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Ham, Leek, Cheese and Walnut Pies

I was given a present a while back of some beautiful ceramic bowls, great for serving soup in, but also a perfect receptacle for individual rustic pies.

This is a really simple recipe, the filling for which can be adapted to suit your individual taste.

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 puff pastry and baked in the oven.

I made my own puff pastry, which was a little time consuming. I’m not including the recipe here, I actually can’t remember where I sourced it from!! Looking back on past posts on my blog, I see that I usually make rough puff pastry. So I’m not quite sure why I decided to go the full puff on this occasion. I recommend using a good bought butter puff pastry for the recipe.

I decided I would put a rim of pastry around the edge of the bowls, but this didn’t really work. I’m not quite sure what I did wrong. I have included the photo, as I like to be honest about what works and what doesn’t in my cooking. I’ll know next time to do some more research about how to fix this issue!

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 the equivalent ( I normally use the Careme brand, readily available in Australia, when not making my own)

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!

Apple and Lemon Thyme Galette

I love quick and easy cakes and desserts and this one certainly is. My rustic apple galette is easy to prepare and looks pretty, in a rustic kind of way!

This version was helped by using a mixture of apples I picked up at The Loch in Berrima, in the beautiful Southern Highlands. The Loch grows and sells wonderful produce and has a great restaurant too. The apples were spectacular. Some of them even had pink flesh, as you can see from the photos. I wish I knew what the variety was. I’ll ask next time I’m there.

The galette is also enhanced by baking some lemon thyme sprigs with the apples and scattering some crystallised lemon thyme sprigs over the finished galette.

This galette would work with any kind of short crust pastry. My version is based on the sour cream pastry of the wonderful cook Maggie Beer. I sometimes substitute Greek yoghurt for sour cream, as I did this time. However, I find this creates a softer, more delicate pastry. It’s consequently a little harder to handle. Up to you what kind of pastry you use. Good store-bought short crust is fine too!

Ingredients

Pastry
200g butter chilled
250g plain flour
125ml sour cream or Greek yoghurt

3 red apples, whatever you fancy. Crisp apples like Pink Lady are excellent
Lemon juice
1 free-range egg yolk, beaten, for glazing
Several sprigs of lemon thyme
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 free-range egg white, lightly beaten

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Cut the butter into cubes and pulse with the flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Spoon in the sour cream or yoghurt and continue to pulse in bursts until the mixture comes together into a ball.

Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Core and slice the apples thinly, and place the slices into the lemon juice to stop them going brown.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out between two pieces of baking paper so that it is about 2cm thick, rolling into a rough circle. Remove the top layer of baking paper and carefully transfer the pastry to your lined baking tray, by turning the pastry over and removing the bottom sheet.

Shape the round to neaten it if needed, and turn the outer edge up about 2cm in to make the sides of the galette.

Drain the apples slices and place in any artistic way you like on the tart.

Brush the 2cm edge of the galette with as much of the beaten egg as you need. Scatter some of the thyme sprigs over the galette and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar.

Place the galette in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. The galette should be golden brown around the edges.

Once out of the oven, leave to cool. To make the crystallised thyme sprigs, dip some more thyme sprigs in the beaten egg white, then dip in the remaining tablespoon of caster sugar. Leave to dry on a piece of baking paper.

Serve with the thyme sprigs scattered over, and as is, or with plenty of thick cream!

Blueberry Oat Cakes

These oat cakes are a cross between cakes, biscuits and scones. They are quite dense, with ground rolled oats and blueberries.

I developed the recipe because I am currently reading “The Violet Bakery Cookbook” by the wonderful Claire Ptak. As well as being a great baker in London, she made the famous wedding cake for Harry and Meghan in 2018. She has several rather rustic scones recipes, often with wholemeal or spelt flour, often featuring fruit, in her book. She is so imaginative in her recipes and I love her presentation too!

The mixture is very crumbly and will be difficult to bring together into a dough, particularly with the frozen blueberries. But don’t worry, just pat the mixture into shape and by resting it, you can cut the rounds from the mixture.

Here’s my recipe. This makes 12 smallish oat cakes. You could double the quantities for larger, more substantial oat cakes.

Ingredients
100g rolled oats
150g plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g raw sugar or brown sugar
Zest of half an orange
125g cold unsalted butter cut into 1 cm chunks
150g creme fraiche
125g frozen blueberries

Method
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Blitz the rolled oats in a food processor until finely ground. Mix all the dry ingredients plus the orange zest in a bowl or in a food processor. Cut in the cold butter by hand until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs, or you can continue to use a food processor on pulse, but be careful not to overwork the dough.

