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Category Archives: Pies, Tarts and Quiches

Cherry Tomato Quiche

 



Quiche is a classic dish, great for lunch, or a picnic or as the basis for a simple supper. Quiche Lorraine is always nice, but it’s good to make some variations on the traditional version.

It seems that cherry tomatoes are always in season in Sydney and more and more varieties come onto the market. I love the punnets of variegated tomatoes with their yellow, green and red hues.

So cherry tomatoes are the basis of this quiche, as well as a handful of sun dried tomatoes. To make the whole thing fresh and light, I used spring onions, rather than onions, utilizing the green tops as well as the white onion bottoms.

The base is shortcrust pastry, for this particular recipe I use Maggie Beer’s Sour Cream Pastry. The savoury custard is the traditional filling for a quiche.

Ingredients

Shortcrust Pastry
200g chilled unsalted butter
250g plain flour
135g sour cream

Filling
2 spring onions, finely chopped
250g cherry tomatoes (a punnet)
A handful of sun dried tomatoes
4 free range eggs
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, 170 degrees C fan forced.
To make the sour cream pastry, pulse butter and flour in a food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Using your hands, shape pastry into a ball.

Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
 Grease a medium sized fluted quiche tin with a removable bottom. Roll the pastry out to 3mm thick and place in the tin.

Rest for 15 minutes in refrigerator. This helps reduce shrinkage when cooking. Remove from the fridge, place some pie weights on baking paper inside the tart, and bake blind in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pie weights and baking paper.

Decrease oven temperature to 170 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan forced.

Scatter the finely chopped spring onions over the base of the blind-baked pastry case. Chop the cherry tomatoes in quarters, leaving some of the smaller ones in halves. Scatter the quarters over the pastry base. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes, and scatter these between the cherry tomatoes.

In a bowl or large jug (the latter is very useful as you can pour the custard into the quiche tin easily), beat the eggs, cream and milk together until thoroughly combined. Add salt, pepper and grated Parmesan.

Carefully pour the custard mixture into the quiche tin. (I find it easiest to place the tin in the oven first before pouring). Place the remaining cherry tomato halves carefully in the custard. Hopefully they will sit artfully displayed in the cooked quiche, but don’t worry if they sink!

Bake until the custard is just set but still wobbly – about 30-40 minutes depending on your oven.
Carefully remove and leave to cool slightly before serving.

The quiche is fine as is, or you can serve with a few basil leaves, and/or some cherry tomatoes on the vine, which you slow roast for a couple of  hours until wilted.

Very fresh, very light, very delicious!

 

Ham and Leek Pot Pies


I’m making lots of pies this winter, as well as sampling the pies of a couple of of really good bakeries. My local Bourke Street Bakery makes some beautiful beef pies, packed full of beef and encased in excellent pastry. Very yummy if you’re in a hurry and can’t rustle up your own.

I posted this pot pie recipe last year. It’s such a simple one to make as the filling takes no time. I made it recently, this time making ham and leek pasties instead of pies.

So here is the recipe from last year.

”I had some chunky ham pieces and a leek in the fridge so decided that they would be the basis for some simple pies. I also had a lovely washed rind cheese, soft and melting, that I thought would go beautifully with the ham and leek. I’m a huge fan of nuts, so it was a no-brainer that I decided to put some walnuts in the pies as well. They added a lovely crunch and texture to the pies  All these ingredients were stirred into a white sauce, piled into the bowls, topped with puffpastry and baked in the oven.

I recommend using a good bought butter puff pastry for the recipe.

The recipe makes two substantial deep bowl pies. You could double the quantities for a larger pie in a conventional pie dish.”

Ingredients

1 large leek
A knob of butter to cook the leek
Salt
200g ham chunks
50g any soft washed rind cheese
A small handful of walnuts or to taste

White sauce
25g butter
25g plain flour
600ml milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 sheets of butter puff pastry or about 180g from a block of puff pastry

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon milk, for glazing

Method

Cut the leek into small slices. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the leek with a good pinch or two of salt. Cook on a low temperature until the leek slices are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Chop the ham into bite sized pieces and roughly slice the cheese. Chop any whole walnuts into smaller pieces.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

For the white sauce, melt the butter in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the flour and stir for 1-2 minutes, to make sure the raw flour taste is cooked out.

