Mini lunchbox pasties and tarts

Mini CollageWhen my oldest daughter first started primary school, I rather enjoyed packing her lunch boxes each week, seeing what new and tasty things I could think up to put in there. And yes, you guessed it, the novelty wore off after about half a term.

But every now and again I do try to put in a little extra effort. Most of the time my daughters are grateful for that effort, although we do have the occasional disaster when I wish I hadn’t bothered and had simply given them a cheese roll instead. These mini pasties and tarts get the thumbs up from my two though. So if you do find you have a little extra time on your hands at the weekend and you’re in a baking mood, make up a big batch of these to see  you through the week. They also freeze well too.

mini pasties

Mini lunchbox pasties filled with beef, carrot and boiled egg

Makes around 20

For the pastry

250g plain flour
pinch of salt
65g butter, cubed
60g lard or hard vegetable fat, cubed
4 tbsp iced water

For the filling

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
250g minced beef
1 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1 beaten egg, for brushing onto the pastry

For the pastry

Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter and lard/vegetable fat using your finger tips until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs. Gradually mix in the cold water using a knife until it comes together to form a dough. Bring it all together with your hands into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

For the filling

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion and carrot until soft and golden. Add the minced beef and fry until browned.

Next add the black treacle, Worcestershire sauce, dried oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a couple more minutes and then stir in the chopped egg. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.

Flour your work surface and roll out the pastry until about 2mm thick. Using a cup or small bowl about 9-10cm in diameter as a template, cut out circles of pastry. 

Into the middle of each pastry circle, spoon some of your beef filling. Fold the edges of the pastry up and pinch together to seal it into that classic pastry shape. Place each pasty onto a large baking sheet and when they’re all complete, brush the pastry with a little beaten egg.

Bake the pasties in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they are a beautiful golden brown colour. Enjoy hot or cold.

mini pasties

Next come the mini tarts. They are very versatile and you can add your children’s favourite ingredients. As well as cherry tomatoes, used here, we also include ham, sweetcorn, peas, chopped sausage, spinach, courgette, peppers – the options are pretty much endless.

mini tart

Mini lunchbox tarts filled with cheese and cherry tomatoes

Makes 12

For the pastry

110g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g butter, diced
cold water to mix

For the filling

2 large eggs, beaten
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

For the pastry

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Rub in the butter to form breadcrumbs. Combine with water to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.

Grease each of the cups of a 12-bun muffin tin with a little butter and dust with flour.

Flour the work surface and roll out the pastry to around 2mm thick. Cut out circles using a fluted pastry cutter, slightly larger than the diameter of the cups in the muffin tin. Press the pastry circles into the muffin tin.

Mix together the eggs and half the grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Pour into the pastry moulds. Pop two halves of cherry tomato into each tart and sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese.

Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling is set. Enjoy hot or cold.

mini tart

These tarts and pasties are my entry into this month’s Family Foodies challenge, which I am co-hosting with Lou at Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is Lunchbox Ideas. We’ve already received some great entries – why not pop over and take a look? Or how about sharing your own favourite lunchbox filler?

family-foodies

Tarte tatin


Apple Collage

We’ve been back from France for a week now but to be honest, although my body may be home I think I might have left my brain back in the Dordogne somewhere. It’s taking me a little while to get back into the swing and routine of normal life. Which I guess is the sign of a good holiday.

We ate well in France and so I have returned home both round and brown. You can’t really spend time in France and not take advantage of the good food now, can you? We ate out quite a lot and when we cooked for ourselves we generally kept things pretty simple with gorgeous barbecues and delicious salads. When you’re on holiday, you don’t want to spend all your time over a hot stove – far better to be sat by the pool with a cold beer and a good book. But I can’t go a whole fortnight without wanting to play around in the kitchen. One of our first meals was the fabulous Elizabeth David classic, poulet a l’estragon, and another dish I simply had to try my hand at was the French upside-down favourite, tarte tatin.

I’ve wanted to make tarte tatin for a long time but somehow have never quite got around to it. And as our house was surrounded by apple trees absolutely heaving with fruit, it seemed the obvious thing to make. The only slight problem was that our kitchen wasn’t the best equipped; only after buying all the ingredients did I discover there weren’t any weighing scales or a rolling pin. So I had to improvise with an empty wine bottle and by googling conversions for grammes to tablespoons. But I got there in the end.

