Sunday, December 7, 2014

Homemade Mince & Cheese Pies


It was Nigel Slater who said A pie teases us, with only a hint of what is to come under its golden crust. And there is the dilemma. What is inside the pie?  I am like the fair weather sailor, only venturing on board if a calm, sunny day bids.  It's the same with pies. I want to know what I'm getting before I embark on the tasting.

The easiest remedy then is to make my own so I know exactly what lurks under the golden crust. So I did.  I even went as far as making my own puff pastry which was not my initial intent but I am so glad I did. If you're not in a rush, give it a go. It is at once therapeutic and satisfying (more so when it turns out fine).

When I made this some weeks ago it seemed appropriate for the weather, at times tempting with hints of summer, then blowing cold and rainy. I opted to stay in the kitchen, keeping warm.  For most of the day I baked - Afghan biscuits first (see previous post), then this pie (well, there were three individual ones actually). In the process I attempted to improve my flour dusting and rolling pin techniques so that with one expert flick of the hand the board would be evenly and finely dusted and a few rolls of the pin and the pastry would be straight and even.  Ah well, that was the idea but I have a long way to go...


Individual Mince & Cheese Pies

There's a lot of chilling and resting so make sure you read the recipe through and allow plenty of time.


Homemade rough puff pastry (or use shop-bought)

makes about 3-4 pies depending on your individual tin size

250g high grade plain flour
1 tsp salt
250g butter, at room temperature
approx 150ml cold water

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.  Roughly chop the butter into small chunks and rub loosely but not completely into the flour - you should still be able to see bits of butter.

Make a well in the bowl and pour in about two-thirds of the cold water.  Mix until you have a firm dough. Cover with cling film, transfer to the fridge for 20 minutes.

Place the dough on a lightly floured board. Knead gently and shape into a rectangle.  Roll in one direction only, keeping the edges straight, until the rectangle is about 20 x 50 cm.  You should still be able to see butter streaks in the pastry.  From the long end, fold the pastry into three (fold the top third down to the centre, then the bottom third up and over that). Cover with cling film and chill for 20 minutes.  Repeat the rolling out, folding and chilling 3 times. Each time you roll, give the dough a quarter turn and roll out to the same size as before. Chill before using in the main recipe.

Filling

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g lean beef mince
20g (2 tbsp) plain flour
1 beef stock cube mixed in 3/4 cup hot water
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp each each of dried basil and oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
200g Tasty (strong cheddar) cheese, grated
1 egg (for egg wash) + 2 tbsp water

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and saute the onion and garlic gently for about 5 minutes until onion is translucent.  Add the mince and cook until well browned, using a fork to break down any lumps.  Stir in the flour and cook for about a minute.  Add the beef stock and bring to the boil.  Add the tomato paste, Lea & Perrins, balsamic vinegar, dried herbs and salt and pepper.  Lower the heat and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes.  Turn off the heat. Stir in the fresh thyme leaves and leave to cool.

When you are ready to assemble and eat, roll out the pastry to approximately 4mm thick and cut to the size of the tin(s) you are using.  You will need pastry to cover the base of the tin and a pastry lid. I used Texan muffin trays which were perfect for single serve pies.  I used a small saucer as a template circle for the base and smaller circles for the lid.

Lightly grease the tins and line with the pastry base.  Fill the pastry almost to the top with the mince mixture then add a small handful of the cheese.

Brush the edge of the pastry with water and place the pastry lid on top.  Seal the edges, trimming off any excess pastry.

Whisk egg and 2 tbsp water together and brush over the pastry.  Rest for 1 hour before baking.  It was cold so I just left mine on the benchtop.  If it's too hot in the kitchen, place them in the fridge to rest.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown in colour.  Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool a little bit before eating.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Afghan Biscuits



I love these little Afghan biscuits with their rich, crunchy base and chocolate topping. They are a New Zealand favourite and I find it interesting that the longer I live here the less clear I am about what "belongs" to one country as opposed to another and it all becomes just baking without frontiers. If I've only been eating these since I arrived in NZ then I've certainly missed out and have a lot of catching up to do.

