Leftovers

Pork, potato, pastry - the holy trinity
Pork, potato, pastry – the holy trinity

So how’s all that ham going? I basically lose interest with it the minute Christmas lunch is over so much of my time is occupied with recipes using the leftover ham. To, you know, use the remaining SIX kilos of it.

Christmas was wonderful. A relaxed day here feeding family with lots of laughter, delicious food and plenty of sparkling shiraz.

It was followed by my MIL’s birthday celebration, also here. It will go down in history as the Festival of Ham. With cheesecake. Divine divine cheesecake.

The boys have all been rather delicious – I believe I will look back on this next little episode of our lives with a full heart. My boys are not babies anymore and who they will be is slowly revealing itself – a process I feel absolutely blessed to witness. Even if at times my head wants to explode from the less pleasant aspects of it.

Oscar loves his basketball hoop for the trampoline – possibly the finest example of highway robbery by a company I’ve ever been party to. Felix is smitten with his cruiser skateboard and ZOMG he will be 13 this year and that makes my chest tighten. Jasper got his long-pined-for Halo rocket ship. A Megabloks hellzone. There were three lots of tears on Christmas Day at being so overwhelmed by it. I ended up building most of it. Ask my chiropractor how that worked out for everyone. Grover was conflicted, apparently Santa “got it wrong” with his Lego but all was forgiven with a Dr Who sonic screwdriver.

Mum’s left knee has totally packed it in – she’s basically incapacitated so between the two of us we cut quite a pair.

What better way to counter chronic pain and, in mum’s case, now unavoidable joint replacement surgery in 2013 than eating ham. A lot of ham.

It's a pie of promise (with a quiche in the background for good measure)
It’s a pie of promise (with a quiche in the background for good measure)

Ham and potato pie

  • Shortcrust pastry – you can NOT go past Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry, it has revolutionised my fear of working with pastry – it’s hugely forgiving, ridiculously easy to work with and tastes DIVINE.
  • 5-6 waxy potatoes – cooked, peeled and cut into 1/2-1cm slices
  • 700g ham, sliced thinly off the bone
  • handful fresh basil, finely chopped
  • handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup milk
layer upon layer upon layer
layer upon layer upon layer
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 24cm springform tin
  2. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry to about 3mm thick and line the tin – try and do it in one whole piece but don’t stress if it breaks – just smoosh the broken edges together
  3. Place a layer of the potatoes in the bottom, top with ham, then scatter over herbs and seasoning – go light on the salt depending on how salty your ham is
  4. Keep layering and end with ham and herbs then press the filling down firmly
  5. Mix the eggs with the milk and cream, pour over the layers then pop a pastry lid on the top, cut some slits in it and glaze if you feel so inclined
  6. Let it sit for 1/2 hour and then bake for 1-1.5hrs. I always bake it for 1.5 and it comes out a treat – just stick a knife in it and if it’s piping hot it’s good to go.
  7. Leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes once it’s done and then serve with a simple green salad.
Tasty AND pretty.
Tasty AND pretty.

Free form apple pie

OH my lordy be people, this pie is beyond sensational. BEYOND. The recipe is from Ben O’Donoghue – one of those great Aussie chefs who does really flavoursome unpretentious food. For those in the know, he appears on the UK food program called The Best, which is always always entertaining and gives you inspiration to get up and go and start cooking, which is more than I can say for the 98% of the current programming on the Lifestyle Food channel.

Anyway, this recipe comes from the August 2008 issue of Delicious magazine and while I significantly reduced the amound of sugar in with the apples and didn’t use the spices because I didn’t have them, the pastry is one recipe I will be using over and over again – DIVINE.

Ben says it’s his nan’s recipe and that rings true – I recall my nan making pastry using some custard powder as well and it being flaky and buttery and divine. It really makes it.

This was also the first time I’d done a free form pie and I expected it to be a disaster, oozing liquid and being a downright mess. It was an absolute sensation. Next time I’d probably add a little – just a little – more liquid and cook the apples just a little longer, but now I’m just nitpicking, go, make it, NOW.

