Apricot frangipane tart

Cookery school was a year where I learnt the true art of pastry. Quiches lined with buttery shortcrust, proudly freestanding hot water crust pork pies, summer tarts edged with towering layers of rough puff, afternoons spent stretching homemade filo across entire tables – we did it all. For the majority of the year we also did everything by hand, the true Leiths way, in order to get a proper feel for the doughs we worked with. Since I finished Leiths and went to Cambridge, the proportion of my time spent perfecting pastry in this way has sadly largely declined. A situation that needed to be rectified immediately – with this frangipane tart!

Frangipane Tart

I didn’t start making this until about 6pm one evening, which made me think visions of eating freshly baked frangipane for dinner that evening might be overly ambitious. However, this came together in a cinch. As much as I enjoy occasionally labouring over the perfect crisp-bottomed quiche, it was joyous not to have any blind baking involved in this recipe. The jam, frangipane and fruit are all layered on the raw pastry and everything all baked together at once. You can pop it in the oven and forget all about it until the timer beeps 40 minutes later, with no baking beans in sight. The perfect way to get back into pastry making. When raw, the frangipane layer seemed perilously thin but it puffs up perfectly in the oven so do not fear! You can vary the flavours to suit seasonality and the jam you have to hand – the combinations are endless. I based my tart on this Mary Berry recipe (who better to use to avoid a soggy bottom?) with a few adaptations: I snuck a layer of jam in between the pastry and frangipane, used fresh apricots and skipped the icing layer as the jam gave that extra hit of sweetness instead. Enjoy!

Giant veggie samosas

Being a Cambridge student leads to a lot of questions when I get home. ‘Is everyone incredibly posh? Do you know anybody related to a Lord or Earl? Did everyone go to Eton?’ My answer to all these is, perhaps disappointingly, no. I found myself getting slightly swept up in the Cambridge bubble though when I exclaimed in Cambridge, ‘Oh, this Sainsbury’s doesn’t have any filo!’ Happily, my very #firstworldproblem must have been heard by the Sainsbury’s gods as a few weeks later there it was alongside the puff and shortcrust.

Giant veggie samosas

My initial plan had been for a spinach and filo pie, but that had long been made at home and gone by the time this filo was found. Samosas were the main result of a brief ‘filo recipe’ Google, but I was sceptical that with my highly limited store cupboard ingredients they would turn out bland. Luckily, I gave them a go anyway and I was so pleasantly surprised! It turns out a generous hand with the curry powder can bypass the myriad range of spices and herbs that would normally provide some complexity of flavour. These proved highly therapeutic to make due to the repetitive buttering and folding of pastry, and highly addictive to eat!

Giant veggie samosas

Makes 6

  • 1 onion
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 100g butternut squash, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 handfuls of peas
  • 1 heaped tbsp. of medium curry powder
  • 75g butter
  • 1 packet filo pastry
  • nigella seeds, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a drizzle of oil until soft. Add the sweet potato and butternut squash and cook until cooked through, adding a splash of water to stop them sticking and stirring regularly, around 10-15min. Add the remaining veg and curry powder and cook until the peas are cooked through and the spinach wilted. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Melt the butter in a mug in the microwave. Unroll the filo, keeping the pastry you are not working with covered to prevent it drying out. Take one sheet of filo, lay it flat and brush with melted butter. Fold in one third of the pastry lengthways towards the middle. Brush again with the butter and fold in the other side to make a long triple-layered strip.

Place one tablespoon of the filling mixture at one end of the strip, leaving a 2cm/1in border. Take the right corner and fold diagonally to the left, enclosing the filling and forming a triangle. Next, fold again along the upper crease of the triangle. Keep folding in this way until you reach the end of the strip. Finally, brush the samosa with more butter, sprinkle with nigella seeds and place onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pastry and filling. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the samosas are golden and crisp,

Ultimate Sausage Rolls

What is it about train stations and sausage rolls? I’ve been travelling between London and Cambridge a fair bit this week and every station I’ve passed through has been filled with the scent of freshly baked (or at least reheated) sausage rolls and pasties. Each time I was tempted, but I held out knowing that homemade would be far better.

Ultimate sausage rolls

When I pulled a tray of these out of my college oven, that familiar pastry aroma was back. This was swiftly followed by a girl who shares my kitchen commenting, ‘that’s a lot for one person’… clearly not understanding the joy of batch baking! One of these reheated in the oven, with a spoonful of baked beans and pile of steamed broccoli is going to my dinner for the next few days and I am more than okay with that.

