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.
Savoury cheesecakes might seem like a peculiar idea at first but really, is it any more strange than choosing to make a pudding out of cheese in the first place?
As a non-meat eater I think that they make such a nice change for a special lunch or a first course. Once you’ve mastered the basic mixture they’re very versatile too, there are so many flavour possibilities that you could use in them.
I’ve used pretty classic autumn flavours in this version. These also look really pretty when you cut into them and the colours are amazing.
Be careful not to over-bake the cheesecakes or they’ll dry out a bit and lose their nice creamy consistency. It’s also important to make sure that the cheeses and eggs for the filling are at room temperature before you start.
3 tbsp digestive biscuit crumbs
3 tbsp oats
3 tbsp melted butter
200g butternut squash
1 fat clove of garlic
small handful of sage (with some smallish leaves if possible)
225g cream cheese
2 tbsp grated parmesan
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 190°c. Slice the butternut squash into thin slices, only a couple of millimeters thick, so that you have 12 slices. Lay these on a lightly greased baking sheet and scatter over the sage and pop on the garlic clove, unpeeled. Roast the squash for 15-20 minutes, until it is tender and then leave it to cool a bit on the tray.
Reduce the oven to 170°c and line a six hole tin with muffin wrappers, silicone ones work a treat. Fill a roasting tin with water and pop that in the oven to use as a bain-marie later.
Combine all of the ingredients for the base mixture and press a spoonful of it into the base of each of the muffin wrappers. Put this in the fridge to chill and become a bit more firm.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until it is nice and soft. Add the egg and beat again until it is well combined. Crush or finely chop the roasted sage, keeping back any leaves that you want for decorating, the small one are best for this. Mince the roasted garlic. Add the parmesan, crushed sage, garlic and the seasoning to the cheesecake filling mixture and stir well. Set this aside for a moment.
Using a pastry cutter that is roughly the same size as the muffin wrappers, cut out circles from the cooled roasted squash.
Put a spoonful of the cheesecake mix on top the biscuit base for each cheesecake and spread it a little. Top this with a circle of squash. Repeat this, finishing with a layer of cheesecake mix. Top with a sage leaf to decorate.
Put the tray into the bain-marie and bake the cheesecakes for 20-25 minutes. They should still have a little wobble to them once they are cooked. Turn the oven off and open the door a bit. Leave the cheesecakes to cool to room temperature in the oven and then pop them in the fridge to chill. Let them sit a room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
So it turns out that souffles aren’t actually that hard to make. Not nearly as hard as they are to photograph! Granted, if you want to show off your beautifully risen, fluffy culinary achievements, you might need your diners to gather around the oven as you take them out, but they’ll only sink a little and they taste amazing. Plenty of rich, earthy, sweet flavour from the beets pepped up with the horseradish, and the parmesan forms a lovely cheesy crust.
Once you’ve got the beetroot puree these are actually really quick and pretty easy to prepare too. The only things you need to remember are to be very gentle when you fold in the egg whites and not to open the oven door until the 12 minute cooking time is up.
makes 4-6 (depending on the size of your ramekins)
200g cooked, pureed beetroot
pinch of salt and pepper
1 scant tbsp grated horseradish
sprig of thyme
the juice of 1 lemon topped up to 80ml with water (I actually use the water from cooking the beetroot for a bit of extra colour)
3/4 tbsp flour
butter and a couple of tablespoons of finely grated parmesan for the ramekins
Butter the ramekins and dust them with the parmesan (you might need to press it into the sides a bit). Pre-heat the oven to 220°c.
Blend the beetroot with half of the liquid, the seasonings, thyme and horseradish until it’s really quite smooth.
In a small pan mix the flour with the remaining liquid and gently heat it until you have quite a thick paste. Add this to the blended beetroot ingredients and mix well.
Separate the eggs, setting aside the whites in a large bowl and putting the yolks with the beetroot mixture. Thoroughly blend the yolks with the beetroot.
Whip the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Mix a tablespoon of this with the beetroot to lighten the mixture a bit. Fold in the rest of the egg white with a large metal spoon, a few tablespoon at a time. Don’t over mix it or you will knock all the air out of it.
Spoon the souffle batter into the prepared ramekins, you can fill them almost to the top, and bake them for 12 minutes. Serve immediately, so they don’t have time to deflate too much.
It feels as though we may be approaching the season of comfort food. The nights are drawing in and the big bowls of salad I’ve been feasting on during the summer are seeming less and less appealing.
Plus it’s fig season and I can never resist a sweet ripe fig. Especially if it’s teamed up with any form of dairy product. Ice cream, yoghurt, cheese – I don’t care really. I just know that I need to eat as many as a I can as quickly as possible.
I’ll certainly be eating more of these before the seasons over. As cheese toasties go (or grilled cheese on this side of the pond), this was pretty epic. Full of rich gooey, melty, buttery brie, sweet figs and fragrant thyme with plenty of crunch from the bread, Yeah, I could probably eat another one right now.
You can obviously be pretty fluid about quantities here, it all really just hinges on the surface area of your bread and the size of your figs.
2 thick slices of white sourdough bread
handful of fresh baby spinach
2-3 fresh ripe figs, sliced
50g brie, sliced
small sprig of fresh thyme
big pinch of sea salt (smoked if you can get it)
pinch of black pepper
drizzle of honey
Butter the bread on both sides. Place one slice in a heavy frying pan (I use a crepe pan) and then layer on the spinach, followed by the cheese and the figs. Drizzle over the honey and then sprinkle on the seasonings and the thyme leaves. Top with the second slice of bread and gently press the sandwich together. Gently heat the pan, you don’t want it to be too hot or you’ll just burn the bread before the cheese achieves maximum gooeyness. Allow the underside of the sandwich to become crisp and golden and then carefully flip it over to brown the other side.
Transfer to a serving plate before cutting in two because the cheese will be gloriously oozy.