It’s important to do this and the subsequent stirring in of the milk with a wooden spoon.

Gradually stir in about a third of the milk, making sure the milk is incorporated and there are no floury lumps. When the sauce has noticeably thickened, add another third of the milk and repeat the process. Add the last third of the milk and cook until the sauce is nice and thick. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir the ham, leek, cheese and walnuts into the white sauce in the saucepan. Pile the mixture into the individual bowls.

Cut out circles of puff pastry that are larger than the diameter of the bowls and will be enough to completely cover the tops. Brush the tops of pies with the beaten egg.


Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes until the top of the pies are golden brown and puffed up.

Serve piping hot straight from the bowls!

Pumpkin and Leek Filo Pie




This is a tasty pie using filo pastry, pumpkin and leek, and mixture of goats cheese and feta. You can add an optional layer of bacon rashers too, for an extra salty kick.

While the pie is simple to assemble using filo pastry, there a little bit of work to cook the pumpkin and leek. But worth the effort, as the pie is really very delicious!

Ingredients 

2 tablespoons oil

500g pumpkin

5 rashers of streaky bacon

3 large leeks

1 clove of garlic

100g goat’s cheese

100g feta

2 large tablespoons Greek yoghurt

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 filo sheets

Butter for brushing the filo sheets + extra for greasing the baking dish

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Chop the pumpkin into small chunks, skin on. Lay the pumpkin pieces onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Pour one tablespoon of the oil over the pumpkin pieces. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Set aside until ready to assemble the pie.

Heat a medium sized frying pan on the stove top over a  medium heat. If using, fry the bacon rashers. Once cooked, set aside.

Wash the leeks and cut into small lengths, about 2 cms. Finely chop the garlic. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan – if you cooked the bacon, you can use the same frying pan and the bacon juices. Gently cook the leeks and garlic over a low heat until the leeks are softened. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Put the goat’s cheese and feta into a bowl with the Greek yoghurt and salt and ground black pepper. Mix to incorporate the cheeses and yoghurt.

Have 10 sheets of filo pastry ready for layering in a medium sized square or rectangular baking dish.  Cover the sheets with a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.

Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. Using the melted butter, lightly grease the baking dish. Lay one sheet of filo in the dish, and brush with melted butter. Lay a second sheet of filo cross wise in the dish, across the first sheet. Brush with melted butter. Continue layering with the remaining  three sheets, putting each sheet on top of the last, crossing the sheets over each other, brushing each sheet with melted butter.

Now it’s time to layer the filling. You will need to remove the skin from the now cooled baked pumpkin. Put a layer of pumpkin into the dish. Then layer some of the leek mixture. Top with some of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layers again, ending with the cheese. If using, place the bacon rashers on top of the filling.

Layer the remaining 5 sheets of filo over the top of the pie, crossing the sheets over each other as in the base of the pie, and brushing with melted butter in between the layers. Once the layers are done, you can tuck the overhanging filo into the sides of the pie. Or you could trim the overhang, but tucking in the filo gives a rustic edge to the pie, as you can see from the photos.

Brush the top with melted butter and place into the 180 degrees C oven for 20 minutes until the pie is golden brown on top and crispy.

Serve with green salad and crusty bread for lunch or as a simple supper. It freezes well too!

Tomato, Caramelized Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

While we are making slow cooked casseroles and warming winter pies here in Sydney in winter, others in the northern hemisphere are enjoying cooking in summer.

This is a recipe that suits any climate, a tasty tart that would be great for an alfresco summer lunch or a warming supper dish with crusty bread and a salad.

Store-bought puff pastry tart base, some caramelized onion for the base, then topped with goats’ cheese, cherry tomatoes and a scattering of fresh herbs. I made mine in a rectangular flan tin, but a round one would do as well. You might have to adjust the quantities.

Ingredients

320g store-bought puff pastry (I used 2 sheets from a pack of Pampas puff pastry). Use more or less, if needed, to fit your tin.

1 red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Goats’ cheese – or similar crumbly soft cheese. You will crumble this into the tart, so quantities are flexible, about 100gm should be enough

15-20 cherry tomatoes, or more if you want to pack them in, on the vine

Fresh thyme leaves for scattering

Sea salt and ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Butter a  flan tin and fit with the puff pastry sheets which you have cut to shape.

