Quince Cheesecake

Quince Cheesecake

Wotchers!

Something very different for you all this week, that I discovered on my shiny, SHINY new favourite recipe source – Coquinaria – an online resource of Dutch Medieval recipes.

Now is the season for Quince and whilst I love their fragrance perfuming the house, and the two-for-one recipe combination of ruby Quince Jelly and aromatic Quince Paste (membrillo) that you can make from just one batch of fruit, I’ve made them both for the past five years. I was looking for something different to use these fabulous fruits and this is the treasure I found.

It comes from the Manuscript UB Gent 476, which dates from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and which corresponds roughly to the end of the Wars of the Roses and the start of the Tudor reign in England and Wales.

As far as tweaking the recipe goes, I’ve added a pastry crust and a decorated pastry lid, sprinkled with nib sugar. Reasoning that fruit nowadays is probably much larger and better formed than that of five hundred years ago, I halved the number of quince required to just three and also cut down on the butter, egg-yolks and sugar – it’s practically health food! 😉

Actually, just a further word about the ingredients – you can treat the curd/almonds/raisins/egg quantities given as the midpoint on a sliding scale, depending on how you want your cheesecake to turn out. If you reduce them all to 60g and just use 2 yolks, then the flavour of the quince really comes through sharp and strong, and the texture is quite light. If you increase them all to 120g and add an extra yolk, then it’s very rich and complex, with no one flavour dominating, and a much firmer texture. The quantities given strike a nice balance, I think, but experiment!

Peering over my shoulder at the Middle Dutch original text, my husband commented that an accurate translation of the title would be something along the lines of Weird/Peculiar/Eccentric Tart, but that’s not going to get anyone excited, so I’ve opted for a name both tempting and recognisable.

Quince Cheesecake

For the pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
ice cold water

Filling
3 large-ish quince
85g curd cheese – drained
85g ground almonds
85g raisins
3 tablespoons white sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
3 large yolks
60g clarified unsalted butter – melted

Decoration
Apple jelly or apricot glaze
nibbed sugar

  • For the pastry
    • Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
    • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and knead smooth.
    • Divide into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
    • Take the smaller of the two pieces of pastry from the fridge and roll out until it it large enough to cover your intended tart tin. I used a 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin. This piece of pastry will be for the decorative lid. Don’t roll the pastry too thin, or the lid might curl up during baking – no thinner than 5mm. Slide the pastry onto some baking parchment.
    • Take the tart tin you’re going to use and lay it upside-down onto your pastry. LIGHTLY score around it with the tip of a sharp knife. This will give you an outline for your decorations.
    • Using a knife, or mini cutters if you have them, cut a design into the pastry lid. Don’t make the cutouts either too large or too close together – you still need to transfer it onto the top of the tart and whilst a lacy design is, without doubt, breathtaking, getting it from your work surface onto the tart would be a nightmare.
    • Cover the lid with cling film and return it to the fridge to rest/chill while you prepare the filling.
  • For the filling
    • Bring a large pan of water to the boil.
    • Remove the fluff from the quince by rubbing them over with a clean cloth.
    • Gently lower the quince – whole – into the boiling water and turn the heat down a little to a gentle simmer.
    • Simmer – uncovered – for 20-30 minutes until the fruit are tender (test with a cocktail stick). The motion of the hot water should have the fruit gently tumbling as they simmer, so they should cook evenly. The skins will split, but that’s fine, as long as the boiling isn’t too rough, they won’t fall apart.
    • Lift the poached fruit out of the water and set onto a sieve to drain/cool.
    • When cool enough to handle, remove the skin – it’ll peel off easily, like tomato skins – and cut away from the core all of the cooked and softened buttery-yellow flesh. The cores are larger than, say, an apple core, with the flesh closest to the core becoming quite gritty – you want to avoid using this gritty part.
    • Mash/blend all the cooked quince to a smooth puree. I got over 450g from just three quince. If your fruit isn’t as bountiful, consider scaling down the rest of the filling ingredients.
    • Add the drained curd, ground almonds, sugar and spices and mix thoroughly.
    • Taste and adjust sweetness/spices if necessary.
    • Stir in the yolks, raisins and the melted, clarified butter.
  • To assemble the tart
    • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
    • Remove the larger piece of pastry from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of 4-5mm.
    • Line your tart tin and use a fork to poke holes over the pastry at the bottom. Make sure there is enough pastry to hang over the edges of the tin.
    • Line with baking parchment and beads/rice and bake for 10 minutes.
    • Remove parchment/beads and reduce oven temperature to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
    • Pour the filling into the partly-baked case and smooth over.
    • Dampen the edges of the tart and slide the decorated tart lid onto the tart.
    • Press the edges together firmly, crimp as desired, then trim the excess pastry.
    • Brush the tart lid with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
    • Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling has set and the pastry has browned.
    • Brush the pastry lid with warmed jelly/glaze and sprinkle with nibbed sugar. I spent time fishing sugar nibs out of the lattice holes, but there’s no need to be so precious about it 😉

Cornbread

Cornbread

Wotchers!

