Every Christmas at school, the staff have what is known as a 'Shared Table' or a buffet lunch, where every member of staff brings in some form of party food and during the lunch break, staff are free to grab a plate of food for lunch. Now, having brought in some form of yummy treat every Friday throughout the term the pressure was kind of on for me...there was no way I could just bring in something shop bought. So after much discussion and consideration of what I had available in the house that needed to be used up before Christmas, I decided to go for this traditional pastry snack. Not very challenging, but my pastry work was practiced and improved.
500g Puff Pastry
250g Cheddar Cheese
1 Egg (2 if you prefer egg wash to milk)
A little splash of Milk
Flour for the work surface
1. Preheat the oven to 180degreesC.
2. Chop the leeks into sizeable chunks and grate the cheese. Stir in a large bowl until mixed thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Beat the egg and pour into the cheese and leek mixture. Stir until everything is coated in the egg. Leave to stand whilst preparing the pastry.
4. Flour the work surface and your rolling pin. Roll the puff pastry into an oblong shape approximately 30cm long and 20cm wide.
5. Begin to spoon the cheese and leek mixture into the middle of the pastry, leaving a border of about 5cm all the way around the oblong. Pat the mixture into a neat sausage shape making sure it is rather tight and compact.
6. Starting at the left hand side (closest to you) of the plait, using a sharp knife, cut several strips diagonally downwards about 2cm apart from one another, working your way along the pastry. Repeat this on the other side.
7. Take the first pastry strip from the side closest to you and fold it tightly over the cheese and leek mixture, then take the first pastry strip from the side furthest to you and fold it over....causing a 'criss-cross' or plait type pattern. Do this all the way along the pastry, making sure each piece is tight around the mixture.
8. At the top and bottom ends you will have some excess pastry left over. It is important that you tightly seal the plait so that the cheese and leek filling doesn't petrude whilst in the oven. What I did here was just trim the pastry and then neatly fold it over then compressed it with a fork to make a nice frilly pattern at each end.
9. Before placing the plait in the oven put it onto a sheet of baking paper and pop it onto a baking tray. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the outside of the plait with the milk/beaten egg. This will make the pastry nicely crisp and golden and will act as a glue, piecing the pastry together.
10. Bake in the oven for about 30mins, or until piping throughout.
This was actually much nicer than I thought it was going to be. I've always been very honest in that I'm not too confident with my savoury snacks (especially pastry) but the flavours were sooo yummy together and really complemented one another.
And I'm really quite impressed at how it looked - not too shabby and rather professional, I think!! I made a little mini one and had it hot at home and I must say that it was so much nicer hot than cold, but was still a tasty snack. Well, at least the staff clearly thought so as there was a not a crumb left!!