29 September 2010

DIY Big Tom tomato juice

Now you know me - or you should do by now - in that if there's something in my fridge that's leftover, or superfluous to requirements, I'm going to try to think of a way of including it in a meal.  I just can't bear to throw stuff away, you see.

Hence, three quarters of a carton of tomato Passata had been forlornly looking back at me, every time I opened the fridge door, as it was without a home to go to.  Poor thing, this just couldn't last. 

So I got to thinking.

We're not doing any tomato-based meals for the forseeable future.  Nor will it go with any breakfast items planned.  However, it IS just tomatoes, sieved.

Hmmmn .... so it's just (basically) thick tomato juice.

Now we like tomato juice, so maybe if I watered it down a bit with some chilled fizzy mineral water ... but it needs something more than that to make it into a nice drink.

Hmmm, oh I know - what about Worcestershire Sauce and a grind or two of freshly ground black pepper?  Oooh, yes, now we're talking!

Hmmn, it might get to be a little bit like Big Tom tomato juice then ... but it needs a hot kick.  AHA!  Ancona Chilli Sauce.  ~rubs hands together with glee~  Oooh, now that's going to be NICE!

So, off to the kitchen I went.  Cue opening of bottles, the fizz of the mineral water, the chinking of teaspoons against glass, pause to taste.

O. M. G.  That is truly yummy!

Now I have to say that this is really a work in progress, as it's not finished yet.  I need to get hold of some celery salt and then try it - but it's darned good even in its current incarnation!

28 September 2010

Chilli Prawn Noodles

This is another of hubby's concoctions and one which I absolutely love and would be very happy to eat twice a week!

It is very useful for Monday evening's dinner, when we're due to shop the next day and consequently there isn't much in the way of vegetables or fresh food in the fridge.  With this one, there's no need to try and keep salad fresh, or stop carrots from going floppy!

One word of warning, though - dependant upon the chillies, it can turn out blisteringly hot.  Mind you, that's part of the fun of the dish!



250g pack of egg noodles
300g pack of prawns
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
3 tbsp runny honey
1.5 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
100g frozen peas, defrosted
2 tsp chinese five spice
coriander leaves as garnish.


1.  Place the dried noodles into a large bowl and completely cover them with freshly boiled water, leaving to stand until soft or al dente.

2.  Meanwhile, in a wok or deep frying pan, heat the oil and gently saute the finely chopped shallots and chillies until soft, do not let them brown.  Once soft, add the five spice and the peas and set aside.

3.  Once the noodles are soft, drain them thoroughly and stir through the soy sauce, honey & sesame oil.  Add the noodles to the wok and stir through over a high heat before adding the prawns, which must be defrosted and drained.  Fry until the prawns are warmed through and serve immediately with a sprinkling of coriander leaves for garnish.

Don't forget your handkerchief, because your nose is bound to run!

26 September 2010

Boiled Fruit Loaf

I came home from work on Thursday, walked in to the house which was full of the smell of fruit cake.  Ooooh, delicious! The Artisan Bagel Baker had broadened his scope and made a cake.

Now I have to say, that this isn't the first cake hubby has made - he's quite an accomplished baker of cakes.  He makes a lovely ginger cake and his lemon drizzle is legendary.

However, there's just something so autumnal about a fruit cake - and this one goes perfectly with some of the Lake District Cheddar cheese.



100g sultanas
100g flame raisins (or dried cherries, or dried cranberries or a.n other dried fruit)
1 eating apple, peeled and grated
250ml semi-skimmed milk
200g light muscovado or other light brown sugar
125g baking margarine or butter

1 beaten egg
250g self raising flour
half a tsp ground cinnamon
half a tsp ground mixed spice.


1.  Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (fan).

2.  Put the dried fruit, grated apple, milk, sugar, margarine and spices into a large pan and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 2 mins and then remove from the heat to cool for 15 mins.

3.  Once cooled, fold in the flour and mix well.  Add the egg and then mix again.

4.  Pour into a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin and bake for 1 hour 15 mins (a paper hat may be needed over the loaf tin to prevent the top from overcooking).  Test with a skewer, returning to the oven for another 10 mins if the skewer comes out with batter on it.

5. Once the skewer comes out clean, leave to cool.

NOTE :  this recipe produces a very moist cake, if a drier texture is needed, increase the baking time by 20 mins and make sure a paper hat is used.

25 September 2010

Lancashire Hotpot

I'd been looking forward to making this dish ever since I grasped the nettle with both hands and put it on the Menu list!  Now I know that hubby has some "issues" with hotpots (mainly the potatoes on top never cooking right and the fact that they can be greasy) but this one issued an additional challenge to me, owing to the inclusion of kidney in the recipe.

I had chosen one of James Martin's recipes and I knew it required some tweaking, largely because it included 100g of dripping or butter!  There was no way I was using either of those - none of our hips require additional padding - but I didn't want to lose any of the flavour.

Additionally, because (as I've mentioned previously) I have two fat-phobic diners in the house, I was using lamb mince so as to avoid any horrible blobby and gelatinous bits of fat floating to the surface.  So, I dry-fried the mince to release all the fat which I poured off and left the mince in the pan (without stirring) so that the bottom layer gained that lovely crispy texture that they call "caramelising", but I call "flavour".  *chuckle*

I left just enough fat in the pan to fry the kidneys and the onion/carrot mixture, then lifted them out with a slotted spoon, to leave as much fat in the pan as was possible.  It seemed to work, as there was only a small amount of fat floating on the top - and most of that came from the butter I'd brushed onto the potatoes.  It was easily removed (and put in the dog bowl, lol).

