I can't even remember how long ago it was that I had learnt to make this pie. All I remember was that the first time I made it, it actually tasted better than it looked and much, much better than I had thought it would. Somehow at the time, I had been more of a pie person than a cake person - as far as baking them was concerned. There could be several reasons for my pie-affinity: pies don't sink, they always look warm and inviting on a table, they are easy to make and hard to get very wrong that they're rendered inedible. Pies and I, we have a good history together and we are that (links index fingers) tight.
Fresh lemon basil and oregano from my garden
Of course, years ago, purple sweet potatoes were not part of this recipe. However today, I am still very much enamored by these purple beauties, and so have decided that they will add an extra, sweetish dimension to this savory pie. Unfortunately, I only had about half the amount of purple sweet potatoes required left in my kitchen, but if this pie were to be redone another day, I would definitely add more potatoes.
The best bits about this pie are the oregano-flavored crust and a hint of lemon basil in the sweet-savory filling. If you're wondering about this herbal combination, well, oregano and basil are the only herbs currently thriving in my garden and are therefore the most obvious choices. Previously, I'd always used dried oregano to flavor the crust, but using fresh leaves this time around gave the pie that extra kick.
Butter, black pepper, flour and salt for the crust
Oregano strips kneaded into the pastry
My masseuse taught me that if you soak your onions and garlic in water for about 30 mins,
the skins slip off effortlessly. Funny the sort of things you can learn on the massage table!
Quite purposely, I left the garlic cloves whole and they cooked beautifully and became so tender in the pie. Bite into a slice of this creamy pie and you can immediately savor how the softened garlic and onions lend their very subtle but distinct flavors. Of course, the Purple Queen of Carbs (but good carbs!) adds beauty and interest to an otherwise just rustic-looking dish. The beauty of this pie is that it also keeps well for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, so you can have a slice for breakfast, bring it into the office for lunch or pack it up for a picnic in the park. Want your guests/family/friends to come back for seconds? Go on and make this versatile pie!
Savory Onion, Garlic and Purple Sweet Potato Pie
250g plain flour
125g cold butter, cubed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 fresh oregano leaves, julienned
2 large onions, sliced
10 cloves garlic, leave whole
10 basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
200g purple sweet potatoes, sliced and steamed
250ml heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 200C.
2. Make pastry crust first: Put flour, salt, pepper and butter into a large bowl. Rub cold butter into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add the sliced oregano. Crack the egg into a well made in the flour mixture and knead with your hands for about 2 minutes until it forms a smooth dough. Add a bit of flour if necessary, the pastry should still be pliable but not sticky.
3. Roll the pastry out to line greased a 9-inch pie tin (I found it easier to press the pastry in using my palm and finers). Trim the edges of the crust by pressing down on the sides of the tin and breaking off the dough.
4. Prick the base of the crust with a fork, line with baking paper or aluminium foil and bake for 10 minutes.
5. Reduce temperature to 180C, take pie tin out of the oven and remove the paper or foil.
6. For the filling, slice the purple sweet potatoes into round pieces and steam for 30 minutes until cooked through. Set aside to cool.
7. Saute the onions, garlic and basil leaves with olive oil for 5 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Leave to cool slightly. Spoon this mixture into the pie crust, making sure the ingredients are fairly evenly distributed. Arrange the sweet potato slices around the pie evenly before pouring over the cream topping.
8. For topping, whisk together heavy cream, eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl until fully combined. Pour this carefully into the crust, making sure the potatoes stay in place.
9. Bake for 25 minutes until the topping is just firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Serve warm or cold with salad or soup.