The time after a vacation is the toughest for me to get back to work and re-align my energies. Refreshed with new experiences, I’m usually lost dreaming up new recipes and projects while cheekily ignoring the dishes piled up in the sink. Really… the humdrum can wait! But this time, it’s just been ‘boom, boom, boom’ from the moment I landed back in the city. Please, Mumbai, you’ve got to learn to be kinder to the ones that have endured you as long as I have. Mixing flour and butter, and rolling out pie dough is a far gentler way of getting back to routine than being greeted with a case of mixed-up baggage and fielding a zillion phone calls while navigating traffic!
Baking is my own little refuge from the world around me. The mere measuring of ingredients, the mise en place and the aroma wafting from the oven… it’s all I need to clear my head. But this time, it couldn’t just_be a cake, I _needed to bake a pie. Flour, butter and CHEESE – that’s how I pull myself together!
There’s a kilo of ripe tomatoes that get cored and sliced to make up the filling of the pie. It’s just Jenga-like layers upon layers of cheese, tomatoes and a herbed-yogurt dressing. The dressing bubbles up a bit while the pie’s baking and mine overflowed slightly on to the baking tray, but settled down by the time I was ready to pull the pie out of the oven. Gosh, there was a time when you could get me to do a vanishing act by just uttering the words “settle down”. Let’s just say I’ve made my peace with it now… by not settling!
You see that? This is the kind of talk that goes on in my head when I’m in the kitchen. All the chopping and the mixing had me feeling better already. And I’ve still to tell you about the pie dough! Buttermilk is just always a pain to find in stores in India, so I almost always end up using substitutes. It’s easy, just add a spoonful of lemon juice to a cup of milk and gently stir it. Let it rest for a couple of minutes as you watch the milk curdle. There’s your buttermilk substitute! The crust is really simple to work on until you get to the part where you have to add buttermilk – add this in small batches until the dough starts to come together. I stopped at the half-cup mark, but you could end up needing anywhere between ½ to ¾ cup of buttermilk. I’m a food processor junkie while making pie crust, but you can totally do this by hand with a pastry cutter.
Patience, it’s what the world needs, it’s what this pie tests while you let it cool for at least an hour before cutting into it. I could tell you that you could serve this pie for dinner accompanied by some Caesar Salad. Or that my ketchup-crazed house has been devouring this in slices for breakfast for the last two days. But first, you need to cut yourself a piece. Get yourself a cup of coffee too. It’s what I did anyway J.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 6 to 8.