Silverbeet, Spinach, Ricotta and Herb Hand Pies
It was one of those days where the air was crisp but the sun shone a soft glowing light, it fell over the trees and the fine blades of grass glistened with tiny droplets from the rain that escaped the water laden clouds before the sun rose early that morning. The light struggled to reach out her fingertips to the far corners of our yard and they remained shaded and damp.
During these changes, these cosy seasons, I find myself forever bent over the garden pulling weeds, my hands cold and dirt-stained and my cheeks flushed a shade of pink. Beau requires multiple changes of clothes after jumping into the shallow, muddy puddles formed along the side of our house due to a leaking gutter.
Our tummies rumble. It must be lunch time. The warm soapy water washes over our chilled hands and it is a welcome relief. Clean hands to wrap around these extra buttery, flaky, steaming silverbeet and herb hand pies. I can feel my body thawing out with every delicious, flaky, buttery crunch. They most certainly require a napkin of sorts to wipe away the golden crumbs which somehow become stuck to fingertips, lips and in Beau's case - his hair.
I just hope that you can find yeast somewhere at the moment. It's like a treasure hunt trying to find it at the shops what with everyone delving into the wonderful world of baking during these self isolating, physical distancing times. My mum managed to find me a small box the other day and I cant tell you how excited I was. I feel as though I have a block of gold sitting in my pantry.
The pastry has been inspired by a recipe for sweet jam pastries from Sophie Hansen's book, A Basket by the door, albeit adapted to suit the luscious savoury flavours of these comforting, warming pies. I hope you will enjoy the whole process from start to finish.
Silverbeet, spinach and herb hand pies
Makes approx. 13
For the rough puff pastry
1 tbsp dried yeast
150 ml lukewarm water
a pinch of salt
1 free range egg
350g plain flour
320g cold unsalted butter cut into thin strips
2 tbsp milk
Poppy seeds for scattering
Mix the yeast with the lukewarm water and set aside for a moment while you put the salt, egg and flour into a bowl, give this a quick mix with your hand and then add in the yeast mixture and mix with your hand until it forms a shaggy dough. Tip it out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Oil a bowl lightly with olive oil and place the dough into it and then cover and leave to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile you can start the filling...
For the filling.
2 tbsp olive oil
a big bunch of silverbeet and spinach (about 500g)
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
60g grated parmesan
a handful each of parsley, mint and basil, chopped
zest of a lemon
2 free range eggs
a fine grating of nutmeg
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil, add the chopped silverbeet and spinach and blanch for a minute or so, drain and set aside, turning every now and then to allow the steam to escape. Once its cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as you can and chop it all up.
In a medium frypan add the oil and cook the onion until starting to soften, adding the garlic for the last minute. Tip into a bowl with the ricotta, parmesan, feta, herbs, lemon zest, eggs and nutmeg. Mix it all together and then add in the silverbeet and spinach and stir it all together to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside while you continue on with the pastry.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured bench into a large rectangle about 40cm x 30cm, or thereabouts. Lay all of the butter over the top, keeping a border around the edges. now fold the edges in towards each other so they meet in the middle. Turn the dough over so that the seam is now facing the bench and then roll out again into a rectangle, 40cm x 30cm. Fold a third of the dough into the centre and then fold the other third over the top of this so that you now have three layers of dough on top of each other. Wrap it up in baking paper and allow to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Take it out of the fridge after this time and reroll as before, rest in the fridge for another 20 minutes and then repeat this rolling and folding again.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and set aside. On a lightly floured bench, roll out the pastry until it measures close to 50cm x 40cm, or thereabouts. Cut into 12cm squares, you should end up with 12 or 13, I ended up with a mini one as well (for Beau)
Place a spoonful of the ricotta mixture into the centre and then bring each corner of the square into the centre to create a little parcel, crimp the edges together with your fingertips. Place onto the trays and preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius while the pastries rest, covered with a tea towel for 20 minutes.
Whisk together the egg and milk and then brush this over the top of each parcel, scattering poppy seeds over the top if you desire.
Pop them into the oven for 25-30 minutes until they start to fill the house with their buttery aroma and have turned a wonderful shade of gold. You may want to rotate the trays halfway through cooking as well. Allow to cool on the trays for 10 minutes or enjoy them straight away with a good dollop of chutney on top. Just be careful, they will be piping hot!
They will keep in the fridge for 5 days or can be frozen. Any leftovers can be eaten cold or simply heated up in the oven, covered with baking paper or foil.