The kidneys were so delicious in this!  It was the first time I'd ever tangled with kidneys and I figured that if I could cut up liver (which I can, without any difficulty), then I could remove the core from a kidney and cut it up.  I was praying that they wouldn't turn out to be terribly bloody, which fortunately they weren't and the core came out incredibly easily - which left a lot to be said for my terrific knife, rather than any skill on my part.  After the quick fry and then two hours of cooking in the casserole dish in the oven, they were as tender as could be and completely delicious.

I served the hotpot with broccoli, swede batons and peas.  Both son and his friend (who stayed for tea as a last minute thing) loved the dish, the friend declaring it "gorgeous!" and saying he'd make sure to tell his Mum & Dad about it.  *chuckle*  Well, you can't ask for better than that!



500g lamb mince
2 lamb kidneys, core & fat removed and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
500ml lamb or chicken stock (lamb is best)
2 bay leaves
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
a small knob of butter, or a tsp olive oil.


1.  Pre-heat oven to 180deg C (fan)/gas 3.  Heat a frying pan and fry off the lamb mince.  Once it is browned, drain the fat off (leaving around 1 tbsp) and allow the mince to caramelise on the underside of the layer.  Turn over and repeat the caramelisation 2-3 times, then remove with a slotted spoon to the casserole dish.

2.  Fry the kidneys quickly in a hot pan, remove with a slotted spoon and add to the mince.

3.  Add the onions and carrots and fry for some 10 minutes or so, until they have become golden and are softened.  Drain off the remaining fat.

4.  Add the flour, allow to cook out for a minute or so, then add the worcestershire sauce and the stock (I added it in two instalments, stirring well all the time).  Bring to the boil and allow the gravy to thicken.

5.  Add the mixture to the mince & kidneys and mix through.  Then arrange the sliced potato over the top and brush with a little melted butter or olive oil.  Season the potatoes with salt & pepper, cover, then place the casserole dish in the oven for around an hour and a half.

6.  Remove from the oven and spoon off any liquid fat that has risen to the surface.  Then increase the temperature of the oven to 220 deg and replace - without the lid - to allow the potatoes to brown.  You can do this under the grill, if you'd prefer.


Chicken & Cauliflower Curry

The recipe for this curry was entitled "North Indian Chicken Curry" by Anjum Anand, however, as I have no idea whether the inclusion of some cauliflower still renders it qualifying for the term "North Indian", I've left it off of the title.

I had had a break from making curries and we'd been sampling hubby's curry making skills (which are legendary).  However, I'd found myself hankering for another go, particularly a go where you build the curry flavour from scratch - as opposed to making use of a jar of curry paste.  The one challenge I had was to ensure the curry had a "curry" flavour - as opposed to being just a highly spiced casserole.

This curry certainly met that challenge and was downright jolly successful.  I served it with plain basmati rice, some Peshwari naans and a home-made raita.  I found the raita went together with the curry perfectly - the combined flavours were gorgeous and I'd definitely make a raita to go with it again.  Oh, and don't be scared of the four garlic cloves - you don't notice them!

So, here's the recipe :


Ingredients :

4 tbsp oil
2 cloves
1 stick cinnamon, or 1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 green cardamom pods
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
1.5 tbsp grated ginger
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
0.5 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
0.5 tsp chilli powder
4-5 tbsp tomato passata
500g chicken breast, diced large
5-6 cauliflower florets, sliced
1 handful coriander leaves, chopped.

Method :

1.  Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan until it is quite hot, but not smoking.  Add the cloves, cinnamon (if a stick), cardamom pods and cumin seeds and fry for about 20 seconds until aromatic.

2.  Add the onion and cook for around 10 minutes until golden brown, stirring often to prevent it burning.  Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 40 seconds before adding a pinch of salt and the ground spices (included cinnamon, if the ground variety) and stir for 15 seconds or so.

3.  Pour in the tomatoes and cook over a medium heat for around 10 minutes or until the liquid in the pan has dried off and the oil leaves the side of the dry masala.

4.  Add the chicken and brown (or white!) over a medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and stir to make sure it is covered in sauce.  Add enough water to almost cover the chicken, bring to the boil and then cook over a low heat until the chicken is cooked through.  I cooked it with a lid for around half the cooking time, to ensure that the chicken and cauliflower cooked, then turned the heat up and reduced the sauce until it reached the consistency we prefer.  The slower it cooks, the better it tastes - so try not to rush it!

5.  Once you're happy with the consistency and the chicken and cauliflower are cooked and tender, mix in the coriander leaves and serve.


Another butcher!

Sausages from Terry's the Butchers
I know!  We're getting carried away with butchers now.  LOL  Well, we just happened to be in the opposite end of our neck of the woods today - and right beside the award-winning Butchers, Terry's on the Ashley Road, Poole.

So, we popped in and got four of their plain pork sausages, as a comparison with Spring Fields.

