I have a tax return to do, and essays to mark (again!) so what better thing to do than write a blog post, about comfort food.
According to wikipedia, a galette is a round and crusty cake. I’m more inclined to think of it as a pie that is not cooked in a pie dish, but instead, the pastry is folded up and around the filling, leaving a hole at the top. I often make a lamb galette, mostly because it is one of my daughters’ favourites, and all three of them eat it con gusto. I got this recipe from my father, who amongst many other things (shearing, carpentry, fencing, general maintenance, accountancy, singing and music in general, interested in literature, conversable, just being a wonderful father and a superb grandfather), is an excellent cook. (He also taught me how to make potato gnocchi, but I will bring you that recipe another day.)
First, you need to make your pastry. You can buy pastry, but I find that unless you are buying pre-made pastry in huge quantities for catering purposes, the only places where you can buy pre-made pastry are supermarkets. Alas, supermarket pastry is all to similar to cardboard. I make my own. You can also make perfectly acceptable pastry in a food processor, but I find that the hand made stuff has a better texture. Making good pastry takes a bit of judgement, and you really only gain that judgement through practice. Give it a go (‘though perhaps not the night you have invited your boss or your prospective in-laws over for dinner).
Pastry is best made with chilled water. About an hour before you are going to start making it, put a jug of water in the fridge (about 1 cup). If you have a lemon handy, add a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s not a problem if you don’t have lemon, but the pastry will taste a bit better if you can add some. If, like me, you’re often not so well organised, then put the jug of water in the freezer for 10 minutes, while you get the rest of the pastry mix ready.
Sift 2 cups of plain flour and a small pinch of salt (maybe 1/8 teaspoon) into a large bowl. Again, you can omit the salt if that’s your preference, although the pastry will taste better with it. If you are living in Australia or New Zealand, you will of course be using iodised salt for cooking purposes, because our soils are deficient in it, and consequently, so are our diets.
Then, you need to rub in about 200 grams (6 ounces) of butter. That’s right. Butter. That fatty stuff. But relax. A bit of butter won’t hurt you. It’s only when you get carried away and slather it on everything you eat that you run into problems. As long as you are only using it occasionally, or as a condiment or flavouring rather than a basic foodstuff, you should be fine.
Rubbing in is the process of getting your hands nice and floury, then pressing the butter through your floury fingertips, again and again, until it is mixed with the flour. It should end up looking rather like fine breadcrumbs. Or indeed, something like this.
It can be a bit tricky getting it right. You don’t want the butter to melt and get greasy in your fingers, so you need to keep your hands cool. I find that running them under cold water, and then drying them thoroughly, cools them down, and keeping them well floured so that the butter doesn’t stick and melt helps too. And I have a secret technique. Actually, I suspect it’s not so secret, but it is something that my mother doesn’t do, so I regard it as something I worked out for myself, and perhaps just a little on the cheating side. But it works.
Get the lump of butter all floury, then grate it into the flour, every now and then tossing the gratings through the flour, and covering the remaining lump with flour again. Then start the rubbing in.
Next step, add enough (hah! I love inspecific directions like that) of the chilled water to mix the flour and butter to a stiff dough. Don’t add too much water at once – just a bit at a time. And mix it in with a knife (an ordinary old table knife), cutting back and forth through the dough until it gets to about the right consistency. If you do add too much water, don’t despair. Just add a bit more flour as needed.
Then, roll the dough out on a floury board, to about 3mm or 1/4 inch thick, and cut one large round (about the size of a large dinner plate) and three small rounds (about the size of a saucer). If you are feeling particularly clever, you can cut some decorative leaves too while you are at it. You may need to re-roll the pastry in between cutting the large round and the smaller rounds. If you do, remember not to scrunch the pastry into a heap, but fold it up, so that you keep it aligned top to bottom and side to side.
Put the pastry on a sheet of paper (waxed or greaseproof paper will do nicely), and cover it with more paper, and put it into the fridge to chill. You should put a layer of paper in between each sheet of pastry.
You need to make a basic meat sauce for the filling. Start with about 150 – 200 grams of minced (ground) meat per person. I always use lamb. You can use beef, but for some reason, I have found that lamb works better.
As usual for a basic meat sauce, put some olive oil in a pan, add some crushed garlic, and maybe some finely diced fresh ginger, and a finely diced onion, and fry gently until the onion is translucent. I add some chilli at this stage too – it cuts the fattiness of the lamb quite nicely, and adds a certain zing to the finished product. Then turn the heat up a little, and add the minced (ground) lamb, and brown it. Once it is browned, add a good tablespoon full of tomato paste. (My dad’s recipe calls for semi-dried tomato pesto, which no doubt adds flavour, but it also adds expense, so I use much less expensive tomato paste instead.) Stir it in, and then leave the mix to cook gently for about five minutes. At this stage you can also add a tablespoon full of pine nuts (or as my girls call them, pie nuts). The pine nuts are very nice, but not necessary. And add some herbs – whatever takes your fancy, really – and seasoning.
Once the meat mix is cooked, set it aside to cool a bit. If your lamb mince is very fatty, it’s worth tilting your pot on the side, so that the fat can drain out. Just before you use the mix, spoon the fat out.
This is a fairly dry meat sauce, but it needs to be dry, or the pastry will go soggy.
Assembling your galette
Heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit).
Grease an oven slide, and put the large pastry round on top. Then, grate a handful of cheese, and spread it over the centre of the pastry. The original recipe uses parmesan, but I just use whatever basic cheese I have in the fridge. The purpose of the cheese is to provide a protective layer between the meat mix, and the pastry. Otherwise the pastry will go very soggy. So don’t leave it out! Use a tasty cheese if possible, to add more flavour.
Then mound the meat mix over the cheese, and fold the pastry around it. Hold the edge of the pastry and fold one point up over the meat mix mound, then form a pleat, and tuck it down. Move on a few inches around the pie, then repeat. Keep on repeating until the edge of the pastry is all folded up over the meat mix.
At this stage, if you are being fancy, you can glaze the pastry by brushing it with a mix of egg yolk and milk, beaten up together. Usually, things don’t get so fancy around my house. Then put the galette into the oven, and cook it for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes is up, reduce the heat to about 180 Celsius (360 Fahrenheit), and cook it for another 30 minutes or so.
Et voila! One lamb galette. Yummy yummy yummy. Serve it with jacket baked taties and green vegies.
I have found that the galette concept works well with all sorts of mixes. The greatest success I have had was cooking a galette for vegetarian friends. I made a mix of lightly boiled sweet potatoes, cubed and steamed baby yellow squash, grilled red capsicum (bell peppers) and frozen green peas, all mixed together with a couple of tablespoons full of homemade tomato sauce, and baked it up in a galette. Also yummy yummy yummy, especially served with a good chutney.
You have not, I hope, forgotten the three small rounds of pastry, and the pastry leaves? With these you make three mini-galettes, and you put them in your daughters’ school lunches the next day, and they say gratifying things like, “Mummy, you are the best mummy in the world.”
With grateful thanks to the eldest Miss Strange Land for her assistance with photography at critical junctures.