With the temperature outside still dropping to its lowest this year (we had some snow this morning and it was so nice to wake up to it, unfortunately it’s melted now), the need for comfort food is ever increasing and Christmas is fast approaching so I thought a low effort dinner Centerpieces will work beautifully.
With that in mind, I made a delicious creamy and cheesy vegan mushroom pie, which continues my mushroom theme that I started with this festive layered pâté on Wednesday.
This vegan mushroom pie is bursting with flavor and is really quite simple to make. You can make the filling well in advance – even freeze it – and then assemble and bake the pie on the day. This would make a delightful, low-effort vegan centerpiece at Christmas or Thanksgiving if making Wellingtons more elaborately vegan doesn’t appeal. Below, I walk you through all the key ingredients and process of making this simple pie with detailed step-by-step photos. I hope you’ll give it a crack and if you do, you’ll enjoy it!
More about ingredients
Mushrooms: You can use any fresh mushrooms you enjoy, but I wanted to make this recipe as accessible as possible, so I went for the brown mushrooms known in the UK as chestnuts (and cremini in the US).
Today: I used a combination of fresh thyme and rosemary for a filling flavor, but they work just as well on their own. You can, of course, also use dried herbs, but use them lightly – I’d start with a good pinch – as they are more pungent than fresh (unless they’re stale).
Balsamic: The balsamic vinegar works really well with the mushrooms () and it cuts wonderfully through the richness of the filling. If possible, splash on a bottle of aged balsamic vinaigrette (it costs around £7 / 8.5$ in my local shop) as it has a great flavor and consistency.
Nutrition Facts: Nutritional yeast is a staple vegetarian seasoning that adds a cheesy flavor. It’s inactive yeast so don’t worry if the name confuses you – we’re not adding baker’s yeast to anything. If you don’t have it, you can use white miso paste in its place, although in much smaller amounts (1 tablespoon should be plenty).
Tapioca: Tapioca, also known as tapioca starch, is a thickener and I used a small amount of it to thicken the ‘cheese’ sauce so that it binds the filling better. Cornflour (cornstarch) or arrowroot are both commonly used substitutions, but I haven’t tried them in this dish so I can’t guarantee they’ll work just as well.
Cashews: I used cashews to make a really simple vegan cheese/cheese sauce to bind the mushroom filling together, add creaminess and substance to the filling. If you find a melted vegan variation that you enjoy, you can use that instead (and skip the entire process of making the cashew cheese – steps 7 and 8). If you can’t eat cashews, soaking sunflower seeds will give similar results.
Breadcrumbs: I used a breadcrumb sprinkling on the pastry to keep it from getting soggy from the filling. If you are gluten-free, use coarse walnuts.
Puff Pastry: Contrary to popular belief, many commercially available pastries are accidentally vegan, and this includes puff pastry. It goes without saying that a pastry won’t be vegan if it’s marketed as ‘butter’ or ‘all butter’ but if no such claim is made, it’s worth looking at the ingredients list. I used a ready-made rolled puff pastry that comes in a 23 cm / 9″ by 37 cm / 14.5″ sheet and weighs 320 g / 11 oz. My baked pie was 20 cm / 8 inches long and 14 cm / 5.5 inches wide. If you want to make this dish gluten-free, look for gluten-free (and vegan) puff pastry. It is sold by a juice roll brand in the UK, for example.
First fry the shallots and garlic until soft and fragrant, then remove from the pan and fry until the mushrooms are cooked – shriveled and dark brown – and all the liquid has cooked off.
When the mushrooms are done, return the shallot and garlic mixture to the pan. Season well, add the balsamic and cook for a few more minutes to caramelise slightly. Whisk the ‘cheese’ sauce in a separate pan for a few minutes, until thickened and slightly thickened.
Add the grated cheese to the mushroom mixture and fold the two together with a flexible spatula, until well combined. Cool completely before assembling the pie.
Divide your pastry sheet into two unequal parts, the smaller one will form the base of the pie and the larger one will cover the filling. Sprinkle the base with breadcrumbs, leaving 1.5cm / 0.5in all around to seal, then pile the mushroom filling on top. Using a spatula, form it into a uniform mound, sprinkle some more breadcrumbs on top of the filling then cover loosely with a large piece of pastry.
