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.

Spinach and Ricotta pie

There are one hundred and eleventy gagillion recipes for spinach and ricotta pie. Duyvken recently made a version that I have been valiantly trying to recreate ever since – it was not as spinachy as normal and so so simple. The picture below is a variation on her recipe. I, of course, couldn’t help varying it. I added too much stuff to it and while it was delicious if you want a oozy creamy concoction then follow the basic recipe.

In the picture below there is also 2 shallots, kernels from 1 cob of corn, several sprigs of mint and dill.

spinach and ricotta pie
pretty AND nutritious

Spinach and ricotta pie

  • 8 sheets filo
  • melted butter
  • 1kg ricotta
  • 1 large bunch silverbeet, washed, cut finely
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
  • poppyseeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Brush 4 sheets of the filo with melted butter and line a baking dish
  3. Combine the ricotta, silverbeet, 2 egg yolks, cheese and seasonings then tip into the filo
  4. Brush the remaining filo with butter and place on top of the filling
  5. Brush the top of the final sheet with butter and scatter over poppyseeds
  6. Bake for 40 minutes or until nice and golden and a knife inserted in the middle of the pie comes out nice and hot.



Jamie Oliver’s 30-minute meal banoffee pie

OK, so this household is having a complete rejuvenated love affair with Jamie Oliver, the likes it has not seen since his Naked Chef days. I think it was seeing his hard slog in the US and how it knocked the wind out of his sails a bit that did it. It was cemented with his 20 Minute Meal iPhone app. Man I love that. Then there was his Christmas series which was just so quirky and lovely. And now, well now there is his 30 minute meal series (I’m gagging for the book because yeah, I really need another cookbook) and the whole household, well, me and Felix, are hooked.

The other night he made this awesome looking number involving salmon fillets, prawns and asparagus. Salmon fillets normally make me gag but I was all YUM about that. And then, THEN he made a quick banoffee pie.

Cue Felix badgering me for the last two days to go to the shops to buy the ingredients. And can I tell you – if you do use a store-bought pie crust, which we totally broke my religion and did, then this comes together in an absolute snap.

The filling is delightful – far less tooth-achingly sweet than pure pie-caramel and not over-powering in the banana department. An absolute winner.

Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meal Banoffee Pie

  • 1 store bought pie crust
  • 2 bananas
  • 100ml milk
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 300ml cream
  • 1 tbsp camp coffee
  • 2 bananas, extra
  • 100g block of dark chocolate
  1. Blitz the two bananas with the milk until well combined and smooth
  2. In a pan over high heat melt the caster sugar. Don’t stir it, just gently tilt as it melts to a dark caramel colour
  3. Add the banana milk mixture to the toffee, stirring until the toffee melts back into the bananas
  4. Pour into the pie case and freeze for 20 minutes (we didn’t need it to be within 30 minutes so just put it in the fridge)
  5. Whip the cream and then fold through the camp coffee essence so it leaves pretty swirls in the cream
  6. Slice the bananas and arrange over the pie filling, then spoon the cream over the top
  7. Place the chocolate bar on the benchtop, smooth side up. Scrape a sharp chef’s knife on a 45 degree angle across the chocolate towards you, making chocolate curls. Arrange over the top of the cream.
  8. Eat!

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’.