I’m a tiny bit obsessed with cheese at the moment. That’s a lie, I’m always obsessed but here is a particularly gooey, overloaded offering containing caramelised onions, bacon, herbs and buttery pastry dunked into melting luxurious cheese.
1 baking camembert
2 sheets of puff pastry
3 tbsp caramelised onion chutney
75g crispy smoked bacon bits
1 egg whisked
Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface. Place a large mixing bowl on top of the pastry sheet. Cut around the bowl to form a circle (around 9-10 inch diameter).
Repeat step 2 with the second sheet of pastry.
Place one circle of pastry on the prepared baking sheet. Spread caramelised onion chutney over the pastry, leaving the middle centre clear. Sprinkle bacon bits over the chutney and then cover with the second circle of pastry.
Place the camembert cheese in the centre of the circle of pastry and then cut around to form a circle. Discard the cut pastry and lay the cheese in the open centre.
Cut the circle of pastry into 16 equal segments. You can do this by cutting the circle first into 4 equal segments. Then, cut each segment in half and then in half once more, ending with 16 segments in total.
Lift one segment, twist once to the right and place it down. Then lift the segment next to it and twist once to the left and place it down. Keep going around, alternating the direction of the twist. Finally, bring up edges of two segments with opposite twist and press together.
Brush the pastry with egg wash. Make 3-4 slits on top of the cheese and then drizzle cheese with a little honey. Sprinkle rosemary leaves over the cheese and pastry. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.
Rip off the pastry branches and dunk them in the gooey cheese. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Oh the joys of being back at home for Christmas and having a kitchen again! This is a lovely comforting dinner but isn’t too heavy as light flaky salmon and fresh greens are used. It takes a bit of time to put together but the steps are easy then you just bung it in the oven when you’re ready and you’re left with a a dish that delivers on flavour and wow factor.
250g ready-made puff pastry
For the filling:
450g piece of salmon fillet, skinned and any bones remove, cut into 3 even sized steaks (or 3 skinless and boneless salmon fillets weighing approximately 150g each)
10g butter (a heaped teaspoon)
1 rounded tablespoon crème fraîche
½ onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, grated
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
Whole nutmeg, freshly grated
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
1 egg, beaten
Place the frying pan on a high heat then add the butter followed by the spinach leaves and wilt it for about 1 minute, stirring it around until it has collapsed then tip it into a sieve over a bowl and leave it to cool.
Then use the back of a wooden spoon to press the wilted greens against the sieve and extract any juices. Now place it on a chopping board and press with several sheets of kitchen paper to extract any wetness that remains. Spoon it into a small bowl then stir in the crème fraîche, lemon juice, some freshly grated nutmeg and some seasoning.
Sweat off the onion and garlic in a small saucepan then remove from the heat, add the spinach mix and stir to combine. Set aside.
Divide the rested pastry into 3 even pieces then roll the first piece very thinly into a rectangle the same shape as the salmon fillet, roughly 21cm by 15cm (you will need to adjust the size of the pastry to according to the shape of the salmon fillet).
Then place a piece of salmon on one half of each piece of pastry and spread a third of the spinach mix on top of each fillet.
Using a pastry brush dampen the corners of the pastry with beaten egg then fold the pastry over the salmon to encase it and crimp the corners with a fork to seal.
Put each parcel onto a parchment lined tray. Pop them in the fridge until you need them.
If you are preparing them in advance cover them with a piece of cling film.
When you are ready to bake them, pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
Place the parcels on the baking sheet, with a liner, then make a few diagonal slashes in each one and brush each one with beaten egg. Bake for 20 minutes on a high shelf until crisp and golden.
Serve with seasonal greens, new potatoes and parsley sauce.
Flan patissier is the French equivalent of the custard tart. The delicious dessert is filled with simple, vanilla infused cream. It is the tart that you see in patisseries all over France. It is often made in a long slab that can be sliced as a treat at any time of the day.
I have provided a really in-depth method for making the pastry as this is so important to creating the final flan. The crumbly, buttery base is perfect with the thick, creamy custard filling.
For the sweet pastry:
350g plain flour
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, plus one yolk
pinch of salt
A little butter or baking spray, for greasing the tin
A little flour, for rolling
For the filling:
200ml full-fat milk
200ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
1 medium egg, plus 1 medium yolk
100g caster sugar
20g butter, melted
Essential kit You will need a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin.
