Marty and I have been making sandwiches for sale for over a year. Every Monday for close to 16 months (save for the weeks we are both out of town), we deliver our Crazy Juliet sandwiches to our colleagues. It's been great. But lately we've been feeling a little sandwiched-out. We needed some time apart, us and our sandwiches. We needed something fresh. So, we started introducing pies, puffs and quiches to our weekly menus.
As such, I've been experimenting with various vegetarian puffs and pastries. It's been quite challenging, really. After all, how many types of vegetarian pies and puffs can there be? Pies and/or puffs that are substantial enough for lunch. Pies and puffs that won't go soggy by lunch time (we deliver them around mid morning). It's been a ride.
So my kitchen became a test kitchen for all kinds of vegetarian pies and puffs. The first one to graduate from the test kitchen is this Roasted Vegetable Puff. This is really a very basic vegetable puff. It has no exotic vegetables or cheese to boast off. In fact, as horrific as this may sound, I used processed mozzarella cheese. I don't usually buy processed cheese but I had a packet in my fridge from I can't remember when which I wanted to use up.
Still the puff was really good, proof that the simple things in life are usually very, very good.
The secret? Good puff pastry and roasted vegetables.
Puff pastry is rich, flaky, buttery and soft. It is good enough to be eaten on its own (think croissants) but is also lovely as a light crust to coat a pie, sweet or savoury. I tried making puff pastry once and it was awfully satisfying: I'm not gonna kid you and say it was easy. No, it was pretty laborious. The wonderful
flakiness of the pastry comes from the many layers of dough and butter that is folded and folded and folded some more (sometimes more than a hundred folds go into a block of puff pastry). I made it because I was curious about the process and I wanted to see how successful my home made puff pastry would turn out. It was, thankfully, a success. But, I never have made it again because it's so much easier to buy good pre-packed, ready-made all-butter puff pastry.
Now the other reason this vege puff is so tasty is because the vegetables were roasted. I don't know about you but I love the flavour of roasted vegetables. They taste sweeter as they caramelise so nicely in the oven. All you need is to coat them in olive oil and then season them with salt and pepper. That's it, really. That's all you need.
I selected my vegetables carefully. Potatoes would be an easy way to make the puff filling but I am not a huge fan of spuds and so I struck them off the list of possible ingredients. Spinach? Nah. Carrots? Next time. Red peppers? Nah.
Here's what I ended up with: eggplant, broccoli, pumpkin, cauliflower and mushrooms.
Oh! And the cheese, of course.
ROASTED VEGETABLE PUFF
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup pumpkin, cut into 2cm cubes
1 cups mushrooms (shiitake, Swiss brown, button..) halved or quartered (size should match the pumpkin)
1 medium eggplant, sliced, salted and drained.
1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese (or 4 slices of the processed stuff that I used)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/2 tbsp corn starch diluted in 2 tbsp water.
1/4 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Mix all the vegetables in a bowl and coat them in about 2 tbsp of olive oil. (The vegetables should be cut around the same size so they cook equally.)
Transfer the vegetables to a rimmed baking tray: make sure they are laid out in one layer (to make sure they roast evenly). Season with salt and pepper.
Bake for about 40 mins, turning them over midway.
Let the vegetables cool.
Heat the stock in a small saucepan. Add the diluted corn starch and stir over low heat until the stock thickens — about 5-7 mins over low heat. Turn off the heat and add the vegetables into the thickened stock. Leave to soak/
Meanwhile, lightly flour your work surface and cut the puff pastry into 8 squares. My squares were about 8cm x 8cm.
Place one square on your floured work surface. Spread your cheese on the square ad then spoon the roasted vegetables onto the square (don't scoop out too much juice or the puff will get soggy), leaving about a 1/2 cm boarder on all four sides. Brush the boarder with milk.
Take another square and place it atop. You may need to gently (I stress, gently) stretch the pastry over the filling so that the top and bottom squares meet. Press the edges together and seal with a fork (this gives the puff a nice patterned edge).
Make a slit on the top of the puff for the steam to escape when baking. Now, brush the top of the puff with milk.
(If you want to decorate the puff, use a small biscuit cutter in any shape you like: 8 cut outs in total/ 2 per puff). Place the cutouts on the puff (how you arrange them is up to your artistic vision) and brush the shapes with milk as well.)
Repeat with the other 3 puffs.
Bake for 15 to 20 mins or till the the puffs and nice and golden and the flaky layers have risen.