Root Vegetable Handpies / Food Loves Writing

You say that you can’t cook; I say, Give it time. I know it looks like people are born with fresh muffins coming out of their ovens, but it’s not true. Everybody starts somewhere. And the first time you try to cook, especially if that first time is when you’re no longer a kid and there’s nobody around to tell you what to do, it’s scary because you don’t know what will happen. Everybody knows this. Most people forget this, but everybody knows this. We all have different motivations for trying something in the kitchen at the beginning: adventure, curiosity, boredom, hunger, need. Whatever yours is, I probably felt it at one point or another. I grew up in a cooking household, the kind where my mom made dinner every night and my grandma’s life centered around what was simmering on the stove. I don’t remember learning from them to love to eat; I think I absorbed it naturally, the way I absorbed language or liking to laugh. Learning to cook was something different, though. Learning to cook took time—takes time—I mean, because, in a lot of ways, learning to cook is something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.

Root Vegetable Handpies / Food Loves Writing

Here’s what I know you already know, at least if you’ve already burned or dropped something, the way, for the record, I dropped some hot handpies this past Saturday morning. Cooking can be disappointing. It’s hard to convey the depths of discouragement when you make gray cakes and destroy pumpkin pies, and innocently bring home four artichokes but then have no idea what to do. Preparing food, for most of us, takes a little practice. The rubbery chicken and the mealy potatoes result in the same kind of feelings as a lost job or a broken heart or a project gone wrong. You feel like a failure. You want to give up. This is normal! Wait!

Root Vegetable Handpies / Food Loves Writing

I have to tell you something, the thing not enough people talk about when they talk about learning to cook, but the thing that keeps so many of us returning to the kitchen again and again: You can fail and fail and then, one day, experience the victorious feeling of, miracle!, pulling a fresh, puffy loaf of bread from the oven, surrounded by the heady smell of yeast, so you stand there, staring at the golden food before you, thinking I made this! You don’t have to be something extraordinary to make a good meal; you just have to practice. One night, you’ll come home from work and open the door to the smell of wine and garlic radiating from the crockpot you started before you left, and you and your family will ladle hot, hearty stew into bowls, sighing as you sip, and you’ll get addicted, I swear it’s true. These are moments hard to forget. You taste what it’s like to nourish your family, to fill someone’s stomach, to meet another’s needs, to put your hands together to make something good.

Root Vegetable Handpies / Food Loves Writing

And later, after many failures and many good meals and many nervous afternoons trying to learn how to hold a knife, even more amazing things happen: The kitchen becomes more familiar. You cook with an extremely confident friend, creating dinner with your weekly farm share, and you don’t feel unsure around her capable hands. You spend a night with your old roommates making handpies, and you know what to do.

You and your husband wake up on a Friday morning and go straight to the kitchen, inspired and eager and working as a team. Your hands move without conscious thought, the way they do when you drive to the grocery store (and you pull into the parking lot and think, When did I turn into this spot?). Just as mindlessly, now you’re forming the dough, you’re rolling it out, you’re adding more flour, you’re cutting rounds and topping them with root vegetables that your husband’s sautéed on the stove. People say pie crust is scary; but wasn’t driving scary when you started that, too? Then, before it’s even 10 a.m., the two of you are sliding golden handpies onto racks, their decorative edges catching your eye, the buttery scent making your stomach growl. When you take your first bite, it’s that same cooking miracle, that same pure wonder that has created a world of cookbooks and cooking shows and unending food blogs: This flaky pastry in your hand, this morsel you just ate, this magic came together through your own craftsmanship, right before your two eyes.

Here you are, loving something you’re eating—and that something you’re eating is something you cooked. Hang in there for these moments. I promise, they come.

Sprouted Spelt Root Vegetable Handpies

By: FoodLovesWriting.com

Serving Size: 18 three-inch handpies

As far as impressive items to bring to a Thanksgiving meal or holiday party, these handpies are hard to beat. What's more, stuffed with seasonal root vegetables, they're a great vegetarian side dish or appetizer. One important note: As written, the filling makes double the amount you'll need. Feel free to halve it if you'd rather have half-cut potatoes and onions in your fridge instead of a cooked hash. Otherwise, cook the remaining vegetables until browned and eat them with breakfast; or double the pastry recipe for a total 36 pies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (220g) sprouted spelt flour, plus more for your hands and the work surface
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold and cubed
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 118 ml) cold water
  • for the 2 cups of filling:
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 small potato, diced
  • 1 small turnip, diced
  • 3/4 of a large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 a white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of yogurt, for brushing tops
  • Coarse salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

Start by making the pastry dough: In a large bowl, combine sprouted spelt flour and salt. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add the water; stir together with a spoon until the mixture begins to come together. Then, using clean hands, work the dough into a ball. Sprouted spelt is a little denser than other flours, so you will need a little bit of elbow grease during this step, but the important thing to keep in mind is forming the entire mixture into a solid ball of dough. Once this is accomplished, separate that ball into two solid balls, wrap them in plastic wrap, and stick them in the fridge while you make the filling.

Warm coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced vegetables (sweet potato, potato, turnip, carrot, and onion. Stir together with a wooden spoon, letting everything get coated evenly with oil. Add the salt and pepper, and stir again. Let this mixture cook for about 10 minutes, until lightly softened. You don't need to fully cook---and certainly not to brown---the vegetables; you just want to jumpstart their cooking so they will be fully softened in the pie crusts as they bake. Remove this mixture from the heat and add the parsley, stirring again.