First, make the sweet pastry. You will need half the quantity given here. To make the pastry: Measure out all your ingredients before you start, and break your 2 eggs into a small bowl– there is no need to beat them. Separate the remaining egg. Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
Now for the cold butter. What I do is take it straight from the fridge and put it between two pieces of greaseproof paper or butter wrappers (I always keep butter wrappers to use for this, as well as for greasing tins and rings), then bash it firmly with a rolling pin.
The idea is to soften it while still keeping it cold. I end up with a thin, cold slab about a centimetre thick that bends like plasticine. Put the whole slab into the bowl of flour – there is no need to chop it up.
Cover the butter well with flour and tear it into large pieces.
Now it’s time to flake the flour and butter together – this is where you want a really light touch. With both hands, scoop up the flour-covered butter and flick your thumbs over the surface, pushing away from you, as if you are dealing a pack of cards.
You need just a soft, skimming motion – no pressing or squeezing – and the butter will quickly start to break into smaller pieces. Keep plunging your hands into the bowl, and continue with the light flicking action, making sure all the pieces of butter remain coated with flour so they don’t become sticky.
The important thing now is to stop mixing when the shards of butter are the size of your little fingernail. There is an idea that you have to keep rubbing in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, but you don’t need to take it that far. When people come to my classes, I find they can’t resist putting their hands back into the bowl to rub it just a little bit more, but if you want a light pastry, it is really important not to overwork it. If the mixture starts to get sticky now, imagine how much worse it will be when you start to add the liquid at the next stage. Add the sugar at this point, mixing it in evenly.
Tip the eggs, and the extra yolk, into the flour mixture and mix everything together.
You can mix with a spoon, but I prefer to use one of the little plastic scrapers that I use for bread-making. Because it is bendy, it’s very easy to scrape around the sides of the bowl and pull the mixture into the centre until it forms a very rough dough that shouldn’t be at all sticky.
While it is still in the bowl, press down on the dough with both thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees and press down and turn again. Repeat this a few times.
With the help of your spoon or scraper, turn the pastry onto a work surface.
Work the dough as you did when it was in the bowl: holding the dough with both hands, press down gently with your thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees, press down with your thumbs again and turn. Repeat this about four or five times in all.
Now fold the pastry over itself and press down with your fingertips. Provided the dough isn’t sticky, you shouldn’t need to flour the surface, but if you do, make sure you give it only a really light dusting, not handfuls, as this extra flour will all go into your pastry and make it heavier.
When you flour your work surface, you need to do this as if you are skimming a stone over water, just paying out a light spray of flour. (Funny as it seems, people in my classes actually practise this, like a new sport.) You need just enough to create a filmy barrier so that you can glide the pastry around the work surface without it sticking.
Repeat the folding and pressing down with your fingertips a couple of times until the dough is like plasticine, and looks homogeneous.
Your pastry is now ready to roll out and bake. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5.
Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin with butter or baking spray
Lightly dust your work surface with flour, then roll out the pastry into a circle 5mm thick and large enough to fit into the tin, leaving an overhang of about 2.5cm.
Roll the pastry around your rolling pin so that you can lift it up without stretching it, then drape it over the tin and let it fall inside.
Ease the pastry carefully into the base and sides of the tin without stretching it, and leave it overhanging the edges. Tap the tin lightly against your work surface to settle it in. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork to stop it from trying to rise up when in the oven (even though it will be held down by baking beans, it can sometimes lift a little).
You can use a large sheet of baking paper for lining your tart case, however I prefer to use clingfilm (the kind that is safe for use in the oven or microwave) as it is softer than paper and won’t leave indents in the pastry. Place three sheets of clingfilm (or one sheet of baking paper) over the top of the pastry case, then tip in your baking beans and spread them out so they completely cover the base. Don’t trim the pastry yet. Put the case into the fridge for at least one hour (or the freezer for 15 minutes) to relax it.
Pre-heat the oven to 190C / gas 5.
Remove the pastry case from the fridge and put in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes until the base has dried out and is very lightly coloured, like parchment.
Remove from the oven and lift out the clingfilm (or baking paper) and beans. Don’t worry if the overhanging edges are quite brown, as you will be trimming these away after you have finished baking your tart.
Brush the inside of the pastry case with the beaten egg and put it back into the oven for another ten minutes. The inside of the pastry, and particularly the base, will now be quite golden brown and shiny from the egg glaze, which will act as a barrier so that the pastry will stay crisp when you put in the filling.
