Ena, dio, tria…mini pasties!

The most famous of all pasties are those made in Cornwall.  This little trio of pasties is a far cry from the giant Cornish beauties, but they are delicious!

I was ill last weekend and felt so rough, that I didn’t even cook.  It’s left me feeling eager to cook and write this week.  To begin with, I needed to use up some puff pastry in my freezer to make a little room.  I had such a great time making pasties last year that I thought it would be a good starting point for something new.

One of my favourite ingredients is Chorizo, so I thought that a nice chicken and Chorizo pasty would be fun.  Some peppers, some onions and some potato for substance.  Having bought the chicken, I then started toying with the idea of another filling and soon I’d made my mind up to try making a pesto chicken pasty.

Before I knew it, I’d added a third idea; a cheese and onion pasty.  Cheese and onion pasties are popular in these parts and I thought it would be good to add a veggie option to the gang.

The idea is simple enough: choose some ingredients to make a filling for a little parcel that can be baked in the oven and then eaten hot or cold.

With my decision made, I spent time preparing each filling and began my mini pasty experiment.  I was excited to see which one would turn out best.  Deep down, I knew the cheese and onion would work, but what of the other two?  I’m happy to say that my productive afternoon ended with smiles and I’ve been feeling very satisfied since.  My favourite was definitely the chicken and Chorizo pasty, but see what you think.

Mini pasties- chicken & chorizo, pesto chicken, cheese & onion

500g puff pastry

1 egg (beaten)

For the chicken & Chorizo filling

2 potatoes (cubed)

125g Chorizo sausage (cubed)

1 cooked chicken breast (cubed)

1 onion (diced)

1 red pepper (diced)

handful of chopped fresh coriander

salt

For the pesto chicken filling

2 potatoes (cubed)

1 cooked chicken breast (cubed)

A dozen mushrooms (diced)

1 tblspoon pesto

3 tblspoons grated Grana Padano

1 tblspoon olive oil

salt

For the cheese & onion filling

2 potatoes (cubed)

1 onion (diced)

5 tblspoons grated Cheddar

2 tspoons Dijon mustard

To make the chicken and Chorizo filling, I boiled the cubed potatoes for ten minutes and then drained them and set them aside to cool.  In a frying pan, I heated a little oil and fried the onions, Chorizo and pepper until the onions had cooked through and the Chorizo had released a beautiful red oil.  I stirred in the potatoes and the chicken along with some salt before finally sprinkling in the coriander.  The first filling was done!

For the pesto chicken, it was even easier.  I boiled the potatoes and drained them.  Next I put the potatoes, chicken, pesto and cheese in a bowl and stirred thoroughly.  I fried the mushrooms and stirred them in.  A little salt to season and some pepper finished the job.

Finally, the cheese and onion filling was made by boiling the cubed potatoes and letting them cool before putting them into a bowl with the Dijon mustard and cheese.  I fried the onions and then added them to the bowl.  All that was left to do was mix it all together gently and season everything.

I rolled out the pastry until it was very thin and made use of a small saucer from an espresso cup to cut a circle.  A couple of tablespoons is all that is needed to fill the pasty and it’s important not to overfill it (tempting as it is).

Brushing the edge of half the pastry circle with egg wash helps to seal the pasty when you bring the edges together.  Just crimp the edges with a fork or fold and press them to stop the filling oozing out in the oven.  Place the pasties on a baking tray lined with baking paper and use a pastry brush to add the egg wash to each one.  This will give the pasties a lovely golden glaze.

Pop the little beauties in the oven for about twenty minutes at 180C or until they are golden.  You’ll know exactly when to take them out.

These make a great little snack and can be eaten cold.  If you make mini pasties as I did, you’ll be able to get about forty by making all three of the fillings.  Obviously, if you decide to make just one type of filling, you will definitely not need 500g of pastry!

