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Food, general thoughts, food…

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Vanilla Slice

I am not a huge fan of Vanilla Slice from the bakery, not because it isn’t nice, indeed it is very nice. It is also difficult to eat, that is what makes me choose something else every time. I have never met a vanilla slice that is easy to eat, it always squishes its custard filling out all over the place making you look like you have been eating by yourself for about 9 minutes…unsuccessfully. This one is no exception, its saving grace was that I could eat it at home and not worry about the impression I was making on those around me. I was happy that it tasted as good as its bakery counterparts although I would use less icing in future, I will make it again as long as I can eat it quietly at home without others.

I let mine sit for a good 24 hours prior to consuming. I thought this might make the pastry a little easier to deal with but not really…


Vanilla Slice

2 sheets puff pastry
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup custard powder
1½ cups cream
2-2½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Hot water

Place puff pastry on lined oven tray. Prick with a fork and bake for 10-15 minutes at 220°C.
Put sugar, custard powder and cream into a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until it starts to thicken.
Add milk ½ a cup at a time and whisk continuously until the custard is thick.
Let everything cool slightly.
Place in a 22 cm square tin, pastry, custard, pastry then icing.
Icing: Place icing sugar, butter and vanilla in a bowl and add enough hot water to make
thin to medium textured icing.

Recipe notes
Best after 12-24 hours in the refrigerator but can be eaten in as little as 3 hours.


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Simple Sausage Rolls

To rescue this blog from becoming a primarily political rant I shall now post a recipe that I made on Friday evening. This ended up becoming Friday night dinner and the rest were polished off on Saturday, a testament to the fact that they were delicious.

Measurements are kind of sketchy as I sort of threw in whatever I found in the pantry at first glance. Primarily the flavouring was thyme from the garden as I have loads of it at the moment.

Simple Sausage Rolls

1kg beef sausage mince
Full handful of fresh thyme removed from stems
1 Tbls BBQ spice (I had an old container of this in the cupboard and just tossed it in as an afterthought, it gave them a nice smokiness)
1 cup bread crumbs
4x sheets of store bought puff pastry
1 egg, beaten to make a wash

Mix together first 4 ingredients thoroughly (use your hands but try to let the sausage mince come to room temperature first else it can be painfully cold).
Cut each pastry sheet into two pieces.
Lay the sausage mince in a tubular shape down one edge of the pastry, leaving a gap of about 2 cm.
Egg wash down this side and then roll the pastry over the mince, creating your sausage roll and using the egg wash to stick the ends. Place seam down on a baking tray.
Repeat until all pastry and mince is used.
Egg wash over each sausage roll and bake in a 180C oven until golden brown.
Try to avoid eating for 5 mins or so, you will burn your mouth but it is almost worth it!

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Apple Sultana Triangles

What to do with leftover stewed apple? Wrap it in pastry of course! Yet again my theory that everything improves if you just wrap it in pastry holds true (salad being the possible exception to the rule).

I stewed far too many apples for my apple pie (on purpose) and had a bowl of leftover stewed apple in the refrigerator. It was already stewed with spices so it wasn’t any work at all to toss in a handful of sultanas and then wrap it in store bought puff pastry. I had enough to make 4 of these Apple Sultana triangles out of 2 sheets of pastry.

These are great hot or cold, with or without any additions such as custard, cream or icecream. I love cooked apple.

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Apple Pie

It was my daughter’s Birthday recently. I have been promising to make her an apple pie for months now so we made a deal, I’d make the pie for her birthday. The only condition was that it all had to be homemade, no store bought pie cases or ready-made pastry, everything from scratch. This of course, was the whole reason I had been dragging my feet on the apple pie project from the start. I make a mean apple pie but I have to make it from scratch, it’s just a personal preference, I don’t like to use pre-made pastry products for an apple pie. Trouble is, I HATE to make pastry.

I am good at it, it isn’t complicated but for some reason, I just don’t like to do it. So I don’t.

For my girl, for her birthday, I did.

And I made sure I made a whole lot so that I could make another few things while I had nice homemade pastry on hand. I always make a short pastry without sugar so it does nicely for both sweet and savoury applications.

To make the extra pastry I used 2 cups flour & 1 cup butter, this made a lidded apple pie, a quiche and another open fruit pie.

Apple Pie

225g flour
100g butter
pinch of salt
cold water

5 or 6 apples, cored, peeled and sliced (whatever will fit into your pie dish, the more the better I think)
1 Tbls lemon juice
5 cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup sugar (I like my apples tart, adjust sugar to your liking)

Sift flour and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Add butter and rub lightly into flour with your fingertips until it combines and resembles breadcrumbs. Add a small amount of cold water and cut in with a knife. Add additional water as needed and once it begins to combine begin to work it with your hands into a ball. Chill the pastry while you prepare the apple filling.

