Friday, September 4, 2009

Healthier Pastry

I have stopped buying frozen packaged pastry. I used to buy it purely for the sake of convenience. It was so handy to have sheets of ready rolled pastry which only needed to be defrosted for a short time before they could be pressed into the pie dish. I justified my weekly purchase by telling myself I was using a brand which did not contain preservatives or artificial colours but it did have other ingredients that made me stop and think and ask myself 'Is this the best choice for my family's health, especially as we have chosen to pursue an eating plan which focuses on wholefoods and fresh ingredients.
The main ingredient which bothered me was margarine. I had stopped buying tubs of this man made spread after listening to a lady give a talk on 'Radio Rhema' the Christian radio station in New Zealand, many years ago. The lady who I believe was either German or Dutch and an expert on nutrition and natural health informed listeners on the commercial processes which were required to extract the oil from seeds in order to make margarine; I had never heard of terms such as 'hydrogenated' before and it had never occurred to me that the colour of the spread I was buying was not natural, that bleaching was required to remove the grey colour and dyes and flavours would be used to make it resemble butter. From that time onwards, butter was the only solid spread in my grocery basket and later on, as we ventured further on our journey into health, I stopped buying vegetable oils and opted for olive oil. Later on I discovered coconut oil.
I'm so pleased we chose to stop using margarine which is now going under a new alias.. 'plant seed spread' and is marketed as a health food. After reading 'The Maker's Diet' and choosing to apply its principles, I purchased 'Nourishing Traditions' and the wealth of information on fats in the opening chapter helped me realize that choosing to give up margarine had been a very wise decision.

So back to the pastry... there was a better way and I knew what it was... it just required effort on my part and that was to make my own pastry from scratch. All the ingredients were in my fridge and pantry but I was reluctant to use white flour and my attempts at pastry making with store bought wholemeal flour had met with little success. Then I bought my grain mill (the Whisper Mill) and discovered it could produce a finer flour which was entirely suitable for making pastry.

This is my home made cheese and chive pastry made from freshly milled bio-dynamic wheat flour. I made the pastry by hand, rubbing in the butter and used ice cold water, adding in a little at a time as I brought my dough together until it was not too dry, not too sticky and could be formed into a ball which was wrapped and refrigerated for about 20 minutes. To save time, one could use the food processor but my last processor died some time ago and I have vowed never to again buy a cheap processor. I've been through about five so far! When we can afford it, we will purchase a decent processor, maybe a 'Kitchen Aid' or a 'Cuisinart'... any recommendations would be appreciated!

I roll my pastry out on baking paper which makes the transfer to the pie dish a whole lot easier.
The base is pricked with a fork to prevent it rising up as it bakes in the oven. I baked this pastry case blind but I didn't use rice or beans. I just kept a careful eye on it and removed it just before it started to become too brown or crisp.
By the way, this dish is my all time favourite pie dish. I found it at Freedom and I wish I had bought two, (they sold out and did not have this range again!) - for my growing family I really need to bake two pies at a time. This is a big, deep pie dish and it is perfect for making pies and quiches - so versatile. My search of all the stores and specialist kitchen shops for a similar dish has so far proved fruitless! Today I saw a large 'Emile Henry' quiche dish at my local kitchen shop but it wasn't deep enough. I have also seen deep pie dishes that would produce a pie to serve two people! I do not use non-stick bake ware and glass or ceramic are my main options. Next stop is the specialist catering store which supplies restaurants but also sells to the public.

For now, I am baking two and a half pies. Two batches of pastry ( I use approximately 2 cups of flour per batch) yielded enough pastry for two cases with enough left over to make a flower decoration for the top. (Use a heart shaped cutter to make the petals).
The pies we enjoyed for lunch were chicken, potato and leek. Here is the recipe for the filling. I used homemade chicken stock which was loaded with garlic. This is another pantry ingredient I have started to make from scratch, there is so much salt in the store bought stocks. Check the list of ingredients on the packet and look out for MSG or its variants such as yeast extract and hydrolyzed vegetable protein.

