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Homity Pies

Homity pies straight from the oven, hot and still in their tins, and served with a mixed salad and home-made croutons and a beetroot salad

I tasted my first homity pie in a wholefood restaurant in our town in the early 1980s.  Sadly, that restaurant is long gone, but the memory of its delicious homity pies served with a variety of salads has remained.  I asked the proprietor for the recipe and he told me it was from The Cranks Recipe Book which I then bought.

From what I’ve been able to ascertain, Cranks as a company no longer exists.  It was a chain of wholefood vegetarian restaurants founded by David and Kay Canter and Daphne Swann, starting in London in 1961.  At that time there were few vegetarian restaurants in this country and wholefood ingredients were hard to find.  Indeed, it was named Cranks because vegetarians were, prior to these restaurants opening, considered to be “cranky”.

In time Cranks had restaurants in some other towns and there was one in the Cider Press Centre in Dartington, where we visited on Thursday. That café/restaurant is now called Bayards Kitchen and I hope that David and Kay (both now deceased) aren’t spinning in their wholefood, vegetarian graves as I noticed that meat has been added to the menu, with meat pies and pasties.  But nonetheless, there are still plenty of vegetarian options. (There also used to be a Cranks wholefood shop in the High Street, Totnes where I would buy their delicious wholemeal bread which was, admittedly on the rather ‘solid’ side of bread, the complete opposite of a light, crusty French baguette, but also very nice when fresh (when a little stale you could use it as a building brick!)

All the illustrations here are from my Cranks Recipe Book, published by Dent in 1982

(My edition is hardback, with dust jacket, published in 1984)

The Cranks’ menus at first consisted mainly of salads, not just the humble round, limp lettuce with a bit of cucumber and tomato, but all kinds of vegetables and pulses.  The style of the restaurants was different from what had gone before, too. They were styled similarly to the 1960s coffee bars (wine bars hadn’t yet been invented, let alone the coffee shops of today although, as we know, coffee houses have a long history dating back to the days of Samuel Pepys) with natural oak tables, hand-thrown stoneware pottery, quarry tiles, woven baskets … I’m sure you get the picture.

I love the rustic colours of the illustrations (by John Lawrence, Calligraphy by Donald Jackson) in the Cranks Recipe Book

Here is the recipe for homity pie …

I don’t, however, use wholemeal pastry for homity pie. I find it far too heavy, too solid.  I use ordinary shortcrust pastry made with plain white flour and margarine, bound together with an egg and a little milk if that is necessary.  You can make as much or as little pastry as you require, just bearing in mind that you use half the amount of fat to flour, so 150gr of flour would be 75gr of fat (margarine or butter or whatever you use to make your pastry.)

I don’t blind bake.  If you use very cool ingredients, allow the pastry (once made) to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour, use good quality tins that transfer the heat quickly (ceramic isn’t a good idea for pastry, although some ceramic flan dishes are very pretty, I admit), roll the pastry as thinly as possible and have the oven hot to start with, I have found blind baking totally unnecessary.

Basically, you boil or steam potatoes, and chop them up into chunks.  Chop and saute an onion or onions (depending on how many pies you wish to make, or if you are making a large individual pie for a family meal) …

A large homity pie, straight from the oven, still in it’s loose-bottomed flan tin

Grate cheese (strong cheddar or a mixture of cheddar, gruyere and parmesan, whichever you prefer), chop parsley (it doesn’t make any difference whether you use flat-leaf or curly-leaf parsley, but use plenty of it) and then combine the four ingredients, the potato chunks, the chopped sautéed onion, the grated cheese and the chopped parsley, adding about a tablespoon of milk and seasoning. The recipe mentions garlic but I find garlic can ‘take over’ and so rather than using garlic myself I saute the onions using garlic butter, which gives a much more  subtle garlic taste to the mixture.  But this is a personal preference, so if you like garlic, add that when you are sautéing the onions. The recipe says add the crushed garlic with the cheese, but I like the garlic (if I use it) cooked before it is added.

Now, pile this mixture into the small tins or a large flan tin lined with pastry and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes at around 200C, middle shelf, checking the oven from time, perhaps turning down to 180C if the mixture is cooking too quickly, but the oven must be hot to start with so that the pastry starts to bake immediately and there is no chance of a ‘soggy bottom’.

You can serve homity pies with whatever you like – baked beans for a supper dish, or a green or a mixed salad, coleslaw, tomato sauce, etc. 

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Thankyou for sharing this recipe Margaret, I shall be making these at some point, they look absolutely scrumptious. I don’t have any small dishes so I shall have to get some, which edition is the book you have? I have looked on Amazon there are several editions on there but I can’t see one with the cover you have, some don’t have images of the cover.

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Marlene. The edition of the book I have is 1984. It’s a hardback still with its dust jacket. I love this original copy, it’s very much of its time, which makes it all the more attractive to me (as well as having some good recipes in it.) I’ve had the little tins for years, they are well worn now! But you can make a large one, or even one in a Victoria sandwich tin. But the better quality the tin, the better the bake. My latest tins are from Lakeland, loose bottomed quite heavy flan tins and they make excellent quiches.

      • simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

        Thankyou for your reply Margaret, I just looked on Amazon I couldn’t see this one I shall keep an eye out though. I think I would prefer making it in small tins, I like Lakeland we have a big one here, smaller tins are better for portion control as well.

        • Margaret Powling

          Yes, I like the small tins, the pastry comes out lovely and crisp if the oven is hot and the pasty rolled out quite thinly (it must rest first in the fridge and then it handles very well.) I like homity pies with a mixed salad of whatever we have handy, and coleslaw or, as I showed, a beetroot salad which I buy ready prepared in the supermarket.

  2. thank you, Margaret. I look forward to making these, they sound delicious. Back in the early 1970s, when I was a young mum, I was the original wholemeal-brown rice-sprouts-juices-yoghurt mum. Apparently it was tragic for my kids to be so well fed….. that thing of kids wanting to be the same as other kids. Nowadays, my grand daughter makes drinks for her toddler by blending vegetables, fruit and seeds with coconut water. Times do change…..

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, times and diets change, don’t they? We might be sniffy about some convenience and junk foods today, but they were just as bad in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with dried curries to which you simply added water and brought it back to the boil, and dried mashed potato in a packet (Cadbury’s Smash, which I trust never made it to New Zealand!) The best thing about Cadbury’s Smash was the advert, which was a winner! It showed a group of aliens laughing at people on each peeling, boiling and then mashing real potatoes while the little aliens were light years ahead and using instant dried potato to which you simply added boiling water. I loved the advert but not the product.
      I found that a too-wholefood diet played havoc with my innards. My mother lived a long life on white bread, potatoes and never eating pasta, and rice was for puddings!

      • interesting about wholefoods, Margaret. I find them too harsh now, also. Instant food here in the 1950s was scarce! Canned spaghetti, baked beans, tomato sauce, and a few canned vegetables. I never had any of these so I can’t comment too much, but my children, to their horror, never had much instant food either.

        • Margaret Powling

          Yes, I find wholefoods too harsh now, too. Some of the convenience foods in the 1960s weren’t cheap, though, because they were new to the market. Vesta curries, which were dried curries in packets to which you added boiling water and then continued to stir it until all the lumps were ‘cooked’, was popular in the 1960s. We tried them and then I thought, “I can do better than this!” and began to make my own. Some ‘convenience’ foods today are quite good, and shouldn’t all be classed as ‘junk’ food. One company I know makes the most gorgeous pies and quiches, handy to have one in the freezer for those times when you really are too tired to cook. But, of course, nothing beats having made a pie or quiche yourself and freezing that instead.

  3. Thank you Margaret, the pies look and sound delicious, like Eloise I currently don’t have any small dishes so will need to order some quickly, think I will serve them with a hearty winter slaw.
    My childhood diet was mixed, on one hand my lovely Mum made all her own cakes and bread, I remember swapping my sandwiches at school with my friend just to taste white sliced bread, think my pal came off better with that one! On the other hand we also had our share of Angel Delight, Dream Topping etc

    • Margaret Powling

      Hope you will enjoy making the homity pies, Elaine. Of course, recipes I give can be adjusted to personal tastes, perhaps more cheese or more onion according to what the family enjoys, but I love these with lots of parsley in them.
      Oh, how funny, swapping your lovely homemade bread for white sliced with your school friend!

  4. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Hominy pies are worth making just to be able to say ‘homity pie’ when asked what’s cooking! I love the sound. I had heard of them but couldn’t have said what was in them.

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, that’s so funny, Eloise! Yes, “homity pie” sounds very homespun and nourishing, doesn’t it? Easy, inexpensive ingredients, too: potato, onion, cheese, parsley. Simples! But I’ve had good ones and I’ve had indifferent ones. The best are home made, straight from the oven. But keep that pastry as thin as possible, and a very hot oven to start with. That way, no soggy bottoms.

  5. Thanks for the recipe. I will endeavour to find a recipe for a suitable gluten free pastry. Having to eat GF can be a bore at times, I’m afraid.

    I enjoyed your description of the book and the history of the restaurant and vegetarian options of the time.

    I giggled when I read your comments about the Vesta curries. One of my aunties was a dreadful cook in her teens and twenties (when she still lived at home) and despite her mother (my paternal grandmother) being a wonderful cook, none of the skills seemed to pass onto her. The only thing I ever saw this particular Aunty ‘cook’ for herself were Vesta curries – and they were awful ! I hadn’t thought of them in over 30 years.

    • Margaret Powling

      Glad that my mention of Vesta curries brought back memories that perhaps made you smile regarding your Aunt’s lack of culinary skills! Yes, they were awful, weren’t they?
      I do hope you can find a good recipe for GF pastry. So many people now need GF foods, something unheard of when I was a child.

  6. I cannot wait to try these! I enjoyed reading this and vicariously experiencing these pies so much!

    • Margaret Powling

      We love Homity pies, Beth, either large ones for when the whole family are around the table, or individual ones to have with salad and perhaps baked beans.

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