Pastry problems

I decided to make some mince pies and a pumpkin pie as my contribution to the Thanksgiving dinner my friends were hosting. As I like to make my own pastry (homemade is always the best I say!)I set to work on making the mince pies and pastry the day before Thanksgiving following this recipe, which always usually works for me...spent a good deal of the morning on the Internet trying to find out the conversions of grams to cups or tablespoons, seeing as I don't have my scales here. I cheated a bit with the mincemeat as I bought a jar of Crosse & Blackwell's mincemeat- I keep saying one day, I will have to make my own mincemeat but as it's usually hard to find all the ingredients in Spain and it's more convenient anyway, I end up just buying a jar from thefoodhall.es. I usually use Delia Smith's recipe for perfect pastry (hopefully) After making your pastry then, comes the most difficult bit rolling it out! Dust the countertop(clean of course!)with flour and dust the rolling pin with flour also, so pastry doesn't stick to either. Roll out pastry to required thickness. As I also didn't have my cookie cutters, I made do with a wine glass dipped in flour to cut out pastry circles....who says you need fancy equipment?!!!Usually you would cut out bigger circles for the bottom of mince pies and a smaller circle for the tops but as I have limited cooking equipment here, mine were the same size. Fill pastry with a teaspoon of mincemeat,not too much as it will all splurge out whilst cooking, causing a lot more cleaning-and who wants that?Wet rhe edges of the pastry top with water and cover the mince filling. Mark with a cross or two little arrows for ventilation. Cook for 25 mins at 395 degrees F/ 250 degrees C (not sure if I've got the temperature right in C!) So far so good. I made the pumpkin pie using the Better Homes and Gardens recipe with a minor adaption as I don't want to end up with loads of spices I don't end up using:

Pumpkin Pie

5oz plain flour

2oz lard

2oz butter

pinch of salt

cold water to mix

1 15oz canned pumpkin

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup half-and-half, milk, single cream

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or if you can't get it, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg)


Make the pastry and line a 9 inch (25cm) pie dish with pastry.

Mix pumpkin, sugar, spices. Add eggs and beat until combined. Add half-and-half gradually and mix. Pour into pastry shell and cook in preheated oven for 25 mins, lower pie to bottom shelf to prevent pastry from getting too crispy and cook further 25 mins until knife comes out clean, when inserted into centre. Cool and refrigerate.

I had a lot of problems making the pastry base...the pastry kept cracking when I was rolling it out and breaking when I was trying to place it in the pie dish. Don't worry though, if you have these problems...my Gran always says it's supposed to be good pastry if it cracks! Perserverance is the key here and lots of patience although I have to admit after 3 or 4 attempts mine was wearing pretty thin! If the pastry cracks a lot or is too dry, add more cold water and if it ends up to wet and watery, add more flour. Eventually I managed to transfer the pastry to the dish with only mild breakage and as I had some pastry leftover from the mince pies, I was able to patch it up and make a more or less crimped edge...so an important lesson, always hang on to your scraps...you never know when they may come in handy.


Carrot & Coriander Soup (Nov 20th)

I had some coriander left over from a curry and as I've always wanted to make carrot and coriander soup (and TRY it!) that's what I did! So, here's my first recipe...it's based on one of the recipes on the BBC Food website but adapted for 2 people and I added my own little twist...... mainly as I also wanted to use up the half of lime. Unfortunately, my boyfriend didn't enjoy it as said he doesn't like the taste of coriander but I thought it was pretty damn tasty even if I do say so myself, so don't let that put you off!

Carrot & Coriander Soup (Serves 2)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
5 big carrots, peeled and sliced (sorry I don't know the exact weight...am really missing my scales!)
2/3 oz (55g) fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 lime, juice only
400ml (14 oz) hot chicken stock (vegetarians can use vegetable stock)
100ml (3 0z) cream
salt and black pepper

Fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil when oil is hot, until onions and garlic are softened(2-3mins).
Add the carrots and coriander and lime juice and cook for five minutes.
Add the stock and simmer for five minutes.
Add salt and pepper to season, then blend in a blender or with a hand blender till smooth.
Add the cream and reheat but do not boil.

Easy peasy! Serve with slice of crusty bread and enjoy a perfect winter meal, great for warming you up on those cold nights!


Why I decided to write this blog... Nov 21st 2008

I was inspired to write this blog after reading some of the blogs mentioned on BBC Food on the food chat and as it's a cold, snowy day, it's the perfect day to start it! I'm already writing one blog so let's see how I get on with managing to write two! I'm not a technical genius and as I'm only your bog standard average cook,I'm not sure it'll reach the standards of other food blogs out there. I like to experiment though and you'll be able to follow my cooking trials and tribulations. I have always liked cooking since I was young and helped my Gran in the kitchen....like most of us do...even though I was always a bit of a fusspot. However, my food & cooking obssession seems to be increasing with age! I also love travelling and writing...in fact I studied journalism and one of my dreams or "fads" when I was a child was to become an author/writer so this seems like one of the best ways to combine three of my favourite activities. I'd also love to get a job including some or all three of my interests and this seems like a good start. It always gets my goat when people diss British food and say our food is bland, boring, horrible etc and that the British can't cook and I sometimes feel like I'm on a mission to prove that our cuisine really isn't so bad!
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