Traditionally these would be topped with a walnut half, but the batch I made were being shared with the nut allergy sufferer, so I topped half with pieces of coconut chips (shaved coconut).  The coconut goes well with the chocolate and I think gives a complementary look to the more traditional biscuit. Perhaps I could start a new trend?

I'm a bit fussy about the cornflakes. They have to be crushed just right. Not too crumbly, not too large. For some reason I hate seeing whole flakes jutting out the biscuit but that's just me always trying to be perfect.

I had some leftover chocolate ganache so used that as topping (which I have to say was a particularly luxurious touch and very nice) but I've given the standard chocolate icing recipe below.  

 Makes about 16-18 biscuits depending on size.


Afghan Biscuits


200g butter, softened
90g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
175g (1 1/4 cups) standard flour
35g (1/4 cup) good quality cocoa powder
55g (1 1/2 cups) cornflakes, lightly crushed

Chocolate icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar
60g butter
4 tbsp boiling water
1/4 cup cocoa

Walnut halves or coconut chips to decorate.


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease or line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a cake mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and creamy.

Sift in the flour and cocoa and combine thoroughly. Stir in the cornflakes.

Place large tablespoonfuls onto the baking tray (I use a mini ice-cream scoop) and press each biscuit lightly with a fork to flatten slightly.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.  


Icing

In a cake mixer, beat the icing sugar, butter and sifted cocoa together until smooth and ice the biscuits when they are cold. Decorate with a halved walnut or a couple of coconut chips.



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sweet New Zealand


You may have expected a nod to Halloween from some of this month’s Sweet New Zealand entries, but surprisingly there was none. To be honest, I hadn’t given much thought to it myself relying on a long driveway in the middle of the countryside as a deterrent to any trick or treaters (I had no sweets or lollies for them, you see). My assumptions were correct and no witches, warlocks or ghosts crossed my path – at least not whilst I was awake...

Whilst they may not have run with the scary theme, our New Zealand food bloggers did a magic job conjuring up their own potions and spells for October’s Sweet New Zealand and in no particular order, here they are.

First out the cauldron was the serene Sue from Couscous & Consciousness with an Apricot, Date & Pistachio Loaf. I am always up for a fruit loaf and Sue says this delicious loaf full of dried fruit, seeds and nuts was so good she can’t wait to make it again. I can’t wait to try it, Sue.



Sue's Apricot, Date & Pistachio Loaf from Couscous and Consciousness


Not one to rest on her laurels, Sue was back in the kitchen to whip up a second entry for Sweet New Zealand and I, for one, am eagerly awaiting apricot season as this Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt sounds mouth-wateringly good. If, like Sue, you have a supply of frozen apricots in your freezer (why didn’t I think of that?), then what are you waiting for? Try it now – the sun is out as I speak.


Another delicious entry from Sue at Couscous and Consciousness - Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt


Next up is Genie from a super little blog called Bunny Eats Design. Genie celebrated National Nut Day on 21st October (which along with Halloween also bypassed me) with these Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts. I love taking little bowls of snacks such as these to book club – especially when you’ve made them yourself.





If you love lemons as I do, then you will probably like lemon curd (and all its amazing possibilities). You’ll be glad then that Amanda from Move Love Eat has created a Healthier Lemon Curd that is also gluten free and paleo friendly! Lots of ticks there. It must be good - Amanda has been making triple batches to keep up with the demand.


A healthier Lemon Curd from Move Love Eat


If you’re looking for a moist cake that’s a bit sweet and a bit spicy, look no further than this Sticky Prune Cake from Frances at Bake Club. Just the thing to have with a cup of tea.


Sticky Prune Cake - courtesy of Frances at Bake Club


Doing things a little differently is Sweet New Zealand founder, Alessandra. Whilst in Japan she developed her very own Tiramisu di Alessandra. (She’s Italian, so if anyone can mess around with an Italian dessert, she can.) Hers is made with cream, instead of mascarpone. The topping is Italian ground coffee, not cocoa and she finds a good quality whisky makes all the difference. Well of course it does. Salute! 


Tiramisu di Alessandra - from Sweet NZ founder, Alessandra Zecchini


My own entry is this Citrus & Almond Cake with Yoghurt Drizzle

That's it from Sweet New Zealand this month.  Enjoy what is left of your weekend.



