You are smarter than I am, and therefore you’ll glance at this picture and think, “Silly woman. She should have bought a cheese with a rind.” You’d be absolutely right, and if you’re making this and want your cheese to hold a nice shape when grilled you’ll need something with a rind. My excuse: my cheese was in a little cardboard box and I made assumptions about the presence of a rind that wasn’t there.
I get through a lot of shallots, but I do make an effort to buy the longer kind (sometimes sold as “banana” shallots, sometimes as “echalion”), which grow here in East Anglia from September to May. They’re larger than the round variety you’ll be buying for the rest of the year, and easier to handle – the flavour is very similar. If you’re using round shallots here, be aware that they might need five minutes or so less cooking time.
Don’t use the wallet-assaultingly expensive, 20-year-old balsamic in a teensy-weensy vial that you bought on your romantic trip to Modena. That one’s for drizzling on Parmesan and perhaps dribbling on some very good bread with a little olive oil that’s been standing on some smashed garlic for an hour or so. For this recipe, you just need the supermarket stuff that comes in large bottles.
I’ve suggested two nut oils to use to dress the salad. I love a light nut oil to finish this sort of dish – buy a small bottle and keep it in the fridge, though, because nut oils go rancid quickly if kept in a cupboard. Experiment! You can buy all kinds of interesting nut oils, like macadamia, pistachio and pine nut, in delicatessens, and this salad is a good place to try them out.
To serve four as a light lunch or starter (all depending on how much crusty bread you intend to go through), you’ll need:
450g banana shallots, peeled and quartered
½ teaspoon salt
25g soft dark brown sugar
75ml balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
200g goats’ cheeses, in a log with a rind
2 tablespoons hazelnut or walnut oil
Salad leaves to serve
Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F).
When you have peeled and quartered the shallots, use a fork to whisk the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Drop the shallots in and turn them carefully to coat them in the mixture. The shallots shouldn’t fall apart completely, but don’t worry if a few of them shed chunks.
Pour the whole contents of the bowl into a metal baking tray, spreading everything out so the dressed shallots are in one even layer. Roast for 15 minutes, turn, roast for another 15 minutes until dark brown and caramelised, and set aside to cool.
When you are ready to serve the salad, cut the cheese into four discs and grill them on one side until gold and bubbling. Lay out a large handful of salad leaves on each plate, put a cheese in the centre and scatter a quarter of the shallot pieces around the cheese. Grate a generous amount of pepper over the whole salad and drizzle with your choice of nut oil before serving.
I’d been invited to Bob Bob Ricard (1 James St, Soho W1F 9DF – see the restaurant link for menus, phone and email reservations) to try a new cocktail: an English 75 with an Earl Grey syrup. What was meant to be a quick sip at the bar turned into a lengthy series of vodka shots in tiny, iced crystal glasses; a selection of really interesting cocktails; and several jewel-like little plates of Russian appetisers, the better to set off the drinks. Leonid “Bob” Shutov, one of the two owners (Richard Howarth is the “Ricard” part of the equation), spent an hour or so leading Douglas and me through the menu, structured around English club food with the odd injection of Russian standards; around the restaurant, outrageously lovely in a sort of Trans-Siberian-Express meets Japanese lacquer box way; and through the cocktail menu and extravagantly stocked wine cellar.
I’m not usually much swayed by good interior design in a restaurant, being approximately 95% motivated by food even when I’m not eating, but the attention to detail and quirky beauty of BBR’s dining room is so good that it acts as a seasoning. I mentioned to Leonid that I seriously, seriously coveted the wallpaper panelling the room, all midnight blue flowers and tiny flocks of sparrows sweeping in gorgeous waves across the walls. “It’s Japanese bookbinding papers. We had to do it four times before it was right; the pieces the paper is supplied in are this big.” (Uses hands to demonstrate a disquietingly small rectangle.) I spent the rest of my visit staring, but I couldn’t see any joins anywhere.
You’ll find a gold “press for champagne” button at each Pullman-booth dining table, marble panelling feathered with veining so sumptuous that I thought it had been painted on, bronze lap dogs to guard your umbrella, magnificent deco lighting, marquetry floors and handsome brass fittings. As it turns out, the restaurant was designed by David Collins (the Wolseley, Claridge’s bar, all that good stuff). It’s highly individual, and such a beautiful space that I decided I needed a spot more exposure to it. I finished my surprise lunch and immediately booked a table for later in the week – BBR was so interesting that I was very keen to see what the evening service was like, and how things go when you’re not there as a guest of the owner. (In brief, things go very well indeed – it’s a wonderfully romantic spot for an evening meal, and the quality of what was on our plates didn’t waver.)
