Cornish Pasties

Now we’ve made some pastry we are going to use it to make Cornish pasties. These are a great traveling food. They are a complete portable meal and originated as a convenient way for farm workers and miners to carry a wholesome meal for the day. The pastry edge is used to hold the pie.

You can read about their origin here at the Cornish pasty association.

A pasty is basically a kind of pie where the ingredients are wrapped up in an easy to hold way. There are lots of possible ingredients. Today I will make meat pasties and cheese and onion pasties.

The pastry from before is enough to make 4 large and 4 small pasties. you can prep while the pastry dough is cooling in the fridge.

First start browning the meat. Here I have 1kg of minced beef. You can also use cubes of meat and chopped potato.

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While that is cooking, chop the vegetables. Here are 4 onions with the one powered kitchen tool I use, the fantastic Bosch Ergomix 750 chopper.

I also finely shred potatoes and carrots to add to the mix. Pretty much anything can go in.

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And some cheese blocks.

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I added half the onion and shredded potatoes to the meat with some seasoning.

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And separately sauteed more onion and potatoes for the cheese and onion pasties. Then I added some crushed tomatoes to the meat. You can also add flavourings like curry powder and chili.

 

Now lets use the pastry. It needs to have been out of the fridge for half an hour so it is pliable. We’ll need an egg to make it stick when we seal the pasty.

 

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Roll it to less than 1/4 inch.. you will need some flour to stop it sticking to the roller and surface. Pictured is one quarter of the doubled pastry recipe.

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Don’t worry if it tears… worst case you can reform it into a ball and start again. Next use a guide to cut it into a circle.

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Then add the filling. You can add flavourings before you fill. I like to add Thai Chili, Indian Curry, or Brown Sauce.

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Brush the edge with the egg… and fold over.

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Then crimp it shut with your fingers. You can make a nice fancy crimped edge if you get good at this. I tend to overload the pasty with too much filling … try not to do that as it makes the pie difficult to seal.

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I take the remaining pastry, form it back into a ball and make another  one.

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Here is the Potato and Onion mix with some cheese added.

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Poke a hole in the top to let steam escape.. here I made a different shape with the crimp in the top as well. Ready to go on an oven tray on some parchment (baking) paper.

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Put in the oven at 220C for about 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 180C for the next 20 minutes. And you get delicious pasties.

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They freeze well. The large ones make a good meal for 2 at lunch.

Pastry for pies

I decided it was a good time to stock up on some food for our upcoming ski trip. First step was to make pastry. There are a lot of recipes around so I blended a few of them.

You need:

2 1/2 cups of Flour, 250g Unsalted Butter, 1 egg, 1 tsp Salt, 1 tsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp Sugar, 2tbsp water, and if you have it 1 tsp baking powder.  I doubled the entire recipe as I was stocking the freezer and feeding 4 so I used 5 cups of flour and 500g butter etc.

First step is to freeze the butter. Make sure it was the unsalted kind. This helps a lot with cutting it up small enough to blend in the flour.

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You want to Cut it into small cubes. Be very careful cutting up the frozen butter as you can get hurt if you slip. Because it is frozen you have time to  sowork the butter.

 

I find that if you use only chilled butter, it becomes very soft before you are done whereas the frozen works well.

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Next mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder (don’t worry if you don’t have the later as we will be making pies so the rising is not critical).

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Now mix in the butter and cut it into the flour until it is well blended and the lumps of butter are gone.

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I use 2 spatulas to start… you can see here the lumps are coated and are blending in. You may find the lumps are too frozen still… just be patient as with the constant motion of the spatulas in a criss-cross motion the lumps will break up.

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Then towards the end I use my hands… the warmth from my hands helps the final blending in of the butter into a nice crumbly mix. You can feel the dough forming at this stage.

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Now mix all the liquid ingredients (egg, water, lemon juice) in a mixing jug and add it to the dough. It will start to bind the mix together and form into a real dough very rapidly. You may find you need to use some extra water for the rest. I find that recipes are never exact as  there is some variability due to humidity etc. You just need to get a feel for the process and feel of the dough when it is ready.  Remember that these pictures show a double recipe. I find that it is pretty forgiving.. no need to worry about being precise.