Fry the red onion in the butter in a small frying pan over a low to medium heat, until the onion begins to soften. Add the brown sugar to caramelize the onion and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Lay the caramelized onion onto the pastry base. Crumble the goats’ cheese into the tart. Cut some of the cherry tomatoes in half and place on top of the goats’ cheese, place a few whole ones on, too for effect.  Scatter a few fresh thyme leaves over the tomatoes with sea salt and black pepper.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the puff pastry is nicely browned, the cheese melted and the tomatoes softened. Nice served with a green salad.

Luscious Lemon Pie


Everyone loves lemons and everyone loves pies, so a really tangy, deep and luscious lemon pie is a wonderful thing. This lemon pie is pretty easy to make. The base is made with crushed biscuit and nuts, with three ingredients, and the filling has just three ingredients too!

I make the pie with an Italian meringue topping. You don’t have to have this – you could just as easily serve it with whipped cream on top, or simpler still, pile up a whole heap of lovely fresh berries like raspberries or blueberries on the pie, and the berries cut through the sweetness of the filling.

I have made this pie with ordinary and with Meyer lemons, and while not essential, Meyer lemons give the pie a lovely flavour.

Ingredients 

Biscuit Base

160g ginger nut biscuits + 90g digestive biscuits (McVities are my fave)

80g salted macadamias (you could use almonds if you like)

100g butter

Filling 

2 tins sweetened condensed milk

4 large free-range egg yolks

Juice of 4 lemons + the juice of 1/2 lemon 

Zest of 1 lemon

Meringue Topping (optional)

100g caster sugar

2 free-range egg whites

Pinch of cream of tartar

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan-forced. You will need a 20cm pie/tart tin or dish. A larger tin or dish is fine, you will end up with a shallower pie. A loose bottom tin, while not essential, makes it easier to get the pie out of the tin.

Put the biscuits and macadamias into a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin or mallet till you have a rubble of biscuit pieces and crumbs. Place the biscuit/nut mixture into a food processor, and blitz until you have mostly fine crumbs with a few larger biscuit and nut pieces. Melt the butter in a microwave or on the stovetop.

Stir the butter through the biscuit/nut mixture. Press the mixture into the tin, on the base and up the sides. Keep pressing with your fingers to make sure the base covers the tin and there are no holes. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the base is firm. Remove from the oven.

While the base is cooking, put the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice and zest into the food processor and whizz until everything is well blended. Pour onto the warm base. The mixture should come almost up to the top of the tin. You may end up with a little too much lemon mixture, you can always bake this in a little tin or muffin mold and you have an extra dessert! Cook’s treat!

Bake for 20 minutes or until just set but the middle still has a slight wobble. You might like to check it after 17 or 18 minutes. Everyone’s oven is different and some ovens cook faster then others.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Or, if your pie is baked in a dish, leave as is. Chill in the fridge for at least a few hours.

Meringue topping (if using)

Combine sugar and 100ml water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook until syrup reaches 115C (soft ball stage) using a thermometer.

Now whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar on medium speed in a grease-free bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Cook the sugar syrup to 121C (hard ball stage). With the mixer speed still on medium, carefully and gradually pour the syrup into the beaten egg whites. Increase speed to high and beat until the meringue is cooled to room temperature and it is thick and glossy.

Spoon the meringue into a piping beg with a plain nozzle, or you could just use a ziplock bag with the end snipped off – works a treat! Pipe in whatever way you like  on top of the lemon pie. Scorch with a kitchen blow torch for added wow!

Serve with whipped cream and berries, lemon slices and anything else you fancy.

Beef, Tomato and Red Wine Pie

 



May 2020. Autumn is about to turn into winter, and we’re still in partial lockdown. The weather is lovely, lots of warm days with crisp nights. Although we can now travel around New South Wales, it’s still nice to stay at home and do lots of winter cooking.

I’m very keen on pies at the moment. They’re great to make ahead and freeze, so there’s always a tasty meal on hand that can be put in the oven and eaten piping hot!

This is a recipe for a meat pie with a rich beef filling. I make a lovely casserole with shin (gravy) beef.   The casserole has lots of tomato and a good splosh of red wine. The casserole is great too, as is, served with baked potato, pasta, rice or polenta.

