It looks like spring has arrived here in our part of the world. Temperatures have risen, the days keep getting longer and cherry trees are in full bloom. It’s done; there’ll be no going back to winter now.
Maybe it’s from being stuck under dark grey clouds for months, but this time of year makes me wanderlust.
My feet itch, not for any specific place, but the distant someplace beckons.
We walked under the warm sun this weekend, found a cosy patio and over coffee and scones, planned our next trip.
Whenever I feel restless and the urge to travel becomes unbearable, I read, I guess, as a way to travel through my imagination.
In Ghana, as with many other countries, savoury hand pies are generally called meat pies.
Our ‘meat pie’, similar to the Jamaican beef patty is a popular snack found everywhere in Ghana – from fancy restaurants, on the side of dusty country roads to busy bus stations and chaotic markets; often times showcased in distinct glass boxes.
The ones you get from the street vendors are undoubtedly the most delicious; the crust crumbly, and the spicy savoury filling can be anything… from corned beef to stewed tomatoes and onions, it’s incredibly wonderful with Fan ice cream or a bottle of cold soft drink.
In the years that I’ve been away, none of the Ghanaian-style ‘meat pies’ I’ve had have come close to what I remember.
I’ve come to settle for this other type of savoury hand pie; quickly made with yeasted (pizza/bread) dough and a fast tasty tomatoey sauce for the filling. They bare a slight similarity to calzones and any combination or variety of fillings work – but I always come back to this quick simple sauce.
I make them quite often because they’re so versatile; these hand pies can be eaten hot or at room temperature, they travel well, and freeze well.
The dough and filling can be made ahead of time which cuts the prep work down dramatically, I’ve tried a variety and combination of fillings – leftovers… sauteed vegetables, Ghanaian-style spinach stew and homemade pizza sauce have all become delicious fillers for these little pies.
The dough is from an old and trusted recipe; also freezes well… just remember to bring it to room temperature before use.
I used all-purpose flour for the pies in this picture, but I personally prefer whole-wheat flour because it adds depth and a nutty flavour to the pies.
To make this particular pie wholly plant-based (vegetarian/vegan) omit the sardines and add crushed chickpeas, lentils or some legume of your choice.
Grab one of these pies and a cold drink… find the quietest spot in your home and sit, contemplate and let your mind wander and take you places. Enjoy!
Savoury Hand Pies
- 11/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tin oil packed sardines, drained of oil (or similar type fish (4oz) or omit or add 4oz crushed chickpeas or black beans for vegan version)
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional or more!)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Pizza/bread dough (use this recipe or store-bought)
- Olive oil for brushing
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan or skillet
- Add cumin, onions garlic and bell peppers, and saute for a 2 – 3 minutes stirring occasionally
Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for an additional 2 – 3 minutes or until vegetables soften
Stir in sardines, breaking them up with your spatula, add mustard, curry powder, red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper
- Check your seasoning, add salt and check seasoning again
- Turn down heat and cook uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally – some 3 – 5 minutes or until the liquid evaporates
- Set aside to use with dough when ready
To Make Pie:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking tray with parchment paper
- On a clean flour-dusted surface, roll out dough very thin (you want it thin because the yeasted dough will rise while baking)
- Cut out 4 or 6-inch circles (use a round shaped cookie cutter, bowl, food mold etc.)
- Spoon 1 – 2 tablespoons of filling on to the centre of circles, leaving enough room around the edges
- Fold one side of the dough over to make a half-moon, moisten edges with water and press to seal, use a fork dipped in flour to make ridges along the edge
- Brush the top with olive oil, and transfer on to the baking tray
- Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until pies are golden brown
- Enjoy while still warm or at room temperature
Being a romantic at heart, I secretly like Valentine’s Day.
I love the concept and romance of the day, though I can do without the commercialization, the fuss and the pressure to live up to some concocted ideal of the perfect love.
I like that there’s a day purposefully set aside to show love and affection, because life sometimes does get in the way of the good stuff.
In a perfect world, everyday would feel like Valentine’s, to be celebrated however we want – peonies on Saturday mornings, week-long dates, a year of Sundays with breakfast in bed, or a love story with its own soundtrack…
Or sharing the joy of life’s humble pleasures, like making something uniquely different, something delicious, decadent and possibly red…
I used Valentine’s Day as an excuse to make these sweet buttery beet rolls, it’s perfect – with its stunningly distinct red colour, buttery sweet and subtle flavour.
