I’ll admit, I was first intrigued by this dish because of the name. It seemed to me something ancient and quaint, like a medieval recipe or remnant of a Tudor kitchen. I came across this first from a food stall that sells savory pies in London. It’s a really simple dish, but still packed with flavor. So I did a little research, and as best as I can tell, its origins are not so ancient or romantic. It is generally thought to have been developed by land girls in England during the Second World War to make them most of both available produce and strict rationing. Land girls, or the Women’s Land Army, were women who took on farm work throughout England to keep up food production while men were away fighting.
I love the simple comfort of this hearty and filling pie. It is perfect for a chilly night, served simply with a salad or even a bowl of soup. The tender potatoes and layers of allium flavors paired with a tangy aged cheddar cheese give this simple pie depth and dimension much deeper than the short ingredient list. Do seek out an aged cheddar – they are easy to find nowadays – you want that strong bite. Some recipes call for a crust made with whole wheat flour, and you can certainly do that, but frankly I like the simplicity of using a purchased, rolled pie crust. I love the homely look of cooking this in a springform pan, plus you can create a nice deep crust, but a pie plate or tart pan works too.
Homity Pie (Potato, Leek and Cheddar Pie)
1 pie crust for a 9-inch pie
1 ½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 2 large)
2 leeks, white and light green part
1 large yellow onion
5 green onions
2 ounces butter
¼ cup heavy cream
6 ounces aged cheddar cheese, grated and divided.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10 – inch springform pan with cooking spray. Fit the pie crust into the pan, pressing it as far up the sides as you can without tearing. Prick the bottom all over with a fork and place it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with ceramic baking beans or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven to cool, then remove the parchment and filler.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into bite-size pieces of about 1 -inch square. Place in a deep skillet and cover with water, sprinkle in a good tablespoon or so of salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes until the pieces are tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a sieve and wipe out the skillet.
- While the potatoes are cooking, slice the leeks in half, then in thin half moons. Place in a sieve and rinse with cold water, then shake to remove as much water as possible. Finely dice the onion and finely chop the green onion.
- When the potatoes are cooked, melt the butter in the wiped out skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, onion and green onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and glassy and the leeks are wilted, about 10 minutes. If they begin to brown, lower the heat. Pour in the cream and cook, stirring, until the cream has thickened a little, just a few minutes. Stir in half of the grated cheese and stir to melt. Remove the skillet from the heat and leave to cool. When the onion mixture is cool, add the potatoes and stir to combine everything, distributing all the ingredients evenly. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top evenly. The pie can be loosely covered and refrigerated for several hours at this point.
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 and cook a further 40 minutes, until cooked through and the cheese on top is nicely melted and browned. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, before releasing the ring and serving.