You know when you meet someone for the first time, and you just immediately know you will be friends? With my current housemate K, I somehow just knew even before we had actually met. A strange set of circumstances led me to move in while she was overseas, and I wouldn’t actually meet her until a few days later.
But seeing her beautiful apartment with shelves full of books, and kitchen cupboards with (seriously) about a dozen kinds of vinegar, I could tell that she was a foodie bookworm like me, and I just knew we would get along. Although we’ve discovered many other things in common in the time since, I’ll always remember that we bonded over a shared love of vinegar.
Vinegar is not just for salads and pickles! I have loved strawberries and balsamic vinegar together from the very minute I first tried it, but I do remember a lot of people being sceptical about the pairing a few years ago. It’s definitely something that needs to be tasted to be believed. Luckily these days, the combination seems as common and unquestioningly good as salt and caramel, or peanut butter and chocolate. A good quality vinegar can elevate a humble strawberry from childhood snack to all grown up in an instant.
The strawberries have been delicious so far this spring, and I’ve been eating them by the punnet full. I’ve been using them in my daily green smoothie, an afternoon snack, and sometimes even for dessert as well. Every recipe idea I come up with lately has seemed to be all about berries! But why not, they are one of my favourite foods, their season is short and they should be celebrated!
I decided to make mini hand pies, which I love because they are the most perfectly portable and cute miniature snacklet – great for kids, picnics or just with a cup of tea. The strawberry juices bubbled and overflowed, which gave them a lovely rustic homemade look. While they are a tiny bit fiddly to make, the process is very easy and totally worth it. You do get into a bit of a production line, which when you get into the baking groove can be quite therapeutic!
I used the same pastry as my cherry jam pop tarts from a few years ago, which is super simple to make. Do keep any excess in the fridge to continue chilling while you roll it out, as it becomes a little sticky as it warms to room temperature. The strawberries are sliced and stirred together with some good quality caramelised balsamic vinegar and flour. Mine were very fresh and sweet and didn’t need any additional sugar in the fruit mixture. I gave mine just a light dusting of raw sugar prior to baking and think they’re very cute as they are, but you could also make a simple glaze if you fancy.
• 2 cups plain flour
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 225g unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
• 1 large egg
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 large egg, for brushing the dough
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter and pulse until only pea sized lumps remain in your mixture. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the milk. Add the mixture all at once to the dry ingredients and pulse until moisture is introduced to all of the flour mixture. Lightly dust a clean surface with flour and knead the dough until it starts to hold together. Divide the dough in two, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator. On a well floured surface, roll the dough out to 3mm thick. Cut out 16 x 8cm circles with a round cutter. Place the dough circles onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and refrigerate while you prepare the second piece of dough in the same way. Brush one set of 8 circles with a beaten egg. This will act as the glue for the top layer of dough. Spoon an even layer of strawberries into the center of each brushed dough circle. Top with a second piece of dough and use a floured fork to crimp the sides closed. Use the a small knife to create vent holes in each pie. Brush with egg wash and scatter with raw sugar.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Let the pies rest in the fridge while the oven preheats. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve warm or at room temperature. Best served within 2 days.