As you can see from the photograph, they are of a somewhat coarser texture than Spring Fields', which is what hubby was looking for in a sausage.  They didn't smell as enticing, although they smelled jolly nice, but not mouthwatering.  They do, however, look better.

Once cooked, they have a similar saltiness with that lovely crispy skin and a very definitely coarser texture which is quite satisfying on the tongue, however, I didn't think they tasted as good as Spring Fields.  Hubby, interestingly, thought they were better than Spring Fields' both in texture and in taste!  Just shows what an individual thing, preference is.  :)

Still, Terry's Butchers make a very creditable pork sausage that I certainly wouldn't turn down!

24 September 2010

A butcher - at last!

Ever since we first moved into this County (from Kent), nearly three years ago, I've had it in mind to find a local butcher to use regularly instead of keep buying sub-standard meat from the supermarket.

Up until now, this hasn't managed to happen (for one reason or another).  However, this morning we visited the butcher that Chef uses at work - who just happens to be en-route to Asda.

We caught Spring Fields Butchers on the Herbert Avenue, Parkstone, Poole, before they'd managed to get their complete display out into the cabinets, but oh golly, what mouthwatering goodies they had already on display.  Beautiful dark red Sirloin steaks, Wild Boar sausages, lamb shanks, plus your regular mince, chicken breasts etc.

I was particularly after two lamb's kidneys to go in the Lancashire Hotpot we're having on Sunday and was fairly gobsmacked to be charged 35p for them both.  I'd been envisaging paying a lot more than that!  While we were there, we indulged in four of their pork sausages - as the worth of a butcher can often be found in his sausages!

Having got them home and unwrapped them, immediately you could smell that they were different to supermarket sausages.  They smelled lovely - all herby and peppery and porky.  Better than a supermarket sausage - which generally smells of nothing.

When cooked, they were even better - although hubby had a few areas of disappointment in them.  I loved their crisp skins and the flavour that was somewhere between pork sausage and pork sausagemeat stuffing with a lovely initial hit of saltiness.  I also liked that they kept their shape and didn't shrink under heat.  Hubby agreed with me, except was disappointed that their texture was slightly pappy (he was hoping they'd be coarser than that) and suspected that the saltiness hid the fact that they didn't taste all that porky.  However, we were both agreed that for the extra 30p or so for 8 - over a supermarket special offer sausage - they were infinitely better quality and well worth the extra.

I'm hoping that they'll let me have a copy of their full price list, which would make menu planning so much easier.  I'll be able to use cheaper cuts of meat which just aren't available in supermarkets and be able to plan it all out at home, using their price list, before ringing them up on a Monday, to order for Tuesday's collection.  Fingers crossed they'll do that!

22 September 2010

Baked Figs

One of the many delights that this time of year affords, is that of the ripe fig.

I find them such tactile little creatures, so velvety soft and almost warm to the touch.  They look so robust, yet you know that you have to treat them gently or they will instantly submit to heavy handling and spill their juicy contents all over whatever happens to be nearest (and usually, that is something that could well do without the addition of fig juice).

Upon hearing the word on the grapevine which said that Lidl were selling them at an extraordinarily reasonable price, we came home from Asda on a route calculated to take us past the doorstep of our local Lidl without adding any further miles per gallon.  Cunning, eh?

Here they are, the six gorgeous plump little people.  Excuse the camera shake, it's just that I was so excited ....

Don't you just love their little paper cups?

I found a recipe online for baked figs which gave me an idea of what temperature and for how long, and winged it thereafter.  I can recommend the results, ooooh yes.


Ingredients :

4-6 fresh figs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
several teaspoons of runny honey (to taste, basically)
juice of half a lemon.

Method :

1.  Remove the stalks from the figs, using a sharp knife.  Then, cut them almost in half, then into quarters, but don't cut all the way through so that they still retain their shape and place into a baking dish.  I foil lined my dish, to make washing up easier!

Looking glamorous, ready to go in the oven

2.  Give them a squeeze from the bottom, forcing the seeds up so that they open rather like a flower.

3.  Sprinkle over the cinnamon and allspice, then trickle over the honey and lemon juice.

4.  Cook in a pre-heated oven at 220deg C for 20 mins.

5.  If required to wait, take the four corners of the foil lining to the baking dish and gather them loosely above the heads of the figs, retaining some warmth but allowing the steam to escape.  That way, they won't dry out and will be as luscious as when you removed them from the oven.

Serve with lashings of double cream.  Again, sorry for camera shake - anticipation got the better of me.

I am no longer a Creamed Corn virgin ...

.... because, owing to the lovely recipe I found on Hollow Legs' blog, I have now not only sampled the dish, but made it from scratch.

Making it from fresh sweetcorn, in season, is just the best thing.  It is simple to make and goes fabulously with chicken, or gammon, or sausages, or a piece of smoked haddock - in lots of situations where you'd use baked beans, creamed corn will happily go.

I repeat the recipe here, not in any way to claim ownership of it, but just because it is so flipping gorgeous, it deserves a greater audience - and I know my audience is also going to love it.

Someone hand me a spoon!
CREAMED CORN (serves 3-4)

Ingredients :

3-4 cobs of corn (I used 3 because they were torpedo sized)
2 shallots (I used 1 large banana shallot), diced fine
2 rashers of lean streaky bacon, diced fine
2 sprigs of rosemary, finely minced
knob of butter (original recipe states vegetable oil)
150ml double cream (I used slightly less)

Method :

1.  Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from the cobs, reserving any of the milky liquid.