I think I might make giant pasties next time and have them as part of a main meal.  I’m so happy with how these turned out.  Let me know if you decide to give them a go!

120g Chorizo sausage (cubed)

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I’m going to eat seasonally. Is Chorizo in season?

Is eating seasonally something you find easy to do?  I find that it is easy to buy some seasonal items, but not all of the time.  Large supermarkets push seasonal produce when it suits them and a lot of people rely on supermarkets to inform them about what is in season.  It’s much better, however, to find out for yourself and look ahead to the coming months so that you can plan what to cook and pair seasonal ingredients together in dishes.

A good start is http://eatseasonably.co.uk/ which really helps me see things at a glance.  Eating produce at the time of year that it grows best means that it tastes better, is more readily available and therefore cheaper, and is better for the environment.

At the moment, cos lettuce (or romaine) is in season and I thought it would be a good opportunity to make a fun salad with it.  Yeah, another salad!  What’s up with me?  Anyway, rather than churn out a predictable Caesar, I had a look in the fridge to see what would inspire me.  Spotting some double cream and Chorizo, I thought a cool dressing would be good to accompany grilled turkey steaks.  I used plenty of lovely tomatoes to bump up the salad and it all turned into something very colourful, very tasty and rather seasonal.  It felt good.  See what you think.

Grilled turkey salad with Chorizo dressing

2 turkey steaks

1 cos lettuce

4 tomatoes

100ml double cream

50g thinly sliced Chorizo

3 tblspoons parmesan (grated)

1 slice wholemeal bread

1 tspoon dried oregano

salt

pepper

olive oil

I brushed the turkey steaks with olive oil and ground some black pepper on them.  I used a griddle to cook them for a few minutes each side, but you could use a grill or a griddle pan.  As long as they aren’t pink in the middle, they’re good.  Don’t cook them for too long, or they will dry out.

Meanwhile, I removed two good leaves from the lettuce and kept them whole to serve the salad in.  I washed them and set them aside.  I washed the rest of the leaves and roughly chopped them.  Next, I cut the tomatoes into pieces and sprinkled salt onto them.  I put the leaves and tomatoes in a bowl ready for the dressing.

To make the dressing, I put a tablespoon of olive oil in a milk pan and chopped all but a couple of slices of Chorizo into little pieces.  I gently fried the Chorizo until it released that lovely paprika-coloured oil and then stirred in the cream.  Once the dressing was a light pink colour, I stirred in the parmesan and kept stirring until it was melted.  I tasted the dressing and seasoned it.

Using the wholemeal bread, I made croutons.  I cut the slice of bread into big squares and tossed them in olive oil and dried oregano.  Then I baked them in the oven on a tray lined with foil on the highest heat for a few minutes until crispy.

I let the turkey steaks rest for a moment and then sliced them diagonally.  I tossed the lettuce and tomatoes in the dressing which had cooled a little and then served the salad in one of the lettuce leaves with the croutons, a row of the grilled turkey strips and some extra Chorizo for garnish.  You could sprinkle extra parmesan on too.

Maybe it was the cheese and Chorizo that made me enjoy this salad so much.  With the double cream dressing, it wasn’t the healthiest of salads.  Tasty though!

Colour me summer.

One thing that I’m keen to point out to people when talking about my love of food and cooking is that my passion for it far outweighs my skill.  Interestingly, most people assume that I have lots of skill in the kitchen and that I’m a very adept amateur chef.  If only.  After years of experimenting with different flavours and tipping countless plates of food into the bin, I’m simply more in tune with what will work and what will turn my stomach.  Now, I’d be doing myself a disservice if I was too disparaging about this acquired skill.  When asked about the difference between a cook and a chef, Michel Roux said that a chef was someone with an exceptional palate that had been developed over the course of a minimum of ten years.  Well I wouldn’t say that my judgement was exceptional, but I’m usually able to avoid disasters.  My failures in the kitchen tend to be lack-lustre dishes, the odd mismatched combination of flavours or some overcooking.  A far cry from the horrors produced as a student.

