Sunday, 6 February 2011

Pie Improvisation and Jam Tarts

Why does anyone buy jam tarts?  I'm not getting on my soapbox here because I understand people are short of time (for goodness sake, people buy sandwiches after all).  The thing is a bought sandwich can actually be quite nice but I've never had a jam tart as nice as one made at home.

Which comes to the other thing.  Pies are really easy to make, you can vary the contents as you please and they're a great way to use up leftovers (very important for the thifty mum at home).  However, I do understand that even with the quickest pastry recipe in the world, it's going to be tricky to assemble unless you do so during a nap or wait for the weekend and a (hopefully) willing partner to take a bit of the strain.

That said, a pie is a wonderful thing.  You'd probably be able to bribe the most unwilling man to do a bit of babysitting for 20 mins which is pretty much all the time you need to assemble it.

I don't make pastry in a traditional way.  Traditionally you would use lard to make the pastry "short" (ie crumbly.)  Personally I hate the taste of lard in pastry and I detest the taste of margarine so I use butter and create the short texture by using some cornflour.  This might strike you as somewhat extravagant but when you can buy value salted butter for 98p a pack, that's not a ridiculous expense and the pastry you make is so much better than anything you can buy and it's also cheaper to make than bought pastry which will almost certainly not be all butter.


Leftover stew or roast meat and gravy (or thickened stock)
Mushrooms fried quickly until coloured (optional)
5oz butter
6oz plain flour
2oz cornflour
Cold water to mix
A little cream or milk


Put the stew or roast meat and gravy into an ovenproof dish.  It's best if this is cold.  You can always freeze the stew or leftovers before doing this just making sure they're defrosted before cooking.  Mix in the mushrooms.

I use a food processor to whizz the butter, flour and cornflour together, but you can rub together with your hands.  Add in a couple of dsp of water until you can bring it all together as pastry.  Less is more, it's surprising how little water will bring it all together.  Tip out onto a board or clean work surface.  Kneed very lightly for 15 secs or though to bring together (you don't want to warm up the pastry).  Flour the surface and a rolling pin and roll out till around 2-3mm thick.  Cut out a shape which will more than cover your dish, drape it over and press down the edges on the top.  Cut a vent hole or two in the top and brush with a little cream or milk.  (I often have the dregs of a tub of cream in my fridge.)  Add on any shapes you'd like to the top.

Bake at 190oC for around 50 mins until well browned.

You will probably have some pastry left over.  Cut out rounds using a large cutter and gently press into a bun tin.  (You can then either put in the fridge until later or cook these immediately.)  When you're ready to cook, put a teaspoon of jam or lemon curd in each one (don't put in more or they will boil over) and bake for approx 15 mins at around 200oC.  When cooked put on a cooling rack for a few mins before eating.  Lovely eaten warm with crisp buttery pastry and a touch of cream if you have some but don't eat straight out of the oven as there is only one temperature higher than the core of the sun and that is boiling jam!

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