Cook’s Perks

One of the good things about being the cook is that you get access to the best bits.

I was making a savoury pie, using shop bought puff pastry, and had some left over. I hate food waste, so rather than throw it out, I dusted it with some brown sugar and cinnamon to make a version of bite sized Danishes. I also sprinkled with sesame seeds just to be fancy, but they’re without these.

With only 3 ingredients these are delicious little perks of being the cook.

Ingredients

Ready made puff pastry

Brown sugar

Cinnamon

Method

I had a 5-6 centimetre wide piece of puff pastry. Dust with brown sugar and cinnamon and roll up in a coil.

Cut into 1-2cm slices, place on a baking sheet (sprinkle with sesame seeds if you want to), and bake for 15 minutes at 200 degrees (Celsius) until gold brown.

Chocolate Chip and Walnut Pie

Any type of chocolate dessert is normally a winner. This pie is similar to a Kentucky Derby pie, I have left out the bourbon, and reduced the sugar because I found the original version overly sweet. The finished result is still rich and delicious and feels really indulgent.

This is divine served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. If you’re short on time you can use shop bought pastry or even a pre-made pastry case.

Serves 8

(For the pastry case)

125 Grams Butter

200 Grams Plain flour

2 Tbsp Sugar

Pinch of salt

Cold water

For the filling

125 Grams Butter (melted, and allowed to cool)

125 ml Golden syrup

4 Eggs

200 Grams Brown sugar

50 Grams Plain flour

150 Grams Walnuts (roughly chopped)

125 Grams Dark chocolate (roughly chopped) or chocolate chips

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

Method

  1. For the pastry, add the butter, sugar and salt and flour to a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs, (you can use the old fashioned rubbing in method if you don’t have a food processor). Gradually add cold water until the mix comes together as a dough. Form into a ball and wrap in cling film and then chill in the fridge for 30 mins
  2. Grease a 12 inch pie dish/tin, ideally one with removable base. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface or between two pieces of parchment paper until 1/2 cm thick (you can check the size by placing your tin the centre of the pastry and checking there is enough room to cover the depth of your tin)
  3. Carefully transfer the pastry to the pie dish and gently ease the pastry into the edges, place in the fridge and chill for another 30 mins. Trim any excess pastry that hangs over the edge of your pastry case
  4. Preheat your oven to 180 degree (Celsius), place a sheet of baking parchment in the prepared party case and add baking beans (I use old uncooked rice, rather than buying the fancy clay baking beans), Blind bake for 20 minutes and then remove the baking parchment and baking beans
  5. For the filling mix, whisk the melted butter (make sure its cool), eggs and add the sugar, vanilla extract and golden syrup and whisk until it lightens in colour and increases in volume (the sugar should have dissolved)
  6. Whisk in the flour, ensuring there are no lumps, and then fold in the chocolate and walnuts with a spatula
  7. Pour the filling mix into the pastry case and bake at 180 degrees for 45 minutes, until the centre of the pie is just starting to set (it will continue to cook as it cools)
  8. Cool for a couple of hours before serving with whipped cream or ice cream

Lemon Bars

I love any form of lemon dessert and these are the ideal tea time treat. There’s a rich buttery shortbread base and a zingy lemon topping.

OMG I love these so much, I have to distribute these among friends and family or else I could easily eat these entirely by myself. If you have better self discipline than I do, these will keep in an airtight box for 2-3 days.

Use a food processor if you have one to make them even easier to make. There’s no need to roll out the shortbread base, just press it into the dish.

Makes 18

Ingredients

For the base

120 Grams Butter

130 Grams Plain flour

30 Grams Icing sugar

For the topping

Juice and finely grated zest of 3 lemons

190 Grams Sugar

3 Eggs

65 Grams Plain flour

Extra icing sugar for dusting the finished bars

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius) and line a 9 in x 12 in baking tin with parchment paper
  2. To make the base, add the flour, butter, and sugar to a food processor and pulse until it looks like breaks crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor you can use the rubbing in method to combine the butter and flour
  3. Transfer the crumb mix to the baking sheet and press it down. Put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until light golden brown
  4. Allow the base to cool slightly before making the topping
  5. Using your food processor again, add all the topping ingredients to the bowl and whizz until light and fluffy
  6. Pour the topping on top of the cooled base and bake for 25 minutes (or until the centre doesn’t jiggle
  7. Allow to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar and cutting into bars

Feta and Vegetable Slice

Vegetarian main courses can be a bit Meh.  This yummy mix of vegetables, lentils and creamy feta cheese wrapped up in delicious flaky pastry makes great quick weeknight dinner and packed with protein.

