Puff pastry is not something I make regularly. In fact, I last made it for my own personal ‘joy’ in 2010/11. I am not ‘that’ woman who scoffs at buying pastry. I don’t judge. I’m too easy a victim of other’s judgement. I mean, I have three sons for a start. READ MORE
Well January is done and, dare I say it, I am sure it felt a little warmer this week. Maybe just wishful thinking?
One of the things I look forward to most about the summer is all of us sitting outside together and eating with our hands. Sausage rolls, pasties, chips, crudités, fresh fruit, dips… anything that’s easy to eat and quick to prepare. READ MORE
I have to admit to not having made puff pastry since I practised for the Bake Off. Does that make me lazy? No. Just busy. It actually doesn’t take that much hands on time but you have to stay in and remember to re-fold the pastry and of course squash the butter pack. If you want to know how to do it I wrote a very verbose explanation here. If you want a short cut with layer upon layer of all buttery puffy pastry then read on.
NB: You need some of your butter frozen for this recipe so have a read and prepare ahead if you are planning on making this.)
Put your flour into the mixer bowl and add 50g of the butter then place the rest of the butter in the freezer. Wait for an hour or two allowing the butter in the flour to come to room temperature and the rest of the butter to freeze solid.
Using the flat beater (Kitchenaid) mix the butter into the flour for a couple of minutes until you have a breadcrumb consistency. Remove the frozen butter from the fridge and grate it (yes!) into the floury butter mixture. Using the flat beater mix again until all the strands of frozen butter are coated in flour – this should only take a few turns. Next add the vinegar and the water very slowly with the flat beater at the lowest setting. Just as the pastry comes together into clumps stop! You don’t want too much water in the pastry as it makes it less buttery in texture.
Flour your work surface well and pull the pastry together with your hands forming a square flat shape. Then flour the top of it and roll into a long rectange about 4mm thick. Fold one third of the pastry over like this:
Brush off any excess flour and then fold the other side over like this:
Then wrap the pastry in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove and roll out into a long rectangle again like this:
Can you see how I have turned the pastry so that the open ‘ends’ of the pastry are now lengthways rather than at the top and bottom as they were in the previous picture? Then you need to repeat the folding process again:
I then folded the other side over as before, wrapped it and chilled for 30 minutes. I repeated this step twice more, but you can get away with only doing it once more. And there you have it; a beautiful block of home made rough puff pastry with lots of layers. If you’re tempted to try and speed the process up please, please don’t as pastry has to relax between rolling. In fact I would suggest letting this pastry sit for a good hour after the last folding before using.
You can of course use this for whatever you fancy – I decided to make sausage rolls, so rolled to a thickness of 2mm and filled with chorizo and chilli flake spiked, well seasoned sausage meat. I used egg wash (egg with a little salt added to break down the strands in the egg) to seal the sides and also to paint the top, then sprinkled with sesame seeds. Baked at 200C/gas mark 6 for 25 minutes until really well puffed up and golden.
Whatever you use the rough puff pastry for please always bake in a very hot oven and don’t leave the pastry sitting about to come to room temperature. You need the cold pastry to meet the hot oven to get those layers going. And don’t open the oven during baking either!
Any scraps left over? Don’t roll them up into a ball or you lose all the layers, instead layer them on top of each other, roll flat and use to make little pinwheels rolled with pesto/chutney/marmite/nutella or jam. Delicious.
I’m making friends again, in that mode where making connections feels all important. I did it when pregnant with my first son. With my second, born just two years later, I couldn’t do it. I hadn’t the energy and the first lot of post natal pals were all consuming. Hence son #2 has very few friends of his own and for this, yes, I feel guilt.
So here I am trying to pave the way by sending emails to new hypno birthing friends, with a sense of trepidation and a hopeful glance at my phone, refreshing my emails to see if they’re replied. It’s like the first day of school again.
