Sausage roll. Or, Pork and Apple Pastry, Walnut Pesto and Celeriac & Apple Puree.

Pork Pasty, Apple Celeriac Puree

Do you ever find that the best laid plans aren’t always the best? So many ‘good times’ in the past have been completely spontaneous.

There are exceptions, of course there are, but I often find the last minute trip away somewhere, unintended meeting of friends in a pub or off the cuff visit to that ‘restaurant we’ve been meaning to try’ are often more enjoyable.

It must have something to do with expectation of course. For any event, there will be an element of ‘rehearsal’ in your mind where you visualise how it’s going to go. God knows we did as teenagers eh fellas? And it was nothing like we imagined 😉

But, lifting the tone slightly, this can often happen when I cook. I sometimes come up with a great idea (or so it seemed in my mind at least), only to find it falls flat when the dish comes together.

Conversley, when the fridge is bare and you’re forced in a Ready Steady Cook  type improvisation situation (though no doubt minus the annoying presenters and studio audience)  you can come up with some corkers. As I said though, it’s probably about expectation isn’t it?

As you probably deduced by now, this dish was a last minute idea. I had celeriac slowly going soft in the fridge along with a half opened tray of pancetta and a piece of blue cheese rapidly approaching maximum ‘stinkiness’.  Add in the remains of the walnuts from my Khoresh Fesenjan last week and it started to come together itself really.

Although I really should call this ‘pork en croute’, or ‘minced pork parcels’, it was, for all intents and purposes, a sausage roll, albeit a posh one. Whatever though, I must admit, pastry work is not my forte, I really must practice to get some nice lattice work going on.

With it, pureed apple and celeriac and a pesto made from the blue cheese, walnuts a little honey and a little more apple.

You could use minced pork for this, it’ll be lower in fat, but I like making my own from belly slices as that fat keeps it from drying out.

Belly Pork and Pancetta

The puree is a little indulgent too, but you don’t need much.

Makes two large pastries (so 2 hungry people or 4 if you want to share!)

  • 1 large sheet ready rolled puff pastry.
  • 400g belly slices, minced.
  • 50g pancetta cubes
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp english (if you like it strong) or dijon (if not…)
  • 1 apple, peeled and cored
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1 tsp chopped sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 beaten egg for washing
  • Flour for dusting

For the puree

  • 1 celeriac, peeled and cubed
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 apple
  • 150ml cream
  • About a tbsp butter
  • Salt

For the pesto

  • Two handfuls of walnuts
  • About 40g blue cheese
  • Half an apple, peeled and diced.
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Salt to taste

For the pastry, blend or mince the belly slices with the pancetta and peeled apple to make a fine mixture. Spoon into a bowl and add the mustards, herbs and pepper.

I used about a tsp of salt, but I strongly recommend frying a little bit in a pan to check the seasoning.

Roll out the puff pastry, and half it (the sheets are a standard size generally, but the size is up to you ultimately!)

Spoon on the pork mixture to the centre of one side of the pastry, not too thickly, so it cooks through.

Pork pasty filling

Brush the edges with egg to seal and fold the empty side over and seal with a fork. Place a small hole in the top to let the steam out.

Brush with egg wash and place in the oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes but ,as always, a thermometer helps to check the middle is cooked.

Meanwhile, chop the celeriac and boil for about 15 minutes until soft. Finely diced and fry  off 4 shallots and the garlic. Place the lot in a blender, with a peeled/cored apple and the cream. Blitz until smooth ( in batches if need be). Return to the pan and season to taste. Place on a very low heat to warm through then turn it off and put a lid on to keep warm.

To make the pesto, simply blend, or pound in a mortar the walnuts, honey, blue cheese and apple pieces until a coarse paste.

And thats it – serve it all up with a very good cider or a nice Riesling

Pork pastry and Apple Celeriac & Apple Puree

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Persian evening and Khoresh Fesenjan

Khoresh Fasenjan

It’s good to be back after a nice trip away. Divonne, near the Swiss border and Geneva. It was lovely, thanks for asking. I’ll be doing something on this a France a bit later, but I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now:

A little while back a friends of ours asked if we fancied a Persian supper club. Well, yes,  of course we did. I must admit to being fairly ignorant to food from this region and so jumped at the chance.

It was only when we were given the address that, I became a bit unsure. Thinking it was a special event at a restaurant I was suprised to find out it was actually at someones house. Now, being a ‘reserved’ kind of chap this made me a bit uneasy. Other than the guys I knew who else would be there? My God, what if I to chat to someone boring? Worse, what if I bored them?

Of course I’m an idiot. The whole evening was excellent and as it turned out, the only  couple we didn’t know there were lovely.

Persian supper club

The chef and supper club proprietor for the evening was Afsaneh, who I was delighted to find out made the latter stages of Masterchef last year. The menu was based on food from her native Iran and if you think you’ve had big portions I’d advise you to think again.

photo 2[1]

She actually has a website called Afsaneh’s Persian Kitchen with the details – I do recommend you try it if you’re in the area.

The food was excellent, varied and oh so plentiful. The assortment of Hors d’oeuvres, starters, breads, rice dishes and grains accompanying the meat dishes was amazing and God only knows how hard Afsaneh and team must have been worked to produce the banquet. And then there was the dessert, mint tea and petit fours. A hell of a feat.

So spurred on, I thought I’d try and recreate one of the evenings favourite dishes which, I think we all agreed, was Khoresh Fesenjan, a thick stew made from ground walnuts and tangy pomegranate molasses (to be honest though it was all good, I’ll be trying the others later…). I read around and found a few variations and borrowed bits from them. Otherwise though it isn’t a long ingredients list.

Pomegranate molasses is made from concentrated pomegranate juice, and is a wickedly tangy, sweet and sour condiment. The ground walnut make this a thick and deceptively filling meal on its own. You don’t need much.

I served this with some saffron rice. I think its more authentic to bake the rice until the bottom is a nice golden brown, so I’ll try this next time.

Serves 4. Easily.

  • 200g walnuts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, I used boneless and skinless
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 50ml pomegranate molasses (or to taste)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp dried pomegranate seeds
  • 150g basmati rice
  • A pinch of saffron
  • A little brown sugar, again to taste
  • Salt and pepper

 Start by toasting the walnuts in a pan, being careful not to burn them. Allow to cool.

 In a casserole pot, fry the onions in the oil until softened. Add the chicken to brown (in batches) with salt and pepper. Once done, add 100ml of stock and the bay leaves and simmer with the lid on until just cooked through. Strain the stock and pour back with the rest and reserve the chicken and onion.

Blend the walnut until a coarse powder. Reserve a few and coarsely chop them for a bit of texture, which I liked. Pour 200ml of the stock into the pot and bring to a simmer. Stir in the walnuts to make a thick paste. The oil will begin to rise to the top – keep stirring it. Add the pomegranate molasses. I suggest you add little by little to taste as it is quite powerful and sharp. 50ml was about right for me in this case.

Pomegranate molasses

 Add the sugar to balance the flavours and then return the chicken and onions. Simmer with the lid on for an hours, adding a little of the remaining stock to loosen if too thick. Season with salt.

Saffron Water

Cook the rice as you normally would. I use the absorbtion method, using twice the amount of water to rice in a shallow pan. Add some hot water to a bowl and blanch the saffron to colour and flavour it. Add this to the rice towards the end of cooking.

Khoresh Fesenjan and Saffron Rice