The aim is achieve an even thickness of pastry in a square shape about half a centimetre thick. Rolling pastry does take time. Keep turning the pastry, rolling, and more rolling, and applying flour to avoid sticking.
It’s important that the rolled out pastry is large enough to cover both the base and the sides of the baking tin. Placing the tin on the rolled out pastry is the easiest way of telling if it is rolled out enough. Keep on working it until you are confident it is the right size.
Before the pastry is placed inside the tin, the tin needs to be greased. I used a 9 inch cake tin for this pie, and greased it by hand using a knob of butter. Greasing the tin avoids the frustration of the pie falling apart when opening the tin, which can happen if the pie edges have stuck to the sides.
To line the tin, very gently lift the pastry off the surface, centre it over the tin, and carefully lower it inside. It is helpful not to have long finger nails for this task to avoid breaking the pastry. I find it easiest to work the base of the tin first, carefully pushing the pastry down so that it is flat against the base, smoothing out air pockets, including where it touches the sides of the tin. When the base is done, I move on to work on the sides. The square shape of the pastry is helpful as the corners hang over the sides of the tin helping to keep the pastry still as the edges are positioned. This is a step best done slowly and carefully. When the pastry fully lines the tin, any surplus at the top can be cut away with a knife.
For the top, repeat the process of rolling out the pastry as before. It does not need to be as large as for the base, as there is no need to account for the sides of the tin. Aim for a similar thickness of half a centimetre, and when ready, check for size using the pie tin. Use a knife to cut around the edge of the pie tin and you will have the perfect size pastry for the lid.
The hardest part of making the pie is now complete. Before making the filling, chill the pie base and lid in a fridge. Chilling should help the pastry be stronger when it comes to baking the pie. I wrap the base and lid in plastic film before chilling them.
Making the filling is a straightforward task. Start with the leeks. It is common to have earth between the leaf layers of homegrown leeks. An easy way of cleaning them is to chop them before washing. Top and tail the leeks to leave the white stem, and then slice it finely. I enjoy chopping leeks, they release their sweet scent, and without the eye watering effect of chopping onions. When all the leeks are chopped, place them in a bowl, or sink, filled with water, and leave them to soak for about 10 minutes, before giving them a final rinse through in a colander. Shop bought leeks will be faster to prepare as they need less washing.
Cook the leeks by pouring a generous slosh of oil into a pan, add the leeks, and move to a hob set to a medium heat. At the beginning, keep moving the leeks around the pan to help cover all the slices in oil. As soon as the oil starts to sizzle, I turn the heat down and cover the pan with a lid.
The leeks will take about 10-15 minutes to soften. Regularly check that the leeks are not sticking by giving them an occasional stir. If you can hear the leeks sizzling, most probably they are cooking too fast and the heat needs to be turned down more. The cooked leeks will be soft, reduced in size, and more yellow in colour. They will be sweet to the taste.
The potatoes also need to be cooked before using as the pie filling. Prepare the potatoes as if making mash potatoes, with the difference that the potatoes are cut more finely. The fine slices will cook faster in water, and will be softer in the final pie. A red potato variety like desiree will not fall apart during cooking. Once all the potatoes are sliced, add them to a cold pan of water, and move them to a hob set over a high heat. Boil the potatoes until a fork easily slides into them, and drain the water away to avoid them cooking any further.
The filling includes cheese to help stick all the potato and leek pieces together, and to add flavour. Take the cheese and grate it finely.
Before the pie can be filled, the inside of the pie needs to be glazed. Glazing prevents the pastry absorbing moisture when the filling is added, to keep it light and crisp. The recipe uses two egg yokes, one for the glaze, and a second to be combined with cream for the filling. The egg whites are not used in this recipe.
For the glaze, take one of the yokes and blend it until smooth. A pastry brush comes in handy, to help spread the egg yoke over the base and up the sides. Remember not to use up all the egg yoke, as some will be required later to coat the top.
Flat leaf parsley is full of vitamins, and also adds flavour to the pie. Wash the parsley, and rip up the leaves and small stems. Any thick stems may be chewy, and these should be discarded.
The pie is now ready for filling, and the method is similar to lasagna as the ingredients are added in layers to build up the pie. I like to start with a layer of potatoes to cover the base. It is helpful to allow the potatoes a few minutes to cool down after cooking to avoid burning fingers. Next, sprinkle over a covering of leeks. Followed by the torn up parsley. Finish the layer with a coating of the grated cheese.
These steps are then repeated until the pie is filled up in layers. I think this is the most enjoyable part of making the pie. All the time consuming preparation is done, and every layer is a wonderful combination of flavours all coming together. The pie should be not be filled right up, but have at least a centimetre free at the top of the pie. This will be needed when the pie top is added.
Before topping the pie, there is a final step, which is to add the cream and egg yoke mix which helps add moisture and to set the filling. Take the remaining egg yoke, and add this to a large bowl together with the cream. Whisk the mixture gently until it is light and airy, before pouring this over the top of the pie filling. Try to pour the mixture evenly, over all parts of the pie.
The pie is now ready for its lid. Carefully lower the pastry lid over the centre of the pie. The top sides of the pie should now be above the lid, and these can be crimped onto the lid to create a tight seal. This is done by gently pinching the pastry on the sides and lid together. I like this task as it is possible to see how the finished pie will look. When the lid and edges have been completely joined together, take the remaining glaze, and brush this out to cover the top of the pie. The glaze will give the pie a golden colour when it comes out from the oven.
Before baking, the final step is to cut two long slits into the top of the pie. This helps steam escape, which otherwise may explode through the lid during baking.
Preparation is now complete. Place the pie in a preheated oven set to 180 °C, and one hour later you will have a delicious looking golden pie. The pie will be very hot, and I like to set it aside for at least 15 minutes to cool before cutting.
Releasing the pie tin is an anxious moment, but provided it was well greased, it should pull away leaving a perfect pie. I like to cut the pie like a cake, one delicious slice at a time.
The pie is at best eaten straight away, whilst the pastry is light, fluffy, and crisp. I think it goes well with a side salad.
Any pie that is left over can be stored in a fridge and enjoyed the next day. I like to reheat the pie in an oven, as this way the pastry will be nice and crisp.