Category Archives: pastry

Baked bean and ham pie

Branston bean and ham pie

Autumn is most definitely upon us, the nights and mornings are chillier, the gloves have been dug out from the back of the drawer and the lawn is more leaves than grass. It’s time for dinner to be warm and comforting once more. One of the comfort foods we always turn to in this house is baked beans so I was thrilled when Branston asked me to develop a recipe around their beans.

Branston baked beans

Branston launched their baked beans 10 years ago this month and they have been rated by the Good Housekeeping Institute as the best tasting beans of all the leading brands and in taste tests 4 out of 5 people prefer the taste of Branston’s beans. This might be something to do with Branston putting more tomatoes into their sauce.

This pie makes a substantial family meal, with the beans as the star. The beans’ tomato sauce means that there is no need to make a gravy. I served it with a swede and sweet potato mash that was perfect to soak up the juices, but really all you need is the pie.

Branston beans and ham pie

If you would like the pie to be even more substantial you can crack a couple of eggs onto the filling before you put the pastry on top. I made it with the eggs when Granny came round for tea, but didn’t for last night’s tea as my eldest is away with school for the week and my youngest turns her nose up at eggs. The pie was well received both times with second helpings being devoured eagerly. Even Granny, who said she wasn’t keen on beans before she dug in, ate every last mouthful! A ringing endorsement, I’d say.

For the pastry
250g plain flour
125g cold butter, cut into cubes
7-8 tbsp cold water

For the filling
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 onion finely diced
350g cooked ham, diced (or you can use bacon rashers, cut into small pieces, or bacon lardons, just fry them with the vegetables)
1 x 410g tin Branston baked beans
½ tsp oregano
pepper to taste

1 egg and a splash of milk for egg wash


Preheat the oven to 200°c, gas mark 6, or use the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga.

Make the pastry by placing the flour into a large bowl and adding the cubes of butter. Rub in using your fingertips until the butter is evenly distributed. Pour most of the water in (you might not need all of it) and draw a knife through the pastry until it starts to come together. If you need more water add it gradually.  Bring the dough together into a ball using your hands and wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for twenty minutes to chill. You can also make the pastry in a food processor by whizzing the flour and butter together briefly and then add most of the water and whizz until it all just starts to come together.

For the filling, sauté the carrot, celery and onion (and bacon if you are using that instead of ham) in a large frying pan with a tablespoon of oil until the vegetables are soft. This will take about ten minutes over a gentle heat. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, add the ham, the oregano, a touch of pepper and the baked beans and mix well.

Cut one-third of the pastry off the ball and put to one side. Roll the larger piece on a lightly floured work surface to the size of your pie dish. My pie dish in the photo above measures 20cm. Then line the pie dish with the pastry. Pour in the filling. If you want to add a few eggs then crack them on top of the filling at this point.

Lightly beat the egg for the egg wash in a small bowl or cup and add a splash of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush a little egg wash around the edge of the pastry where the lid will sit to help with the seal. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry  on a lightly floured work surface to fit. Place on top of the dish and, using your thumbs, press all along the edge to make a good seal.  Using a sharp knife  poke two holes in the top of the pie to let the steam escape and trim the excess pastry from the edge of the pie. If there is enough trimmings, re-roll and cut out a few leaves to decorate the top. Place these on top of the pie and brush the entire surface of the pie with the egg wash. Place in the centre of the oven or on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga and cook for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling is piping hot. Leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.


Disclosure: I was commissioned to develop this recipe for Branston Baked Beans. All the opinions are my own and are honest. 



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Mushroom and Chestnut Wellington

Lurpak are launching a Christmas website and have contacted food bloggers to submit recipes for an alternative to the roast turkey dinner. I was more than happy to contribute an idea that had been bubbling around in my head for a while.  I love a beef wellington and I think it would be a great Christmas Day dinner but if you are catering for vegetarians they want something just as delicious on their plate too and in fact this Mushroom and Chestnut Wellington is as good as any beef wellington I have eaten, so everyone is happy.

On Christmas Day, of all days, you want to eat something decadently rich and this is definitely that with its butter rich flaky pastry and a filling that oozes cream and sherry. But the real beauty of this dish is that it can be made the day before and will happily sit in the fridge waiting for you to pop it in the oven 45 minutes before you want to eat it. This means you get to spend less time in the kitchen and more time doing whatever makes you happy on Christmas morning.

But you don’t have to wait until Christmas to enjoy this. I think it might be even better cold than it is hot and so if you are having a party serve one of these sliced as part of a cold buffet and people will be asking for it every  time they come to yours for a party.


