I definitely don’t intend for this to turn into a food blog, but I was struck down by the flu this weekend, so not much has been happening! While sorting through some photos I came across pictures from in July when I made some Algerian borek as part of my work’s World Cup Food Day! I drew the countries Iran, Croatia and Algeria from the sweepstakes and… well, I wasn’t feeling too confident about my ability to pull off one of their cuisines, if I’m honest.
Thanks to the Internet I was able to find a few recipes for “Algerian borek.” I had eaten Turkish borek before, which is similar. So, I decided to give this a bit of a go! Obviously I needed it to be gluten free, but as a bonus I also made it vegetarian (as we have two veggies in the office). In my last entry, I admitted that it was my first foray into gluten free pastry making, so… yes, I used a pre-made gluten free pastry for this. And while we’re being honest, I also used store-bought mash! I’m horrible! But it made the whole thing a lot easier, and more of the kind of dish you could easily put together for a lunch, make en masse for a potluck, etc.
- 2 packages of pre-made pastry (apparently spring roll wrappers work well too).
- A flour/water paste that you can use to seal each roll.
- 4 cups of mashed potato (like I said, I used some pre-made stuff from Sainsbury’s. Cut down on dishes and prep time!).
- 2 cups of aged cheddar cheese, grated.
- 1/2 medium sized onion, chopped.
- chopped parsley
- chopped gherkin pickles
- salt and pepper
Basically I just mixed the filling ingredients together, kind of tasting it as I went along. I know, that is not a very precise instruction! I should not be teaching culinary skills, you might say. Well, for me, it’s always been about following my instincts and seeing what tastes good. I’m not a huge fan of pickles and parsley, for example, so I may put less than you would (although I did put more than I would usually feel comfortable with in this, and it was delicious). Resist the temptation to eat all of the filling as if it is a potato salad (although that is an excellent way to use any potential leftovers!).
To create each roll, I divided my pastry into chunks that would create rectangles about 3 inches wide and 4 inches long, when rolled about 3mm thick. It might take a few rolls to figure it out, but soon you’ll find the perfect amount of pastry. (Just be sure if you’re using a gluten-filled pastry that if you work the pastry too much that you let it rest again… the longer you handle pastry the more gluten will build up which results in a tough pastry… and nobody likes a tough pastry).
Leaving a bit of space around the edges, I filled each pastry about a third of the way, folded the edges and rolled them carefully. Try to avoid any cracks because we will be frying these bad boys! To seal the edges and ends, I just dipped my finger in a paste I made of some flour and water, ran it along the seam and pressed down. They stayed together quite well, I was able to keep them together on a plate before frying!
I’m not going to lie, I had fun doing every one of the steps of this recipe, but my favourite part was frying them. I mainly did them in batches of 2, as I didn’t want to risk becoming preoccupied and burning any. It was so satisfying to watch them go all crispy and golden brown. I just turned them quite frequently, then used tongs to hold them on their sides so they could get a bit of colour (another good reason to keep batches small).
At this point, Katy had returned to my flat from the knitting conference she was attending that weekend, and I took my opportunity to use her as my guinea pig. The result? She really seemed to enjoy them, and asked me for another! I liked them too, quite different from the Turkish borek I was used to. They reminded me a bit of a crunchier cheese and potato perogy, although the pickle and parsley obviously amps up the taste a bit!
One of the best things about these was how great they tasted at various temperatures. I enjoyed them hot from the pan, slightly cooled and even a few hours later as I snatched a few for a Sunday night Netflix marathon. I bet they would freeze pretty nicely as well. Thanks, soccer championship, for allowing me to embrace a new food!
Like any good North American girl, I am obsessed with pumpkin flavoured things. Actually, I suppose it’s the cinnamon, ginger and cloves that I love most. Spicy treats, from pumpkin pie to gingerbread to apple cider, are my favourite so it’s easy to see why fall/winter are my favourite food times.
The main differences between life in Canada and England begin to creep up as fall (or autumn, as it is called here) begins. There is no Thanksgiving, and confusing holidays such as Bonfire Night take precedence over Halloween. My British friends are absolutely baffled by the Pumpkin Hysteria that has come over me. I find myself in Starbucks every morning ordering a coveted PSL (100% of my pre-winter blubber gain can be attributed to Pumpkin Spice Lattes).
Truthfully, Canadian Thanksgiving is probably my favourite holiday, so the fact that it goes by completely unnoticed here is more than a little bit unsettling. But, I try my best to soldier on! Last year I Skyped into dinner with my family (tucking into turkey and casserole at 9pm, while they ate an early dinner at 2). This year I’ve decided to make a pumpkin pie to share with my colleagues even though there was a good chance that they would hate it.
