Category Archives: Pastry

Rhubarb Triangles

Rhubarb Triangles (7496)I have long been an admirer of Deb Perelman, a.k.a. Smitten Kitchen. What a name ha? Smitten Kitchen…That’s such a great name for a food blog. Let me tell you, I have long been smitten, but to be honest I also have been procrastinating on buying the cookbook, until earlier this year. I tried some of the recipes during the warmest of weeks, which on one hand was a huge mistake (I become a mess when trying new recipes and reviewing books) but on the other I just couldn’t wait for it to arrive. I was skipping for joy. Really.

For the first recipe I went all out for strawberries. I love the stuff so there was no doubt whatsoever about this one, and those fools were good. They took too much time to prepare, and spending a hot afternoon in the kitchen is always going to be a faff, at least for me, but they were worth the time and effort. *That* I will definitely say. The second recipe you will find here is Deb’s Rhubarb Triangles. It also intrigued me because these are on the cover, and you know me and book covers. We have a thing. They look like and are in fact, mini jam tarts, the dough being her take on shortcrust pastry, but with almonds. (There are lots of photos in this post, so be aware!)

Rhubarb Triangles (7532)I know that rhubarb is not in season right now, but there photos have been in my files begging me to publish them, and it’s a special one for me too – here’s my first attempt at baking with rhubarb. I used to pass by the rack every time I visited the market, but this recipe has helped me to overcome the fear! Sounds a little dramatic, and it is, but that’s how edgy I get with new ingredients! On to the recipe, which will give a yield of about 25 mini cookies. Before you start, please be aware that you will have way too much filling, but I used whatever remained poured over vanilla ice-cream. A real treat.

Rhubarb Triangles (7502)Rhubarb Triangles (7508)For the filling:

  • 900g rhubarb stalks
  • 130g caster sugar

Rhubarb Triangles (7507)For the dough:

  • 50g ground almonds
  • 250g plain flour
  • 65g caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 115g cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

To prepare the rhubarb for the filling, wash the lot and trim the ends, and cut into 1cm cubes. Tip these into a large saucepan with the sugar and cook for around 15 minutes, covered on low heat. Now, on medium heat, remove the cover from the pan and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the fruit begins to break down. Remove the mixture from the heat, pour it into a shallow and let it cool well.

In a large bowl, add the ground almonds, flour, caster sugar and salt, and mix. Using your thumb and forefingers, lightly work the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like small breadcrumbs. Add the egg and almond extract. Combine the lot with your hands till you have a dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and place in the fridge for a good 30 minutes.

Rhubarb Triangles Dough (7513)When the rhubarb compote and dough are cold, flour your workspace, place the dough onto it, flour the top of the dough, and gently roll it out to a rough 3mm thickness. Cut out 7cm circles. Fold the edges and pinch them together to get three sides, and pinch the ends to get corners. The dough remains very crumbly, even cold, so be careful.

Rhubarb Triangles Dough (7517)Rhubarb Triangles (7518)Using a teaspoon measure, pour the fruit compote into the middle of the pastry triangle. Repeat this step until you use all the dough. As you go along, place each one on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Rhubarb Triangles (7524)Rhubarb Triangles (7522)Before baking you could place each tray with the little tarts in the freezer, to help them keep the shape. Unfortunately my freezer is the size of a drawer so I couldn’t afford doing this. Don’t worry too much though. Just preheat the oven to 190ºC/170ºC fan. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges turn golden. Some will open, but I didn’t mind at all! When they are done, put them on a wire rack to cool.

Rhubarb Triangles (7529)Rhubarb Triangles from Smitten Kitchen (7533)They will keep for 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature and a bit longer if stored in the fridge, which is where I kept them. Enjoy!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman, Square Peg, 2012.)

Ricotta and Spinach Pie

Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8180)I would have liked to share with you loads of foodie and non-foodie photos I took over the past few months. However over the weekend I felt like baking a pie. I have written about my ricotta pie recipe quite a long time ago, and I felt quite torn about posting this recipe once more for fear of repeating myself too much. However I don’t think I made this for months, if not a year. My fondness for it has won hands down though, so I give it to you once more with some changes to the filling ingredients, and of course with a new set of pictures. I should add that the dishes of food that you see throughout this blog are eaten a few moments after those pictures are taken. The sweet things are generally shared, and what you see is what you get.

Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8171)This weekend was quite full on, with a day trip to Kent and a visit to Chartwell on Saturday. I then decided that Sunday was going to be all about some R&R, with some baking thrown in, just for kicks. Weekdays are usually left for the no-fuss stuff, so it’s nice to be able to spend an afternoon baking things which take a little bit more energy to make. J has been lovely as always and helped to iron roll out the pastry. Shortcrust gives me a headache sometimes (give me that elastic pizza dough anytime) but it’s worth the faff.

Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8172)Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8175)I can be a little OCD on this one but I prefer to use ounces for the pastry! I was taught that the basic rule of thumb for shortcrust is that the amount of flour should be twice as much (by weight) as the amount of fat.

  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (optional)
  • 2 oz cold butter
  • 2 oz vegetable shortening
  • around 6 teaspoons cold water (the colder the better, especially if you have warm hands like me!)

Mix the flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl, using your thumbs and second and third fingers. Rub the butter into the flour for about 5 to 10 minutes, until it looks like breadcrumbs. The colder everything is the better. Add the water gradually as needed, remembering not to overwork the pastry. Wrap the finished product in cling film and set aside in the fridge until you need it. I like to keep it there for at least an hour, but I would say 30 minutes is enough.

For the ricotta filling:

  • 500g ricotta
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 300g baby spinach leaves, steamed in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large egg

To prepare the filling, mix the ricotta, frozen peas, spinach, salt and pepper in a bowl, and taste. When the seasoning is as you like it, add the egg and give the ingredients one last light mix. When you are ready to assemble to pie, preheat the oven to 180ºC.

To assemble the pie, divide the pastry into two and roll it out on a clean and floured surface, a few inches larger in size than your pie dish. With the help of your rolling pin, lift the pastry and place it on the bottom of the dish. Fill the pastry with the ricotta mixture, then roll out the second piece of pastry and place this on the top. Secure the edges with your fingers. Prong with a knife, brush the top with preferably a beaten egg. Place in a preheated oven for around an hour, till it turns golden. It’s comfort food at it’s best.

Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8176)Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8177)Let it stand for a good 20 minutes before serving – it makes cutting it into slices easier and neater, especially for picnics, but don’t let this hold you back! Enjoy!

Rob x

Mince Pies and some Special Thank You’s

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I wasn’t planning to make mince pies this year. One of my excuses was quite simple: I was in Malta about a month ago and didn’t have the time to prepare any mincemeat. But J said it’s not Christmas without them so we made them…yesterday. I had some store-bought mincemeat in the pantry which I got this week, but ready made mincemeat is not the same as when you do it yourself. Most of the time it’s too sweet; that’s because sugar is cheaper than fruit! I know many of you would agree here. However for convenience’s sake the ones you get at the store are a blessing in disguise for those, who like me, were lazy enough not to have made any. The end result was good though, so I’m not complaining. I’m just thankful my lovely husband was here to help. He’s a wonderful cook anyway.

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We used a sweet pastry here; in Malta it’s known as tal-figolli, used traditionally at Eastertime. It’s moist and soft and bakes well. You will have enough for 12 little pies here. We did decide though on making 24 next time round. The pastry becomes quite wet but that’s nothing to be worried about.

Before I give you this recipe for the pastry (which makes 12 pies) I really would like to thank Chef James Tanner for taking the time from his busy schedule to answer all my kitchen queries this year and for his Twitter RTs. His Chocolate and Nut Brownies have become quite a hit in this house! So thank you Mr. Tanner.

I would also like to send my thanks to my family and all those who sent me questions and kind messages or commented on my blog. You make it all worthwhile. Last but not least, I would also like to thank J for testing all the recipes and giving me his honest feedback on every one. Thank you! So here we go:

  • 240g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 60g butter, unsalted
  • 60g vegetable shortening/vegetable fat (Trex in the UK)
  • 90g sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 410g mincemeat (approx. 2 teaspoons filling for each pie)
  1. Preheat the oven at 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder, add the sugar, and rub the butter completely into the flour until you get a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the beaten egg, lemon zest and juice, and the vanilla extract to the dry ingredients and mix everything well using your hands. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for about 40 minutes. This will make it crunchy later and easier to handle when rolling it out.
  3. Roll out the pastry and use a cookie cutter slightly larger than the size of your moulds. Grease the moulds well and fit a pastry circle in each mould. Put approximately 2 teaspoons of mincemeat in each pastry case and top each pie with smaller size pastry circles. You could top them with any shape you like really…stars, criss-cross etc.
  4. Brush the tops with a mixture of half a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a few drops of water, and use a sharp knife to cut a small cross on each top, to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the oven!!
  5. Bake for around 20 to 25 minutes until the little babies turn nice and golden. Once cooled you can sprinkle them with some icing sugar. Your call.Enjoy and Happy Christmas to all!

