Puff Pastry – A True Delight

Puff pastry – what does it mean to me? Layers of buttery and pastry goodness is the answer to that question.

This delightful pastry’s lightness means that it can be paired with a rich sauce, if you’re using it as a component of a savoury dish. If using puff pastry as part of a dessert, it can be paired with a thick cream which it will carry beautifully.

This stunning pastry presents endless possibilities. I had been wondering about its origins – of course I would have considered it to be French. When I think of puff pastry, I think of splendid Parisian patisseries. All puff pastry induced thoughts lead to France and classical French cookery. I decided to delve into its history and I discovered an exciting tale.

According to Atelier Monnier, Puff pastry indeed originates from France, where it is referred to as pâte feuilletée. It was invented in 1645 by Claudius Gele, a pastry apprentice. He wanted to develop an improved bread for his father who was sick and on a diet of just flour, butter and water. Claudius made a bread dough to which he inserted butter into, kneaded the dough, folded it several times and then made it into a loaf. The resultant baked good was an incredibly pleasant surprise!

Claudius next found himself in Paris where he worked at the Rosabau Patisserie. It was at this patisserie where he refined and perfected his invention which contributed to the great success of the pastry shop. Claudius then found himself in Florence where he worked for the brothers Mosca, who were thought to have invented puff pastry. However, Claudius always kept his recipe a secret and prepared his pastries in a locked room (how enthralling!). I love this story and it is exactly the history I hoped this iconic pastry would have.

Puff pastry is an essential constituent for many classic French pastries but also in modern cooking. Regular puff pastry requires a little more effort in comparison to rough puff. The recipe listed below is for rough puff – to make life a little easier. While making puff pastry might be slightly time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort. Think of it as a labour of love.

Recipe:

  • 200g flour (plain or strong flour will do)
  • salt
  • 150g butter/margarine/relatively firm vegan butter
  • 125ml water, ice-cold
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

Note: In terms of turning the pastry (mentioned below), I’m sharing this Good Housekeeping UK video which is useful for anyone who hasn’t made puff pastry before and is unfamiliar with the turning process.

  • In a bowl, sieve the flour and salt.
  • Cut the chosen fat into cubes (approx. 10g pieces) and lightly mix into the flour without rubbing in. (It will be difficult to resist the urge to rub the butter in but you must be strong!)
  • Make a well in the center of the mixture.
  • Add the liquids and mix to a stiff dough.
  • Turn onto a floured work surface and roll into an oblong strip, approx. 30 cm x 10 cm, trying your best to keep the sides square.
  • Give one double turn as for puff pastry.
  • Allow to rest in the fridge for around 30 mins, either covered with a cloth or wrapped in baking parchment.
  • Give three more double turns, resting in the fridge between each turn. Allow to rest for an hour or so before using.

Puff pastry is versatile and can be used to make mille-feuilles, vol-au-vents, croissants, tarts, pies – the list goes on.

I decided to make little cream and jam layered pastries with the rough puff pastry I made today. I rolled the pastry to around 2mm thick, pricked it with a fork, cut it into rectangles as uniform as possible and baked them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment at 220C for 15-20 mins.

The buttery, flaky layers of puff pastry are such a delight that there’s no need to make a fuss of it by adding frivolous frostings. Let the pastry do the talking by simply adding cream and jam and dusting with icing sugar.

Layers of buttery, flaky pastry will comfort and sooth you.

Buying In-Season & Local Produce

Maybe it’s just me but I recall a time when I didn’t think twice about reaching for that shiny avocado at any time of year, tempting me with its rich green hue and the unspoken promise of its silky, luxurious texture.

However, since there has been a shift towards supporting local growers and producers, particularly in Ireland, naturally I’ve begun to think twice before reaching for fruit and vegetables which are readily available on supermarket shelves all year round.

Of course, our ability to grow practically every variety of fruit and vegetable at any time of year is a gift that our ancestors would no doubt have appreciated greatly. We want for nothing. I can go to my local supermarket or corner store and pick up a pineapple or a bunch of bananas which have been grown at the other side of the world and are available to me for a ludicrously cheap price, despite the sheer distance which they have travelled to reach my shopping bag.

However, such convenience and endless choice comes at another price. A price which was previously invisible but is now coming to light, as we begin to realise and understand our impact on the earth.

Questions such as why are we choosing to buy fruit and vegetables shipped from foreign lands, when we produce our own beautiful, in-season produce? Such produce does not need to travel far to reach our plates – it is a simple change to make.

