An old saying in professional kitchens is, ''You can tell a good pastry chef by how cold their hands are'' - they don't melt the butter when they rub it in with their fingers. Even better is the cold, quick steel blade of the food processor - a few pushes of the pulse button brings most simple pastries together.
Then just shape it into a ball, cover it in plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for at least an hour. Of course, it's fine to use bought pastry, but making your own should only take about 15 minutes. If you do it in the morning before work, when you get home it will be well-rested and ready to create a quiche or pie shell. Once you master the basics, try different kinds of pastry, such as the olive oil version for this Swiss chard pie recipe.
BASIC SAVOURY PASTRY
175g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
Pinch of salt
75g butter, plus extra for greasing
Sift flour together with salt in a large bowl. Chop butter into small cubes and place with the flour into a food processor bowl. Pulse mixture until a soft, breadcrumb-like texture is achieved. Leave the processor running and add a small amount of chilled water, just enough to make the crumb mixture come together to form a firm dough ball. Remove from food processor, shape into a round ball, cover with plastic wrap, then rest in the fridge for an hour or until needed.
This pastry can be used for many savoury dishes including quiches, tarts and pies.
Makes enough to line a 22-centimetre flan mould.
SWEET POTATO AND SWISS CHARD PIE
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cold water
15 medium to large chard leaves, washed and dried
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
150g mozzarella cheese, cut into 2cm dice
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
To make pastry, add flour and salt to food processor and blend briefly. Pour olive oil into a small jug, then add water and mix. With food processor running, pour oil and water into flour. Keep processing until dough forms a ball. Lightly dust workbench with flour and knead dough for about a minute. Place dough in a large bowl, cover with a dry tea towel and leave for 1 hour to rest at room temperature.
Pre-heat oven to 200C. For filling, remove leaves from chard stalks and finely chop stalks. Rinse leaves and chop, then place in a bowl with stalks. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add onion and cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat. Add chard and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from saucepan and cool to room temperature. Add mozzarella, parsley and egg, and season. Boil sweet potato until tender, add to mixture.
Brush a flat baking tray with oil. Roll out two-thirds of the pastry into a large circle and lift onto tray. Place filling onto pastry, leaving about 5 centimetres around the edge. Roll out remaining pastry for top of pie. Place over filling and squeeze together edges to seal the pie. Prick the top with a fork and brush with oil. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Serves 4 (pictured)