Quickly stir in the creme fraiche until just mixed in. Stir in the frozen blueberries.

Turn the mixture out onto a floured board, and pat into a square about 3 or 4cms thick. Rest for 5 minutes at least, even 10 minutes.

Using a 6cm cutter, cut out rounds and place onto the baking sheet. You will probably get 8 or 9 from the dough, then you will need to gather up the remains of the dough and pat together (don’t re-roll) before cutting out the last few rounds.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the rounds are brown on top. You could check after 20 minutes to see how they are coming along. Take out of the oven and wait until the oat cakes are cool before serving.

Serve on their own – they are sweet enough – or with homemade berry jam and Greek yoghurt.

Goat’s Cheese, Leek and Tomato Lasagne


Lasagne is one of those really easy dishes that you can prepare ahead of time, stick in the fridge or freezer for later, and heat up whenever you want.

I recently had a lovely goat’s cheese lasagne at my local pub – a bubbling individual ramekin full of cheesy layers and really quite delicious!

So I decided to make a lasagne this weekend – this time a larger sharing version. It was pretty simple, and really, you can put anything you like in the filling, although I do recommend goat’s cheese for its creamy and slightly pungent flavour.

Ingredients

2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 400g tin whole tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 big leek or 2 smaller ones
250g goat’s cheese
1 tbls milk
150g Greek yoghurt
Fresh lasagne sheets – enough to make 3 layers
Parmesan to grate over the lasagne
Cherry tomatoes, sage leaves
Fresh basil leaves

Method

For the tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium frying pan. Peel and finely slice the garlic and fry gently until softened. Add the tinned tomatoes and using the tin as a measure, add a tinful of water. Add a good grind of rock salt and black pepper and the teaspoon of sugar. Cook on a medium heat until the sauce is thick and reduced, about 20 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon occasionally as you stir the sauce.

Wash the leek/s carefully to remove any dirt or grit. Finely chop the leeks. Put another frying pan on medium heat – or you can save washing up like me and use the tomato pan after they have finished cooking! Add the other tablespoon of oil, and when the oil is hot, add the chopped leeks. Stir for a minute or two, moving the leeks around to make sure they are all starting to cook down. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes until the leeks are softened.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Break the goat’s cheese up, you still wants sine chunks so no need to blend or process. Add the milk to loosen the mix, and then add the Greek yoghurt. You are looking for a thick bit spreadable consistency. Season with a grind or two of rock salt and black pepper.

Now for the layering. Spoon 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of your baking dish. Add 1/3 of the leeks.Now put a layer of lasagne sheets on top. The size of your baking dish will determine how many sheets or partial sheets you need. I used one and a half per layer. Spoon ¼ of the goat’s cheese mixture over the lasagne sheets. Now start again and layer 1/3 tomato, 1/3 leeks, lasagne sheets and ¼ goat’s cheese. Finish with the rest of the tomato, the leeks and a lasagne layer.
Spread the remaining ½ goat’s cheese mixture thickly over the top of the lasagne. Grate as much Parmesan as you fancy over the top, and scatter some cherry tomorrow halves and sage leaves.

Place in the bottom of the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Remove from the oven and scatter over a few fresh basil leaves before serving.

NB You could freeze the lasagne before baking, or after cooking, freeze whole or divided into meal size portions.

 

Pear and Hazelnut Tart – Jamie Cooks Italy

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C42A5815-2EC1-4519-AA14-8C654E97581FI’ve just acquired Jamie Oliver’s new book, Jamie Cooks Italy. It’s beautiful! A wealth of fantastic recipes which highlight the breadth and depth of Italian cooking. Here is a link to the book.

I couldn’t wait to start my baking, so this weekend I made a lovely chicken dish, “Chicken under a Brick”. More of this in a later post!

I also baked “Pear and Hazelnut Tart”, a twist on a classic frangipane tart. The frangipane is made with hazelnuts rather than almonds. You process whole hazelnuts, so the texture is quite gritty compared with traditional almond or hazelnut meal. Pears are baked on top of the frangipane. The pastry and frangipane are both flavoured with orange zest, which adds to the piquancy of the tart.

Here’s Jamie’s recipe as is. A couple of notes – I roll the pastry between clingfilm as this is far easier and less messy than the traditional way! I also substituted baking paper for non-PVC clingfilm in order to bake the tart blind, as I’m not sure you can get the latter in Australia.

Ingredients 

2 oranges
275g unsalted butter (cold)
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 large free-range eggs
Olive oil
150g blanched hazelnuts
150g golden caster sugar
3 firm pears

Method

To make the pastry, finely grate the zest of 1 orange into a food processor, add 125g of butter, the flour, icing sugar, vanilla paste and l egg, then pulse until it comes together into a ball of dough. Wrap in clingfilm and pop into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Lightly oil a 25cm non-stick loose-bottomed tart tin. Preheat the oven to l80 degrees C.