Preheat oven to 375F (190C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one of the balls of dough from the fridge. On a floured surface and with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it's very thin. Cut rounds from the dough (I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter, but you could also use the top of a glass or a mason jar or any other shape cookie cutter you like). Using floured fingers, move these rounds to the parchment paper. Press all the remaining scraps together with your hands and re-roll out the dough, repeating the process. Then, take the other ball of dough from the fridge and do the same thing.

In every other circle of dough, plop a teaspoon or two of filling at the center of the circle. You want the filling to be only in the center of the dough, with room around the perimeter for pressing together the top circle. Wet your fingers and run them around the edges of the filled circles; then press a second circle on top of each of the filled ones. Use a fork to crimp the edges, and use a knife to cut a few slits in the top.

Once all the handpies are formed, brush with yogurt and top with a light sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

Bake pies, rotating sheets halfway through, for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden.

http://foodloveswriting.com/2013/11/17/sprouted-spelt-root-vegetable-handpies/

Cooksnaps
Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 37 Comments

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Is it just me or do those moments come in series of moments? I ruin one loaf of bread, and then it’s weird cookies, a falling cake, and a gross dinner immediately after, ha! Thank goodness things eventually change. : )

  1. Sophia

    Wonderful post and absolutely dreamy pictures. I have had my fair share of challenging recipes lately – I try to not look at them as failures anymore but just as part of the learning experience (and to be fair it is rare that something turns out completely inedible). I agree with you that we tend to forget that we all had to start somewhere (and have to start somewhere when it comes to new adventures) – success right from the start is great but highly unusual and unlikely.

    Also, doesn’t success feel so much better when you have put in the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears? I have done 4 retries of a recipe over the last 3 days and while I am not 100% there yet, I am close enough to know that the next 1-2 tries should get me there and I am already giddy with excitement, much better than getting it right the first time when you might not even understand why things worked out the way they did!

  2. Skye

    So true, but so hard to hold the faith when you spend hours baking something that turns out to be a total flop.
    These pies look distinctly un-flop-like, though. Would love to nibble on one of those…

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks, Lan! And yes, I think they’d be perfect for freezing. Definitely bake them first is my gut reaction; but then you could just rewarm in the oven to eat. Actually we have a few leftovers in the fridge that I might stick in the freezer now that you’ve got me thinking about it!

  3. Abby

    I’m glad you’re talking about failure, too–it’s something that’s been on my mind lately in the kitchen. It does feel bigger than a not-so-great meal, perhaps because you put so much time into a dish (it’s always the long and laborious ones that turn out poorly, at least for me), and then you’re stuck eating it for a few days if it’s remotely edible. Thanks for the reassurance that things eventually do go right in the kitchen.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      It’s my experience that things in the kitchen always point to things bigger in life, whether that’s because of how important the baking itself feels or because of how trying, trying, failing, trying, trying, failing is a principle that works in so many areas of life. I’m glad you said that, Abby. And I’m also glad, like you wrote, that things do eventually go right!

  4. felicia | Dish by Dish

    Such dreamy, take-my-breath-away pictures! Shanna, I love how your blog is constantly evolving (pictures wise, design-wise) but most importantly, how you always take something you feel strongly about and put it into words for the man on the street to understand and feel it as if you were here telling it to us face-to-face. Thanks for the encouragement, and you’re right, it’s practice day after day, like everything else in life, that makes (almost) perfect.

  5. Helene @ French Foodie Baby

    I really love this post, it’s such wonderful insight and advice. To be patient with the process, and rejoicing in cooking being a learning process for the rest of our lives… something to keep us forever young :-) Question for you: this would be a great snack for a toddler class I take Pablo to, but it would need to be vegan, what do you suppose I could replace the butter with for the crust? Thank you so much :-)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      You’re so sweet, Helene. And that is a good question about the crust! My first guess would be to find a vegan crust recipe elsewhere and then use it in place of mine, following all the other directions (you’ll want one designed to make two pie crusts); you could alternatively try it with coconut oil, but I’m just not sure what the results would be like. Let me know how it goes!

  6. Renee Shuman (@FrolicChocolate)

    LOVE THIS. Inspiring me to do more hand-pie and root-vegetable related things.

    Is there a difference that you notice between using sprouted and non-sprouted spelt? I can sometimes tolerate spelt (and einkorn), but perhaps the sprouting process makes it even easier to digest. What do you think?

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks, Renee! Sprouted spelt should be easier to digest than traditional spelt. The sprouting process is intended to make the wheat easier on the body, which is why so many people soak and sprout their grains. Also, tastes-wise, it’s most similar to whole-grain spelt (i.e., a little more hearty and water-absorbent than other flour). (Einkorn’s even better!) : )

  7. Beth

    I came from a cooking family too, and made many mistakes learning to cook as a child and young person. I still make mistakes, but fortunately I can forgive myself those – from practice, I think!
    A lovely post.

  8. Erin

    I love this post because I used to be the WORST in the kitchen. But those moments do come, and then all of a sudden you fit there.
    Also these pictures are beyond gorgeous!

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  10. Alice // Hip Foodie Mom

    Shanna,
    I love this post! I grew up in a cooking household as well, both my father and mother (and older brother) all cooked but I – surprisingly- did not have the itch to learn until I was much older.. like much older. Like after I got married and had my first daughter. I wanted to feed my husband good food and especially our daughter, our new baby. . love your writing here. . totally agree with you.. even though I am much more comfortable in the kitchen now, I still feel like I learn something new everyday. and you are right, people just have to have the desire and patience. Those moments (and smiling faces and silence when my family is eating something I made) make it all worth it. :)

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