Before you launch on anything else, you’ll need to make a cocktail/wine decision. Cocktails are superb and enjoyably imaginative (I ended up going the cocktail route with Dr W, so more on those later), but BBR’s wine cellar and markup policy are something rather special. The restaurant has a cellar to suit the wine tastes of any business tsar (sorry) you bring for dinner, but marks itself out by never charging more than £50 markup on any bottle of reserve wine. This curious bit of policy means that where you’d spend £923 on a bottle of 1999 Bollinger Vieilles Vignes at somewhere like Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, that very same bottle at BBR will rock up at a positively reasonable-sounding £294. A 1986 Chateau Leoville Las Cases is £338 here (£905 at le Coq d’Argent) and, for dessert, a 2002 Chateau d’Yquem that costs £310 at Ducasse at the Dorchester is less than a third as expensive, at £96. This is still a bit too rich for my blood, but for a very special occasion, I can see myself jumping on a bottle of 03 Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido at £129 – especially given that you can’t actually find the wine anywhere else in the UK. BBR bought up the whole stock from that year.
Happily, there’s plenty available for less hair-raising prices, and plenty on offer by the glass too.
James Walker, ex of le Pont de la Tour, is in the kitchen doing all kinds of thrilling things with quail eggs and caviar. The menu here is a funny amalgam of Edwardian nursery/chophouse and Russian swank, and I loved it. The rich, salty, oily Russian starters on the menu (denoted with a little Russian flag beside each item) are the perfect foil to the gloriously austere Kauffman collection vodka or the slightly fiercer Russian Standard Imperial – drunk before a mouthful of yolky quail’s egg topped with keta (Russian salmon roe), a bite of cured herring, a darkly salted cucumber or a fork’s tip draped with a silky, beautifully fresh quail eggs mayonnaise. These little shots, clinked together in shimmering little crystal glasses straight from the freezer over some unashamedly pretty food, turn out to be a perfectly joyous way to start an evening out, and a great sharing experience with friends. And the prices on these lovely little bites (you might look to share four as a starter between two people) are very encouraging – the keta with quails’ eggs was £4.50, the herring £3.50.
At a Russian friend’s wedding a few years ago, we ate a braised beef brisket, cooked for hours and shredded, then suspended in a disc of aspic. A delicious thing, a bit like the inside of a very jellied pork pie without the crust. Most of the wedding guests at our table were squeamish British sorts, and Dr W and I found ourselves the only people at the table to finish the dish and then to steal it off everyone else’s plates. I’ve not seen the same preparation since (despite some concerted effort at eating Russian in Helsinki), until lo – BBR has a version as good as anybody’s aspic fantasies. Here, the meat used is shredded tongue, and the little roundel of aspic is packed with sweet, fresh peas, slivers of carrot cut into fanciful shapes with an aspic cutter, threads of cress, and more dense, beefy flavour than you’d believe you could fit into such a small space. (There is also a quail’s egg in there, of course.) A little timbale of a sweet and mild Russian horseradish is a beautiful foil to what turns out to be a weirdly delicate, literally mouth-melting plate.
Although wild Beluga is available, most of what’s on offer caviar-wise is the farmed roe from Aquitaine. I’m a huge enthusiast for farmed caviar; it’s a reliable product and it’s helping to democratise the price of a very special ingredient. The nutty, pearly roe is served with blinis, or as part of an Eggs Royale – an Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon on the muffin instead of ham, a gout of really good hollandaise, a plump poached egg…and a giant dollop of caviar. It’s the first time I’ve come across caviar treated as a condiment, and thinking about the dish is still making my mouth water nearly two weeks later.
The cocktail list is enormously good fun. A rhubarb gin and tonic (the restaurant’s signature cocktail, now available year-round), made with a poached rhubarb syrup and one of the pinkest, prettiest drinks I’ve had in ages, uses a gin without too much in the way of botanicals to let the floral, rosy headiness of the rhubarb sing. There’s a clear Bloody Mary, made with the clear juices of fresh tomatoes, extracted overnight. It’s a drink that packs a glorious vine scent and a real hit of umami on the tongue. There’s intense tomato flavour with no redness – it’s positively discombobulating. You’re given a little bottle of Tabasco and some Worcestershire sauce to spice your own drink with, so the beautiful clarity of the drink isn’t spoiled before you’ve had a good chance to play with it for a bit.
