The weather is warming, the grass is growing and the trees and flowers are blooming..... which must mean that it is picnic season.
There is something about the idea of picnics which is very romantic. The freedom to grab a basket of food and a bottle of wine, head out on the road, stop wherever takes your fancy and drop a warm rug in the long grass to lounge and eat in the sunshine is just perfect.....
OK. So in reality, the kids might be screaming at each other (with the parents joining them intermittently), the whole journey might be filled with 'are we there yet?',the British weather is less than predictable and if you're driving, that bottle of Prosecco might just have to be left at home....., but if you find the right spot, the weather holds and you remember to take the frisbee, you won't regret making the effort to get there...... Especially if that basket if full of delicious, home-made goodies.
Regular readers of the blog will know that I have joined an amazing group of free from bloggers for a monthly recipe-share based around seasonal themes. In February, we offered an incredible variety of #FreeFromPancakes. In March we gave you a #FreeFromEaster. In April, some of the group filmed some vlogs sharing free from recipes to cook with the kids (I missed that one on account of sheer lack of confidence with using and editing video).
This month, we are offering our allergy-free ideas and intolerance-avoidant creativity to set you up for the (hopefully) hot Summer season..... with #FreeFromPicnics. Throughout May, our free from gang of bloggers will be posting recipes across the web. Keep an eye on the blogs listed below to see what wonders are shared (they are all amazingly talented).
My offering for this post has been buzzing round my head for months, just waiting for the right moment to make an appearance...... Mini Picnic Pies!
I first made the Sausage Pie when I had some left over sausage meat at Christmas. They were such a hit on the buffet table and with Miss GF, that I started dreaming up all sorts of alternative fillings.
For this post, I have created one of Miss GF's other favourite flavour combos.... Chicken & Pesto, as well as my favourite.... Crushed Roasted Butternut Squash, Toasted Pine Nut & Stilton. All of them are simple to make with some basic baking skills and a little time.
I have used a new pastry recipe for these pies. Since becoming gluten free in 2011, I have always blended my own flours as I have found this allows greater flexibility to tweak to the needs and desired texture of the bake and is cheaper for us, on account of Miss GF being entitled to some flours on prescription (currently). For this recipe, I have heeded the recent warnings to cut down on rice consumption (due to concerns about arsenic contamination - particularly relevant for those following a gluten free diet) and have made the pastry free from rice flour.
The pastry dough worked really well. It felt completely different to rice-based blends and behaved completely differently too..... It was soft to touch, kneadable, pliable and rollable...... It didn't crack, even after 3 or 4 re-rolls and it baked crisp and delicious..... A fluke? Possibly. Or lucky ratios? (To be fair, I did use my knowledge of the qualities of different flours and how they behave)..... Either way, it was good.
If you don't want to mix your own flour blend, I thoroughly recommend you get your hands on some of Vicki, The Free From Fairy's gluten free, rice free flour, which is currently available via Amazon. She's done all the hard work for you and brings a superb flour (which won a Free From Food Silver Award for innovation), packaged and ready to use.
On my picnic table, you can also see some other home-baked goodies.... an amazing gluten-free baguette recipe which I am just tweaking in preparation to share with you and some of Miss GF's 'very first recipe out of her head with no guidance' oat cookies, which we will bring you soon too....
Other places I am sharing my Mini Picnic Pies :
Cook Blog Share with Hijacked By Twins
Free From Fridays with Free From Farmhouse and Le Coin De Mel
Treat Petite with The Baking Explorer
Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching For Spice
Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum
Happy Picnicking - Check out the bloggers below for lots of ideas for #FreeFromPicnics
Gluten Free Vegan Oatmeal Cookies : Mel at Le Coin De Mel
Egg Free-Gluten Free Scotch 'Eggs' : Rebecca at Glutarama
7-Layer Dip Picnic Pots : Emma at Free From Farmhouse
Vegan Red Onion & Chilli Cheese Scones : Midge over at The Peachicks Bakery
Rainbow Fruit Salad : Nathalie at Intolerant Gourmand
Egg Muffin Cups : Laura at Dairy Free Kids
Spinach & Mushroom Crustless Quiche : Chloe at The Adventures of an Allergy Mummy
Chocolate Tiffin made with Insect Flour : Vicki at The Free From Fairy
Rainbow Salad Jars : Jo at Paleo Crust
Asparagus, New Potato & Spring Vegetable Frittata : Mandy at Sneaky Veg
Other Gluten Free Savoury Picnic Ideas on Gluten Free Alchemist :
Picnic Salad Jar - Summer Picnic Trick
Savoury Summer Upside Down Cake
Mediterranean Summer Tart
Cheddar, Gruyere & Bacon Quiche
Muffin Pizzas/Pizza Muffins
Butternut, Quinoa & Pine Nut Patties
Two Cheese, Chorizo & Walnut Biscuits
Goats Cheese Stuffed Cherry Bomb Chillies
Goose Egg Frittata
Sun-Dried Tomato, Parmesan & Walnut Puff Pastry Tarts
White Bread Rolls - gluten, dairy & yeast free
Chicken, Squash & Gruyere Quiche
Trio of Mini Picnic Pies : Chicken-Pesto; Sausage; Butternut Squash, Pine Nut & Stilton (makes 36 mini pies)
Ingredients : Pastry (or blend of the 6 flours also equivalent to 440g rice free flour blend from this post use your favourite GF shortcrust pastry recipe)
110g tapioca flour
88g potato starch flour
88g sorghum flour
44g teff flour
44g buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
220g unsalted butter - cold and cubed (or dairy-free alternative)
2 large eggs
approx 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water (iced if possible)
Chicken-Pesto (for 12 mini pies)
1 boneless, skinned chicken breast
2 to 3 tablespoons pesto of choice
Sausage (for 12 mini pies)
150g sausage meat - seasoned to taste
Butternut Squash, Pine Nut & Stilton (for 12 mini pies)
1 small butternut squash
a little olive oil
salt and pepper to season
handful pine nuts
approx 50g stilton (or other strong blue cheese)
1 egg and a little milk to make some egg-wash
- Pastry : Weigh and mix together the flours, xanthan gum and salt, making sure all lumps are completely broken down (I put mine in an air-tight container and shake vigorously).
