British Pie Week Day 3 – Comfort Food Egg Pie

It’s raining and cold here today so a bit of comfort food in the form of Egg Pie, a pie with mash not pastry. This recipe is from Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen (again!). From the time of World War II and like a lot of recipes in this era, Egg Pie was born out of a necessity brought about by rationing but actually reflects British comfort food. It just shows what you can make out of the store cupboard and with an inspired veg dish this will fill the family. 

Egg Pie

Ingredients

4 hard boiled eggs

500g potatoes

4 onions, sliced

A little oil for frying

150ml white sauce

Salt and pepper

A small bunch of parsley

Method

Hard boil four eggs. Throw into cold water and remove the shells. Fry the onion slices until golden.

Boil and mash  the potatoes with a little butter, minced parsley and season to taste. Spread a layer of this at the bottom of a pie dish, then put a lay er of the cooked onions spread on the potato.

Then put a layer of sliced eggs a little white sauce and more potato and repeat until the dish is full. Finish with potato on the top. Put a few bits of butter on the top & bake until really hot and brown.

 

British Pie Week Day 2 – Festive Jalousie

A great all-rounder, this pie comes from Vegetarian Cooking & Vegetable Classics by Roz Denny and Christine Ingram. I love it and it comes with it’s own inbuilt creamy sauce.

Festive Jalousie

Ingredients

450g/ puff pastry, 450g Brussel sprouts, 16 whole chestnuts, 1 large red pepper, 1 large onion, 45ml sunflower oi,l 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water,

For the sauce

40g plain flour, 40g butter, 300ml milk, 30ml dry sherry, 75g cheddar cheese, good pinch of dried sage, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

Roll out the pastry to make 2 large rectangles (1 slightly larger than the other) roughly the size of your dish and about 6mm thick.

Blanch the brussels sprouts in 300ml of boiling water for 4 mins then drain, retaining the water and refresh them under cold running water.

Cut each chestnut in half. Lightly fry the red pepper and onion in the sunflower oil until transparent for about 5 mins. Set aside until later.

Make up the sauce by beating the flour, butter and milk together. Beat the sauce continuously and bring to the boil until it is thickened and smooth.  Then add the reserved sprout water cheese, sherry, sage and season to taste. Simmer for around 3 mins then add the parsley.

Fit the larger piece of pastry into your pie dish and layer the sprouts, chestnuts, peppers and onions on top. Pour over the sauce making sure it seeps through the vegetables. Brush the pastry edges with the egg mix and fit the second sheet of pastry on the top sealing the edges well. Crimp the edges. Glaze well with the egg mix.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees f/200 degrees C/ Gas mark 6. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Vegetarian Cooking and Vegetable Classics

Great British Pie Week Day 1 – North Country Fidget Pie

North Country Fidget Pie (G. R. Moore)

Generally fidget pie includes apples and bacon or ham so this North Country version is quite unusual. Fidget Pie is a traditional English recipe for a pie served in the fields to the workers busy bringing in the harvest. I can see why.  The name fidget (or fidgety) pie, originates around Derbyshire andShropshire, in the middle of the country. The origins of the odd sounding name seem to have come from the fact that it originally was fitched, which means five sided in Anglo-Saxon. 

Pastry

250g plain flour

Pinch salt

175g margarine

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon of cold water

Filling

1 finely chopped onion

250g sausage meat

Pepper and salt

1 egg

250g raw potatoes

150g peas

Method

Make the pastry by popping the flour, salt and margarine in a processor, whizz until the mix is like breadcrumbs then add the egg then the water, to make a firm dough. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for half an hour or more. Mix the chopped onion with the sausage meat, seasoning and bind with the beaten egg.  If you are using frozen peas defrost and drain well, if you are using fresh- cook gently then drain.

Roll out the pastry and use 2/3 to line the base of a pie dish. Put in a layer of the sausage meat mix, then a layer of potatoes thinly sliced, season well then add the peas. Lightly beat the egg and pour over the filling. Use the remaining 1/3 of the pastry to form the lid, glaze using beaten egg. Heat the oven to 190oc/375of/gas5. Bake it in hot oven for 30 minutes reduce heat to moderate – 180oc/350of/gas4 and cook for further 15 minutes. Can be eaten hot or cold.

From Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen 

Scarborough Fair Pancakes

Looking for a savoury pancake to celebrate Pancake day? I love these so much I make them every year and sometimes when it is not even pancake day!.

Scarborough Fair Pancakes makes 8 large pancakes or 16 small

This recipe comes from The Artful Cook, Secrets of a Shoestring Gourmet by Richard Cawley published in 1988.Reflecting the spirit of the age when chefs were realising that food could be beautiful as well as tasty. This book has some excellent recipes.