You can change up the vegetables you use depending on what you have (it’s a good way to use up left over veggies).  You can also used canned lentils, and I always use shop bought flaky pastry (because who really ever makes it from scratch).  You can also make the filling the day before, so all you have to do is assemble and bake if you’re short on time.

I made one large pastry parcel that can sliced up, but you could also make 4 individual ones if you prefer.

Ingredients

1 Sheet of shop bought puff pastry (pre-rolled)

1 Tbsp Olive oil

2 Leeks (sliced)

2 Peppers (sliced)

150 Grams Cooked green lentils

150 Grams Mushrooms (sliced)

200 Grams Feta cheese

1 Tsp Dried Thyme

2-3 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

Salt and pepper

1 Beaten Egg (for brushing)

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the vegetables over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely, stir in the cooked lentils and feta cheese
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  4. Place your pastry on a sheet of baking parchment. Leaving a border of 2cm, place the vegetable mix on on half of the pastry sheet. I use a slotted spoon to drain off any excess liquid from the vegetable mix
  5. Lightly brush the edges of pastry with beaten egg and fold the pastry over to cover the filling. Press the edges of the pastry together with a fork (or you can crimp it if you’re feeling fancy)
  6. Brush the pastry with some beaten egg, if you want to make things look pretty you can lightly run a knife across the pastry in a criss Cross pattern (be careful not to go too deep and pierce the pastry)
  7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown

Beignets (New Orleans style donuts)

Mardi gras didn’t really happen this year, but this time of year reminds me of New Orleans.

I was talking to a friend last week about places we had really enjoyed visiting and the food that reminded us of them and it sparked a memory of New Orleans.

About a million years ago when I was a student I worked in a US Summer camp and went travelling afterwards. I ended up in New Orleans and everyone recommended I try a visit to Cafe du Mond in the French Quarter. Their signature dish is a little plate of 3 beignets (little oblong donuts, doused in icing sugar) and a cafe au lait. The place is an institution and recalling it had me craving them. I had my very own Marcel Proust moment eating these, it was amazing (Rememberance of Things Past, is quite a dull book but is famous for a passage about how food triggers memories)

This is probably best made at the weekend due to the amount of time you need to prove the dough, but other than that the beignets are pretty simple to make.

I used evaporated milk because I think it makes a richer dough, but ordinary milk is fine if you don’t have it.

N.B. When deep frying, cook at a medium heat. They will brown very quickly because of the sugar in the dough, the first few I made had raw dough in the middle which was disgusting. I cooked the rest at a lower heat and they were fine.

Ingredients

430 Grams Flour, I used strong bread flour, but plain flour is fine

125 ml Evaporated milk (ordinary milk is also fine)

175 ml Warm water (about skin temperature, not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast)

1/2 Tsp Dried yeast

50 Grams Sugar

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Egg (beaten)

30 Grams Butter (melted, and allowed to cool a little)

Icing sugar for dusting

Vegetable oil for frying

Method

  1. In a large bowl, add half the water, a teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast and stir, leave in a warm room (I use an airing cupboard because there are drafts) for 15 mins. The mix start to form a froth on top.
  2. Mix in the rest of the water, sugar, salt, milk and the egg and mix well
  3. Stir in half the flour, and then add the melted butter and remaining flour and mix well. The douch will be pretty sticky so transfer to a greased bowl and cover with cling film and keep in a fridge over night or at least 3 hours
  4. After dough has proved in the fridge its time to roll out. I’ve tried flouring the surface and rolling pin and found it stuck really badly. So the next batch I tried using a thin layer of oil on the surface and rolling and for me it worked better (I know some people prefer using a floured surface so work with what works for you
  5. Roll the dough in to an oblong and trim the edges. I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 18 oblongs (you can use a knife, but I found this worked well
  6. Heat your oil, until its warm enough that a cube of bread will sizzle when you drop it in. Cook the beignets in small batches, turning after a minute or two. You really need to pay attention to these as the colour very quickly. As I said early don’t let your oil get too hot or you’ll end up with raw dough in the middle
  7. Drain the cooked beignets on kitchen paper as soon as you take them out of the oil and then sprinkle liberally with icing sugar for a proper taste of New Orelans

Pear and Almond Tart

Some ingredients are just made to go together and pears and almonds are two of the them. 