Yours truly's Citrus & Almond Cake with Yoghurt Drizzle



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Citrus + Almond Cake with Yoghurt Drizzle


I keep making these type of cakes and then forgetting which recipe I used or where I even got it from. This makes it frustrating when I'm trying to recall my favourite (and I know there is one!). Losing one's marbles was not the only calamity in the kitchen this morning.  My attempt at making a yoghurt icing saw it start off creamy and end up runny - fail!  So it transformed into a yoghurt drizzle. Ah well, in the end we still got to eat cake and sometimes that's all that matters, as Marie Antoinette was wont to point out (maybe?).

I was given a lovely homemade present of a jar of brandied kumquats (thank you, Penny) and used the last of them in this cake, making up the difference in quantity with some homegrown oranges.  I am sure the liqueur in the kumquats adds greatly to the taste (hic). Now I get to keep the leftover liquid for six months until it has reached a thick, sweet syrup - can't wait to try it.

Before you start this recipe, bear in mind you will need to boil the oranges first and let them cool before you start baking.

Citrus & Almond Cake with Yoghurt Drizzle

Approx. 3 smallish oranges (375 grams)
6 eggs
225g sugar
250g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder

Place the whole oranges in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then simmer for one hour. Drain and leave until cold.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Butter and line a 20cm cake tin.


Cut the cooked oranges in quarters and remove the pips. Place the whole fruits in a food processor with a metal blade and blitz until finely chopped. Add eggs and sugar and process until well combined. Finally add ground almonds and baking powder and pulse until just mixed.


Pour the mix into the cake tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. If the top of the cake starts to brown too much, cover loosely with tin foil.


Remove from the oven and leave in the tin but place on a wire rack to cool.


Once cool, dust with icing sugar or a lemon glaze or the yoghurt drizzle below.


Yoghurt Drizzle

1 cup Greek yoghurt
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
100g cream cheese

Whisk (by hand or electric) the ingredients together until smooth. Keep refrigerated until required. Spoon or drizzle over the cake.

I decorated my cake with some edible flowers (well the pink one on the left may not be edible but the others are) and freeze-dried raspberry powder.

This will be my October entry for Sweet New Zealand which I am hosting here.




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sweet New Zealand


This month, it's my turn to host Sweet New Zealand. So, I am on the lookout for sweet recipes from our NZ food blogging community. You can be a New Zealander living here or overseas. You can be from overseas and living in New Zealand. Just give me something sweet, please. Take it away - I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Rules
Sweet New Zealand is open to all food bloggers living in New Zealand (even if you are not a New Zealander), as well as all Kiwi food bloggers who live overseas.
You can enter with anything sweet - cakes, cookies, desserts, or even drinks. 
You can submit as many entries as you like and they don't have to be new blog posts. 
Your entry must contain the phrase Sweet New Zealand and have the Sweet New Zealand badge (you can copy and save the one on this page).
Your entry must link to the host (me!) and to this post. If you're submitting an old post remember to update it with the phrase, badge and links.

Enter now
Email your entries to me at flatwhite233(at)xtra(dot)co(dot)nz by 30 October, with the following:

Your name
Your blog name
A link to your blog
A link to the blog post you're entering
A photo from the post
The name of the recipe and a brief description

Sweet New Zealand - September

Here's a link to last month's Sweet New Zealand round up at Mummy Do It





Friday, October 3, 2014

Asparagus Tarts


If it's Spring (in New Zealand anyway), it must be asparagus season. 

Being a semi-reluctant vegetable eater, I like my vegetables adorned with extras (think cauliflower in a cheese sauce), so I usually roast asparagus with olive oil, garlic and lemon zest (see below). Taking this embellishment a (big) step further, I'm delighted to say they taste just wonderful in this creamy filling wrapped in a rich pastry.

These tarts are ideal for lunch (or a simple supper dish). Serve with a lightly dressed salad of bitter greens such as rocket, red leaf lettuce, watercress, radicchio and endive, for contrast.