Pork cheek was poached in a dense, rich jus full of star anise and tomato. Glossy and malevolently dark, it’s served with some very fine Yukon Gold mash. And I went for the evening’s special, a rose veal Rossini, which came in at a positively bargainsome £24.50, giving me a great excuse to order another cocktail. I’ve always liked veal better than beef in a Rossini; the more delicate flavour of the meat works better, for me, against the strong flavours of foie and truffles in the dish, and this was cooked to a lovely pinkness, moist and tender to the tooth. My little lobe of foie was seared glass-crisp on the outsides, melting velvety-smooth inside. And the truffly, oily, garlicky smear of duck pate on the crouton that sat on the side of the plate was so good that Dr W, having been offered a bite, made a noise I haven’t ever heard before.
The plate of cakes we asked for for dessert was a bit dry, and each of the six little bites was really rather ordinary. I was so full I didn’t really care, though – and an Affogato coffee was exactly the sort of alternative I was after, the ice cream shot through with vanilla seeds.
You can go to BBR and spend your entire inheritance in one night, if you try. You can also go and, with some judicious ordering, come away with a wallet not particularly lightened. Head along at night, when the restaurant positively twinkles, explore the more curious corners of the menu, and tell them I sent you.
Inspiration comes from funny places, on this occasion Dr W’s nostalgic thoughts about a parmesan and leek scone that Starbucks sold when they first arrived in the UK and we all discovered Frappuccinos and comfy chairs. I remember that scone dimly, and it seems the scone in my imagination and the scone in his are not the same thing at all. The scone I remember was a dry and sad production with not enough cheese, not enough leek, and a miserable little pot of cream cheese to smear inadequately on the cut surface to moisten it. Dr W remembers it as some sort of delicate überscone, a scone of youth and freedom. I love him, so I came up with a scone bread for his dinner that might remind him of the original (not too closely, obviously, because I didn’t like the original much – this one’s much moister and packs a lot more flavour).
You shouldn’t need any butter to moisten this scone; it’s very rich. Treat it as a bready accompaniment to go with ham, some hard cheese, chutney and a salad for a quick supper. It’s best served warm from the oven, but it’s terrific cold, and will be great the next day in a lunchbox too. A bread leavened with baking powder like this is great for those who are nervous around yeast, and, because it doesn’t need long periods of proving and rising, is much quicker to make than a yeasty bread too.
To make enough for six portions, you’ll need:
240g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
100g salted butter
100g leeks, green and white parts
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, picked from stems
75g Parmesan cheese
50g Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs, plus one to glaze
120ml semi-skimmed milk
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Cut the cold butter into little pieces in the flour bowl and rub them into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Chop the leek into very small dice and grate the cheeses. Stir the leek, cheese and thyme into the flour and butter mixture.
In a small bowl, whisk two eggs and the milk together. Pour into the dry mixture and use your hands to bring ingredients together gently until you have a ball of dough.
On a greased tray lined with parchment paper, press the ball of dough into a flat, round loaf shape. Beat the egg for glazing and brush it over the surface of the loaf.
Bake for 35 minutes until pale gold. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean – if it doesn’t, keep cooking for 5 minutes and check again until the scone bread is done.
When the scone bread is ready, remove it to a cooling rack and leave it for twenty minutes to cool off a little. Slice into six pieces and serve warm.
English food gets a bad rap in a lot of areas, but there’s one thing we’re world-class at: nursery puddings. A good bread and butter pudding is a joyous thing; a layer of spongey, custard-dense bread at the bottom, sweetness and flavour from a careful sprinkling of preserved fruit (I like juicy, tea-soaked sultanas and little cubes of stem ginger), and golden, caramelised points of crisp bread decorating the surface.
It’s unfortunate that so many of us were exposed to disastrous variations on the bread pudding theme when we were children. School dinners and rushed grandmothers are responsible for plenty of adult nightmares about gloppy flat puddings, studded with bits of wobbly egg, a nasty rubbery skin stretched over a sheer surface. There are a few things you need to do to ensure you avoid these problems when you’re making your own bread and butter pudding.
Firstly, and all-importantly, the bread shouldn’t be submerged in the custard. Don’t drown everything in custard, and construct your pudding so that points of buttered bread, moistened with the egg and milk and brushed with a little syrup and sugar, caramelise and crisp in the heat of the oven. And when you make that custard, beat the hell out of the egg. Nothing is more squick-inducing than a gelatinous chunk of eggwhite in the middle of your dessert plate.