Once you’ve cooked the filling, you then make some shortcrust pastry. Pop the filling into the pastry and bake. A lovely homemade pie is ready for eating!

note – you can make either the beef filling or the shortcrust pastry well ahead of time, and put the pie together when you actually want to bake it.

Ingredients
Beef Filling

500g shin (gravy) beef or chuck steak or blade steak if you can’t get shin
1 dessertspoon plain flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped
2 – 4 shallots (more or less depending on the size of the shallots), chopped
2 x 400g tins whole peeled tomatoes
I large tomato, roughly chopped
200 mls red wine
1 tinful of water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt, black pepper
A bay leaf
A few springs thyme
Few sprigs rosemary

Shortcrust Pastry

500g plain flour
Pinch of salt
250g cold butter, diced
Enough iced water to bring the pastry together – about 4 tablespoons
Free-range egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry

Method
Filling

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Place the beef into a ziplock bag with the flour, close and shake the bag to coat the beef pieces in the flour. Heat a heavy based cast iron casserole on the stovetop. Add two tablespoons of oil to the casserole.

Add half of the beef pieces and cook for a minute or two to brown the meat, turning to make sure all sides get the heat. This is just to caramelise the meat. Remove the pieces from the casserole and set aside. Add the other half of the beef and caramelise in the same way, removing from the casserole once browned.

Add the other tablespoon of oil, and add the the chopped onions and shallots. Fry over a medium heat until the onions and shallots are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole.

Add the tinned tomatoes, roughly breaking up into the casserole. Add the chopped fresh tomato. Stir in the red wine, and using one of the tomato tins, add a tinful  of water. Stir in the molasses and Worcestershire sauce. Season with a sea salt and black pepper. Tie up the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary with an elastic band or a piece of string, to make a bouquet garnis, and put into the casserole mixture.

Making sure the mixture is simmering, carefully remove the casserole to the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, or until the beef is tender and almost falling apart. You should check after 2 hours, just  in case the casserole has cooked a bit dry. If so, you can add some more water. As a general rule, it’s pretty hard to overcook this cut of beef, so 3 hours is usually about the right time.

Remove the casserole from the oven, remove the bouquet garnis,  and cool to room temperature.

Shortcrust Pastry 

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blitz to combine. Add the butter cubes and carefully blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. At this point, add the iced water a little at a time, blitzing after each addition. Only add enough water to get the mixture to start to come together into a ball, you may not need it all. Be very careful not to process too long each time you blitz, as this will overwork the mixture, and make the pastry tough.

Turn the pastry out onto a work surface. Bring the pastry together into a ball, with your hands. Wrap the pastry in cling wrap and chill for at least half an hour in the fridge.

Making the Pie

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Remove pastry from the fridge. You will need a pie dish, tin or mould, 18cms or 20cms in diameter. Cut the pastry into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. Roll the bigger piece, for the base of the pie, between 2 sheets of baking paper, into a round at least big enough to fit into the pie dish, covering the base and sides. Ease the pastry into the dish. Don’t worry if the pastry breaks, it’s easy to patch up any gaps. You can trim off any excess from around the edge.

Now it’s time to fill the pie. You won’t need all the filling – fill with enough of the meat mixture to fit comfortably into the pastry. Brush the edge of the pastry with beaten egg.

Take the second, smaller piece of pastry, and roll between pieces of baking paper into another round, the size of the top of the pie, making sure you have enough pastry to overlap the top of the pie. You can always trim the excess. Place over the filling, making sure the top pastry meets the bottom pastry all around the pie. Seal the the top and bottom of the pastry by pushing down around the edge with the prongs of a fork.

Brush the top of the pie all over with beaten egg, before putting the pie into the hot oven. Cook for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven.

Serve in big slices with a green salad or mushy peas and carrots, and a dollop of sauce if you like. I go for Worcestershire or good old tomato ketchup!

Leftover pie can be refrigerated and reheated in the oven. And of course you can freeze portions of the pie too. Defrost them and reheat in the oven. Never microwave the pie, otherwise the pastry ends up limp and pretty unappetising!

