We have a few friends coming over for dinner this weekend.
We must like them because they’re getting 3 courses!
We tend to split the cooking – which works out well as Justin prefers to do the savoury dishes and I prefer making the sweets. It looks like it’s going to be poached smoked salmon & asparagus to begin. And he’s just set about making some home-made pies for the main course. They look delicious – and hearty too. Celeriac mash and roasted root vegetables on the side. No one will go hungry, that’s for sure!
So, after all that, something light to finish seems in order. I often make panna cotta or crème caramel when a big pudding isn’t required. But I thought I’d go even more delicate this time with a selection of three different petit fours. I’m sharing their preparation as this week’s Cakes & Bakes recipe.
Our guests can have one or ten each, depending on how much room they’ve got left.
Serving them in pretty petit four paper cases really enhances their presentation. They’ll be delicious with an after dinner coffee, port or brandy… a lovely way to end the meal.
- 300g/10½oz dark chocolate
- pinch sea salt
- 2tbs coconut oil
- 215ml/7½fl oz tinned coconut milk
- toasted desiccated coconut, chopped mixed nuts, icing sugar and/or cocoa powder to finish
- Break the chocolate up into small pieces and put it into a large heatproof bowl
- Add the coconut oil and the salt
- In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk to the boil before pouring it over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth
- Allow to cool, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to set overnight in the fridge (or at least 4 hours).
- Put the toasted desiccated coconut chopped mixed nuts, icing sugar and/or cocoa powder into separate wide-bottomed bowls
- Using a measuring teaspoon, scoop out a portion of ganache before rolling between your palms to form a ball before putting it on a plate or baking sheet
- Repeat until all the ganache has been used
- Cover the balls in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes
- Toss in the balls equally between the chopped mixed nuts, icing sugar and or cocoa powder, rolling around the bowls making sure each ball is completely coated
- Carefully place the balls on to a plate lined with parchment paper, recover carefully with cling film and put them back into the fridge to firm up again
- These can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
- 150g/5oz ground almonds
- 200g/7oz icing sugar
- 2tsp almond extract
- 1 egg white
- 50ml/1¾fl oz whipping cream
- 7g/¼oz sugar
- 12ml/½fl oz water
- 45g/1½oz dark chocolate, chopped
- Put the ground almonds, icing sugar, almond extract and egg white into a food processor and combine until it comes together into a thick ball (about a minute)
- Turn the marzipan out onto a work surface and knead it a couple of times
- Form it into a pack of butter shape, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for about an hour
- Bring cream, sugar, and 60ml/2fl oz water to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves
- Add the chocolate and whisk until melted and the glaze is smooth
- Slice the slab of marzipan into equal sized cubes before rolling each between your palms to form balls
- Using a tooth pick, dip each ball into the chocolate sauce before placing it on a tray lined with parchment paper
- Cover the petit fours carefully with cling film and chill for half an hour
- Any unused marzipan will keep for up to a month in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer
- 125g cashews
- 40g desiccated coconut
- 125g pitted dates
- 2tbs coconut oil
- ½tsp sea salt
- ½tsp vanilla essence
- 1tbs water
- In a food processor, process blitz the cashews and desiccated coconut to fine crumbs
- Add the dates, coconut oil, vanilla and sea salt and process again until the mixture forms large, sticky lumps
- Scoop the dough using a measuring teaspoon before rolling between your palms to form balls. If the mixture is too crumbly add another tablespoon of water and blitz again for a few seconds
- Arrange on a baking sheet or plate lined with parchment paper
- Chill in the fridge for an hour before rolling in toasted desiccated coconut and/or cocoa powder to finish
- These can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 6 months or more
There were a couple of culinary firsts for me this week.
Firstly, I made a vegetarian hot water pastry, based on one I found in my Pie cookbook.
Instead of using lard, I used a bit of vegetarian suet.
I’ve never, ever eaten a pork pie (I’ve been vegetarian since the eighties). I had to ask Justin if my pastry was anything like it is meant to be… seeing as he eats this kind of raised pie on a regular basis. In fact he eats pork pie every Thursday without fail – sharing it with Fudge on their walks after an early flea market forage.
My other first was cumin-spiced pumpkin & chickpea pies.
