The Cutest Cakes Bakes Baklava for Charity

As I have previously mentioned ‘Running Buddy 1’ has a big birthday coming up this month and although she’s having a big party doesn’t want presents, she wants donations to Help for Heroes charity. That’s all very lovely and no problem. By coincidence Google Alerts had alerted me to a cake bake fortnight that Help the Heroes are currently promoting this month, and then, as if fate really is starting to take a hand, a member of my family has just been posted on active service as he belongs to the TA.

Well that’s it then.

The Cutest Cakes and friends presents :

As you can see I am lacking in the poster creation department. Eye-catching and informative is all I am going for. This is just the online blog/fb poster, the actual one courtesy of H4H is here but is a pdf file so a little bit faffy.

Running buddy 2 and I are pulling this together with the help of friends to supply the cakes to eat and a very talented cake maker who will bring delicious cakes to buy and take home. Another stall will be offering the most gorgeous digital printed découpage style cards and I’m supplying two decorated cakes to raffle. There could be more in fact, one friend has an online vintage clothing company and she may be free to attend and finally I am hoping a jewellery maker will be present. We thought we might promote a vintage theme as Spring will have definitely sprung, and we will receive bunting (always good for a vintage feel) in our fund-raising pack. So if you are in area, PLEASE drop by and bring your friends.

On the subject of cakes to eat, obviously cupcakes, sponges, muffins and tray bakes are staple choices at an event like this.

However as Easter will be round the corner I think I shall take along Baklava. If you were paying attention last week you will remember that I promised to reveal how to use up leftover filo pastry from the Filo Fish Pie. I spent some time on Crete during the Greek’s Easter celebrations about 20 years ago and subsequently Easter and Greek cooking seem to be entwined in my psyche. I may need to take along forks to eat these confections with as they drip with a rose-water perfumed nectar however the calorie count should be lower than normal as there is far less filo pastry involved. I must credit Nigella for the basics upon which the following is based:

So, you will need about 4 sheets of filo pastry for this, 200g shelled pistachio nuts, 60g butter, 150ml water, 250g sugar, ½ tsp rose-water, ½ tsp orange flower water (optional), squeeze of lemon juice and a 9″ square roasting/brownie tin. First off, and an hour or so before making the Baklava, make the syrup: put the sugar, water and a squeeze of lemon juice into a saucepan, bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the rosewater and orange flower water if using and cool in a jug.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 165°C. Pour the nuts into a minichopper and whizz up so you have a mixture of finely through to roughly chopped (or you could chop by hand). Melt the butter and dig out the pastry brush again. Brush the roasting tin with butter. Unroll the filo pastry sheets which will be rectangular and cut them in half, if you are using Jus Rol the sheets cut in half should line the tin perfectly. So, lay a half in the tin, brush with butter, lay the other half and brush with butter again, repeat twice more so that’s 4 layers all together. Pour the chopped nuts over and spread evenly over the pastry, and continue with the remaining 4 layers of pastry from 2 more sheets. You can cut the pastry into triangles at this point, but I did it once cooked. Bake for 20-25 minutes or so, golden brown pastry is what we are after. As soon as it’s out of the oven pour over half the syrup, let it soak in for a few minutes and pour over the rest.

So you have all the elements of Baklava but not all the pastry. Yummy. See you on the 30th. ♥

Fabulously Fine Filo Fish Pie

So according to the Hummingbird Bakery and Google Alerts, it’s British Pie Week. I’m not actually sure by ‘British’ if we are talking geographically or the more jingoistic slant of British pie recipes, but who knows or cares, it’s all about food. Actually, the more I think about it the more confused I am becoming on this point…….hmmm. Anyway, whatever this pronouncement might mean it’s not clear who is promoting it. Pastry makers? potato growers? butchers? fish mongers? the spinach society? apple growers?  the list goes on which just goes to prove that pies are perfect for any occasion, any ingredients and any season.

