Monthly Archives: January 2013

My first apple pie

individual apple pie

After making successful pastry for my mince pies a few weeks ago, I said that I would conquer my fear of pastry. And with the inspiration of Mamma’s Gotta Bake’s mini apple pies and the ever dependable Martha Stewart’s recipe for easy pie crust, I made my first apple pie ! I’ve a long way to go from a presentation perspective, but the taste and texture came out just how I wanted it to (I’m so thrilled).

A few rules that I followed while making my pastry:

  • Keep everything as cold as possible – butter should be chilled (I popped mine in the freezer). The reason for this is to keep the butter from melting into the flour, giving you a more crisp and flaky end result. For this reason you should minimise contact with your hands as much as possible, use your fingertips or the heel of your palm, which are the coolest parts of your hand, or better, use a pastry cutter or a food processor.
  • Add just enough water to the pastry to bind it together – too much and the water will evaporate while cooking and steam, making the pastry soggy.
  • Don’t overwork the pastry – quickly work the ingredients to just bring it together. Overworking the pastry will release more gluten in the flour, making your pastry less delicate.
  • Make sure you rest the pastry for at least an hour – I rested it for two for good measure – this helps the gluten to relax, giving you a more tender texture.
  • I love the idea from Martha Stewart to double the quantity of dough, and freeze half for use later.

My first apple pie makes 4 individual 10cm pies

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  1. 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  2. 230g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  3. 1 tsp salt
  4. 1 tsp sugar
  5. 4-6 tbls iced water

For the filling:

  1. 6 tart apples (granny smith or fuji), peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 cm pieces
  2. juice of half a lemon
  3. 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)
  4. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  5. 1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  6. 1/4 cup white sugar
  7. good pinch of salt
  8. 2 tsp cornstarch

To finish:

  1. 1 egg, beaten
  2. 1 tbls granulated sugar

Method

  1. Make the pastry first to give enough time for it to rest while you make the filling
  2. Add the cubes of butter to the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse on low until combined – it should resemble course breadcrumbs
  3. Add 2 tbls of the chilled water to the mix and pulse once or twice – just enough to bind the ingredients together for you to be able to tip the mix onto a board for kneading
  4. Continue to add 1 tbls at a time until the dough comes together
  5. Divide into two, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour
  6. For the filling, add a few teaspoons of lemon juice to the cut apples to stop them going brown
  7. Add the sugars, nutmeg, cinnamon and cornstarch and mix to coat the apple pieces
  8. Cook in a large saucepan for a few minutes until the apples soften – I like my apples to still have a bit of bite when cooked – if you want them softer, cook them for longer
  9. Add more lemon juice to the mix to taste – the sourness will mellow as the mix cooks
  10. Remove from heat and cool – about 30 minutes
  11. When ready, preheat your oven to 220C/425F
  12. Roll out your pastry to 3mm and I used the foil pie trays to cut out two circles per pie – one circle the size of the edge of the tray, one 1/2cm larger
  13. Use the larger circle to line the tray – you can use a muffin tray if you don’t have the foil trays
  14. Spoon the cooled apple mixture into the trays
  15. Top with the smaller circle and seal the edges (I used my thumb and you can also use a fork)
  16. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the granulates sugar on top
  17. Bake on a baking sheet to catch any apple filling that may bubble out for 18-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown
  18. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes
  19. Serve while warm with a big dollop of cream or ice-cream
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Happy New Year !!

Lentil salad with balsamic and pomegranate molasses dressing

I hope you all had a fun-filled and happy start to the new year !!

The last few weeks of 2012 saw the silly season in full swing in our household and whilst I had a ball on Monday night with my friends, I think I would be happy to be booze-free for at least a few weeks (I can’t even fathom a whole month of not drinking), lighter food and more home-cooked meals – and thought I’d start the year at least eating healthily.

I think the earthiness of these ingredients makes it a more substantial salad than a green leafy salad – it’s filling and full of goodness that will keep you feeling satiated until it’s time for your next meal. The pomegranate molasses adds a wonderfully rich sweetness to the dressing.

Carolyn’s new year salad of lentils and quinoa with balsamic and pomegranate molasses dressing

Ingredients serves 2

  1. handful puy lentils
  2. handful of uncooked quinoa
  3. 1 cup chicken broth
  4. sprig of thyme
  5. handful of swiss brown mushrooms, thickly sliced
  6. small handful 0f cherry or baby roma tomatoes, halved
  7. 1/2 avocado (or 1 if you love them)

For the dressing:

  1. 2 tbls balsamic vinegar
  2. 4 tbls good extra virgin olive oil
  3. 1 tsp pomegranate molassas
  4. salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Cook the lentils and quinoa in the chicken stock and thyme, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the lentils are tender and the quinoa germ has spiralled out
  2. Drain and discard the stem of thyme
  3. Let cool slightly then mix together with the mushrooms, tomatoes
  4. I add the avocados on top just because I want them to not be too mushy
  5. For the dressing, add all ingredients to a jar, and mix well