2.  In a pan, soften the shallots in the butter and add the bacon to cook.  Make sure not to brown either bacon or shallots.

3.  Add the rosemary and corn kernels, then add water to just under the level of the corn.

4.  Bring to a simmer, then cook for some 10-15 minutes and add the cream.

5.  Take a couple of ladlefuls out and blitz until pureed, then return to the pan and season to taste.

6.  Bring back up to a simmer and serve.


It is really entirely up to you how much you remove for blitzing, it depends on how pureed you want your creamed corn to be.

I recommend allowing the liquid to reduce somewhat before adding the cream - it all depends on how creamy you want your creamed corn to be.

New denomination of Bagel!

Just feast your eyes on this little hoop of deliciousness ...

it's the new denomination of Bagel from the Artisan Bagel Baker (or hubby, as he's also known) - the Sundried Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper and Chorizo bagel.  Which shall also be known as "the pizza bagel", according to our son. *beam*

Think it looks delicious?  Well, it tasted even better than that.  *grin*

20 September 2010

Menu Planning

I've touched on the subject of menu planning previously in other blog posts.  I thought I'd explain what I mean.

You see, not to go on about it you understand, it is essential that we make the most of every penny that is spent.  Which, of course, includes food.  So, no wandering around the supermarket buying whatever takes our fancy, only to leave it to rot in the fridge because we don't fancy it now, or it takes too long to cook and we couldn't make our minds up about what to make.  Oh no.

On a Sunday evening/Monday evening (sometimes it takes two days, what with re-thinks) I sit down and ask the family what - if anything - they are hankering after this next week.  Depending on what comes up, I try to fit their requirements into the Menu for the coming week.

So, I make a list from Tuesday (when we do our shopping) to the following Monday and put a dinner dish beside each day.  Because I've an 11yo son, sometimes I opt not to include certain items that I think he might be a bit suspicious of and so as not to colour his decision-making about a certain meal.  Far better it comes as a surprise, than he decides he hates "courgette & goat's cheese flan" before it even hits his plate.  He'll often trundle into the kitchen to have a look at the menu list as a reminder of what to look forward to/peer suspiciously at, later on.

Because I've two males in the household, inevitably a certain desire for junk food raises its ugly head.  I haven't outlawed these foodstuffs, I think it is far better to balance them against a healthy meal the next day, rather than have the poor boys salivating at someone eating a bag of chips as we're walking down the road.

I also try not to have too many repetitions on the list, i.e. only one appearance of curry, or baked pasta, or pastry goods, or fried goods.  Also, not too many appearances of potatoes in their many guises, as hubby considers them to be no-legged-spawn-of-the-devil.

Seasonality has it's place in the menu list, too.  I do try to buy foodstuffs that are in season - for instance sweetcorn - it's right in season at the moment.  The inevitability of salads in summer and comfort food in winter is predictable, however we have been known to be eating Impossible Quiche with salad when there's snow on the ground.  Such is the difficulty of menu planning - you just have no idea what the weather is likely to be doing by the end of the week.

We have been able to supplement the shopping by growing our own, although don't start thinking in terms of verdant green plots of cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, onions etc.  We've started small - lettuce, parsley, chives, mint, oregano, gooseberries, tomatoes and a smegging great rhubarb plant.  Ruby has managed to provide four lots of gorgeous rhubarb so far this year - and there's two more lots (at least) on the plant now.

So, by way of illustration, here's our Menu list for the coming week :

Tues : Southern fried chicken, creamed corn and hash browns.

This choice has been borne of my desire to try food blogger Hollowlegs' recipe for creamed corn.  (See recipe here).  Everything else was dreamed up as being suitable accompaniments.  For hubby, the highlight will be the chicken, for son it'll be the hash browns and for me, the creamed corn.  :)

Wed : Chilli prawn noodles.

Hubby is in the driving seat on Wednesdays and Thursdays and this is one of his bestest evar dishes.  It also has the benefit of being low fat, especially desirable after yesterday's high fat debacle.

Thurs : Tuna pasta bake with crusty bread.

This one was borne of desperation, as we had thought of dishes for every other day but needed to think of a dish that hubby would cook.   However, it's one of son's favourites, so it'll do nicely.

Fri : North Indian Chicken Curry with Cauliflower, naan bread and rice.

I'm back in the kitchen on a Friday and have been longing for a "proper" curry, made from scratch with individual ingredients.  Along came Anjun Anand's recipe which definitely fitted the bill.  Cross your fingers that it tastes of curry - as this has been hubby's complaint as regards my curries previously.  Cross your fingers that I can get some decent chicken, too!

Friday is also our top-up shopping day, when we buy all the fresh fruit and vegetables for the weekend plus any bits we might have run out of in the meantime.

Sat : Lancashire Hotpot with broccoli and peas.

Cuts of lamb are just too expensive for us, so I'm exploring using lamb mince.  I used it for the Scotch Broth with singular success, so I am hopeful it will do as well for the Hotpot.  Having Hotpot on Saturday means that I can do the pastry, ready for the pie the following day.

Sun : Chicken pie, roast potatoes, carrots and broccoli.