Here’s a recipe that reminds me a bit of being at school, though this pie’s not served with soggy cabbage this time.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion, celery, mushrooms and water. Fry on a medium heat, stirring constantly until the water has all evaporated and the vegetables have browned a little. Remove from the frying pan and pour into a bowl.
Make the cheese sauce by heating the butter in a saucepan until melted then adding the flour and whisking vigorously until smooth. Leave on a medium heat for about 1 minute to cook the flour off, then add the milk gradually, whisking all the time. You will have a very thick white sauce. (The thick quality is important, otherwise you might end up with a soggy bottomed pie.) Remove from the heat and add the cheese and black pepper. Mix well and pour over the vegetables in the bowl. Stir, cover and refrigerate until completely cold.
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Roll the puff pastry out into a large rectangle, about 3mm thick, using a well floured rolling pin. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with non stick baking parchment. Mix the cold chicken into the vegetable and cheese mixture and place onto one side of the rectangle, leaving a 2cm edge free of mixture at the sides. Sprinkle with black pepper. Paint the sides of the rectangle with egg yolk and then fold the pastry without any mixture on, over, on top of the filled side, as if closing a book. Press the edges down.
Paint the top of the pie with egg yolk and bake for about 40 minutes until the pie is golden all over. Serve hot with green beans or peas. This is also delicious for lunch cold the next day.
Now I know this sounds like a lot of ingredients and possibly therefore hard work, but I promise you it’s not. It’s the dish that really gives back. It’s pretty quick to prepare, you make the filling the day before you want it and then on the night just assemble and bake. Everyone loves it and it’s grown up enough for having friends over for dinner and yet homely enough for a regular Tuesday night supper. I serve with green beans usually plus a little mashed potato if I’m feeling especially in need of comfort.
If you’re the type of person who wraps all their presents for Christmas by September and laughs in the face of panic buying then you might even make the filling ahead and stash it in the freezer ready for a rainy or even a snowy day. Just imagine having this as a standby supper… And if slow cooker standbys are your thing then have a look here. Loads of ideas.
500mls Burgundy or any red wine you have in the house
250mls beef stock made up with a stock cube and boiling water
2 Schwartz dried bay leaves
1 tsp Schwartz dried thyme
200g shallots, peeled and halved
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 medium egg beaten with a pinch of salt
500g all butter puff pastry (plus a little flour for rolling)
Mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a bowl and then toss the beef in it, making sure each piece is well covered. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the beef cubes about 8 – 10 at a time, turning the pieces in order to brown them. Don’t overcrowd the pan! If you do the pieces won’t brown. Once each few pieces are brown transfer to a dish. Repeat until all the meat is brown.
Fry the smoked bacon, onion and garlic in the remaining oil then add the browned beef. When the onion has softened and the bacon cooked through add the Burgundy, beef stock, bay leaves and thyme and bring to the boil. Once bubbling away, scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure all the meat juices are incorporated into the sauce and then transfer to your slow cooker. Add the shallots and mushrooms and leave on ‘low’ for 3.5 hours. (If you don’t have a slow cooker you can use the oven at 140C/gas mark 1 for 2 hours, though ensure your casserole dish has a well fitted lid.)
Once the beef is well cooked and easy to break apart with a fork, remove the bourguignon from the heat and allow to cool (if your sauce is very thin then you can strain the meat and vegetables over a colander, retaining the sauce into a saucepan, then reduce over a high heat stirring constantly). When completely cool (I leave mine overnight in the fridge) you can assemble and bake your pie. Please don’t try and assemble when the filling is hot as the pastry will melt with the heat resulting in a very unsatisfactory looking pie.
