We are in the middle of the Australian Tennis Open, which is a very exciting time of the year for me! I live close to Melbourne Park where it is held and have been going every year for well over ten years. Spending a day at a sporting arena means eating at least one meal there and for many years I would buy food at the venue. It was expensive and not that nice, more so years ago when there were few options aside from hot dogs, fried chicken and hot chips. I like to maximise my time court-side, so that means not going to the restaurants that are also at the tennis complex, but getting food that is “take-away”. This was more of a challenge when I was a full time worker (as I often went after work), but for day time matches (when annual leave came in handy!) I would make sandwiches or wraps, usually with a side of seasonal grapes. And I continued to do this until the last few years as sandwiches had become a tad routine. So it was often frittata, or frittata in a sandwich. You cannot take metal cutlery in so anything apart from bite-sized food is a problem.
This year I made pasties or hand-pies, using my favourite olive oil pastry recipe. When I posted a photo of them on social media a few days ago, comments likened them to empanadas or pidunieddi (a Sicilian version from near Caltagirone). The dough is based on my onion calzone recipe in Italian Street Food, and the filling is based on a ravioli filling, but with finely chopped preserved artichokes added (from a jar I had in the pantry). So they are a bit schizophrenic in their origins but taste lovely, even at room temperature while watching the tennis in the hot Australian sun. They would make great picnic food and you could probably serve them with a dipping sauce, though I do not think they need it. I made them three times last week for the three times we went to the tennis, so the recipe is well and truly tested – though I admit the filling changed a bit based on what I had in the pantry. You could easily change the filling at home as long as it is quite dry so that the pastry doesn’t get soggy. The last time I made them was my favourite as I pulsed the filling through the food processor and it turned the most gorgeous green (courtesy of the peas).
If you make them please drop me a line and let me know what you think. And If you are a tennis fan, I hope you are enjoying the Australian Open as much as I am!
green ricotta hand pies
400g plain flour (I used 250g plain and 150g wholemeal)
1 scant tsp instant dried yeast
80ml extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
150-160ml tepid water
1/2 tsp salt
200g frozen peas
1 clove garlic, crushed
splash EVOO for cooking
100g preserved artichokes in a jar, chopped
200g well-drained ricotta
50g parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
freshly ground pepper, to taste
To make the dough, place the flour and yeast in a bowl and give it a whisk to combine. Make a well in the centre and pour in the olive oil. Stir through with a mixing spoon and then add the water. Stir with the spoon and then bring together with your hands. Add the salt and knead briefly. Tip onto a floured work surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. It should be quite a firm dough but with a reasonable amount of stretch. You could also use a kitchen aid with a dough hook. Place in a large clean bowl, cover with a wet cloth and place in a warm draught-free spot until doubled in size (about 2 hours).
In the meantime, make the filling. Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the frozen peas for a couple of minutes. Drain and set aside.
Place the garlic with a splash of EVOO in a small saucepan at medium heat and cook until fragrant. Add the drained peas and cook for a couple of minutes until they are infused with the garlic and oil. Set aside to cool.
Place the cooled peas, chopped artichokes, ricotta, one and a half eggs (reserve the other half egg for later), parmesan, parsley and pepper into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add salt to taste and set aside until needed.
Punch back the dough once it has risen and tip onto a floured work surface. Roll out until it is 1-2mm thick. Cut circles of dough using a cookie-cutter or the rim of a bowl (mine was about 13cm diameter, and I trimmed the circles using a fluted pastry wheel). You should have 12 circles. You can re-roll scraps of dough if needed.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place heaped tablespoons of filling (50-55g) onto one side of the dough circles, leaving a gap around the edge where you can seal the pastry by pushing the edges firmly together. I left a 1cm vent hole at the top of each hand-pie (by but not sealing the edges of the circle completely) as well as a few incisions in the pastry with a sharp knife on either side of the pastry join (see photos in the post). Place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, making sure they are not too close together as they will spread as they bake. Bake in two batches if needed. Brush with remaining egg thinned down by a splash of milk.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Eat at room temperature and store in a covered container in the fridge if eating the next day.