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Thursday, 22 March 2007

pies not pills for winter blues

Just like Chew I've been surrounded by germinators this week. The number of work casualties peaked on Monday, myself included. On Tuesday everyone clucked and ruminated about their particular germ strains and I joined in; but only because waffling on about some imaginary bug was far preferable to telling people I'd cracked the SADs.

It used to be that English people had a reputation for drinking too much hot tea and complaining about the weather. Now they call it Seasonal Affective Disorder. It goes something like this:

1) October: You begin to feel the pinch and start digging in -- the shrinking days are hard to ignore.
2) November/ December: The air has a lazy bite and there is some layering going on but you don't yet care too much. Why would you? Christmas is coming and you're drunk.
2) January: You return to work a little flabby and grey with a sharp pain where your liver should be. Your energy is depleted but there's still enough to shrug off the blocked sinuses and chilly days.
3) February: there's been no daylight before or after work for three months, you've been sniffing like a coke junkie since Christmas, you've grown a modesty flap where your stomach once was, everyone's an arsehole, your gas bill is stratospheric... but isn't the snow pretty?
4) Early March: Oh my god oh my god oh my god! Daffodils and cherry blossom!! It's light till 5.30!!! There's sunshine!!!!! IT'S OVER!!!!!!
5) Late March: False alarm. It's snowing again. Snow sucks. The greyness of the day matches the palour of all the twisted, snappy faces walking by. I am one of them. I am officially a broken woman. Oh, misery.

Just when you think it's over, bam, the sting of the tail. No wonder so many people can't get out of bed. Last year my grandad told me to install some bright lights in the house, paint a room yellow and red, and get some spring flower oils from an aromatherapist. We decided it was easier to buy a tent and head to the south of Spain. That and cook a lot of comforting food, heavy on the potatoes.

Potato and garlic cream-your-pie

This pie has been adapted into a kind of pasty pie from Tamasin Day-Lewis' book, The Art of the Tart, and it's a perfectly delicious winter warmer. I should really fess up that I actually have very little reason to complain right now, given Adam and I fly south next week; home to Melbourne for the first time in three years. That's enough to kick anyone's SADs and it also lends itself as a decorative theme for my pasty pie.


400g puff pastry (in two sheets)
500g of potatoes
1 brown onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt, black pepper
1 beaten egg and 2 egg yolks
200ml organic double cream

Preheat the oven to 200(C). Grease a pan (I used an oven-proof deep dish fry pan). I don't think Tamasin digs bought puff pastry but what are you gonna do? Lay one of the sheets down in the pan.

Cut the potatoes and onion very thin.
Mix them with the parsley, garlic, salt and pepper then layer them (alternating potato and onion) onto the pastry base, leaving enough edge to fold the base pastry over the pie lid.
Cover the potatoes with your second sheet of pastry and fold the edges of the bottom sheet over to seal the pie.

Because the top sheet of pastry doesn't need to be as big as the bottom, I cut a strip off to make some stars for a little Southern Cross, so excited am I to be seeing it for real once more next weekend.

Brush the top of your pie with the beaten egg and slice a cross in to let the steam out.
Bake the pie for 50 minutes then take it out for creaming.
Mix your cream and egg yolks together and carefully inject them into the pie via a hole in the top. Tamasin advises using a small funnel. I didn't have one and so used a jug -- with a very steady hand and pouring at a slow stream. You don't want the cream to spill onto the top, you want it to get in there. I cut a few holes to make for an even distribution.
Cook the pie for another 10 minutes and you're done.
A salad of green leaves, mint, pear, walnut and a splash of balsamic vinegar was an ideal accompaniement.

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