Now, I am not suggesting that you completely stop buying exotic produce. I love a slice of watermelon and I am impartial to a side of guacamole. All I am asking is that you reduce your reliance on imported produce.

Local foods can be found at farmers markets (Tramore Farmers Market), in artisan food stores (Ardkeen Quality Food Stores in Waterford are a great retailer supporting local growers) and even on the shelves of large retailers. I found Irish, seasonal apples for sale in Tesco recently! A quick label check for the country of origin when buying packaged fruit and vegetables in supermarkets will inform you of where your food has come from.

In terms of cost, many people think that local food is expensive and unaffordable, compared to the low prices we pay in the likes of Lidl and Aldi. However, this is not the case. As the produce is seasonal and often organic, farmers need to move their product quickly when they harvest an entire crop and in order to do so, they sell them at affordable prices. You are also more likely to buy only what you need when you shop for local produce, as the number of choices isn’t overwhelmingly large, unlike in supermarkets. You are presented with what is in season which results in a simpler, more mindful shopping experience.

If you are ever in doubt about what is in season in Ireland, Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) have all of the information you need and they provide a breakdown for each month.

Progress comes by taking small steps. Maybe in November you could swap those oranges for some Bramley apples or reach for a celeriac as opposed to an aubergine.

Take advantage of the seasons. Produce tastes even better when grown in season. Not only will you have a positive impact on the planet but your taste buds will scream with delight.

Beetroot Brownie Love

I’m very enthusiastic about simple recipes that are quick and easy to prepare. If they contain something as nutrient dense as beetroot, it’s a bonus. Beetroots contain fibre, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamins B9 and C. They can be incorporated into both sweet and savoury dishes. Some of my favourite ways to use them are by pickling them, adding to salads, blending in a smoothie and of course, casually using them to make a cake. They contribute a wonderful richness to brownies and they also add sweetness due to their natural sugar content. As a result, you can add less artifical and refined sugars to your brownies without compomising on flavour. My favourite beetroots to use are purchased from Ardkeen QFS and grown by Tom Cleary, a local Wexford vegetable producer. They are deliciously sweet and abundant in flavour, derivatives of being grown with love and care. I’ve attempted to do them justice through my beetroot brownie recipe. The recipe and method are as follows:

Let’s get this kitchen party started and turn up the beet!

Ingredients:

For the brownies:

  • 2 medium beetroots, cooked & peeled
  • 150 ml golden/agave syrup
  • 150 ml sunflower oil
  • 180 g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 50 g cocoa powder

For the frosting:

  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 100 ml boiling water
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Recipe (Makes around 9 brownies)

For the brownies:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Line a square baking tin with baking parchment.
  • Cut the cooked and peeled beetroot into chunks and add to a blender/chopper with 150 ml syrup of your choice. Blend until smooth.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl and stir in the oil. Sift in the dry ingredients (plain flour, baking powder, cocoa powder) and mix until combined. The mixture should be a dropping consistency (add more oil if required), which will result in a more dense, fudgey brownie. You can add more flour if you prefer a brownie with a more cakey consistency.
  • Add the mixture to the prepared baking tin and spread out evenly for a consistent bake.
  • Cook for around 18-20 minutes. The brownie will continue to cook as you remove it from the oven and leave it to cool. Once I remove the pan from the oven, I normally pick up the brownie using the baking parchment and place it on a wire rack to cool, leaving it in the parchment until you have cooled, frosted and sliced it.

For the frosting:

  • Add 100 g dark chocolate and 100 ml boiling water to a pyrex jug or bowl and mix until melted.
  • Sift in 100 g of icing sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa powder.
  • Either whisk in by hand or by using a mixer (with a whisk or paddle attachment) and mix until the frosting has a whipped, velvety consistency. You can alter the consistency of the frosting by either adding more hot water (for a softer frosting) or by adding more icing sugar (for a thicker frosting).
  • Spread the cooled brownies with the frosting and dust with icing sugar, if desired.

These are wonderful served with vegan cream or yoghurt and some berries. Beetroot bliss.

The goods.

Spiced Lentils

Healthy AND tasty!

Hi hi!

Plant-based recipe incoming!