When my daughters came in from the pool to see what I was up to, I was clearly having so much fun baking they just had to join in. They created their own little delicacies from the leftover pastry and apple pieces, which they left out that night to feed the fairies.

baking

I used Nigella Lawson’s tarte tatin recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess. It’s not a particularly authentic recipe as it uses Danish pastry, which you’ll need to make up the day before, but I think it worked really well and it got a big thumbs up from the rest of the family, and if you’ve got the right equipment it’s not all that difficult either.

tarte tatin

Tarte tatin

Serves 6 to 8

For the Danish pastry

60ml warm water
125ml milk, at room temperature
1 egg
350g white bread flour
7g sachet of easy-blend yeast
1 tsp salt
25g caster sugar
250g butter, cold, cut into tiny pieces

For the filling

100g butter
150g caster sugar
1kg eating apples, peeled, cored and quartered

A 22cm tarte tatin dish or similar-shaped ovenproof frying pan

Start by making the Danish pastry. Nigella makes hers in a food processor but as I didn’t have one available, I made mine by hand. Pour the water and milk into a jug and add the egg and beat together with a fork.

In a large bowl, place the flour, yeast, salt  and mix together. Add the pieces of butter, mix again and then add the contents of the jug. Use your hands to combine everything, until you have a gooey, lumpy mess. Don’t worry – it’s supposed to look like this. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.

When you’re ready to make the pastry, remove the goo from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before rolling it out to a square 50cm by 50cm. At this stage I discovered my mixture was still incredibly wet and so I had to add quite a bit more flour before I could handle it. I assume this problem was down to my lack of weighing scales.

Fold the dough square into thirds, like (as Nigella puts it) a business letter. Turn it so that the closed fold is on the left. Roll it out again to a 50cm square, and then repeat this three more times. Cut the pastry in half and wrap in clingfilm, and leave in the fridge for half an hour before using. The tarte tatin only uses one half of the pastry, so use the other half for something else. I used mine for plum Danish pastries – I’ll post the recipe for this soon.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Pop in a baking sheet to warm up.

Put the butter in a tarte tatin dish or a heavy ovenproof frying pan on the hob and melt the butter. Add the sugar. When it starts to foam add the apple quarters and arrange them in a circular pattern, curved side down. Cook on a fairly high heat until the buttery juices turn a beautiful golden colour and the apple begins to soften. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool a little for 10 minutes.

Roll out the pastry into a thin circle slightly larger than the pan. Lay it on top of the apples and tuck the edges down the sides under the apples. Place the pan on the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the caramel syrup is bubbling.

Place a large plate on top of the pan and with great care (and wearing oven gloves) turn the pan and plate upside down. Remove the pan to reveal your beautiful tart. OK, so probably a few pieces of apple will probably have stuck to the pan, but that’s not a problem – just pop them back into place. Slice and serve with a large dollop of creme fraiche.

tarte tatin

As the pastry uses milk, eggs and flour, this tarte tatin is my entry into this month’s Recipes for Life challenge, which I have been hosting on behalf of the charity SWALLOW.

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And as tarte tatin is a classic French summer pud, I’m also entering it into the fabulous new Four Seasons  Food challenge, hosted by Delicieux and Chez Foti, where the theme for August is Summer Puds.

fsf-summer

I am also entering it into Tea Time Treats hosted by The Hedge Combers and Lavender & Lovage, where the theme for January 2014 is Eggs.

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Asparagus, ham and Parmesan tart

asparagus ham and parmesan tart

This is an exciting time of year for cooks; a time when so many special fruits and vegetables come into season for just a brief and tantalising spell. As with rhubarb and wild garlic, we are making the most of English asparagus and it features on our menus on almost a daily basis.

Generally I tend not to do too much to asparagus. I simply steam it and serve with a squeeze of lemon and melted butter or a soft poached egg. Our girls go crazy for it, especially when they can eat it with their fingers. But I do also enjoy asparagus in a simple tart, like this one, with ham and Parmesan. It’s incredibly easy to make, especially if you forget about making your own shortcrust pastry and buy in ready-made instead, and it’s just as good eaten cold the following day.