Poached Quince Tart



May 2020. Two months into isolation in the era of Covid 19. Things are looking a little brighter – Australia has some great statistics in dealing with the virus, and some restrictions are being lifted. I was very excited to be able to visit the wonderful Orange Grove Market the Saturday before last, the market opened again for fresh food. I’ll be there this Saturday, eager to pick up some lovely local  produce.

Autumn in Sydney means the start of the quince season, and I bought some beautiful quince the other day. With no particular recipe in mind, I just needed their heady perfume in the kitchen.
Of course I had to cook with them – I poached them to a deep, deep red ruby colour, in a sugar syrup and vanilla. I put half the poached quince into a short crust pastry tart, and I’ll be making a fabulous quince crumble/betty recipe with the rest this weekend.
Here’s the tart recipe. There’s no other filling apart from the quince – you could fill it first with a frangipane or creme patissiere, but I think pastry, quince and a good spoonful of cream or Greek yoghurt is sufficient.
Ingredients

Poached quince
2 quince

300g caster sugar

500ml water

Thinly peeled rind and juice of an orange

1 vanilla bean, split in half

1 tablespoon butter

Short Crust Pastry
250g plain flour

50g icing sugar

125g unsalted butter (cold)

Zest of half a lemon

1 free-range egg

Splash of milk

Method

Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. You will need a large casserole that you can put on the stove top and then transfer to the oven. A cast iron casserole is ideal.
Peel and core the quinces, reserving the peel and cores. Cut each quince into eighths, but don’t worry if you can’t cut neat slices – quinces are notoriously hard to manage!
Put the sugar, water, orange rind and vanilla bean into a large casserole on the stove top over a medium heat, and stir to dissolve sugar. Add the quince pieces. Cover the quinces with a cartouche, a circle of baking paper. Lay the peel and cores on top of the baking paper. Place the lid on the casserole and put in the pre-heated oven.
Bake until the quince is ruby red. This should take about 4-6 hours. You should check the quince after 3 hours to see if it is turning red. Remove the quince and strain and reserve the quince liquid. You can discard the peel and cores. Keep the vanilla bean, dry it and pop it in a jar of sugar to create vanilla flavoured sugar.

To make the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar together, and put into the bowl of a food processor.   Add the cubed butter. Carefully pulse the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Pulse in the lemon zest.
Mix the egg and a splash of milk, and add this to the mixture, and pulse a few times until the dough comes together into a ball. If you’re having trouble, you can add some iced water, literally a drop or two at a time, to help form the dough into a ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough, as it will end up being tough.
Place a large piece of baking paper or cling film on your work surface. Tip the dough from the food processor onto the baking paper/cling film, and pat into a round. Cover the round with more paper/cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C, or 170 degrees C fan forced. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Grease an 18cm (7inch) tart tin. A 20cm tin would work too, you would simply roll the pastry a little thinner.
The easiest way to roll out the pastry is between 2 sheets of baking paper. Put the pastry onto one sheet, cover with the other sheet, and using a rolling pin, roll into a round big enough to fit into your tart tin. Ease the rolled pastry into the tin.  Put the tin into the freezer for at least 30 minutes, to make sure the pastry is really cold.
Remove the tin from the freezer. Line the tin with baking paper, and fill with pie weights. Dried beans or rice will work just as well. Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and weights. Return the pastry to the oven and bake for further 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

To assemble the tart, carefully take the tart shell from the tin and place on a plate. Choose the nicest pieces of quince and arrange in the tart shell.
Put about 50mls of the reserved quince liquid into a saucepan with the tablespoon of butter, and cook until the butter is incorporated.
Spoon a little of this quince buttery liquid over the tart, which will give it a nice glaze. I scattered a few sprigs of my favourite herb, lemon thyme, over the tart. Serve with spoonfuls of the aforementioned cream or Greek yoghurt!

Shepherd’s Pie

Easter 2020 is over, and despite being in the era of Covid 19, we managed to celebrate Easter Day with the usual treats – hot cross buns, chocolate eggs and roast lamb for lunch.

So lamb for lunch means leftover lamb, and leftover lamb means shepherd’s pie, which is exactly what I made after Easter last week. I love shepherd’s pie, particularly if it’s made with leftover roast lamb, although I know it can be quite good too, made with lamb mince.

A few notes. I made my basic mixture in a large cast iron casserole pan on the stove top, which could then be transferred straight to the oven. If you don’t have one of these, you will need to use a frying pan for the stove top and then transfer the mixture to a large baking dish to go in the oven.