For an entirely non-squicky pudding to serve between four and six, depending on greed, you’ll need:
8 slices good white bread, crusts left on
30g softened, salted butter, plus extra to grease the dish
30g caster sugar, plus one tablespoonful
3 large eggs
50g stem ginger chunks – reserve the syrup
1 strong cup of your favourite tea
Nutmeg to grate over
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Make a very strong cup of hot tea without milk (make another for yourself) and soak the sultanas in it until you’ve finished buttering the bread and arranging it in the dish.
Cut the slices of bread into quarters diagonally, and butter them on both sides. This is an excellent way to use up stale bread – in fact, you’ll find the stiffer slices of slightly stale bread easier to handle than soft, fresh bread.
Arrange the buttered slices of bread fish-scale style in a buttered rectangular dish measuring about 20x30cm, the crust sides touching the base of the dish and the soft points pointing upwards. The bread triangles should be snug in the dish, but need a little space between them; overlapping three per row works well.
Drain the sultanas and chop the pieces of ginger into sultana-sized dice. Sprinkle them over and between the points of bread.
Beat the egg thoroughly with 30g of sugar in a jug. Use a whisk rather than a fork, to make sure the egg is properly beaten. Pour the milk over the egg and sugar and whisk it thoroughly to make sure everything is properly mixed.
Pour the custard (because that’s what it is now) carefully over the bread, being sure to moisten all of the points with the mixture. Brush the syrup from the ginger pieces over the exposed surfaces of the bread, and sprinkle with another tablespoon of sugar. Finish with a generous grating of nutmeg.
Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes. The bread points should be golden brown and crisp – if you think they could do with a little more colour, leave in the oven for another 5 minutes before checking again. Serve hot or warm with plenty of cream. This pudding is best on the evening it’s made, when the top will be deliciously crisp.
Inevitably, it took longer than I was hoping, but after a few days of PHP and Python hell, we’ve moved the platform Gastronomy Domine is published on. You’ll still notice some peculiarities today – internal links will still point you at the old template. We’re hoping to get redirects put in overnight, so things should be (ha!) seamless when you check in tomorrow. Many, many thanks to Dr W, without whom and all that. I am typing this one-handed while crossing all the fingers of the other and simultaneously touching wood, but everything (pictures, comments, tags, links) should be working now. Today I’ll be working on the template, so what you see at the moment is probably not the way the blog will look when I’m done.
I’m new to WordPress, and I’m still feeling my way around a bit. I’m also only able to check the appearance of the blog on the monitors I have in the house, so if you see anything odd, I’d really appreciate it if you could email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment to let me know.
Meanwhile, here are some photos from Polpo (follow the link for menus and booking details), a Soho restaurant doing bacaro, a kind of Venetian tapas, which I visited with the spiffily dressed Douglas from Intoxicating Prose – always a very enjoyable person to shout at about food, who is much worse at reading maps than is natural. Polpo is spackled fashionably across UK magazines and newspapers at the moment, and was packed with the beautiful and famous on the Monday afternoon when we visited, but I detect a spot of Emperor’s-New-Clothes-ness about the place. The food is, as you can see, very pretty, but it’s unsubtle and a bit two-dimensional in flavour. The tapenade spooned carefully onto my halved egg turned out to be a big minced olive, without any additional spiking with zest, garlic or anything else; puréed white beans on crostini were singing out for a squirt of lemon. Seasoning is heavy, encouraging you to apply yourself to the drinks menu, and the larger dishes were jolly, but not particularly memorable. Cuttlefish in its ink was gloppy, rich and tender, but salted so densely we couldn’t finish the dish. The pork belly with hazelnuts and radicchio was my favourite of the ten or so dishes we sampled, and it’s good to see endive, radicchio and drinks like Apero and Campari get such a showing on the menu; that bitter quadrant of the mouth doesn’t get the exploration it deserves on many menus in the UK, even Italian ones. Still – these days, you’d be shocked to find a London restaurant that didn’t offer a good pork belly prep. And generous applications of cream and chocolate didn’t disguise the fact that the fat our pastry discs were fried in for dessert had been on the go for far longer than it should have been, and tasted stale and elderly. (Admittedly, we arrived right at the end of the lunch period, but still.) Three cheers for the belly, three boos for the tapenade and the contents of the deep-fryer.