Stew the apples with all other ingredients; either on the stove or in the microwave. Remember to count the cloves so that you can remove them all prior to making the pie. Once the apples have begun to break apart remove them from the heat and remove the cloves.

Roll out half of your pastry until it is the correct size for your pie dish. Place pastry in dish and slice of any overhang. Fill pie base with the apple. Roll our remaining pastry to create a lid. Dampen base edges and place pastry lid over pie, use a fork or fingers to crimp the edges down.
Cut a cross in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar if desired.

Cook pie in a 180C oven for 40 mins or until golden brown.


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Mushroom Parcels

This was last night’s dinner, whipped up with help of imagination and a recipe that wasn’t really anything like this but got me thinking…

As you can tell, my mushroom and vegetable phobic husband is not at home so my daughter and I are indulging in vegetable laden meals all of which include mushrooms. True to my belief that anything tastes better if you wrap it in pastry, this turned out a treat and used up some ingredients that were getting toward their use by dates.

Mushroom Parcels

2 sheets of puff pastry
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 button mushrooms
3 spring onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 cup ricotta
2 handfuls of spinach
1/2 cup grated cheese
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C.
Cut each pastry sheet into 2 large triangles.
To make the filling, heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently sauté the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, add the mushrooms and cook for a further two minutes.
Add the spinach and heat gently for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season to taste, turn off the heat and then stir in the ricotta and cheese.
Spoon the mixture on to one half of each pastry triangle, brush edges with milk, fold over and press open sides closed. Brush tops with a little milk.
Place in oven for 20mins or until golden and crisp.

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Chicken and Cheese Empanadas

A while back I posted about wrapping things in pastry. This is one of those recipes that I was looking for to include. I was unable to find it at the time but as I have just stumbled upon it I thought I would quickly post it up here today, before I lose it again. Of course there are no pictures to go along with this, if I am honest I will tell you that I didn’t make cute little mouthful, bite sized empanadas (as described below) when I made them, I just stuffed the lot into triangle cut pastry sheets. We ate them as a meal and I think everyone devoured 2 of them each anyway. Maybe one day I will make and eat them properly, delicately, like a lady… but that isn’t likely to be today.

Chicken & Cheese Empanadas

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
225g pkg shredded cheese (whatever tasty cheese you have)
110g cream cheese, softened
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 or 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (I left these out, the taco spice was spicy enough for the kids)
1 Tbsp taco seasoning blend
425g package short pastry sheets
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 190C. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, shredded cheese, cream cheese, red pepper, jalapeno, and taco seasoning. Remove 1 pastry sheet from plastic wrap & place on a lightly floured surface; cut out rounds, using a 8cm cookie cutter.
Re-roll dough as needed. Repeat procedure with remaining pastry, making 12 to 15 circles total. Arrange 1 round on a clean, flat surface.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the edges of crust with water. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of chicken mixture in the center of the round. Fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges with a fork to seal.
Repeat with the remaining rounds and chicken mixture. Place empanadas on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush tops with beaten egg. Bake at 190C for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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Pastry Parcels

Pastry parcels, a weakness of mine. Anything is good packaged in pastry. Okay, not everything, but most of anything is good if you bung it in a pie or in a parcel made of puff pastry. The following two recipes are ones I have altered lately to put into triangles of puff pastry. They were both delicious.

Chicken Pie
Serves: 4

1 BBQ chicken, chopped
250 g mushrooms sliced
1 onion, sliced
½ cup cream
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons plain flour
90 g butter
Salt and pepper
Puff pastry cut diagonally into triangles

Preheat oven to 190C.
Cook mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the butter, set aside.
Cook onion in a little oil, set aside.
Melt remaining butter in fry pan and blend in flour. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the stock, slowly stirring to make a smooth paste.
Stir in cream and season with salt and pepper.
Add in mushrooms, onion and chicken.
Place spoonful’s onto pastry and seal around edges to form parcels.
Bake until pastry is golden.

I made these for Christmas day. They went in seconds. The leftover filling was perfect for pastry parcels.

Bacon And Mushroom Vol-Au-Vents
Makes 36.

15g butter
2 green shallots, finely chopped
2 bacon rashers, finely chopped
100g mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tablespoon plain flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup grated tasty cheese
2 tablespoons packaged breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
36 small vol-au-vent cases

Combine butter, shallots and bacon in a bowl, cover, cook on HIGH for 2 minutes,
stir in mushrooms, cover, cook on HIGH for 2 minutes. Stir in flour,
cook on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir in milk, cook on HIGH for about 2 minutes or
until mixture boils and thickens, stir in the cheese.
Place teaspoonful’s of mixture into vol-au-vent cases, sprinkle with combined
breadcrumbs and parsley.
Cover a plate with absorbent paper, place one-third of the filled vol-au-vents
on the plate, cook on HIGH for 1 minute, transfer to serving plate.
Repeat in the same way with remaining vol-au-vents.