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.