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with pears.  When they are perfect they’re hard to beat.  The only issue is that they are like granite and inedible, and then turn to mush within about 20 minutes.  They are the ultimate passive aggressive fruit!

Frangipane filling

This recipe is great for using pears that are too hard to eat if you can’t be bothered with the game of chicken involved in waiting for pears to ripen.

This is a pretty rich recipe, but isn’t meant to be eaten every day and looks really impressive if you’re cooking for friends. 

It’s important to blind bake the pastry case first

You can make the pastry case and the frangipane filling in advance, which means you can have more time with your guests. You could even use shop bought pastry if you don’t have time (home made is better though). This is really good on it’s own but a little fresh cream or ice cream also doesn’t hurt if you want to be properly indulgent.

Yummy with ice cream

Ingredients

For the pastry case

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter (chilled and cut into small cubes)

1 Tbsp Caster sugar

1 Egg yolk

For the frangipane filling

115 Grams Butter (at room temperature)

115 Grams Caster sugar

115 Grams Ground almonds

1 Tsp Vanilla extract (optional)

2 Eggs

2 Large pears

Method

  1. In a food processor add the flour, sugar, and butter. Whizz until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs (you can run the butter and flour in together by hand if you prefer)
  2. Add the egg yolk and a small amount of cold water and whizz again until the mix starts to come together. Start to press the mix together to form a dough, adding a small amount of cold water if necessary. Form into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  3. Grease a 9in x 9 in loose bottemed flan tin. When the pastry has chilled, place on a floured surface, and roll out in a circle approximately 1/2 cm thick.
  4. Lay into you prepare flan tin making sure that it’s pressed into the edges. Place a sheet of baking paper on top and baking beans (I use old dried rice) to weigh down the pastry and blind bake in an oven pre heated to 180 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes before taking the case out if the oven, carefully lift the the baking paper by the 4 corners taking care not to spill any of the baking beans/rice onto the pastry case.
  5. Return the pastry case to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes before removing from the oven and allowing to cool
  6. To make the filling, add the butter and sugar to a bowl and mix with an electric whisk until light and creamy. Add the vanilla, almonds and eggs and beat in until combined
  7. Peel, core and quarter the pears, before cutting into slices about 1cm thick
  8. Spread the almond mixture into the pastry case. Arrange quarter of the pear so the narrow part is towards the centre of the tin and wider part is towards the outside work as quickly as you can to prevent the pear discolouring
  9. Once you have arranged the pears, return the flan tin to 180 degree oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the centre is just starting to set (it will continue to cook as it cools). Allow to cool in the tin for another 15 minutes before attempting to cut.

Cheesy Mushroom Galette

Cheesy, mushroomy deliciousness

I think we’ve established I love a galette. What’s better than a galette, a galette with my two other great loves cheese and mushrooms.

This is definately a pure filth recipe, yes it’s rich but it’s not the type of thing you’re going to make every day.

Don’t be tempted to fry too many mushrooms at once, and don’t move them about too much

When cooking for vegetarians I often feel bad that the main course can look a bit lacklustre. This looks good when you bring it to the table and tastes amazing.

Cover the top of your cheese sauce with cling film so it does not form a skin

If you are making this, it’s really important that the filling is totally cold before you assemble the galette (otherwise you’ll end up with pastry that will melt and be impossible to handle).

Add the cold cheese sauce and mushrooms to the centre of the pastry, leaving a 3-4 cm border

The good thing is that if you are making this for a special occasion you can prepare all the elements in advance and assemble the elements just before baking.

