Friday, 25 September 2015

Vaguely Excusable Pieday

I admit, I had a different pie planned for today.
Apart from anything else it was an actual pie, as opposed to chicken nuggets and breaded mushrooms*.
This plan was tragically derailed by my traumatic experience last Saturday however.

It should have been a nice day out: we went out to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park then to a particularly good farm shop for lunch**.
All was going well until time came for dessert and I saw, in the cabinet, beside the many-coloured, many-layered fancified figments that made up the rest of the contents, a pecan pie.
Naturally I had to order it.
Dessert, and coffee were delivered to our table and the girls dove into some squelchingly sumptuous looking gateaux*** while I nibbled a forkful of my pie.
And then, disaster.
The pie was not as good as mine.
Understand that there was nothing wrong with it, it was a perfectly good pie, syrupy for my tastes, but an entirely reasonable representative of the Pecan nation and all it stands for****.
It just wasn't as good as my pie.
I was sitting, in a restaurant, thinking that the food I had been served was inferior to my own.
I had been suddenly and irrevocably confronted with the inevitable truth.
I am officially old.

So naturally after all that I had no choice but to abandon any plans to make a proper pie and to instead create something unhealthy, impractical and barely deserving of the word pie.

We made chicken nuggets.

We also made breaded mushroom things, because some of us don't eat meat


Enough chicken breast, mushrooms, lumps of quorn or whatever-the-hell-else you plan on cooking to go round
Milk, yoghurt or buttermilk (enough to cover the things-to-be-breaded when placed in a bowl)
Rice Crispies, or Ritz crackers, or Panko breadcrumbs, or something that'll work as a coating*****
Hard cheeses of your choice, or that soya-flour cheese flavoured stuff, or nothing at all
Marinade ingredients of your choice******
Cooking oil.

First chop your breadable-things into pieces and dump in a bowl.
Add the marinade ingredients and then enough milk, buttermilk or yoghurt******* to cover everything, place in the fridge then go away to watch cartoons and mourn the death of your youth.
But make them horror cartoons, because there has to be some point to being a grown up.
Wonder if you made good choices in your life.

Realise there is another upside to adulthood when alerted to it by the presence of the bright eyed and bushy tailed Chefs Small and Smaller, the one wielding a bag full of library books and the other asking whether it is time to cook the chicken yet.
Drag the kids to the library.

When you have spent a full day chasing after your manic offspring and are starting to reassess that whole "upside" thing, take out and drain your bowl full of lumps.

Put some cornflour into a sandwich bag ********.
Beat the egg in a bowl or mug.
Grate a couple of table spoons of the hard cheese, or sprinkle out about half a teaspoon of that weird cheese flavoured stuff.
Crush whatever you're going to use as a coating and mix it with the cheese or fake cheese powder on a large plate.
If you're trying to crush Panko give up: they are pre-crushed.
Set out a production line: cornflour, egg, plate of crumbly stuff and either a plate or an oiled baking tray at the end, depending on whether you intend to fry or bake your resulting nuggety thingummies.
Pre-heat the oven if you're planning on baking them.

Drop one of your whatever-lumps into the cornflour bag, twist the top to seal it tightly and award to whichever chef has been least obnoxious recently.
Allow said chef to cha-cha round the kitchen shaking the bag like a maraca until the blob is thoroughly coated.
Drop the blob into the egg, fish it out again, dump it on the plate and roll it about till lightly coated, then transfer to the receiving plate or tray.
Do exactly the same thing with all the other lumps.
When you get sick of doing it properly start just throwing in batches: they'll all get somewhat coated and that's all that really matters.
Observe that Small Chef's fingers are now rather more heavily breaded than the mushrooms.
Send Small Chef to wash her hands.
Quickly finish most of the lumps leaving just a couple for Small Chef to do, so she won't notice.
Apologise for finishing off most of the lumps.
And for doubting her powers of observation.

Put lumps of mushroom on the tray in the oven at whatever heat you like: they're mushroom, they won't care.
For chicken blobs you should probably be more careful so settle for around 200 celsius, for fifteen to twenty minutes, flipping them over at least once and poking them before you take them out to see if they're pink in the middle (they shouldn't be...I think).
Or just give up any pretence of healthiness and fry the beggars.

Tip for vegetarians: if making chicken nuggets get a meat eater to handle the breading and cooking.
That way you don't have to explain why Mummy is handling the chicken pieces with extra long cooking chopsticks while holding her breath and pretending to smile.
You also get to listen to Smaller Chef pretending to pay attention to a lecture on food safety.
And you don't have to keep poking the cooking nuggets to see if they're cooked when, honestly, you have no idea what properly cooked chicken should look like.

Serve with coleslaw, a variety of dipping sauces and either chips or sweet potato chips.

Save the left overs to eat cold the next day.
Because you're a grown-up and can do things like that.

*Crust, filling, pie.
Get over it.