8oz plain flour, 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder, salt & pepper, 9 fl oz milk, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon each chopped fresh, parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme. Oil for frying

Mix together pancake ingredients. Stir in chopped herbs. Drop tablespoons of the batter into a lightly oiled frying pan and cook over medium heat for 3-4mins turn over once until golden on each side.

Strangely these can be eaten sweet or savoury. For a sweet option serve with yoghurt,  soured cream or maple syrup. For a savoury option serve with goats cheese and salad they also make a good alternative to breakfast pancakes. I also tried them filled with steamed asparagus (of course with a little butter and ground pepper)

Good bye to a cooking friend

I know I am supposed to be in the book selling business to earn a living but sometimes I find it very difficult to actually part with some of my books. It is like saying goodbye to a friend and today is one of those days.

I am a particular fan of hand-written recipe books and one that I had in the shop has gone to a new home in Australia where I am sure it will be much loved.

William Sayer starting writing his book in 1821, the hand-writing is beautiful and the recipes exciting. Some of them I used to write Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen, including currie powder, camp vinegar, curacao, Oxford sausages.

Cheerio William enjoy the antipodes.

 

Gorgeous Greek Fish

It’s a while ago now since I published my book Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen so I don’t run through the pages that often. And strangely I find I use it just like any other recipe book on my shelf. I find myself looking for a good recipe when friends are coming round and look for inspiration from the shelf only to find one from my book that I had loved enough to write about but had forgotten. I think that’s the problem of having a) a LOT of cookery books and b) not being able to make a decision. 

This came from a hand-written recipe book from the 1990s I don’t know the name of the author sadly, but she did often add the names of the people who gave her the recipes, there are quite a few recipes from Dick, Mary and Hilary. The book came with an envelope stuffed with newspaper cuttings and lots of notes on pieces of paper where he/she had jotted down recipes on the first piece of paper which came to hand.

Anyway with Norma and Mike coming round I needed a nice fish dish and found the perfect answer in my book. I’m not sure why I don’t eat this every week because I love it so much and it is so easy to make. 

Mary’s Greek Fish

1 large tin of peeled tomatoes

Bream, haddock or cod for 4

Large handful of fresh parsley and oregano

2 large onions

1 clove of chopped garlic

½ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oc/35of/gas 4

Place filleted fish in a flat oven dish with a lid. Fry the chopped onions in olive oil very gently until transparent add the garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, then when mushy add the chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the fish and bake in the oven for around 3/4 hour.

This doesn’t need anything with it apart from some crusty bread to soak up the last juices.

Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen

Community recipes – reflecting how people eat

Food is about sharing, whether that is the family at meal times, extended family and friend to mark a special occasion or communities getting together to cement community spirit.

Sharing recipes has been the way to pass on everything from family heirloom recipes and regional specialities to teaching new cooks how to master that basic arts since people started to cook.

I have been looking through some of the community cookery books I have. These are a bit of a favourite of mine and I love how they reflect not only the communities, the countries and regions of origin but the times in which they were produced. Even more than cookery books they reflect exactly how ordinary people cook in good times and lean, using the ingredients that come to hand locally. I love the (and I hate to sound stuffy) amateur and spontaneous approach, which comes from real people producing something. Such as the  booklet produced by Charlestown School (I have no idea where Charlestown is) with illustrations by children at the school and recipes from parents and friends and some celebrities they had written to, with recipes like Mushrooms Tuscan Style from Sally Brigham (obviously a family favourite).

Many of them are also used to raise money for local causes like schools and hospitals and some to raise money for global needs. A special book is Fare-ye-Well with Ladies of the Realm, a book produced during WW2 to collect money for Comforts and Medical Supplies for the Children of Soviet Russia with recipes from titled and ‘well-connected’ ladies of the time including Springtime Vegetable Pastry from Lady Beverage (or her cook?) 

Some are a bit unusual – The Alcatraz Women’s Club Cook Book produced by the wives of guards at the prison who also found themselves and their families ‘imprisoned’ and isolated. Or the Jim Collin Congressional Cookbook produced to fund the republican candidate for congress in 1962 with recipes from members of congress and their wives including Congressional Bean Soup. 

Some are produced by recognised community groups. I have one from a group local to where I live, the West Sussex Women’s Institute, from 1972 and What’s Cooking in the City produced by the City of London Red Cross with recipes from the Court of Aldermen and the Livery Guild of the City of London. I learned a lot about how many guild and trades there. It included such delights as Consomme Beluga from The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, who knew about them?

