Last minute buys

 

There’s a fruit and veg stall in one of the small local shopping precincts – all the traditional calls and a fine array of good produce.  At the end of the day, there are bargains to be had if you can use them fairly quickly.

The punnets of strawberries made a quick pudding and half went into the dehydrator for another day.  Baby plum tomatoes were halved and dried in the oven with a little salt and pepper – now in jars steeping in olive oil.  Raspberries went straight into the freezer but I wanted something special with the fresh figs.

 

9-12 fresh figs, stems removed and halved

1 orange, juice and zest

2 teaspoons of butter

2-3 tablespoons of honey

Handful of walnuts, shelled and chopped.

 

Place the figs cut side up in an oven proof dish.

Pour over the orange juice, dot with butter, anoint with honey and top with walnuts.

Cook in a pre-heated oven Gas 4 for 45-60 minutes.

Serve with yoghurt or cream, sprinkled with the orange zest.

 

Don’t be mean with the honey or orange juice – it is delicious.

 

And I’ve been experimenting with my hot water pastry.  It made excellent cases for turkey and mushroom pies – hot or cold – and also for vegetable tarts (sautéed onion, courgette, mushroom, potato, fresh thyme with a little well-seasoned egg and cream   custard).  The pastry had been sitting in the fridge overnight after making pork pies but was still easy to handle and cooked perfectly.  This is a pastry that can do more than just raised game pies.

 

 

With apologies to GBBO

This week I had a fresh pineapple that was getting past its best.

A pineapple upside-down-cake/pudding seemed the answer.  But little did I know that the very first episode of the new Great British Bake-Off series was going to steal my thunder – and with a hilarious political spoof too.

My version of the TV technical challenge is probably simpler.  I had the remnants of a bottle of caramel sauce that cut down on the preparation and I made the whole edifice in one large silicone ring mould: the problem of cooking so much wet pineapple is all the steam which can make the sponge soggy.  The ring mould ensures that heat gets into the very centre of the pudding so that it cooks nearly as quickly as the edges.

 

1 fresh pineapple, top, skin and core removed, flesh chopped small.

2-3 tablespoons caramel sauce

3 eggs, weighed

Same weight butter

Same weight caster or granulated sugar

Same weight self-raising flour.

2 handfuls sultanas

 

Place the pineapple and caramel sauce in the bottom of the mould.

Cream the butter and sugar.

Add the eggs one at a time with a teaspoon of flour, beating after each addition.

Fold in the flour and sultanas.

Place mix in mould and place mould on a metal tray.

Bake for 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven Gas 4, covering the top of the mould with cooking foil after about 20 minutes.

Allow to stand for at least 15 minutes for the pudding to finish cooking once out of the oven.

Turn out with care to avoid any hot juices.

 

Once cooled, you could fill the centre with whipped cream, any spare pineapple or other lavish decoration.  It keeps well for a few days and can be served warmed in the microwave or just as it comes.

Individual moulds or other cooking containers would work just as well but I’d reduce the cooking time by about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your vessel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot hot-water pastry

You probably know this pastry from pork pies or those gala pies  with an egg in the middle: served cold straight from the fridge or lukewarm in a picnic.  Can I strongly commend this pastry when it is still fresh and succulent from the oven?

Straightforward to make and like Play Dough to handle, you can use nearly any ovenproof container to  give your pie individuality and style.  Mine uses one of those unbelievably expensive classic pointed oval  tins – only thanks to a joint Christmas present from lavishly generous friends.

First, place 185g lard in 200g water in a pan and heat just enough to dissolve the fat.

While it cools, mix 100g strong bread flour with 400g plain flour plus a flat teaspoonful each of salt and ground mace.  Rub in 100g butter.

Pour in the lard and water and mix with your hands.  It takes about a minute or so.  Now you have an oozing, warm concentration of calories ready to be moulded into your tin, silicone or other vessel of choice.  Put aside a handful for the lid and take another and press on to the base, making  it as thin as possible, adding more to press up the sides – it joins and welds together with no problem.  It will become firmer as it cools which is helpful if the sides tend to sag a bit.

Now you are ready for the filling of your choice: slices of ham, turkey, chicken, pheasant, partridge, venison or whatever takes your fancy.  Some minced pork or sausage-meat is worth including as the fat keeps your other fillings moist – and some boiled eggs too if you like.  Quantities are difficult to give as it depends on the size of your container – but left-overs of both pastry and filling can make extra mini pies.

I used turkey moistened with lemon juice, pork mince with lots of ground pepper and thyme plus Spanish dried ham – all in the classic layers.  The pastry reserved for the lid can simply be patted out to shape and the right thickness on your hand or rolled out if you want the extra washing up.  Pop it on top of the pie and make good joins all around the edge before making at least one hole to let out steam.

Bake on an oven tray for 30 minutes at Gas 6, then one hour at Gas 2  and a further 30 minutes covered with foil at Gas 2.

If you want to eat cold, you might add some jellified stock: soak 2 leaves of gelatine in cold water before squeezing out the liquid.  Add a  stock cube or similar to half a pint of hot water and dissolve; add the gelatine and stir until dissolved, heating on medium heat in the microwave if needed.  Use a funnel to pour into the steam hole in the pastry lid – it may take several hours to add a little and have it absorbed before adding some more.

Mini individual pies only need about 10 minutes at Gas 6  before the slower cooking at Gas 2  – and are difficult to resist: hot out of the oven!

 

Kitchen cupboard-love.

For years/decades, I’ve yearned for one of those pointed oval tins for raised game pies (the type with clips at either end).  Just one of those longings for a classic piece of cooking equipment that carries breaths of nostalgia and tradition.  When I had the chance, I’ve scoured antique fairs without success but my longing was finally more than satisfied this Christmas by friends Sue and Joan.  Heaven knows why these tins are so wildly expensive!

My own version of hot water pastry to make the game raised pie included: strong white bread flour added to the ordinary plain; rubbing in butter; adding lard dissolved in hot water.  A quarter of the pastry was set aside for the pie lid and the rest went in the tin.  I pressed it out and gradually raise it up the sides.    Just like trying to mould hot greasy and slithery plasticine!  It kept oozing back down the sides of the tin and gathering at the bottom –it would have been better allowing it to cool more so it didn’t sag like Nora batty tights!

Pork gave bulk to the filling:  sausage meat and mince seasoned with mustard powder and ground allspice. Pork is also important in adding a little fat to keep the game moist – in this case, partridge (skinned and bones removed) marinaded with a little white wine.

By the time I’d struggled with the pastry, rather roughly layered in the meat and topped off with the lid, I was running out of cooking time.  But, even though I had to switch the oven off 30 minutes early, leaving it in the residual heat did the trick.  I confess that one side was a bit scorched (too near the gas), I failed to do the egg glaze and the jellied stock added later didn’t reach all the parts required or set firmly enough – it sounds like a series of disasters.  But the pastry was the best I’ve ever made and the filling was deliciously moist.  Definitely an experiment to be repeated in rather slower time to do more justice to that excellent tin.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for another classic pork dish, look no further than this week’s video (https://youtu.be/s9ssUcVIIto) which features the first of three versions of sweet and sour spare ribs from my time in Chongqing in China.  This was the recipe from the professional chef with two more homely versions to come.

Penny