In these dark drear days of January the answer is pie
I haven’t made puff pastry since college days, too complicated, too specialist,cba(can’t be arsed) but rough puff is a different matter. So easy to make, so satisfying, so silky to the touch. And a pie topped with home made pastry is a thing to celebrate- and we have much to celebrate at the moment. My step-daughter Zoe gave birth to a plumptious baby girl last week (hurrah) and when asked what she needed from us when we next visit top of the list was food, particularly the kind you can eat one-handed as greedy little Martha needs constant feeding.
So a pie it is. Chicken and leek I reckon. The filling can be scooped up with a fork and the pastry, well if you cook it well it will be crisp enough to be hand-held.
Before you start make sure your butter is nice and cold. Best to weigh it first, then return the weighed portion to the fridge for an hour if time allows. Well chilled butter is less at risk of melting during handling which can be a messy business. Once made, the pastry can be used straight away in pretty much any recipe that calls for puff pastry, or wrap it in cling film and it will keep in the fridge for several days or freeze to use later. So get this made and tomorrow I’ll give you the recipe for the pie.
If you would love a hands-on session I still have a place or two available on my pastry making workshop this spring which will also cover choux and sweet shortcrust. http://www.marycadogan.co.uk/workshops/ The sessions will be held in the light and airy kitchen of my cottage kitchen in the heart of Somerset and will be very relaxed and informal There is also a breadmaking workshop if you’ve always wanted to master a good loaf. Both are full morning sessions with lunch and plenty of good things to take home.
Rough puff pastry
150g chilled butter
200g plain flour
2 tsp lemon juice
About 120ml cold water
1 Cut the butter into fingernail sized pieces. Tip the flour into a mixing bowl and add a little salt. Add the butter and use a round ended knife to evenly distribute it through the flour.
2 Add the lemon juice and water and mix with the knife to soft lumpy dough. Add an extra tbsp of water if needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a square.
3 Roll the dough out into an oblong about 36cm x 12 cm. Fold the bottom third up and the top third down to form a square. Seal the edges with a rolling pin, then give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the rolling and folding. Chill for 20 mins.
4 Repeat the rolling and folding twice more(6 times in all), then chill for a further 20 mins.
Your pastry is now ready to use.
After three long months without a proper kitchen, 400 tea bags, industrial quantities of chocolate hobnobs and a daily battle with dust the builders have finally left. At last I can cook again and like any addict denied their fix I am overdosing at ever turn. Cakes for the village shop- of course, friends for the the weekend, why not? And as a huge thank you for all our lovely neighbours who took us in and fed us when we were staring ready meals in the face we are having a gang of them over this week for a kitchen supper washed down with a few glasses of wine. Over the next few blogs I plan to share the recipes for the meal with you and today it’s the starter. With piles of fabulous local asparagus now in abundance this tart seemed like a no brainer. No eggs or cream, just a puffy pillow of a tart that can be assembled ahead and slipped into the oven while our guests enjoy a glass of fizz. I don’t want you to think I’m showing off but I made the pesto that I smeared under the spears with the wild garlic that grows in profusion around the local riverbanks and it’s not too late to make some for yourself if you are quick. If that’s not an option a bought pesto will do just fine. Happy days.
Asparagus and pesto tart
20 fine asparagus spears
320g pack ready rolled puff pastry (I used Tesco finest-very good)
8 tsp pesto
100g soft rindless goats cheese
a little olive oil
4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
green salad, to serve
Snap each asparagus spear, it will break where the base becomes woody. Peel the end of each spear.Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Unroll the pastry and cut into four oblongs about 10cm by 5cm. They need to be a bit larger than the trimmed asparagus and wide enough to take 5 spears with a small margin.
Put the pastry oblongs on the baking sheets and mark a line around each about 1cm in from the edges using the point of a sharp knife. Spread with pesto inside the marked lines and spoon over a few blobs of cheese. Snuggle 5 asparagus spears over each.