Let the pastry case cool down then you can trim away the overhanging edges.
Turn down the oven to 180°C/gas 4.
To make the filling, put the milk, cream and vanilla pod (split and seeds scraped in) in a pan, bring to a simmer (be careful not to let the mixture boil), then take off the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour. Remove the vanilla pod.
In a bowl, mix the egg, yolk and sugar until pale and creamy, and then whisk in the cornflour. Stir in the melted butter.
Put the pan containing the milk and cream mixture back on the heat and bring slowly to the boil, whisking all the time, then turn down to a simmer for 1 minute, still whisking all the time. Take off the heat and pour onto the egg and sugar mixture, stirring well.
Pour the mixture into the tart case and bake for around 45 minutes, until the filling is firm to the touch and a deep, dark golden on top — like the top of a crème brûlée. Take out of the oven, slide off the tin, and cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
I have just arrived home from a holiday in the Picardy region of Northern France. I have to confess I have lost my enthusiasm for blogging recently due to my poor student bank account taking a battering and my house-”mates” whose kitchen cleanliness leaves little to be desired. After a trip to this beautiful part of France however, I have returned with a new passion for cooking and all things cheese!
In case you’re not familiar with Maroilles, it’s a soft cow’s milk cheese with an orange rind that’s made in Northern France. Those simple facts sound harmless enough but there’s a little more to it than that. The aroma of Maroilles can be scary. If you don’t eat it quickly, it could start to set off fire alarms and endanger low-flying aircraft. On the other hand, it tastes great.
One of the most common dishes using Mariolles is the Tarte au Maroilles. You can find different versions of this tarte around Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy but the most traditional form has a yeasted dough base rather than a layer of pastry. You can of course use a shortcrust or even puff pastry if you want a result similar to a quiche. Indeed, I personally prefer a crisper base that puff pastry achieves but I have provided the recipe for the authentic yeasted base here.
If you can’t get hold of any Maroilles, then you could substitute another cheese that isn’t too soft and ripe but does have a powerful flavour: Chaumes, Reblochon or Pont-l’Évêque come to mind.
For the base:
½ tsp easy bake fast action dried yeast
300 g strong white flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp caster sugar
15 g softened butter
1 egg, beaten
100 ml milk
20 ml water
For the topping:
300 g Maroilles
200 ml crème fraîche
Plenty of pepper and a little salt
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste, optional
Add all of the base ingredients to the large mixing bowl and combine then on a lightly floured work surface, knead the mix for 10-15 minutes. You should have a light, slightly sticky dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
Butter a 25 cm or 26 cm diameter pie dish. (The tarte topping tends to bubble up more than you might expect and so a deeper dish is useful.) Knock the dough back and roll it out until it covers the base of the pie dish. Some recipes suggest that you should fully line the dish by spreading the dough up the sides, but I was told in Picardy that it should remain flat.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Slice the Maroilles quite thinly and cover the dough base with the cheese. You don’t have to remove the rind of the cheese, but unless the cheese is very fresh then it can be quite strong. I personally love the flavour and leave it on. Beat the egg and stir it into the crème fraîche. Season this mixture with the pepper and salt. Pour the mixture onto the tarte and spread it out to cover the whole of the surface (you don’t need to be too fussy or precise about this). Grate nutmeg over if using. Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until the top is golden and puffed up.
Serve warm with a fresh green salad and a cold beer.
Yes, you read that correctly – wheels of cheesy bacon! Simple to make, yet deliciously moreish to eat, these bacon rolls make a great savoury snack, picnic staple, or side for soups and stews. A tasty filling of bacon, cheddar and cream cheese is rolled in an easy pastry, and then these little rolls only take 15 minutes to bake.
8 bacon rashers
1 medium onion, finely chopped
100g of soft cheese
100g of cheddar, grated
1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
250g of plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
75g of unsalted butter, diced and cold
225ml of milk
1/2 tsp salt
20g of butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Crumb the butter into the flour using your thumbs and forefingers. Mix in the milk until just combined.
Place onto a floured work surface and roll into a 1cm thick rectangle, trimming the edges of the dough if desired.
Brush the dough with some of the melted butter then layer the bacon on top to cover the pastry, making sure to leave a 2cm edge free on one of the long sides of the dough,
Mix the onion, cheeses, parsley and garlic together and spread over the bacon.
Brush the gap at the edge of the dough with water then roll into a spiral, sealing the edge brushed with water to the body of the roll.