This will be my first go at a chicken pie since getting my pastry mojo back.  Cooking it on a Sunday means that I can have lots of time to get it right. :)

Mon : Sausages, waffles and baked beans.

A perfect dish for a Monday.  Doesn't require any fresh vegetables (as we're shopping the day after and it's been four days since we shopped last) and it's a quick and easy one to do.

So there you have it - our way of menu planning.  Quite apart from the savings in cost, because we use everything - and I mean everything - we're being both economical and green.  Can't say fairer than that!

Failed : Pan-roasted chicken dish

I thought it would be interesting to talk about the dishes that fail - and my thoughts on why they did so.

I had included on the menu for last night (Sunday) a pan-roasted chicken dish, gleaned from "A Glug of Oil" (see original blog post here).

Now before I go any further, I have to say that the failure of our dinner has nothing to do with Jan's excellent recipe.  Rather more, it has everything to do with the pathetic nature of Asda's frozen chicken portions - which was all I could get when shopping.

I set out to buy three chicken breasts, which I can't help but think would have been brilliant for the job.  Unfortunately, you needed to have mortgaged your house - or at the very least sold your car - in order to have been able to afford the fresh chicken breasts.  So my eyes turned to the frozen.  What a pathetic no-choice we had there!  It was either a monster bag of cheap-as-chips-full-of-salty-water-and-no-chicken pieces or a small bag of "chicken chunks" which were, at least, breast meat - even if they had a significant amount of the salty water injected into them.  *sigh*

I should have thrown the idea to the wind and gone for an entire chicken and just done a roast, but I had my heart set on the pan-roasted chicken thing.

I had a half a pack of streaky bacon, left over from an earlier dish, still in the fridge, so decided to wrap two chunks of chicken breast in each piece of bacon and pan-fry them as the recipe said.

Which was all very well, until I looked at the quantity I wound up with.  Let's say, it's just as well we had an enormous plum pie for dessert.

Oh, and I won't be bothering with adding shallots to my green beans again.  Can't see the point of that at all, as although the idea sounded good in practice it turned out to be tasteless and disappointing.

However, the real result of the whole meal was the Honey Roasted Butternut Squash (and a Parsnip, who crept in as an afterthought when it looked like we weren't going to get much for dinner).  Gosh, but that squash was good.  I'll definitely be doing that again!  :)

Plum Lattice Pie

Goodness, but the name "Plum Pie" just doesn't describe this glory I'm about to detail.  I've been sitting here pondering on it's name and "Spiced Plum Pie" or "Spiced Plum Lattice Pie" sounds even worse, so I've settled on "Plum Lattice Pie", even though that doesn't begin to describe the subtle spice levels within the fruit.

Having re-discovered my pastry making mojo, I've been quite keen to practice the art. As you know, money is tight here these days and to just make pastry goods for the hell of it isn't do-able.  So, I have to make something that contributes to the menu and gives some kind of added payback for the investment in time, electricity and ingredients.

We popped into the supermarket for some milk recently and came out with a cut-price (40p) punnet of plums.  Well, they were just too good to miss, considering they'd been selling at the extortionate price of £1 previously.   As an aside - HOW do supermarkets consider 400g of plums to be worth £1?  People have plum trees in their garden and can't give the fruit away - so an entire quid on what is effectively a teeny handful seems to me to be utterly extortionate.

Anyway.  So I had extra-curricular plums in the fridge, and a buckshee piece of ginger (leftover from chutney making).  So, plum pie for dessert on Sunday was decided upon.  Now, here's how you do it ...


Ingredients :

For pastry :
210g plain flour
half a tsp baking powder
55g cold salted butter
50g cold lard
1 tsp caster sugar
small amount of water

For filling :
500g plums, stoned and quartered
small piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 flat tsp ground cinnamon
sugar to taste.

Method :

1.  Make the pastry the day before, by adding all the ingredients bar the water to a food processor and blitzing until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.  Alternatively, rub the fat into the flour & baking powder until you achieve the same result.  Add a small amount of water, just enough to bring the pastry together in a fairly thick but not sticky, dough.

2.  Wrap in cling film (do not compress, just pat lightly together into a mound) and put the pastry in the fridge until the following day.

3.  Pre-heat your oven to 180deg C (fan).  Cut your pastry mound into one third/two thirds and place a length of cling film on your work surface and turn the larger amount of pastry out onto it.  Cover with another length of cling film and begin to roll the pastry out to fit your pie dish.

Pastry case : part-baked and ready for filling
4.  Once the pie dish is lined, cover with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans then part-bake for 25 minutes.

5.  While the pastry case is baking, put the plums into a microwaveable bowl, together with the ginger and cinnamon and as much sugar as you think they're going to need.  I usually eat a piece of plum while I'm cutting them, so that I'll know how sour/sweet they are.  Give it all a mix, then put on to cook on High for 3 minutes or until they are just beginning to soften.

Plums - microwaved and ready to go
6.  Take the remaining pastry and roll out the same way as before, between two pieces of cling film.  This method is so much easier when it comes to clearing up!

7.  Cut the rolled out pastry into strips - you'll need around 8 separate strips - long enough to reach from one side of the pastry case to the other.

8.  Pour the plums into the pastry case, then brush a little milk onto the edges.  Lay pastry strips in alternate directions across the top, pressing them into the edge of the pastry case.

