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Posts Tagged ‘reinventing a classic’

My reinvention challenge for December was the humble mince pie. It may seem a little late to be posting mince pie recipes but if you made your own mince and you still have some left over then there’s no reason why you cant still make these in January to use it up. Otherwise hopefully they’ll provide a little inspiration to be bookmarked for next year.

The first result of much experimenting and fiddling was mince pie thumb print biscuits. These are roughly based on my mom’s recipe for melting moments, turned into thumb prints and filled with fruit mince and white icing. The biscuit base is not disimilar to crumbly buttery short crust pastry and you still get a sticky hit of mince in the middle so they are really just a much simpler version of making your own pies.

Mince Pie Thumb Print Biscuits

  • 170g butter
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 170g plain flour
  • 60g custard powder
  • 1 jar of fruit mince (I used home made rhubarb and vanilla mince)
  • about 1 cup more icing sugar to finish

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the butter and icing sugar in one bowl and mix the flour and custard powder in another. Mix these two together until you have a stiff dough. Make walnut sized balls and flatten them slightly. Place on a lined baking tray about 1inch apart and make a dent in the middle of each one (either with your thumb or something else round if you want a more professional finish). Fill the dent with fruit mince and bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes (keep an eye on them so they don’t burn). Leave to cool on a wire rack and then make the icing. Add water to the icing sugar, one tsp at a time until you get the icing to the right consistency (you can make it as stiff or runny as you like) and spoon over the top. Leave to set and then store in an airtight container.

For my second recipe I went a little further outside the box and came up with these mince meringue pies. These are basically a normal mince pie on the bottom but with an orange meringue top instead of pastry (think mince pie meets lemon meringue). They’re very pretty (well they would be if I practise my piping a bit more) and the orange scented meringue adds an extra soft but crispy texture.

Mince and Orange Meringue Pies

  • 375g shortcrust pastry (I used ready made for this because I haven’t mastered it myself yet and I had a lot on the go at the time so it was easier)
  • 1 jar fruit mince (again I used home made rhubarb and vanilla mince)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 100g castor sugar
  • 1/4 tsp orange essence

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Roll out the pastry to about 5mm and cut out circles to fit your mini tart tray (slightly larger than the diameter of the holes). Line each hole with a circle of pastry, prick with a fork and chill for 20 min in the fridge. Line the tart bases with baking paper and baking beans and blind bake for about 10 min. Remove the papers and bake for another 5-10 minutes until very lightly golden. Set aside to cool and then fill each with fruit mince.

Make the meringue by whisking the egg whites until fluffly, adding the sugar and then beating until stiff peaks form. Place in a piping bag and pipe on to the top of the pies in any pattern you like (or otherwise just spoon the meringue on to each one). Place back in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown and then cool slightly before serving. They are best served straight away but will keep in an airtight container for a few days.

Last but not least, a very out of the box mince pie recipe. I unfortunately dont have a picture because they were made and completely consumed at some stupid hour in the morning over Christmas but they were so good I have to post the recipe anyway. These taste just like a mince pie in liquid form, with the added benefit of an alcoholic kick. What could be wrong with that?

Mince Pie Martinis

  • 2 shots mince pie vodka (see below)
  • 4 shots pineapple juice (you can add more juice if you find this ratio too strong)
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Handful of ice cubes

You have to make the mince pie vodka in advance. You can make as much or little as you like but add about 60ml of fruit mince per 500ml vodka, mix together and leave to steep in an airtight bottle or container for at least a few days.  Then filter the vodka by pouring through a fine muslin strainer and store back into the container until you need it.

To make the cocktail combine the ice, vodka and pineapple juice in a cocktail shaker and shake violently for a few seconds. Pour into a glass and you should get a layer of creamy foam on the top like a french martini. Garnish with cinnamon or orange if you like and serve.

I have one jar of rhubarb and vanilla mince left and I think I’m going to use it to make more vodka  because these were so good and I cant wait another 12months to have another one.

Finally, a few other bloggers joined in the mince baking and as promised I said I would send a late present from santa to the one with the best reinvention recipe.

Angela from Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me made perfect traditional mince pies and then made some even more stunning ones topped with sugar paste snowflakes and trees…

Choclette from Chocolate Log blog made orange and chocolate mince pies with her own home made chocolate mincemeat which made my mouth water…

And Emma from Kitchen Goddess (in training) made beautiful traditional mince pies as well as sharing her recipe for mincemeat bread and butter pudding as a very clever way to use up mincemeat and reinvent the mince pie. Until Emma posts the recipe herself you can find it in her comment on my post here.

I would happily eat any of these recipes and they all look beautiful but for being the most in keeping with the theme of reinvention I think the winner has to be Choclette’s Orange and Chocolate mince pies which sound absolutely delicious. Its only a bit of fun but I promised a little present to the best recipe so I will be in touch to get your address Choclette and thank you all for sharing your recipes!

On that note… Happy New Year to all and may 2012 bring you plenty of good food and happiness! ♥

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Friends are always asking me if I’m going to enter competitions like The Great British Bake Off or Masterchef and although I appreciate their somewhat misguided faith in my cooking abilities it immediately focuses my mind on all the glaring gaps in my repertoire, particularly essential techniques like pastry making that I am yet to attempt, without which I would get laughed straight out of a professional kitchen.

