by Julie Biuso
New Holland Publishers, Auckland, 2000
Cooking on page 32
This is another bargain buy from Canberra’s regular Lifeline Book Fair. It was one of about 15 cookbooks I bought on the last day of the fair, when a whole bag went for $15.
I was attracted to both the cover and title. Page 32 looked interesting too.
Asparagus and camembert pies
400g fat asparagus spears, trimmed
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
knob of butter
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
150g camembert cheese, cubed (leave rind on)
good grating of fresh nutmeg
freshly grated black pepper to taste
5 sheets (750g) purchased ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten, with a pinch of salt
Plunge the asparagus into a saucepan of boiling, lightly salted water, Cook, uncovered for 1 minute. Drain, refresh with cold water, then leave to drain again. Pat dry with absorbent kitchen paper, then cut into short lengths.
Put the spring onions and garlic in a saucepan with the butter. Cover and cook over a low heat until soft. Mix the egg yolks and cream together in a bowl and add the asparagus, cooled spring onion mixture, breadcrumbs, cheese, a generous 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and nutmeg and black pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cut from the pastry sheets, 10 rounds approximately 10.5cm in diameter and another 10 rounds approximately 11.5cm in diameter. Prick the bases of the smaller rounds with a fork and dab the edges with a little cold water. Spoon the filling onto these pastry rounds, mounding it up and keeping it in from the edges. Put the larger rounds on top and gently press the edges of the pastry rounds together to seal. Use a small knife to ‘knock up the edges’ (see note).
Make a decorative border by making vertical indentations on the edges of the dough. Cut a small hole in the centre of each tart to allow steam to escape, this stops the pastry becoming soggy. Use the knife to mark a lattice pattern on top of each tart. If the pastry is soft, refrigerate the pies for 30 minutes.
Brush with beaten egg and bake in the top third of an over preheated to 225°C for 15 minutes or until well-browned and crisp. Serve hot.
Knocking up the pastry edges
This means to make light horizontal indentations along the edges of the pastry seam with a small sharp knife. If the edges of the pastry are pressed too hard or squashed during shaping, or gummed up with egg wash, the pastry cannot rise properly. By loosening the edges, without breaking the seal, the pastry can live up to its name of ‘puff pastry’ and puff up.
How it played out
It’s a tasty recipe but, oh my goodness, what a lot of fiddling. Cut this in 10.5cm circles, cut that 11.5cm circles—and all from square sheets of ready-rolled puff pastry that don’t want to play nice with these measurements.
So I cheated. I don’t have a maths degree for nothing. In the end, I cut two different sizes of squares that would allow me to build these parcels with a top that was smaller than the bottom. Other than wrestling with the dough, I followed the rest of the recipe.
I can’t say that my decorative effort and ‘knocking up’ of the pastry edges were very attractive, but it did the job and the filling didn’t ooze out all over the baking tray.
A very tasty result with ingredients we love. But I’ve got to say that there was an awful lot of fiddly work to get there, even with my cheating. I don’t really mind fiddly, but am happier when it’s fiddly that makes a real difference.
And be sure to check out my travel blog. You never know where in the world I might be. 🙂