Wrap the roll in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes
Slice the roll into 1.5cm slices and place, spiral side up, onto the baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.
Now I couldn’t let Christmas pass without posting mice pies!
There are countless recipes for mince pies; countless recipes for pastry; countless recipes for mincemeat; countless recipes for toppings. I have posted a few variations myself.
As with most of my recipes, you can of course alter, add, swap whatever you like but this is a no frills, classic, old school recipe with the bare essentials that focuses on technique rather than fancy ingredients to give you the perfect festive treat with no faff.
12oz plain flour
3oz butter – for richness
3oz vegetable shortening (I used Trex) – for crispness
A pinch of salt
A squeeze of lemon juice
Ice cold water
A jar of homemade or good quality mincemeat
Milk for brushing
Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt.
Add the butter and shortening to the flour. Cut it into the flour using a metal knife then work into fine crumbs with your fingertips. The trick is to handle it as little as possible.
Squeeze a little lemon juice in and add just enough water to incorporate the mix into a ball of pastry dough. Again, try to handle the pastry as little as possible.
Wrap the ball in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C.
Once chilled, roll the pastry out on a floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin. Cut out as many circles as you can using a 76mm cutter. This amount of pastry should make approx. 18 mince pies with lids.
Place the circles in mince pie tins and fill each with a teaspoon of mincemeat. If the mincemeat is a little dry or crystalised, loosen it up with a splash of brandy or rum.
Reroll the offcuts and cut out lids. I like using a star cutter for this. Each time you roll the pastry out, it will become tougher so try and get as many shapes cut as you can without having to roll again.
Brush the edges of the mince pies with a bit of milk then place the lids on and brush those with milk too. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
10. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, sprinkle with icing sugar. Fantastic with brandy cream/butter.
Pasties! As the weather begins to turn, nothing hits the spot more than a comforting pasty with crisp, golden pastry with an oozing cheesy filling. Mmmmm
Different fats produce different characteristics in baked or fried foods and hard fat will produce a crisper texture than any other. I have tried using beef dripping with this pastry and lard. Both have given extremely crisp results with their own savoury character.
The use of some strong flour in the pastry also makes the dough a little more resilient to make shaping easier without sacrificing tenderness.
The mix of different mustards is purely my preference so if you have any favourites then feel free to experiment.
Either way, the mix of fresh spring onions with hearty potato, autumnal swede and melting strong cheddar is an absolute winner encased in a crisp, buttery house of loveliness.
For the rough puff dripping crust:
300g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
100g strong white flour
1 teaspoon fine salt
50g unsalted butter, softened
150g beef dripping or lard, at room temperature
150ml lukewarm water
For the filling:
150g Extra mature cheddar (I used Barber’s Cruncher)
100g peeled and diced swede
100g peeled and diced potato
3-4 large spring onions, chopped
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon each of wholegrain mustard, Dijon mustard and English mustard powder
A few sprigs of thyme – optional
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
For the rough puff dripping crust:
Place the flours and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into little pieces and rub into the flour then cut the dripping or lard into 1cm pieces and toss it through. Do not rub it in. Stir the water in without kneading until the dough just combines then leave for 10 minutes.
Generously flour the work surface to stop the dough sticking then roll out the dough to 50cm x 20cm. Fold the dough in by thirds then roll out again towards the unfolded ends and fold in by thirds once more. Cover the dough or place in a bag and let it rest somewhere cool (but not as cold as the fridge) for 30 minutes.
Repeat the rolling, folding and resting twice more. The pastry is then ready to be used. You can also freeze it at this point in a sealed ziplock bag then just allow to thaw completely before using.
For the filling:
Place the grated cheese and spring onions in a bowl with the swede and potato, add the salt, pepper, flour and thyme, if using, and toss this together and chill.
Roll the pastry out to about ½cm thick and cut out circles using a side plate as a guide.
Mix the mustards and mustard powder together in a small bowl. Lightly coat the centre of each pastry circle with the mustard and brush the edges with water. Place a generous spoonful of filling on one half of the pastry leaving a clean ½cm border.
Fold the pastry over the filling and press the edges together gently to seal. Crimp as you like. Repeat with the remaining pasties then place on a greaseproof lined baking tray.
Chill the pasties in the fridge while you heat the oven to 200C then brush them with egg wash and bake them for 45 minutes until the pastry is rich and golden and the filling is piping hot.