Sausage rolls are so simple to make that a few easy touches can elevate them to the position of ‘ultimate’. Nigella seeds sprinkled on top add a touch of extra interest, using all-butter pastry ensures the best flakiness, interesting sausages will add more flavour than plain sausage meat with no extra effort from you. Trust me, these take 15 minutes to bake and will be far better than any station imitation.

Ultimate sausage rolls

Makes 4

  • 6 sausages (I used caramelised red onion ones)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 onion
  • 300g ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • sprinkling of nigella seeds

Preheat the oven to 200’C.

Use scissors to unpeel the sausages from their skins. Tip all the sausage meat into a bowl. Core and finely chop the apple – there is no need to peel it. Finely dice the onion. Add these to the sausage meat and mix everything together.

Unroll the puff pastry. Lay the sausage mixture down the centre of the pastry length ways. Lift the pastry around the meat and pinch together the join. Flip the long sausage roll over so this seam is on the base. Cut the roll into four and place on a lined baking sheet.

Brush each sausage roll with the beaten egg and top with a sprinkling of nigella seeds. Use a sharp knife to score three lines across the top of each one. Bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is risen, golden and crisp.

Tomato, courgette and pesto tarts

I have a thing for puff pastry. Covering a creamy chicken pie, twisted into cheese straws, folded over fruit to make a freeform galette, twisted with cinnamon sugar into tightly swirled palmiers – I’ll take them all please. This recipe therefore marks my continued quest to incorporate pastry into my diet in a way that isn’t completely over indulgent and unhealthy.

tomato, courgette and pesto tarts

These tarts are one of the simplest ways to get some flaky, buttery puff pastry into my diet whilst simultaneously getting some vegetables. It’s also really good for getting vegetables to stretch frugally far – just one courgette and three tomatoes make six tarts. These can either feed a crowd or, if you’re a student like me cooking for one, be stored in Tupperware and reheated for 5-10 minutes in the oven every day for a speedy hot lunch that isn’t a toasted bagel.

Tomato, courgette and pesto tarts

  • 1 package of ready rolled puff pastry
  • ½ tub of pesto
  • 1 courgette
  • 3 large tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 190’C. Unroll the pastry. Cut it in half horizontally, and into thirds vertically, giving you six even squares of pastry. Spread these out on two lined baking trays. Use a sharp knife to score a 1cm border around the edge of each square – do not cut all the way through.

Spread the pesto into the middle of each tart, right up to the border. Thinly slice the courgette and tomatoes. Lay over the pesto in alternating rows, creating whatever patterns you like.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the pastry is risen, golden, and crisp on the base.

Ham and cheese puff pie

What is it about melted cheese that just makes any food ten times better? Baked beans. Steaming hot jacket potatoes. Mammoth bowls of pasta. Oozing toasted sandwiches. Cheese + carbs = heaven. Today, I’m doing cheese + pastry. And surprise surprise, it’s a winner.

A ham and cheese bagel is my lunch pretty much every single day during term time. It’s super quick, requires no thought and minimal shopping so I can save my efforts for interesting dinners at the end of the day when my dissertation concentration has faded. This pie simply takes those qualities and wraps them up in flaky, buttery pastry to make the ultimate comfort food for cold and dark January days.

Ham and cheese puff pastry pie

Mini versions of this would be adorable and perfect for lunch time portioning, but I quite liked the generous indulgence of just making one big one. My recipe is adapted from here and I’ve adapted it a little bit to suit my shopping and make it even simpler by making this a three ingredient recipe. My top tip? Be over generous with the cheese, a little extra never hurts!

Ham and cheese puff pastry pie

Serves 4

  • 1 package of ready rolled puff pastry (375g)
  • 4 slices of ham
  • 150g cheddar
  • milk, to glaze

Preheat the oven to 200’C. Lay out the puff pastry square and cut it in half down the short length, to give you two rectangles.

Place one rectangle on a lined baking tray. Lay the ham on the pastry, leaving a 1cm border round the edge and overlapping if necessary. Grate the cheese over the ham.

Brush milk round the edge of the pastry, and lay the second half on top. Seal the edges with a fork, and score the top of the pie any way you like with the tip of a knife to decorate. Brush with milk. Bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed, golden and crisp.

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