The 'after' photo - above - of the plum hand pie is so much better than the 'before' photo of said hand pie and its little pie pals below, taken the previous evening. On account of I will possibly never work out how to take decent photos at night-time, illuminated only by an environmentally friendly lightbulb, which casts a gloomy yellow haze over everything within a metre of it and makes you squint like you've never squinted before, but does save ten percent power or something. Now that I'm done both damning myself and faintly praising myself, the important thing is: these hand pies are delicious and very easy and cute, and probably about to be really 'in', too. For what that's worth. (Now that I've said it, hand pies will probably be widely denounced as embarrassingly tacky, which to be honest will probably make me love them even more.)
I made these to be eaten at a spontaneous-ish gathering of friends to watch a movie on our projector on Saturday night (Wet Hot American Summer, if you're wondering, because as I always say, nothing bad can happen when Wet Hot American Summer is on.) It was a very fun evening, just really relaxed and lovely and silly and hilarious and low-key, the sort of fun you wish you could schedule in on a bi-daily basis, while knowing it's best to just wait and let it happen accidentally.
Above: the morning after. Tim went to swoop in on the lone, remaining pie for a pre-breakfast snack, till I squawked "stop! The light is really great right now and I can salvage the terrible photos I took last night!" Oh, and that's right, individual bowls for every snack and a commemorative teaspoon for the candy. Sure, we're really messy, but we also have bizarrely specific high standards, you know?
So when I say hand pies I simply refer to what we might normally call pastries or turnovers or mini-pies. But 'hand pies' are deeply intertwined in the the cuisine of the American south, and I cannot resist a little culinary Americana. Or any Americana. As befits a kid who grew up in New Zealand but was obsessed with the Baby-sitters Club books and ensemble movies like Now and Then. Not that hand pies are mentioned in either of those, but let's not get lost in semantics. My version is not strictly traditional, but what it is, is really very easy and fast and non-stressful. And delicious. I appreciate that there's a bit of a cost at the outset in buying ready-rolled sheets of pastry, but sometimes it's just as much looking after yourself to buy something pre-made as it is to make it from scratch.
Seriously, very little actual work gets you these fantastically good, gently spiced pockets of plummy sweetness. The the lemony warmth of the cardamom, the tear-jerkingly comforting scent of cinnamon and the toffee flavour of the brown sugar lends the tart juiciness of the plums some welcome richness. The fruit softens up but doesn't collapse, and any juice is absorbed into the cornflour to give the filling a little heft. And they're hand-sized! Who cares if they're on-trend, as long as they're on your hand and fast approaching your mouth.
plum, cinnamon and cardamom hand pies
a recipe by myself
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry (all-butter if possible, but I know only three supermarkets in the fanciest bits of New Zealand actually sell that, so just deal with the weird fake margarine stuff this time round - you can't even taste it if you don't think about it.)
Set your oven to 200 C/ 400F and line an oven tray with baking paper.
Mix the brown sugar, cornflour, cinnamon and cardamom together in a small bowl.
Finely dice the two plums, discarding the stones, obviously.
Slice the pastry sheets into nine equal-ish squares, by making three slices downwards and three across. Maths! Finally useful. Spoon half a teaspoon - at most - of the sugar-spice mix into the middle of each square. Spoon a small teaspoon of diced plum over the top of that, then fold the pastry in half, pinching at the edges to form a snugly-filled triangle. Repeat with the remaining squares. You might have some plum or spice-dust leftover. Arrange the triangles on the baking tray (it took me an embarrassingly long time to work out how the triangles could all fit on there evenly, I guess maths is useful, sort of) and bake for about 20 minutes. They'll be piping hot at first, so let them cool a tiny bit.
Hand pies! Get some.__________________________________________________________________________
here's what you have to do.
1: Leave a comment on this post telling me a recipe from this blog that you like the look of. It can be from like, last week, I'm not going to give extra points for people who go deep into my archives, but who knows, you might like what you see once you start looking.
2: Be a person from New Zealand.
3: Wait till 10am Sunday morning (sorry for those with short attention spans, myself included) which is when I'll do a post on here letting people know who won.
4: See if you're one of the two people who got drawn at random! And either console yourself by baking hand pies, or rejoice in your winning by baking hand pies. And emailing me your address.
May the odds be ever in your favour!
title via: my guitar heroes Metallica with their joyfully sinister song Enter Sandman.
Joan Osborne, Right Hand Man. This song is so excellent and saucy and great. And, um, also has the word 'hand' in it, but this is entirely coincidental.
Lillias White, Don't Rain On My Parade. Brilliant song, oh-damn-that's-so-true lyrics, and Lillias White's smashing voice. There are a million different renditions of this song from Funny Girl, and at least a hundred of them, this included, are my favourite.
Next time: I don't even know, especially as I'm going to be out of the house most nights this week, but we'll see, we'll see. Maybe even one of the recipes from my own book. If nothing else the words "my cookbook" will probably appear a lot, accompanied by a palpable air of smugness.