At boarding school, there was really very little reason to go to the tuck shop. We used to get sandwiches at break (for my US blogpals – mid-morning recess). They were always brown bread and usually the freshest of soft fresh. My favourites were egg. I still love egg sandwiches. When I make them, I still grate my eggs they way they were grated for those sandwiches. Peanut butter or peanut butter and jam (jelly), I could take or leave, and
mostly left. The midday meal was a quick gobble before the final two lessons ahead of the end of the school day just after 2pm.
Reason besides, I did frequent the tuck shop. There were certain stand out products that were popular among my peers. They, and two in particular, became part of my Friday, end-of-the-week ritual.
Each term, our parents put money into our “pockets” which was doled out on request. These were the days before computers, let alone PCs. Parent communication was either snail mail or a weekly telephone call to or from the ticky box (pay phone). Back to pocket money – a girl needs cash, right? The matron had a huge, leather-bound ledger and a cash box. Each one of us (and there were about 70 of us), had a page on which she kept a running tally of our personal allocation and what we drew. We had to go to her office, and queue after breakfast to draw money or to get a “sick” note if we needed to “escape” phys ed. I queued. Frequently.
The pupils’ mums ran the tuckshop and the fare, some of which would be frowned upon today, included salad rolls (egg or cheese) on fresh, white hot dog rolls; vetkoek (deep-fried dough) with curried mince. And buttery, flaky cheese pies.
The latter two often featured in my Friday ritual necessitated by the ubiquotous fried fish, soggy chips and coleslaw: after school, I’d head to the tuckshop and order either a cheese pie or a curried vetkoek and a yoghurt. When I have the opportunity to eat a traditional kerrie vetkoek, those vetkoek remain the standard.
Anyway, not so long ago, there was the inevitable discussion about tuck shop favourites on the “alumni” Facebook page. I discovered that there is a recipe book from that era which includes a recipe for the curried mince. The discussion turned to cheese pies and I mentioned that, occasionally, I make them. There’s no recipe. They must have been bought in from the local bakery – along with the sausage rolls.
I should not have said anything because, of course, I don’t have a recipe. Anyhow, I promised that the next time I made them, I’d write down what I do. That meant paying proper attention to weights and measures. And things.
So, Judy, this is for you: taste memories of forty five years ago.
Old School Clarendon Cheese Pies
The first time I made these cheese pies was because I had some puff pastry left – from something else I had made. Until I tasted them, I didn’t think about “our” cheese pies. One bite and I was transported back to the years between 1976 and 1980, and high school. I admit that I make them with ready-made pastry. I have made puff pastry: it’s a mission. And expensive. A good quality store-bought pastry is a never-fail, at a far lesser price. There’s a time when discretion is the better part of valour. So, this really is a very easy “two ingredient” recipe:
A roll of pastry makes between 4 and 6 pies – depending on how thin one rolls the pastry, how good one is at spacing the rounds and how large you make the pies. I use a small, plastic side plate as a template (about 16cm) and each pie contains about 100g of grated cheddar. I seal the edges with milk which I also use to brush the pie and glaze it. I’m a bit Scottish about using an egg wash: if I’m only making two pies, most of the egg will go to waste. Bake in a hot oven (210°C) for 15 to 20 minutes until puffed up and golden brown.
Make sure that the pastry is sealed and that no cheese escapes – if you don’t, you’ll have pastry shells.
Pimped cheese pies and canapés
Although there is only one way to eat these cheese pies: hot, out of the oven with
an entire bottle lashings of tomato sauce (ketchup), one can shrink and pimp them:
Shrink them for canapés and cut the pastry using an 8 to 10 cm cookie cutter and to pimp the filling, if you use cheddar, mix it with fresh herbs (like oreganum or thyme) and/or thin slices of raw or caremelised onion. Inspired by a friend in the village and a pastry I ate at her Country Kitchen even before we moved here, occasionally and decadently, I substitute the cheese with a mixture of finely shredded raw spinach, caremelised onion and blue cheese.
Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
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