The Festive Food recipe this week isn’t really a recipe, (What? No! Boo! Wot a swizz! We wuz robbed! etc.etc) it’s more of a ‘how to give a new twist to an old favourite’. After all, the Festive Season can be stressful enough without having to learn entirely new culinary creations. Its much easier on the cook to jazz up a firm family favourite with a little nifty pastry work and then be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the day itself. It’s an idea that everyone can adapt to their own festive requirements – pastry origami!
Behind the glamorous exterior, it’s basically a pie, or a tart, but a little pastry magic turns it into a thing of beauty. You can use any pastry you wish – the pictures here show the effects created by three different kinds of pastry. The top photograph shows mince pies made from filo pastry, the photograph below shows beetroot, walnut and goats cheese pies made with puff pastry, and most strikingly, the picture at the bottom shows the showstopping effects of combining shortcrust pastry coloured with freeze-dried beetroot and spinach powders (add 10-15g of powder to the flour in your favourite pastry recipe).
All three have been created using the same, simple method to wrap the pastry around the filling, with the photograph below perhaps showing most clearly the shaping of the pastries.
Nevertheless, I shall be breaking out my trademark diagrams to reveal the simple method behind this eye-catching design.
But before I do, here are some suggestions for each pastry type
- Filo Pastry – the finished pastries stay compact during cooking and neither shrink nor swell up as the other pastries do. The fact that it comes in ready-prepared sheets is an added stress reliever. Can be used for sweet or savoury recipes. For sweet recipes, add a sprinkle of sugar over the butter when laminating the sheets together. If you want to have one, decadent, luxurious mince pie, then this would be ideal. For savoury recipes, such as the beetroot and goats cheese pies above, make sure the filling is on the firm side, ideally one that can be shaped into a ball, that will just sit there quietly while you wrap the pastry around it. Ideal for a vegetarian starter or, if made larger, a main course – make the vegetarian in your life feel a bit special for their Christmas meal. You could even make the filling sausage meat for a new take on a sausage roll.
- Puff Pastry – also comes in ready-made sheets, which is a big bonus. You can make 4 pastries from just a single sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry, by gently rolling it a little thinner (3-4mm) and thus making it go a little further. Since this pastry does puff up quite a bit during cooking, it is more suited to make pies of main-course size.
- Shortcrust pastry – can also be bought ready made, but when it’s so easy to make yourself, why would you? You don’t HAVE to colour it with vegetable powders – the design will make it special enough, and the design is much clearer and crisper with this type of pastry. In many ways, the easiest pastry to work with, so if you’ve got neither the time nor the inclination to Faff About™ with the other two types, then go with this. Great for both sweet and savoury, starter and main dishes.
- Prepare your pastry – roll out the puff /shortcrust pastries and laminate 3 sheets of filo together with melted butter.
- Cut your pastry into squares. For a starter/dessert sized pie, 10cm is ideal. 12cm of puff pastry will rise to make a great main course pie.
- You will need 2 squares of pastry for each pie.
- For each individual pie, proceed as follows:
- By the time the last petal is formed, the filling has been completely enclosed and your pie will hold its shape beautifully.
- To enjoy later, open-freeze now and then store in the freezer in zip-lock bags.
- To cook, thaw, brush with beaten egg and bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on size) at 200°C, 180°C Fan.
This recipe is for when you’re short on time. It’s a very quick but delicious twist on mince pies that you can be munching on and enjoying in under 30 minutes, start to finish.
No faffing with rolling and cutting and sticking pastry bits together – just some sheets of filo pastry, a bit of butter and some mincemeat. To make for extra deliciousness, allow me to suggest a lemony, cream cheese frosting dip to go alongside.
These emerge from the oven crisp and flaky and golden, glistening with sugar. The crunch of the pastry provides a fabulous texture, but the real star of these is the filling. If you use either of the suet-free mincemeats from the blog (this one or this one), even with the melted butter on the filo pastry, they are extremely low fat. The lack of suet also means that the flavour of the mincemeat is much fresher and cleaner than regular mince pies.
The cream cheese dip is simplicity itself: slightly sweetened and sharpened with lemon, its cool creaminess is the perfect foil, especially if the pastries are served warm.
Filo Mincemeat Cigars
1 packet of filo pastry
milk and caster sugar for glazing
Cream cheese frosting dip
300g cream cheese
2-3tbs icing sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Dampen a tea towel with cold water.
- Open the packet of filo pastry and lay the pastry flat upon the work surface.
- Lay the damp tea towel over the pastry sheets.
- Warm the butter until melted.
- Take one sheet of filo pastry and lay it on the work surface. Re-cover the rest of the sheets with the cloth to prevent them from drying out.
- Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the melted butter over the filo sheet. A silicone pastry brush is ideal, as the bristles don’t soak up the butter as much as a traditional brush, so the amount of butter on the pastry remains very light.
- Spoon mincemeat along the short end of the filo sheet, as if making a sausage roll.
- Roll the pastry around the mincemeat once, until the filling is covered by a single layer of pastry.
- Press the ends of the roll, pushing the filling towards the centre, firming it into a neat cylinder.
- Fold the sides of the pastry sheet inwards about 1cm, making two strips of folded pastry down the long sides of the sheet of filo, and covering the ends of the roll.
- Dab a little butter onto the folded edges.
- Roll the rest of the pastry around the filling.
- Set the completed ‘cigar’ aside, with the seal underneath.
- Repeat until all the filo sheets are used up.
- Set the cigars onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
- Brush with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Turn the baking sheet around halfway through cooking to ensure even colouring.
- While the pastries are cooking, mix the dip:
- Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.
- Taste and adjust the sweetness if necessary.
- Cool the pastries on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar if liked.
- Serve warm. Cut each cigar in half, on the diagonal, and serve a pot of dip alongside.