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Sharpham Brie and Mushroom Pithivier
First created in France as a sweet, frangipane-filled treat, the Pithivier has evolved to become a popular savoury dish – its distinctive shape and decorative pattern make it a stand-out centrepiece on any table, vegetarian or otherwise. This festive meat-free version uses locally-made (and completely vegetarian) Sharpham Brie and rich mushrooms to create a delicious filling. It can be made in advance, up to the point of baking, and refrigerated until you are ready to put it in the oven. Serves 8.
500g Puff Pastry (shop-bought blocks are easiest, as you need enough pastry to roll out into two circles; one with a diameter of 28cm, the other 26cm)
1 large Red Onion, peeled, trimmed and diced finely
900g Mushrooms of your choice (you can mix varieties, such as field, chestnut or Portobello, or use one variety to make up the full weight), wiped clean and chopped into evenly-sized pieces
4 cloves Garlic, trimmed, peeled and sliced thinly
A small bunch of fresh Thyme, leaves only
110g chopped Walnuts
50ml Dry Sherry
100ml Single Cream
150g Sharpham Brie, cut into roughly 2cm pieces (leave the rind on)
1 Egg, beaten
Put a sheet of kitchen roll on a dinner plate, then set a large, shallow pan over a medium heat and add half of the butter. Allow the butter to melt, then turn down the heat, add the prepared onion and fry gently for about 10 minutes, or until starting to soften. Use a fish slice to lift the onion out of the pan and on to the kitchen roll to drain, then add a good drizzle of oil to the pan and turn up the heat. You need to fry the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, until golden, but (because the quantity is so large) it’s best to do this in batches; have a large dish or mixing bowl ready to put the cooked batches into, and add a little more oil to the pan each time you start a new batch. When the final batch of mushrooms are cooked, leave them in the pan and reduce the heat slightly. Add the remaining butter and the garlic, thyme leaves, walnuts, sherry and cream, and continue to cook for another couple of minutes, stirring gently. Tip the mixture into your large dish containing the rest of the cooked mushrooms, then add the drained onions and stir in half of the chopped Brie, giving everything a good mix through. Leave the dish to cool while you prepare the pastry.
Dust your work surface with the plain flour and lightly oil a large baking sheet. Take one-third of your pastry block and roll it out to a thickness of about 3mm. Cut out a 26cm-diameter pastry circle (if you can find a plate, tin or dish that’s the right size, use it as a template) and put it on the baking sheet. Next, take your cooled mushroom mixture and spoon half of it into the middle of the pastry circle, leaving a 2cm border all around the outside edge. Pile the remaining Brie on top of the mushrooms, then use the other half of the mushroom mix to create a final layer on top of the Brie; the aim is to create a sort of dome-shaped mound of filling. Brush around the pastry border with the beaten egg. Dust your work surface with a little more flour if needed, then roll out the remaining pastry to the same thickness (about 3mm) and cut out another, slightly larger circle, this time with a diameter of 28cm (again, if you can find something to use as a guide, all the better). Lift this disc and lay it over the top of the mushroom filling, smoothing it carefully to maintain the ‘dome’ shape. Press the pastry together firmly all around the outside edge to seal – you can roll the edge up and over a little, if you’re concerned the filling may leak. Brush the pastry all over with some of the beaten egg, then put the Pithivier in the fridge and let it chill for an hour (minimum – or it can be left it in the fridge until you are ready to cook).
Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas Mark 6). Remove the Pithivier from the fridge and brush over a little more beaten egg. Using the point of a small, sharp knife, or a cocktail stick, gently score curving lines from the centre of the Pithivier out to the bottom edge (see photo for guide), being careful not to cut through the pastry. Put the Pithivier into the hot oven and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and become golden in colour. Serve warm, cut into wedges, with plenty of green veg to accompany and perhaps a dollop of good, fruity chutney – try Ottervale’s Date and Fig Relish for a really festive finish!
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