If you are using cold roast lamb, you will need to cut it up finely. I blitzed mine in the food processor which was a lot less labour intensive!

I mention in the Ingredients how to use leftover gravy for the stock. Using gravy gives a lovely flavour to the shepherd’s pie, plus it’s a great “no waste” thing to do.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2-3 carrots, finely chopped (depending on size)

1 stick celery

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

A quantity of cold roast lamb, leg or shoulder, finely chopped, about 500g, or use the same quantity fresh minced lamb

2 tablespoons tomato paste

250ml stock, made from the remains of the gravy from the roast lamb, topped up with water, or use a liquid chicken or vegetable stock if using fresh mince*

125ml red wine

50ml Worcestershire sauce

1 fresh bay leaf

A few sprigs fresh rosemary

For the mashed potato topping:

8 medium desiree potatoes, peeled

250 ml full fat milk or enough milk to make a creamy mash

100gm softened butter

*The stock can be a mixture of liquids, the importance thing is to add something flavourful to the lamb. If you have leftover gravy, use that, topped up with water. I would suggest adding water anyway, even if you have a lot of gravy, to thin the gravy  a little. If you haven’t any gravy or are using lamb mince, ordinary stock is just fine.

Method

Put a large casserole pan or a frying pan on a medium heat on the stove top. Add the olive oil and heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are well softened. Add the chopped roast lamb or lamb mince and cook, stirring, to make sure all the meat is browned. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Add the tomato paste to the casserole and mix. Add the stock mixture, wine and Worcestershire sauce, pop in the bay leaf and rosemary and stir well. Once the mixture is boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is reduced, this could be between 15-25 minutes. Be careful not to overdo it or the mixture could catch and you’ll end up with burnt bits on the bottom of the pan! Adjust seasoning if necessary.

To make the mashed potatoes, put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold salted water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook until soft. Drain the potatoes well and put into a large bowl. Add the milk and butter and mash with a fork until smooth. Or, as I did, you can use a stick blender to get really smooth mash. Season with sea salt as necessary.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

If you are using a casserole pan, you are ready to put this straight into the oven. If you used a frying pan for your lamb mixture, you will need to transfer this to a large baking dish. Spoon the mashed potato over the lamb mixture and with a fork, create a few “peaks” on top of the potato. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the peaks of the mashed potato are just turning golden brown and the mixture is bubbling nicely!

Serve with a green salad and more Worcestershire sauce on the side. I admit to liking a good dash of tomato ketchup on my shepherd’s pie. Possibly sacrilege, but it works for me!

 

Bolognese 3 Ways


A quick note: this recipe is great for getting your daily veg (4 out of 5 ain’t bad!) – and it’s a no-brainer that it’s fabulous for giving children their veggies in kid-friendly yummy meals!

On Easter Saturday, midway in the Easter break you might be thinking about meat, after fish Friday.

I will be cooking lamb as usual tomorrow, Easter Sunday, but I have been thinking about some easy meat recipes to break the meat fast and also because we are all looking for meals we can cook up easily, in a time of isolation, with a few standard ingredients.Nothing too fussy!

I found this recipe watching a re-run of the excellent Jamie Oliver TV series “Jamie’s Comfort Food”. I have cooked a few recipes from the book of the same name with excellent results. In this episode Jamie made bolognese ravioli. I was taken with the bolognese part of the recipe. I thought it was a really good versatile recipe that could be tweaked in different ways.

While Jamie specifies minced pork and minced veal or beef, I made my bolognese with just beef – and it was great! I mention this, since, in these isolationist days, we may all have minced beef in the fridge, but not always pork or veal.

It’s quite thick, less a sauce, more a stand alone meal. In the post I cook up a big casserole pot full.

For Bolognese Number 1, serve up a plateful, on its own, and maybe with some crusty bread to mop up the leftovers.

Then, for Bolognese Number 2, you could put it over pasta for the traditional pasta bolognese. To do this, you might like to make it more sauce-like by stirring through a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water you cooked the pasta in – adding in just enough water to thin the sauce to your liking.

And for Bolognese Number 3 I piled some of the mixture into store bought puff pastry and made pies. This was really easy and the pies baked well, were good to eat on the spot, or could be reheated later or frozen. The procedure for this is at the end of the base recipe.

