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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Thank you for the days.

Alas, the pulled pork in my fridge is now gone.  Every last delicious strand.  It was with some sadness that I put the last of it inside some mini tortillas for lunch.  I spread cream cheese with garlic and herbs on the tortilla, piled the pulled pork high and topped it off with plenty of tomato salsa.

If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll know that I’m just a little enamoured of fresh coriander.  Just a little!  I had to finish the tortillas off with a sprinkling of it.  As soon as I’d taken the photograph, I proceeded to hide the pork under a green mountain of the stuff to the point that it looked like a salad.  Some readers have asked for an alternative to coriander recently.  For simple recipes like this, freshly chopped oregano works well, but obviously it brings a different flavour to the dish.

I’ll be cooking some more meat in the next week or so, starting with my ultimate recipe for perfect barbecue ribs.  Until then, I’ll have fond memories of the pulled pork and the joy it has brought to my plate each day.  Pulled pork, we (me and my stomach) salute you.

You ain’t from around here, are ya, boy?

In Texas, people have been shot for serving nachos incorrectly.  Okay, that’s not true.  Sorry.  Closer to the truth, is the fact that those in the know will not pile a plate high with tortilla chips and a mountain of melted cheese and call themselves a Texan.  A cursory glance around the world of online nacho appreciation will reveal that discerning nacho lovers prefer their chips to be dressed and served individually.

This came as something of a revelation to me.  Granted, I’m a Greek-born, British citizen, raised on a combination of shepherds pie and olives (though not together), so there’s no reason that I would have any expertise in the nacho department.  That sounded odd, but stick with me.  I have always been ignorant in my cheese-melting bliss and have spent hours chomping through plates full of cheese-coated tortilla chips.  To my credit, I always spread the chips in a thin layer so as to coat each one with cheese, but still, there wasn’t a great deal of care involved.

With enough pulled pork in my fridge to feed my extended family, I knew it was time to try something fun with it.  I’ve seen other bloggers dress their nachos with cheese and a jalapeno and I’ve seen some pulled pork with cheese and barbecue sauce too.  As usual, I stacked the nachos my way.

I chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) and sprinkled it onto each chip.  Next came the pulled pork followed by gorgeous Cheddar cheese and topped with a slice of jalapeno.  Straight into the oven until the cheese had melted and then straight into my belly!  They were very satisfying.  The sweet smokiness of the pork, the freshness of the coriander, the comfort of the cheese, and the crunch and spice of the jalapeno and the tortilla chip.  I have been converted.  It took a little bit of love and care, but it was so worth it.  Is it authentic?  I don’t know.  If you’re reading this and you’re from Texas, please don’t shoot me…

Celebrity chefs; they’re just like us, ya know!

Ah, the life of a television chef.  A kitchen casually furnished with the most expensive utensils, pots of fresh herbs, a fridge so large it could lead to Narnia and not a bad camera angle in sight.  Then of course, there’s the lifestyle; endless socialising with every demographic imaginable, hours to kill at the local market and then the unconvincing  speeches about how they juggle a demanding career with family time.

As people have become more interested in food, so chefs have become more interested in our domestic lives.  There’s been a shift towards everyday cooking that seems to be a way of connecting to an ever-growing population of home cooks and food enthusiasts, who genuinely have to balance their food interests with work and family.  A quick look at the titles in the cookery section of the book stores [that folk used to visit] is testament to this;  Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals (Jamie Oliver), A Taste of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes (Angela Hartnett), Real Fast Food (Nigel Slater), Mexican Food Made Simple (Thomasina Miers), River Cottage Everyday (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall), Cooking For Friends: Food From My Table (Gordon Ramsay), Nigella Express and Kitchen: Recipes From The Heart of the Home (Nigella Lawson).

A few months ago, I watched a repeat episode from the undisputed queen of comfort food, Nigella Lawson.  During the programme, Nigella talked about her perfect sun-downer and bowl of chips.  After a long day “at work”, her prefered method of unwinding is to drink an Americano cocktail and munch on some tortilla chips with her Jumbo Chili Sauce.  The recipe for the sauce is from her brother-in-law and it looked so simple that I decided to give it a go.  I thought that even I wouldn’t be able to mess it up.

