Oh. My. Word! This is very exciting for me. Probably less for you guys but put yourself in my shoes for a moment. I’ve never even eaten a hand raised hot water crust pie let alone baked one. Let alone baked one that’s really good. On my first attempt! Okay, enough trumpet blowing, but seriously, I’m so pleased with these.
I’m a bit of a pastry fiend, sweet and savoury, so I’ve always been a bit put out that I can’t (usually) indulge in traditional hand raised pies. They always seem to be meat filled and more often than not the crusts are made with lard. No good for meat averse me.
But it’s not just the light, crisp, buttery crust that’s really good on these. The filling is delicious, warming and hearty but not heavy or stodgy. Yep, I’m marking these down as an all round winner. I can’t wait to try out some more variations of these beauties.
Makes 2 decent sized pies
1 tsp olive oil
1 small red onion
1 medium carrot
1 can butter beans
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste
100g tomato paste
1 tbsp chopped parsley
50g cheese (any full flavour medium fat one you like)
100g plain flour
30g bread flour
50ml boiling water
pinch of salt
1 tsp paprika
Dice the onion and carrot (fairly small) and gently fry them in the oil until they are just starting to colour. Mince the garlic and add that to the pan along with the spices and seasonings. Fry for a couple of minutes before adding the beans. Mix in the tomato paste and cook until it has lost its ‘raw’ taste. Remove from the heat and mix in the parsley and the cheese, which will help to bind everything together. The filling should be quite thick. Leave this to cool whilst you make the pastry. You don’t want to try to fill warm pastry with warm filling, that will get you into all sorts of bother!
To make the hot water crust melt the butter in the boiling water. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flours, salt and paprika. Lightly beat the egg and set aside a spoonful of it for glazing the pies before baking. Use a butter knife to mix the remaining egg into the flour. Pour in the hot water/butter mixture and combine everything so that you have a very soft pliable dough. It’s okay if you need to sprinkle in a tiny bit more plain flour to absorb any excess stickiness.
Divide the dough into two and then pull about a quarter off each ball. On a lightly floured surface use the tips of your fingers to pat out the larger balls to about 7 inch discs and the small ones to about 5 inches. Cut a couple of slits in the centre of the smaller discs.
Pile half of the filing on to each of the larger discs and place the smaller disc on top. Gently bring up the sides of the pastry and crimp them together with the lid, making sure that everything is well sealed. If you want to you can use a fork to press around the edges too.
If, like me you don’t trust everything to hold together in the oven then wrap and tie some strips of baking parchment around the pies for a bit of structural support. Use a fish slice (dipping it in flour makes this easier) to transfer the pies to a greased baking tray.
Chill the pies in the fridge for at least 20 minutes (they can sit there for longer if you aren’t quite ready to bake them yet). Brush the tops of the pies with some of the remaining beaten egg and then bake them in an oven pre heated to 200°c for 35 minutes, until they are golden brown and the pastry is crisp.
I love French onion soup but more often than not it’s made with beef stock which means that it’s off the menu for me. It’s so rich and warming, it’s one of the few meat based things that I do feel I’m missing out on by not eating meat.
A little dab of Vegemite though and I’m free to indulge again. Mr Colonial Cravings even said that he couldn’t tell the difference between this version and one made with beef stock.
The best part of French onion soup is, of course, the melty, gooey cheesy Gruyère smothered crouton floating on the surface. Don’t skimp on this. Use proper Gruyère and plenty of it. It’s no bad thing if the bread is a little stale too. Day old bread will soak up the delicious flavours of the soup better than fresh bread.
serves 2-4 (depending on how greedy you are)
2 large onions
2 tbsp butter
2 fat garlic cloves
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre vegetable stock
small sprig of thyme
1 tsp Vegemite (optional – you can season it with salt if you prefer but tis helps with the colour too)
1/2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
slices of baguette
50g veggie friendly Gruyère, grated
1 box of tissues (if you’re anything like me cutting onions!)
Peel the onions and cut them in half or quarters (depending on how big they are). Slice them quite thinly.
Melt the butter over a low heat in a large saucepan and then toss in the onion. Let the onions cook very gently and slowly. You really can’t rush this bit. Stir them frequently and they should steadily become wonderfully dark and caramalized.
Crush the garlic and add this to the pan along with the thyme and mustard powder. Cook for a couple more minutes before pouring in the stock. Let the soup simmer for 30 minutes and then check the seasoning. Add black pepper to taste and either salt or Vegemite.
Toast enough rounds of baguette to generously top each serving bowl for the soup and then arrange the slices on a baking tray. Pile the grated Gruyère onto them and grill them until they are bubbling and melty.
Fill your serving bowls with the soup and use a fish slice to transfer the cheesy croutons on top of each one. Yum!
We all feel like we should eat a little bit lighter after Christmas but on cold, grey, dreary winter days it’s hard for me to get excited about a bowl of salad.