Asparagus ham and Parmesan tart

Asparagus, ham and Parmesan tart

175g plain flour
salt
75g butter
250g asparagus
2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
200ml Greek yoghurt
50ml milk
100g Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
100g chopped ham

Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

To make the shortcrust pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt. Using your finger tips, rub in the butter until it resembles soft breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to make the mixture come together to form a firm dough. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the pastry to line 9 inch well-buttered flan dish. Line the pastry with foil or baking paper and fill with baking beads or rice. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the pastry just starts to turn golden. Remove the beads or rice and the foil, and brush the pastry with a little of the egg you’ll be using in the filling. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes so the egg seals the case. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the filling.

Lightly steam or boil the asparagus until only just cooked; it should still have a little bite. Refresh in ice cold water to stop further cooking and to retain that beautiful green colour. Drain well.

Gently beat the eggs and the extra yolks (which give it that lovely vibrant yellow colour) and combine with the yoghurt, milk and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the chopped ham and asparagus in the pastry case and pour over the cheesy egg mixture. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the filling is set and golden. Leave to cool a little and serve at room temperature with a simple salad.

asparagus and ham tart

As this is such a seasonal tart, I’m entering it into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season blog event, which this month celebrates its second anniversary. You’ll discover lots of tasty recipes over there using asparagus as well as the likes of rhubarb and wild garlic.

SimpleinSeason

 

Lemon meringue pie

lemon meringue pie

I’ve been meaning to try making a lemon meringue pie for ages now. I thought they were fussy, complicated puddings to make, but I finally got around to it last weekend and it turned out to be so much easier than I was expecting.

I used a recipe from master baker Dan Lepard, and it was indeed as simple as he promised. The pastry is perfectly light and crisp, while the meringue is soft, fluffy and marshmallow-like. I made one slight change and that was to add some lime juice to the proceedings. I like a lot of contrast in my lemon meringue pie. The meringue has to be verging on sickeningly sweet and so that must be counteracted with a really tangy sharp citrus. I like super tangy. Lime as well as lemon is perfect for that.

The pie went down well with the whole family, particularly Jessie who isn’t generally much of a pudding girl. She came back for seconds. And I enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast on Easter Monday – ever so decadent.

NB instructions for Aga cooks are at the end of the recipe.

lemon meringue pie

Lemon meringue pie

For the pastry

125g plain flour
½ tsp salt
25g icing sugar
75g butter
1 egg yolk
2 tsp cold water

For the lemon filling

100ml lemon juice
100ml lime juice
50ml orange juice
150g caster sugar
25g cornflour
3 egg yolks
25g butter

For the meringue

4 egg whites
125g caster sugar

To make the pastry, put the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Chop the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour. Mix in the egg yolk and water to form a soft paste. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Dan Lepard says to take a 20cm round deep tart case with a removable base but I used a cake tin. Grease your tart case or cake tin. Roll out the dough fairly thinly and line the tin’s base and sides. Press gently into the sides, trim the edges and then chill for another half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 170C or Gas Mark 3.

Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and weigh down with baking beans. Bake the pastry case for 20 to 25 minutes. Then remove the paper and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until the pastry is dry and golden. Leave to cool.

To make the filling, place the lemon, lime and orange juices in a saucepan with the sugar, cornflour and egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Place over a low heat and add the butter. Keep stirring while it comes to the boil. Pour the filling into the tart case, leaving a slight gap at the top. Leave to cool completely.

For the meringue, beat the egg whites in large bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoonful at a time, beating in well before the next lot of sugar goes in. You should end up with a thick and glossy  meringue.

Spoon the meringue on top of the lemon tart. With the oven still set to 170C or Gas Mark 3, bake for roughly 25 minutes until golden and the meringue has set but is still soft. Leave to cool before serving.

Aga instructions

If you’re using a two-door Aga like me, bake the pastry case on the floor of the roasting oven for 10 to 15 minutes, before removing the beads and baking for a further 5 minutes or so until the pastry is golden.

To cook the full pie, start it off in the middle of the roasting oven for about four minutes until the meringue turns a light brown. Then carefully move down to the top of the simmering oven for another 20 minutes until the meringue is set.

lemon meringue pie

If you liked this, you might also like to try:

Strawberry, rhubarb and lemon tart
Strawberry, rhubarb and lemon tart
Blackberry and cardamom pavlova
Blackberry and cardamom pavlova
Peach pie
Peach pie

Stilton, ham and brussel sprout tart

Brussel sprouts tend to have the Marmite effect on people. You either love them or hate them. In the Bangers & Mash house we fall firmly on the ‘love them’ side of the fence. Even the children. Miss Bangers was asking me to buy some in the greengrocer just the other day. Strange I know…

So while most people only dish up sprouts as part of Christmas lunch in a dutiful nod to tradition, we tend to eat them all through the winter months. It’s their crunchy nuttiness I love, which I think works particularly well in this tart, teamed with strong, salty Stilton and some lovely smoked ham. And as these ingredients are the kind of foods you find hanging around in the fridge at Christmas time, it also offers an ideal way to use up some of the festive leftovers.