**Blacker Hall Farm, their vegetarian platter thingy is rather good.

***Eleanor's was a mocha-cake, with coffee beans on top.
This may have been a mistake on our part.

****I probably shouldn't blog while Avatar is on.

*****Honestly, use crushed Doritos for all I care.

******We went with black garlic, lemon and thyme, but you could use garlic, ginger and cumin (in which case, skip the cheese) or something of your own devising.

*******You know, you could probably use something completely non-dairy-related here, if you wanted.

********If you don't have one, do this bit in a bowl, but expect clouds of cornflour to go everywhere.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Apricot Pieday

I make no apologies for the lack of a pastry recipe with this tart pie.
This is probably unconscionably rude of me, but this recipe comes in the middle of a number of pies-with-pastry-recipe and at some point I was bound to get sick of describing the whole butter plus flour equals breadcrumbs process.
Anyway we didn't make pastry for this one, because I wanted to focus on learning a couple of new techniques, we bought a pre-made pie-case instead*

We made an Apricot Tart


One pre-made pie case***
A couple of punnets of apricots, or decent tinned ones if apricots are out of season and horrible***** like they are by now.
100g caster sugar.
Four egg yolks******
500ml milk
40g cornflour
40g butter
A dash of kirsch*******
Apricot jam
Icing sugar.

Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour.
Put the milk into a pan, on the stove, turn on the heat and add the vanilla in whatever form you have it.********
Once the milk is just boiling take it off the heat and pour a little into the egg and sugar goop.
Deal summarily with any argument as to who goes first via the ancient rite of Ip Dip Dip and award a whisk to the winner.
Watch the victorious Smaller Chef wreaking havoc upon an innocent bowl of mixed sucrose and dairy products.
End this carnage by taking back the whisk, pouring the results back into the milk and letting Small Chef have at it.
Be very, very glad things did not fall out otherwise.
Pour the resulting mess into a large bowl and stir in the butter.
Leave to cool.
Once cool attempt to place in the fridge until needed.
Wish you had used a smaller bowl.

Attempt to explain the difference between crème pâtissière and custard.
Recognise that nobody is listening and move on.

To skin the apricots, cut a small cross in the bottom of each then place them in a bowl of boiling water for a few minutes.
Remove an apricot plunging it immediately into icy water.
In theory this will loosen the skin, allowing you to peel it away with ease.
Note that theory and reality do not always match.
Try not to look troubled by the way some of the slippery little beggars try to cling to their skins.
If Small Chef wants to know whether this method would also work on Smaller Chef you may permit yourself to look troubled.
Explain to Smaller Chef that no-one will be plunging her into boiling water today.
Wonder why she isn't concerned about the parts involving Very Sharp Knives.
Halve each of the skinned apricots.

Take the crème pâtissière out of the fridge and stir in a teaspoon or two of kirsch.
Pour this mixture into the pastry case, smooth it out and arrange your halved apricots on top.

Warm three tablespoons of the jam and one of kirsch in a pan on the stove until runny.
Brush the resulting glaze all over the tart.

Take a moment to bask in the glossy beauty of your creation.

Contemplate the effect of a light dusting of icing sugar over the top of that gleaming, amber surface.
Contemplate the effect of two children with a tea-strainer full of icing sugar on your relatively gleaming kitchen.
Put the icing sugar away.

Chill the apricot tart until wanted.
Serve in reasonable slices, noting that there is enough left for a civilised afternoon tea with friends, the next day.

Put Chefs Small and Smaller to bed.

Consign friends to perdition and eat the lot.

*But it was a really good one.**

**I know.
That doesn't make it any better, honestly.

***Or slave over proper pate sucre, see if I care.****

****I care.
Dear gods I care.

*****But to be honest, in that case, you might as well just make something else.

******I see a lot of meringue in your future if you keep following these recipes.
Or egg white omelettes.
Those are supposed to be healthy for some reason.

*******At some point we will make a cherry pie.
This will provide me with an abundance of cherry stones with which to make kirsch.
In the meantime I settled for buying it online.

*******A pod or two worth of seeds would be lovely, but a splash of decent vanilla essence will suffice.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Dimly Remembered Pieday

This is not the pie we made today.
It is not the pie we made last week.
It is not even the pie we made a month ago.
It is, however, the pie we made the week that we went on an unintentional hiatus due to my not knowing how to write up this year's trip to Circus Camp and then getting into a rut.

Fortunately, some things stick in the memory.
This is one of them.

This particular pie is called a flamiche* and according to Wikipedia it is much like a quiche, but made with a puff pastry, or brioche-style shell and a base of low fat cheese.
Not one of the flamiche recipes that I have found so far contains either a puff pastry or brioche shell or a low fat cheese base.
A little research has brought me to the conclusion that flamiche differs from quiche in two specific ways.
Firstly, it is called flamiche.
Secondly, unlike quiche which frequently features beside salads in the Lighter Options section of the menu, there is no way flamiche could ever pretend to be healthy.

We made a flamiche.