My local supermarket recently set aside some shelves for non-traditional items. I’m guessing it’s on a trial basis, but I’m always curious to see what’s new and exciting in the land of food retail. (Hey, you have to get your jollies where you can).

ANYHOO……..

One of the items that caught my eye was a big bag of corn meal (corn flour), and I decided I’d see if I could bake myself some ultimate American cornbread. Simple, you’d think? Well, that’s what I foolishly assumed when I began my searching, but what I discovered was it’s a real minefield out there, with devotees for variations from both north and south, sweet and salty, and with various additions including actual corn kernels, corn puree, cheese, bacon grease and chillies.

I was in a fog of indecision until I stumbled across this recipe from an old farming magazine from 1847. Several things about the recipe appealed to me, not least because it claimed the resultant ‘cakes’ would be light and honeycombed. Other details that made it stand out from the many other recipes I had been seeing were that it was yeast raised, sugar free, fat free and gluten free. In addition, unlike many of the modern recipes, it contained solely corn meal and unlike the modern gluten-free recipes, there was no additional alchemy required in the form of different flours and additives to put in.

The method varied too, with the batter being set to rise overnight using yeast, and then, once the other ingredients had been added, being poured into a cold pan before baking. Actually, the original recipe didn’t specifically say that it should be a cold pan, it just said to bake it, but since all of the other recipes were most insistent that the pan be roaring hot before adding the corn mix, that’s what I did for the first trial run. It wasn’t a success. The extreme heat killed the yeast on the edges, so while the middle rose delightfully, the edges were heavy and hard. Subsequent trial runs with a cold pan were much more successful, as the picture above illustrates. I used my non-stick, heavy 24cm diameter saute pan to bake the bread in the oven, because the handle is removable.

Excuse me for banging on, but this recipe is yet another example of why I love old recipes so much. Simple, wholesome ingredients that can be enjoyed without the need for complicated additives or specialised components. The only requirement for this particular recipe is time – remembering to mix up the corn meal and yeast the night before – or in the morning if you want to enjoy it with your evening meal.

It was delicious warm from the oven, with butter and honey, for breakfast. Other uses are as an accompaniment to, for example, chilli, gumbo, jambalaya. It’s best eaten warm, but once cold, can also be easily reheated with a quick zap in the microwave or oven. I turned the remainder into crumbs and froze them, ready to use in meatballs, stuffing and as coating for home-made chicken nuggets and fish fingers.

Feel free to customise this to your own tastes by adding whatever flavourings take your fancy, but I hope you’ll try it just once as is, in all its splendid simplicity.

Jenna in Ohio – I hope you approve! 😀

Cornbread

Mixture 1
450g corn meal
1 sachet easyblend yeast
1tsp salt
warm water to mix

  • Put the corn meal, salt and yeast into a bowl and add enough water until the mixture is easy to stir. It varied, depending on the moisture content of the corn meal, but you’ll need to add between 600ml – 1200ml (1-2 pints). It will have the consistency of a loose batter.
  • Cover with cling film and leave overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Mixture 2
1 large egg
2tbs milk [1]
2tbs plain yogurt [1]
1 rounded tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Grease a 24cm deep, heavy pan or skillet.
  • Whisk the ingredients for Mixture 2 together and then whisk it into the cornmeal.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes, turning the pan around after 20 minutes to ensure even colouring. Check for done-ness by inserting a cocktail stick into the centre.
  • If the top seems to be browning too quickly, slide a sheet of either foil or parchment over the pan.
  • Serve warm from the pan.

[1] You can use 60ml or 4tbs of buttermilk if you prefer.

 


Potato Pitta

Potato Pitta

Wotchers!

I love pitta bread – it reminds me of my years in the Middle East. Plus it’s always fun to have a sammich with the filling all neatly tucked away in a pocket: filling integrity being a very serious matter in the business of sandwich – and sammich – crafting.

The one niggle I have with regular pitta, is opening it to make room for the filling. It’s always a good idea to lightly toast your pitta under a grill before you try splitting it open. Hopefully, it will puff up and make the job a little easier. If it doesn’t, then you have to cut it open by hand and here’s where I get a little grumpy: there’s always a thin side and a thick side, and it only takes the slightest slip of the knife to poke a hole through one side and then your pocket has sprung a leak.