We bought a pumpkin at Halloween so I was looking for a new way of using it.
I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. Granted, I’ve only had it the once, but it didn’t leave fond memories.
I much prefer these squash type vegetables savoury rather than sweet.
It certainly makes a good substantial filling for this type of pie – great flavour too with the addition of the very complimentary curry spices.
This recipe makes quite a few, small pies. If like us you’re only likely to eat a few at a time, they can be frozen both before and once cooked.
They’re the perfect little autumn pies!
- 50g strong bread flour
- 250ml milk
- 50ml double or whipping cream
- 55ml milk
- 2 eggs
- 540g strong bread flour
- 85g caster sugar
- 8g salt
- 10g powered milk
- 11g instant dried yeast
- 185g tangzhong
- 50g butter, softened
- Add the 50g flour and 250ml milk to a medium-sized saucepan and mix with a whisk until there are no lumps
- Heat over a low-medium heat, stirring constantly. After a couple of minutes (and when it reaches the magic 65ºC) you'll notice the mixture thickening. Lower the heat and continue to stir until the tangzhong begins to come away from the sides & bottom of the saucepan and begins to form low peaks when you lift the whisk
- Put the tangzhong into a bowl, cover with cling film and allow to cool while you make the dough
- In a mixing bowl (I used my Kenwood mixer as there's a lot of kneading involved!) add the cream, milk and eggs and combine for a few seconds
- Add the flour, sugar, powdered milk, yeast and tangzhong and, using the dough hook, mix for 3 minutes on a low setting
- Add the softened butter and salt and mix for a further 10-15 minutes, again on a low setting
- Remove the dough hook, quickly form the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with clingfilm and allow to prove in a warm place until doubled in size (45-60 minutes)
- Grease 2 small bread tins
- Put the dough on a floured work surface, divide into quarters, form each piece into a ball, put them on to a floured oven tray, cover loosely with clingfilm and leave to relax in a warm place for 20 minutes
- On the floured work surface, one by one, roll each ball into a rectangle using a rolling pin
- Fold each rectangle of dough into ⅓s along the long sides, turn over so the overlap is on the underside and re-roll into a rectangle
- Roll up each rectangle along the long end and put into a baking tin with the end of the roll facing down to stop unravelling
- Cover the pans loosely with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for the 2nd prove for 45-60 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC
- Once proved, brush the top of each loaf with egg wash and bake for 35-45 minutes
- Allow to cool on a wire rack before eating
National Pie Week is going from strength to strength here in the UK. It’s been talked about all over social media and in the traditional media too. Chris Evans and his team have been waxing lyrical about pies they’ve been sent by bakeries from all over the country.
Last year for Pie Week I made a lovely butter pie; this year I wanted to keep with the theme of a vegetarian, rustic, humble pie. I turned to my copy of Pie by Genevieve Taylor that we reviewed last year. I found just the recipe – cheese and celery pies – but with a little twist.
The original recipe is a single pie done in a shallow pie plate. I quite liked the idea of doing little individual hand pulled pies. I used a couple of cling film-wrapped jars in lieu of a pastry dolly.
Pulled pies are usually made using hot water pastry, but I was being lazy and just whizzed up a quick batch of shortcrust pastry. I think it worked just fine, but I’m sure Paul Hollywood wouldn’t approve!
This recipe made 4 small pies but you can easily scale it up. We had one each so I put the other two in the freezer – pre-baked – so that they can be taken out and baked off the next time we fancy a pie.
There was a little bit of pastry left over – isn’t there always? I quite like rolling it out thinly, slicing it into long thin strips, sprinkling over with cheese and baking for 15 minutes. What do you do with yours?
I’ve already started thinking about what pie I’m going to make next year!
- 360g/12½oz plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 180g/6⅓oz cold butter, cubed
- 6-8 tbsp cold water
- 25g/1oz butter
- ½tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ½ head celery, sliced
- 125ml/4 fl oz veg stock (or ½ veg stock cube + 125ml boiling water)
- 30g/1oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
- salt & ground black pepper to taste
- a little beaten egg to glaze
You can say one thing for our recipe posts – they’re definitely international!
We’ve gone from China, via the USA to this week where we’re in the North Africa/Middle East region with pitta and hummus recipes.
