Kitchen cupboard baking in Paris

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Hello! Long time no see!

True, I have left harvest and yarn a bit abandoned recently (but not forgotten). I’ve been travelling in Europe for the past couple of months, and honestly, who wants to write about food when you could be out in the world eating it?

I did have some wonderful food experiences though, especially in Slovenia (of all places), which is hardly a vegetarian’s paradise as grilled meat is the order of the day. I made a point of trying dishes and baked goodies unique to the countries I visited, even if it meant being a bit flexible with my principles at times. Experiencing the local culture while travelling is very important to me, so if that means eating deep fried cheese in a Slovenian gostilna (pub), then so be it.

However that’s not really the purpose of this post. A few days into my travels, I met up with my family in Paris, where we stayed for nearly a week in a gorgeous little apartment in the Marais. Despite being in the home of patisserie, I had an itch to bake something, so seized my moment one morning while waiting for my family to get ready to go out. As we were only there for a short time, the cupboard and fridge were not very well stocked. A few previous renters had left some supplies, though not much more than a packet of salt and a bottle of Pastis. Determined not to be beaten, I went down the road and bought an apple. You can’t go wrong with apple.

I hurried back to the apartment and preheated the oven with a very vague idea. Here is what happened. I found the following items in the cupboard:
corn flakes
ryvitas
a lump of sugar
banana
and my apple
I then proceeded to crush some cornflakes and some ryvita in a bowl with the back of a spoon, in place of a mortar and pestle. Don’t try this. I made a huge mess.
I mixed in some mashed banana to make something resembling biscuit dough, then formed it into rounds and baked them until they were a bit crispy.
I thinly sliced the apple and cooked it with the lump of sugar and some water, then arranged the pieces on the banana-cornflake biscuits.

And there you have it! Sweet apple things!

I was rather pleased at the simple snacks I’d made from almost nothing, and that they were vegan and gluten free (if you leave out the ryvita, which was probably unnecessary anyway).

This was the only time I attempted baking while away, but I gathered so many ideas that I am waiting to test, so the blog will start partying again very soon.

Until then, adios!

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Spiced quince and apple pies

Quince time! Maybe the greatest time of year?

I don’t know, it’s a big call. But really, stewed quinces are so great – on cereal, for dessert served with (soy) ice cream. So versatile! It’s times like these I get a little bit sad that our own quince trees are performing a bit less brilliantly than would be ideal. Possibly an alert to add quince tree TLC to the list of gardening jobs?

That aside, my aunty and uncle brought over a bag of quinces the other day, so the kitchen is well stocked, and today was one of those days where you just need to do some baking to cheer someone up. Good combination, I thought.

With a bit of browsing of the internet for inspiration, I decided on pies. Mostly because I have been making way too many cake-type sweets recently, and no one in my house is eating them at a satisfactory rate to allow me to keep baking more. I also remembered spotting a small ball of pastry in the freezer the other day, which, given the super-tight study schedule I have put myself on, I decided would save me a lot of time. (Please note that I am aware writing blogs isn’t exactly exam revision, but you know… sanity break…)

Armed with slightly-old-but-still-passable short crust pastry, I began my pie adventure.
With a little bit more internet inspiration, I decided that following a recipe was way too hard, and to just basically stew fruit with spices and stick it in the pastry. Can’t really get much simpler than that. I did come across an interesting spice combination on my search though, in the form of Chinese Five Spice. Apparently you can get this in supermarkets, and it’s a combination of ground cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise and peppercorns. I didn’t have this, but I used a similar mix of spices because even on a page, they look great together.

I mentioned in a recent post that I recently acquired some honey from my friend’s hives in suburban Adelaide. I can not describe just how awesome this honey tastes. Especially in tea, but also especially just generally. So the honey makes another appearance in this recipe. Veganise it by replacing with sugar.

These are happy pies for my darling sister. She is pretty great. I hope she is feeling better soon.

Spiced quince and apple pies
Makes 6 mini pies (cupcake sized)

If you don’t have any slightly-old-but-still-passable pastry in your freezer, you could buy some or use this recipe.

Short crust pastry:
170g margarine (dairy free) – I used lite nuttelex (but nuttelex is a bit sus, so if you decide butter is more ethical, go with that)
340g plain flour
pinch of salt
cold water

Rub the margarine into the flour, add salt and just enough cold water to bind into a dough. Roll into ball and leave to rest in fridge for 20mins.

Filling: note that spice measurements are approximate – add to taste
2 small quinces, peeled, cored and diced
1 apple, cored and diced
2 heaped tablespoons delicious honey (or sugar or other sweetener)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch fennel seeds, ground
2 stars of anise
water

Make up pastry, and allow to rest in the fridge while you make the pie filling. Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease a six-cup muffin pan.

Place all filling ingredients in a medium sized saucepan, and add water to about half the level of the fruit. Stir together well, and bring to the boil on medium heat. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally until fruit becomes soft and all liquid is gone. Allow to cool slightly and remove stars of anise from the mixture. (This may take a bit of searching.)

In the mean time, roll out pastry between 2 pieces of baking paper to around 2-3mm thick. Cut circles the appropriate size to fit your muffin pans, and line each cup. Save a little pastry for lids or lattice on top.

Fill each pastry-lined cup with filling, and top each with strips of pastry in a lattice, or whatever other creative design you please. If you have a lot of pastry left, you can make lids for the pies, but remember to puncture some holes in them if you do.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until pastry is golden. Allow to cool slightly in pans before removing. Serve warm alone, or with some kind of vanilla ice cream or dairy-free substitute if that’s how you roll.