Asparagus and Hot Smoked Salmon Puff Pastry Bundles

These are a delicious combination of asparagus, hot smoked salmon, cream cheese and lemon zest, all wrapped in buttery puff pastry. I’ve used 4 asparagus spears per bundle here, but it really depends on how thin your asparagus is – you could get away with more, if using the very thin ones. I wouldn’t use the very thick spears for this.

Salmon and asparagus bundle

I think puff pastry – especially ready-made puff pastry is one of the most versatile ingredients you can have on hand. I love homemade puff pastry too, but it’s super time consuming and the all-butter pastry you can get is really very good. The ready rolled stuff – even better!

These asparagus bundles are really delicious to eat and are nice served warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, cold on a buffet table and make a great portable snack to take on a picnic. Like all things made with puff pastry though, they will lose their crispness, so they are best eaten within 24 hours of making them.

Salmon asparagus parcels

Leave the puff pastry in the fridge until you have all the other ingredients ready to assemble.  It can behave badly if it gets too warm and not puff up as much as it should do.

Ingredients:
1 sheet of ready-made, ready-rolled, all-butter puff pastry
150g (approx) cream cheese – I used Philadelphia, full fat
24 (approx) trimmed asparagus spears – I used 4 per bundle
2 fillets of hot smoked salmon – I used honey roasted, ready to eat
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
Salt and pepper
1 little olive oil
1 egg, beaten

Salmon and asparagus parcels

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tin with parchment or a non-stick liner

On a lightly floured surface, cut the rectangle of ready-rolled puff pastry into 6 equal squares. I used a pizza cutter to do this.

Then, on a diagonal, spoon a little cream cheese onto each square and flake the salmon on top.  You really don’t need a lot, or you won’t be able to close your parcel.

Rub a little oil onto the asparagus spears with your hands, just enough to help it cook in the oven.

Season with salt and black pepper and then sprinkle over the lemon zest.  This really helps lift the flavours.

Brush the visible edges of the pastry with beaten egg and draw up two opposite corners to form a bundle, press the edges together to seal.

Salmon & asparagus parcels

Place the pastry bundles ontp the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle over a little extra salt and pepper if you like.

If it’s a very warm day and the parcels have warmed up too much, put them in the fridge to chill out and firm back up for 10-20 minutes.

Salmon & asparagus bundle1

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden.  Serve warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, or cold for a buffet or picnic

Apple Hand Pies

The welcome arrival of September (and my very favourite season) also means the arrival of apple season.  We have a tree full of apples to use in the garden and one of my family’s favourite things is apple pie.

Apple Tree.jpg

These are little hand pies and they are just the thing to have on hand for hungry children.  They are portable too, so great to take with you on a trip to the park or to work.

Apples are available all year round, but it’s really worth looking out for the new seasonal arrivals that have been grown locally, to enjoy apple season to the full.

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Crust:
375g plain/all-purpose flour
165g butter, cut into cubes and refrigerated
2tbs sugar
1tsp salt
Iced water
1 egg and a little milk to make a wash

Filling:
2 crisp dessert apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
Juice from half a lemon
3tbs sugar
2tsp cornflour
1tsp cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2tsp salt
10 soft caramels (like Werther’s) cut into tiny pieces (optional)

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Method:
Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt into a food processor, fitted with the steel blade and pulse until crumbly, with pieces of butter still visible.

Then add one tablespoon of the iced water at a time, pulsing until the dough just comes together – around 4-5 should be enough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, cut in half and pat each half into a disc.  Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

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For the filling, place the apples into a large bowl and toss them with the juice from the lemon so they don’t turn brown. Then add the sugar, salt, spices and cornflour and turn to coat.

Leaving one batch of dough in the fridge, roll out the first batch evenly on a lightly floured board and cut out circles for the bases (using a cutter measuring approximately 7.5cm/3 inches).  Place them onto a lined baking sheet, re-rolling until most of the dough is used up.  Refrigerate any scraps.

Then place a small, heaping amount of the apple mixture into the centre of each one and top with a few caramel pieces if using.  Take care to leave a gap around the edge.

Caramel apple hand pies

Roll out the rest of the dough and cut out the same number of circles, but use a slightly larger cutter.  Use up the scraps of the first batch if needed.

Brush the pastry bases around the apples with the egg wash and place the remaining pastry circles over the filling.  Crimp and seal the edges together using a fork, dipped in flour to stop it sticking.

When they all have their lids, it is important to chill the pies before baking.  Leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.  This helps stop the pastry shrinking and bursting open in the oven.  They can also be frozen at this point too.

Caramel apple hand pies1

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F

When you are ready to bake, brush the tops with the egg wash and cut little vents in the lids to allow steam to escape.  You can also sprinkle with a little extra sugar too.

Bake for around 20 minutes or until the pies are golden and cooked through.

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These are the perfect after school treat, but a personal pie is good at any time and these can be taken on a picnic, or placed into a lunchbox too.

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Gin and Tonic Friands

When I purchased the black cherry flavoured icing sugar from The Vanilla Valley recently, I couldn’t resist adding some gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar to my order.  The obvious recipe of choice for me was friands as icing sugar is one of the main ingredients.

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These are alcohol free, so would be good to take to work for a bake sale, but I did try adding real gin to the glaze with great results.

In reality, these friands are lemon friands and would be just as good with ordinary icing sugar. The tart lemon curd in the middle cuts through the sweetness and I couldn’t resist topping with a little candied lemon slice for a bit of kitsch.

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I think it’s important to use a decent quality lemon curd here too, some of the very cheap versions taste like washing up liquid.  I chose Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference which wasn’t the most expensive one, but I did avoid the cheapest.  Of course home made is always best if you can get hold of some.

G&T Friands

Ingredients:
250ml egg whites – I use Two Chicks pasteurised egg whites
250g Sugar and Crumbs Gin and Tonic flavoured icing sugar
130g ground almonds
100g plain/all-purpose flour
Zest of one small lemon
165g butter – melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing the tin
1/2 jar of good quality lemon curd

To decorate:
1 cup of gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar, sieved
Water (or gin!)
Candied lemon slices

G&T Friands5

Method:
Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and brush the friand pan with melted butter

Whisk the egg whites until broken down and frothy.

Fold in the almonds, flour and zest until just incorporated and stir in the cooled, melted butter.

Divide the mixture equally between the cups in the tin.

I used a piping bag to squeeze a little lemon curd into each cake, but you could easily do this with two teaspoons.  You only need a small amount – around a teaspoon.

Bake the friands for around 25-30 minutes.  They will rise up a little and become golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes in order to firm up a little, before leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

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To decorate, mix the icing sugar with a small amount of water (or gin if using) to make a fairly thick, but still runny, glaze. Drizzle over the little cakes and stud each one with a candied lemon slice.

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Definitely an unusual alternative to afternoon tea, but a welcome one.

G&T Friands1