Somehow it seems a little incongruous to picture Cleopatra sitting down to eat a quiche or a fruit pie or a meat pie dripping with gravy.
But she may have done.
Pastry is recorded as being ‘invented’ in ancient Egypt, where a mixture of flour and water was used to encase meat prior to cooking it. From there, the pastry-making art spread across the Middle East to countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, on its northern shores, before reaching Europe in mediaeval times.
Pastry-makers spread their knowledge in our part of the world, too, with their most popular regional specialty, the mouthwatering samosa, still topping the street food charts today. When making pastry, it’s always a good idea to make more than you need , either freezing the excess, or turning it into a simple, yet delicious, sweet, such as the Sad Jack detailed below.
Take the remaining half of the pastry dough out of the fridge.
2 cups mixed dried fruit, such as currants, raisins, dates, goji berries, blueberries or whatever dried fruit is at hand. Add some chopped nuts, too, if you like.
Soft brown sugar or powdered gurr to taste
1 beaten egg
Roll out the dough, in either a square or a round shape, on a floured surface until it is about an eighth of an inch thick and approximately eight inches to 10 inches in width. Spread the dried fruit mixture, thickly, on one half of the rolled out pastry, leaving a gap of about 1 inch around the edge. Sprinkle the dried fruit with a little brown sugar/gurr. Using a pastry brush, dampen all around the edges of the pastry and then fold the pastry, envelope wise, in on itself, firmly sealing all edges before sprinkling it with a little more flour and firming it down. Paint the top of the Sad Jack with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little more brown sugar/gurr. Using a very sharp knife, cut half a dozen small slits in the top of the Sad Jack.
Pastry is a versatile packaging for both savouries and sweets
Carefully place on a baking tray and cook in the centre of a medium hot oven until nicely browned and firm. This takes 20 to 30 min.
Serve hot or cold, sliced or squared and with or without custard/cream.
Pastry dough can be kept in the fridge for 24 hours before using it. After removing it from the fridge, it is recommended that it is left to warm up slightly — just 15 mins to 30 mins — before rolling it out.
Uncooked pastry dough can be frozen for up to three months.
Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche
Ingredients (Serves 6)
350g plain flour 200g butter Pinch of salt Cold water to mix Filling 1 medium onion, peeled and finely sliced 1 tsp garlic paste 1 sliced tomato 1 tin/jar asparagus spears, drained 1 tin sliced mushrooms, drained 1 tsp mustard powder 6 eggs, beaten 225ml cream 1 tsp dried mixed herbs 1 cup grated cheese Salt and pepper to taste
Sieve flour into a bowl, add a pinch of salt, chop the butter into pieces and add. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Slowly mix in enough cold water to make a stiff dough. Cut the dough in half, placing one half in the fridge to chill for later use. On a lightly floured surface/board, roll out the remaining half of the dough until it is large enough to line a 21cm/10 inch flan dish. Bake this pastry case at a medium height for about 10 minutes, removing it from the oven before the pastry edges begin to brown.
Fry the onions and garlic in just a little oil/butter until translucent. Spread on the base of the pastry case. Top first with the mushroom slices and then with the asparagus spears, arranging the latter like the spokes of a wheel. In a bowl, beat the eggs, cream and milk together, adding a little salt and pepper, then stir in the mustard powder, herbs and half the grated cheese. Pour this mixture evenly over the asparagus and mushrooms. Arrange the sliced tomato on top and then sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese.
Bake in a medium oven for approximately 30 minutes or until the quiche is firm to the touch.
Serve, cut into wedges, hot or cold with an assortment of salads.
Published in Dawn, EOS, April 25th, 2021