For the pastry
275g plain flour
225g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
cold water
1 egg to glaze

For the filling
60g butter
250g shallots or onions, sliced finely
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500g mushrooms (I like to use a variety, the tastier the better, but avoid button mushrooms as they have little taste)
200g cooked and peeled chestnuts
½ tsp dried tarragon
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp sherry, madeira wine or marsala
3 tbsp double cream
100g breadcrumbs


Begin by making the filling as you will need to allow it to cool before you can assemble the wellington.  Weigh the butter for the pastry, wrap in foil and place in the freezer for thirty minutes.

For the filling melt 40g of the butter in a large pan and gently fry the onions and garlic for three to five minutes until the onions are translucent.  Turn up the heat to medium and add the mushrooms (no need to slice them unless they are large) and the remaining 20g of butter and fry again for a further five minutes.  You want the mushrooms to have taken on a good brown colour with a little caramelisation. Add the tarragon and the chestnuts and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Add the soy sauce and the sherry (or madeira or marsala) and allow to bubble away until the juices have reduced by half.  Add the cream and bubble again for a minute or two.  Stir in the breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool.

To make the pastry put the flour into a large bowl.  Take the butter out of the freezer and, working quickly, grate the butter into the flour.  Use a palette knife to coat the butter with the flour.  Add enough cold water to mix (add the water gradually as you don’t want the pastry to be sticky) and continue using the palette knife to combine the pastry.  Once it starts to come together briefly shape into a disc with your hands.  Wrap in clingfilm or a food bag and place in the fridge for thirty minutes.

Place the cooled filling in a food processor and pulse until you have a chunky texture.

Roll the pastry out onto a well floured board to measure 40 x 35 cm.

Pile the filling in the middle of the pastry to form a sausage shape. Cut the overhanging pastry in each side into strips of 5cm and then take a strip from alternate sides to the top of the filling. Place onto a greased baking dish.  You can now keep this in the fridge until you are ready to cook.  Before cooking, beat an egg in a small bowl and brush over the top of the pie to glaze.

Cook in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or the roasting oven of the Aga for 30-35 minutes, turning once, until the pastry is golden.  It is best to leave it to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes before serving.


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Individual Apple Pies

I was picking up my youngest daughter from school (she started last week and is enjoying it so far, fingers firmly crossed that it stays this way) and there next to the door I fetch her from is a magnificent apple tree with lots lying on the floor.  I couldn’t resist.  I chose the best two I could find and came home and made these.

They don’t look like Mr Kiplings’ but that is part of their appeal.  They are very easy to make and require little dexterity – always a bonus.

200g plain (all purpose) flour
100g cold butter, diced
cold water to mix

about 3oog cooking apple, peeled, cored and sliced thinly (I used 2 medium sized apples)
demerara sugar (or other sugar would work just as well, I just like the crunch of demerara)


Make the pastry by placing the flour and the butter in a food processor and pulsing until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Add enough cold water to mix (I find a small wine glass of water, so about 125ml, is normally about the right amount, but add gradually).  Pulse until the pastry just begins to come together.  If you don’t have a food processor then place the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and using the tips of your fingers rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the water and mix with a palette knife until it begins to come together.

Form the pastry into a ball and flatten slightly.  Wrap in clingfilm  and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

I used a muffin tin for my individual pies.  Roll out the pastry and then cut out circles measuring 11.5cm – this is the size of my espresso saucers and so I used these to cut round with a sharp knife. I managed to get nine circles out of my pastry.  Push the discs into the holes of the muffin tin, using your fingers to carefully push the pastry to the bottom and up the sides.  This leaves some pastry overlapping the top.  Fill the pastry with apple slices and sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar over each.  You could also sprinkle cinnamon if you wanted to. Then wrap the overlapping pastry over the top of the apple.

Sprinkle a little more sugar over the top and place in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or in the Roasting Oven of the Aga for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

This was a very satisfying way of using a couple of apples that would have rotted otherwise and the girls enjoyed them.

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Madeiran Custard Tarts – Pasteis de Nata

These custard tarts are very Portuguese ( Madeira is a Portuguese Island) and very delicious.  They put the English custard tart to shame with their egginess and deliciousness.  The many bakeries in Madeira are the best place to buy them, should you find yourself on the island any time soon. The tarts available in the supermarkets (Pingo Doce and SA) are just not as good. But if you find a good bakery then these little treats are divine – crusty flaky pastry filled to the brim with sweet unctuous egg custard and caramelised on top.

I was determined to have a go when I got home so I searched blog sites and YouTube and found this video.  I watched it, tried my best to translate it, and then halved the mixture (because even I can’t eat 24).  I then had a go on Monday afternoon, trying to memorise what she did.  Needless to say I got it wrong.  I forgot the boiling the sugar part and just added the sugar to the milk.  I also didn’t note that she was just using the egg yolks and so I added the whole eggs.  The result tasted pretty good but it wasn’t the same as I had when in Madeira.  So today I watched the video again, took more note of what she is actually doing and then made them again. I am pretty pleased with the result.

I used a lot more pastry than the lady in the video does but then I am a big pastry fan.  You may want to be more light handed with your pastry than I am and make the bases a little thinner.

500g puff pastry or Delia’s Quick Flaky Pastry (recipe below)
250ml milk
A good sized strip of lemon peel (removed using my vegetable peeler)
1 cinnamon stick
30g plain (all purpose) flour
250g sugar
125ml water
4 egg yolks


Place the flour in a small bowl and use about 50ml of the milk to make a smooth paste.  Pour the rest of the milk into a saucepan, add the lemon peel and cinnamon and heat to boiling point.

In the meantime, pour the sugar into another saucepan and add the water.  Place over a gentle heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Stop stirring, turn up the heat, bring to the boil and let it boil for three minutes.

When the milk has come to the boil stir in the flour and milk paste and using a whisk keep whisking until smooth.  Cook for a minute or two, stirring all the time, to cook out the flour.  Once the sugar syrup has boiled for three minutes, carefully (because it will be very hot) and gradually add the sugar syrup to the milk mixture, whisking all the time.  When it has all been added allow to boil for a minute.  Then strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick.  Allow to cool whilst you put the pastry into a muffin tin.

If you are using ready made puff pastry roll it out into a rectangle and then roll up into swiss roll shape and slice into 12 even sized pieces.  If you are making Delia’s Quick Flaky pastry then form into a long sausage before chilling.

Take each piece and mould, using your thumb and fingers, into the hole of a muffin tray ( if you watch the video you will see what I mean).

Now add the egg yolks to the custard mixture and whisk in well. Make sure that the custard mixture is not still hot or the egg yolks will scramble. Pour this mixture into the pastry moulds and cook in a preheated oven at 250°c for about 15-20 minutes.   (I cooked mine in my Aga which does not reach 250°c, so I cooked them on the floor of the roasting oven for ten minutes to cook the base of the pastry cases, then moved to near the top of the roasting oven for another fifteen minutes before they were cooked to my liking and nicely caramelised on top.)

For Delia’s Quick Flaky Pastry:

When I made these tarts on Monday I followed Delia’s recipe word for word but the pastry only stretched to fill nine muffin holes so I made 1½ times the mixture today which yields nearly 700g of pastry.  This is more than enough for 12 and a bit left over for jam tarts or cheese straws depending on how the fancy takes me later.

350g plain flour
250g butter
pinch of salt (if you are using unsalted butter)
cold water to mix ( I probably used about 1 large wine glass full)


Place the butter in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Grate the butter over the flour and mix with a palette knife.  Add water and continue to mix with the knife until it starts to come together.  Then quickly use your hands to bring it into a sausage shape.  Wrap in clingfilm or a food bag and chill in the fridge for thirty minutes.  The key is to handle it with your warm hands as little as possible to keep it flaky.  When you are ready, take golf ball size pieces of pastry and mould into the muffin holes.



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Summer tart

summer tart

These berries all came from the garden.  How lucky are we?

I knew I had to make something that would make the most of these little beauties. I adore a fruit tart, with its contrast of crisp pastry, unctuous custard and tart fruit and this one didn’t disappoint.  The girls loved decorating the top with the berries too.

For the pastry
200g plain flour
100g cold butter
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 egg, beaten

For the pastry cream
4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
25g plain (all purpose flour) sifted
½ tsp vanilla extract or a vanilla pod
350ml milk

For the topping:
fruit of your choice
2 tbsps jam or jelly (such as medlar or redcurrant)


Make the pastry by placing the flour, cubed butter and icing sugar in a food processor and whizzing until it looks like tiny breadcrumbs.  Add half the egg and pulse the food processor a few times.  The pastry should begin to gather in a ball.  Add more egg if you need to and pulse again.  Be careful not to overwork the pastry. Form the pastry into a flattened disc, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for thirty minutes.