I need bright colours, bags of flavour and preferably a bit of spice to warm me up from the inside!
I know a lot of people who struggle to get on board with eating tofu. I think it’s because they view it just as a meat substiute. I just view it as a protein source. I know that the flavour can take a little getting used to and that it needs a little help in that department, but that’s also why it works so well in spicy dishes.
These little crispy patties, topped with colourful, chunky salsa certainly remind me that, one day, there will be warm sunny days again!
450g block of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
3 spring onions
handful of coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch each of ground cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper
1 tsp chipotle paste
squeeze of lime juice
chili sauce to taste
3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
3 tbsp sweetcorn
1 small ripe avocado
handful of cherry tomatos
handul of coriander
lime juice, salt and pepper to taste
little gem lettuce leaves to serve
Mash up the tofu with your hands in a large mixing bowl. Make sure that there are no large lumps in it. Slice the spring onions and chop the coriander. Add these to the mixing bowl and mix them through with a fork. Add everything else but the panko and mix these through too, making sure that they are well distributed through the tofu. Finally add the panko and mix the whole lot. Let this sit whilst you make the salsa.
Dice the tomatoes and roughly chop the coriander and chili . Mix these with the sweetcorn, lime juice, salt and pepper. Peel and pit the avocado and dice this so that it’s a similar size to the tomatoes. Toss this in with the other ingredients.
Shape the tofu mixture into little patties, a heaped tablespoon is about the right amount. Fry these over a medium heat in a lightly oiled frying pan until the outsides are golden and crisp.
Serve the patties on the lettuce leaves with a sprinkling of the salsa and perhaps an extra drop or two of hot sauce.
Just look at the colours of this. Deep purple, vibrant green and fiery oranges. How could you fail to be cheered up on a gloomy January day if you were presented with this? And that’s before your fork has even come close to your mouth!The beetroot is earthy but also sweet and sticky from the orange, the fiery harissa is instantly cooled by the rich, creamy, tart yoghurt, the pistachios add crunch and the thyme lends a savoury finish.
I enjoyed this dish so much that I suspect my fingers might be beetroot stained for the rest of winter. I do lead a glamorous life!
This is really good with a big mixed green salad or some braised green lentils (or both!). I think what I love most about this is that it makes me feel like I’m doing the whole January healthy eating thing whilst not missing out on all that lovely winter comfort food.
As an added bonus you don’t really have to weight or measure any of the ingredients for this, I’ve only put amounts as a guide, you can pretty much do everything to taste.
4-6 smallish beetroot
1/2 tsp olive oil
juice and zest of 1 orange
couple of sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper to taste
knob of butter
handful of roasted pistachios
150g Greek yoghurt
1 tsp harissa
Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and line a small roasting tin with foil.
Trim the tops and roots of the beetroot but don’t peel them, just give them a good scrub. Cut each one into six or eight pieces (depending on how big they are). Toss them in the roasting tin with the salt, pepper and oil.
Zest the orange and set this aside to use as a garnish. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice over the beetroot. Sprinkle on the thyme leaves, keeping back a few to finish off the dish. Roast the beetroot for about an hour, they might take a bit longer if the pieces are quite chunky. Turn them a couple of times during roasting and give them a poke with a knife to see if they are tender.
Once they cooked to your liking take the tin out of the oven and add a small knob of butter to the beetroot. Toss the veg around until the butter has melted and they look nice and shiny. Let this cool for a few minutes.
Dollop the yoghurt onto your serving plate and spread it out into a thick layer. Dot the yoghurt with the harissa and swirl it into it. Pile the beetroot into the middle of the plate and then scatter over the reserved thyme, orange zest and the pistachios as a garnish.
I’m totally converted to this instead of a potato topped fish pie. It tastes so much more indulgent and to be honest if my choice is peeling, boiling and mashing a load of spuds or whipping some egg whites, I’ll take the egg whites thanks.
And that is pretty much the only difference here. The basis of a souffle is more or less just a bechamel sauce and you’d be making one of those for the pie anyway, so why not get a bit fancy for very little extra effort?
If you can, then try not to use frozen fish and seafood in this as it releases loads of water when it cooks which can thin out your sauce and leave it runny.
750g mixed seafood and chunks of firm white fish (I used haddock, king prawns and bay scallops)
1 small onion
375ml whole milk
125g strong cheese, grated (I used a mix of mature cheddar and double Gloucester)
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs + 1 extra white
3 tbsp chopped chives.
Pre-heat your oven to 180°c.
Peel and dice the onion and carrot so that they are quite small and then gently fry them in a little oil over a low heat. You want them to become tender but not colour.