So from around the world, Cherokee Cooklore produced by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, to the close to home but much older Samaritan’s Cookery Book from Edinburgh these books are a delight and a real spotlight on local social history. Along with a chance of learning some new recipes from real people (or at least their cooks).  

Find some from your neighbourhood at local fairs, fetes and sales where they usually end up. They are a bit of a local treasure.

Life in the Garden

This year I actually got around to joining in with the RSPB Birdwatch. Out in the garden with a cup of tea and a notepad to record what birds are out there. I don’t feed the birds in the garden, with two cats it seems a bit unfair to lure them in, but I do put food out on the extension roof, the birds can get at it but the cats can’t get the birds and it doesn’t encourage rats – a win-win all round. Weirdly it also means I can sit in the bath and watch the birds coming and going!

Anyway while I was out there I started going through what I am going to plant this year and wondering what wildlife I will have visiting me. We have the allotment for growing food so the garden is for playing in which means it doesn’t have to be too ordered and I like the fact that in  this small garden I can make a small wood pile for the stag beetles which I seem to have a few of every year. The little pond has newts and various snails, water beetles, fresh water shrimpy things and in the summer it throws up damsel flies and dragon flies. There are LOTS of slow worms which I love and the occasional hedgehog. I would like more and have built a hedgehog house which hasn’t been used yet, maybe one winter they will more in. Sadly the last hedgehog we had was eaten by an invading badger.

We do get butterflies although I’m not very good at identifying them and bees and I look out especially for the honeysuckle hawk moths in late summer that visit the honeysuckle outside the back door.

So I’m looking forward to a wild summer in the garden and planting according which luckily means lots of flowers to attract the insects.

As I write this it is Hedgehog Day, hopefully that is an omen and I will get the hedgehogs visiting the garden this year.

Hedgehog on a path (c) Chas Moonie

 

Packets of magic – never underestimate the power of seeds

Remember the story of Jack and the beanstalk where Jack foolishly sold his cow for 5 magic beans? He wasn’t undersold, his beans were the passage to a store of treasure in the sky. And it’s true – seeds are natures treasures.

I have just received a parcel of seeds for this season and I can’t tell you how excited I was when the postman dropped them off. Along with the store of seeds saved from last year this promises to be my food for the coming year, the provide the colour and scent of my garden, the taste of fresh sprouting seeds in my salads and a year’s fun sowing planting and harvesting. Who needs a gym when you have access to a garden or allotment a few packets of seeds and a few tools.

Seeds may be tiny, but they’re packed with nutrients like protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. A seed is life. It is a living food. Seeds also provide most cooking oils, many beverages and spices and some important food additives. In fact food from seeds, beans, nuts and grains (all seeds) forms the majority of human calories.

To get the most out of them remember the golden rule – raw food provides the highest sources of vitamins and cooked food helps the body extract the highest amounts of minerals so vary the way you eat them. Salads, raw seed and nut dips for vitamins and added to bread, biscuits or toasted for minerals.

Eating sprouted seeds adds another dimension of flavour and texture as well either raw in salads or cooked in stir fries.

It’s not too late to make chocolate orange peel.

Over Christmas I find myself addicted to clementines. I always feel a little guilty about throwing the peel away – too many in the wormery upsets the worms – then I found this recipe for candied orange sticks in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. So I just replace the orange peel with clementines, although I have used grapefruit peel as well. There are always little bits of peel that are too small to turn into sticks and these I cut up and use in other recipes as candied peel . I must say that the about 25% of these don’t make it as the presents I intend, well I have to check the quality!

Ingredients

4-5 large oranges (If using clementine peel it takes around 10 skins), 500g granulated sugar, 1 tbsp glucose syrup, 200g good plain chocolate.

Method (it looks complicated but actually isn’t)

Scrub the oranges and using a sharp knife, remove the peel and attached pith. Weigh out 250g or peel and cut into slices about 6mm x 5cm. Place the peel in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of cold water.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, drain and return to the pan with 1 litre of cold water. Bring to the boil again and simmer, covered, this time for 45 minutes (30 minutes for clementine peel). Then add the sugar and stir until it’s dissolved, simmer for a further 30 minutes, still covered. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 24 hours.

Bring the pan to the boil again – if using glucose syrup, add it now – and boil for 30 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated and the sticks are coated with bubbling syrup. Allow to cool then carefully remove sticks to a wire rack. Leave in a warm place (an airing cupboard is ideal) for 24 hours.

Break the chocolate in to pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and dip half of each orange stick in the melted chocolate, placing on greaseproof paper to set. Before dipping the sticks will last 3-4 months, once dipped in chocolate they are best eaten within 3 weeks. (As if they are going to last that long!)