If you make your own shortcrust pastry, this tart costs just £4.80 to make from scratch. Serving at least six people, that works out at around 80p a head. So it’s as cheap as it is tasty. And it’s very, very easy to make too.

That’s why I’m entering the recipe into Action for Children’s Festive Food for a Fiver recipe competition.

This Christmas, the charity Action for Children is asking people to support their emergency appeal: No child should wish for food this Christmas.

As more and more families struggle to put regular meals on the table, they’d like people to put their creativity to work for a good cause and learn new cooking and money management skills from others, by sharing frugal recipes ideas on Facebook and Twitter.

The two best recipes will be rewarded with a lovely family cookbook, full of many useful tips, kindly provided by Giraffe Restaurant.

To enter the competition, you need to come up with a festive recipe that families can make on a budget:

  • The recipes should be festive themed and creatively presented
  • They need to be cheap (ideally £1.25 a head or £5 for a family of four), nutritious and reasonably simple to make
  • The ingredients should be very easily available at standard shops or supermarkets all around the country
  • They should be original (so no turkey curries, please!) and include elements that younger members of the family might be able to help with
  • They need to be family recipes – something the whole family will enjoy eating.

You can enter your recipe via Twitter or Facebook, or both. Visit the Action for Children website to find out how.

This is my entry – what dish will you submit?

Stilton, ham and brussel sprout tart

175g plain flour
salt
75g butter
350g brussel sprouts
3 eggs
150ml double cream
150ml milk
Salt and pepper
100g chopped ham
50g Stilton cheese

Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

To make the shortcrust pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt. Using your finger tips, rub in the butter until it resembles soft breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to make the mixture come together to form a firm dough. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the pastry to line 9 inch well-buttered flan dish. Pop back in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Break the eggs into a jug and lightly whisk with the cream and milk, and season with a little pepper.

If you’re not using left-over sprouts, steam or boil them until just tender. Rinse under cold water to stop them cooking any further and to retain their bright green colour. Drain well and then slice each sprout in half.

Arrange the sprouts across the pastry base and season with a little salt – not too much as the cheese can be quite salty.

Sprinkle over the chopped ham and then crumble over the Stilton. Finally pour over the egg and cream mixture.

Carefully place the tart in the oven for about 20 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling is set and slightly browned. Serve with a simple salad and enjoy!

I’m entering this tart into the No Waste Food Challenge, where the theme is Christmas Dinner leftovers. This challenge is the brainchild of Kate at Turquoise Lemons and this month is hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

no food waste challenge

Highs and lows in the Bangers & Mash kitchen – part 5

The last few weeks have been as busy as ever in the Bangers & Mash house. I jetted off to Amsterdam and London for work leaving my darling Mashettes to fend for themselves for a few days. I’ve never been apart from my family for that long before but of course when it came to food they were all sorted, as I’d left them with a trusty meal plan…

That’ll be me then. In the Dam.

Amsterdam was wonderful. The last time I visited I was in my early twenties and it felt quite strange going back all grown up and all professional. I was there for the Meet the Blogger event for interior design bloggers at the simply stunning Conservatorium Hotel. If you’ve ever seen my home, you’ll know how incongruous I felt being at a conference for glamorous ladies talking about the latest in home design trends. But my role there was to tweet and blog about the proceedings, and I’m always happy when tasked with writing. There is a lovely short film documenting Meet the Blogger if you’re interested…

As I was there in a work capacity I didn’t have much opportunity unfortunately to really explore Amsterdam’s restaurant scene, although I did enjoy a rather splendid steak somewhere I can’t remember the name of at the end of a very long day. And I was also taken to a lovely bakery for a quick bite of lunch on my way back to the train station. De Bakkerswinkel bakes superb bread, as well as pastries, cakes, pies and all kinds of baked delights. I only had a simple ham and cheese roll but it was sensational and a delicious way to end my stint in the Dam.

