Secretly, I don’t like punting. Please don’t tell Oxford City Council, because I’m not sure you’re allowed to live here if you don’t like punting. And I’m pretty settled. I don’t want to be chucked out.
Don’t get me wrong – I love boats, and I love living on the river. Punting, however, is an entirely different thing to proper boating. It’s always so much better in quintessentially Oxonian pictures than when you’re stuck in the actual experience.
The problem is that once you’re sitting in a punt, you’re stuck sitting in a punt. It’s not very comfortable, and it’s always either too hot or too cold. It gets boring fairly fast. You move along the water very slowly. You are attacked by swans and wasps. You are always worried about losing your wallet or your phone in the grimy water.
What a moaner I am! Sorry to start this blog off on such a negative note, but I am only doing it to be able to segue into talking about the one thing that I love about punting adventures: picnics. Picnics are the only reason that I continued to go punting all the time throughout university. People would lure me in by saying ‘Come punting with us! Come on! We’ll have a picnic!’
I can’t resist a picnic.
I don’t know what it is about eating perfectly normal food in a picnic setting, but put cheeses, pork pies, and strawberries in a basket and plonk it all on a blanket outside somewhere and I am there. I love the ritual of choosing, making, and compiling all the various components of a picnic. I love packing things into bags and baskets and cool boxes and lugging it all outside and lying down on a patch of grass somewhere and eating far more sandwiches than is nutritionally advisable.
Nowadays, I am free from the social obligations of punting (there’s a first world problem if ever I did hear one), so I can transition into picnicking with abandon and delight. I mean, it’s August in England, so as I write this I am looking out of the window at a grey sky and pounding rain, but otherwise the time is ripe for a good old summertime picnic gorging-fest.
So, next time the planets align and we have a) sun and b) free time, we will definitely be having a picnic and I will definitely be making these.
Source: The concept of phylas pastry is one I found in the fantastic Honey & Co. Baking Book, which I have rhapsodised about on this blog before. I’ve since looked it up, and I cannot find any other references to phylas pastry on the whole of the Internet. Admittedly I didn’t look massively hard, but it didn’t come up in a Google search, so I think the concept might be theirs. However, although I have used their spiral pastry idea, the filling here is my own invention and I have changed a lot of the proportions from the original recipe, so this is very much my version.
Notes: This recipe makes four very hefty pastries. They go well with all sorts of salads in the summer (and probably in the winter too). I would say that a hungry person could eat a whole one, but half of one of these pastries will still be a very adequate serving for a less hungry person.
glug of oil (olive or rapeseed)
1 large or 2 small onions, finely diced
250g pork mince
250g beef mince
3 tbsp Ras el Hanout spice blend
6 tbsp chopped cashew nuts
1 small bunch of tenderstem broccoli, chopped into small pieces
500g block ready made all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten and seasoned, for egg wash
- First, make your filling. Heat your oil gently in a large deep frying pan, or wok, and pop your diced onions in to cook. After five minutes, turn up the heat and add both your pork and beef mince to the pan. Cook the meat over a high heat for at least five minutes, stirring it and breaking it up to make sure it browns evenly. Turn the heat down a little, and stir in your spice, nuts, and broccoli. Cook for another couple of minutes, then take it off the heat and leave to cool. The filling must be completely cold when you make the pastries, so pop it in the fridge once it’s cool enough. You can also make it the day before.
- Preheat your oven to 210C/ 190C fan/ gas 7. Dust a large surface generously with flour, then roll out your pastry to a rectangle of 60cm x 25cm. I actually measure this, because it’s always bigger than I think. Cut it vertically into four 15cm x 25cm rectangles. Take the first rectangle, and place a line of your filling down one long edge of the pastry. Push it together a bit with your fingers to make a long, dense line of filling. Roll up the pastry so that you get a 25cam long pastry cylinder full of meat, making sure the join is on the bottom. Roll it up into a spiral. Repeat all this three times. I am completely cack-handed and awful at this sort of thing, and I found it totally doable – it’s not as fiddly as it sounds.
- Place all four pastries onto a lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and bake in the hot oven for 25 minutes until golden and crisp. Turn your oven down to 190C/ 170C fan/ gas 5 and keeping cooking for another 15 minutes. Enjoy the pastries hot or cold.