Pastry and Pumpkin Pie

I thought I had basic shortcrust pastry sussed… “half fat to flour”, we learned in Home Economics lessons at school…. “rub the fat into the flour with the fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs”.”Stir in a little water with a metal knife”…

A few years ago I discovered Rose Elliot‘s delicious flaky pastry… a slightly higher ratio of fat, chilled and grated into the flour and brought together with icy water to form a dough.  Great for Delia Smith‘s vegetarian sausage rolls, or for apple pie.

But then I tried this recipe for a shortcrust pastry pie crust from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  Perfect. I haven’t looked back since! It actually has less than “half fat to flour”.

I used it recently for my autumn favourite: Pumpkin Pie! There was enough pastry left over to make two mini quiches too. Here’s the recipe, exactly as in The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (which I thoroughly recommend, and you can order it here from amazon!).

The Hummingbird Bakery Pumpkin Pie

Basic Pie Crust

260g plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 110g (unsalted) butter

Grease a 23cm pie dish. Put the flour, salt and butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. (I used the old-fashioned hand method mentioned above… old habits die hard!)

Add 1 tbsp water and beat until well-mixed. Add a second tbsp water and beat until you have a smooth dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for an hour.

Roll out on a floured surface and line the pie dish, trimming the edges. (I actually lined the pie dish directly after mixing and let it rest in the fridge for 20 mins.)

(No pre-baking required)


Preheat oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.

1 egg, 425g tin pumpkin puree, 235ml evaporated milk, 220g caster sugar, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp salt, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1 tbsp flour (I used slightly different spices, adding cardamom and mixed spice instead of the cloves)

Put everything in a large bowl and mix until smooth and well combined. Pour into uncooked pie crust and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the filling is set firm.

Leave to cool completely, and serve with a big dollop of whipped cream.

My personal tip: when whipping the cream add a tsp liqueur such as Cointreau. I used some of my homemade Herb Liqueur and it adds that certain “je ne sais quoi”!

Fine Words

Fine words butter no parsnips

Old English Proverb

The meaning is that words alone are useless, especially flattering phrases or fine promises, and you should judge people by what they do rather than by what they say. The origin of this proverb is unknown, but appears to be at least 400 years old.

By the way, to butter someone up means to flatter someone, often with an ulterior motive to persuade them to do something.

– These flowers are lovely. Are you trying to butter me up?

Of Hugh and Cookbooks

Since I’m in the UK at the moment I finally had the pleasure of witnessing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on TV.

This is Hugh.

Until then I had only heard and read about this famous TV cook and food writer. “River Cottage Veg” was shown Sunday night and I was delighted, inspired, amazed at what great ideas this guy has… I mean, beetroot and chocolate ice cream? It worked! (His new book – “River Cottage, Veg every day” – is on my Christmas list!)

He isn’t actually a vegetarian himself, but is campaigning for people to eat less meat, fish etc for reasons of sustainability. Hugh wants to develop awareness for how much meat is consumed daily and has therefore promoted interesting and delicious vegetarian meals in his new series and book by living without animal products for four months.

Take a look at his website here, and for recipes look here. He is really a fabulous cook!

In my case, over the past few years the desire to eat more healthily and more seasonally has meant a constant search for inspiration. Vegetarian cooking in Germany just hasn’t caught much attention (yet), so I rely on the internet and my rapidly expanding collection of cookbooks. In fact my bookshelf is now groaning under the weight. Some of the lesser used volumes have had to be banished to a shelf in another room far from the kitchen.

This pile is just the ones I use most frequently. There’s The Classic Vegetarian, which I will highlight soon, as well as Vegan Cupakes which I mentioned here.

And these are my German ones.

Here is a list of my absolute favourites, and I recommend them all!

The Vegan Table (Colleen Patrick-Goudreau)

The Classic Vegetarian (Rose Elliot)

Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Supercook

Veggie Chic (Rose Elliot) (Pictured here is the German edition: Fein, Leicht, Vegetarisch)

The Perfect Scoop and Ready for Dessert (David Lebovitz)

The Essential Dessert Cookbook

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Vegan Cupcakes (Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)

Lieblingsweihnachtsplätzchen (Christina Kempe GU Verlag) (German Christmas cookies)

Dr. Oetker Liköre (Liqueurs)

Liköre, Säfte & Co. (Christiane Holler) (Liqueurs, juices etc)

Backen mit Erfolg (Edda Meyer-Berkhout) (Mine is a German Readers‘ Digest edition which is a complete guide to German baking and is worth its weight in gold!)

How about you? Do you have a favourite vegetarian cookbook you could recommend? I’d love to hear from you!

Parsnips and Parsley Roots

Pastinaca sativa (Parsnips/Pastinaken)

Roast parsnips are a real favourite of mine, and at Christmas in England there is never a parsnip left over after Christmas dinner. Yet here in Bavaria they are not easy to find! Surprisingly, for a region that treasures and nurtures local produce and specialities, parsnips are not on the menu. We have carrots, cabbages, kohlrabi, celeriac, mangold, etc. But no parsnips.

If I’m lucky I can find them at the market, but more often than not I can only find parsley roots. They look almost identical, and are a standard ingredient for soups and stocks here, but their flavour is completely different and nowhere near as good as the parsnip.

The parsnip is carrot family, and has a sweet aromatic flavour with a hint of woody spice… cardamom? Apparently the Romans brought them to our northern climes, where they flourished, producing much larger roots than known to them. Their Latin name was originally pastinum.


Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum (Parsley Root/Petersilienwurzel)

Parsley roots are very closely related to parsnips and the carrot family, and are also known as Hamburg root parsley. I have never heard of them being used in the UK, probably because the British know that parsnips taste much better! It is not the same plant as the parsley we grow for the leaves, since the roots on leaf parsley remain rather small and would make for a very meagre meal!

I do use parsley root in the absence of parsnips for adding more depth of flavour to soups… particularly carrot or pumpkin.


I always eat just fruit for breakfast. Crunchy apples, sweet/sour clementines, and sometimes grapes at this time of year. Don’t you just love that first bite in the mornings? Something to wake up those taste buds, and stimulate the brain! The refreshing tangy scent of citrus fruits mixed with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee…Mmmmm!

My five favourite fruit:

  1. Apples
  2. Bananas
  3. Strawberries
  4. Clementines
  5. Blueberries

I like lots of other fruits too, but let’s keep it down to five.

Now to vegetables. I was once served a dish of peas, carrots and corn in a restaurant… fresh from the freezer, no seasoning, no sauce, nothing but veg. They were caught out by having to serve a vegetarian meal (Bavaria at the turn of the century!) and clearly had no imagination at all. And yet that dish of vegetables was rather nice! The pure flavour came through – earthy, green, sweet. That’s how I like my veg – unadorned, except perhaps for a little salt and pepper, a sprinkling of herbs, or a hint of olive oil or butter…

My five favourite vegetables:

  1. Brussels sprouts (also good with lemon juice)
  2. Butternut squash
  3. Carrots
  4. Parsnips
  5. (New) potatoes

How about you?

What are your favourite fruits and vegetables; the ones you eat all the time cos they’re so good? Or the ones you treat yourself to occasionally cos they’re more exotic and have a short season?

Write to me!