My sense is that since a bacaro is such an unusual thing in London, and since little, sharing plates are such a good thing to do enjoy with friends, Polpo’s success will continue irrespective of any niggles over what’s on the plate; this is a social event more than anything else. And it’s a good spot for celeb-spotters (we recognised a few faces at the other tables); it’s also a nice reminder that your own anonymity is a very precious thing. David Mitchell, a man I find it a bit hard to look at because of his very unfortunate resemblance to an ex-boyfriend I’d rather forget all about, was doing an interview over lunch in a nearby corner. On his leaving, the entire dining room erupted in a chorus of: “Goodness. He’s much thinner than I’d expected,” and: “My. Doesn’t he have a big face?”
I left thankful of the certain knowledge that no room full of diners has ever felt the need to discuss the proportions of my head.
Blogger is stopping support for FTP blogs in a couple of months, and this blog happens to be one of them. I’m migrating the blog this week.
Hopefully, you shouldn’t experience any downtime (I’m hoping you won’t notice any difference at all). It’s a big blog, though, and there are a bazillion links and pictures that I’m going to have to check, so the work will take me a few days. There will probably be no more posts this week – hopefully service should be back to normal on Monday.
It’s funny how quickly we assimilate food ideas. Salted caramel was considered suspiciously French, a kind of extreme sweetie sophistication, when we first encountered it about ten years ago. Now it’s all over the place – you can even buy jars of the stuff in the supermarket.
Salt caramels are still, as far as I’m concerned, a grown-up’s sweet. Buttery, creamy and velvety on the tongue, the addition of some salt to the mixture lifts the flavour, bringing out the dairy smoothness in a way you just can’t achieve in an unsalted caramel. A little extra salt sprinkled on top makes for a tongue-shockingly good contrast between sweet and salty. They’re easy to make at home, and make a great gift. Try them as an after-dinner nibble – they’re especially good with coffee. Home-made salt caramels are also a very good application for any interesting salt you might have lurking in the cupboard (the red salt in the picture here is Hawaiian volcanic salt I was given as a present just after I got married in 2004. Embarrassingly, this is the first thing I’ve used it in).
I like my caramel to have a hint of smoky bitterness. The best way to achieve this is to use an unrefined sugar in the recipe. If you prefer a lighter caramel, you can substitute another 150g of caster sugar for the light brown sugar below.
The usual boiling sugar warnings apply. Do not lick the spoon or dip your finger in the mixture until it has cooled completely. Keep an eye on the pan at all times to ensure it doesn’t boil over. And your life will be made much easier if you use a sugar thermometer – if you don’t have one, caramel at the hard ball stage should form a squishy ball that can hold its shape but can be squeezed by the fingers when dropped into a bowl of cold water.
150g caster sugar 150g soft light brown sugar 80g butter (choose something with a good flavour – I used an unsalted Beurre d’Échiré) 200g double cream 75ml golden syrup 1tsp salt, plus more to sprinkle at the end
Line a square cake tin (mine measures 20cm on each side) with buttered greaseproof paper.
Combine the caster sugar with 30ml water in a saucepan, and bring to the boil over a medium flame. Swirl the pan every now and then, and keep watching it until the sugar starts to change colour. It will quickly work its way from clear to pale gold through to a reddish brown. As soon as it hits the reddish brown point, remove it from the heat and wait for the bubbles to subside.
While the sugar is cooking, melt the brown sugar, butter, cream, syrup and a teaspoon of salt together in a separate pan and stir well. Pour the mixture into the reddish brown caramel and return to the heat with a sugar thermometer. Stir gently to combine the ingredients.
Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to simmer, swirling occasionally, for between 5 and 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches hard ball stage on your sugar thermometer (125°C, 260°F). Remove from the heat and wait for a few minutes until the bubbles in the pan subside. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and cool for an hour or so until the caramel is solid. Cut into pieces and decorate each piece with a pinch of salt. Flaky Maldon salt is fantastic here – and if there’s any Hawaiian volcanic salt in your cupboard, now’s the time to use it.
There’s often a home-cooked ham in the fridge here. Always the control freak, I like to be able to season and flavour my own ham for sandwiches, pasta dishes and what have you. A piece of smoked gammon simmered in some aromatics of your choosing for a few hours will always be better (and work out cheaper) than slices from the deli or supermarket, and is very little work – plop it into a pan, bring to a simmer, and leave for a few hours while you try on shoes or whatever else it is you fill your days with.