Asparagus Tarts 

Pastry

350g plain flour
½ tsp salt
200g butter
4-5 tbsp cold water

Filling

1 bunch cooked asparagus*
300ml single cream
2 egg yolks
sea salt & ground pepper
pinch nutmeg or freshly grated nutmeg

* For extra flavour, I roast mine in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, crushed garlic and lemon zest for 12-15 minutes but you can boil the spears lightly in salted water until tender.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.  Add 175g of the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips.  Add the water and bind to a dough.

Roll the dough out on to a lightly floured board and cut to the size of your tart tins. I used four mini tart tins with a base diameter of 8.5cm and a top diameter of 11.5cm. 

Line the base of the tins with a circle of baking paper (I do this even though I use non-stick tins - just in case!).  Using a fork, prick the base of each tart then place the tart tins on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Remove the tray with the tart tins from the oven while you prepare the filling.  Turn the oven down to 180 degrees C. 

Cut the asparagus to fit and divide between the tins.  Whisk the cream and egg yolks together and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Pour the mix carefully and evenly amongst the tins. Depending on the size of your tins, you may have some left over.

Return the tarts to the oven and bake for 15 minutes until filling has set.  The filling should be just set and no more.

Serve with a lightly dressed salad of bitter greens.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Creme Caramel - slow baked


I have had a severe multi-dose of procrastination, indecisiveness and writer's block - all of which I am going to use as my excuse for the long gap from the last post. It's not all hopeless. I got over the indecisiveness when I ticked the voting paper today for the NZ general election.  I also knew whether I would have voted aye or nae for Scottish independence but sadly expat Scots, who really still care about their beloved country's future, were not given the vote.

Back home when I was a child I would not have given the vote to creme caramels.  I hated them with a passion and don't remember why.  I think it was just the taste, which is everything really.

Late last year in Ortolana restaurant, I ordered a salted caramel flan and got it into my head that I was ordering a pastry tart filled with custard and strawberries (I know, I'm a little mixed up at times). I had to be convinced I had ordered it when it arrived and glumly tried it.  It was nice in the way that it was better than I'd expected but wasn't quite what I'd had in mind.

So it still seems a little strange that I'd want to make these creme caramels, but I had half a tin of sweetened condensed milk I wanted to use and, bingo, saw this recipe and thought "why not?". (Be assured I don't vote for political parties in the same flippant manner.)

The result is that the caramel sauce worked (I thought I'd burnt it at first), the custard set, they were easy to bake and looked pretty good (but would look much prettier with some added decoration e.g. fresh or marinated strawberries which I didn't have). 

Once baked, they just had to languish overnight in the fridge. Ideal for do-ahead desserts. Oh, and I did like them and can't imagine why I didn't before?

Creme Caramels

Makes 4

1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 a 400g tin of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Turn your slow cooker onto the HIGH setting.  Pour in 2 cups of hot tap water.  

Lightly spray or grease 4 ramekins, cups or small bowls (which can hold 3/4 cup of water). Check beforehand that they fit in the slow cooker (I used two upturned tiny soy sauce bowls to allow two of the ramekins to be at a different level so they would all fit in).

For the caramel: Heat the sugar over moderate heat in a medium saucepan, preferably with a pouring spout.  DO NOT STIR.  Tilt the pan carefully to ensure all the sugar melts evenly and turns golden brown. As soon as it reaches that stage and still without stirring, pour equal amounts into the bottoms of the ramekins.

Place the eggs, milk, condensed milk and vanilla into a mixing jug or bowl and beat until combined but not frothy. Pour this mixture through a fine sieve into the ramekins.

Carefully place the filled ramekins into the slow cooker.  Put the lid back on the slow cooker and turn the setting to LOW. Cook for 4 hours or until custards set.

Once set, turn off the slow cooker and carefully lift out the bowls.  Cover with plastic film and leave overnight in the fridge.  Remove from the fridge half an hour before serving.

To turn out the custards, run a small palette knife or similar, around the top.  I turned them out onto a flat, stainless steel pastry scraper so I could easily transfer them to a serving plate. Otherwise you can scoop them out onto your hand (I did not trust myself with this!).

And there you have it, a caramel topped custard with a pool of caramel sauce.

Recipe from Slow Cookers & Crockpots by Simon & Alison Holst




This is my entry for September's Sweet New Zealand hosted by Karen at Mummy Do It (I remember those words!).