The next step is to shape the pie. Using your hands, gently cover the pasty over the filling, without stretching it at all. Use your fingertips and then a fork to seal the top sheet of pastry with the base around the filling. Trim excess pastry with a sharp knife. Brush the pastry with a vegan eggwash mixture, sprinkle with seeds of choice and using a sharp knife make 3-4 slits in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape. Refrigerate until the oven is pre-heated, then bake until golden-brown.
- 45 ml / 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 large shallots, very finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves and ½ tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves*
- 750 g / 10.5 oz mushrooms *, chopped
- 30 ml / 2 tablespoons aged balsamic
- 100 g / ¾ cup cashews, soaked*
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons tapioca starch
- ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, adjust to taste
- 25 g / ½ cup breadcrumbs or coarse walnuts
- 320g / 11oz Vegan Puff Pastry*
- Egg wash: 2 tablespoons plant milk, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, ½ teaspoon soy sauce
- Sesame, poppy or nigella seeds, garnish
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the shallots and fry for a few minutes over a low heat before adding the garlic and herbs.
- Saute the shallots and garlic until soft and fragrant, season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Heat another tablespoon of oil in the same pan (no need to wash it) and add about a third of the chopped mushrooms. Coat them in oil and let them cook slowly, stirring from time to time.
- Once the first batch of mushrooms looks more or less cooked (shriveled and dark brown), add another, and when the second looks cooked, add the third batch. Season with a little salt and pepper. Go to step 7 while waiting.
- When all the mushrooms are cooked and all excess liquid has cooked off, return the fried shallots and garlic to the pan and add another tablespoon of olive oil.
- Cook another 5 minutes or so to caramelize then add the balsamic to the pan. Cook for another minute before turning off the heat.
- Puree the cashews, nutritional yeast, tapioca, a good pinch of salt and pepper and 135 ml (½ cup + 2 tablespoons) water in a mini blender until smooth.
- Transfer the mixture to a new pan and stir over low heat until the mixture thickens and expands slightly (about 2-3 minutes).
- Add the cheese mixture to the mushroom mixture and mix the two together. Cool completely.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge 10 minutes before assembly.
- Place the rolled dough on the table in front of you (place it on the backing paper) so that the long edge is parallel to you.
- Cut a 16 cm / 6.25 inch piece of pastry for the bottom of the pie and another slightly larger (18 cm / 7 inch wide) piece as a lid. My pastry was 23 cm / 9 inches deep, yours may be slightly different, that’s ok.
- Sprinkle the base of the pie with breadcrumbs, leaving about a 1.25 cm / 0.5 inch margin to seal.
- Make a mound of filling on top of the breadcrumbs, then sprinkle more breadcrumbs on top (they keep the pastry from getting soggy).
- Using the tines of a fork, fold the large piece of pastry over the filling, sealing it around the pie. Trim off excess with a sharp knife.
- Brush whole pie with vegan egg wash, make a few slits on top with a sharp knife and sprinkle with seeds of choice. Refrigerate for 30 minutes while the oven preheats.
- Place a pizza stone or an upside down metal baking tray in the center of the oven and preheat it to 200° C / 390° F.
- Remove the pie from the fridge and place in the preheated oven using a pizza peel or a flat tray and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden brown.
- Let it sit a bit (30 minutes or so) before cutting. Store cooled leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
*Mushrooms: any mushroom you enjoy will work, I used chestnuts/cremini as they are very easily accessible in the UK.
*Cough: Soak them in boiling water for at least 20 minutes (maybe more!) or overnight in cold water to soften.
*Puff pastry: I used a ready-made rolled puff pastry that comes in a 23 cm / 9″ by 37 cm / 14.5″ sheet and weighs 320 g / 11 oz. My baked pie was 21 cm / 8.25 inches long and 15 cm / 6 inches wide.
*Freezing Tips: You can make the whole pie in advance and freeze it (before or after baking). I froze it baked, thawed it in the fridge overnight and then reheated it at 180° C / 355° F for about 30 minutes, covering the top with a piece of foil for the first 15 minutes or so.