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Then form the dough into patties (lumps) that you will eventually roll to make the pastry. Wrap the dough in plastic film and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour before using. My double recipe made 4 manageable lumps of dough.

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When you use it you will need to remove it from the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling so that it becomes pliable (as the butter warms) and does not crack when rolled.

Roast Chickpeas

If you are looking for a healthy alternative to crisps (chips) roasted chickpeas make a nice snack.

Drain some cans of chickpeas and pat them dry (pictured are 2 cans worth). Put them on an oven tray on some parchment (baking) paper) and add 1 table spoonful of oil and flavour to taste. Here you can see from left to right:

  • cayenne pepper
  • garlic
  • curry powder

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Heat at 450F (230C) for about 40 minutes… take care near the end of the cooking as they finish roasting quite quickly… check at 35 minutes and keep an eye on them until they are done.

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Yummy!

 

 

 

 

More Dehydration

We’ve really enjoyed the dehydrated food we have made, but the oven is not that energy efficient and you have to keep an eye on it…. we don’t like leaving the oven running overnight and the temperature is a bit tricky to keep constant at the low levels needed for dehydration. So we’ve taken the step of buying a real dehydrator.

We looked at a lot of reviews with the following criteria; works well at the primary job of dehydrating; can dehydrator a large quantity; not too much counter space taken up; inbuilt fan, temperature control and timer; a reasonable price; and we came up with the following unit which so far has really impressed us. Here it is at the manufacturer’s site.  Klarstein Dehydrator

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The unit takes 6 trays in a stack. You can adjust them for 2 thicknesses of food easily just by rotating them, and it comes with a fine mesh insert for small foods like berries. It has a timer and temperature control. The heater is at the bottom and there is a fan for circulating the air.

Here it is in action with some fruit. As you can see we are using 3 of the 6 possible trays which is another advantage of this design. Its also rectangular which is efficient on the counter space and for storage, whereas there were several round ones we looked at that were less easy to store.

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So far it seems great. You can adjust the order of the trays easy to compensate for different speeds of drying and the timer and temperature control mean we can set it running overnight.

 

Dehydrating Fruit

As we like backpacking, we have started experimenting with dehydrating food to keep weight down. While you can buy special dehydrated meals, they are expensive and we’ve found its pretty easy to do it yourself.

Here is our process for dehydrating fruit. You can do this with canned or fresh fruit. If the fruit is canned you need to drain the juices.

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Here we have a mix of fresh apples, and canned peaches, pears and pineapples (We’ll report on the mandarins pictured in a future post). You need airflow to dehydrate the fruit so we have put them on an oven rack above a tray lined with some parchment (baking) paper to catch any drips. Note: do not use wax paper… it will catch fire.

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We can dehydrate them in the oven (electric). To do that we put it on a low temperature and use a oven thermometer to monitor the temperature. You want a max of about 70C as above that temperature the fruit cooks. We prop the door open a bit using the handle of a wooden spoon to allow for air to circulate.

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After 6 to 12 hours depending on the moisture levels you have delicious fruit strips.

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Here you can see that I got the temperature a little bit high as the pineapple has browned a bit. You don’t need any sugar or oils to do this. You end up with incredibly concentrated fruit strips. Remember to drink water with them when you eat them as they have very little moisture inside. If you do a good job the fruit will last for months if you seal them (they reabsorb moisture from the air) … although they are so tasty we eat them pretty quick. The fruit is fantastic in home made granola as it really adds a bit of zing to the flavour.

Simple Roast Vegetable Mix

If you are like me you love roast vegetables but you usually have them with a joint of meat or a fowl. What if you want them more often that. Well they are actually super quick and easy.

Heat your oven to 450F (230C) and while it is warming chop the vegetables coarsely… no need for finess as long as they are roughly the same size. A great mix is potato, sweet potato, carrot and parsnip. Only the sweet potato needs to be peeled as the rest are delicious with the skin on. Here they are being washed… then dry them. They will all cook in about the same time.