This was my first time trying to perfect a gluten free pie crust and… well, it wasn’t the easiest.
Attempt #1 ended up a sticky ball of dough. I put in a bit of extra water to try and compensate for the dryness usually found using gluten free flour, but I suppose I overdid it. It was rollable, but too sticky to then remove from the surface it was rolled on… regardless of how much flour or parchment paper I used!
Attempt #2 was drier… a crumbly drier. It was, again, rollable. This time it could be removed from the counter, but certainly not in one piece! So I kind of did the best I could, patching bits of rolled dough up until it filled the dish. Oh my, the dish. A massive dish, indeed. That I then had to fill.
I added two cans of pumpkin and one large can of evaporated milk with sugar and spices to make the massive amount of filling needed. I know, I know, canned pumpkin should not be allowed. But I have a very small kitchen and the idea of gutting and cooking a pumpkin was a bit too much to bear, especially not knowing how long it would take to get a palatable crust.
The end result was massive, but not horrible. It took a whopping 2 hours to bake before the filling was set. Yes, the crust is quite crumbly (as you can see, some heavier bits of the outside have crumbled off already), but who doesn’t want a crumbly crust?
Pie seemed to go down well with the colleagues (with over half eaten between 7 of us by lunchtime) although it’s probably not their favourite dessert! It’s probably not my favourite dessert, but after two years without it I’m definitely devouring as much as I possibly can, using “it’s Thanksgiving!” as an excuse.
Mmm… breakfast pie!
As I write this I am the very stereotype of a single girl on a Friday night. Let me paint the scene for you: it’s 8:15pm and outside it is pouring down with rain. Flashes of lightning illuminate the sky every so often and I brace myself for the impending thunder (I am frightened by loud, sudden noises). My dinner consists of piri piri hummus and gluten free cheese crackers. The playlist on Spotify is called “Sad Girl Song Day” (although Florence and the Machine are trying to convince me to “Shake it Off” for some reason– she sounds a bit too chipper for this playlist, to be honest).
What else is there to do but pick up my (signed, woooo) copy of Ruby Tandoh’s new baking book, “Crumb.” I received this at a special launch event with ELLE UK earlier in the week, but haven’t really had time to look at it much during the busy, busy week.
You should know, writing, photographing and designing my own baking/recipe book is a major dream of mine. Of course, I don’t aspire to have it widely published, but I think it would be a fun and fulfilling project. And that is one of the reasons I am interested in baking books even though the recipes are a lot less relevant to me now. I must say my first impression of Ruby’s book is that it is incredibly attractive. The book itself is sturdy with a fabric spine. The type is crisp and bold. And the photos are gorgeous. The whole book is matte which gives it quite a rustic feel. Ruby’s tone of writing is quite conversational– certainly a bit bolder than when she speaks in front of a large group of strangers, but just as lovely. The whole effect adds up to a feeling of warmth and that’s definitely what you want from a baking book!
When I lived in Canada I took full advantage of my parents’ large kitchen with their huge oven, fridge and ever important Kitchen-Aid mixer. Now, in England, my kitchen can fit only me, my fridge is half sized, and I barely have the counter space for a loaf of bread, let alone a bunch of fancy kitchen appliances. So, I love Ruby’s no-nonsense approach to baking, making all of her recipes incredibly accessible to any of us who may find ourselves less-than-blessed in the culinary wares department.
I also really love the sections which explain why a bake may have gone wrong. We’ve all had a disaster where a cake has collapsed in on itself, but if you’re unsure as to why that can happen these sort of tips can be really helpful and give you something to look out for on your next attempt. Baking might seem artsy and creative, but it really is a science and it’s important to know the effect different kinds of heat can have on a bake, or the amount of air in a dough, etc.
Glaringly obviously missing from this review is a review of, well, one or two of the recipes. Based on my experience baking they all look really solid (as if they wouldn’t be! This woman obviously knows what she is doing– she was the runner up in The Great British Bake Off and got a baking book deal, and I am just a lowly blogger). I’m really looking forward to adapting some to be gluten free… the doughnuts in particular! I haven’t had a doughnut in well over a year, and that is much, much, much too long! There are a few options that are gluten free (or have an ingredient that is very easily found in a gluten free form) such as the Blackberry Ricotta Cheesecake, Autumn Berry Pavlova, Lemon Meringue Roulade, and Bay & Blackcurrant Crème Brûlée.
Gluten or not, it is a great, thorough book that seems to deserve its spot on my shelf next to my copy of Mary Berry’s Cookery Course.