In a separate medium-sized saucepan melt the butter over a low heat. Toss in the flour and stir to give you a roux. Cook for a minute or two. Measure out 250ml of the milk and very gradually add this to the roux, stirring between each addition, to ensure that the liquid is absorbed and you don’t end up with lumps in the sauce. Once you’ve added the full 250ml of milk and have a silky smooth white sauce you can add the cheese and then stir the sauce until it has all melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. It should be very thick.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour half of the sauce into the pan with the carrots and onion then gradually stir in the remaining 125ml of milk over a low heat. Take the pan off the heat and mix through the fish and seafood before transferring the whole lot to an oven proof baking dish.
Put the egg whites into a very clean bowl and whisk them until they hold a stiff peak. Put these to one side.
Beat the egg yolks and chives into the other half of your sauce base. Take a big spoonful of the whipped egg white and mix this into the sauce to lighten it. Then, using a large metal spoon gently fold in 1/3 of the remaining egg white, then another 1/3 and then the last 1/3. Make sure that you don’t knock too much air out of it.
Pour this foamy topping over the fish mixture and then bake it for 40-45 minutes. The top should puff up and become wonderfully golden. Serve the pie as soon as it is cooked.
I realise that flicking through the pages of this blog, it might seem that I’m all about the sweet treats. It’s a fair enough assumption, just look at how big the word ‘dessert’ is in that tag cloud on the right. (Mind you, the word booze is pretty big too…) But to be honest I love a savoury treat just as much. Especially if it’s cheesy.
When I’m at home for Christmas we’ll always go for a walk on Christmas day, even if the weather isn’t great, it helps to burn off some of the festive calories. We’ll usually come back from our walk and replenish some of those calories (it’s Christmas, okay!) with a yummy festive snack and I think these would be a really good contender. I don’t know why Stilton seems like a Christmas cheese but it really is. When else would you even consider buying your cheese in a fancy earthenware pot…?
My mum makes amazing cheese scones. They are so good toasted and buttered as an afternoon treat. This is my festive homage to those wonderous baked goodies.
makes about 12 but more or less depending on the size of your cutter.
225g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
85g blue Stilton
100g (ish) dried cranberries
splash of milk
Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and pop a large baking tray in the oven to heat up.
Sift the flour, mustard powder, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl so that they are well combined and aerated.
Dice the butter and then lightly rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Crumble the Stilton and add most of it the mixing bowl, keep a little back to sprinkle on top of the scones before baking. Toss in the cranberries and mix it all together.
Lightly beat the egg and use it to bring everything together to form a soft dough. If you need to use a little milk as well then that’s fine.
Pat the dough out on a lightly floured surface, so that it’s about 1″ thick. Use a round cutter to stamp out the scones but be sure not to twist it. Place them on the hot tray (be careful) and brush the tops with a little milk before sprinkling on any Stilton that you kept back. Bake them for 10-15 mins until they have risen and are golden, and then let them cool a little on a wire rack. Serve warm or toasted and spread thickly with butter.
This is something that I first tried on a trip to Budapest (I love Budapest!) and at the time I had no idea that they were a traditional treat. We were served them during a really fun wine tasting and, whilst the wine was good, I would have been happy just to have been given a plate of these.
I got this recipe from the Hungarian embassy during this years EU open house event in D.C. If you live in the area you should totally go to this by the way, it’s great fun. Their recipe used quite big quantities though so I’ve scaled it back quite bit and it still works fine.
I’ve baked these in the U.K (with my mum) and here in the U.S, where quark is a bit harder to find (Wholefoods stock it) and also a bit more runny in texture. This made the dough a bit more sticky to work with but both versions tasted as good as the ones I originally tried in Budapest. They’re very buttery and flaky and have a faintly tangy cheesy flavour from the quark.
These need quite a bit of resting time so they take a while I’m afraid, but the results are totally worth it.
makes 18 small scones
170g plain flour
170g butter (not too cold, cut into small cubes)
pinch of salt and black pepper
Combine the flour, yeast, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and quark. Lightly beat the egg and add most of that to the bowl, you want to keep back a little for glazing the scones before they bake.
Now get stuck in with your hands and knead everything together so that you have a nice smooth dough. Depending on your quark, this might be a bit sticky, but you don’t need to worry about it too much. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour.
After the dough has rested, roll it out onto a well floured surface, it needs to be about 1cm thick. Fold the dough in half and then in half again, so that it is four layers thick. Pat it down a little and then put it back in the mixing bowl and return it to the fridge for another 45 mins-1 hour. Repeat this rolling, folding and resting process again.
Pre-heat the oven to 210°c.
After the final resting period roll and fold the dough a final time and then roll it out so that it’s about 1cm thick. Score the surface of the dough with a hatched pattern, so that it looks like diamonds. Stamp out rounds with a 5cm cutter (don’t twist the cutter) and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the tops of them with the reserved beaten egg and sprinkle them with a little pinch of paprika.
Bake the pogacsa for 25 minutes, by which time they should have puffed up into lots of flaky layers and be wonderfully golden brown.
You can let them cool on a rack for a bit but these are at their most delicious when they’re eaten warm.