Brush the pastry with egg yolk, and sprinkle grated cheese over the mushrooms

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter

1 Egg yolk

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)

Additional egg yolk to brush the galette with before baking

For the filling

500 Grams Mushrooms (sliced)

25 Grams Butter

1 Tbsp Olive oil

Salt and pepper

25 Grams Grated cheese

Cheese Sauce

25 Grams Butter

25 Grams Plain flour

250ml Milk

25 Grams Grated cheese (I used Cheddar but you can use other cheeses)

Method

  1. To make the pastry, and the flour, butter, salt, egg yolk and Cayenne to a food processor and whizz until the mix resembles breadcrumbs
  2. Gradually add some small amounts of very cold water until the mix starts to come together
  3. Turn the mix onto a floured surface and form into a ball before wrapping in cling film and chilling for at least 30 minutes
  4. For the cheese filling, melt the butter over an even heat and stir in the flour to create a soft paste
  5. Add the milk and stir continuously until the paste in combined and the sauce starts to thicken.
  6. Cook over a low heat stirring regularly for another 10 minutes until the sauce no longer tastes floury. Stir in the cheese, once it has melted remove from the heat and place a sheet of cling film on the surface to stop a skin forming
  7. In a large frying pan’ heat the oil and butter together, and half the mushrooms (if you add all the mushrooms in one go they steam not fry). One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a chef is not to stir mushrooms too often, as it makes them release water which makes them soggy. So fry for 5 minutes each side without stirring too much, set to one side and allow to cool
  8. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface in a circle that is about 1cm thick. Transfer to a sheet of baking paper and place on a baking sheet
  9. Spread the thick cheese sauce in the centre of the pastry leaving a 3-4cm border around the edge of the pastry
  10. Place the fried mushrooms on top of the cheese sauce. Brush edges of the pastry with the remaining egg yolk and pleating the edges inward
  11. Brush the outside of the galette with egg yolk and sprinkle grated cheese over the top of the mushrooms
  12. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown

Blueberry Galette

I love a galette, mainly because you don’t need to be a super talented baker. Galettes are open free form pies, so you don’t have to be a whiz with pastry to make something great.

I make different versions of these, both savoury and sweet and usually try to use seasonal fillings. They are really versatile, and if you’re organised you can make a double batch of pastry and freeze it for the next time you bake. You can of course use shop bought pastry if you’re short on time, but home made pastry will taste better. I’ve included some sugar in the pastry but if you want to make a savoury galette just leave it out.

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter

2 Egg yolks (1 yolk goes into the pastry, and the second yolk is for brushing the pastry with)

1 Tbsp Caster sugar

Zest of one lemon (optional)

For the filling

400 Grams Blueberries

1 Tbsp Cornflour

1 Tbsp Caster sugar (reduce or increase depending on the sweetness of your fruit)

Method

  1. In a food processor add the ingredients and pulse until resembles breadcrumbs (you can use the rubbing in method if you prefer)
  2. Very gradually add cold water until it starts to come together. Turn onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
  3. After your pastry has chilled, remove from the fridge and allow it to come back to close to room temperature (it will be too difficult to roll out otherwise)
  4. Pre-heat your oven 180 degrees. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment
  5. On a floured surface, roll out your pastry to make a circle about 1.5cm thick. Transfer your pastry to the parchment (if you’re not especially confident with pastry, just put your ball of dough on the parchment at the start and roll it out (means you don’t have to transfer it)
  6. In a bowl add your fruit, corn flour and sugar and combine
  7. Place the fruit in the middle of the pastry, leaving a border of about 5-6cm around the edge of the pastry
  8. Brush the border with beaten egg yolk, start to pleat the pastry border together to bring the border towards the centre. Brush the pastry crust with the remaining egg yolks
  9. Bake the galette for 40-45 minutes until golden brown, allow to cool a little before dusting liberally with icing sugar. I love this served ice cream, or whipped cream

Corned Beef, Potato and Onion Pie

Simple and delicious dinner.

I first had this as a teenager when a school friend’s Mum made this one night when I was at their house. It was a taste revelation to me. Up until then I had only had corned beef (chipped beef in the US) in sandwiches.

I had the idea to make this when looking in a cupboard I found the strange shaped tin with the stupid little key and strange opening mechanism. Honestly, after all these years, why does corned beef have to be stored in these weird shaped tins. And don’t even start me about the stupid key thing you need to open it, that you cut yourself on every single time. I mean it, if anyone knows why this still happens please tell me.