Not so with these beauties. For a start, they’re a little thicker than regular pitta, which means there’s actually some soft insides to slice through. Let me briefly digress into some advice on cutting pitta pockets. Some people favour cutting all down one side, but to my mind, this isn’t the best approach. Sure, it might give you a wide pocket into which to stuff your favourite fillings, but in doing so, you lose the structural integrity of the pitta and it becomes a two-handed juggle to keep everything from spilling out. Much better to take the bull by the horns and cut directly across the middle – which gives two pockets, each with a lovely straight opening and a well-formed structure for your filling. It might require a little more care in filling, but once it is in, it’s not going anywhere except in your mouth. You only need one hand to hold it, too. There’s also a real likelihood that I have spent WAY too much time thinking about this.

ANYHOO…..

Another attraction of these breads is that they’re deliciously soft, and remain so way past the shelf-life of regular pitta breads. The last of the previous batch I made stayed pillowy right up until I spotted a little mould starting – 9 days after baking!

They’re incredibly versatile – as well as sandwich pockets, lightly toasted and cut in ‘soldiers’ they’re great for dipping into hummus, moutable salad (roast aubergine + tahini, aka baba ghanoush), even a soft boiled egg. and they also make fab ‘instant’ pizza bases.

Lastly, they’re a great Deja Food. You can, of course, cook potatoes especially to make these, and their warmth will then assist the yeast in making the dough rise. However, you can just as easily use potatoes from previous meals with no discernible difference in the resulting bread. The batch in the photograph was made using the insides of 2-day old baked potatoes – once riced, I zapped them in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm them up a little before adding to the rest of the ingredients. Simples!

Potato Pitta

Makes 12 fluffy pitta breads.

350g cooked, riced potato
2 sachets fast-action yeast
2tsp caster sugar
1tsp salt
250ml whole milk
50ml vegetable oil
400-500g strong white bread flour

  • If the potatoes are cold, warm them briefly in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and tip into a large bowl.
  • Add the yeast to the potatoes.
  • Warm the milk to blood temperature.
  • Add the sugar and salt to the milk and stir to dissolve.
  • Add the oil to the milk, mix briefly, then add the liquids to the potatoes and yeast.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Gradually mix in the flour until a soft dough is achieved. From all the times I’ve made this, it’s pretty much 400g of flour that is needed, but a lot depends on the moisture content of both the flour and the potatoes. It’s better to have the dough too soft than too dry, so proceed with caution one 3/4 of the flour has been added.
  • Cover with cling film and leave to prove for 1 hour.
  • Tip out the risen dough and pat out the air.
  • Form into a ball, cover lightly with a cloth and allow to rest for a further 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Divide the dough into 12 even pieces and shape into balls. It’s worth taking the trouble to weigh the dough and divide it evenly, so that the breads are all of a similar size and therefore cook evenly. Don’t go mad with it, though – within 5g is plenty close enough.
  • Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into oval pitta shapes. They want to be fairly thin – no more than 1cm in order to keep them pitta shaped once baked, but again, don’t get too precious about it – “that’ll do” is fine.
  • Arrange on baking parchment-lined baking sheets and dust liberally with flour.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheets around after 10 minutes, to ensure the breads bake evenly.
  • Cool on the baking sheet, covered with a clean cloth, to ensure the crust stays soft and pillowy.

 


Improv Salads

Chicken Salad with Prunes

Wotchers!

This week saw the need for some culinary ingenuity here in deepest, darkest Worcestershire.

My daughter caught a bug and was off school for the tail end of the week, effectively preventing me from going shopping and as I had already procrastinated weekly shopping to Thursday’s ToDo List, we therefore all had to make do with what little was in the house already.

Whilst it was hardly a Gomser Cholera Pie situation, it did nudge me to be a little more creative in pulling ingredients together. I also experimented with the presentation by stacking the various elements in a tower, which made for much more eye appeal and created interest where there wasn’t much. (Are stacks/towers in or out this season? I can’t keep up). ANYHOO – I thought they looked very striking, especially when each individual element was visible. If you’ve got professional rings – great! – otherwise, opening steamed pudding tins both ends, as mentioned way back in Muffins, gives you a food-grade metal ring for a fraction of the cost. A flat-bottomed, straight-sided glass performs well to ‘tamp-down’ each layer.

I had some bits and pieces of vegetables and chicken in the fridge, some pickles, frozen peas, half a cucumber, eggs, plain yogurt. and mayonnaise. A veritable Deja Food banquet! What follows is more a list of suggestions based on my tinkering to encourage you to have a go yourself and – literally – throw something together from next to nothing.

