Cheese & Bacon Pastries

Twists, turnovers, straws – all so deliciously naughty and yet devilishly simple to make at home.

Every now and again I have moments where I look at something familiar, and wonder why I’ve never thought of having a go at making it for myself. Often the ubiquitous is simpler than you think. Some things just aren’t worth the effort, however these pastries most certainly are.

I find it so satisfying to transform a block of puff pastry into delectable treats. Naturally, they’re not going to be a healthy option, but at least they’ll be homemade and you’ll know exactly what’s gone into them.puff pastry

Life’s too short to be making your own puff pastry, so don’t feel bad about using a shop-bought block or even splashing out a few extra pennies for the pre-rolled sheets for an even quicker turnaround.

Here’s a few options using similar ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • Puff pastry (block, rolled or even your own homemade rough-puff)
  • Streaky bacon
  • Grated cheese (cheddar is nice and tangy but feel free to experiment)
  • Dijon or English mustard
  • Egg, beaten
  • Seeds – black/white sesame or poppy (optional)
  • Tomato, sliced (optional)
  • Dusting of flour

Method 1 – Twists:

  1. Roll out your pastry to about 3mm thick on a dusting of flour, or simply unfold your pre-rolled sheets.
  2. Brush over a thin layer of mustard.
  3. Top with grated cheese.
  4. Lay down parallel strips of streaky bacon, leaving a little gap between.
  5. Carefully cut between the bacon using a large knife to make equally sized strips.
  6. Holding each end, confidently twist.
  7. Place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up and help them keep their shape when cooked.
  8. Brush the pastry with a little beaten egg.
  9. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.

cheese bacon twists

Method 2 – Turnovers:

  1. Cut your rolled out pastry into even squares about 12cm x 12cm.
  2. Brush with a thin layer of mustard (optional).
  3. Add a couple of slices of tomato (optional).
  4. Lay a rasher of bacon diagonally across the pastry.
  5. Top with grated cheese.
  6. Fold one corner into the centre and brush the exposed pastry with a little beaten egg.
  7. Fold the opposite corner over to form the turnover shape.
  8. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle over a little extra cheese for good luck.
  9. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes until the bacon is cooked and the pastry is golden and crispy.

If you’re adding tomato then please do note that it gets remarkably hot – make sure you let them cool down before tucking in.

cheese and bacon turnovers

Method 3 – Straws:

This is perfect for any offcuts or leftover pastry.

  1. Simply cut your rolled out puff pastry into strips, brush with beaten egg and then top with grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of seeds.
  2. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy.
  3. Open a beer.
  4. Devour.

homemade cheese straws

 

Have a go at looking at the world differently. Question yourself and rise to the challenge.

For me, it’s going to be flatbreads next. I already know that they’re super-easy to make – easier than a normal loaf – yet somehow I’ve never had the confidence that my attempt would be as good as shop-bought.

Winter and the cheese bacon tomato turnovers

 

Baked Blueberry Pancake

We often freeze fresh berries when we have a few left over that would otherwise spoil. This is great way to use them up in a ‘store-cupboard’ pancake; a serious breakfast crowd-pleaser.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Eggs
  • 250ml Milk
  • 125g Self-raising flour
  • 50g Caster sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 25g Butter
  • 175g Blueberries (or other berries)
  • 1 tbsp Maple syrup
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • Crème fraîche to serve

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan). In a small pan, slowly cook down 100g of berries with the maple syrup to make a sauce.

For the pancake, whisk the eggs, vanilla and milk together. Sift in the flour and add the sugar. Mix to make a batter.

Pop a 23cm cake tin or pan into the oven with the butter. Once the butter has melted, pour in the pancake mix and scatter over the remaining berries.

Bake for 15 minutes until beautifully golden,

Dust with icing sugar and serve, topped with the blueberry sauce and crème fraîche.

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It can be a challenge to remove the baked pancake from the tin – I’ve found that a springform tin works well as long as you can get a good seal. Otherwise, you can always serve it straight from the tin.

You can make smaller individual ones too – just reduce the cooking time a little.

 

 

 

As always, recipes are merely guides – feel free to experiment, mix it up and swap out ingredients depending on what you have and how you’re feeling. 

