I’d never really bothered with the Great British Bake Off before, but this series I felt compelled to watch it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on Twitter over the last year, and there had been so much talk about #GBBO I just had to see what all the fuss was about. And of course I was hooked from the first show.
In the final, John, Brendan and James tried their hands, rather successfully, at baking pithivier. Until then I had never even heard of pithivier. It turns out it’s a classic French pastry, sometimes sweet with fillings like frangipane and fruit but in this case savoury.
I rather liked the look of the pithivier so decided to give it a go myself. Mine is a much simplified version of Brendan’s recipe. You could probably go so far as to say it’s a cheat’s version, particularly since it uses ready-made puff pastry. For my filling, I opted for curly kale, red peppers, red onion, garlic and new potatoes, with lots of mature Cheddar cheese.
I was rather pleased with the end result and it went down with the family too. It’s like a big posh pasty. It didn’t have a soggy bottom, so Paul and Mary would have been happy. Although saying that, since I didn’t make my own pastry I guess they wouldn’t have been all that impressed. But I was. It’s lovely served warm and it’s also great cold the next day. And the next. It’s a bit of a monster, and kept us going for a while.
Kale, red pepper and potato pithivier
450g new potatoes
knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
2 red peppers, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
bunch of fresh thyme, picked
230g curly kale, washed and shredded
100g cream cheese
salt and pepper
2 x 500g packets of ready-made puff pastry
180g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6
Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes into half centimetre thick slices. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the red onion for about five minutes until translucent, then add the red peppers and continue to fry until they are softened. Add the garlic and stir fry for a couple of minutes, before stirring in the balsamic vinegar and thyme. Next throw in the kale, stir well and then cover with a lid. Allow the kale to cook down for a few minutes until al dente and set aside to cool a little.
In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese with one of the eggs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir this into the kale and red pepper mixture.
Flour the work surface and roll out one lot of dough until it is around 3mm thick, and cut out a disc 32cm across for the base. Roll out the second amount and this time cut out a disc 35cm across for the top. Place the base onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper or a non-stick sheet.
Layer the sliced potatoes on to the base, leaving a 4cm border all around. Next pile on the kale and red pepper mixture on top of the potatoes and finally sprinkle the cheese over the top, using your hands to press the cheese down to form a tidy mound. Brush the pastry border with the remaining egg.
Carefully place the larger disc over the top, pushing down around the mound to seal the pastry and cutting off the excess. Cut around the pastry border to form a sunshine shape and using the back of a knife, decorate the top with a sunbeam pattern and score the base. Be careful not to cut all the way through. Make a small hole in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush it all over with more egg.
Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes or so on a wire rack and serve at room temperature or leave it to cool completely. You’ll get around 10 slices out of this, so perfect buffet or picnic food.