Vegetables: Cooked al-dente, veggies retain a lot more of their colour and are still perfectly fine up to 2 days after cooking, provided they are stored in the fridge. Don’t chop roughly, rather dice them small so that they fit well together in layers in the moulds. Broccoli and cauliflower should be separated into tiny florets. Frozen peas are brilliant – ready in a flash, sweet and a fabulous pop of green. Caramelise some onions and toss through some mushrooms – store in your fridge for instant flavour boost. Personally, sweetcorn is the only tinned vegetable I keep in the cupboard, but tins of pre-soaked and cooked pulses such a chick peas, butter beans, lentils, etc. are invaluable. If you’re using fresh salad veggies, de-seed them to help avoid too much moisture adversely affecting your stack (tomatoes, cucumber etc).

Meat: The remains of a larger join are great. Trim off any fat, sinews and skin – any meat making an encore appearance at the table should be just as carefully prepared as it’s debut.

Fish: It’s more usual for seafood, rather than fish, to be served cold. Having said that, a few tins of firm fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and pilchards in the cupboard are always handy. Drain and flake lightly – don’t crush into a pulp.

Fruit: Don’t limit your imagination merely to the contents of the fruit bowl – dried fruit, especially the tarter fruits such as apricots, cranberries and barberries can provide quite a refreshing zing to a cold salad. That being said, my current favourite salad fruit is Bramley apple, diced small – so sour, so refreshing!

Eggs: Hardboiled, even a single egg can bulk up what seems to be a very meagre salad. Chop the white separately, then push the yolk through a sieve for a delicate drift of yellow.

Pickles: Fantastic to have to hand – piquant, crunchy and with an almost limitless shelf-life. I love the rich colour of red cabbage and beetroot, capers, walnuts, small silverskin onions, and mini gherkins. I also have a jar of larger cucumbers pickled in brine, for something a little different.

Mayonnaise: Perfect for acting as the ‘glue’ to keep the layers of the salad stacks together. I prefer my mayo on the tart side, so I mix it 50/50 with plain yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper, and sharpen with lemon juice if liked.

Technique:

  • Lay each item inside your ring and press down firmly to compact.
  • If required, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over the top to bind.
  • To keep the layer definition crisp, lay your ingredients around the edge of the ring, without any dressing, then fill in the middle and add dressing as required.
  • Make your layers contrast in colour, texture or flavour.
  • Add the sieved yolk just before serving, as you want it to sit lightly on top of your stack.
  • Allow finished stacks to ‘set’ in the fridge to firm up in shape and for the flavours to mix.
  • Made in larger rings, these salads are great for weekday lunches – they can be transported in the rings and the rings removed just before serving.

Below are the variations that I tried and my comments on each. Have fun!

Chicken Salad with PrunesChicken Salad with prunes

I’ve seen many variations of this salad on various Russian websites, and got to thinking that so many endorsements must mean that it’s not the weird combination it first seems.

Composition/Construction as in the photo – obviously you’d start with the bottom layer.

  • slices of cucumber
  • sieved egg yolk
  • a little mayonnaise
  • chopped egg white
  • caramelised onions and mushrooms
  • chopped chicken
  • a little mayonnaise
  • chopped, moist prunes.

Verdict: I found the prunes a little on the sweet side – but I had the end of a packet of softened ready-to-eat prunes to use up. Next time I think I’d go with chopped, dried prunes and soak in a little fruit juice just before putting the salad together, because I’m really liking the startling black colour they bring to this salad. The mushroom/onion combination was really tasty – as stated above, just tossed thinly sliced mushrooms into some onions as they cooked in a little butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. Since they were already moist, I didn’t need to use any mayonnaise between them and the layers either side.

Vegetable stack saladVeggie Pickle Salad Stack

A vegetarian mix of vegetables and pickles.

Composition/Construction

  • sprig of dill
  • onion/mushroom mixture
  • diced cornichons – mini pickled cucumbers
  • a little mayonnaise
  • diced cooked carrot
  • a little mayonnaise
  • chopped egg white
  • a little mayonnaise
  • cooked garden peas
  • a little mayonnaise
  • peeled and diced cooked potatoes

Verdict: A great side salad combination – the cornichons give a great crunch. The colours are a bit muted, so next time I’d probably add a few more layers and colours with some sweetcorn or golden carrot, broccoli and/or cauliflower, some shiny red kidney beans or  chopped red pepper/tomato. The addition of a couple of layers of cheese would turn this stack into a delicious meal option – imagine the looks of admiration at the office when you unveil this little beauty.

 

beet

Purple and Green Salad

I love the contrast of the green against the purple, and the three ‘white’ fillings set them off beautifully.