I have to say, I have become obsessed with lentils since I became conscious of the need for more plant-based, natural whole foods in my diet. They’re not only rich in B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, protein and fibre but they also give dishes a depth and richness that you typically get from adding meat. This dish consists of spiced lentils, sweet potato, radish and yoghurt. Healthy, simple, tasty and also ready to eat in less than 30 minutes. Recipe is as follows (serves two):

What you’ll need:

  • 2-4 sweet potatoes
  • herbs of your choice, dried or fresh
  • oil
  • garlic cloves, 2 chopped
  • onion, 1 chopped
  • pepper, 1 chopped
  • mushrooms, 1 handful, chopped
  • ground paprika, turmeric, ginger
  • coriander, dried or fresh
  • salt, pepper & sugar
  • 1 x 400 g tin of cooked lentils
  • tomato purée
  • water
  • natural/vegan yoghurt
  • shallots, sliced, to serve
  • pickled onion, sliced, to serve

For the sweet potatoes 🍠:

  • Using 1-2 sweet potatoes per person, cut into chunks and parboil for ~ 10 minutes or until slightly soft (these can also be microwaved for 3-4 minutes).
  • Toss the sweet potatoes in oil, herbs and turmeric and roast at 180C for 20 minutes.

For the spiced lentils 🍛:

  • While the sweet potatoes are roasting, fry the following for 2-3 minutes in a splash of oil: 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped pepper, a handful of chopped mushrooms with 1 tbsp each of paprika, turmeric, ginger and coriander, salt and pepper to taste and a shake of sugar.
  • Add 1x400g tin of cooked lentils, 50 ml of water and 2 tbsp of tomato purée. Cook for around 10 minutes or until the liquid reduces down. Add 3 tbsp of yoghurt (natural or vegan) at this stage to make the base creamier. This ingredient can be omitted, if desired.

Serve with sliced radish, a dollop more of yoghurt, sprinkle with chopped pickled onion and delight in your wonderful, plant-based lentil creation.

Enjoy!

Yoga for Mindfulness & Wellbeing

Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

When I truly began to take an interest in the environment and about the things that I could change in my life that would have less of an impact on the earth, I felt as if I needed more focus. It was as if I couldn’t fully invest myself in the present moment, as my mind was busy with a traffic jam of thoughts. It was chaos in there.

In order to become more focused, I began exercising regularly and eating well. A while ago, I ended up beginning a two hour daily commute for work. I allowed myself to fall into a habit of neglecting exercise and not eating as well as I should have. When I would return home from work I would make up excuses as to why I wouldn’t exercise, blaming the commute for how tired I felt, instead opting to lie on the couch, munching on treats and indulging in mindless tv.

Realistically, it was when lockdown occurred that I took a step back and wondered what I had been doing for a year. I had been treating my job as if it was the only thing that mattered, as if it was on a pedestal above all else. I would tire myself out in work, and even further on the commute home. At no stage did I even consider that my physical and mental health might be suffering, the two being interlinked. When Covid happened, even though I was still working as normal, I realised it was imperative that I make some changes in my life. These didn’t need to be changes that required a massive commitment, but ones that I could insert easily into my lifestyle and daily routine and that I wouldn’t dread doing.

I began by going on a 20-30 minute run after work nearby my home, in order to increase my energy levels for the rest of the night after the commute. I soon realised how unfit I had become, which actually motivated me to increase my fitness level. Feeling very adventurous, after a week or so, I introduced a 20 minute daily yoga session. Since beginning my yoga journey, I feel much more focused, clear-minded and calm. I am definitely a person who gets stressed quite easily, so I find that practicing yoga definitely helps me.

My experience with yoga has been a positive one. After time, you’ll become much more flexible and at ease during your yoga practice. At the beginning, I was stretching in ways I never thought possible. My utter confusion at being instructed to go into the ‘downward facing dog’ was no doubt plastered across my face (luckily nobody was present to see). I soon learned that ‘child’s pose’ would be my favourite (my inner laziness strikes again).

When beginning my yoga journey, I was lucky enough to have stumbled across Boho Beautiful – a yoga channel on Youtube which is perfect for beginner yogi’s and which is free and accessible here. Juliana is a wonderful yoga and meditation teacher and her practices are incredibly relaxing and peaceful. I’ve tried numerous yoga channels on Youtube, with this one being by far my favourite.

If you haven’t already introduced yoga into your daily routine, I promise that you can only benefit from doing so. All you need is yourself, a yoga mat and 20 minutes out of your day. A small commitment for something that’s both good for your body and mind.

Namaste ❤