Sparkenhoe Farm is home to the Clarke family, not to mention all the animals – dogs, cats, horses, chickens, sheep and cows – that populate the farm, either running circles around your feet or, far out towards the horizon, grazing the nearby pastures. Lying just over the border in Leicestershire, the farm has wonderful long views across the county and towards Warwickshire. It is a lovely set-up, with the milking parlour and cheesemaking rooms in close proximity, and with an on-site shop, which was once the old pig house, now selling dairy goodies made on the farm and other local produce.
I visited the Clarkes on a fantastic sunny day in late spring, marvellous for taking sunlit photographs but perhaps not so good for farming – well, at that particular time of year, anyway. I believe that on the day I visited Sparkenhoe Farm, it had been nearly a whole month since it had last rained in the area, with the cracks in the ground showing the earth’s thirst.
This Leek and Shropshire Blue Pasties recipe is perfect if you know you’re going to be out all day and need a quick, portable lunch. I often make these pasties early in the morning and have them cold come lunchtime. You’ll most certainly find one stuffed in my rucksack when I’m going for a long walk or if I’m travelling in the car from one side of the country to the other.
Leek and Shropshire Blue Pasties
- 15 g butter
- 1 small leek, finely sliced
- 1 small potato, peeled and finely diced into small cubes
- 1 320g sheet of ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry, about 35cm x 23cm
- flour, for dusting
- 100 g Shropshire Blue, cut into 6 slices
- 1 large egg
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
- In a non-stick pan on a medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the leek and potato for about 10 minutes until softened. Add a small pinch of salt and a few turns of black pepper, and set aside to cool.
- Unroll the puff pastry and cut it in half widthways. Place a small plate (about 15cm in diameter) on the pastry to use as a template, and cut around it. You should have enough room for two circles – one on each pastry half. Gather up the remaining pastry and, on a floured worktop, roll it out with a rolling pin before cutting out a third circle the same size as the first two. There will still be a little pastry left over, which you could cut into leaf shapes to add to the top of the pasties.
- Place a tablespoon of the cooled potato-leek mixture on to one half of one pastry circle, and top with two slices of cheese.
- Next, beat the egg and, using a pastry brush, brush the edge of the pastry circle with the egg before folding over to cover the filling and pressing down the edges well to seal. Repeat with the other two pasties.
- Once you have completed all three, brush the pasties with the remaining egg and attach the leaf shapes, if using. Pierce a little hole in the top of each pasty to let the air out, then place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and bake for 15 minutes at the top of the oven until golden brown.
A Portrait of British Cheese by Angus D. Birditt (Quadrille, £27), Photography © Angus D. Birditt