On a flour-dusted surface, roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick, then loosely roll it up around the rolling pin and unroll over the oiled tin, easing and pushing it carefully into the sides. Trim off any excess patch up any holes. Line with a double layer of non-PVC clingfilm, then fill with uncooked rice. Bake blind for IS minutes. Remove the clingfilm and rice, bake for a further 5 minutes, then leave to cool.

For the frangipane, blitz the nuts into a fine powder in the food processor. Add the remaining 150g of butter and the caster sugar and blitz again to combine. Finely grate in the remaining orange zest, crack in the remaining 2 eggs and blitz again. Just before assembling, peel the pears, quarter lengthways and remove the cores, then toss in the juice of half an orange.

Spoon the frangipane into the pastry case in an even layer, then arrange the pear quarters on top. Bake at time bottom of the oven for 40 minutes, or until golden. Leave for 5 minutes in the tin, then release and serve warm. Nice with orange-spiked crème fraîche and crumbled toasted hazelnuts.

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Quince Tart: Free-form Style

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74EC71E1-AE14-4F34-95CC-8B26D4CC3439It’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and in Sydney we’re experiencing a really crisp winter, which I love, as I’m a fan of the cold weather.

Quinces are in season and I make a few quince recipes at this time of year. One of my favourites is baked quince with crumble, slices of slowly baked quince with a crumble topping and thick cream.

Quinces go well with pastry, so I recently made a rustic quince tart, a simple sweet short crust pastry base, baked free-form, topped with cookedquince.

The pastry recipe is from a recipe for Red Apple Rustic Tart,  and the baked quince is adapted from a recipe for Quince Shortcake.

Ingredients

For the quinces:

2 quinces
100g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

For the pastry:

1 3/4 cups plain flour
170 grams butter
1 tablespoon sugar plus extra for sprinkling
A good pinch of salt
2 tablespoons ice cold water

Method

Baked quinces:

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.  Peel the quinces, halve lengthways and remove cores. Cut in slices and put the slices in a small baking dish. Scatter over sugar and squeeze over the lemon juice.

Cover tightly with a doubled sheet of foil. Bake the quinces for 2-3 hours, basting a few times through the process, until the quinces are soft and a ruby red colour. Remove from the dish to cool.

Pastry:

Pulse flour, butter, sugar and salt in food processor, until the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add enough iced water to bring the pastry together – be careful not to over mix.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 20 -30 minutes.

To make the tart:

Turn the oven up to 170 degrees C.  Butter a baking dish. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out between 2 sheets of cling film. Remove from the cling film and drape over the baking dish, shaping rough sides inside the dish. This is a free-form tart so there is no need to make it look “pretty” or too even.

Place the baked quince slices on top of the pastry higgledy piggledy, the more rustic the better. Sprinkle the additional sugar liberally over the edges of the pastry.

Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.

Serve warm with whipped cream or thick Greek yoghurt.9AD45771-6D98-40E5-8FB1-B3C89C8BEA88

 

 

Quince Shortcake

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I’m always looking for simple bakes for afternoon tea or for when friends drop over unexpectedly. This is an easy recipe to make. You just need to bake the quinces beforehand. In autumn and winter in Sydney,  in what passes for the cooler months here, I buy quinces pretty regularly, and slow cook them in the oven ready for this recipe, or to fill a tart or have for breakfast with yoghurt and granola.

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Ingredients

For the baked quince:

1 quince

60g caster sugar

Juice of 1/2lemon

For the shortcake:

125 g unsalted butter

125 g castor sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

225g  plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.

For the quince, peel the quince, halve lengthways and remove core. Cut in slices and put the slices in a small baking dish. Scatter over sugar and squeeze over the lemon juice.

Cover tightly with a doubled sheet of foil. Bake the quinces for 2-3 hours, basting a few times through the process, until the quinces are soft and a ruby red colour. Remove from the dish to cool.

For the shortcake, beat the butter and castor sugar until creamy. Add the egg and mix well. Add the flour and baking powder, then stir until only just combined.

Add half the quince slices, and combine until the mixture comes together into a dough, but don’t overwork the dough.

Turn the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a baking tray. With floured hands, put the dough onto the baking tray, then shape the dough into a round. Mark the round into 6 wedges.

Bake for 25- 30 minutes or until until golden (cover loosely with foil if browning too quickly). Once cool, dust the shortcake with sifted icing sugar, and serve with cream and the remaining quince slices.

 

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