Lorene’s peach pie

Food is a wonderful talking point, isn’t it? No matter what company I find myself in, as soon as I start talking about food, a proper conversation has started. You don’t even have to be face-to-face. Social media provides so many platforms for foodies to talk and share ideas about their favourite subject.

One of the aspects I like so much about writing this food blog is the way it has helped revive connections with family members across the world, through a shared passion for food. Take my mum’s sister for instance, my Aunty Lorene. I haven’t seen her since I was 14 years old and had pretty much lost all contact with her. But through this blog and Facebook we have got to know each other again.

And increasingly Lorene has taken on the role of one of my ‘culinary advisors’. In particular she was a great help last Chinese New Year, providing recipes and tips for all kind of authentic dishes she remembers from growing up in Malaysia.

Lorene sent me her own recipe for peach pie recently, as she thought it would go down well with the children. Indeed it did, and the grown ups too. It’s a beautifully simple pie, using many store cupboard ingredients, and is delicious served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The four stages of peach pie

Peach pie

320g readymade sheet of shortcrust pastry
2 x 400g tins of sliced peaches
85g butter
2 eggs
170g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g plain flour

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5.

Grease a 20cm flan dish and line with the readymade shortcrust pastry, pressing firmly into the edges.

Drain the peaches and arrange in the pastry case – you’ll probably end up with a few leftover.

Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly.

In a jug, beat the eggs and mix in the sugar, butter and vanilla. Then add the flour and combine well. Pour this mixture over the peaches.

Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes until the filling is set and a lovely light golden brown colour. Allow to cool just a little before slicing and serve with ice cream or whipped cream. This pie is also good served cold the next day.

Pork, black pudding and apple pie

I remember my Nana Barbara taking me to Bury Market when I was a little girl. I must have been about six or seven. What I remember most was seeing a pair of the most amazing sparkly, silver, strappy shoes. With heels. And I wanted them so, so much. But of course I didn’t get them. If I did, it wouldn’t be one of those memories that stayed with me forever I suppose.

If you took me to Bury Market these days, I don’t think I’d be looking at clothes or shoes, even of the silver variety. It would be the food stalls that would receive my undivided attention.

One item in particular I couldn’t leave without would be some proper Lancastrian black pudding. So it might be one of those food stuffs you don’t want to think too much about what goes into (it’s largely pork blood and fat, if you were unsure), but it’s a food I’ve loved since I was a child, especially as part of a cooked British breakfast. It’s probably due to my northern roots on my Dad’s side.

When I saw a recipe featuring black pudding on my Twitter timeline recently, I knew immediately I’d have to try it. @seldom_seen_boy had seen Brian Turner cook a pork and black pudding pie on that British institution of daytime television known as This Morning. I made a mental note there and then that the next time we had roast pork, I’d use the leftovers to make this pie.

So that’s precisely what I did, and it was very, very good. I wasn’t 100% sure whether the rest of the family would like it. My husband’s never been all that keen on black pudding and I thought the kids might turn their noses up at it too. Overall though it got a thumbs up. Only my seven-year-old was a little unsure, and about halfway through she started picking out the black pudding. But at least she had a go.

Personally I loved it. Who needs silver shoes when you have a black pudding pie, eh?

Pork, black pudding and apple pie

Serves 8

1 tbsp vegetable oil
30g butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large carrot, grated
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
300ml chicken stock
350g roast pork, shredded
250g black pudding, diced
2 apples, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
500g ready made shortcrust pastry
1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6.

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan, and gently cook the onion, garlic and carrot until they start to colour.

Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and simmer gently without a lid for 15 minutes. Stir in the shredded pork.

In a separate pan, fry the black pudding and apple until slightly browned. Then stir this into the rest of the pie filling. Season, bring to the boil, and then leave to cool.

Roll out half the pastry into a thin circle the same size as an ovenproof dish. Grease the dish and then lay over the pastry. Pile on the pie filling.

Roll out the second half of the pastry into a circle the same size as the first. Egg wash the rim of the pie and lay the lid over the filling. Press the rim, scallop the edges and cut a tiny air hole in the centre of the pastry. Brush with egg wash and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with mashed potatoes and onion gravy.

Leeks and greens springtime pie

I’m a big fan of the weekly veg box. There’s something quite exciting about not choosing your own produce but simply going with whatever is in season and is in good supply.

The veg box didn’t always suite my lifestyle though. Back in my crazy 20s when we lived in Bristol, in the days before children, when I was working full-time yet still partying hard, I first ventured down the veg box path.

It was around the time that I was just beginning to develop an interest in food and cooking, and the idea of a weekly delivery of fresh organic vegetables seemed a right-on thing to do.

Problem was the vegetables would arrive and I simply had no idea what to do with them, or indeed what some of them actually were. I’d get home from work, wanting to make a quick supper before meeting friends at the pub, and end up just staring blankly into the fridge at a gnarly celeriac or pile of sweet potatoes and having not the slightest scooby what to do next.

And eating greens week-in-week-out just wasn’t turning me on. It took me right back to my Cranks childhood

But life is very different now that I’m all grown up. The veg box suits me and my family. As you have probably spotted already, I’m rather into meal planning. Each Sunday night I sit down at my laptop surrounded by recipe books, plan out my family’s meals for the week, and place my online order for all the groceries needed.