Composition/Construction

  • sprig of dill
  • a little mayonnaise
  • chopped egg white
  • french beans
  • pickled red cabbage – well drained on kitchen paper
  • diced chicken tossed in a little mayonnaise
  • garden peas – cooked from frozen and chilled in cold water
  • a little mayonnaise
  • diced beetroot
  • cooked, peeled, diced potatoes tossed in a little mayonnaise

Verdict: Probably my favourite of the three, due to the combination of colours and flavours. The pickles added a great zing of sharpness and the purples contrasted well against the creamy ‘white’ layers. Next time I would add a little variation to the white layers in the form of additional seasonings, chopped herbs, etc as the mayonnaise dulled the flavours to the point that it required some concentrated study to determine which particular ‘white’ was on the fork. Raw cauliflower or even a startling white feta or mozzarella would be other white options – beetroot/white cheese/walnut is one of my favourite flavour combos – I use it in salads, quiches, scones, pies….

 


Picnic Pie

PicnicPie
Wotchers!

So here we are at last – Final Week on this year’s Great British Bake Off.

And the challenges this week are to be a Savoury Picnic Pie, Sweet Pretzels and a three-tier Wedding Cake.

All of which put me in a right quandary over what to bake for this week’s Bake Off themed post. My Filo Picnic Pie was already savoury, as are my Cheese and Potato Pies with the lovely cornflour crust, but to be honest, neither the pretzels nor the wedding cake were ever really in contention (mostly due to the lack of sweet-loving people in this house), so here we go with a third option for a savoury picnic pie.

Of course, I’m not going to let you off that easy, so I’m first going make you sit through my Anatomy Of A Picnic Pie (Hints and Tips) so that you can all spread your wings and have fun creating your own versions. Because, to be honest, after a busy weekend, I opened my fridge door and chose the ingredients from what was inside. I knew vaguely the sort of pie that was required, and with a bit of this and a bit of that, it all came together. So here are some things to think about when making up your own versions.

  • Pastry: A lot of recipes ‘out there’ *waves hand vaguely in the direction of the interwebs* call for puff pastry, and it certainly is very speedy to grab a couple of ready-rolled sheets from the supermarket chillers and be done with it, but there are a couple of things that need mentioning.
    • Whilst there’s not much that can beat a beautiful, puff pastry topped pie, straight from the oven, all golden and crispy flakiness,  a picnic pie is meant to be eaten cold, and cold puff pastry, due to the high fat content, is very ordinary when cold. It is also not very sturdy, so doesn’t fare well as a large pie, being lugged around the countryside in box or basket. And so you should turn aside from the tempting richness of puff – and for that matter flaky – pastry and go with shortcrust.
    • That being said, shortcrust doesn’t have to be the boring choice. My current favourite shortcrust recipe is the cornflour pastry I adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book for the Cheese and Potato Pies. An all-butter shortcrust lacks the sturdiness that 50% lard/50% butter can afford, however, the addition of some cornflour into the mix gives it a fantastic crispness and dryness as well as a beautifully silky-smooth feel when rolling out. It also makes it suitable for vegetarians, although, with this pie, a little bit of lard in the pastry would be the very least of a vegetarian’s worries, as will be made clear later.
    • Speaking of rolling out, you should roll out your pastry for the sides/base a little thicker than normal – 5-7mm – to make sure the pie holds its shape when baked. The lid, especially if you’re going for the ‘double design’ lid as shown in the top photo, can be a little thinner.
    • I also chose to keep the rosemary flavouring, although other herbs such as sage/marjoram/oregano/winter savory could work just as well – whatever your preference.

Picnic Pie Slice

  • Filling: A good picnic pie needs to hold its shape in the slice, and not fall apart once cut. The filling should be dense enough to hold its shape both during cooking and after the pie has cooled down.
    • Fresh, raw ingredients, whilst delicious, WILL lose bulk during baking, as the moisture in them is released. In addition, too much moisture in the pie can lead to the dreaded soggy bottom and ruin the structural integrity of the pie. Fresh vegetables need to be steamed or parboiled. Spring onions you can getaway with raw, but shallots, onions and red onions should be softened in a oil in a pan first. Tinned chopped tomatoes should be thoroughly drained.
    • Meat also needs pre-cooking. This recipe contains sausage-meat, which I removed from the casings and then cooked in a pan. The same would apply to bacon or gammon.
    • Fresh chopped parsley can do wonders to lift the taste of a pie filling.
    • Whatever you choose for your filling, make sure it is chopped small enough. It will help the pie hold its shape if the knife doesn’t have to negotiate large pieces of meat or vegetables when slicing. The exception to this is potatoes, which cut easily when cooked, and so don’t need to be cut quite as small.
  • Glue: Whatever filling you choose, to help keep it firm when cold, you need some kind of ‘glue’ to hold it together. The usual choice is either egg or cheese. A well-flavoured white béchamel sauce or velouté (like white sauce but made with half stock, half milk) can also work, although it’s tricky judging the correct consistency for when the pie cools.
  • Seasoning. VITAL. You (almost) cannot season too highly. A well-seasoned, hot pie filling tastes very different when cold. Be heavy-handed with the pepper and spices, a little less so with salt, especially if your pie includes bacon. Top Tip: If you’ve got some scraps of pastry left over from lining your tin, bake a quick turnover using some of the filling, just to check the seasoning. If you can wait until it cools, so much the better, but if you have to try it hot, make sure the seasoning is bold and a little ‘in your face’, because it will lose intensity when cold.