9.  Once your lattice is done, brush a little milk over to glaze and bake at 180deg C (fan) until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is golden.

Serve with custard or cream.

17 September 2010

Macaroni Cheese and a lovely salad dressing!

This evening's dinner was a real treat.  We don't have it often because of the calories involved - but as we're all cheesehounds, it always goes down very well.

I had a bit of a challenge with this one, as hubby had declared that he hadn't really enjoyed my previous incarnations of Macaroni Cheese, so I was determined to do the best I could with this one.  I knew I had to make sure the Macaroni was cooked just that tad past al dente, the sauce was suitably cheesy, you could just taste the English mustard, and that the sauce was sufficient from a quantity point of view.  But then, a dry Macaroni Cheese is no fun for anyone.

MACARONI CHEESE (serves 4-5)

Ingredients :

2 tbsp butter
350g macaroni
half a pack of smoked streaky bacon, diced
1 onion, diced fine
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2 tsp English mustard powder
3 tbsp plain flour
500ml whole milk (and a bit extra, in case of need)
250g mature cheddar, grated
10 g parmesan, grated
50g breadcrumbs.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 190deg C (fan).  Boil the pasta for 2 mins less than stated on the pack.

2.  Meanwhile, cook the bacon and set aside.  Then add the onions to the fat left by the bacon and fry gently - without colouring - until they are soft.

3.  Grate in the garlic clove and cook for 1 minute more.

4.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then gradually whisk in the  milk until you have a lump-free sauce.  Add the mustard and whisk in, along with some black pepper.

5.  Simmer for 5 mins, whisking constantly until thickened.  Take care that it doesn't begin to burn on the bottom of the pan.

6.  Remove from the heat and add the cheese, stir until it is melted, then add the bacon and stir in.  Taste to check the seasoning.

7.  Stir in the drained pasta, then decant into a large casserole dish and scatter over the breadcrumbs.

8.  Place into the oven and bake for 20-30 mins until crisp, golden and bubbling at the edges.

From a personal point of view, I enjoy a side salad with my Macaroni Cheese as I find the pasta itself can get a bit samey towards the end, plus the cheese sauce can get a bit much without a flavour to counter its richness.

So I decided upon a small mixed salad with a honey & mustard dressing.  The dressing I made from scratch, using :

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
half a tsp of whole grain mustard
1 tsp of runny honey
salt & pepper

I just put them all in a cup and whipped them up with a fork.  It was the kind of dressing that I could easily eat by the spoonful without any salad and I was correct in my thought that it would complement the main dish.  It did so very well indeed.

16 September 2010

Chorizo & Red Pepper Risotto

The kitchen lights have lent it a rather more orange glow than in actuality!
I have to say, right from the start, that this lovely risotto recipe is one conjured up from the creative mind of my dear hubby.  Well, he is - after all - the Risotto King (not just the Artisan Bagel Baker), in this house.

There we sat, debating what to put on this week's menu list, when we both had a Risotto thought.  Mine went along the lines of "risotto .... mmmmn, good idea!", hubby's went along the lines of "what if we had a risotto ... with maybe chorizo ... and red pepper ... and probably peas ... and ..." and so the Chorizo & Red Pepper risotto was born.

The added benefit to this lovely risotto is it's extreme child-friendliness.  If your child is old enough to chew chorizo pieces, then they're going to love this risotto. 


Ingredients :

500g Arborio rice
1 litre pork or vegetable stock
2 large shallots, diced small
1 red pepper, finely sliced
25g butter or olive oil
1 level teaspoon smoked paprika (or more to taste)
20g grated Parmesan (with shavings to garnish)
225g thinly sliced Chorizo
200g frozen peas, defrosted and warmed
1 small wedge of lemon.

Method :

1.  Gently cook the shallots and red pepper in the butter (or oil) for five minutes or until the shallots are soft, but not browned.

2.  Add the smoked paprika and chorizo and cook for a further few minutes before turning up the heat and adding the rice.

3.  Once all of the grains of rice are thoroughly coated in the spiced oils and the pan temperature is high, add a splash of stock to 'release' the pan.

4.  Continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time in the usual risotto method until it has been absorbed, the rice is cooked and the risotto is 'oozy'.  A little extra boiled water or stock should be kept on hand in case the rice is especially thirsty.

5.  Stir in the warmed peas, grated parmesan and a small squeeze of lemon before removing from the heat for a quick rest (the risotto, not the cook).

6.  Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with the parmesan shavings.

Note:  Do not add frozen peas, as this will kill the cooking process and make the ooze go all runny!

Accompany with warmed bread or a side salad.  Delicious!

14 September 2010

Yorkshire Curd Tart

Mmmm, delicious!
 What a revelation this tart turned out to be!

I had first seen it being prepared on t.v. - probably on Market Kitchen - and it piqued my interest then.  Upon first hearing "curd tart", one instantly thinks of lemon curd.  Or you do if you're me.  In fact, it is made from the curds of milk that has been split by the use of lemon juice.  There you are, you see, instantly it's got your attention.

Now I have, in my family, two chaps who are as opposed to cottage cheese as it is possible for a chap to get.  So, when I knew the type of curds we were talking about, I was a teensy bit concerned.  However, my curiosity won over my cautiousness and I booked it in to prepare for dessert following our Sunday roast.