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Put a very tiny amount of oil in the bottom of an oven proof glass baking dish so that they don’t stick, and use a tiny bit more on your (clean) hands and mix them up a bit.  Add pepper and pop the dish in the oven at the top for about 15 minutes. if you prefer you can get away with no oil. Feel free to add other seasonings (we love to add curry powder or chilli for example)

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In the middle of cooking mix them up a bit more with a spatula and put back in for another 10 minutes.

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Tasty!

Spicy Swedish Pizza Salad

While on the Stockholm archipelago island of Utö we stopped at a small restaurant and ordered some pizza for lunch and with it we were offered pizza salad. After checking that we heard correctly as we had never heard of it we agreed and what showed up was a kind of vinegar coleslaw. Here’s my attempt at it.

First take about a quarter of a cabbage (500g) and chop it into sections that will go into the blender.

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Be very careful here with the knife as cabbage can be quite tough to cut and its easy to slip.

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Then chop them to the size that suits you.  Add vinegar to your taste (we used about 1/2 a cup of the strong vinegar Winborgs Attiksprit, diluted a bit as it is 12%). Then add fresh ground pepper to spice it up. Add a teaspoon of oil and a little salt (not too much as you want this to be crunchy, not break down into Sauerkraut).

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To add a little colour chop up half of a red pepper and add it.

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Leave in the fridge overnight to marinate. And now you have some spicy Swedish pizza salad to go next to your pizza. Its a great way to add some vegetables to a delicious meal of pizza and french fries (chips).

Making Breadcrumbs and Croutons

A quick post on bread crumbs which were needed for the Scotch eggs and many other recipes. These are pretty easy to make at home.

Buy a cheap loaf of sliced bread. Best not to wait until the bread is too stale as I think they taste better if you dry them yourself in the oven. Its also safer to cut the fresh bread.

  • Cut the bread into largish chunks (1″) by hand
  • Lay the bread chunks out on trays in the oven
  • Dry them in the oven

The oven should be 300F, the time is a bit variable depending on how moist and fresh the bread was when it went in. It might take 15 minutes to 45 minutes. Wait until they are thoroughly dried out.

What comes out of the oven are croutons that can easily be turned into crumbs of varying fineness.

This picture is the result of making one loaf’s worth of croutons… they were cooked/dried on 3 trays and have been consolidated for the crumbing part.

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We only have a hand blender, the fantastic Bosch MSM67160. Its powerful at 750W and we use it for every type of  blending and chopping.

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Its pretty easy to grind different grades as you can see. Store them in sealed plastic bags in a dark cupboard.   We season them then they are used to give the most flexibility. Making this much takes about 10 minutes total from the dried croutons.

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They should last 6 months in this state as they are dried and the bags sealed, although we consume them much faster than that. The key being keeping them away from moisture and making sure they stay cool and dry in the cupboard.

Scotch Eggs

You wont see too many recipe posts from me, but I did get inspired to cook Scotch Eggs today. Not exactly a health food, but delicious to eat once a year or so.

First I boiled 10 eggs for 12 minutes to make sure they were nicely cooked as I intend to freeze the eggs.

To keep things simple I bought sausages and used the meat out of them as the wrapping. The first set of sausages that I bought had skins that I could not peel off… so then I upgraded to ‘real’ sausages from the butcher which worked perfectly as the casing was easy to remove. Each sausage has enough meat to encase one medium egg. Of course you can make your own sausage meat from ground meat and a binder.

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Next I setup for the following steps.

  • Roll the eggs in flour
  • Pat the sausage into a patty and cover the egg
  • Roll this in flour then in beaten egg
  • Roll the whole thing in breadcrumbs

I used 3 types of sausage; beef, lamb and pork.

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And finally the cooking. I don’t have a deep fryer as this is a once a year event so I did this very carefully in a deep saucepan. I used a candy thermometer to monitor and keep the temperature between 150C and 160C and a splash guard. About 7 minutes seemed to do it, with a few minutes in the oven to make sure the meat was cooked.

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Remember to keep a careful watch on the frying process at all times and don’t overfill the pan with oil or eggs or get it too hot. Better if you have a real enclosed  deep fryer and don’t do this if you have a gas stove. I keep a fire blanket nearby to smother it if there is a problem.