I got really over-excited at the 20% off Le Creuset sale at John Lewis, and was delighted to get home late this evening and find that my pie dish (in ‘cassis’) had arrived. I’d planned to make the courgette and rice filo pie from River Cottage Veg Every Day! at some point this week, and this seemed like as good a time as any. It’s delicious and very easy, and I’ve just made it having been to one of those drinks parties where people keep topping up your glass so you lose track of how much you’ve had, so I can vouch for its simplicity.

Courgette and rice filo pie (from River Cottage Veg Every Day!)

500g courgettes, coarsely grated
75g long-grain rice
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped (I love onion in all its forms, so I put a whole one in)
75g hard goat’s cheese or mature Cheddar, grated (you might like to add some feta too, adjusting the seasoning accordingly)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
A handful of dill, chopped
A good handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
250g filo pastry (if you can get a slightly larger pack, do – you always end up with one really raggedy sheet per packet)
75g unsalted butter, melted
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.

2. Mix the courgettes, rice, onion, cheese, eggs, olive oil and chopped herbs together in a large bowl, and season well with salt and pepper. It really does need quite a bit of salt, especially if you’re not using feta.

3. Lightly brush a sheet of film pastry with melted butter, and use it to line an ovenproof dish – leave the excess hanging over the sides. Repeat this with all but the last sheet of pastry, lining the dish the whole way round.

4. Pour the filling into the pastry-lined dish. Fold the excess pastry over to cover the filling, dabbing with melted butter to encourage the pastry to hold together. Crumple the last sheet of pastry in your hands a bit, before placing it over the top of the pie and tucking in the edges.

5. Brush the top with a bit more butter, and bake for 45 minutes until golden. Depending on how late it is and how tipsy and/or hungry you are, you could eat this with some Turkish-/Greek-influenced mezze dishes, or just shovel a slice down and go to bed.

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My birthday, falling as it does on the last day of August, marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. I can’t feel particularly sad about waving goodbye to the hot days for another year, not least because a) this is England, for gawd’s sake, and b) I hate being too hot. I hate picnics (I am forever plagued by wasps and dogs), sunstroke, and the indignity of sleeveless tops. (However, I can’t express my joy at the coming of autumn better that Eva Wiseman did in the Observer on Sunday.)

So, a year older and wiser, I am newly obsessed by the cosiness of autumnal comfort food. (If you don’t see much of me for the next few months, check my bed and then my kitchen.) Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Every Day! is my new favourite kitchen tome; I made the squash and fennel lasagne yesterday, and tonight seemed like a good time to try the swede and potato pasties. Even if they didn’t taste great, these would be worth making for the lovely rootsy savoury smell that wafts around your house while they’re in the oven; luckily, they’re also absolutely delicious. I’m taking one in for my packed lunch tomorrow (with age cometh thrift).

Swede and potato pasties (from River Cottage Veg Every Day!)

Makes 4

For the pastry:

300g plain flour
A pinch of sea salt
150g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

For the filling:

225g potato
125g swede
75g carrot
1 small onion, grated
Leaves from a handful of parsley, finely chopped
Leaves from a few sprigs of  thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
50g strong Cheddar, grated (Hugh says this is optional. I say: sling it in.)
30g butter, melted

To finish:

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon milk, to glaze

  1. To make the pastry, mix the flour and salt together, then add the pieces of butter and toss them in the flour until each little cube is separately coated. Add about 150ml of chilled or iced water to form a fairly firm dough. (Clumsy as ever, I added a little too much, but a well-floured work surface and rolling pin did the trick.)
  2. Shape the dough into a rectangle with your hands on a well-floured work surface, and then roll it out away from you, in one direction only, until the rectangle is about 1cm thick. Fold the far third towards you, then fold the nearest third over the top of that – you’ll now have a rectangle made up of three equal layers. Give the pastry a quarter turn, and repeat the rolling, folding and turning five times. Wrap the pastry in cling film, then chill in the fridge for between 30 minutes and an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C. If there’s someone in your house who likes a bit of painstaking chopping, call them into the kitchen at this point.
  4. Peel the potato, swede and carrot and cut into 3–4mm dice. This is quite pleasing really, once it’s done. Put the chopped veg in a bowl, along with the grated onion, herbs, bouillon, seasoning and cheese. Melt the butter and stir that in last.
  5. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick, and cut out 4 circles using a small plate (around 19cm diameter) – you’ll probably have to squish together the trimmings and roll them out again for the last one.
  6. Divide the vegetable mixture between the four pastry squares, keeping it to one side of each circle. Brush the edges with a little water, fold over the other half of pastry, and crimp the edges together securely. Patch up any holes that appear as you stretch the pastry over – you don’t want leaky pasties.
  7. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Place the pasties on the sheets, and brush them with the egg glaze. Bake for 35–40 minutes until golden brown.

It’s entirely my own fault, but I’m feeling pretty delicate today. If I’m not going to leave the house and do something useful, I generally turn to baking as a way to get the sense of achievement that normal people get from doing a bit of gardening (or whatever it is they do on a Sunday). I’d bought some buttermilk earlier this week, intending to make some of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s savoury muffins from last week’s Guardian Weekend magazine, and today seemed as good a day as any. (You can consult Hugh’s article and recipes here.)

I decided to make a variation on the red onion, cheddar, and bacon muffins, leaving out the bacon, replacing the cheddar with cubed feta, and adding a handful of toasted pine nuts. I also replaced half of the specified 250g wholemeal self-raising flour with its white equivalent, wanting to avoid that worthy heaviness at all costs. It wasn’t a risk worth taking today.

Apart from a moment when I absent-mindedly licked a spoonful of the mixture and was shocked to discover that it’s just not the same when it’s not cake batter, I didn’t encounter any problems. The muffins are pretty tasty too, especially warm from the oven. My only issue with them is that once cooked and removed from their paper cases, a thick layer of muffin remains stubbornly stuck to the paper. Perhaps more melted butter in the mixture might solve this – further experiments in muffin-making will have to be conducted.