I’m still a big fan of the Coca Cola stock, beefed up with some aromatics, for hams – it’s really worth a whirl if you’ve not tried it yet. Ginger beer is also alarmingly, counterintuitively good here. If you still can’t stomach the idea, a ham is also delicious poached in water with a slug of wine, a few tablespoons of sugar, some onions, garlic and spices like cloves, fennel, star anise and bay. Experiment, and settle on what you like. In the recipe below, I’m assuming you already have a cooked ham at hand. For this sort of recipe, where rather than slicing the ham you will be shredding or cutting it into chunks, I really like a bacon collar. It’s a less monolithic bit of meat than some of the slicing cuts, and has good marbling which helps push the flavour of the stock deep into the meat.
This recipe is all about the aromatics in the ham and in the bechamel sauce. Infusing the milk for your white sauce with shallot, bay, cloves, parsley, whole peppercorns and a stick of celery raises it from a rather boring binder and filler to something rather delicious and gorgeously scented. If you find this all rather a faff, bechamel freezes very well, so you can save time by making plenty and freezing it in boxes. (You can also freeze the infused milk before turning it into bechamel, bread sauce or other sauces – like the finished bechamel, it holds its flavour very successfully.)
Finally, the pastry. I’ve made a rough puff here to cover the pie (the amount of pastry below makes enough for two pies, and I haven’t halved it because cooking with half an egg isn’t very practical – again, this freezes well, or you can keep the extra pastry in the fridge for up to three days). It’s very easy, deliciously flaky, and melts in the mouth. All the same, I won’t hold it against you if you want to save some time and use some pre-prepared pastry instead.
Filling 1 litre milk 3 bay leaves 2 shallots 3 cloves garlic 12 cloves 1 stick celery 1 small bunch parsley 8 peppercorns 6 tablespoons flour 5 tablespoons salted butter 450g cooked ham (try a bacon collar if you can find one) 120g peas (fresh or frozen, depending on the time of year)
Crust 450g flour 120g butter 240g lard 1 egg, and 1 yolk to glaze 2 tablespoons sugar Juice of 1 lemon 170ml water
Start by infusing the milk. Peel and halve the shallots, and stud them with the cloves. Put all the aromatics in a thick-bottomed pan with the milk, and bring very slowly to a simmer. Turn the heat off, put the lid on and leave to infuse in a warm place for three hours.
While the milk is infusing, put the pastry together. Beat the egg into a bowl with the sugar, lemon juice and water. Beat the mixture and chill in the fridge. Use your fingers to rub the cold butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, and chop the lard (also straight from the fridge) into pieces about the size of the top joint of your little finger. Stir it into the flour/butter mixture. Add the egg mixture bit by bit, stirring the mixture with a knife until everything comes together. Put the pastry into a freezer bag and rest it the fridge for at least half an hour, until you are ready to put the pie together.
Strain the solid ingredients out of the milk and discard them. Make the bechamel sauce by melting the butter and flour together over a low heat in a clean pan, and cook, stirring, for five minutes. Add the milk a small amount at a time, stirring sauce constantly as you go. The sauce will thicken as you work. Keep adding milk bit by bit until it is all incorporated, and the sauce is thickened. Don’t add salt to the sauce; there should be enough in the ham to season the whole dish.
When you are ready to put the pie together, preheat the oven to 230°C (445°F).
To assemble the pie, chop the ham into bite-sized pieces. Put a layer of ham in the bottom of a pie dish, cover with a layer of peas, and repeat until you have used all the ham and peas up. Pour over the bechamel sauce until your pie dish is filled. Depending on the size of your dish, you may have some left over, but I’m sure you’ll find something to do with it.
Cut the ball of pastry in half and put the half you’re not using in the fridge or freezer.
Roll the pastry you are using out in a large rectangle, and fold it into three, as if it was a piece of A4 paper you are going to put into an envelope. Give the pastry rectangle a quarter turn, roll it out into a large piece again, fold into three, roll out and repeat four or five times. You’ll end up with a sheet of pastry about half a centimetre thick made up of many layers. Lay the pastry sheet on top of the pie dish, cut the excess off the edges and pinch the pastry into place on the dish. Cut a large cross in the middle to allow steam to escape and brush with a beaten egg yolk.
Bake at 230°C (445°F) for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200°C (390°F). Cook for 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the pie steaming. Serve immediately.