Layered squash, barley & spinach pie

Layered squash, barley & spinach pie

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(23 ratings)

Prep: 40 mins Cook: 2 hrs, 40 mins

More effort

Serves 4 - 8
A spectacular veggie Christmas centrepiece - when sliced, it looks stunning, and the flavours go brilliantly with all your favourite trimmings

Nutrition and extra info

  • Vegetarian

Nutrition: per serving (8)

  • kcal889
  • fat49g
  • saturates24g
  • carbs99g
  • sugars13g
  • fibre0g
  • protein19g
  • salt1.31g
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    For the filling

    • 1 small butternut squash (about 1kg/2lb 4oz), peeled and cubed
    • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for brushing
      olive oil

      Olive oil

      ol-iv oyl

      Probably the most widely-used oil in cooking, olive oil is pressed from fresh olives. It's…

    • 3 onions, finely chopped



      Onions are endlessly versatile and an essential ingredient in countless recipes. Native to Asia…

    • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 100g mushroom, sliced



      The mushroom is a fungus which comes in a wide range of varieties that belong to two distinct…

    • 85g whole cooked chestnut, quartered



      'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...' that kitsch old Nat King Cole song perfectly…

    • 100g pearl barley
    • 1.2l vegetable stock
    • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
      Soy sauce

      Soy sauce

      soy sor-s

      An Asian condiment and ingredient that comes in a variety of of varieties ranging from light to…

    • zest 1 lemon



      Oval in shape with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile…

    • 250g/9oz tub ricotta



      Ricotta is an Italian cheese made from whey and traditionally a by-product of…

    • 200g full-fat soft cheese
    • ½ x 20g/1oz pack sage, leaves picked and chopped



      Popular in both Italian and British cookery, sage has long, grey-green leaves with a slightly…

    • 400g baby spinach
    • 20g pack parsley, leaves chopped



      One of the most ubiquitous herbs in British cookery, parsley is also popular in European and…

    For the pastry

    • 700g plain flour
    • 140g butter



      Butter is a dairy product made from separating whole milk or cream into fat and…

    • 85g/3oz white vegetable shortening (we used Trex)
    • 100ml milk



      One of the most widely used ingredients, milk is often referred to as a 'complete' food…

    • 1 egg, lightly beaten



      The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition packed with protein and a…

    • few bay leaves (optional)


    1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 and roast the butternut squash with 1 tbsp oil for 25-30 mins until tender, then set aside.

    2. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a large pan and cook the onions and garlic for 10 mins until soft. Remove two-thirds, then add the mushrooms, chestnuts and pearl barley to the pan. Sizzle for a few mins, pour in the stock, then bring to the boil. Bubble fiercely for 30 mins until the barley is tender and sticky and there is no liquid left. Stir in the soy sauce, season and set aside.

    3. While the barley layer is cooking, make the other layers. Stir the zest, ricotta, soft cheese and a good amount of seasoning into the reserved onions until smooth. Take a third of the mixture and gently fold with the sage and roasted squash. For the final layer, boil the kettle, then tip half the spinach into a large colander. Pour over the boiling water to wilt, then repeat with the rest of the spinach. Tip the spinach onto a clean tea towel and squeeze out all the moisture you can. Roughly chop, then mix into the remaining ricotta mixture with the parsley.

    4. To make the pie, brush a 900g loaf tin with a little oil. Make 3 long triplelayer strips of foil and lay these across the width of the tin to help you lift out the pie to serve. Tip flour and 3 tsp salt into the largest bowl you have and gently melt the butter, shortening and milk with 200ml water in a pan. Once melted, increase heat until bubbling fiercely, tip onto the flour, then quickly beat with a wooden spoon until combined. Don’t worry if some powdery bits remain. Once cool enough to handle, knead until it comes together, then tip onto your work surface. Set aside a third and roll the rest into a large rectangle – big enough to line the tin with a little overhanging.

    5. Ease into the tin, pressing evenly into the corners and sides – you can be rough with it. Spoon in the spinach layer, smooth the surface, then repeat with the barley and finally the squash layer. Dome the squash mix slightly to give a rounded top. Roll out the remaining pastry to fit, brush the edges with some egg, then press the lid over the top. Trim the excess and crimp or pinch to seal, then decorate with pastry trimmings cut into leaves (add bay leaves, if using, when the pie has 30 mins left in the oven). Can be covered and chilled overnight.

    6. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 and put a large baking sheet inside. Brush the surface of the pie with egg, lift onto the heated baking tray and bake for 30 mins, then reduce the heat to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and bake for a further 1 hr 30 mins until the pastry is golden brown and feels hard. Stand for 15-20 mins while you get the rest of the meal ready – the pie will stay warm. Gently tip out the pie, or use the foil strips to lift out carefully. Carry to the table and slice thickly to serve.