Cheap and simple ingredients make a really delicious filling

Anyway, rant over. You can make this with ready made pasty if you want this to be super quick. I have included details for anyone who prefers to make their own pastry. It’s a good way to use up left over potatoes, and makes an easy inexpensive meal.

Use a loose bottom pie tin to make it easier to remove the pie.

Ingredients

For the pastry

225 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter (cut into cubes)

Cold water

For the filling

300 Grams Potatoes (cooked)

1 Onion (finely sliced)

340 Gram Tin of corned beef

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. My hand are always really warm, so I’m not best suited to make pastry, this is part of the reason I add the flour and butter to a food processor and pulse until I get a mix that looks like bread crumbs (you can also use the traditional rubbing in method, but generally I’m too lazy for this).
  2. When your mix looks like breadcrumbs, start by adding a little cold water at a time until the mix comes together to form a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins. If you’re stuck for time or just can’t be bothered, it’s totally fine to use shop bought pastry
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and put a baking sheet in the oven to heat. Grease a 9 inch loose base cake/pie tin and set to one side, ready for your pastry
  4. Remove your pastry from the fridge and let it sit for 5-10 minutes so it isn’t too stiff to roll out. While you wait on this, chop your onion finely, and cube your cooked potatoes (which should be cold), after you have wrestled your corned beef out of the tin and tried really hard not to scream f*ck at it, you should cube this as well
  5. Mix the potatoes, corned beef, and onion together and season with salt and pepper
  6. Put the pastry on a floured surface and cut approx 1/3 off and set to one side (this will be the lid for your pie)
  7. Roll the remaining pastry out as thinly as possible, and make sure it’s big enough to fit your pie tin. Line the tin with the pastry, making sure that you have pushed into the edges
  8. Put your corned beef mix into the lined pie dish, and then roll out the remaining pastry to form a lid. brush the edges of the pastry lining the tin with beaten egg and then place the lid on top. I press down the edged with a fork to make sure it’s sealed
  9. Brush the pie with some more beaten egg (it will help it look pretty when it’s cooked) and add a couple holes to allow steam to escape. Place the completed pie on top of the baking sheet that has been heating in the oven (this help ensure the base if cooked).
  10. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is a deep golden brown

Goat’s Cheese and Roast Vegetable Galette

The last couple of months have been cold, wet and sh*tty. I needed something that reminded me of sunshine, so I made this. It’s relatively easy to make, and looks impressive when you bring it to the table if you’re cooking for people.

If you’re super organised you can use this recipe to use up leftover roast vegetables. I made my own pasty, but as always you can use shop bought if you’re short on time.

Alot of people aren’t fans of goat’s cheese. If you’re one of them, you can swap it for another soft cheese like brie or camembert.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 Grams Plain flour

1/4 Tsp Salt

100 Grams Butter

1 Egg yolk

Cold water

(Plus 1 Egg to brush the pastry with)

Sesame or onion seeds (optional)

Filling

1 Onion (cut into 8)

1 Red pepper (cut into 8)

1 Aubergine (cut into 2-3 cm cubes)

125 Grams Soft goat’s cheese

200 Grams Cherry tomatoes still on the vine

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tsp Dried oregano or thyme

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prepare the vegetables, and place them in a flat oven proof dish. Drizzle with oil and bake in an oven for 30-40 minutes until starting to chat at the edges a little. Allow to cool before using.
  2. In a food processor, add the flour and butter and pulse until this looks like breadcrumbs (the rubbing in method if you prefer).
  3. Add the yolk, and gradually add the cold water, mixing until the dough comes together in a ball. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  4. After chilling, allow the pastry to come to room temperature. Roll the pastry out in as neat a circle as possible, place on a sheet of baking parchment, and then lay on a baking sheet
  5. Break up the goat’s cheese and sprinkle across the centre of the pastry, leaving an edge of 3-4cm around the pastry
  6. Top the goat’s cheese with roast vegetables (having squeezed out any liquid). Top with the vine tomatoes
  7. Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg. Gently fold in the edges of the pastry and pleat the pastry to create a crust for the galette
  8. Brush the exposed pastry with beaten egg, and sprinkle the pastry with sesame or onion seeds for some extra colour and flavour.
  9. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve with salad