I used vegetable suet and wholemeal flour to make this pastry. I’ve had this packet of vegetable suet in the cupboard for a while and not really known what to do with it. Proper suet is a made from the fat deposits around the kidneys of an animal. I know, disgusting. Vegetable suet (I used Atora Light) has 3o % less fat and is made with vegetable oil. Much more appetising, don’t you think?
Suet can be used to make dumplings, pastries, pies and puddings. The classic Steak & Kidney Pudding is made with suet pastry and so are most of the traditional Pork Pies. But don’t let that put you off!
The vegetable suet was really easy to work with, so much easier than using butter. You just stir the suet granules and flour together and add water. That’s it, no messy rubbing butter into flour business. You don’t even have to chill it before you use it (although I put it in the fridge while my filling cooled down). It’s definitely a much quicker option if you’re pressed for time or just very impatient, like me.
Don’t be scared about the pastry being that soggy, doughy pudding pastry either, unless you like that sort of thing! Even using wholemeal flour it turned out to be light, flaky and delicious. I followed the pastry recipe on the box (which was for a quiche) but you can send off for an Atora recipe book if you want to make that strange, soft pudding pastry.
I knew I was going to make a cauliflower cheese because I had a cauliflower getting bored at the back of my fridge. I toyed with the idea of making dumplings with the suet and doing a Cauliflower Cheese Cobbler (which I will definitely try next time) or even a Cauliflower Cheese Quiche. But I am a sucker for individual pies (don’t like sharing, only child!) and The Washer Up wanted to see if I could make his favourite pork pie-like pastry with the suet, so pies it was.
Instead of making a white sauce with butter & flour for the Cauliflower Cheese, I cooked the leeks in the butter and put the cauliflower florets in a freezer bag with the flour and seasonings and shook the bag to coat the cauliflower. This way when you tip the floured cauliflower to the butter & leeks you get the white sauce base to add your cream or milk to and only use one pan, result!! This is a Nigella trick she uses to make her chicken & mushroom pot pies. Anything that saves time and washing up is a definite bonus….
Individual Cauliflower Cheese Pies
makes 4 small individual pies, vegetarian
- 150 gr self-raising flour (I used wholemeal self-raising)
- 75 gr vegetable suet (Atora Light)
- 3 or 4 tbsp iced water
- salt & black pepper
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into 1 inch or less size florets
- 1 leek, halved lengthways, rinsed & sliced
- 30 gr butter, plus extra for buttering pie dishes
- 30 gr plain flour, plus extra for flouring
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- a few sprigs thyme leaves chopped, about 1/2 tsp
- a pinch of dried chilli flakes
- salt & black pepper
- 1 pot creme fraiche about 200 ml
- about 100 – 150ml veg stock
- 50 gr mature cheddar, grated
- 50 gr Greek feta, or Lancashire crumbly, crumbled
- 50 gr manchego or parmesan grated
- 1 egg, beaten, for glazing
Butter & flour your pie dish/dishes and put them in the fridge. If you like you can make your pastry first and leave it in the fridge while you make and cool the filling. Mix together the flour, suet, salt & pepper in a bowl and stir in enough iced water to make a firm but not sticky dough. Wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge.
Heat the butter over a medium heat, in a large frying pan with a lid. Fry the leeks in the melted butter with a pinch of salt for a few minutes until softened. Meanwhile put the cauliflower florets, flour, nutmeg, thyme, chilli flakes, salt & pepper in a freezer bag, seal it and shake it so that the cauliflower is coated with the seasoned flour. Tip the contents of the freezer bag (including the excess flour) into the pan with the leeks, stir and cook out for about 2 minutes.
Add the creme fraiche, stir to coat the cauliflower, then add in 100 ml veg stock, stir, cover and leave to cook for about 5-7 minutes until the cauliflower is tender crisp.You can add some more veg stock if it is too dry. Then add in the cheeses, turn off the heat and stir to melt the cheeses. It should be a thick cheesy sauce clinging to the cauliflower with not too much liquid or the pastry might get soggy. Check seasoning and leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200 C and take the pastry out of the fridge. Cut the pastry into four and roll out one piece at a time to a thickness of about 3 mm. Cut about a third off of the pastry and set aside for the lid. Push the pastry into your dish, you may have to cut bits off if it overlaps too much and stick bits in the gaps, this is fine. Just make sure it’s about the same thickness all the way round so it cooks evenly. Fill it right to the top with the cooled filling and push it down well.
Roll out the reserved third to about 3 mm thick and use another pie dish to cut a circle the same size as the top. Keep any pastry offcuts in cas you need them. Roll the circle out a little to make it slightly bigger, but not much. Brush the edges of the pastry that will be touching the lid with the beaten egg then lay the lid on top. Push it down with your fingers, then crimp around the edges with a fork to seal it. Trim of the excess pastry round the edges, make 2 holes in the top with a sharp knife and brush the top with beaten egg.
Repeat with the other 3 pies and cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until puffed & golden brown.
Serve hot straight out of the oven with a simple green salad or some green beans, it’s delicious. Equally good served at room temperature for lunch with some beetroot chutney if you want to go down that ploughman’s/ pub lunch route.
Ahhhh.. Pub Lunch. There are not many things I miss about the UK but lunch (or even just a packet of cheese & onion crisps) in a pub garden on a sunny day is one of them. That, and Grandad’s pickled onions. Which would be great with this, by the way. Maybe Michelle could bring some over in May (hint). Now, you really wouldn’t want that to break in your luggage……………..!