It was good, but I thought it needed refining, so I spent a little time making it more palatable- more of a tickle than a slap.  In essence, what I loved about the dip (and it is a dip, not a sauce), was the amount of coriander in it.  I adore fresh coriander and I’m constantly trying to find vehicles for this wonderfully fragrant friend.  My better half is not keen on coriander at all, but even she has succumbed to it through this very addictive dip.  I now make this on a regular basis to get my coriander hit and I keep it in the fridge ready for that sun-downer moment.  I may not live the life of a celebrity cook, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve some tortilla chips and an Americano.  Actually, make it a Mexican beer and I’ll unwind by telling you how difficult it is to juggle kids, cooking and a photo shoot.  If only.

My perfect nacho dip

1 jar roasted peppers

1 bunch coriander (about 40g)

1 clove garlic

1 red or green chili

1 lime

I always make this using a hand blender because it’s very quick and I can store the dip in the container it’s made in afterwards.  It’s simply a matter of blending everything together, so for taste, the order that you add everything is unimportant.  However, because I make this with a hand blender, I usually put the chili and the garlic in first to avoid them accidentally flying into my eye.

I roughly chop the chili and throw it in followed by the garlic and then all of the coriander.  You must add the stalks.  Too many people throw them away, but they contain the most flavour.  Next, tip in the roasted peppers.  Use peppers packed in oil, not vinegar, otherwise you’ll end up with a nasty after-taste.  Using peppers in oil also means that you don’t need to add any extra oil.  Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into the colourful mix.

Now you’re ready to blitz it all.  Once it has reached a nice consistency, you’re ready for dipping!  The great thing about this dip is that you can tailor it to your own taste.  I don’t add salt because the tortilla chips will be salty enough.  I always use a whole bunch of coriander (up to 80g) because I love it.  If I’m in the mood, I’ll add more chilis and keep the seeds in for extra heat.  I love how quick it is to make and it keeps well in the fridge.  Yet another weapon in the battle against gloomy, rained out days!

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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Twice cooked pork.

As enjoyable as a dish might be, it is rare for me to want to eat the same meal two days in a row.  It would have to be very special or pizza or both for me to consider it.  Having roasted up a treat with the jerk pork, I had the task of eating my way through quite a lot of meat.  What could I do with meat that was already cooked?  Sandwiches?  Yes, some pork with chutney or apple sauce would be good, but not for dinner.

In Szechuan cuisine, there is a dish cooked on lunar feast days called twice cooked pork in which boiled pork belly is sliced thinly and fried with vegetables to create a new dish.  The roasted pork had a lovely, firm, yet moist texture that I thought would be ideal for slicing and frying.  Before I knew it, I was quartering onions and reaching for my big bottle of Thai sweet chilli sauce.  I’m not talking about something that looks like it came from a hotel mini bar with a blue dragon on the front.  I’m talking about a big daddy bottle of the real deal.  Tonnes of garlic, beautiful chillies and a very runny texture.  All at a fraction of the price, I might add.  Once done, I made some egg fried rice and tucked in.  I’ve found a new favourite in this dish.  It’s simple and ready in five or six minutes.  If only everything in life was such.

Thin slices fry quickly.

Twice cooked pork.

Thin slices of roasted pork

2 onions quartered

Handful of fresh coriander (chopped)

2 tblspoons vegetable oil

Enough Thai sweet chilli sauce to coat the pork

Slicing the pork was fun.  I then cut it into pieces ready for frying.  I heated up the oil in a wok until it was almost smoking and then threw in the pork.  I was greeted with a satisfying hiss and lots of spitting as the water in the pork made contact.  I added the onion, tossed it together and poured in four seconds worth of chilli sauce which was enough to satisfy my craving for sweet and spicy fun and sufficiently cover the pork.  I added the chopped coriander which gave the dish nice colour and freshness.

This dish ticks all of my boxes for a quick and tasty meal.  I’ve said that I don’t like to eat the same meal on consecutive days, but I might make an exception in this case.

The flavours in this dish are really fresh.