De Bakkerswinkel in Amsterdam

A day after getting back from Holland, I had to head off to London for a trade show where I was helping out as a press officer on a client’s stand. I can’t say the event was all that exciting but it was a good chance to catch up with my Dad and step-mum Sue the night before as they live in Tottenham. And I finally got to see their amazing new kitchen, which they’ve been talking about and planning for oh, only the last 20 years or so. I am now green with envy. I want a new kitchen. Now.

My step-mum Sue in her beautiful new kitchen

But back to the food. I’ve been trying out some really rather good recipes lately. Initially I was rather disappointed with my attempt at a lamb and rosemary crumble. When it came out of the oven it just didn’t look particularly appetising and so I didn’t bother taking any photographs. Yet it tasted surprisingly good. I’m to work on it a bit more to see if I can make it look as good as it tastes.

My rhubarb, strawberry and lemon tart creation went down rather well, although this was another dish that wasn’t much of a looker.

Strawberry, rhubarb and lemon tart

Another tart that turned out well was a butternut squash tart with blue cheese, spinach and ricotta. It was one of those very simple affairs where you roll out some ready-made puff pastry, smother it with a few choice ingredients and bake. Hey presto! You have a tasty supper.

Butternut squash, blue cheese and ricotta tart

Pasta is always popular in our house, particularly as a quick dinner after a busy day at work and school. We all loved this yummy sausage and courgette pasta carbonara from Chez Foti. Definitely a dish we’ll be making again. And again.

Sausage and courgette pasta carbonara from Chez Foti

Pasta makes another appearance in my list of highlights. Broad bean tops arrived in our veg box the other week. I have to admit I had no idea you could eat them but they are quite delicious; like a cross between pea shoots and chard. I used them in this recipe from Riverford for pasta with broad bean tops, ricotta and mint, which was very good indeed. We are growing broad beans in our vegetable patch, so I look forward to experimenting some more with this new ingredient.

Pasta with broad bean tops, ricotta and mint

Egg fried rice is an excellent speedy supper and so versatile too. You can throw in whatever you have to hand or need to use up. I cooked up a big wok full of egg fried rice the other night with peas and red pepper, served up with lashings of soy sauce and hot chilli oil. My kind of fast food. Yum.

Egg fried rice with peas and peppers

Last but not least comes the Full English pizza. Yes, you’ve guessed it. Pizza topped with all those staples of the traditional cooked English brekky: sausage, bacon, tomato, spinach and egg. I wanted to use mushroom as well but my daughter Jessie hates them with a passion. You’re probably thinking it sounds completely OTT and you’re probably right, but it was so tasty and very, very moreish. I can’t believe I’ve never tried it before.

The Full English Pizza

Well I think that’s it for now. I’m rather pleased to be able to look back and see the highs far outweigh the lows. I’m definitely getting better at this cooking lark, I think. Now, time for those meal plans…

Monday 11 June
Lunch: pasta with broad bean tops, ricotta and mint 
Dinner: Bangers & Mash bake (F)

Tuesday 12 June 
Lunch: tuna mayonnaise rolls
Dinner: butternut squash tart with spinach, blue cheese and ricotta

Wednesday 13 June
Lunch: rice salad
Dinner: sausage and courgette pasta carbonara

Thursday 14 June
Lunch: cheese and pickle rolls
Dinner: baked potatoes with garlic mushrooms and salad

Friday 15 June
Lunch:  pasta salad
Dinner: egg fried rice with peas and red peppers

Saturday 16 June
Lunch: cheese and tomato on toast
Dinner: courgette and summer greens pie and salad

Sunday 17 June
Lunch: OUT
Dinner: cold courgette and summer greens pie

Monday 18 June
Lunch: hummus, pitta bread and salad
Dinner: lamb and rosemary crumble with new potatoes

Tuesday 19 June
Lunch: ham salad rolls
Dinner: the Full English pizza with salad

Wednesday 20 June
Lunch: cous cous salad
Dinner: red Thai curry with tofu and vegetables

Thursday 21 June
Lunch: cheese and pickle rolls
Dinner: chicken and ginger stir fry with noodles

Friday 22 June
Lunch: wet garlic, tomatoes and mozzarella on toast
Dinner: pasta with pesto and cream cheese

Saturday 23 June
Lunch: bread and cheese
Dinner: pork chops with rice, asparagus and carrots

Sunday 24 June
Lunch: homemade ham with Finnish mustard and herby focaccia
Dinner: cheese omelette

F = from freezer