Homity Pie is a British open vegetable pie, made with potatoes, onions and cheese. It started life during World War II, when Land Girls working under rationing restrictions made pies from vegetables that were easily available in the fields. The word ‘homity’ was made up for the pie - probably a local expression relating to rationing.
The Pieminister recipe for Homity Pie - in Tristan Hogg and Jon Simon’s Pieminister: a pie for all seasons (2011; pp. 42-43) – comes via Crank’s, who they acknowledge as “veggie pioneers”. Following Crank’s revival of this pie, there are now several variations in recent cookbooks.
Wholemeal pastry is a feature of Homity Pie recipes (including Crank’s and Pieminster’s). Some recipes suggest that you can use readymade shortcrust pastry as an alternative, but I think some of the rustic charm of this pie would be lost without wholemeal. Pieminister start the recipe with the pastry, asking you to sift the flour into a bowl. With my sieve, all the wholemeal bits stayed in the sieve, while a fine brown flour went into the bowl. So I dumped all the wholesome bits into the bowl as well (I have it on good authority that sifting also lightens the flour, so I was not wasting my time). Butter, salt, grated parmesan and an egg yolk are also added. This wholemeal pastry handles well, especially after an hour in the fridge.
The unique feature of the Pieminister Homity Pie is the addition of sweet potato (instead of the more commonly used leeks). This is sort of G.I. Joe getting it on with the Land Girls or, as the Pieminister book says, added “hippity, dippity doo dah” jazz hands. When you first mix the bright orange sweet potato flesh into the pale potato, onion and crème fraiche mixture, it looks like a component from a different recipe. However, it soon begins to make sense.
The recipe calls for two sweet potatoes. I used two rather large sweet potatoes, and didn’t scrimp on the other ingredients either. Pieminister suggests this serves four. Well, for our family of four it did two dinners! This is a pie that can be served hot or cold, so it’s pretty versatile. Last night I served it warm (rather than hot) with a tomato salad, while tonight I’ll be serving it cold with a wider range of salad accompaniments.
The breadcrumb and cheese topping is the icing on the cake of a Homity Pie. I’m glad I got out my Ninja Express Chop (yes, another Christmas Present, just like the Pieminister book) to do the breadcrumbs properly. The chopped curly parsley in the filling also works well (other recipes specify different herbs or no herbs at all; although the canny Hairy Bikers also make their Homity Pie with parsley).
The Pieminister Homity Pie is a particularly rich take on the Homity Pie. There’s a lot of butter involved, for a start. It also takes a bit of time to construct, but is definitely worth the effort. It’s comfort food at its best.
Other Homity Pie recipes stress the easy, quick and cheap possibilities of Homity Pie. The River Cottage recipe, for example, stresses these virtues and notes that any leftover vegetables can be incorporated – in the spirit of the original Land Girl philosophy. The pie also freezes well.
Another distinctive touch occurs in the Elm Tree Foods recipe, where dried capers are added with the cheese. Some Homity Pie recipes suggest you can add meat, in particular, bacon. I am not sure you still have Homity Pie if you add meat (remember those Land Girls, vegetables and rationing). I think this is a pie that should stay veggie.