- Rub the butter into the flour mix using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
- Beat the eggs together in a cup and then add to the flour mix with 2 to 3 tablespoons of cold water.
- Bring the dough together with a flat knife or your hands, adding more water a teaspoon at a time, until you achieve a firm, but slightly sticky dough-ball. Knead slightly to ensure a smooth even texture (you may choose to 'fraiser' the dough instead of kneading, for an extra smooth consistency - as in this post)
- Wrap in clingfilm until ready to use and chill in the fridge.
- Fillings : You may wish to prepare these ahead of making the pastry.
- Chicken-Pesto - Cut the chicken breast with a sharp knife into very small cubes (they need to fit in the pies). Mix with the pesto in a small bowl until well coated. Cover with clingfilm and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
- Sausage - If your sausage meat needs it, season to taste - set aside until ready to use.
- Butternut Squash, Pine Nut & Stilton : Peel and de-seed the butternut squash and cut into small cubes.
- Put in a roasting tin, drizzle and coat with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 200 C/400 F/Gas 6 for about 45 minutes, turning the squash occasionally until soft and beginning to brown at the edges very slightly.
- Whilst the butternut is in the oven, toast your pine nuts by placing in an oven-proof dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes to ensure they don't burn. When done, remove from the oven and set aside.
- When the butternut is cooked and soft, remove from the oven and crush with the back of a fork. Add the pine nuts and stir through. Leave to cool.
- Once cold, crumble and add the stilton cheese. Set aside until ready to use.
- When ready to assemble the pies, take your pastry and soften slightly using the warm palms of your hands. Get ready a couple of mini pie trays. - Depending on how many 'holes' you have, you may need to make in batches (make sure you re-wrap the pastry in cling-film between processes).
- Take a small piece of pastry dough about the size of a walnut and roll into a ball. Press into the base of one of the holes in the tin and using a floured small pastry tamper (or a flat ended small rolling pin), gently press the pastry dough into the hole, carefully rocking a little to push the dough up the sides of the hole. The pastry should not be too thick, but should come to a little above the top of the hole making a basket shape. (if you see any holes in the pastry dough, remove and repeat the process until you have got the knack).
- Fill 12 of your raw pastry cases with one of your fillings, almost to the top, but allowing for a little turn-in of the pastry-sides at the top.
- Using your finger, gently 'turn-down' the pastry sides over the edge of the filling to make a small ledge (this will form the base to stick the pastry lids).
- Repeat the processes 15 to 17 until you have filled 12 pies with one filling.
- To top the first batch of pies, take a piece of dough and using a floured surface and floured rolling pin, roll to a thickness of about 3 millimetres.
- Use a round cookie cutter the size of the pie tops to cut 12 rounds of pastry.
- Mix up an egg with a little milk and beat together to make an egg-wash.
- Brush a little egg wash on the underside of the raw pastry lid and around the pastry ledge at the top of the pie. Stick the round lid to the pie, gently pressing down and smoothing at the edges with a dampened finger to seal.
- Repeat this process until all the pies are filled and lidded. You may want to differentiate your tops between pie fillings, by sticking a small star/heart/pine nut to the tops with a little egg-wash.
- Repeat the process from 14 above to make pies with your other fillings.
- Place the pies in the fridge for about 45 minutes to firm up slightly. Reserve the remaining egg wash until ready to bake.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and brush the tops of the uncooked pies with the remaining egg wash to form a glaze.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and crisp.
- Leave in the tins for about 10 minutes, before carefully removing (you may need to ease a flat knife down the edges of the tops to help unstick if necessary) to a wire rack to cool.
- Enjoy hot or cold.
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