I love a good pie. And I happen to think that there’s no better option than a piping-hot pie for a late lunch on a cold winter afternoon. A fluffy sweet potato blanket covering Moroccan-spiced vegetables and black olives- it really is heaven on a plate.
This pie’s crazy, you must be thinking. Heck yes, it’s crazy good.
What’s more, it will make you all warm and cosy and glowy inside and thaw out your poor numb fingers and toes.
I don’t know about you, but I’m terribly afraid of the cold. I spend most of my time at home huddled up inside the safety of my blankets, surfing the internet and whatnot. Let’s just say evolution hasn’t gifted me with much tolerance for low temperatures.
Not going out much means I haven’t been to the market for more than a week. I wasn’t left with much fresh produce, but I was armed with determination and creativity (or craziness, that’s debatable). My main assets were some sweet potatoes, and since gnocchi was too much of a fuss, I settled on improvising my own version of a cottage pie.
This pie contains some common ingredients found in Moroccan cuisine, like black olives, cumin, and preserved lemon, although this is definitely not how they are normally used. Luckily, these ingredients are relatively easy to find, and you can even make your own preserved lemons following the instructions here!
The bulk of the filling is what I believe is called a mirepoix, which is basically a ‘holy trinity’ of vegetables commonly used to create a basic combination of flavours that kick-starts a dish. Of course, you can substitute anything you like. Cabbage and green peas would be wonderful in this pie for example, and something hearty like kidney beans would also work terrifically. The thing is, this pie is basically a mish mash of whatever produce I had, and it is the Moroccan flavours that do all the work of teleporting your tastebuds to that beautiful African country.
Or at least how I imagine it to be.
I haven’t been there. Yet.
Remember to season the sweet potatoes well, or they’ll taste a little bland. If you’re feeling extra fancy, pipe the sweet potato mash using any large star tip. Even so, this is definitely some down-to-earth comfort food. It’s a cottage pie, and a darn good one at that.
Moroccan Cottage Pie Recipe
(Makes 2 pies)
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard
rice bran oil or olive oil
1/2 white onion
1/2 red onion
1 large carrot
2 stalks celery
30 pitted black olives (about 3/4 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 preserved lemon
1/2 teaspoon cumin (whole seeds or powder)
salt and pepper to taste
- Peel and quarter sweet potatoes. Cover with water in a saucepan and boil for 30 minutes, until a fork can be inserted with minimal resistance.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Finely chop the onions, carrot and celery, and chop up the black olives into quarters. Rinse the preserved lemon to get rid of excess salt, and mince finely.
- When sweet potatoes are done, drain thoroughly and mash with a fork. (Optional: pass through a sieve to obtain a smoother and less fibrous texture)
- Add in mustard to sweet potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat up a skillet on medium. Using a little oil, sauté the onion for 5 minutes, until translucent. (If using whole cumin seeds, toss them in with the onion) Add in the carrot and celery and sauté for another 2 minutes before adding in the garlic, lemon, and cumin. Cook for another 2 minutes and season according to taste.
- Transfer the onion mixture to the baking dish and even out with a spatula. Spread the mashed sweet potato over the filling, and score a criss-cross pattern using the tines of a fork. (Alternatively, fit a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe the mashed sweet potato over the filling)
- Bake for 15 minutes. For a crispy top, turn on the broiler for an extra 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.
- Serve and enjoy!