Saucy Dressings’ herby shallot crumble
This is a different type of pie – instead of being ‘the main event’, a pie accompanied by a salad, or a green vegetable such as peas or broccoli – this pie forms the combined accompaniment to whatever protein you are serving. It goes particularly well with gammon, a crispy helping of pork belly, or plain poached chicken for example.
It’s not a smart pie, but it’s definitely comfort food, a sort of nutritious form of colcannon if you like. The spring onions are substituted by much more substantial shallots, and some crunchy celery. And the carbohydrate in the mash is substituted for a thinner layer of oats, breadcrumbs, and sesame seeds. The butter is substituted for crème fraîche.
I first got the idea from a stunning emerald-green creation on Chef Paul Collins’ Instagram feed. His version also includes shallots, mushrooms, spinach, herbs, breadcrumbs and butter.
But it is, a very different approach. Mine includes other things (more storecupboard, less fresh), including a generous dollop of Dijon mustard. Not everyone likes mustard, so if you are concerned, you can simply omit it from the recipe, but serve it separately at the table for people to help themselves.
If you do that, you could push the boat out by serving the mustard in something splendid like this fabulous piece made by the silversmith Jean Baptiste Claude Odiot (1763-1850), commissioned by a ‘confidente’ of the Russian empress. If you want to have a close up view of it, you will have to visit the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam.
The crumble goes very well with plain poached chicken breast, and a garlicy sauce made of a mix of mayonnaise and yoghurt, and a clove or two of peeled garlic crushed with textured salt. It keeps in the fridge for up to a week.
Saucy Dressings’ herby shallot crumble
Serves – 4
For the filling:
- 1 cup/15g dried mushrooms, soaked in a cup of hot water
- 3 sticks of celery
- 6 banana shallots, or 4 small red onions
- 1 x 380g/14 oz tin spinach; or the same weight of frozen
- 200 ml/1 cup crème fraîche
- 150g/5 oz Boursin (or any cream cheese)
- Fresh chives and dill
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (optional, see note, above)
- Pinch of Urfa pepper flakes
- Olive oil for frying
For the savoury crumble topping:
- 80g/¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 50g/½ cup rolled oats (in fact, during lockdown I couldn’t get these, so I used Bircher Meusli)
- 35g/¼ cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsps sesame seeds
- 2 tbsps Herbes de Provence
- 100g/4 oz butter
- Flaked, smoked salt
- Freshly ground black pepper (Indonesian long ideally)
- Boil a kettle, and put the shallots in a small saucepan. Cover with just boiled water, put to one side.
- If your spinach is frozen, defrost it in the microwave.
- Get the dried mushrooms soaking.
- Destring and chop the celery.
- In another small saucepan, melt the butter.
- Strain off the hot water from the shallots, and cool them with cold running water. Peel each by cutting down, across the top of the root end, nearly through, but picking up the skin at the end of the cut and peeling it off. The rest of the skin should come off easily. Cut vertically into small wedges. Put back in the saucepan, together with some olive oil, and the chopped celery, and begin to fry gently. Peel and add all the other shallots in the same way.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Once the butter has melted, take it off the heat and mix in all the other crumble ingredients.
- Empty the tinned or frozen spinach into a sieve and squeeze out any liquid.
- Add Urfa pepper, and snip in the fresh herbs to the shallots. Add the crème fraîche, the Boursin, and the Dijon mustard (if you are using). Stir well.
- Add the spinach, stir well again.
- Add the mushrooms, without their juice. Strain the juice into the shallot mix through the same sieve you used for the spinach. Stir again.
- Turn the whole lot into an ovenproof dish. Top with the crumble. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Serve, with a few fresh herbs snipped over the top.