Preheat your oven to 220C/gas mark 7 and place the cold pie filling in a large pie dish. I prefer enamel pie dishes as they conduct heat best. Then roll the pastry out onto a floured work surface using a lightly floured rolling pin. You need to roll it to about the thickness of a pound coin, just about 3cm larger than the pie dish. Trim the edges of the pastry you have rolled to remove some strips about 2cm wide. Egg wash the rim of the pie dish, then fix the strips to the dish, pressing down firmly. Egg wash the now pastry lined dish rim again, then place the rolled out pastry lid over the top, being careful not to stretch the pastry too much (or it will shrink when baking). Press down gently around the edges and use scissors to cut the edge of the pastry to about 1/2 cm larger than the rim of the pie dish.
You can then ‘knock up’ the edges of the pastry as per the photo above, or you can use a fork to press the pastry together leaving a pleasing pattern on the edge. Make a hole in the centre of the pie, in a cross shape, about 4cm across, using sharp knife (you can use a pie funnel if you like but this isn’t necessary – if you do use one insert before adding the pastry lid.) Egg wash the whole pie with a pastry brush and then bake for 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
As our summer holiday fast approaches I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed with myself. I blame everything on leggings; everything.
You see, in my last proper job, when I wore proper clothes, in a proper office with proper colleagues (who mostly all hated each other but kept it together through smiling and handing out passive aggressive compliments about shoes and make up), I kept an eye on my weight. I used my suit trousers as the gauge of whether I was just thin enough, or porky and needing to cut back on the pies. I had to keep tabs on it – for if I didn’t my work ‘friends’ would.
Since leaving this world behind I spend my days with small boys who though traditional in their clothing taste (“you look lovely when you wear a dress Mummy” and “what are these things on your legs? Tights? Oh I do prefer them to jeans on you Mummy”) are the best little complimenters in the world. The other people in my life are my parents, my husband and lots of female friends, mostly other Mums. We’re all terribly nice to each other and genuinely so. It’s like a whole new refreshing world.
What’s not to like about this new social world I frequent? Well nothing other than the uniform. Despite having free reign to wear whatever I damned well want I tend to default many a day to the Mummy uniform of leggings and a long shirt, leggings under a short dress, leggings with an oversized T shirt… you get the idea. And herein lies the problem, leggings never get tight. They never force you to think about your 3pm digestive habit or your 8pm well done glass of wine. They just hug you a little bit more and allow that tummy to expand, expand, expand. My new bikini might not get an airing this year. Tummy control swim suits are what it’s all about. Honestly. Even Kate Moss is wearing one. (This is entirely untrue but imagine if she were! Oh the joy.)
So when faced with a tummy and a nearing holiday I do what any sensible girl might do and eat more. Pastry? Yes! Why not. There’s no hope so let’s just slope off into a pastry wrapped fest. This isn’t so much a recipe as an excuse to plump up cellulite. I would quite like to serve it as a dinner party pudding though one day.
Preheat your oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with non stick greaseproof paper. Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and place the puff pastry block on the top, sprinkle some more flour on the top and roll to about the thickness of a pound coin. Cut the pastry into 4 squares roughly the same size. Wrap each peach in a square of pastry using the egg wash to stick it together. Place on the greaseproof paper and egg wash the whole thing. Repeat with the other 3 peaches then bake for about 20 minutes until the pastry is completely baked through – brown on top and crunchy crackly. Serve straight from the oven with a little icing sugar dredged over the top and a few raspberries on the side. Ice-cream is a welcome addition too.
The observant amongst you will note the photo for this recipe is by far superior to the usual offerings from my phone. It was taken by Lyndsey James who is very clever.
I am a child of the 80s. I owned a crimper. I even used it. I also owned those strange bendy rods used to curl hair into tight perm style ringlets. My first LP was Care Bears the Movie (The Soundtrack) and I remember the exhausting and expensive transition from records to tapes to mini discs to CDs. In pre Cbeebies days I loved to watch Pigeon Street, Fraggle Rock, Jackanory, Dogtanian, Danger Mouse, the Muppet Babies and Blue Peter. I adored my A La Carte Kitchen, my Get-a-Long Gang lunchbox, my Mr Frosty, my ear muffs, my T shirt that changed colour as I ahem, glowed… and my posters of Tiffany and NKOTB. My favourite things to do were read Look In magazine, eat those little frozen mousses’ that came in stacks of 10 and visit various Leicestershire attractions with my Mum, my Dad and both my Grandmothers. The best bit of these trips was the unveiling of the picnic feast.
