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What is mise en place?

It is defined as: n, in professional cooking, proper planning of equipment and ingredients for a food preparation and assembly station, Et. French ‘put in place’, (usage cooking)

[From: Webster’s New Millenniumâ„¢ Dictionary of English, Preview Edition (v 0.9.6). Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. 27 Feb. 2007. <Dictionary.com >]

What are you recommending this then?

Well, I saw this entry about it on The Happiness Project, a blog about erm.. happiness that I read, and it is certainly linked to the recipe I’ve got to post today. Although the focus of Gretchen’s blog is about life and happiness, other more food-focused blogs that discuss it, like this one, show that it can make cooking easier.

By having all the ingredients ready and diced, all the implements checked and on hand, and (the bit I fail on usually..) by reading a recipe all the way to the end, you’re far less likely to feel rushed and also to have an accident/disaster. It’s just like the TV cooking shows, but you don’t get a production assistant to fill up all the little glass bowls. (Sadly, after a long day at work, it also doens’t allow you to pull out a here’s-one-I-prepared-earlier, no matter how dearly you might wish to….)

Just something I’ve been thinking about as I settle in to a new kitchen, badly in need of better pots and implements (which is really adding to the challenges of cooking in it, really, must keep buying more things!) I’m also trying to inspire my housemates, two of whom are kitchen novices to get into cooking, and this makes the whole experience more zen.

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Predictably, I usually use a Donna Hay recipe here – but this is a simple recipe, so I’ve just done a quick search and found a basic ingredients list and a few tips. My food processor is sitting under my family home in Melbourne, lonely and abandoned, but this type of pastry is easy enough by hand.

Shortcrust Pastry

Ingredients (makes enough pastry for a 25cm tart shell)

  • 240g plain flour
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 180 g unsalted butter at room temperature, diced into small cubes
  • 60 ml icy cold water – use an ice cube if you have it, or run the tap cold

Method

  1. Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl from height, to incorporate as much air as you can.
  2. Add cubes of soft butter, and cut into the flour with a knife.
  3. Rub butter in using just your fingertips, rub butter into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  4. Add water very slowly and carefully – a tablespoon to begin with, then just small dribbles- I find just moistening your fingertips gives a small measure. Continue until it comes together as a dough.
  5. Rest the dough in the fridge, wrapped in plastic film or inside a plastic bag, for 20-30 minutes. This is so the gluten can do what it needs to do – so don’t serve this pastry to coeliacs.
  6. Remove, allow to warm up for a few minutes and then roll out for use – most recipes require you to blind bake the shell before introducing the filling. Bonne is a guru at this.

Notes

  • Suitable for use in savoury tarts and pies. Some sweet dishes use a Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (also called Rich Shortcrust Pastry)- as above, but with an egg yolk or two in with the butter and tablespoon of caster sugar added after the butter has been mixed in.
  • Pastry can be made in bulk and used as a standby from the freezer – make double and freeze for a month or two. Best defrosted a day in advance.
  • Sydney chef Damien Pignolet recommends using teaspoon of lemon juice made up to 60 ml with very cold water. You’lll still need to watch the texture if you do this – no two batches will need the same amount of liquid.
  • Delia Smith has a good, detailed, and illustrated lesson on her website that’s pretty good. She notes: “Being light with your fingers is not a special gift, it’s just a conscious decision, a signal the brain gives to the fingertips, and then a bit of concentration.”