Well, now that you know how I felt about cauliflower when I was little, you know how I felt about most vegetables. It’s hard to believe that the farm-share buying, garden planting, vegetable fiend I am now actually grew out of that prissy little girl whose heart grew faint and lip trembled at the thought of eating leaf and root matter of any sort. I had a very few exceptions to my no vegetables rule. A few vegetables that were inoffensive enough I would deign to consider them foodstuffs. I liked cucumbers. In fact, cucumber and mayonnaise sandwiches were one of my favorite summer dinners (this was my escape hatch when all the grown ups were eating their open faced shrimp sandwiches). I would eat carrots if they were shredded and mixed with ranch dressing, and I would eat peas if they were cooked and drowned in my mother’s magnificent gravy. That was about my limit. So, peas and carrots it frequently was.
However, in spite of the lore around peas and carrots (I’ve heard that an old joke/admonishment in many families was to tell the children to “eat every carrot and pea on your plate,” hehe) we never actually ate them together. It was either peas or carrots. Not peas and carrots. I knew, in a sense, that they were supposed to go together. Two of my best friends and I even dressed up as peas and a carrot for Halloween once! But still, never did the twain meet on my dinner plate. Up until a couple of days ago that is. In my mind’s peripatetic wanderings last week I stopped to rest awhile upon this idea and decided that it was finally time to eat peas and carrots together. But, I didn’t manage to stop there. No sooner had I settle on it, I had quickly moved on from the idea of just eating plain old peas and carrots and started thinking of pot pie. And then I started thinking of hand pies.
Have you had hand pies before? They’re absolutely wonderful! And so darling. I can’t help but calling hand pies darling whenever I encounter them. There’s something about the idea of a small pocket of pie crust filled with goodies, all bundled together in an easy to hold portable package that is incredibly appealing to me. Something about lifting a little hand pie to my mouth to nibble on makes me feel chipmunk-like. In a good way. Hand pies are basically in the same family as all self contained, individual sized stuffed pastries. They’re closely related to empanadas, samosas, turnovers. I think even poptarts are a sort of indecorous cousin; you know, the one everyone is a bit embarrassed by when they show up at family gatherings, and yet you can’t help but feel some fondness for them and their garishness as well.
Anyway, I decided to roast the carrots, to bring out their sweetness and give them a deep caramelized crust. Alongside I roasted some garlic. Roasting garlic does wondrous things to the bulb, mellowing its flavor to velvety softness. Then I tossed the carrots and garlic with some sweet peas. And because I am finally beginning to truly long for a bit for spring and lighter fare I opted not to make a creamy sauce for the vegetables. Instead I accented them with a handful of tangy feta and some fresh, pungent dill. All of this is wrapped in an envelope of amazingly buttery, tender, flaky dough. I’ve been working on my pastry dough recipe, tweaking this and adjusting that, and I think I’ve very nearly achieved the pinnacle. I never used to like pastry dough, but with this dough I find myself breaking corners off of things, just to sneak another taste. Though, if you didn’t feel like making dough, the carrots and peas layered with the garlic, cheese, and herbs makes for a rather satisfying and unique salad on their own. Either way, I think you’ll find yourself saying “more carrots and peas, please!”
Carrot and sweet pea hand pies (makes 8.)
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1/3 cup plus a couple extra Tbs. ice cold water
- 1 egg, lightly beaten for an egg wash
- In a food processor, pulse together the dry ingredients for the dough. Then quickly pulse in the butter until the mixture looks like a very coarse meal – the pieces of butter should still be about pea sized.
- Add in the creme fraiche and 1/3 cup ice water, and vinegar pulse. Add a little more water, 1 Tbs. at a time until everything just comes together to form a shaggy messy dough. Then scoop the dough out and form it into a ball. Flatten the dough into a disc, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill for an hour in the refrigerator.
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks or coins
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 smallish head of garlic (10 cloves or so), cloves separated but left in their skins
- 1 cup peas, fresh if in season otherwise frozen peas that have been defrosted and lightly dried
- 6 ounces crumbled feta
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- While your dough is chilling, heat your oven to 400F. Toss the carrot pieces with the olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Add the garlic cloves as well. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and garlic are just tender, about 25 minutes.
- Transfer the carrots to a bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Squeeze in the roasted garlic. Then, toss the carrots and garlic with the peas, feta, and dill. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.
- On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out into a big old rectangle about 1/8th of an inch thick. Obviously you cannot really roll a perfect rectangle, so either a bit of dough trimming will be in order or you can just make slightly unevenly edged hand pies (which is what I usually do because I kind of like that look). Cut the dough in half horizontally, then into 4ths vertically to make 8 smaller rectangles.
- Place a scoop of filling on one end of each of the rectangles. Then, fold the other side over and seal the edges, using a bit of water on your finger tips to help it to seal, to make little stuffed pockets. Transfer the pockets to parchment lined baking sheets. Use a knife to make 1 or 2 little slashes in each pie to act as air vents. Then brush all of the hand pies with the egg wash.
- Bake in the 400F degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and flaky. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve.