Steak pie / The Jane Austen Challenge

I wasn’t able to write anythingin my blog for weeks. I am still cooking of course, but I am in such a rush that I end up preparing dinner when the light has gone and it is not possible to take good photos. I will try to restart a routine; it is my therapy at the end of the day !!!

I decided to try something that had to be quick and to make me happy it should be something a bit “Regency”. So I went for a steak pie but instead of hot water pastry dough that is the more correct choice if you want to have a real “Regency” pie, I used deep frozen puff pastry. The result was anyway delicious and even my daughter that is not a meat-lover eat a nice portion of it.

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INGREDIENTS

900 g steak, cut into cubes (I was very careful in trimming all the fat parts)

White flour, for dusting

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

salt and (better if freshly) ground black pepper

500ml hot beef stock

225g puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

DIRECTIONS

Dust the cubedsteak with the flour

Heat the oilin a large pan and fry the meat, until browned on all sides.

Add the sliced onion, parsley and thyme, salt and black pepper and the stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heatand simmer gently for an hour and a half.

Preheat the ovento 180.

Transfer the filling mixtureto an ovenproof dish. Cut a piece of pastry to fit across the top of the dish and place on top of the dish (I used a cutting tool to make it look like a net); then brush with more beaten egg.

Transfer to the oven and cookfor about 1 hour or until the pastry get nicely brown, it is nice both serve hot or cold.

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Blueberry jam pie/The Jane Austen Challenge

 

‘Then the baked apples came home, Mrs Wallis sent them by her boy; they are always extremely civil and obliging to us, the Wallises, always —I have heard some people say that Mrs Wallis can be uncivil and give a very rude answer, but we have never known anything but the greatest attention from them. And it cannot be for the value of our custom, now, for what is our consumption of bread, you know? Only three of us [endearingly, she counts Patty] —besides dear Jane at present —and she really eats nothing —makes such a shocking breakfast, you would be quite frightened if you saw it. I dare not let my mother know how little she eats – so 1 say one thing and then I say another, and it passes off. But about the middle of the day she gets hungry, and there is nothing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr Perry; I happened to meet him in the street. Not that I had any doubt before – I have so often heard Mr Woodhouse recommend a baked apple. I believe it is the only way that Mr Woodhouse thinks the fruit thoroughly wholesome. We have apple dumplings, however, very often. Patty makes an excellent apple dumpling.’ (Emma).

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I haven’t written in my Jane Austen Challenge for a while because I was distracted by all this amazing spring herbs and fruits that are so abundant in the Mediterranean area but not very common on a Regency table.

Sweet pies (in particular apple pies) are often mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels and letters: in Austin’s time not all the household were so lucky to have a oven of their own, so, in this case, the Bates has to send the pies out to the baker to have them cook.

Back to our modern time I decided to use what was left of my homemade blueberry jam that I prepared last  summer for this pie, I used spelt flour instead of white flour, because it adds an extra crunchy texture to the crust and it tastes a little bit like almonds.

The aspect of this recipe that I really like is that you don’t need a scale, a simple cup will do the job. I used a biscuit injector machine to ornate my pie with romantic flower-like biscuit. The recipe was enough for a pie of 25 cm. of diameter and 20 small biscuits.

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Ingredients:

2 cups of spelt flour (or white flour)

½ cup of sugar

½ of butter (cold)

2 Tbs of yogurt

1 egg

5 gr raising powder

Blueberry jam (also raspberry jam is nice with spelt flour)

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, mix  flour, sugar and baking powder, then add the butter, yogurt and egg.
  • Mix all the ingredient, but pay attention to work the mixture for just the minimum time required to form a soft dough, you haven’t to warm the butter!
  • Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface until is abut ½ cm thick.
  • Transfer the rolled crust to an ungreased pie plate. Trim the dish of any extra dough.
  • Fill the pastry shell with the jam, then with the extra dough prepare some decorations. Bake in pre heated oven at 180° for 30-35 minutes, until golden.

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Cottage Pie (The Jane Austen Challenge)

I haven’t post in my Jane Austen Challenge for a while. Spring is a very busy moment for my family and me. It is mid-term exams period for my students and my kids. Kids have to practice intensively because the regatta season starts, and I have to balance between job, home and shuttle the kids to the practice spot nearly every day. I felt I need some comfort food, and my mind went back to my early teens, when I first went to UK to improve my English. I discovered there the Cottage Pie, a very humble pie, when compared to others but tasty and very easy. You would say that there is no mention of Cottage Pies in Jane Austen’s work, and you would be right, but that very summer, our English teachers gave us “Emma” as one of our summer readings and it was love at first sight both with Jane Austen and UK.

I have travelled extensively in my life and lived in different country, but whenever I go to UK I have the same sensation than I get in Italy: “home”.

The recipe I suggest you, is my own recipe, the one that I developed in the years. The topping is prepared with the same procedure my mom was using to prepare her “potato pure” and enriched with cottage cheese. I hope you will enjoy this small Italian contamination of a traditional English recipe. Let me know.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 chopped stalk of celery
  • 700 gr beef mince
  • 300 ml homemade beef stock
  • 1 tbs white flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of thyme
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil

 

For the topping

  • 750gr potatoes, boiled or steamed and peeled
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 150 ml milk
  • 100 gr. of grated cheddar cheese

 

 