There was always a pork pie. We’re from Leicestershire so it’s the law. There was always tuna and salad cream sandwiches, egg and cress sandwiches (home grown cress of course from a scooped out boiled egg filled with cotton wool and with a smiley face drawn on with marker pen), Red Leicester cheese sandwiches (Leicester connection again) and some form of potted meat rolls. There was always cold sausages expertly grilled by my maternal Grandmother and bought from a butchers facing Leicester Market called Walkers. There was always celery that ended up going home untouched. There was smokey bacon Walkers crisps (Leicester again you see) and likely a Wagon Wheel or melted Penguin bar. I would drink a warm Capri-Sun and the adults enjoyed restorative flasks of tea. The perfect 80s picnic complete with Whitney to sing us all the way home. The only thing missing were sausage rolls.
The sausage rolls of my childhood were, if I’m honest, a bit of a disappointment. Shop-bought, more than a little greasy and under seasoned. If you’re still wishing for a few sunny days to end this rained out summer then you cannot go wrong with this recipe from Sainsbury’s. Incredibly easy to make, sweetened with a little grated carrot and apple and likely to disappear in a flash. You could make a huge sausage roll if you’re pushed for time, make little filo versions for a more sophisticated affair and use sausagemeat and dried herbs to cut down the cost. My youngest son prefers the filo versions, in fact it’s a case of blink and you’ll miss them when he’s presented with these.
– 1 teaspoon olive oil
– ½ onion, finely chopped
– ½ carrot, grated
– 1 small Bramley cooking apple, grated
– 1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
– 250g extra lean British pork mince
– 1 pack ready-rolled puff pastry
– 1 medium egg, beaten
– 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
– 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 200ºC, fan 180ºC, gas 6. Heat the oil in a small pan and add the onion. Cook until soft, then add the carrot and apple.
Transfer to a bowl, then mix in the sage and pork mince until well combined.
Unroll the pack of ready-rolled puff pastry, then cut in half lengthways. Divide the mixture in two, and place in the middle of each strip of pastry. Brush all edges of the pastry with the beaten egg, reserving some for the top. Fold the pastry over the filling, and seal by pressing gently on each roll.
Flip the roll so the seal is on the underside of each roll. Cut each strip into 8 rolls.
Brush the tops with the remaining beaten egg, then sprinkle with the poppy and sesame seeds. Place the rolls on a baking tray and bake for 25-30 mins until crisp and golden, and the pork is cooked through.
Make one giant sausage roll by doubling the sausage filling in the above recipe. Place the filling in the centre of a piece of ready-rolled puff pastry. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg, then roll the pastry over the filling. Flip and lay seam-side down on a baking tray. Cut diagonal slits across the top, brush with a little more of the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame and poppy seeds. Bake for 55 mins, then leave to cool before slicing up and serving.
Use filo pastry and brush one side of one sheet of pastry with melted butter. Fold the pastry in half, then place a portion of the pork filling at the top corner. Fold the pastry over the filling at right angles to make a triangle and continue folding to form a neat triangular parcel. Seal with a little melted butter. Repeat with the remaining pork mixture and pastry. Place the parcels on baking sheets, brush the tops with a little melted butter and sprinkle over poppy and sesame seeds. Bake for 25 mins until golden.
If you’d like step by step pics then you can download them here.
I’m a mum of 3 boys, a cookbook writer and also a finalist on the 2011 Great British Bake Off.
I’ve decided to record the recipes I use, partly to save them somewhere and partly in case someone else might like to use them...
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