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Steak Tartare

This has become a birthday ritual for me.  Not that it’s my birthday; not for ages.  I’m hoping that the younglings will adopt it so that I can guarantee making it at least 3 times a year.

This dish is all about the beef. ALL ABOUT THE BEEF.  Like sushi, it needs to be excellent quality, from a reputable source and trimmed of any fat or sinew. I always use beautiful, delicate fillet, chilled and cut by hand as the texture is everything – you certainly don’t want to end up with a burger patty.  You can of course use rump or sirloin if you prefer more flavour and bite. I’d recommend about 150g per person.

Beautiful Fillet of beef

I think everyone that makes Tartare for themselves has their own style and particular way of preparing it.  Your biggest concern will be whether to incorporate the condiments or not.  I have to admit that it can look less appealing (and more like an uncooked burger) without.  Although I’d still eat it of course.

Once you have your beef diced to your liking, mix in chopped capers, shallot, flatleaf parsley, gherkin, Worcestershire sauce, Tobasco sauce, extra virgin olive oil and season it with salt and pepper (rough quantities below if it’s your first time). As I say, you can always serve these condiments on the side and let people mix them in to taste. Form it by hand or use a little mould/ring.

Finally, make a tiny well in the centre and adorn your creation with the freshest free range egg yolk you can lay your hands on.  Raw of course.

Close up of Steak Tartare

I seem to remember TV shows like ‘Mr Bean’ giving Tartare a bad reputation. Meat and egg, raw, are you mad? Trust me, you’ve not lived until you have eaten Steak Tartare.

steak tartare, chips and condiments

Here’s the solution if you’re like me and can’t decide on the condiment front – have it all.  Serve with a few chips, maybe some chives and Dijon mustard; whatever you like.  I’ve gently persuaded plenty of friends to try it, and all have fallen in love with this almost sensual dish.

steak tartare with raw egg

Ingredients: (per person)

  • 150g Steak
  • 1/2 tsp Capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 tbsp Flatleaf Parsley, chopped
  • 1 Shallot, finely diced
  • 1 Gherkin, finely diced
  • Dash of Tobasco Sauce
  • Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
  • Dash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Flaky Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper.

Mulled Wine Jelly Sweets

As Christmas culinary activities were somewhat postponed for me, I’m finally getting round to making festive treats for friends and family.  On a positive note, this is a good January, as the house is still full of nice ingredients and treats.  You could say that the ‘Christmas Cupboard’ is well stocked.

During my pre-Christmas planning which started back in, well, October probably, I came across the concept of making wine-based jellies to accompany cheese – much like the concept of Membrillo.

Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver for his Mulled Wine Jelly Sweets:

Ingredients:

  • 600g apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 300g pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 700g golden granulated sugar
  • 200g white caster sugar, for dusting
  • 500ml red wine
  • 200ml orange juice
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 40ml liquid pectin

Method:

1. Lightly grease a 20x20cm tin with oil and line with cling film, leaving some excess to come over the sides.

2. Place the apples and pears in a heavy-based saucepan with the wine, orange juice, half of the lemon juice and the spices. Cook over a high heat for 30 minutes, until the fruit has broken down, the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with a dark red purée.

apples, pears and spices

3. Push the mixture through a fine sieve, discarding any pulp. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan, add the golden granulated sugar and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved.

sugar for mulled wine jelly sweets

4. Pop a sugar thermometer in the saucepan and let the mixture slowly cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 107°C. Then add the rest of the lemon juice along with the pectin and bring it up to 115°C.

5. You can check if your mixture is done by dropping ½ teaspoon of it into a bowl of cold water; if it forms a ball, it’s ready; if not, give it a few more minutes.

6. Pour into your prepared tin and set aside to cool.

7. Once cooled, cover the top of the mixture with cling film and leave to set at room temperature for at least 12 hours.

8. Pour the white caster sugar onto a tray. Using a hot or lightly greased knife, cut the set jelly into 2cm squares. Roll the jellies in the sugar and place them in the fridge until you’re ready to bag or box them up.

Sweets for Cheese

Whilst making these, I recall thinking “never again”.  In hindsight, I think that I will probably give them ago next year but pay more attention to testing how the mixture is setting.  The flavour is fantastic, but the jelly can be terribly sticky and hard to work with if it isn’t quite set enough (hence the ‘rustic’ shapes).