I’d heard incredible things about Nigella’s Old Rag Pie. Incredible things – from food writers I really admire. It’s one of those dishes that I’ve been after an excuse to make and when we pulled “Greece” from the Destination Kitchen Decision Bowl I had the perfect occasion.
The old rags in this pie, you see, are the little pieces of filo pastry that have been left after making other things – like spanakopita.
This is a salty-sweet version (think Greek cheesecake) of the Greek Patsavouropita, created by bakeries as a way of using up old scraps of filo pastry: the ”old rags” indicated by the title. They’d just go along their counters, collect up all the bits and turn them into this pie.
To be honest, Nigella had me at the Greek cheesecake description. Snappy filo, salty feta, a hint of thyme, and floral runny raw honey – what’s not to like?
Sadly though, as good as it looked (and sounded) we didn’t, like it, that is.
To be honest I think if we’d had it as more of a savoury dish it might have gone down better – with tomatoes, say – but then again, it was a textural thing with both Sarah and Grant, so maybe not.
Sarah took a bite and said, ‘I don’t know how I feel about this.’
Then she said, ‘this is a Nigella, isn’t it?’
I nodded and she shook her head. ‘Remember the Nutella brownies? I haven’t trusted her since.’
To put things into perspective, the Nutella brownie incident was back in 2016 (I know because I blogged it here) and we haven’t had a Nigella failure since then – and I hate to think how many of her recipes I’ve cooked since then.
‘But you loved the potatoes,’ I pointed out. To accompany our barbecued lamb, we had her garlicky roast potatoes with oregano and feta from “At My Table”. She’d also loved the salt and vinegar potatoes we’d had the previous week. As an aside, these are fabulous, although a bit of a palaver – you steam the potatoes whole before smashing them with a fork a bit and roasting them in the oven.
But back to the dinner table. ‘Yes, the potatoes were good,’ she said, ‘but I’m sorry, this takes me right back to the Nutella brownies.’ She sighed. ‘I don’t think that James would have let us down in this way.’ (James being James Martin.) ‘And this is the second time this week.’
‘The Keema wasn’t a failure,’ I protested. ‘In fact, I really liked it.’ Grant nodded – he did too.
She shrugged. ‘You sold it to us under false pretences – I was expecting Indian savoury mince and it was Korean savoury mince.’
‘But it still tasted good.’
‘Yeah, but it wasn’t amazing – not like her vanilla ice cream.’
And before anyone starts huffing and puffing about expectations and critics etc etc, it was all said with smiles and tongues planted firmly in cheeks.
For the record, I loved the Korean Keema (the recipe is from “Kitchen” but is online here) and while I won’t give the Old Rag Pie a second outing (but if you want to make it the recipe is here), I will be making the Keema again.
One thing (of the many things) I love about Nigella’s recipes is that she takes flavours or ideas of cuisines and unapologetically mixes them up. Keema, you see, is an Indian dish (also found in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal) that is usually made with minced lamb (or more commonly, mutton) peas and potatoes.
Nigella’s version of Keema becomes Korean because she uses a (frighteningly) red and fiery Korean chilli paste – gochujang – which, surprisingly, I was able to get at the supermarket. In fact, the only resemblance to Keema is the addition of peas and the use of mince – she uses turkey and I opted for lamb.
It is, however, easy and quick to put together, tasty, and comfort food in a bowl – I can see how Nigella referred to it as a hangover salve – and I very happily enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day.
I’ve taken on the challenge to cook my way through Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks. You can find other episodes here.