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 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 pastry 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. Sprinkle over a little extra cheese for good luck.
  9. Back in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.

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 strip, brush with beaten egg and 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. 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

 

Christmas Cake

Here’s a classic fruit cake which I reluctantly refer to as a Christmas Cake, as it seems a shame to restrict beautiful food to a particular time of year, religion and belief :o)

Festive Cake?

Albeit an incredibly delicious cake, the joy of this is all in the making for me; the family can all get involved in the various steps of the process and feel equally proud of the results – there’s always going to be plenty to go round, and more than enough to share with friends and family. I was so chuffed at how well received it was this year.

This recipe is lifted from Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook, his latest (and potentially greatest) book to date. Developed from refinements on classic recipes and innovative twists over nearly two decades, it certainly won’t be gathering any dust on my shelf.

My 5-year-old daughter, Winter, was particularly keen to get involved with this bake and I found myself having to reel her in at times so I had a moment to pause and think before crashing ahead. #SuperKeenBean

Ingredients:

  • 75g dates
  • 75g prunes
  • 100 glace cherries
  • 400g mixed dried fruit
  • 1 apple
  • 100ml stout or porter
  • 1 clementine, zest and juice
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Find yourself a 20cm square cake tin, grease it with butter and line it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Roughly chop the dried fruit in a food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  3. Grate in the apple, add the stout, clementine juice and zest, and set aside.
  4. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy and then mix in the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk, a little at a time.
  5. Combine the two mixtures and then sift in the flour, spices, baking powder and cocoa, folding everything together.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the lined tin and bake for 2 hours at 150°C.
  7. Allow the cake to rest in the tin for 30 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. You can finish the cake however you like – you may want to just eat it like that – but we chose to coat it in a thin layer of apricot jam followed by marzipan and finally a fairly thin layer of royal icing.

Coating with Jam

Little hands working hard to roll out the royal icing on a sprinkling of icing sugar. rolling out the icing for the Christmas cake

We used a simple Scandinavian (Ikea!) cookie cutter to stick mini sugar pearls to the cake with a dab of water.

decorating the christmas cake

The finished ‘Festive Cake’:

Christmas Cake

Enjoy!

(Note to self – steady on the royal icing).

Must. Try. Harder.

Well, it’s finally out there. I know I should be jumping for joy to see it, but alas, although I haven’t even read it yet, the public reaction tells me that the UK Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy doesn’t hit the mark.

govt_strategy

 

I’ve had an opportunity to pore over it now, and here’s what I think.

Reading the introduction inspires me to go out for a run; this is serious stuff that we can’t ignore. More needs to be done to get the facts into the public domain and reinforce the severity in the minds of those not inclined to read Government strategy papers.

There’s absolute sense in what they state about long-term, sustainable change only being achievable through the active engagement of schools, communities, families and individuals. This is the core objective for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. It follows the basic principles of change, as we must raise awareness, create the desire, and help people to understand what they can do to make a difference.

The sugar tax is a positive step, but is it enough? If I were a food manufacturer, I don’t think I’d be too worried about any of this..

I see a lot of wishy-washy wording that leaves plenty of room for localised interpretation. I would have liked to have seen some more decisive moves rather than merely ‘encouraging’ change with a limp carrot.

The plans around sport for schoolchildren are great, but I’m concerned that the mindset will become “I do lots of physical activity, so I can get away with eating whatever I want”. The balance is paramount, and if those affected don’t have a clear understanding, then what hope do they have?

In conclusion, I’m glad that we have this, but we had a real opportunity for transformational change, and I can’t help but feel terribly disappointed that we didn’t grab it with both hands and really capitalise on it.

As stated, the launch of this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word. I for one will be making sure that I’m involved in that conversation, will you?

 

Countdown To Food Revolution Day 2016

On Friday May 20th, Jamie will be asking people across the world to join him, and sign up to the Food Revolution.

FOOD.REV54833%201_preview

This is our annual day of action that brings people together from around the world in thousands of events that celebrate good, fresh, real food. The ongoing global campaign provokes debate and aims to inspire meaningful change in the way our children access, consume and understand food.

This year is a step-change in our approach; it’s not just a day, it’s a revolution!

We’re in the middle of a global health crisis. Right now an astounding 41 million children under five are overweight, while another 159 million are too undernourished to grow properly. We’re failing both our children and future generations by not empowering them with the right food and skills they need to grow healthily and happily.

If you need any further inspiration, here’s Jamie’s 2010 TED talk.

Everyone should have the opportunity to lead happier, healthier lives by learning how to cook nutritious and delicious food from scratch.

The theme for 2016 revolves around not one, but ten basic recipes that act as a ‘Starter Pack of Cooking‘; ten recipes to save your life. These recipes are nutritionally balanced and each one covers a different skill and technique. We’re passionate about creating a movement that can deliver real change and help the world feed the future. These recipes can help to build confidence in the kitchen so that anyone can cook healthy, real food for themselves, and their families.

All the resources for planning local events are now available to download here.

Get involved, and help us to fight obesity and diet-related diseases.

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Baking Bread

April challenge #3 for the Food Revolution Ambassadors: Family cooking time for Easter.

We’ve been making bread, and this little helper just loves getting her hands dirty. Basic bread is super simple and a great basis on which to build your bread-making skills. There’s so much rubbish in everyday loaves – why not just make your own satisfying loaf. Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll be knocking out stunning bread whenever you need it. Did I mention that it’s unbelievably cheap?

I’ll admit that I’d migrated to a machine for a few years (obsolete Panasonic), but now the younglings are big enough to get involved it’s just gathering dust in the cupboard.  They find it so much fun and I never fail to get a “Wow!” when the oven door opens.

So, basic bread consists of just a few core staples – the Olive Oil is optional to be honest.

Ingredients:

  • 500g Strong Bread Flour
  • 320ml Tepid Water
  • 15g Fresh Yeast (or 7g dried)
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1tbsp sugar

Method:

If you’re using fresh yeast, mix it with the sugar and it will magically turn into a liquid.

Making a well in the flour

On a nice clean surface (or in a large bowl), mix your dry ingredients together, make a well in the middle and pour in the water/liquid. Bring it all together and then knead it for 5 – 10 minutes. You want to have a nice silky and elastic dough.

Winter kneading dough

Leave the dough to rest in a warm place under a damp tea towel until it has doubled in size. I put it in a lightly floured or oiled bowl and pop a disposable showercap over the top. The first prove should take about 30 minutes.

Once it’s doubled in size, ‘knock it back’ by giving it another knead or a bit of prodding for a few seconds. Shape it and pop it onto the tray you intend to bake it on.

Cover it again and leave it for its second prove which will take about an hour to double in size.

Bread dough ready for baking

Gently slide your dough into a preheated oven (180°C/350°F/gas 4) and bake it for about 20 – 30 minutes until beautifully golden. The bread should sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom. Pop it onto a rack and allow it to cool down.

Standard Loaf

Winter was particularly taken with her miniature loaf which she shared with Felix as soon as he got home from school.

Miniature loaf We’ve been baking all sorts of bread and I’m starting to feel the benefits of all the exercise!

Standard Loaf of Bread

Must dash, more dough needs my attention.