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PERFECT PIES!

16 Aug

Just a friendly reminder to MAKE AND EAT PIES! In my book, there is no more satisfying a food experience when you are cold, hungover, starved, sad or celebrating.

Here are a couple I’ve made lately to inspire you and get those salivary glands going…

Apple and Cranberry Pie

Christmas Turkey Pot Pie.

After dinner I asked my niece (3 at the time) what type of pie she loves best, “Love Heart Pie”, she answered. Don’t we all!

Or check out the Lamb, Onion and Stout Pie recipe I submitted for a competition ages ago. It didn’t win, but it won me a husband!!

Aussie Icon

Aussie Icon

Personally, I love all sorts of pies. Lattice top pies, bottomless pies, pot pies, party pies. But my favourite is a real, proper pie – pastry on the bottom, pastry on the top, hot, steamy salty or sweet filling.

PIES! Make one today. Your friends, family and belly will thank-you.

In my book, the perfect pie is actually not perfect at all, at least not aesthetically! I like homemade pies that have gravy goo oozing out the edges or sticky fruit leaking through slits in the top. Wonky edges and extra crispy bits are perfect. As long as the pastry is cooked through and the filling is made from good stuff, you can’t go wrong! No Martha Stewart style perfection pies for me please. I guess in a pie I’m looking for unpretentious perfection… If that makes sense?

Or if you want to try a truly weird food experience, form my hometown of Adelaide, try a pie-floater! A hot meat pie, floating in pea soup, with lots of tomato sauce. If you’re lucky you’ll get a spoonful of mash on top. Sounds ridiculous? Tastes amazing. Promise. Try it! Next time you make pea and ham soup get a pie from the shop, plop it in a shallow bowl of soup, tomato sauce on top. Promise you’ll love it, you just have to embrace it.

Here are some leftovers pies ideas…

Chop up leftover roast meat, veggies and gravy.

Use a tin of cream of mushroom soup with leftover roast chook or christmas turkey.

Homemade baked beans make yummy pies, add a bit of cheese!

Mix leftover steamed/stir-fried vegies with some satay sauce and make little satay veggie pies.

Stewed fruit of course – my favourites are apple and cherry, apple and pineapple, apricot made from rehydrated turkish dried apricots (put some booze in this one)!

Put your leftover curry in a pie!

TIPS FOR A PERFECT PIE! (Pie pros will already know these probably, but they are tips that helped me learn to make good pies)!

Whether you are using store bought pastry or home made, it is important to blind bake your base first! I find the best way is to cover the base with baking paper.

Always brush your pastry top with egg-wash or something to make it shiny.

Here are some toppings I’ve tried:

* Fig Jam – looks pretty with the little fig seeds
* Cardamom sugar – mix a pinch of cardamom into some Demerara sugar
* Coloured sugar – you can buy it from the grocery store – kids love this!
* Lavendar sugar, thyme sugar, rosemary sugar – these are all herbs that taste lovely with sweet fillings

Crust ideas:

* Cheddar crust is amazing! Just add cheese to your pastry dough for savoury or sweet pies. So delicious!
* Herb crust – load your pastry with herbs for extra flavour
* Pepper crust – instead of making a peppery stew for a filling, add lots of pepper to the pastry
* Of course cut out shapes for the top! Scour the op-shops and kitchen stores for unusual cookie cutters, some of the ones I have found are a cute rabbit for rabbit pies, christmas themed for leftover Christmas pies, flowers for a girly strawberry pie. Be creative with shapes – cut out a fish for the top of a fish pie
* Instead of one large sheet cut to fit your pie tin, cut the pastry into lots of rounds, or use a cutter to make lots of pieces and layer them in a pattern of concentric circles on top. You can see the filling through little gaps and it just looks, well… different and kind of cute. Here is an example – this blogger has done a superb job, geez that looks like a tasty pie! Herb Crusted Peach and Cardamom Pie
* Cut out little shapes to make a border around the outside edge of your pie top.
* Cut shapes out of your top sheet instead of layering extra pastry cut outs on top.

The Perfect Pie…

* An old fashioned black bird is ideal for saucy fillings – cut a whole in the centre. He is designed to let steam out to help your pastry lid cook. Cute and retro, but very purposeful! Most kitchen shops should have them
* Make sure your pie filling is plenty moist – nobody likes a dry pie! Ask your green grocer about the best fruits for pies if you are not sure. You want fruit that holds its shape somewhat, but isn’t dry or too watery when cooked. Sometimes a combination of fruits is best to get the right balance. Pectin in fruit is what makes it go nice and sticky. For example, if you have a lot of berries (low pectin), mix it with something higher pectin (like an apple, plums or quinces).
Nobody likes a soggy-bottom pie either. If your sauce is too runny, thicken with a little corn starch and water or drain off some of the runny stuff.
* I always prefer to cool the filling before adding it to the pie. So, if you make a pre-cooked stew or other filling mixture, allow it to cool first. This will prevent your pastry from going gooey before it goes into the oven.
* In my opinion, is cooked in glass or ceramic. Not sure why I think this, just have a feeling that pies in metal tins are inferior. I guess ceramic and glass heat slower than metal and so the base doesn’t cook too quickly, leaving time for the filling to cook just right as well. Or maybe it’s just childhood nostalgia? My Dad always made rabbit pie in an oval shaped, dark brown, deep ceramic dish. For me, something with a sloped edge prevents the pastry from ‘slumping’ in the dish.
* Serve it with something! Whether it’s plain old tomato sauce on a meat/veg pie (don’t be a snob, you know you want it), a side of mash and peas or crispy salad, or for sweet pies a dollop of cream, custard or ice-cream is heaven. For something different, or a bit posh, try these out – natural yoghurt sweetened with honey or not sweetened at all, for fruit pies. Raita and chutney with a curry pie. Beetroot relish or chilli tomato jam with savoury pies.