Coincidently, we have been having a bit of a savory pie renaissance at Cutest Cakes HQ. My better half declared when we first met that he didn’t like offal and so Steak and Kidney pie seemed to be off the menu, however after 20 years I finally lost my patience and made one recently and here are the left overs:

I made it with Hot Water Crust Pastry (with butter not lard!) which was dead easy to do, looks dead professional and in my case courtesy of the beloved Rachel Allen, and as you can see it went down a storm with the kids and kidney haters alike and so now I am a mixture of smug and exasperated!

I am also a big fan of Shepherds Pie (minced lamb with mashed potato topping) and expanded on the original recipe by devising a tagine inspired version a couple of years ago. The ’70’s-stylie picture below shows this paprika laced, honeyed delight topped with a mixture of sweet and regular potato which worked well. This was originally served up for a Bonfire Night Party so I think I shall save the recipe for November time.

At Christmas we usually have a Turkey and Ham Pie with the obligatory left overs and to be honest this is my favourite dish on the Yuletide menu. I am sorely tempted to divulge the recipe now, but again, I think I will save it up for the relevant moment.

So, I have devised a Springtime pie and as Friday is looming up I thought a fish one might be appropriate. I adore Fish Pie in all forms; creamy ones with white sauce and mashed potato, tomato-y ones with fish, peppers and a short crust pastry topping, but this has a slightly fancy slant and is a little less faffy as the topping is made with filo pastry.

I first discovered the filo pastry pie topping some years ago on a recipe card that came free with a magazine or a box of stock cubes or something like that. I have only used it as a topping with savory recipes so far but I will show you what to do with the left over pastry sheets, once you have made this recipe, next week. Very sweet, very perfumed and very luscious…..

The beauty of using filo pastry surrounds the ease of assembly and the fact that the finished result looks very sophisticated. This could easily be served up as a dinner party dish and has the required how-did-you-do-that factor! In an unusual break with tradition, I shall present this recipe in a formal way:

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

600-800g ‘meaty fish’ cod, hake, salmon, smoked haddock, that sort of thing, filleted and skinned

150ml White Wine, Juice of ½ Lemon, 125g Butter, Salt & Pepper, 225ml Cream, 1 ½ tsp Dijon Mustard, 2 tbsp Dill or Parsley, 3 hard-boiled Eggs, 80-100g Frozen Petit Pois,defrosted, a handful of Baby Spinach Leaves, 1 Packet of Jus-Rol Filo Pastry, defrosted.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 200°C/Fan 180-190°C.
  • Place fish pieces into the bottom of a wide bottomed, deep-sided frying pan or large saucepan and add the wine, lemon juice, seasoning and about 90g of the butter, diced. Cook, covered, gently over a moderate heat for around 10-15 minutes.
  • Once cooked, transfer the fish to a pie dish with a slotted spoon, add the cream to the cooking liquor and continue to simmer the liquid for another 10-15 minutes until the sauce has reduced, thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Add the mustard and herbs and stir through. Remove from the heat.
  • Roughly chop the boiled eggs and stir these and the peas into the fish mixture, gently. Add the cream sauce and finally stir through and tamp down the spinach.

Right, the pastry: Melt the remaining butter in a nonstick saucepan, search for a pastry brush and set aside nearby. Unroll the filo pastry carefully, and separate the first sheet from the pile. Tear or cut this sheet into quarters and then scrunch each quarter up as shown in the picture and work your way across the top of the fish/veg filling. Cover the whole lot with the filo pastry sheets, you may or may not need them all.

Once you have finished and have no gaps showing, brush the melted butter across the top of the whole lot.

Bake for around 30-35 minutes, the top should be golden brown and the filling bubbling underneath.

You can pause the pie making once the eggs and peas have been added and pop the whole lot in the fridge once cool for anything up to 24 hours, but do not add the spinach and the pastry until the last minute. Cook for 40 minutes instead and turn down the temperature a little towards the end so the pastry does not burn. Yummy.

Finally, fold up any remaining pastry, wrap in clingfilm and fridge until I show you how to make light and airy baklava.

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