And there you have it. As I said before, the contents of this pie came from what I had available in the fridge, and I’m going to be honest with you, some of it was Déjà Food. Most of the cheese was because it needed using up, as did the parsley and the spring onions. The cauliflower was from Saturday’s supper and still al-dente. Broccoli would have been my first choice, for the colour, but the cauliflower disappeared amongst the other ingredients really well and also lightened the texture of the, otherwise almost solid, slab of proteins. Pie was delicious!

Picnic Pie

Pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water

  • Put the flours, rosemary and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds. Put the remaining third back into the fridge.
  • Roll this piece out to a thickness of 5-7mm and use it to line a greased 20cm pie tin, loose-bottomed for preference, making sure there is enough pastry overlapping the sides of the tin to allow for joining the lid.
  • Chill while you mix the filling.

Filling
400g sausage-meat [1]
15 slices chorizo – cut into small pieces
180g grated mozzarella
100g grated vintage cheddar
50g grated Grana Padano cheese
250g cottage cheese – drained well
250g cooked cauliflower
1 x 400g carton chopped tomatoes – drained well [2]
5 spring onions – chopped fine
large handful of parsley – chopped fine
1-2tsp smoked sweet paprika [3]
1 rounded tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 large eggs
1 cold, cooked potato – peeled (optional)

Beaten egg for glazing.

  • Remove the sausage meat from the skins and cook in a pan over medium heat, using a spatula to break up the meat.
  • Set aside on paper towels to allow the excess fat to drain off.
  • When cool, add to a mixing bowl.
  • Cut the chorizo into small pieces and add to the bowl.
  • Add the cheeses.
  • Cut the cauliflower into small florets and add to the bowl, together with the spring onions, tomatoes, parsley and seasoning.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, to moisten the mixture. You want it moist enough to hold together, but not so much as to make it sloppy.
  • Remove the chilled pastry-lined tin from the fridge.
  • Grate the cold potato into the bottom of the pie in an even layer. This will help absorb any excess moisture and help prevent your pastry becoming soggy. A cold, baked potato is ideal (discard the skin).
  • Add the filling. I decided to really mound it up in the middle, for a domed effect, but you could also just had a firmly-packed, flat pie.
  • Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid. You can make this pastry a little thinner than the sides if you’re going to make the lattice design shown above.
  • Moisten the pastry overlapping the sides of the tin with a little water.
  • Lay the pastry lid on top and press the two together to make a firm seal. Try not to trap any air under the pastry, as it will make a gap between the filling and the lid.
  • Trim the excess pastry from the edge of the tin using the back of a knife – using the cutting edge might damage the lining of your tin.
  • Using fingers and thumb, crimp the edges upwards.
  • Brush the top with beaten egg.
  • Optional fancy lattice finish.
    • Roll out the excess pastry and wash with beaten egg. It makes it a little trickier to cut the lattice, but so much easier than trying to paint the lattice when its on the pie and not get the sides of the pastry covered in glaze.
    • Cut a lattice using a lattice roller if you have it, or by hand if you don’t.
    • Lift and separate the pastry and drape it over the top of the pie.
    • Cut off the excess lattice at the edge with scissors. Make sure to press the ends firmly onto the lid.
    • Re-roll the remaining pastry and cut a strip to go around the edge of the pie, covering the ends of the lattice.
    • Brush this strip with beaten egg.
  • Cut a vent hole in the top to allow any steam to escape.
  • Return the  pie to the fridge to chill while the oven heats up. This will allow the pastry to firm up and hold its shape better in the oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the pie on a baking sheet (in case of oozing) and bake for 40-45 minutes, turning the pie around 180° after 25 minutes, to even the colour.
  • Remove and let stand in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove from the tin if possible and cool fully on a wire rack. If, at this stage, the base of your pie is not cooked enough (lift the wire rack up and take a peek) for your liking, return the wire rack to the oven and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, or until suitably crisp. If you can direct the heat of your oven to come from the bottom, so much the better.
  • When cold, wrap in foil and chill thoroughly in the fridge.

[1] I use Sainsbury’s ultimate 97% pork sausages. Fantastic flavour and precious little worryingly-anonymous filler.
[2] If you’re concerned about adding too much moisture, use a couple of spoons of sundried tomato paste, or even pesto,  instead.
[3] This was to boost the flavour of the chorizo, but it would also work if you were using smoked bacon. Feel free to add more heat if you like things spicy.