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    Comments, questions and tips

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    26th Dec, 2013
    I used shop bought ready rolled pastry to cut down time. Cooked the three separate layers on Monday, thought at the time that there was an awful lot of each to fit in a 2lb loaf tin and I was right. in the end I used about 2/3 or spinach and barley mixtures to leave enough room for top layer. For barley layer I found I needed to stir continuously once water level dropped as otherwise mixture was sticking to pan. Some parts of recipe time consuming and fiddly, like zesting a whole lemon. Next time I would substitute a couple of squirts of Jif. Was taking dish to sister-in-law's house for family Christmas dinner so made pie up on Tuesday and part baked, using lowest shelf on top oven at 180 (not fan) but that still meant that top was well done after 48 minutes. Took pie covered in foil, so foil everywhere, and went in oven at fan 160 for a further 30 minutes. Biggest issue was getting it out of non-stick, oiled and triple layered aluminium strips pan. If I was doing again I would use tripled layer foil across at 3 points and also one lengthwise as the pie is pretty heavy and needs more help out of the tin. Whole thing took longer than recipe, largely due to the preparation time,
    18th Dec, 2013
    Took about three hours to make & bake (I made the night before, froze it and baked from chilled). The quantities of filling are far too much for the loaf tin specified - even though I did precariously pile the squash at the top to give it some height! Recipe doesn't tell you how thin to roll your pastry out - don't make it too thick as it does get stodgy otherwise. Definitely needs more herbs and seasoning (I liberally jazzed this one - za'atar for the squash, dried porcini mushrooms in the risotto and grated nutmeg in the spinach), but as a basic recipe to work on, it's a very decent vegetarian pie!
    16th Dec, 2013
    I made this at the weekend for a pre-Christmas Christmas Dinner and everyone LOVED it; will definitely making again and I'm sure will become a firm favourite! 2 tips: do not underestimate the time it takes to prep and bake!! I made my own rye pastry too, I started at noon and we ate just before 5pm (many mince pies were consumed in the interim!) I really disliked the lemon zest, although the others loved it I wouldn't add it again.
    2nd Apr, 2013
    Delicious and looks impressive, but takes quite a long time to make. Turned out very well, just like in the picture, with colourful layers.
    12th Mar, 2013
    This worked out amazing for me and I am still getting requests from the carnivore boyfriend to make it again! I used supermarket pastry to cut down on the prep time (and i guess resolved the saltyness issue that others experienced) and I roasted the squash/ made the mushroom/ barley mixture the night before so on the day i just had to mix, layer and combine. Strangely enough, I think the winning step to the really nice flavour of the pie was using quite a strong herb flavoured stock as the barley picked it up beautifully (I used the new gel type stock dissolving ones). As this had such an impact on flavour i would definitely not skimp by using powder/cubes! The only other tip i would suggest is not roasting the chestnuts yourself and pre-buying them if you can. It's a lot of effort for so little meat (plus the exploding factor). In all fairness next time i would prob leave that ingredient out as you could barely taste it. Good luck!
    9th Feb, 2013
    Tried this as a special meal the other week. It wasn't too difficult to make but it did take all the time in the world, even longer than the 3 hrs 20 mins it claims! Nice, though.
    3rd Feb, 2013
    I made this for Christmas dinner. I didn't find it that difficult to make and was very intrigued by the hot pastry mix. It looked amazing as it came out of the oven but sadly the sides couldn't cope with the weight of the pie so they collapsed. I think I may have taken it out a bit too early. I have to say that it tasted amazing though, will definitely give it another go. I really enjoyed making it.
    4th Jan, 2013
    This was really tasty! I made it for a vegetarian this Christmas and it was a huge success. However... 1. It is not moderately easy - I'm pretty adept at following recipes but this was quite tricky. 2. the recommended tin size is far far too small - I ended up using a 7" square cake tin. 3. I would highly recommend cooking this the day before you need it - it's all very well saying do the veggies etc whilst the pie is cooking but it's much more hassle than a turkey! Totally worth the effort though and you'd get more than 8 servings out of it.
    27th Dec, 2012
    I made this for Christmas dinner. I left out the chestnuts as I couldn't find any and halved the salt in the pastry. It was quite a lengthy process but no more so than a lasagne really. It was a very popular choice at dinner, even among the meat eaters. I will definitely make it again, it was very flavorsome and well worth the effort.
    26th Dec, 2012
    I didn't read the comments before attempting this. Yes, lots of dishes and preparation. The layers tasted good, managed to squeeze all into a standard loaf tin as I cut down on the spinach and butternut. I have put it in fridge to bake for family dinner tomorrow (includes one vegetarian), along with other dishes. So will see how it turns out and what they say. Took me nearly 4 hours to prepare, had to keep rereading the recipe. Very tiring and complicated. Have pastry left over. Don't know whether I will make it again, it's labour intensive.


    Marion P
    25th Nov, 2013
    Can this be frozen, either before cooking or after cooking and then reheated? If not how long in advance can this be made and kept?
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