250g plain flour
150g butter (chilled) plus extra for greasing things (but honestly, just use the wrapper)
Six egg yolks.
One whole egg
400g leeks.
300ml double cream
150g camembert (or brie, or other oozy cheese that tastes good when heated)
Nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Put the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt and stir it .
Quickly grate in 125g of the butter******* and rub the resulting sticky yellow worms into the flour till it looks like a mass of breadcrumbs.
Dump in two egg yolks.
Mix the egg yolks into the flour mixture with your hands.
Observe that, while perfectly happy to finger-paint, sculpt with clay, dig in the flowerbeds and digitally explore all manner of messes, neither Small nor Smaller Chef is inclined to put their fingers in the egg yolk.
Demonstrate your skills in oration to persuade chefs Small and Smaller to poke the damn egg before the mixture grows warm.
While they are washing their hands, use yours to finish mixing the egg yolks into the flour and butter mixture, adding cold water, a spoonful at a time until you can achieve a smooth mixture that doesn't cling too much to the sides of the bowl.

If your pastry is damp you overdid the water.

Roll the pastry into a ball, squash into a disc, wrap in cling film and put it into the fridge.
When the inestimable chefs return from their ablutions and realise that they have missed the opportunity to become even messier, explain that this is what happens when you become suddenly squeamish.
Endure their protestations and increasingly elaborate list of Things We Would Happily Prod all the way to the library and back.

After lunch, or three hours after you put the pastry disc in the fridge (whichever is longer) turn the oven on to a moderate pie-cooking temperature (we generally go with 200c).

Take out the pastry and roll it to fit your pie dish (or quiche tin actually).
Place neatly in the dish, adjust it until it is actually in the dish and not hanging over the edge, frantically patch the pieces that tore when you moved it and prick all over with a fork.
Realise that you forgot to grease the pie tin, consider any occasions on which you may have left previous******** such tins ungreased, dump out the pastry, grease the tin and somehow get the pastry back into the tin again.
 Fill this pie-shell with baking parchment and baking beans.
If you do not have baking parchment and baking beans, an old, slightly smaller, quiche tin filled with rice works remarkably well.
Place in the oven for ten minutes.

While it cooks, clean the leeks and slice into rounds.
Prevent Smallest Chef from wearing these on her fingers.
While Smallest Chef washes her hands, throw the now less-than-clean rings of leek into the bin, wash your own hands again and place the remaining butter in a pan over a low heat.

At some point during this nonsense the ten minutes will be up.
Remove the pie-shell from the oven, take out whatever weight you used and place the now unburdened shell back into the oven for another five minutes.
After this, take out the shell and set aside, turning the oven down a little (180c works for us, but we have a fan oven).
Cook the leeks in the butter till they are soft and glossy.

Beat the cream and remaining egg yolks vigorously with a little salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Remove whisk from the hands of Smallest Chef.
Wash egg splashes from the hair of Small Chef.
Explain that cold water is best for this as hot water may cook the egg on the hair.
Discuss the temperature required to cook an egg.
Agree that washing the egg out with hot water would be an interesting and potentially useful experiment.
Decide to do it another day.

Cut two opposing sides off the camembert or brie and set aside.
Explain that neither chef should eat them as the rind is made of mould so, in the end, they would just be eating sliced mould.
Discover that Small Chef now really wants to find out what it is like to eat mould.
Smallest Chef was not listening and, as such, simply wants to eat them anyway.
Accept that you are fooling nobody.
Place these extraneous slices of cheese on a plate, on the highest shelf of the fridge.
Now slice the rest of the camembert-or-whatever into creamy lengths ringed with delicious mould.

Spread the squidgy leek-rings across the base of the pie-case, pour over the cream and egg mixture, and lay the sliced cheese across the top.

Return the whole thing to the oven for half an hour till it is just set in the middle and not yet burned outside.

Serve with salad********* and a health warning.

*From Flemish, apparently.
It's a Flemish pie**.

**Or possibly a pie that looks Flemish, or that someone thought was Flemish, or that someone just decided would sell better if they called it Flemish.
There are a lot of those around, like Danish pastries***, French**** silk pie***** and, of course Hamburgers******.
Flamiche is apparently a Walloon speciality.
Whether it was originally Flemish, or they just liked the name I have no idea.

*** The Danes call them Vienna Bread.


*****Coming soon.

******Also American.

*******It helps if you have cut a line into the butter at roughly the point where you will need to stop grating.
This can make a wonderful opportunity for a maths lesson: weighing the butter, then working out what proportion of the 150g will give you the 125g you need here.
Or you can just estimate it.
Estimation is maths too, right?

********And I'm just thinking out loud here, but something with peppery leaves, asparagus tips*********, maybe some halved, sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes would be wonderful.
You could add boiled new potatoes too, or go completely insane and parboil the new potatoes then cut them almost all the way through into slices and roast them in olive oil before sprinkling with salt to make Hasselback potatoes.
I gave you an extra recipe.
And, if you do eat all that at once, possibly a heart attack.

**********They were in season when we made this.
They really were.