There are few things I like better than cooking – it’s such a soothing, satisfying thing to do.
A friend has requested steak and kidney pie for his birthday dinner tonight and I’ve been making pastry using all the little gems of advice I’ve garnered over the years: cool kitchen, cool hands, calm heart; giving it a little pat when you put it in the fridge to rest, saying ‘you have a nice rest now’ (can’t remember where this one came from, but I always do it); sticking the flour and fat in the freezer for ten minutes before whizzing (from Nigella Lawson).
The recipe I use is one given to me by my beloved aunt Vera, who made the best pastry I have ever tasted, and try as I might, I have never achieved the wonderfully flaky, melt-in-the-mouth texture her pastry always had. This makes a kind of rough puff – it’s very light and is perfect for a pie topping – and although it involves a bit of faffing around (you roll it out and fleck with lard three times, letting it have a good rest between each rolling), it’s definitely worth it.
Here’s the pie when it came out of the oven – and very good it was too, even though I says it as shouldn’t.
Out of interest, I looked up what Gervase Markham had to say about pastry. This is definitely a puff, rather than a rough puff, pastry but it might be interesting to try some time!
Of puff paste
Now for the making of puff paste of the best kind, you shall take the finest wheat flour after it hath been a little baked in a pot in the oven, and blend it well with eggs, whites and yolks all together, after the paste is well kneaded, roll out a part thereof as thin as you please, and then spread cold sweet butter over the same, then upon the same butter roll another leaf of the paste as before; and spread it with butter also; and thus roll leaf upon leaf with butter between till it be as thick as you think good: and with it either cover any baked meat, or make paste for venison, Florentine, tart or what dish else you please and so bake it.
From Gervase Markham, The English Housewife, ed. Michael R. Best, p.98