Personally, I think the best list of pie recipes online that I have found belongs to the BBC.

And to my USA followers, you know I want to hear from you… You are a nation of bigger pie nuts than even us Aussies! I’ll never forget my first Cherry Pie a la mode experience when I was fifteen in a New York diner.

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Hot Mango Jam

16 Aug

Last summer I was given two shopping bags full of beautiful, ripe mangoes from a friend’s tree. Lucky us! We ate mangoes for days. It isn’t an Aussie summer without at least a daily session with a ripe, sweet, slightly tangy, juicy mango. You end up with an orange smear around your mouth, fibre stuck in your teeth, sticky hands (and forearms if it’s a super juicy one) and a big smile on your face.

We had so many mangoes I decided to try making a chutney. Seeing they were so ripe and soft, it really turned out like a jam. It is sweet, a little sour, fragrant and spicy! It is not like traditional mango chutney made with under-ripe mangoes, with firm chunks and a sticky consistency. But it is fantastic with curries, grilled meats or even a firm cheddar and crackers!

Here’s what you’ll need…

4 very large mangoes, cut up roughly

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 cups brown vinegar

1 sliced brown onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon grated ginger

2 hot chillies, chopped

5 cardamom pods, crushed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 tablespoon currants (optional)

1/2 tablespoon oil

Here’s what you do…

Note! You will need to have pre-prepared some jars for storage. I used good quality, recycled canning jars with pop-seal lids. If you need help with the process of preparing jars for preserves, click here.

Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Fry the onion, garlic and ginger until golden brown. Add the mustard seeds and stir until they start to pop. Add remaining spices and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring. Add the sugar and vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the mango and stir. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until a thick consistency is reached.

Take off the heat and carefully spoon the mixture into your sterilised jars and screw the lids on while still hot. Allow to cool on the bench and then store in a cool, dark place for at least a week before eating. I made about 3 medium sized jars from this recipe.

I opened the last jar last night, and it is August now. It had developed so nicely and was better than the first and second jars we ate. Be sure to store in the refrigerator after opening.

This is so good with curry. Try my easy Biryani recipe.

Cheats Chicken Biryani

16 Aug

This is a quick mid-week alternative to a proper biryani. Serves 4.

Here’s what you’ll need…

2 brown onions, sliced

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or ghee

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon panch phoran (from your Indian grocer)

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1 chopped tomato

2 cups chicken stock or water

salt

500 grams chicken thigh meat, cut up or whole

2 cups vegetables (your choice)

2 cups basmati rice

Slivered almonds, coriander, chutney/pickles, raita.

Here’s what you do…
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. In a large saucepan (with a tight fitting lid), heat the oil/ghee. Fry one onion, the garlic and ginger until it starts to turn golden brown. Add spices and cook for 2-3 minutes. Put the rice in the boiling water and stir, leave to boil for around 5 minutes. Just after you put the rice on, add chicken, tomato and stock/water and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and stir. Strain the rice (par-cooked), and layer it on top of the curry. Place the lid on the pot and turn the heat to low. Allow to cook for further 10-15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Try not to open the lid and let the steam out too many times! This will increase the cooking time needed! Alternatively, if your saucepan is oven-proof, you can place the whole thing, covered, in the oven at about 180 degrees celsius.

I like to garnish the top with a fried onion (sweet), some toasted slivered almonds (crunchy), a sprinkling of turmeric (pretty) or saffron infused ghee (expensive) and some coriander. But you could add raisins for sweetness, more or other toasted nuts, mint, chopped cucumber and tomato. Anything you fancy!

Serve with a dollop of fresh yoghurt or raita and some pickles and chutneys. We had ours with my Spicy Mango Jam.

This is not an authentic Biryani and my Mum will likely disapprove as her Biryani is highly superior! But it is ready in 30 minutes and can be made with pretty much any curry. Only two pots and a chopping board to wash up and you’ll have yummy leftovers for lunch.

two4six8! Sorry I started eating before I took a snap. I was soooo hungry!

P.S. A fellow blogger is hosting ‘Chicken Week’ on their blog – check out all the yummy recipes. There is a One Pot Chicken Dinner with olives and tomatoes that looks scrumptious (if curry isn’t your thing)!

Actually, this blog has advertised my post – isn’t that nice of them! chefdehomebadge_featuredbadge_transparent