No meal makes it onto the plan though until I’ve consulted the Riverford website, where they list the contents of the coming week’s veg boxes. I love reading through the list of produce and letting my brain whir into action as it comes up with meal ideas.

But sometimes inspiration doesn’t arrive of its accord and the Riverford website itself is a marvellous treasure trove of recipe ideas for every vegetable (and fruit) under the sun. And because I was running short of ways to cook leeks, I came across a Riverford recipe for Flamiche, which turns out to be a Belgian leek pie.

I don’t think I’ve cooked a Riverford recipe yet that has disappointed, and this was certainly no exception. The creamy, buttery leeks combined with tarragon and nutmeg, encased in a light shortcrust pastry made for a tasty supper on one of our regular Meat Free Mondays. We ate it cold for lunch the next day and it was equally good, so I reckon this pie would be great for a picnic.

So here is my slight variation on the Flamiche, which has some spring greens thrown in, just because I happened to have those in the fridge too. It’s ever so easy to make, particularly when you use ready-made pastry. And no it’s not cheating – everyone does it!

Leeks and greens springtime pie

Serves 6

500g ready-made shortcrust pastry
600g leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced
200g spring greens, washed and shredded
6 tbsp creme fraiche
60g parmesan cheese
1 tbsp chopped tarragon leaves (I couldn’t find fresh so used dried, which worked perfectly well)
nutmeg, freshly grated
salt and pepper
1 egg yolk, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6.

Gently cook the leeks in butter until soft and translucent. Add the spring greens and stir into the leeks until the greens wilt.

Pour the leeks and greens into a large bowl and allow to cool.

Butter a quiche dish. Halve the pastry and roll out one half into a large circle and line the dish. Prick the bottom with a fork. Roll out the other pastry half into another circle the same size and cover with clingfilm for later.

When the leeks and greens have cooled, add the creme fraiche, nutmeg, parmesan and tarragon. Season well. Spread the mixture evenly over the pastry base.

Next brush some egg yolk over the exposed edges of the pastry, and place the other pastry circle over the pie filling and pinch the edges to seal.

Brush the top with more egg yolk and use a sharp knife to make a cross-shaped slit in the middle so that steam can escape.

Bake in the oven on a baking sheet for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden. Serve warm or cold with a side salad.

Homity pie

 

Before I go any further I want to say that Cranks today is probably quite different from how I remember Cranks growing up in the 1980s.

My step-mum was a big fan of Cranks. When we went shopping in the West End, we’d invariably end up in the Cranks restaurant just off Carnaby Street and we ate many dishes from their recipe book.

In case you don’t know Cranks, they’ve been around since the 1960s and were one of the first brands I’m aware of that were exponents of healthy eating. This of course is fantastic. But as a kid, I grew to associate Cranks with worthy food: brown rice, heavy wholemeal pastry, nut roasts and – this for me was the worst part – wholemeal pasta. Now I know we need roughage in our diet. But there is a right way and a wrong way to eat your fibre, and a bowlful of wholemeal spaghetti is for me most definitely the wrong way.

I’ve just taken a peek at the Cranks website. They are still going strong it seems and they look very different from the Cranks I knew growing up. There are some recipes I’d actually be quite interested in trying.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Cranks as a youngster, there was one dish that my step-mum could make time and time again from their recipe book and I’d be happy, and that was Homity Pie – a tasty open cheese and potato pie. OK so it was made with wholemeal pastry but I could cope with that when balanced with the lovely buttery, cheesey, garlicy potatoes and onions. As with all my favourite foods, so very simple and so very delicious. In fact, when I left home for university, this was the only recipe I copied out to take with me.

I’ve played with the recipe a little. I use half wholemeal and half white flour for the pastry. Sometimes I add ham or bacon to the filling. And quite often I add whatever leftover vegetables I happen to have in the fridge. Last time I baked it, I used half a celeriac I had hanging around, so this appears in the recipe below.

Homity Pie

For the pastry

100g plain white flour
100g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100g butter
3 tbsp water

For the filling

300g potatoes, peeled and diced
300g celeriac, peeled and diced
3 tbsp olive oil
450g onions, peeled and chopped
50g butter
handful fresh parsley, chopped
150g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp milk
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 220°C/gas 7.

To make the pastry, place the wholemeal and white flour, baking powder and salt in a basin and rub in the butter with your finger tips until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Gradually add the water and mix in with a knife to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.

In a large pan of salted water, boil the potatoes and celeriac until just tender, then drain and return to the pan.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently sautee the onions until golden. Add the onions to the potatoes and celeriac along with the butter, parsley, 100g of the cheese, garlic, milk, salt and pepper and combine well.

Butter your flan dish – I use one that’s 25cm diameter. Take your dough out of the fridge and roll out on a floured board. Don’t worry if it’s quite crumbly. Mine always falls apart a bit and I end up moulding it into position to line the flan dish.

Simply tip your ingredients into the pastry case, flatten it out a bit so the pastry is well covered and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar cheese.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and the cheese topping has melted and is golden brown.