Pitta and hummus is a mainstay in our house. It’s a quick, healthy snack when you don’t feel like cooking.
They’re both fairly inexpensive to buy – both less than a pound for a standard pack.
Being so easy to pick up in the shops, I’ve never really thought to make my own at home.
What was I waiting for? Home made versus shop bought – now I know – there’s no comparison, home made wins hands down!
So long as there’s a tin of chickpeas in the larder and a jar of tahini in the fridge, you can whip up a delicious batch of hummus in 5 minutes flat… and make it just to your taste. As much or as little lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper as you like – and the consistency you prefer.
Lots of people insist on making hummus using dried peas. Yes, it will probably turn out even better – but unless you own a pressure cooker (I don’t) which will cook the beans in under half an hour, that quick snack will have to wait until tomorrow. I’ll make some using dried beans some day soon to see how it compares.
You can spice things up a little (or as they say on the X Factor, “Make it your own”). Add a little smoked paprika, ground cumin, caramelised onions, sun dried tomatoes, chopped chillies, coriander or parsley – just not all at once mind!
You can make and cook off a big batch of pitta and store the excess in the freezer – just defrost as needed and pop them in the toaster.
I have to say that they were delicious straight from the oven though…
… and there weren’t any left from this batch for the freezer!!
- 1tbs instant dried yeast
- 350ml/12 fl oz lukewarm water
- 375g/13oz wholemeal bread flour
- 1tbs tahini
- ½tbsp olive oil
- 1 300g/10½ tin chickpeas
- 1 small clove garlic
- ½tbsp lemon juice
- ½tbsp sea salt
- pinch of ground black pepper
- pinch of smoked paprika or ground cumin (optional)
- few sprigs of coriander or flat leaf parsley (optional)
- In a measuring jug, sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir to dissolve
- In a large mixing bowl, add flour and form a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture
- Bring the flour and yeast mixture together to form a dough
- Leave the mixture to rest for 15 minutes before adding the olive oil and salt and mixing well again until the dough begins to stiffen
- Using the dough hook mix on a low speed for 5 minutes (or knead by hand for 8-10 minutes) until smooth & elastic
- Cover the bowl in cling film and leave in a warm place to prove until doubled in size (at least an hour)
- - You can use this time to make the hummus -
- Once risen, preheat the oven to the highest setting, placing a knock back before dividing the dough in half
- Divide each half into 4 equal pieces and flatten each piece into a ovals around ½cm thick
- Layer & wrap the ovals loosely in a clean, damp tea towel preheat your oven to the highest setting and put a baking stone or griddle pan inside to heat up
- Carefully put 2-3 pitta ovals onto the stone/pan leaving space between each
- Bake for 3-5 minutes until the bread has puffed up like a balloon
- Allow to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving
- Put the tahini & olive oil into a mini food processor and whiz for 30 seconds
- Rinse the chickpeas under cold running water and, if you have the patience, pinch the husks from each chickpea (it took me about 15 minutes); this gives the hummus a smoother consistency
- Add the chickpeas, garlic and lemon juice to the mini food processor and purée for 30 seconds
- Take the lid off the processor and scrape the mixture down off the sides and whiz again to remove any lumps. If the mixture is stiff, add a tablespoon of water and pulse for a few of seconds
- Add salt & pepper and adjust to taste
- Sprinkle with smoked paprika or ground cumin, drizzle with olive oil, garnish with coriander or flat leaf parsley and serve
A few weeks ago on Instagram, I was singing the praises of a delicious porcini mushroom pâté that I’d discovered in Lidl. We had a punnet of mushrooms that needed to be used up so I thought I might try my hand at making my own pâté.
I flipped through a few of our cookbooks for a recipe and soon found one in a little booklet supplement that came with the Guardian weekend newspaper, many moons ago. It was a taster from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No.1.
I altered the recipe slightly, substituting the butter and garlic for 50 grams of wild garlic butter that I whipped up the previous week. A very simple and easy to make recipe. You can use foraged wild mushrooms (so long as you’re absolutely sure they’re not a poisonous variety); dried mushrooms such as porcini, chanterelle, morel or a mixture; chestnut or just plain ol’ closed cup white mushrooms.
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