So the 2011 gorging season draws to a close—Diwali, Thanksgiving, Eid, Christmas, Hanukkah, not to mention all the endless weddings—whatever we celebrate, we’ve probably all been eating way too much. Certainly for me, tonight marks the last of the big winter celebrations before I reacquaint myself with salad and the gym tomorrow.
Growing up in a Scottish household, New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay) was always a more important festival than Christmas. Even though we lived in England, my parents carried their traditions with them. Some, like “first footing”, were, frankly, bizarre. Scots believe the first person (the “first foot”) to visit you after midnight on 31 December will set the tone for the year ahead. It has to be a tall dark man bearing whisky to represent cheer and a lump of coal to wish warmth. My father was usually dispatched to do the rounds of bemused neighbours, returning, very cheery, in the wee hours.
Star ingredient: There’s no substitute for Gruyere and Emmental cheese. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
My mother would bake herself to a standstill and throw open the house to all comers, and it is more in the spirit of my mother’s New Year than my father’s that I bring you today’s recipe. Although the recipe is not my mother’s, she would, I think, have approved—simple yet rich and welcoming; three types of cheese melting into cream and held in sublime unison by rich, buttery pastry. I’ve made five batches of these pies already this festive season and they always disappear in a flash.
Needless to say, as the star ingredient, the cheese is all-important. Even though it’s expensive, there is no substitute for imported Gruyère and Emmental, nothing else will give the same melting rich flavour (believe me, I’ve tried). I will allow Flanders Mozzarella, but I don’t want to hear of anyone substituting tinned Amul processed for France’s finest.
Happy New Year!
Makes about 20 canapé-size pies
For the pastry
200g flour (maida)
1/2 tsp salt
75g cold butter, cut into cubes
5-6 tbsp cold water
For the cheese filling
200g Gruyère cheese, grated
50g Emmental cheese, grated (no substitute)
50g Mozzarella cheese, grated (no substitute)
200ml cream (Amul is fine!)
1/2 tsp salt
A few sprigs of parsley (for decoration, optional)
First make the pastry. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, then add the butter. Quickly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the cold water, adding a little bit more if necessary to bind the mixture together. Lightly knead the dough into a ball, cover with cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to fit a 22cm baking tin. Gently fit the pastry into the tin and trim the edges.
In a measuring jug, mix the cream, milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the grated cheeses over the pastry base, then pour over the liquid.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the filling is set but still fairly pale in colour.
If you want to serve the pie as a main course, slice while still warm. For small pies, leave to cool down completely, then refrigerate, preferably overnight. Then, with a small pastry cutter, cut the pie into rounds. When you want to serve them, place the rounds on a baking tray and reheat gently at about 150 degrees Celsius. Serve warm, perhaps decorated with parsley.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at Eatanddust.com
Also Read | Pamela’s previous Lounge columns
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