Princess and the pastry

I was built for many things; placing faces of actors in movies; making home-made Mexican, knowing when Clinique free gift time will descend; exciting yoga teachers with full lotus and blowing raspberries on a baby’s fat tummy are among them.

There are things that I am not built for. Remembering to shut drawers, doing cartwheels, basic physics and roughing it are among the edited highlights.

Last weekend we went camping*. Cue sharp intake of breath for most with a passing knowledge my strengths and weaknesses.

There are very few things which would happily draw me to the bush to sleep on hard surfaces during a nippy weekend in May. Few things except the birthday celebrations of one of my oldest and dearest. This weekend of mayhem was in honour one of my brideslaves; a brilliant soul who ran away to Melbourne to do a job more important than most can fathom.

The location was Harley Vale; a bush idyll over the hills and far away. So; with love in my heart, optimism in my head and the wrong shoes on my feet we took off to loll among a city made of tents and sit by a bonfire. There was a brief walk in the bush where I came to the realisation that my knee high pointy black (flat) boots may be when striding around the streets of Paris; but leave a little to be desired when clambering up hill sides.

Surrounded by fresh mountain air The Hungry One channeled his inner Bear Grylls and took a sledgehammer to wood and stoked fires, while I sat and ate Jannei goats cheese, local quince paste and drank red, before sitting down to a feast of spit roasted lamb, potatoes and salad.

The crowning glory of the night may well have been the local apple and nectarine pies , topped with splat of thick cream. A gentle crown of raw sugar and softly collapsed fruit made fine counterpoints to a proud shell of pastry; strong enough to crack off in chunks and eat on its own. When you’re a little cold and have dirt under your nails, there’s very little that soothes like a cosy swaddle of pastry.

If there’s one thing that the establishments on the Bells Line of Road(which takes you past Bilpin to Hartley Vale) excel in, it’s pies.

So after a pensive cup of tea in the morning and a traumatic incident at 3.30 am (when I got a twinkle of recognition of what happens when you drink without accessible flushing amenities; and a harsh lesson on the need to tilt ones pelvis while squatting)we started making our way down the hill and back home. We stopped off and collected an apple pie as a keep sake.

Problem being: nothing with pastry in it in our house lasts long. By Tuesday night it was demolished; the second course to a double headed celebration of the power of pastry to comfort and redeem.*

Dinner from a Princess

Fish pie

Take two sheets of puff pastry out of the freezer. Turn the oven on to 200 degrees.
Chop up an onion and start to softly saute. Add a diced carrot and occasionally dance them around the fry pan; careful not to colour them too much- you just want to bend them to your will. In a second pan start gently making a roux; get a tablespoon of butter, melt it and then sift in the equal amount of flour. I use chickpea flour, because I like the nutty flavour best. Once the sludgey paste has turned camel brown and come together add a quarter of a cup of milk. Stir around and around and try and get the lumps out of the slurry. Then slowly add 150 ml of fish stock; the same principle as making a bechamel.

Take two bowls and add a combination of cubed skinned and boned pink and white fish. We had two very skinny fillets of ling and a plump one of salmon. Ocean trout and snapper or many other things would be fine.

Place a handful of the fish cubes in the bottom of your bowl. Once your fishemel (fish stock bechamel) has thickened add a healthy handful of frozen peas, plus your carrots and onions. Pour it over your fish, mix around and then affix the pastry to the lips of the bowl and schmear some milk or egg wash over the pastry. Make sure you put a couple of pricks in the top. Put the pies the oven for 20 minutes until pastry has puffed and browned and then serve with a green salad, and for a complete pastry overdose, apple pie for dessert.

*NB- it’s not the camping experience that needs redeeming; it’s my paltry efforts. You see, I say we were camping, but really; while everyone else was sleeping in tents, we had managed to snaffle hold of a loan of this.

I told you I wasn’t going to be any good at this.

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