The making of it is, of necessity, a two-day operation.  I had no real expectation of how it would turn out.  I suspected that it would be of a heavy-ish, sort of custard-ish consistency, although what gave it a flavour - or any flavour - I wasn't too sure.

The actuality far outweighed these indistinct expectations.  The pastry was light, crisp and as short as you could get.  The filling was creamy, light but rich, buttery and with the occasional currant which appeared as out of the mist, to add a rich fruitiness.  In short, completely and utterly delicious - and worth every moment of it's creation.

I am going to have to make one of these the next time we're eating with my parents.  My Mum would be so proud of the pastry, quite apart from anything else.  *chuckle*

Fresh from the oven

Ingredients :

For the pastry
140g plain flour
pinch of baking powder
45g salted butter
40g lard
1 tsp caster sugar

For the filling
1.2l full fat gold top or Jersey milk
juice of 1 lemon
50g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten (a lovely bright yolk is good, as it helps with the overall colour)
25g currants

Method :

1.  Make the pastry & curd the night before.  To make the pastry, blend the flour, baking powder, butter and sugar in a food processor until the butter is almost all combined.  A few small lumps of butter will lighten the dough.

Then add a little cold water until it comes together as a smooth, but not sticky, dough.

Tip out onto a work surface and knead lightly, wrap in cling film and place into the fridge.

2.  To make the curd, heat the milk in a large pan.  As it comes to a gentle simmer, add the lemon juice.  Turn the heat to low and gently stir while the curds form.  Do not stir too vigorously, or you will break up the curds.

Once the milk resembles liquid with creamy lumps, remove the pan from the heat and allow the curds to cool in the whey.

One cooled, drain into a clean tea towel or cheesecloth and leave to drain overnight.  The whey can be saved for use making scones or anything for which you require buttermilk.

3.  The next day, roll out the pastry and line a 20cm shallow pie dish or tart tin.  Line with greaseproof paper and baking beans, then part-bake for 25 mins at 180deg C.  Remove the greaseproof and beans and allow to cool a little.

4.  To finish the filling, beat the butter and sugar until soft, then add the egg a little at a time.  Add the curds to the mixture and lightly whisk to break up any large curds.  Once blended, add the currants then fill the pastry case.

5.  Add a light sprinkling of nutmeg to the top, then bake at 160deg C fan/180deg C/gas 4 for around 30 minutes or until the filling has risen and coloured a little.

Leave to cool, then serve on it's own or with a drizzle of cream.  Fabulous!

Creamy crab & pea pasta

Today has been a momentous day in the life of our son, as he finally got his sweaty paws on a copy of "Halo Reach" for the XBox360 - and not just any edition, but the Limited Edition.  (Thanks to a little help from hubby & I).  So, the whole evening has been turned over to him in that he has unlimited access to the t.v. for game playing.  This, of course, demanded some thought as regards what to cook for tea.

What to give son was easy - you'll recall he only ever asks for pizza or high tea, so pizza it was.  He downed tools for long enough to eat his pizza and a yoghurt, then was back at it - "it" being intently blowing things up.  I suppose it has it's attractions if you're 11yrs old.

So that left hubby and I to feed.  What a chance, and how to capitalise on it?  It's not often we get to eat what we want to, without having to worry about son not liking component a, b, or c.

Hubby had expressed a desire for crab during last week's shopping trip and I'd "put it behind my ear for later", so to speak.  I mooted the idea of having "something involving crab" and we were sorted.  Just had to find a recipe.

Good old BBC Good Food came up trumps yet again, with their "Creamy crab & pea pasta".  It was simple, relatively inexpensive and looked yummy.  Now we just had to get our hands on a crab.  Regrettably, here the plan fell down as no crabs were to be had when we were looking.  So, we resorted to a tin of crab meat which wasn't quite the plan but one I hoped would "do".

It takes just a twinkling to prepare, so it is perfect for those days when cooking seems like too much of a chore.  In fact, it probably takes longer to wash up from it than it did to cook!  I really enjoyed it - as did hubby - and we both agreed that fresh crab would have livened the flavours up a little, as it began to get a tiny bit "samey" towards the end.  However, we can forgive that teensy element of sameness, as if every dinner we had was as delicious as this, we'd consider ourselves very lucky!


Ingredients :

400g spaghetti
200g frozen peas
300g fresh crab meat
5 tbsp double cream
1 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped
handful of parsley leaves, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
freshly ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  Boil a large pan of salted water.  Once boiling, tip in the spaghetti and cook for around 7 minutes.

2.  Add the peas, then cook for another 2 minutes until both are cooked through.

3.  Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water in a separate container.

4.  Tip the pasta and peas back into the pan, together with the crab and cream.  Add the remainder of the ingredients together with some freshly ground black pepper and stir them through, adding a little of the reserved cooking water if the mix seems a tad dry.

Serve in warmed bowls, with buttered brown rolls.

Product Review : Lake District Mature Cheddar

Now I know that most food bloggers are supposed to buy their cheese from terribly posh shops and bring it home wrapped in proper cheese paper.  Unfortunately, I'm not that sort of food blogger.  Not that I'd turn down a trip around a posh cheese shop, you understand, or the opportunity to bring some home in proper cheese paper, but until that day I'll have to put up with what's on special offer at the Supermarket.

