Tuesday, 25 September 2012
One place I have not really visited yet during the 12 years I have been here in the UK is Scotland, not unless you count a flying visit up to Gretna Green one day while we were on Holiday one year in Cumbria. It was only about an hour from where we were staying so we thought why not. It wasn't Scotland proper, even though it was truly an interesting place to see.
I have always had a certain amount of affinity for the Scots . . . probably due to my latent Scottish Ancestry . . . and to the sight of both Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson in kilts. Be still my heart. Do you think Scottish men really looked as good as all that way back when?? I dunno, but I sure like to think that they they did! Yes, I also hold a certain yearning and love in my heart for historical romance novels about Scottish Lairds and clansmen . . . and Vikings . . . but we won't go there today, we're talking about the Scots.
The Scots are known for having wild temperaments, fabulous accents, huge calves, hairy cows . . . and their appetites for strange and unusual foods . . . like Haggis, Tatties and Neeps . . . and deep fried Mars Bars. I have never tried anything but the vegetarian Haggis, and it was quite good . . . likewise the Tatties and Neeps . . . I don't think my heart could withstand the onslaught of a deep fried Mars Bar . . . but they do sound oddly appealing in a gluttonous sort of way!
Today I learned about a favourite hearty snack which hails from the bonny bonny land up North of us . . . Macaroni Cheese Pies. Yes! Macaroni Cheese Pies!!
Think of it . . . your favourite supper dish . . . except in a pie. Deliciously rich macaroni and cheese . . . all rich and moreishly cheesy . . . baked in a crisp and brown, hot water pastry crust. Apparently every baker has their own delicious version.
This is mine. I like to use a combination of cheeses in my macaroni cheese. A nice strong well flavoured cheddar, some Red Leicester for colour and taste . . . and some sharp Parmesan for yet another layer of flavour. I make my sauce extra rich with the addition of a bit of single cream, which helps to loosen the sauce just a little bit and give it additonal scrumminess.
This hot water pastry is very easy to make. I don't think I've made pastry that was this easy to make before. I had never attempted to even try, always thinking that it must be very difficult, but it wasn't difficult at all, or even labour intensive. It is what is often used to make raised pork, chicken or ham pies . . . very sturdy and crisp . . . and forgiving. I baked my pies in stainless steel cooking rings, about 4 inches in diameter and about 2 inches tall, but you can use pie tins if you want. Individual ones are best, or you could even use large muffin tins or individual ramekins.
They're really rather tasty I think, although I cannot imagine eating one as a snack. To me this is a meal. Delicious served hot, straight out of the oven with some rustic chips and ketchup on the side . . . or even at room temperature, making them the perfect portable lunch.
I do hope you will give them a try. I think you'll be most pleasantly surprised. Next time I think I'll add little bits of ham or crisp bacon to the mix, or broccoli, maybe a bit of chopped tomato. Or how about some crumbled Stilton and Walnuts?? Sounds positively scrummy!
*Macaroni Cheese Pies*
Makes about 6
Apparently this is a favourite snack from Scotland. You can use your own favourite macaroni and cheese recipe or the one I have posted here. You will want to make your macaroni and cheese first so that it can be cold when it comes time to put it into the pies.
For the macaroni cheese:
2 TBS butter
2 TBS plain flour
250ml of whole milk (1 cup)
50ml of single cream (1/4 cup)
1/2 pound of grated cheese (a good strong Cheddar, Red Leicester, Parmesan)
(In whatever quantities you want, I basically use 1/2 cheddar, and 1/4 of each of the other two)
a healthy splash of hot sauce (Tabasco, etc.)
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
150g of macaroni, cooked as per package directions, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)
For the pastry:
250g of plain flour (2 1/2 cups)
3/4 tsp salt
50g of solid white shortening, or lard
125ml of boiling water (1/2 cup)
More grated cheese to top
First make the macaroni and cheese. To make the sauce place the butter into a saucepan over medium heat. Melt and once it just begins to foam, whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture bubbles and begins to thicken. Whisk in the cheeses a bit at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Stir in the hot sauce and seasonings. Taste and adjust as necessary. Stir in your cooked and drained macaroni. Cover with a piece of cling film and set aside to cool completely.
To make your pastry. Measure the flour into a bowl along with the salt, whisking both together. Drop the fat in bits over top. Pour the boiling water in all at once and stir quickly together with a fork until well blended. Once you can easily handle it, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently until smooth. Cover with the bowl and allow to rest for five minutes.
Preheat your oven to 400*C/200*F/ gas mark 6.
Take 6 metal pastry rings, about 4 inches in diameter, and place them onto a baking tray. Roll your pastry out on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut out rounds large enough to fit into the metal rings with a bit of overhang. Carefully fit the pastry into the rings, pushing it into the sides at the bottom all the way around with your knuckles to fit. Once you have them lined properly, take a rolling pin and roll it across the tops to cut any excess pastry away. Discard any excess. Fill each of the rings with a portion of the macaroni cheese, filling them to just below the pastry edge. Sprinkle each with some more grated cheese.
Bake in the heated oven for about 35 minutes, or until a rich golden brown. Loosen the edges of the metal rings with a sharp knife and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before removing the metal rings to serve.
Best served hot or warm with some tomato ketchup and chips (French Fries) on the side.