Cooking every day has given me an eye for good quality vegetables and an appreciation of what goes well together.  Once you’ve established a dish using certain ingredients, it’s often easy to transfer everything to another type of recipe.  For me, where there’s Chorizo, I know coriander and onions will not be far behind.  The following recipe came about by accident, but turned out to be a really cheerful meal that I’ll be making again in the future.  It was just a case of putting together a team of ingredients who would get on with one another.

Summer fritatta

3 eggs

5 baby new potatoes

2 ripe tomatoes (roughly chopped)

100g Chorizo (thinly sliced)

1 onion

1 red chilli (deseeded and sliced)

1 green chilli (deseeded and sliced)

handful coriander (roughly chopped)

grated Cheddar cheese

olive oil

salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes for twenty minutes, cut into thick slices and set aside.  Slice the onion thinly and fry in a drop or two of oil until beginning to brown and set aside too.  Season the eggs and whisk them vigorously for a couple of minutes until you can see plenty of air bubbles. Next, pour into a small heated frying pan (mine’s 23cm) with a little olive oil.  Start adding all of the ingredients, making sure that you spread them out evenly.  Push the potatoes and tomatoes down into the egg to allow room for everything else.  Finish the fritatta with lots of grated Cheddar on top and a little more seasoning.  Leave it to cook on the lowest heat until most of the egg mixture has coagulated.  When only the very top is still running, finish it under a very hot grill until just golden.

Fritatta is great for slicing and sharing.  It makes a really versatile brunch dish, or could be eaten for lunch with a salad.  I love the fact that it tastes marvellous whether it is served hot or cold.

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I want the moon on a stick!

I just wanted a fun recipe that would bring together chicken and Chorizo.  That’s not a tall order.  I came up with the idea of combining the two in the simplest of forms- meatballs!  As I’ve already mentioned, chefs with painted grins on Youtube had beaten me to it.  Not to be defeated, I bought a few ingredients and made my mind up to keep everything very simple.  Big flavours, satisfying result.  That was the goal.  All I had to do was control my urge to add lots of different spices, herbs and random bits that would end up robbing the meatballs of their distinctive taste.

Chicken and Chorizo meatballs

500g minced chicken

120g Chorizo sausage (skin removed)

1 green pepper (diced)

1 lime

1 egg

vegetable oil

sea salt

black pepper

Chop the Chorizo into small pieces.  This isn’t easy because of the high fat content and the firm texture that comes with cured meat.  Put the Chorizo into a large bowl with the minced chicken and the egg.  Season with plenty of salt and pepper, squeeze the juice of one lime over everything and work the mixture with your hands until thoroughly combined.  Mix in the diced green pepper and then begin to roll the mixture into little balls.  Try to push the green pepper into the centre of each ball so that it won’t break away when it cooks.

Heat some oil in a frying pan and brown the meatballs in continuous batches until there is no mixture left.  I managed to make just over forty, but it all depends on how much mixture you use for each one.  You could always make these into burgers if you wanted something more substantial.  Transfer each set of browned meatballs to a baking tray and when it’s full, slide onto the middle shelf of a preheated oven at 180 degrees.  Cook the meatballs for about fifteen to twenty minutes until they’re done all the way through.  Don’t be tempted to eat them if they’re still pink in the middle.

I liked the idea of threading these meatballs onto wooden skewers and I served them like that with Mexican rice and a Chipotle relish.  Sour cream and guacamole would be great to dip into, but to be honest, these little beauties are best appreciated on their own.  For once, I didn’t mess up a perfectly good idea by tinkering too much with decent ingredients.  As always, there are lots of things that could be added to the meatballs, but I’m very happy with how small the list of ingredients is.  This time, I’ll agree that less is definitely more.

Chopped fresh coriander and another squeeze of lime does the trick.