Remove the pastry from the clingfilm and roll out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a circle slightly bigger than the flan case.  My flan case measures 23cm. Carefully place the pastry into the flan case, pushing it into the corners with your fingers.  Roll the rolling pin over the top of the flan case to remove any extra pastry and neaten the top.  If you have time allow to rest again in the fridge for 20 minutes.  This will reduce shrinking of the pastry during cooking. Place a square of foil on top of the pastry and then fill the case with baking beans ( or dried beans or uncooked rice). This will prevent the pastry from rising during cooking. Place in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 for 15 minutes.  Remove the beans and the foil and prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork.  Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes until golden brown all over.  Leave the pastry case to cool.

Make the pastry cream by whisking together the egg yolks and the sugar until light in colour and thick. Stir in the sifted flour.

Heat the milk and the vanilla until just boiling (remove the vanilla pod if using) and then pour slowly over the egg mixture whisking all the time.  Pour it all back into the saucepan and continue to cook over a gentle heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Allow it to boil, stirring all the time for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir until it cools.  If is is lumpy then push the mixture through a sieve.  Cover the custard with clingfilm directly on top to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool completely.

About an hour before serving pour the pastry cream into the pastry case.  Decorate with the fruit.  Warm the jam/ jelly in a small saucepan and sieve if it has any seeds in it, then brush gently over the fruit to glaze.

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Rhubarb and ginger pie

I cannot claim any of the credit for this pie.  It is my mum’s recipe and my mum made it.  However, I couldn’t resist posting it here because it is just so delicious. The addition of the stem ginger really complements the rhubarb.  Every time my mum makes it it disappears almost as soon as it is put on the table. So if I can decipher my mother’s handwriting, this is how she makes it.

For the pastry:
200g plain flour
100g cold butter, diced
cold water

For the filling:
650g prepared rhubarb (peeled if necessary and cut into 3cm chunks)
2 heaped tbsp Demerara sugar
1 tsp stem ginger syrup from the jar
3 pieces of preserved stem ginger, chopped finely


Place the flour and the cubed butter in a food processor and blitz until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Add about 2-3 tablespoons of cold water at first and then pulse the mixture.  You may need to add a little more water until the pastry comes together in a ball.  The important thing is to keep the mixing to a minimum otherwise the pastry will be tough.  You can of course rub the butter and flour together with your fingers until the breadcrumb stage and then stir in the water with a knife until it comes together.  Form the pastry into a flattened disc, cover with a food bag or clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Place the rhubarb, sugar, stem ginger and syrup in a bowl and leave to marinate for about ten minutes.

Split the pastry in half and roll out one half to fit a pie dish or plate.  Place the rhubarb mixture into the dish.  Brush the edges of the pastry with water.  Roll out the second disc of pastry to fit the top and seal well around the edges.

Cook in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or in the Roasting oven of the Aga for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.  Sprinkle on a little more demerara as soon as it comes out of the oven for a crunchy top.

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Baked jam roly poly

I have wanted to make jam roly poly for ages but haven’t got round to it.  You can either steam it, wrapped in a cloth in a bain marie, or you can bake it like I did on Sunday.  I decided to bake it because it needs 3 hours of steaming and when I am cooking Sunday lunch I need all four ovens of my Aga available for action. The steaming pudding would have taken up quite a bit of my simmering oven.  Anyway,I prepared it early on and cooked it early and then kept it warm covered in foil in the warming oven.  I wouldn’t do this again though, it would have been better, I think, fresh out of the oven.  Oh well, I live and learn.

I made proper custard to go with it, and it was an enjoyable change to the sunday dessert menu. Next time, I will try steaming it and see which version I prefer.

I used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe in the The River Cottage Year as a guide, but adapted it to be baked rather than steamed and because I had 200g of suet, not 250g as HFW’s recipe calls for.

You can make this vegetarian by using the vegetarian suet that is available. You can also try different fillings, maybe mincemeat, or syrup with raisins and sultanas and a bit of chopped apple (ooh that sounds good, I might do that next time).

My mum had made strawberry jam from the piles of summer strawberries in her freezer, so that was the obvious choice for me, but I wonder what a marmalade roly poly would be like?

200g (8oz) shredded suet
400g (16 oz) self raising flour
pinch of salt
about 200-250ml cold water

Jam or filling of your choice (I used about half a jar of strawberry jam)


In a large bowl mix the suet, flour and salt together and pour in 200ml of water to begin with and mix to a stiff but manageable dough.  You may need to add more water to achieve this.

Flour a work surface.  Shape the dough into a square and then roll into a rectangle until the dough is about 1 cm thick.  Spread the jam or filling, leaving a good margin around the edge.  Brush the margin with a little water, then fold over the edges of the dough all around to seal in the filling.

Then roll from the short edge like a swiss roll, sealing with a little water.

Place on a baking tray seal-side down and place in a preheated oven at 180°c for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with custard.

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