The look of pleasure and delight was priceless as a group of boys eagerly consumed their freshly prepared and baked mince, onion and cheese pies in one of our senior food and nutrition classes.
Not a crumb was shared nor a word spoken while they devoured their tasty morsels of steaming hot pie. This was a special request from them to make, as well as a special treat, and the pies gave the perfect opportunity to learn about lipids (fats and oils) in relation to pastry making.
After watching a captivating demonstration on pastry making by a local chef and hospitality guru, Simon Houghton, we saw how much butter (fat) went into making the three main types of pastry. We opted to make a short crust pastry for our pies and while it still contains a lot of butter, that particular pastry contains less than flaky pastry and half as much as puff pastry. So the more flaky the layers of pastry, the more butter it contains.
Sprinkle the water into the flour/butter mixture in the pastry making process to avoid adding too much water at once. Use your hands to bind the dough together in the final stages or all the way through.
Let the dough ball of pastry chill for five minutes in the fridge. The 'resting' of the dough allows the gluten (protein in wheat) to relax and there will be less shrinkage in the pastry once it is rolled and baked.
The students voted for mince, onion and cheese filling so we used lean mince (low fat) and produced a bolognaise sauce with tomato, onion, mushroom and herb flavours. This is a great way to include a vegetable component into the pie without them appearing obvious.
We baked our pies in Texas muffin pans and used a pudding bowl to get the correct size and shape circle required. Press the top of the bowl into the pastry and cut around the circle shape with a knife. A final brush of egg wash over the pastry lid gave a golden shine, once baked. The pies looked great and very professional. We gave them our own 'Heart Tick' award because they were smaller in size than most commercial pies, used short crust pastry with less fat and included a healthy filling with lean meat and a tomato and vegetable sauce.
For a meat-free alternative we have included a recipe for spinach, feta and mushroom savouries. These also use short crust pastry and the filling ingredients provide a good balance of nutrients and energy with lots of protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Fill the pastry cases about three quarters-full with the filling. If you need extra egg mix, simply whisk another egg and tablespoon of milk together. Also the amount of mushrooms and spinach you use will depend on the size and quality of the produce available. Make sure there is plenty of mushrooms and spinach in each savoury.
When making pies or savouries, make the pastry first and allow it to rest, and then make the filling. You can also make it in the morning or the day before and keep it covered in the refrigerator until needed. Leftover bolognaise sauce, meat or chicken stew or casserole also make perfect fillings for pies.
So, get out the rolling pin this weekend and let the teenagers make homemade pies. Have a go at making pastry and enjoy the fresh flavour that it has, as well as the fun involved in rolling out the pastry and creating a pie. There might be a floury mess on the kitchen bench but the end result will be well worth the effort.
Spotty mince and cheese pies
Makes 6 pies
3/4 onion, diced
1 tsp garlic, crushed
6 mushrooms, sliced
3/4 tin chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 slices cheese
1 Tbsp flour
Eggwash for glazing pastry
1 egg, beaten with a fork
Preheat the oven to 180C fanbake.
Brown the mince in a large saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon.
Add the onion and garlic and stir until cooked. Stir in the flour.
Add the mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and salt and pepper. Stir and simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavours. Add more water if the meat sauce becomes too dry.
Season with extra salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly.
Roll out the pastry on a clean, lightly floured bench until it is 2-3mm thin. Lift and turn the pastry regularly so that it doesn't stick to the bench. You may also need to sprinkle a little more flour onto the bench and rolling pin.
Lightly grease the Texas muffin pans (large muffin pans).
Use a saucer or pudding bowl as your circle shape to place on the pastry and cut around. Cut 6 circles of pastry.
Place each circle into an individual muffin pan. Ease the pastry in to fit evenly in the pans.
Spoon the mince filling evenly into the pastry cases.
Place a slice of cheese on top, folding in any pieces which hang over the edges.
Cut a circle of pastry to fit on top of each individual pie. This circle will be smaller. Use a large cookie cutter or a plastic jar lid that is the right size. Shape the top of the pie so any pastry hanging over the edge is folded inwards.
Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash.
Using a knife, make a slit or air vent on the top of each pie, then bake until golden and the pastry is cooked. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
Cool slightly before removing from the muffin pans.
Serve by themselves or with a side of salad or a spoonful of creamy mashed potatoes and kumara and steamed peas.
Short crust pastry
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold water
Sift the flour and salt into a medium sized bowl.
Cut the butter into small pieces, add to the flour and rub into the flour, using a pastry blender or fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse rolled oats.
Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of water over the mixture at a time and mix together with a fork or your fingertips. Repeat the process until the dough sticks together to form a ball. You may have to add a little extra water, but avoid adding too much.
Use your hands to form the ball of dough in the last stage of mixing and it will combine together.
Chill the pastry for 5 minutes.
It is now ready to roll out for your recipe.
Spinach feta and mushroom savouries
Makes 18-20 medium savouries or 12 large savouries
500g short crust pastry
4-5 button mushrooms, chopped into small pieces
100g feta cheese, cut into 1cm cubes
1/3 onion, diced
1/2 bag of fresh spinach, chopped
4-5 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pine nuts, optional
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Roll out the pastry on a clean, lightly floured bench until it is 2-3mm thick. Lift and turn the pastry regularly so that it doesn't stick to the bench. You may need to sprinkle a little more flour onto the bench and the rolling pin.
Use a round cutter to press circles in the pastry. We used a plastic honey lid to make medium sized pastry cases. Place the circles into lightly greased muffin pans.
Divide the chopped mushrooms, cubed feta cheese and diced onion evenly into the pastry cases.
Rinse the spinach, tear in half and place in a glass bowl with 1 Tbsp of water. Microwave for 30-60 seconds until it is just cooked. Remove from the microwave and press out excess liquid.
Cut into 1 cm strips. Divide the chopped spinach into the pastry cases. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
Break the eggs into a small bowl. Add the milk, salt and pepper and whisk together. Pour into a jug.
Pour the mixture evenly into the pastry cases. Allow about 2 Tbsp per case.
Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until the pastry is cooked and the egg filling is set. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before removing from the muffin pans.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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