Sausage Inna Bun

Sausage Inna Bun

“Meat pies! Hot sausages! Inna bun! So fresh the pig h’an’t noticed they’re gone!” Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler

— Terry Pratchett – Moving Pictures

Wotchers!

Some time ago, the question “When were sausage rolls invented?” popped into my head, and so I decided to mount a culinary expdition to try and find the earliest recipe for these popular snacks.

So I set off on my recipe hunt and found that, although the earliest sausage roll recipe that I could find[1] dated as far back as 1828[2], the recipe I found most interesting was one by Charles Elmé Francatelli, published in 1852. Although something of a celebrity chef to high society in London, as well as (briefly) being chef to Queen Victoria, Francatelli was considered to be a culinary economist. He was often quoted as saying that he could feed a thousand families on the food wasted in London in one day. Francatelli’s book “A Plain Cookery Book For The Working Classes” offered simple and wholesome recipes for those less well off.

Francatelli’s sausage roll was made using a bread dough enriched with either butter, dripping or suet instead of pastry. A sausage inna bun! And those of you who are familiar with the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett will know that these are the fall-back sales item for C.M.O.T.Dibbler when his get-rich-quick schemes invariably go pants down.

I also like this idea because, even with Francatelli’s enriched bread dough, it would be much lower in fat than pastry, and much more satisfying. I tried the variations suggested, and, I’ve got to be honest, the suet pastry wasn’t very pleasant to eat cold. It was a bit funky (to my tastes) eaten warm, too. So my suggestion is to either use butter or beef dripping, especially if the sausages are made of beef. Alternatively, you can use a regular bread dough mixed with either all milk or half milk and half water, to give a softer, billowy crumb and crust.

Having said all that, I’m not going to be giving a recipe for either bread dough or sausage mix. What I’ve got for you today are some suggestions as to how you could make deliciously unusual savoury snacks using little more than these two simple items. Using bread dough in much the same manner as you would pastry, you can easily  ring the changes and keep this snack food both tasty and interesting.

Each of these variations either use white bread dough, risen and knocked back after the first rise or bread rolls.

1. Plain bread dough sausage roll.

  • Roll some bread dough out to a thickness of about 1.5cm.
  • Brush the surface of the dough with water to encourage the sausage meat to stick.
  • Remove the skin of the sausages and roll them in the dough, pinching the edges together .
  • Cut slashes along the top of the dough and brush with beaten egg.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until both the dough and sausage are cooked and golden.

2. Spiral sausage roll (see top photo)

  • Roll some bread dough out to a thickness of about 1.5cm.
  • Brush the surface of the dough with water to encourage the sausage meat to stick.
  • Remove the skin of the sausages.
  • Cut the dough into strips 3cm wide.
  • Take one strip and wind it around the sausage, making sure both ends finish underneath.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Brush the dough with beaten egg and bake for 15-18 minutes until both the dough and sausage are cooked and golden.

Sausage Rings in Bread

3. Sausage Rings in Bread

  • Proceed initially as for the plain sausage roll.
  • Once the sausage has been wrapped in dough, brush the outsides with water and slice it into six pieces.

Arrangement of the sausage rings

  • Arrange the slices of dough-wrapped sausage as per the diagram above. The water will help the dough stick together.
  • Sprinkle a little grated cheese and chopped herbs (parsley/thyme/rosemary/savoury) over the top and set aside to rise.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Brush the dough with beaten egg and bake for 15-18 minutes until both the dough and sausage are cooked and golden.

Sausage and Sauce Open Pies

4. Sausage & Sauce Open Pies

There are two versions for these open pies, small, circular pies and larger, oval pies. Both are made with sliced, cooked sausages – ideal Déjà Food suggestions!

Circle Open Pies

  • Roll some dough out to a thickness of about 1.5cm.
  • Brush the surface of the dough with water to encourage the dough for the sides to stick.
  • Using a plain circle pastry cutter of whatever size you fancy, cut out the bases for the pies and place on a parchment-lined baking tray.
  • Cut some strips of dough and roll them into ropes, then coiled them around the edge of the bases, as if making a coil pot. Use a few more dabs of water to ensure the dough sticks together. You only need 2 or 3 coils of dough to make the sides.
  • Add the filling now – so that the dough can rise around it and (hopefully) hug it all together.
    • Put slices of cooked sausage in the bottom of the pie.
    • Add 1-2tsp spicy sauce, brown sauce or chutney on top. I used Sainsbury’s Basics Tomato chutney left over from the Cheese and Potato Pies.
    • Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top and set aside to rise.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Brush the dough with beaten egg and bake for 12-15 minutes until the dough is cooked and golden and the filling hot.

