Homity Pie

I considered writing about Horopito (an NZ native bush pepper) or Harissa paste (a North African spicy paste) but just having arrived back in Auckland, where it is damp and dull, I had a hankering after Homity pie.

And not just any old Homity Pie but I was harking back to the one that I used to buy from Cranks restaurant in London. I arrived in London in 1982 and studied and worked in the Bloomsbury area for the next few years. My route took me from Charring Cross past two Cranks outlets before I arrived at Bedford College (Medical Research Unit) or UCL (Psychology Department). The slight detour to Tottenham Court Road was worth it every time. As a vegetarian in the 1980’s these two eating places were like mana from heaven to me and I still have their 1985 book Entertaining with Cranks and the Nadine Abensur book The New Cranks Recipe Book from 1996, although, sadly, the 1982 The Cranks Recipe Book seems to have become lost along the way. Opened in 1961 the Cranks conglomerate was sold to Guinness in 1987 by Kay Canter and Daphne Swann. Cranks has been recognised as a major influence in the spread of vegetarianism, and as Kay and Daphne say in the introduction to their 1985 book, ‘ A crank is a little thing which starts a revolution’.

The origins of Homity Pie are unclear. It has been attributed to the Land Girls during the second world war when food supplies were limited and rationing was in place. Alternatively, it has been assigned to the county of Devon as an example of a country vegetable pie. Generally, it is an open vegetable pie, with shortcrust plain or wholemeal pastry and a filling of potatoes, leeks, perhaps peas but always with lots of cheese.

Present day recipes still use a pastry case:

The original Cranks recipe called for wholemeal pastry cases, but by 1986 the recipe was felt to be old fashioned and so the pastry went. Here is the updated ‘healthy’ 1996 recipe for Cranks Homity Pie. I hope you enjoy it.

HOMITY PIE

page 108, The New Cranks Recipe Book by Nadine Abensur, 1996, Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, The Orion Publishing Group, London.

  • 1 kg/ 2lb potatoes
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 200ml/8fl oz sour cream
  • 25ml/1fl oz sunflower oil
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 100g/4oz petit pois
  • 100g/4oz onion, diced
  • 75g/3oz mature Cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5.
  • Peel the potatoes and place in a pan of salted cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 30 minutes until soft. Drain, add the butter, cream, oil, garlic and seasoning. Mash well with a potato masher.
  • Meanwhile, bring a smaller pan of salted water to the boil and add the peas. Blanch for 3-4 minutes and drain.
  • Add the peas and onions to the potato mixture.
  • Mix well and transfer to a buttered ovenproof dish.
  • Finally, top with the grated cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

This recipe serves 6. You could also add a layer of tomatoes in the middle or a layer of cooked spinach. Or, even better, both!