I just realised that this was my first post of 2014, so Happy New Year!
My Instagram feed has been filled with photos of the food shopping of people far more virtuous than I. It seems that people have been out in their droves buying vegetables and fish for the new year’s detox. Whilst I too have been on the scales and shocked into losing some of my festive plumpness, I have not been so quick off the mark. My vicious hangover dominated what I ate on New Years’ Day and I ended up ordering a rather large Indian takeaway that I felt far too ashamed to post to my healthy-eating followers. That being said, onion bhajis, chicken tikka masala, saag aloo and peshwari naan was exactly what we needed.
My plan then was to set about getting rid of the leftover cheese from the mountains I had bought for our New Year’s drinks. We had the odds and ends of a Red Leicester, some Stilton and a range of festive cheddars. Unable to face yet another meal of cheese, crackers and chutney, I decided to put them into a mushroom, cheese and potato pie. With the London weather rapidly deteriorating into a mass of cold, wind and rain, and one of Ollie’s friends coming for supper, it seemed like just the thing. I also had some flour and a whole pack of butter from some brioche buns I was supposed to make but didn’t, so also set about making my own rough puff pastry topping.
I always cringe a little when I see TV chefs advising the use of shop-bought pastry in their recipes. Learning how to make pastry has been a bit of a lifelong journey, from making shortcrust in my Nan’s kitchen as a little girl to still fighting with collapsed choux some 25 years later. Don’t get me wrong, I will pick up some ready-made pastry when in a rush, but will always find unwrapping a beige block and dumping it on the work surface a little uninspiring. Homemade pastry tastes so much better and I rather enjoy the process of making it. The only one that is a massively time-consuming pain in the neck is puff pastry.
I can honestly see why people buy ready made puff, for who has time in their everyday lives for the layering and buttering and maintaining the constant temperature that making puff pastry requires. It is a complete faff. However, making rough puff is an excellent substitute and far easier. Instead of adding the butter between the layers, it is added to the flour at the very beginning in cubes and then simply rolled and folded repeatedly to form the layers. Once cooked, the butter melts to form flaky ‘pockets’. You don’t get the same rise as you would with puff pastry, nor are the layers as defined, but you still get a good flaky pastry that is good to use for a tart, pie lid or pasty.
Below is a recipe for rough puff pastry. Another good recipe to use if you want something different is Dan Lepard’s Rough Puff Dripping Crust, which uses a mixture of butter and beef dripping for a slightly more substantial flavour. I have also added the recipe below for the cheese and potato pie.
Rough Puff Pastry
- 250g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 250g cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 150ml cold water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and stir in the cubes of butter, keeping them intact. Mix the water with the lemon juice and gradually stir into the mixture until a shaggy dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat into a square. Roll out into a rectangle, about 30cm x 12cm. Fold the dough, like a letter, three times and turn so the long edge is facing you. Roll out into a rectangle again and repeat the folding process. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Repeat this process three times and chill the pastry in the fridge until needed.
Mushroom, Cheese and Potato Pie
- 1kg floury potatoes, peeled and sliced into ½cm slices
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 250g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
- 250g portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp creme fraiche
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 200g hard cheese, cut into small cubes
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 1 quantity of rough puff pastry (see above)
- 1 egg, for brushing
Preheat the oven to 180ºc / 350ºf / gas 4.
Cook the potato slices in a large pan of sightly salted water until they are tender. Drain and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onion until softened and translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the garlic, and a little more oil if necessary, and cook until the mushrooms are tender. Add the creme fraiche, thyme and seasoning and simmer for a couple of minutes. Do not let the creme fraiche reduce too much.
Add the mushroom mixture and the cubed cheese to the potatoes and gently toss together, try not to break up the potatoes too much. Spoon the mixture into a large pie dish.
Roll out the pastry and lay it over the top of the pie. Trim off the excess pastry and firmly crimp the edges. Make a small hole in the centre of the pie to let out steam and brush the whole of the pastry with egg wash. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
Adapted from a recipe by Pieminister. Serves six.