Sweet Buttery Beet Rolls
This recipe uses a bread machine, you can also make thiis bread by hand using the instructions here
- 1/2 cup beet juice (or beet puree*)
- 1/4 cup butter (2 oz.), melted
- 1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoon water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (3 cups)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- More melted butter
- Put all ingredients in the baking pan of the bread machine, in the order suggested by the manufacturer
- Program and select the Dough cycle and press Start
- When the cycle ends, let the dough rest in the bread machine pan for up to an hour
- In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside
- When the dough is ready, turn out onto a flour-covered surface and roll out, flatten to about 1/2 –inch thickness
- Cut out shapes (using large cookie cutters) from dough and arrange on the baking tray
- Cover loosely, and let rise in a draft free place for approximately one hour, until it’s almost doubled in size
- Uncover rolls, brush the tops with some melted butter and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned and crusty
- Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar, or a brush with more butter and sprinkles
*To make beet puree, Peel 1 – 2 medium beets and chop into small pieces. Puree in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup coconut milk until mixture is smooth and free of lumps.
For the few weeks I was on vacation last year, I had a morning routine; I’d bolt out of bed in the morning hoping I wasn’t too late, rush to the little boulangerie around the corner and buy a small loaf of pain aux cereales for breakfast.
It wasn’t the closest boulangerie and I’m sure theirs wasn’t the best pain aux cereales in Paris, but I loved the little shop because the woman was kind and engaging, and I got to practice my very limited French on her.
I also loved the novelty of the boulangerie being across the street from a Vanessa Bruno store, it felt very Parisian.
Still, the bread was very good, grainy and crusty on the outside; soft, pillowy with holes and perfectly seeded on the inside.
I’d have it with tea, sliced thick and slathered generously with butter and jam, or with my favourite discovery, speculoos butter.
Ask any Parisian and they’ll probably say Eric Kayser makes the best pain aux cereales in the city; David Leibovitz called it ‘perhaps the best bread in the world’. I’ll definitely be testing that on my next visit.
In the mean time I’m making my own seeded breads at home!
I must warn you, my version of pain aux cereales isn’t authentic, not that I can say what is authentic.
I use my bread machine and my trusted bread recipe and throw in some seeds – two tablespoons each of flax, quinoa, millet and sunflower seeds.
Try this recipe here for a close to authentic version, although I do love how my loaves turn out – grainy and tasty, the nuttiness from the seeds is subtle and just perfect.
And for breakfast on Saturday mornings I’m transported back to that little apartment where everything tastes better and extraordinary, even the simplest meal of bread and tea.
Pain aux CÃ©rÃ©ales
(This recipe uses a bread machine)
- 2 tablespoons each of flaxseeds, millet, quinoa and sunflower seeds, mixed
- 1Â¼ cups water
- 1Â½ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 3Â¼ cups graham flour
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Take about 2 tablespoons of seed mix and set aside for later
- Toast the rest of the seed mix over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently
- Place the water, salt, sugar, oil, flour yeast, nutmeg and the toasted seeds in the baking pan of the bread machine, in the order suggested by the manufacturer
- Select the Dough cycle, and Start
- When the cycle ends, let the dough rest in the bread machine pan for up to an hour
- Then on a flour-covered surface, shape/form dough into rolls, loaves or baguettes (your choice)
- Arrange on lightly floured or parchment lined baking sheets
- Sprinkle with the remaining (untoasted) seed mix
- Cover, and let rise in a draft free place for approximately one hour
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned and crusty
These last few days, I’ve been miserable – my immune system seems to be winning the battle against the pollen.
I just wish I could send it a message to quit it already with this unnecessary warring since my allergy medicine can’t seem to get the job done.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve been sick – real sick… I spent this weekend with a cold – is that even possible, can I get a cold and seasonal allergies concurrently?
So I spent this weekend in this weird wired space where life is unhurried and my mind wanders.
My dreams were of a long winding dirt road that leads to a small house on a mound, and beyond are the mango groves; under the bluest skies with billowy clouds that hang so low you can almost touch them.
I slept all day Saturday and had nourishing lentil soup from one of my favourite downtown restaurant.
My dreams again that night were of mangoes, sweet, sticky, pulpy, smooth and rich.
So while I recuperate and gather my strength, I’d like to leave you with this mango nut bread – because something had to come of these dreams.
If you’re lucky enough to get real mangoes, use them (about two of them), and perhaps toast the coconut flakes for few minutes before you use them in the batter – it makes all the difference.
Maybe it’s the delirium, but this is a wonderfully vibrant bread – and I love it dearly.
Mango Nut Bread
(Slightly adapted from skinnytaste.com)
- 1 cup mango purÃ©e (about 2 ripe mangos)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup unbleached whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp of cardamom
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup coconut flakes
- 1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons of water (flax egg), set aside
- Â¼ cup almond milk
- 2 tbsp melted butter, (I used Earth Balance’s Soy Free Spread)
- 1 pear or apple, thinly sliced (optional, for decoration)
- Preheat oven to 350Â°F. and grease a medium loaf pan
- If using mangoes, puree in a blender until smooth
- Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a large bowl
- Add nuts and coconut and mix well to combine
- In a medium bowl, mix flax egg, melted butter and purÃ©ed mango
- Add to the flour mixture and stir until just blended
- Arrange sliced pear or apple on top – if using
- Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
- Cool for about 10 minutes
- Remove loaf from pan and let it cool before slicing