HELLO AGAIN

Posted on 14th April, 2018

Have you missed me? I guess not but I’m back anyway with a promise of getting back in the food groove. My absence is explained by a couple of weeks of family stuff plus a couple of weeks recuperating from a heavy cold. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about eating or cooking when you feel below par but we all know that good quality, healthy food helps us to get over illness so I haven’t reverted to ready-meals or takeaways but I simply haven’t been up to writing about my food inventions hence the silence.

 

Spring has sprung a little late in these parts so the vegetable garden is rather sad. However there is recovery showing on the broccoli which has survived both the weather and the mauling by wood pigeons, I hope to be picking purple sprouting tender-stem broccoli soon. The rocket is forcing its way out of the ground and I’m hoping a little sunshine will bring it on a bit. The Mediterranean herb patch is in dire need of pruning (this is not a job I relish in the wet and cold) but the rosemary is certainly usable as it the oregano, which is now sprouting good strong shoots. The mint is also showing itself and I’ve already cut a little to use in a herb marinade for olives and Manchego cheese.

 

I’ve also managed to sow a few bean and pea seeds in the greenhouse to start them off for when the time comes to plant them in the raised beds. Everything will be late but that’s the way it is and we’ll have to get used to the changing seasons by trial and error.

 

I’ve downloaded a few random photographs from the last couple of weeks, I’ll never win MasterChef with my presentation but when you’re cooking for family and friends do we really worry about an untidy pastry lid, a slightly burnt flatbread or a scruffy salad? Flavour is what we’re after here although as I’ve said before sometimes you may wish to jazz up the presentation if you’re entertaining and want everything to be a bit swish.

 

Now I’m back in the loop I’ll share my simple pie recipe which came about because I had half a cauliflower in the fridge plus a couple of sticks of celery. I rarely make pastry but it really isn’t difficult although the shop bought shortcrust is very good these days and is used in professional kitchens as well as in the home kitchen. However I used white spelt flour to make my own version of shortcrust pastry and on this occasion used rape seed oil instead of traditional butter.

 

 

 

Pastry:-

Ingredients.

 

300gr White Spelt flour (or a mix of white and wholemeal)

8/9 tbsp rape seed oil (or olive oil)

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Cold water-amount to be determined when making but around 1/3rd cup

Couple of tblsp finely grated cheese (this can easily be omitted)

 

Method.

Stir salt into the flour and add the finely grated cheese if using. Making a well in the centre pour in the oil, stir in lightly until amalgamated then use your fingers to gently rub the oil and flour together until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Be careful not to overwork it. Pour in half the cold water, pulling it together as you go (I use a blunt ended knife for this, a strange trick I remember from making pastry in domestic science classes at school a million years ago). Keep adding water carefully until a dough is formed, you don’t want it to be wet, just enough water to allow you draw the ingredients into a ball. Knead gently to get rid of any cracks and wrap in cling-film or cover the bowl with a damp cloth then place in the fridge to rest while you make the filling.

 

Ingredients for pie filling:-

½ cauliflower-cut into florets (you can use the stalk as well as long as you discard any woody bits-it tastes the same)

½ onion-finely diced

2 sticks of celery-diced

1 or 2 cloves of garlic-crushed (omit if preferred)

1 tin of butter beans (cannellini beans would be a good substitute)

Milk or light stock

Rapeseed oil

Handful of spinach or similar leaves

Fresh or dried herbs-I used thyme but tarragon would work.

Salt & pepper

 

Method:-

Lightly sauté the onions and celery in a little oil, add the crushed garlic and cauliflower. Allow the onions and celery to soften but not brown, we’re aiming for a light colour finish here. Add the drained beans and dried herbs (if using).  Cover with milk or milk/stock mix or just stock and allow to simmer until cauliflower is al dente. Don’t let it get too soft as it will continue cooking inside the pie. Add the leaves and fresh herbs (if using), check seasoning, adding a little salt/pepper as required. If the liquid is still a little thin then you can thicken with a little cornflour (mix a small amount of cornflour with cold water and add to mixture, the heat will thicken the sauce in a minute or so). Now in an ideal world we set this aside to cool.

 

world we set this aside to cool.

Meanwhile take the rested pastry from the fridge and cut around a third off for the lid and set aside. On a smooth surface sprinkle a little flour before rolling out the pastry that will line the pie dish (I have a shallow Pyrex dish I’ve had for years but as long as the dish isn’t too deep and is ovenproof you should be OK, improvise with what you’ve got before rushing out to buy a purpose made dish)

Rolling out pastry isn’t rocket science but needs to be done quickly and lightly, overworking it will just make it too hard. Pick the pastry up on the rolling pin and lay it over the dish. Using your fingers press it down lightly until the sides are covered. I blind baked mine in a preheated oven (around 160-180C). Now the cooks among us may have ‘baking beads’ and if so use these, on the other hand if you’re like me you won’t so I use dried black-eyed beans that are solely used for this purpose (I store them in a sealed jar just for baking). Bake the empty case for about 10-15 minutes, you just want to make sure it doesn’t go soggy when the filling is added.

 

Remove from the oven and pour/spoon in the pie filling. Roll out the pastry lid, laying this over the top. Now depending on the dish used you may need to crimp the pie lid to seal it however my dish has a lip so I brushed this with milk (water would do) to make sure the filling was sealed inside. Brush the lid with milk which helps the pastry colour while it’s cooking.

 

Return the pie to the oven for around 10-15 minutes until the lid is golden. Remember the filling and the base is already pretty much cooked so this is sufficient to have the finished pie ready to serve.

I served mine with a salad, but it’s a meal in itself and doesn’t really need any other accompaniment, however the sky’s the limit so serve with chips, mashed potato, green vegetable or whatever takes your fancy. You are in charge here so all of the ingredients for the filling can be changed to what you have, just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

 

I’ll see you soon-keep cooking-keep experimenting and most of all make it tasty and have fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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