    Rob x

Pasties

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I love to read old recipe books. In fact, the older they are the more I enjoy them. I don’t know what makes them so appealing, but it’s just how it is. My mum didn’t have lots of recipe books, and she didn’t inherit any from her mum either. She does have one though, in her head, but you have to be a Vulcan and go through a mind-meld to get hold of that! (My mum is always amused when I ask for advice on a recipe; before I got married I didn’t have any idea how to cook or bake. Could she have thought that I would never learn?! mm…) She’s this type of cook: when you ask her for a recipe she says: “oh so, do you have a pen & paper?…yes?…OK…you need…a bit of mixed spice, a bit of curry, some onions…” and on and on. Sounds familiar? And I fume! But hey, since I love her very much, I just say “awww thanks ma – you’re so sweet”, and I then try to get as close as possible to the recipe later on in the kitchen. The same goes for J’s lovely granny. “That’s delicious Na. What did you use?” “A little bit of this & a little bit of that”…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! I also think though, that there’s something really endearing about that. But I digress…

Cornish-Pasties-(4666)Cornish-Pasties-(4667)

My first memory of the following recipe is my mother’s kitchen. I was very little and she baked her socks off every time she threw me some sort of party. She catered for every one, and to this day I don’t know how she did it. What I clearly remember are the kitchen and dining tables full of pigs in blankets (or sausage rolls to you and me) and all sorts of little savoury pies, all filed up on baking trays, ready for the oven, like rows and rows of toy soldiers ready for battle!

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Now what I prefer to bake are the bigger versions, because I’m older I guess! Unfortunately I don’t like the fiddly and never-ending process of assembling small portions of the same thing. Though I have to admit that managing smaller quantities of shortcrust is easier than rolling out a whole pie lid. So this is what I do: I call in the troupes…well my husband…to give us a hand. J tells me that these are good for the weekend; he finds it therapeutic. I really can’t get this, one: because of all the sticky cleaning up afterwards, and two: because flour has a tendency to get under a kitchen’s skin, like icing sugar. (No, I don’t have a dishwasher in case you’re asking.) But a messy kitchen is a happy kitchen so it’s OK!

Cornish-Pasties-(4681)Cornish-Pasties-(4674)

In case you have no note of my shortcrust pastry recipe, you can find it here. With 16 oz of pastry you will roughly get 8 decent sized pies. As a cutter I use my soup bowls which measure 17.5cm across. If you have a cookie cutter that big then by all means use it. There will be less risk of breakage. For the filling I used the following:

  • 600g minced beef or beef cut into small chunks
  • 6 small potatoes, cut into smallish dice
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • around 2 tablespoons or so of milk for brushing the tops (or a beaten egg)
  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas mark 7.
  2. Place the minced beef, potatoes and onions in a bowl. If you have a mortar and pestle use that to grind the salt, peppercorns, fenugreek and thyme. Use ground salt and pepper if you prefer. Add these to the beef mixture, together with the ground spices. If you’re not squeemish mix everything by hand. If you are, you could ask someone else to help you!
  3. Cut 8 rounds of pastry with your cutter. Loosen them from the surface with a spatula and divide the mixture on one side of each pie as equally as you can between them. Place a thin layer of milk or water on the other side of the pastry, fold and press the edges together, sealing everything well. You can fold the edges on themselves too. Brush the pies with milk or a beaten egg.
  4. Bake at 220ºC (see equivalent above) for the first 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and bake for another 40 minutes or so, till the pies turn golden brown.

These pies are ideal for picnics or to eat on the go. You can also prepare them before you need them and store them uncooked in the fridge. Tell me what you think if you do try them. Apologies for not posting a picture of the cooked pies. I have some on my Facebook page just in case you want to take a quick look. Thanks. Enjoy!

Rob x

Q: What to do with left-over Shortcrust?

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I get asked this question quite a lot, especially after posting the recipe for shortcrust pastry. I have one quick solution for you. Roll out the remaining pastry into a sheet and cut it into thick strips. Shallow-fry them in a little bit of vegetable oil and when they puff up and turn golden brown remove them from the pan. (Don’t be absent-minded here as they will burn easily. Happened to me countless times!) Place on some kitchen paper, sprinkle them with a bit of sugar (white or brown or whatever you choose) and a splodge of honey or golden syrup. They are yummy. Great for a pick-me-up or whenever you need some cheering up! Short but sweet.

Enjoy!

Rob x