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Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 190’ C
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, the celery and carrot and cook over a medium heat until soft (the onion should be translucent).
  3. Add the minced beef and cook very well until is brown.
  4. Dissolve the flour in the warm beef stock and add it to the mince along with bay leaf and thyme.
  5. Cover and let it simmer for 30 minutes, it will be ready when the gravy has a creamy consistency.
  6. Meanwhile, to make the topping, mash the potato in a pan heat the butter over low heat
  7. Add the mashed potato to the butter, mix well and add the milk.
  8. When the milk is absorbed add the cheddar and stir until completely dissolved in the mash. season with salt and pepper.
  9. Spoon the meat into an ovenproof dish (I used single-serve oven proof cups). Top with the mash and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.
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Golden Brown topping that melt in your mouth
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The spoonful of flour in the mince adds texture to the gravy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rout-Cake (The Jane Austen Challenge)

 

In Emma, probably my favourite among Jane Austen’s novels, rout-cake is mentioned as an assessment tool to evaluate society in Highbury:

“.. Her Bath habits made evening-parties perfectly natural to her, and Maple Grove had given her a taste for dinners. She was a little shocked at the want of two drawing rooms, at the poor attempt at rout-cakes, and there being no ice in the Highbury card parties. Mrs. Bates, Mrs. Perry, Mrs. Goddard and others, were a good deal behind hand in knowledge of the world, but she would soon shew them how every thing ought to be arranged…”

Mrs Elton considers rout-cake prepared by the ladies in Highbury quite unsatisfactory but we all know that Mrs Elton… was a vain woman, extremely well satisfied with herself, and thinking much of her own importance; that she meant to shine and be very superior, but with manners which had been formed in a bad school, pert and familiar; that all her notions were drawn from one set of people, and one style of living; that if not foolish she was ignorant, and that her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good.”

Lady Charlotte and her the Lady’s own cookery book, did not give any hint about a rout-cake should look like at Jane Austen’s time. But another essay came to rescue me: it is “Jane Austen and food” by Maggie Lane, where I could find the following recipe from another old book: Maria Rundell’s, A New System of Domestic Cookery (1824)

“Mix two pounds of flour, one ditto butter, one ditto sugar, one ditto currents, clean and dry; then wet into a stiff paste, with 2 eggs, a large spoonful of orange-flower water, ditto sweet wine, ditto brandy, drop on a tin-plate floured: a very short time bakes them.”

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Again I had to do the math, because I do my recipes in grams or cups and I discovered that two pound is about 900 gr. too much even for a sweet tooth family as we are.

So my recipe is:

450 gr. white flour

225 gr. butter

225 gr. powered sugar

currents as desired

1 egg

a spoonful of orange-flower water

a spoonful of rose water

a spoonful of sherry

a spoonful of brandy

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Directions:

I prepared as I usually do with pasta frolla (Italian shorcrust), that is I quickly mixed all the ingredient in the stand mixer but I didn’t add the currents. I let the dough rest in the fridge for about half an hour and then I took it back, divided that in two halves, I mixed currents in one half and chocolate chunks in the other (I bet Mrs. Elton wouldn’t find them deluding!).

I rolled the dough into balls and then I flattened them and I in a pan and bake in the oven at 180’ C. for about 10 minutes. The result is crunchy cookies that go very well with tea (or in the evening with something stronger like a good Italian meditation wine!)

Those are the babies with currants:

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And those with chocolate chunks:

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English Muffin 1 (The Jane Austen Challenge)

I have decided to challenge myself until the summer, I will prepare food from Jane Austen’s table. I got ready, I have good companions, I found London Art of Cookery by John Farley in an edition of 1811 and the Lady’s own cookery book, by Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury published in 1844, but Lady Charlotte was born in 1775, the same year of Jane Austen so I think that the recipes she describes are similar to the food Jane was eating every day (yes because Lady Charlotte specify that her book is “adapted to the use of persons living in the highest style, as well as those of moderate fortune”.

I decided that first of all I need to learn how to make good muffins for a nice cup of tea.

Muffins were served in Lizzy’s Untie Phillips’s home:

With such rivals for the notice of the fair, as Mr. Wickham and the officers, Mr. Collins seemed likely to sink into insignificance; to the young ladies he certainly was nothing; but he had still at intervals a kind listener in Mrs. Philips, and was, by her watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin.”

And in Hartfield, with too much generously, according Emma’s father:

No, my dear,” said her father instantly; “that I am sure you are not. There is nobody half so attentive and civil as you are. If any thing, you are too attentive. The muffin last night—if it had been handed round once, I think it would have been enough.”

First I tried the recipe I found in Farley’s book, the original was saying “a pint and half of good ale yeast… Two gallons of water just milk-warm but not so hot as to scald the yeast, and two ounces of salt… and with a bushel of Hertfordshire white flour mix”.

The first challenge is that I don’t have ale yeast, and to tell the true, I am not so passionate on the idea of preparing it myself, so I went for dried yeast (1 tablespoon) and I sparkled it in about 50 ml of warm sugared water. I left it to rest until bubbling. I did the math, two gallons of water and a bushel of flour is enough muffins for an army, not for a family of four. Proportions are 1 to 5 so I prepared a dough with 5 cups of flour and 1 cup of milk-warm water (35 C.) and the yeast. A tablespoon of salt was added in the flour. The dough was very dry and hard so I let the mixer go at low speed until it was softened, it takes a very long time. I let the dough sit in a warm place until doubled in size, I knocked back and rolled it about ½ cm thin on a floured surface, then with a round biscuit cutter I cut the muffins and I let them  sit in a warm place until doubled. Instead of a griddle I used an oven pan, I put it in the lower place in the oven, heat it and the I placed my muffins.  I turned the muffins after about 7 minutes to grill the other surface.

I didn’t like the result. They are eatable, like bread, but they are not fluffy at all. The dough was too dry. Maybe with a griddle I would have get a better result.

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Tomorrow I am going to try Lady Charlotte recipe… I think I would get a “lady-like” result.

So don’t pop in my place for tea today, I invite you tomorrow, hoping for a better result, but in any case I have plenty of butter and homemade jam and jelly.

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