Chicken, Potato and Leek Family Pie


1 pastry shell Pre-baked
2 free range boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced or cubed
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
6-8 potatoes diced
500g frozen peas or corn
homemade chicken stock ( sufficient to cover and cook vegetables in allowing for reduction.)
fresh or dried herbs of your choice (I only needed to add a pinch of parsley as there was sufficient flavour in the stock
1 carton of cream (I prefer to use double or 'dollop' cream rather than thickened cream)


1.In a large pot, brown the chicken in the oil of your choice. (I used my large wok)

n.b I use olive oil - a cookbook I am presently reading 'Tree to Table' by Patricia Newell, an Australian olive grower and nutrition expert, has assured me that it is fine to use olive oil for cooking due to its 'high smoke point' and that heating does not reduce its health benefits. If you want to be educated about olive oil you should read this book but be warned you will not want to buy cheap, imported olive oil ever again!

2.Add in the leeks and cook until transparent

3.Add potatoes, cover with stock and reduce to a simmer

4.Allow stock to reduce but check that your mixture does not dry out. Add more stock if necessary.

5.When potatoes are starting to become tender, toss in the peas, add a pinch of herbs or seasoning of your choice and adjust for taste. The potatoes do not need to be too soft as the filling will cook further in the pie shell in the oven.

6.Turn off the heat and stir in the cream. Your mixture should be a creamy consistency... not too runny, use cornflour to thicken if necessary.

7. Spoon the mixture into your cooked pastry shell. If you are not having a full pastry top you may wish to sprinkle over grated cheddar cheese - this gives the pie a lovely, golden brown topping.

8. You may wish to have a pastry top, lattice strips or my time saving option, the pastry flower decoration which added a little finishing touch! Brush with beaten egg for really golden pastry!

9. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 c for approximately 20 minutes, until pastry topping is golden brown. You may wish to move the pie onto a lower shelf if the edges are browning too quickly.

10. Enjoy for lunch or supper with a fresh garden salad and crusty bread and maybe a dollop of homemade pickle or chutney!

Vegetarian Option
Omit the chicken and replace with extra potato, an extra leek or two and other veggies of your choice. Replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

The family's verdict on the pie. There were no slices leftover! 'Very tasty' said my husband as he served himself another slice! I think the homemade chicken stock made all the difference and the cheese and chives imparted flavour to the pastry which was not in the least bit soggy and that is another reason for not returning to frozen pastry... It can look cooked on top but underneath its a different story! We enjoyed our slices of pies with a green salad utilizing a variety of salad leaves picked fresh from our garden.... butterhead, chicory, baby spinach, beetroot leaves and Tuscan kale. Oh and a freshly baked loaf of homemade sourdough of the healthiest breads..... more to follow on healthier breads.

Until next time, happy pastry making!

With love and joy,

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Fruitful Harvest said...

Oh Ann~
Your recipe sounds just delightful!
I love the dish too!
I want to get a flour mill!
I really like your blog!


Suzanne said...

Mmm...this sounds like a keeper! We must have chicken pie on the brain, I just posted my receipt for it too--but, I want to try yours with the leeks! Thanks:-) I also grind my flour, I have a nutrimill and a Bosch.

Renata said...

Ann, this sounds delicious and I'm so impressed with your homemade pastry - YUM!
Your flour mill sounds fantastic - what a great buy. I agree with what you said about cheap foodprocessors - they just break too easily.

Joolz said...

Hello Ann

Lovely quiche and pastry. Makes me envious as I'm on a LIVE-IT (not a diet)at the moment. Lost only 500gms in first week but I was away for 3 of those days and eating restaurant meals. A loss is better than a gain so I shall continue on. Have a nice week,

Cheers - Joolz

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

That Pie dish really is a beauty!
So deep and large....Hmmm,Shmae no longer available,
Never know a garage sale may come good one day and show one up?


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