Here’s Jamie’s basic bolognese recipe.

Ingredients

400 g higher-welfare minced pork

400 g higher-welfare minced veal , or beef

olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

2 onions

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

200ml red wine

2 x 400 g tins of whole tomatoes

100g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

Method
Put all the minced meat into your largest pan on a high heat with a good lug of oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes, or until golden, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the garlic, onions, carrots and celery. When the mince has got a good colour, add all the chopped veg and cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the red wine and cook it away.

Pour in the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, and add half a tin’s worth of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender and the sauce is super-thick. Remove from the heat to cool, then finely grate and stir in the Parmesan.

For Bolognese Number 3 pies:
You will need puff pastry, either in sheet or block form. How much you will need depends on the number of pies you make. I made 4 hearty individual pies from 3 sheets of puff pastry if that’s any kind of guide with lots of trimmings left over.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Cut out some rounds of puff pastry from pastry sheets, or roll out some pastry from a block, if that’s how your pastry comes. You will need 2 rounds, one for the top and one for the bottom of the pies. Use something like saucers or glasses as a guide for cutting the rounds. The bottom round is smaller, the top round covering the filling is bigger. So I used a glass as the cutting guide for the bottom and a larger diameter saucer for the top.

Pile some bolognese filling onto the bottom round leaving  1-2 cm edge on the round. Brush a little water on that edge of the round, then cover with the top round, pinching the edges to seal. You could score a few decorative lines on the pastry top, making sure not to cut the pastry all the way through. I like to have a go but I’m not very good! You could also egg wash the pies all over using a beaten egg. That’s if you like that eggy shine to your baked pie.

Place the pies on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is lovely and brown and puffed up. Serve piping hot as is or dress up with a green salad.

Apple and Almond Orchard Cake

 


I made a cake last week for a communal dinner – First Friday Feast – where the theme was “from the ground up”. Lots of ideas sprang to mind, and I eventually settled on the orchard theme, apples and almonds that grow in the orchard, and are obviously above the ground. The orchard theme is particularly appropriate as Sydney finally heads into autumn after a sweltering summer.

The recipe is a version of Diana Henry’s Swedish Apple, Almond and Cardamom Cake from her column in the UK Telegraph, see here for the original recipe.

I substituted cinnamon and a little ginger for the cardamom as I’m not a huge cardamom fan. I currently have some lovely fragrant cinnamon from Vietnam, which I love using in bakes.

Here’s the recipe. I served the cake with some lovely glacé fruit, orange slices and apricots and fresh herbs. I also made my own version of muscatels by slow roasting some black grapes in a very low oven. Possibly not worth the time, when muscatels are so readily available, but they certainly had a lovely caramelised flavour.

Ingredients

150g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

175g light brown sugar

50g marzipan, broken into little chunks

3 large free range eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon almond extract

4 Granny Smith apples

175g plain flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

75g ground almonds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons milk, if needed

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons apricot jam, to glaze

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Butter and line the base of 
a 23cm springform cake tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together until pale and fluffy, then beat in the pieces of marzipan – the marzipan will break down and become amalgamated. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the almond extract.

Peel, core and chop two of the apples Into small pieces and stir them into the mixture.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt, and add the ground almonds, cinnamon  and ginger. Gently fold this mixture into the batter, adding it in three lots. If the mixture is really stiff,  add the milk.

Peel the other apples, halve, core and cut them into thin wedges. Toss the wedges with the sugar.

Spoon the batter into the springform tin and arrange the apple wedges on top in concentric circles. Be neat, but no need to be too fussy!

Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cover the top with aluminium foil if it looks like it’s browning too quickly.

Cool the cake for about 
15 minutes, then remove the outer ring. By sliding a knife between the cake and the base, carefully move the cake from the base. Quickly invert the cake and peel off the baking paper, and invert again. Carefully put the cake right side up on to a plate and leave to cool completely.

To glaze cake, put the apricot jam in a small saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water and heat until the jam is liquid. You will need to sieve the jam to make sure it’s smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the jam over the top of the cake.

Serve with glacé fruit or fresh fruit or even some bunches of green herbs. Cake is always good with whipped cream or ice cream!

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