A few years ago, around the time of the global financial crisis, I started thinking of ways to make money. My consulting job in advertising had pretty much stopped as clients suddenly stretched their arms across their desk, held down all of their papers and literally froze everything. I remember that there was a sunny weekend and Mr NQN and I were having a picnic. He was lying down on his stomach reading a book on the sun dappled grass. I rested my head against his bottom.
"Oh this is so comfortable!" I said resting on his derrière, moving about and switching positions. Mr NQN is a tall, thin gangly man and there's very little fat to be had on him. Then a thought struck me.
"I know what we can do!" I sat up inspired. "I'll make a bottom pillow! Shaped like your bottom!"
Mr NQN's expression was a familiar one. It read in no uncertain terms "Oh crap, here she goes again..." but just in case I was serious, there was a forbidding look added in for good measure.
"We can dip your bottom in some plaster of Paris and make a mold, just like those plaster casts and we can stuff the pillow with all sorts of fillings. Your ass will be famous!" I said, fired up with inspiration.
"No" he said. "I'm not dipping my ass in plaster and you're not making a pillow out of it" he said sternly. "I don't want a famous ass" he said putting to rest an idea before it had even been truly brainstormed.
Dejectedly, I consoled myself with a piece of picnic quiche; my dreams of making a fortune through the good fortune of my husband's perfectly rounded bottom quashed (the dreams, not the bottom). The quiche that I turned to eat was the perfect picnic quiche recipe that a friend M gave me. It is a buttery crusted quiche with a secret weapon in the pastry-cream cheese!
This is perhaps my favourite pastry to make at home. It's buttery and layered and if you get one of these a few minutes out of the oven, the first thing you may think of is a buttery version of a McDonalds apple pie (is that good or bad thing? But rest assured, it returns to being just a divine pastry). It is easy to work with and you can even reroll it in the same session without resting it. And just this week, given the glut of strawberries at the markets, I thought I'd make Strawberry Hand Pies.
A hand pie is a Southern version of a pastie or a turnover and is simply a pie in a half moon shape. They can be baked, fried or deep fried and filled with either a sweet or savoury topping. It is ideal for lunches or picnics as it is easily transported. You know I sometimes get pushy for you darling readers to make things and I'm afraid that this is one of those recipes (perhaps I should start a category of "pushy" recipes for the ones that I really urge readers to make! ;) ). Also, if you've never made pastry from scratch, I suggest that you start with this the one because it is a dream to work with and it will help build confidence in pastry making. It's a dream to eat too, as witnessed by the fact that I polished off three and a half before palming a couple of them off to a happyMr NQN. I then shoved the rest in the deep freeze, out of trouble.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever made pastry from scratch before? And what recipe or skill would you like to master (perhaps I can do a post to assist :) ). What's your favourite fruit pie filling? And have you ever had any hare-brained ideas to make money?
P.S. Here is a Wallpaper for Wallpaper Wednesday! xxx
Sweet Li'l Strawberry Hand Pies
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
Preparation time: 5 minutes for pastry, 10 minutes for filling
Waiting time (although you can make the filling while waiting): 45-60 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes
Makes about 10 pies using a 12cm/5inch round pastry cutter
120g/4 ozs light cream cheese at room temperature (yes light will definitely do)
113g/1 stick room temperature butter
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups plain flour
pinch of salt
1 cup strawberries
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with 1.5 tablespoons cold water
1 egg, whisked
1 tablespoon icing or confectioners sugar (optional)
Optional flavours: make these with apples, peaches or whatever fresh or frozen fruit you have a surplus of! This is also wonderful with savoury fillings.
Step 1 - Place the cream cheese, butter and 1 1/4 cups of plain flour into a food processor and pulse until it becomes fine crumbs and starts to come together. Knead it to form a dough- there should be enough butter and cream cheese in there to have it come together but add a little more of the flour if you need it; I usually need to add another 2 tablespoons or so. Roll into a ball and press into a circle -as flat as you can get it to make rolling it easier, and cover with cling wrap and place in the refrigerator for 45-60 minutes.
Step 2 - Meanwhile, make the strawberry filling because you will want it to cool before filling the pies. Wash the strawberries and hull them and chop them into small, even-ish sized pieces. In a saucepan on medium heat, add the strawberries and white sugar and simmer-you shouldn't need any extra liquid as the strawberries release plenty but just stir it to make sure that the sugar doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the strawberries are soft. Then remove from heat and add the vanilla and cinnamon. Then while the mixture is still hot but not boiling, add the cornflour and cold water mixture stirring to thicken it (you don't want to do this while it is boiling as the cornflour splits and doesn't thicken it properly). Allow to cool.
Step 3 - When the pastry is ready, preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a baking tray with parchment. Remove the pastry from the fridge and flour a clean surface and rolling pin. Roll out the pastry quite thinly and cut using a 12cm/5 inch round pastry cutter that has been dipped in flour. Fill each pie with a tablespoon of cooled filling and pinch to seal up the sides.
Step 4 - Brush the egg over the tops of the pies and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Dust with icing sugar.