It’s funny how people assume that when you start writing about food, you know what you are talking about. Anyone who has seen reality tv can tell that just because your creative output is displayed on a screen doesn’t necessarily mean you have any talent. However it’s that automatic faith that makes one feel as though one should be doing something deserving. So instead of continuing to guiltily brush off the kind suggestions of friends and family and walk around feeling like a culinary imposter, I am setting myself a challenge. And not being one to set myself a nice sensible target,  it has turned into three challenges.

Of course as soon as I write them down I will be forced to stick to my guns… which is partly the reason for involving witnesses… and partly to garner the moral support I think.

Challenge number 1

  • The first challenge is technical. Each month I will learn a different technical skill that I’ve been too scared or too lazy to learn before now (think puff pastry – eek).

Challenge number 2

  • The second challenge is to produce extraordinary flavours.  I’ll try to create at least one dish with a suitably unusual flavouring or combination of flavours  that I haven’t seen anyone else produce before. This one is about learning which flavours work without following somebody else’s instructions.

Challenge number 3

  • My third and final challenge is reinventing a classic. This is probably the easiest of the three and probably overlaps with extraordinary flavours quite a lot but this is slightly different as it’s about picking one classic dish and creating my own recipes that remain faithful to the original idea but think outside the box a bit.

I think that should keep me out of trouble for a while. I havent got around to creating a proper plan for what to make each month yet or deciding when my self-inflicted boot camp will come to an end but in the meantime I got so enthusiastic about the idea that I went and created two dishes that fit snugly into categories 2 and 3 to get me started, and to give you some idea of where I’m going with this.

Extraordinary Flavours Challenge – Strawberry Rooibos Tea Cake

I guess I cheated a little bit as Whittard’s had already come up with the idea of pairing the Rooibos and Strawberry but I’d been thinking about a fruit and tea flavoured cake when I saw this tea and this option gets around the problem of finding fruit to bake with in winter. Even  although strawberries are normally a summer ingredient the tea infusion turns them into something more autumnal and cosy. It sounds a little obvious now that I’m writing it down but nibbling a slice alongside a cup of hot tea brings out the flavour in both the tea and the cake and works almost like a good wine with the right cheese. Perfect bedfellows. 

  • 225g plain flour
  • 225g softened butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp strawberry rooibos tea (made by stewing 4 tsp of tea leaves in about a cup of water for as long as possible and then cooling – the more concentrated the better)
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of icing sugar (depending on how much and how runny you like your icing)

Preheat the oven  170 degrees and butter and line a loaf tin. Cream the butter with an electric beater, add the sugar and continue to beat until pale and fluffy. slowly beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour and fold into the butter mixture. Add 2 tbsp of the concentrated tea and mix until just combined. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for an hour or until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  When the loaf is cool put the remaining 2 tbsp of tea into a bowl and add the icing sugar until you obtain the required consistency. Drizzle over the cake.

Reinventing a Classic Challenge – Winter Squash Lasagne

Most people have their own specific recipe for lasagne but it always uses the classic combination of beef and tomatoes. There’s nothing wrong with a classic lasagne and you might be thinking, if it aint broke… but I’m choosing it as the first subject of my reinvention challenge because other than vegetarian versions its not something everyone attempts to play around with very often. The star of this version is winter squash. It uses Butternut squash and Courgette as the main ingredients – yes I know Courgette isn’t strictly a squash but it belongs to the same squash/marrow family in my mind and it is gentle enough that it doesn’t overdo the number of loud ingredients. I also used turkey instead of beef as it plays a supporting role instead of taking over the show so to speak.

  • 300g turkey mince
  •  2 small courgettes, grated
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • few sprigs of sage leaves
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 20g flour
  • 30g butter
  • 500ml milk
  • handful grated mature white cheddar
  • dried lasagne sheets
  • sprinkle of parmesan for the top

Fry the onion in a little oil until soft, then add the turkey mince and continue to fry until it starts to brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and simmer until the liquid has reduced, about 20-3o min. Meanwhile either roast or gently fry the cubed butternut until soft.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook over a medium heat for a few minutes and then whisk in the milk a little at a time. Keep stirring until the sauce starts to thicken and then add the grated cheese.

Starting with mince at the bottom, create layers of mince, grated courgette, lasagne, white sauce and butternut to fill a lasagne dish. It doesn’t really matter what order you create the layers in or how many you have of each but make sure the lasagne sheets have white sauce or meat on them otherwise they will be too dry. I like a layer of courgette on the top sprinkled with parmesan because it looks pretty and goes a little crispy in the heat of the oven. Once assembled place in the oven for 30-40 min until the top is starting to brown and the lasagne sheets are soft when tested with a knife.

So that marks the start of my self-inflicted cooking school. For November, I’m going to attempt choux pastry, come up with another lasagne recipe or two and think up some new flavour ideas which will hopefully merit a cursory glance.

Should you feel the urge to go one step further and join me for one or all of the challenges, I would welcome the company and love to see what ideas you have so I’ll keep you posted on the next subject. If you choose to remain a spectator, I still welcome the company and hope  you draw some inspiration from the recipes.

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