Sinfully simple snacks.

It was with some surprise that I finished reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and looked around for something to do.  The story ends rather abruptly, so I wasn’t expecting to be staring at the clock and wondering when my family would be back to break the silence.  The back of my edition is full of notes and reviews from Oscar Wilde’s contemporaries which makes the book look longer than it actually is, hence my surprise at the sudden end to this tale of youthful vanity and sin.  What I needed now was a snack that was quick to make.

Dorian Gray is a young man who wishes that all of his vices are passed onto a portrait of himself rather than his handsome face.  Over time, each of his sinful acts mar the portrait and age it beyond recognition while Dorian himself remains beautiful for all to see and envy.

In the same situation, I think my portrait would be a bloated chap with a chocolate milk moustache, cake crumbs on his chest and buttery fingers clasping a cheese and ham toastie.  It would be a truly grotesque display of gluttony that I’d hide away in the attic lest anyone should see my greedy soul laid bare on the canvas.

Back in my 21st Century kitchen, I was already throwing ingredients onto the worktop and keeping an eye on the clock.  There was just enough time to get some Cheddar and Parmesan biscuits into the oven and tidy up before my little boy burst into the room and cooking became a real challenge.

These little, cheesy biscuits are so easy to make and would work with different cheese and even a selection of herbs.  Try them when you feel like baking, but don’t want anything complicated or messy.  They’re small too, so you don’t need to worry about your portrait becoming hideous after you’ve eaten a few!

Cheddar & Parmesan biscuits

100g plain flour

85g mature Cheddar (finely grated)

50g butter

40g Parmesan cheese (finely grated)

2 egg yolks

2 tblspoons double cream

1 tspoon dried oregano

sea salt

1 egg yolk (beaten for the glaze)

In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, flour, two egg yolks, oregano and all of the cheese.  Season with a few good pinches of sea salt.  The mixture should come to a stiff dough.  Add the double cream and work the mixture gently with your hands.

Wrap the ball in clingfilm and refrigerate it for half an hour.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about half a centimetre thick.  Use a small cutter to make little discs and place them on a tray lined with baking paper.  Add some beaten egg yolk to the top of each disc using a pastry brush.  This will give the biscuits a lovely glaze.

They need to go into the middle of a pre heated oven at 180C for about fifteen minutes.  Keep checking them.  They’re ready when slightly risen and a beautiful, shiny, golden colour.

 

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)