Free form apple pie
From Delicious magazine, August 2008, by Ben Donoghue
The apples

  • 1kg granny smith apples
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 star anise

The pastry

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1/3 cup custard powder
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 350g chilled butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  1. For the pastry, place the dry ingredients in a food processor
  2. Add butter and blitz until it looks like breadcrumbs
  3. Add the yolks and process until the pastry comes together in a smooth ball
  4. Divide into two then knead into flat discs
  5. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour
  6. Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and slice into wedges
  7. Place in a pan over medium heat with sugar*, juice and spices
  8. Cook for 10 minutes or until the fruit is tender but still holds its shape
  9. Cool then discard the spices
  10. Preheat oven to 180C
  11. Roll out the pastry discs between two sheets of baking paper to 3mm thick, 28cm circles
  12. Place one circle on a baking tray, leaving the bottom sheet of paper in place as a lining
  13. Place the apple mixture in the centre, leaving a 3cm border, brush the border with a lightly beaten egg
  14. Top with remaining pastry, press down the border, then trim the edges into a neat circle and pinch edges together to seal
  15. Brush the top with some beaten egg, bake for 30 minutes
  16. Sprinkle with caster sugar and bake for a further 10 minutes until nice and golden
  17. Serve with custard, ice cream or both.

* Now, I’m sure if you used this amount it would caramelise beautifully and draw more liquid out of the apples, but in this house we like the pastry sweet and the apples tart, so I only added 2 tablespoons of sugar. As I said above, next time I’d add a dash more water and/or cook the apples a little longer for the filling to be a little more ‘wet’.

Passionfruit pineapple tarts, choc-caramel tarts, neenish tarts

A trio of icings

I have been pining for old fashioned pineapple tarts that traditional bakeries make. The ones with a short pastry, pineapple filling, moch cream and topped with passionfruit icing. Linda helped by providing the pineapple filling recipe from the Presbyterian Ladies’ Cookbook or some such treasure trove of old fashioned pre-world war II (apparently) delights.

Pineapple Passionfruit tartlets
Pineapple filling

  • 1 medium pineapple, sliced very finely then diced (easier to do this if the pineapple is cold)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbs cornflour
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 egg yolk
  1. Combine the pineapple, sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil to cook for 10 minutes
  2. Combine the cornflour, water and egg yolk then stir into the pineapple and cook until thickened

I can’t tell you how making this, then tasting it made me feel. I was jettisoned back to my childhood and the fact that I now had the recipe to make whenever I feel like it was so empowering and exciting! Next

Moch cream

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 80g icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk, warmed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbs boiling water
  1. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
  2. Add the combined milk, vanilla and water a little at a time until all incorporated
  3. Just try not to eat this straight from the bowl.

Passionfruit Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 30g butter, softened
  • 1 passionfruit
  • 1 1/2 tbs boiling water
  1. Beat the icing sugar with the butter and water by hand
  2. Add the passionfruit by spooning the pulp into a small strainer then push the juice of one half of the passionfruit through, adding some of the seeds to dot the icing.
  3. You might need to add more passionfruit depending on the texture. You want it somewhere between being spreadable and being a glaze. (in the picture above, my first attempt, the icing was a bit too stiff)

Shortcrust pastry

  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 350g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup cold water
  1. Rub the butter through the flour
  2. Add enough water to bring the dough together
  3. Flatten to a disc and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  4. Roll out to quite thin and line 12 1/4 cup tartlet cases. Prick bases and bake in 180C oven until golden.

This pastry recipe is the one I use for everything. I very rarely make a sweet shortcrust pastry as I find using straight shortcrust helps counterbalance the sweetness of a pie filling. The following pastry however, is perfect for a neenish tart, where the pastry is really a major part of the experience. It is much more like a biscuit crust.

To build the tartlets

  1. Spoon some pineapple into the base
  2. Top with moch cream and smooth surface
  3. Spoon over icing with a palette knife and smooth off.

Neenish Tarts
Pastry for Neenish Tarts

  • 125g soft butter
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  1. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar for 4 minutes until pale and fluffy
  2. Add vanilla and egg and beat until combined
  3. Stir through the flour then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes
  4. Roll out to 3mm thick and line 12 1/4 cup capacity tartlet tins
  5. Prick bases and bake at 180C for 10 minutes.

Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 30g butter, softened
  • 1 tbs water (you can use sherry for a grown-up version)
  • 1 1/2 tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  1. Beat the icing sugar, butter and 1 1/2 tbs of boiling water by hand
  2. Divide the mixture in half. Either add 1 tsp of sherry or the 1 tsp of lemon juice to one half and set aside
  3. Add remaining sherry to cocoa and stir to combine then mix in to remaining icing

To build the tarts

  1. Fill the pastry case with a spoon of jam
  2. Top with moch cream and level out
  3. Using a small palette knife ice half of each tart with the chocolate icing then ice the other halves with the lemon/white icing, smoothing to edges.

It’s best we not speak of just how many I ate.