Oval Open Pies

For a more substantial pie:

  • Shape some dough into a ball, then roll it out to an elongated oval shape.
  • Dampen the edges with some water.
  • Arrange the filling along the middle of the dough as above (sausage/sauce/cheese).
  • Fold one long side of the dough up and around the filling.
  • Fold the other side around the filling too, and pinch the ends together.
  • Tuck any extra dough at the ends underneath, to prevent the sides of the pie unravelling.
  • Set aside to rise.
  • While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Brush the dough with beaten egg and bake for 12-15 minutes until the dough is cooked and golden and the filling hot.

Sausage Breakfast Bun

5. Sausage Breakfast Bun.

I’ve called this a Breakfast Bun, but they are delicious at any time of the day! This is a little different to the other recipes in that it uses cooked bread rolls, rather than the raw dough, so also super quick if you have ready-made rolls. These rolls also use sliced, cooked sausage.

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Slice off the top of the buns and scoop out the crumb, leaving a wall of crust/crumb about 1.5cm thick. Whizz the crumb in a food processor and freeze the breadcrumbs for another use.
  • Add the filling – I just used sausage, egg and cheese – but it occurred to me afterwards that these rolls might be improved with some sauce/chutney/salsa – you decide.
  • Add sauce to the bottom of the roll if liked, then arrange a layer of sliced, cooked sausage over the top.
  • Crack a raw egg over the sausage.
  • Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.
  • Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 20-35 minutes. If you’re eating these roll straight from the oven, you might like to have the yolk of the egg still runny. If baking them for consumption later, I’d recommend cooking for the full 35 minutes, so that the yolk is cooked solid.
  • If you want to crisp up the tops, add them to the baking sheet for the last 10 minutes.

[1] I’d be really interested to learn of an earlier recipe – do let me know!

[2] A treatise on the art of baking, with a preliminary introduction, shewing the various productions… with a number of valuable receipts, original and selected for the baker and domestic circle, (1828), John White, Anderson and Bryce, Edinburgh.


Cheese and Potato Pies

Cheese and Potato Pies

Wotchers!

I love this recipe for lots of reasons: it’s Deja Food, it’s comfort food, is simple, cheap, quick to put together and it’s deliciously tasty.

I’ve included a couple of twists in this seemingly simple recipe that elevates it into something really special.

The pastry is a new version of shortcrust that I have adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book. It includes cornflour, which makes the pastry extra crispy, which isn’t always easy with an all-butter pastry, and it has a really smooth, dry feel which makes it very easy to handle. I’ve thrown in some rosemary to pump up the flavour in the pastry, and the filling is simplicity itself – just diced, cooked potatoes and cheese – but with a secret ingredient that makes these pies completely awesome.

I like chutney. I’ve always liked the sharpness from the vinegar, the spiciness, the touch of sweetness – and I’ve made my fair share of them too. The secret to a good chutney is time – leaving it for two to three months after it’s made so that the flavours can develop and the throat-catching harshness of the vinegar can mellow. Taste it too soon and everything is much too strong. Which brings me to the secret ingredient: Sainsbury’s Basics Tomato Chutney. Now, you know I love you, Sainsbury’s, but you’re just not aging your Basics chutney, are you? Pop that jar open and whoosh! The whiff of vinegar and spice is mighty powerful. However, if you bake a little of this chutney into these pies something magic happens: all the harshness of the vinegar disappears and just add a piquancy that breaks up the pastry/cheese/potato combo. Don’t worry if you don’t live near a Sainsbury’s – Basics Tomato Chutney seems to be a staple in most of the major supermarkets.

These pies are great for packed lunches and picnics or just a quick and comforting lunch at home.

Cheese and Potato Pies – makes 6-8 individual pies

225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water

4-5 medium cold boiled potatoes
strong cheddar cheese – grated
Basics tomato chutney

1 large egg, whisked

Individual foil pie dishes

  • Put the flours, rosemary and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the potatoes into centimetre  cubes and put into a bowl.
  • Add grated cheese to your taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds.
  • Roll this piece out thinly to a thickness of 3-4mm and line your greased pie dishes, making sure there is enough pastry over the sides of the dishes to allow for joining the lid.
  • Put a layer of cheese and potato into the bottom of each pie shell.
  • Add 2-3 teaspoons of tomato chutney and spread into a thin layer.
  • Fill the pies with the remaining cheese and potato mixture
  • Roll out the pastry for the lids. Wet the undersides with a pastry brush dipped in waterand press them onto the tops of the pies firmly.
  • Trim off the excess pastry with the back of a knife.
  • Crimp the pastry edges by pressing into them with the tines of a fork.
  • Wash over the tops of the pies with beaten egg and cut a small hole in the pastry lids to let out steam.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pies, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
  • Cool on a wire rack.