Lord Woolton Pie
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Ten lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying
Five golden rings
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree
Not familiar with Lord Woolton pie? I don’t blame you. First published in 1941 in the middle of strict WWII rationing, it encouraged Brits to use their garden vegetables without meat. Its namesake, Lord Woolton, served as the Minister of Food, where he had the unhappy job of trying to make a country at war happy about eating less meat, less sugar, and fewer eggs.
This pie in his honor, developed by the chef at The Savoy, never really took off. I wanted to make a modern version that kept the essentials the same while giving it a much-needed update. To build flavors from the ground up, we saute onions and garlic in butter before boiling all of the vegetables together and swap out plain old water for a combo of stock and wine. Instead of just throwing the boiled vegetables in the baking dish, we drain the cooking liquid to prevent the whole thing from turning out a soggy mess and turn the veggie-infused stock and wine into flavorful cheesy gravy. With a top layer of mashed potatoes and more cheese for good measure, I think even Lord Woolton would have been impressed.
We basically have a vegetarian take on a shepherd’s pie, plus cheese and gravy and lots of yummy veggies. I used the vegetables called for in the original recipe (although I did have to look up “swede” because the British don’t understand that it’s really called rutabaga), but feel free to swap them out for your favorites! The essential elements stay the same: tender vegetables simmered in flavorful liquid, easy gravy, and mashed potato lid. It’s hard to go wrong.
Science tidbit: leaving the skin on the potatoes for mashing makes you feel more like a frugal wartime cook, and it also ups the nutritional value of the dish. The skins contain high concentrations of B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and potassium, and it also delivers lots of fiber.
- 1 lb + ½ lb. russet potatoes
- 7 T. butter, divided
- ¼ c. + ½ c. milk
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 rutabaga/swede
- 5 carrots
- ½ head cauliflower
- 2 c. vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 c. white wine
- ¼ c. flour
- 1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Make the mashed potatoes: cut 1 pound potatoes into about eight pieces per potato. Boil until soft all the way through, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool.
- Cut the potatoes into smaller pieces to reduce the size of the pieces of skin. Mash the potatoes with 3 tablespoons butter, ¼ cup milk, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Make the vegetables: mice the garlic, chop the onion, and cut the rest of the vegetables into ½-inch dice.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two, until fragrant. Add the rest of the vegetables, the stock, and the wine. Pour in additional water until the liquid just covers the vegetables. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
- Drain the vegetables, reserving the cooking liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Make the gravy: melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add ¼ cup flour, whisking constantly, until fully incorporated. Slowly add 1 cup reserved vegetable cooking liquid and ½ cup milk, whisking constantly and breaking up any clumps. Gradually add 1 cup cheese, whisking until all of the cheese is melted. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Assemble the pie: transfer the vegetables to a 9x13 pan, pour the gravy on top, and gently mix. Top with the mashed potatoes and extra cheese, and bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the dish is hot throughout.
Recipe adapted from the 1941 original from the World Carrot Museum, nutrition science from EatRight.org.