Monday, July 25, 2011

I was always afraid of pastry

I made my first chicken pie. In fact it was my first pie of any type and was my first foray into pastry - which I know is astonishing given my advanced age - but I am only a novice cook – an occupation which has been thrust upon me by my forced incarceration in this hellhole in Vienna.

I can no longer bear to watch Jamie Oliver cook because of the way he constantly uses the same inane expressions – which I have now managed to forget - but I do admire the little blighter for his ability to parlay the ability to cook a lamb chop  into a multi-million dollar empire - so I bought a couple of his cookbooks – one being his 30 Minute Meals  - to expand my repertoire - and this was my first adventure.

I am in truth a terrible cook and succeed only through sheer guts and persistence. I have absolutely no flair and panache and always make dreadful mistakes which I have to cover up by saying things like – when I actually present meals that I have cooked for the first time  - ‘the recipe said 2.5 grams of paprika but I thought this would not be spicy enough so I used 25 grams. I have given you an extra glass of water in case it is a bit too hot.’

The meals I make are always better the second time and by the third or fourth time they can actually be pretty damned good. But if I invite you to dinner and tell you that I am trying something new – fall down the steps and sprain your ankle.

I was always afraid of pastry because it looked so hard. It involved rolling pins and flour and kneading and water and letting it sit for hours and getting the right consistency and if you didn’t get it right it did terrible things - but I was watching this cooking show in German – without the sound – which indeed is the best way to watch Jamie Oliver – and this person took some pastry and dusted it with flour and painted it with egg and put it on top of a pie and I thought – I can do that!

Buying the pastry was harder than I expected and it turns out I was looking for the wrong thing. I was looking for sheets of pastry but it comes in rolls and in Austria is called Bl├Ątterteig.

Most of you would have known that it comes in rolls but when you are a complete pastry novice like me you have to start from scratch when doing things for the first time.

And before I went to Interspar at Simmering – which is a really big store - I had not looked up what Puff Pastry was in German so really had no idea – and thought that it was pointless asking because last time I tried that I discovered that no one knew the English names for anything – and I was then asking for something that simply does not exist in Austria - so it caused complete chaos as more and more people were called into the scrum and I had to sneak away before they evicted me for causing a riot.  

So I did the only thing possible and called Rozalin - and she told me what it was – and sent me a picture – and where to find it - so I was set. But – and here’s the thing – it is also called Puff Pastry on the packet – you could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw that.

The pie was easy to make but I discovered that if you leave the puff pastry on the bench in a hot kitchen it turns into amorphous sludge and cannot be used to make the crust - so you have to start again. I had already planned for this or a similar disaster – I am on very familiar terms with the Fuckup Fairy - and had purchased a second packet.

I also discovered that it if you cook the pie to be ready for when you think Cate will be home – at 7:00 PM – and she does not telephone to be picked up until 9:00 PM - by the time you get to the reheated pie it will be pretty much grungy goo and the formerly golden brown and crispy crust will taste like thick crust pizza left out in the rain.

Other than that – and the fact that the 30 Minute meal took me 2 hours to make – I am well satisfied with my first pie. 


  1. You should try making pastry from scratch. It's not that hard. Better than the purchased stuff out here (but it's probably better qualitiy in Vienna). And look, I can comment!! :)

  2. I used Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals as inspiration for my first pastry adventure and made Portugese tarts. I hated them. But making them was very fun.

    It sucks that it was pizza like by the time Cate was back.. but hey, maybe until the third or fourth time that was for the best ;)


  3. I would suggest Cook's Illustrated or America's Test Kitchen, but given you are in Europe and all of the measurements will be in our wacky increments, it may not do you much good.

    I enjoy them both (one is a television program and the other a magazine companion) as they explain the science behind food and why certain techniques work (or don't work). They give the home cooks a lot of confidence to try new things.

  4. pappa your double fried copha potatoes are still the greatest potato/chip i have ever eaten.
    pity they have been outlawed by most health organisations worldwide.

  5. Wanderlust: Hmm...I will wait till I am a bit further advanced. And the setting thing worked. Excellent.

    Modernlove.x: I will certainly be better next time - and the time after that!

    smedette: My scales do European and also wacky so it will be OK. I will give them a try.

    Lenny: Thank you my son: You will remember them not so fondly later in life when you have rock hard arteries.