Blame my son. He turned up in Melbourne recently with his girlfriend and after introductions were made – and a soothing cup of tea to ease my acute nerves – he gently told me both of them were vegetarian. To which my response was, ‘Yes, and?’
I think we can safely say I have that side of things covered off. And while I didn’t bat an eyelid, it was a good excuse as any to make a round of these rolls on what turned out to be the first really cold day of the year. Continue reading Day 13 – Spinach and Fetta Rolls
From the north of England, Eccles cakes are not cakes at all, but sweet fruit-encrusted pastry disks. When I first made them, I was taught how to make the puff pastry to go with it, and if you really are planning to win a few cake competitions, you could do worse. But for those of us that have a life, use butter puff pastry instead. Continue reading Sweet Treats – Eccles Cakes
Never one to say no to a lemon pie, I have to say this recipe intrigued me. Combine whole sliced lemons with sugar and egg. Could such a simple recipe really be that good?
To answer this question, one has to look at the origins of the pie. From early settler American origins, the Shaker religious movement is known for its simple and straightforward style of design in everything from furniture to household implements to recipes. Quite simply, this form of lemon pie is well-known for its purity of flavour and for its reliability- so why change it?
Yet change it I did. Continue reading Desserts – Shaker Lemon Pie
I have wanted to try sour cream pastry ever since I saw Maggie Beer make some on the wonderful The Cook and The Chef TV series several years ago.
In the last week I’ve used it twice, once for a light and lovely spring vegetable tart and then to cover a big, boofy beer and beef pie (no more alliteration, I promise). And in each case, it worked beautifully.
This really is a very light and crispy pastry and quite different form your normal fiddly shortcrust. Like the lady herself, it’s no fuss and always provides brilliant results.
To begin with, you will find yourself adding far more butter than you would normally and no egg or water to bind the pastry – the sour cream does the job magnificently. The result is a very soft dough, almost like a scone or damper mixture. When I lined a tart tin, it tore quite easily, but the great thing is that it’s very easy to press back into shape without making a botched mess of the whole thing – it’s wonderful to work with.
In flavour it’s very light, the texture is incredibly flaky, and with all that butter, a perfect foil to the big flavours of the tart or pie it contains. It’s a brilliant all-rounder, perfect for sweet or savoury fillings.
Continue reading Breads and Pastries – Maggie Beer’s Sour Cream Pastry
Cream or custard? Hard chocolate topping or soft fudge sauce? Profiteroles have their fans and most are very particular about what goes in them and on them. This is where a light puff of nothing, namely choux pastry, can become part of a heroic ensemble, with no one element out doing the other.
If you want to fill them up with a light sweetened cream, I have given that option further below, but my preference is for a crème patissiere, a thick custardy paste made with eggs, milk, and vanilla bean. This is after all a special occasion dessert, so why not go to the effort?
Continue reading Desserts – Profiteroles
I’m happy to admit right here that I have a ready supply of pre-made frozen puff pastry sheets in my freezer. When it comes to time-saving foods, this is one ingredient I’m happy to use whenever the need arises. It’s reliable, relatively cost-effective and convenient.
So why am I giving you a recipe for something that can be readily substituted? Because home-made puff pastry tastes better.
Some people fear making their own puff pastry because they think it’s finicky. The truth is that although it needs a light touch and gentle handling, it also needs a lot of time to make. Unless you are at home during the week, this is a recipe to make at the weekend.
This pastry is made in stages. It is easy enough to assemble, by rubbing fat into flour, but it needs a lot of time between stages to rest in the fridge.
There are two rules to keep in mind when making puff pastry. Firstly, you must let the pastry rest between stages. By resting the pastry you allow the gluten in the flour to relax and in turn the pastry becomes lighter rather than tougher. Secondly, you must make sure everything is kept as cool in temperature as possible. That includes your hands as well as work surfaces and ingredients.
Continue reading Basics – Rough Puff Pastry
Let’s start with some fighting words shall we? If I see another recipe for Cornish Pasties calling for mince, peas and carrots, I shall scream.
Authentic pasties contain none of these ingredients. You don’t make them with shortcrust pastry either.
Pasties are British regional peasant food and a world away from the mass-produced nastiness we put up with today. Nicknamed ‘Oggies’ by the celtic-speaking Cornish, they often encased fish or rabbit mixed with root vegetables. Sometimes, jam or stewed fruit was placed at the other end, with a piece of pastry inserted in the middle cleverly separating lunch from dessert.
Continue reading Day 13 – Cornish Pasties
Making pastry can be more confronting for some cooks than a trip to the dentist, but it doesn’t have to be as torturous. There are some simple guidelines to making pastry that, if followed, gives good results every time.
I am going to give the recipes for two types of shortcrust pastry – the first is used for savoury dishes, such as a meat pie or a quiche. The second is a sweet shortcrust pastry, sometimes called a pâté sucrée. Continue reading Kitchen Basics – Shortcrust Pastry