Monday, April 18, 2011

Chicken Curried Pies

Pies are a bit of a Kiwi institution. Sadly though, finding a decent one can be a case of hit and miss. Soggy bases, chewy pastry, bland and fatty fillings, these things are common in your bog-standard store-bought pie. You'd think as a nation of pie-lovers we would be a bunch of connoisseurs, but yet we still put up with sub-par pies. I guess the attraction of a nice comforting pie is just too strong. Well I for one won't settle for a crappy pie any more. Not since I realised how easy (and economical) they are to make at home. You can even keep a bunch in the freezer and heat them up when you get that craving. 

The pastry in this recipe is amazing,  exactly how pie pastry should be: flaky and melt-in-the-mouth, and the filling is chunky and tangy.  I guess pies are not something you should eat everyday, but when they are this tasty I am tempted to ignore my sensibility. However, since these are mini sized pies they are more suitable for an afternoon tea, or as a party snack, so more of a snack than a meal, so not something you'd consume everyday...although you will surely be tempted.

Btw if you're not a fan of Indian spices just substitute them with herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley, etc. You could even switch the mango chutney with your favourite relish.
Also, if you think making mini pies is too fiddly and time consuming, why not make one large pie or several bigger ones.
Adapted from a recipe by Jane Price:


375g (3 cups) plain flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric powder
200g butter, chopped
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
100-115ml ice cold water

50g butter
350g boneless chicken, eg tenderloins or breast. Trimmed and diced into small cubes.
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
250ml (1 cup) chicken stock
2 tablespoons sweet mango chutney
3 tablespoons chopped coriander

milk, to glaze


First, make the pastry:
Place the flour, cumin and turmeric in a large bowl. Give it a wee whisk. Add the cubes of butter and rub in the butter with your fingers until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre and add the egg yolks and water. Use a flat-bladed knife and "cut" the mixture as you mix it until it becomes clumpy.
Tip the mixture onto lightly floured surface and work it into a ball. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Lightly grease two 12-hole patty tins, or small muffin tins. Roll out two thirds of the pastry to 2mm thick, cut 9cm rounds to fit into the tins. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut 24 tops with a 7cm cutter.
Keep these chilled in fridge.
Note: not all patty tins are a standard size, so while this the 7cm and 9cm cutters were ideal size for my tins, you should do a test cut first to see what size will suit you best. If you make a different size it will also change the amount you will make. So some common sense is involved. Btw don't worry if you don't have cutters the size you need; jar lids work well. So just look in your pantry. The lid of my jar of peanut butter worked ideally for me.

Now prepare your filling:
Heat the butter in a large saucepan or frypan. Add onion, cook until soft. Add chicken, when browned stir in the garam masala and cumin seeds. Cook for 2 minutes. Add flour, stir for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, gradually stir in stock. Return to heat, stir until boiling, reduce heat and simmer until sauce reduces and gets very thick. Stir in chutney and coriander. Season. Set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius.
Divide the filling equally among the pastry cases, brush the edges with water. Lay the pastry tops on the pies and press around the edges with a fork. Make a couple of wee slashes in the top of the pies to let steam escape. Brush tops with milk then bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 24

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Mini Cheesecakes - White Chocolate And Cranberry

If I could only eat one dessert for the rest of my life it would have to be cheesecake, preferably a baked one. I hear some people aren't fans of the baked variety, but I think those folk must be a little crazy in the head. Baked cheesecakes like this one have an awesome velvety texture that just melts in your mouth. Now how can that be a bad thing?

I like this particular version because it not only delivers in taste, but also in accessibility (non-food-processor owners like me will be pleased because it lends itself well to being completed by hand). The simplicity of it also means it'd be particularly good for any first-time cheesecake bakers. One tip to get you started: make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature, you can even soften it very briefly in a microwave (about 20 seconds on high). This way you'll be less likely to over beat the mixture while trying to remove lumps, and will yield better results.

Btw feel free to use other berries of your choosing, even a mixed berry combination is nice. Plus if you don't want to make mini ones just use a 22cm springform tin instead.


100g plain sweet biscuits ( I use 'Super Wines')
50g butter, melted
60ml (1/4 of a cup) thickened cream
180g white eating chocolate, broken into pieces
375g cream cheese
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
110g (1/2 a cup) caster sugar
1 egg
150g frozen cranberries, or other berries of your choice


Line a 6-hole Texas (3/4 cup) muffin pan with paper cases made from 17cm square sheets of baking paper.You could try using ready-made paper cases but I tried them once and they went soggy and were annoying to remove so I now stick with making my own.

Process the biscuits until fine. If you're like me and don't have a food processor, you can still achieve this by using a large mortar and pestle or by placing the biscuits in a ziplock bag (or two) and bashing with a rolling pin. Fun!

Mix the biscuit crumbs with melted butter until well combined. Divide among the paper cases and press down firmly. I use the back of an old spoon that I have bent backwards, makes the job easier. Leave in fridge for half an hour.

Place the cream and 130g of the chocolate in a small saucepan, stir over a low heat until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Beat the cream cheese, orange rind, sugar and egg until smooth. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.

Divide the filling among the paper cases. Sprinkle the berries on top.

Bake in a preheated oven at 150 Celsius for 30 minutes. Leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar.

Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the cheesecakes.

Makes 6