May 14, 2010

HOLIDAY COOKING

Back in March, I was invited to a "Pampered Chef" party by my friend Cyn. I had no idea what this meant but it sounded like fun so I went.

Pampered Chef is a company selling good quality cookwear. The party was a bit like a Tupperware party of the 1970's. Or at least I imagine so because I never actually went to a Tupperware party. In those days I was so short of money that even if I had leftovers, having special plastic boxes to keep them in was completely out of the question.




About 20 ladies were treated to a cookery demo using Pampered Chef pans and gadgets and we ate the goodies afterwards. The thing that impressed me most was the mini muffin pan and dibber (sorry, can't remember the real name for this). In fact I bought two; one to keep at home and one to use in France to make apéro time nibbles. It's superb.


Basically, what you do is put a lump of ready-made pastry in each hole in the pan and push it into shape using the dibber. This makes a tart case that fills the hole perfectly. Then you add the filling of your choice and bake.


The demo lady made little vegetable quiches and banoffi tarts for us. I have experimented with quite a few different fillings. It all comes out perfectly edible and even scrumptious. Getting it to look tidy enough to serve to guests is the tricky bit.




The first time I tried at home I used ready-made shortcrust pastry, just like at the demo, and it worked fine. In the UK this pastry can be bought in blocks so you just cut the block into squares of a suitable size, whack it with the dibber and away you go.


In France, I couldn't find any blocks to buy. All I could find was ready-rolled circles of ready-made pastry, either shortcrust or puff pastry. This caused some head-scratching. I hadn't got any cutters the right size so in order to use the dibber I had to be slightly inventive.


First attempt I used shortcrust pastry, folded the circle up, cut it into pieces and formed them into balls that could then be given the dibber treatment. They turned out fine but I thought the pastry was a bit dense, probably due to being worked twice over.





Next attempt I used puff pastry, hoping they would come out lighter and more melt-in-the-mouth. I rolled the circle into a sausage, cut it into slices, flattened and reshaped each slice a bit into a small round and used the dibber. The idea was that the pastry would rise upwards in the way you would expect it to. The result was tasty but a visual disaster. Most of the nibbles rose so much that the fillings were tipped over the top and all over each other. Like little leaning towers of Pisa.


Nick then had the bright idea as follows: I rolled the circle into a sausage and cut it into slices as before. Then I laid each slice in the hole as if it were a catherine wheel. The theory was that as the pastry cooked it would spread sideways and not rise upwards. It worked a treat.





The fillings that we liked the best were goats cheese with onion relish (the relish was brought from home), and goats cheese with smoked salmon. In Auchan I found little packs of smoked salmon lardons - small chunks just perfect for the job.



At the demo we made mini banoffi pies using a Rolo in the bottom of each tart with a slice of banana on top. They were positively gorgeous. I couldn't find Rolos in France so tried using a slice of mini Mars Bar. They didn't work. The chocolate boiled over everywhere and they looked such a mess I couldn't possibly serve them to guests. They were delicious !!

11 comments:

  1. This sounds a brilliant idea, I am impressed. I have to say I don't find the pastry here is as successful as the pastry I buy in the UK. Not sure why. I guess the answer is to make your own!! Time factor is another story though. Diane

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  2. Mini banoffi pies--what a good idea. I think you underestimate your friends--they'd probably have loved these no matter what they looked like.

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  3. Make your own pastry! :)

    Otherwise, when you used the rolled pastry from the store, did you bake it right away after rolling it? If so, try popping it into the fridge for twenty minutes or so before filling and baking. That should let the dough rest so it's not so tough/dense.

    Of course, if you did that and it was still dense, I have no more ideas. But the ones you served us were super!

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  4. Hi Jean,
    I can also vouch for delicious nibbles you served when we visited. I think you made two ot three different varieties and we enjoyed all of them. In fact I've been looking for the tray and dibber ever since!!
    Like Carolyn, I don't think it would matter what they looked like, especially when they all tasted so yummy.

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  5. Diane - next time I will try making my own - as I am on holiday I do have the time !! Using the ready-made stuff was part of the fun, though.

    Carolyn - I'm sure you're right. One or two of the banoffi pies did make it onto the table once I had trimmed them up a bit and they didn't last long !

    Walt - I hadn't thought of that. By the time you and Ken arrived I had practised so much on other people that you got the best lot !!

    Gaynor - you can buy them from the company's website, I think. You don't have to wait to be invited to a party !

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  6. Darling, I so needed to look at something soothing and lovely and fortunately I stumbled upon your blog and while here, I enjoyed my visit very much. Your blog is loaded with interesting posts and lovely photos. I proudly joined your followers.

    Love & Hugs
    Duchess

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  7. Duchess - welcome! Isn't it every blogger's dream to have a royal follower !!

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  8. Darn. I've had my lunch and now you've made me peckish again!
    Yum.
    Mad x

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  9. Naughty but very nice I imagine. Well done!

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  10. A few years back my Xmas pressie from m-i-l was a collection of things from Pampered Chef (and I still use them regularly). I think their stuff is well designed and useful.

    I love that idea of the Rolo and slice of banana. Shame you can't get Rolos here (actually, it's probably a bloody good job)

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  11. Mad - it was all scrummy, if a little untidy.

    Ken - there was hardly a calorie in sight (if you closed your eyes).

    Ff - it's great stuff and I would like more. I am determined to find an equivalent of the Rolo to try again. Somehow taking my own Rolos to France seems a little excessive.........

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