What was on special offer at our Supermarket today, was Lake District Mature Cheddar.

I sincerely hope that it remains on special offer for quite some time to come, because it is simply divine.

If you forgive it for being packaged in a common or garden plastic bag (which to be quite honest, how else would you imagine it to be packaged and remain at a reasonable price) that has rendered it a tad sweaty, it has stomped it's way up there to second on my list of desirable strong Cheddar cheeses.  I'm afraid in first place has to remain Coastal Cheddar from Ford Farm which is worthy of a handful of superlatives in describing it.

Lake District Mature Cheddar looks promising as you extract it from it's sweaty home.  It is interestingly cracked, which speaks of a crumbly nature.  It looks creamy, but with those tell-tale flecks of salt that just make your mouth water.

However, the majority of its stomping up my cheese chart happens when you pop some into your mouth.  Instantly, you get the tang of the salt, with the creaminess that soothes your palate.  Then you're hit with a sweetness yet an intense savouriness that leaves your tastebuds dancing, trying to work out which one is the more prevalent - you just have to have some more.

Goodness, if ever there was a cheese to eat with biscuits then this is it.  Also, I'm going to be doing a Macaroni Cheese towards the end of the week - oh boy, it's going to be good.  :)

To learn more about the Lake District Mature Cheddar, call in at "The Land of Milk & Bunny".

13 September 2010

Bournemouth Echo "Taste" Blog : From Bowls to Bikkies


We have been exploring, just lately, the idea of "main course soups". That is, a soup which is man enough to have as a main course, i.e. will deliver all that's required to satisfy you and leave you feeling as though you've eaten something.

Now soups like Tomato & Basil, are pretty darned gorgeous but even with the addition of crusty bread they still feel like an entree, as opposed to a main course. My Smoked Haddock & Sweetcorn Chowder - now that's a main course soup. I have to ration the crusty bread, in order that our son & heir will finish his soup! Too much dipping equipment and he's too full up to do justice to it.

Scotch Broth : cannot be eaten in a hurry!
So, the other Sunday when I was pondering over what to include on this week's menus, hubby suggested we try making Scotch Broth. Aha! It so happens that I have an olde-stylie recipe for just that in my “Farmhouse Cookery – recipes from the Country Kitchen” (Readers’ Digest) cookbook. I looked it out and apart from the fact that it recommends the use of an entire kilo of scrag end of neck that requires 2-3 hours of cooking, it certainly looked do-able. The scrag end of neck was a non-starter, basically because I have two fat-phobic people to cater for and lamb is one of those meats that starts their alarm bells ringing. They would countenance lamb mince however, as I could easily cook it off and remove almost all the fat. I’m okay with that, as low-fat meals are right up there on the desirable front.

I’ve detailed the recipe here should you fancy having a go at it.  Do bear in mind that the list of vegetables aren’t carved in stone, any vegetables you’ve got handy will do.

We ate it for dinner with some crusty bread and it went down a treat. I was just glad that it was a drizzly miserable grey day, as it is definitely the kind of soup that demands you hunch over the bowl, soaking up the goodness of the soup both from the spoon and through your pores!

Cinnamon & Raisin Bagel
Now! I wrote last week about hubby’s adventures in Bagel baking. Since then, he has embarked upon the new challenge of flavoured bagels, with unparalleled success. Firstly came the cinnamon & raisin, which we considered to be suitably yummy but no, they weren’t yummy enough for the Bagel Baker – who shall henceforth be known as the Artisan Bagel Baker. Enter Mk.2 of the cinnamon & raisin bagel, produced in much the same way as a Chelsea bun and using some gorgeous flame raisins. Dear god, but they were good – just add butter and enjoy. You’ll notice the past tense, as they didn’t last long.

Sundried Tomato & Olive
However, all this pales into insignificance beside the glorious sundried tomato & olive, with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Toast it, butter it, add cream cheese and be transported to heaven. Truly, they are amazing. Son has welcomed them as an alternative to supermarket bread in his lunchbox, and considering they are low fat, that’s a thumbs up from me!

Whenever I’m planning the meals for the coming week, I always make sure to ask the family whether there’s anything they particularly want to be included on the menu list. Son’s answers are always a) pizza and b) high tea.

This week, we opted for the high tea, as it gave us an opportunity to enjoy the plum chutney I’d made and also an opportunity to make some biscuits. But tell me, are we the only people to enjoy a high tea at the weekend, or is it just something that’s so part of the fabric of life that nobody mentions it? It seems to go right back to my childhood as being, traditionally, something we’d have had on a Sunday evening – usually sandwiches, cheese with biscuits and pickle, followed by cake and biscuits. Hubby recalls enjoying Sunday high teas right back into his childhood, too. However, I rarely see them mentioned in food blogs, or in recipes aimed at producing goodies for tea time. Perhaps it’s another casualty of the fractured nature of family life these days.

We opted for the pork pie version and I was indeed correct in my thoughts that the plum chutney would match up well with the rich savoury flavour of the pork pie. So that now means that I’ve got to have a go at making my own pork pies, one day. LOL

The biscuits I decided upon were adapted from the recipe for Be-Ro’s Rich Biscuits. I was curious to know how gram flour would bake up in a sweet context, and didn’t have much ammunition in the store cupboard for any terribly exciting biscuits, nor – as it turned out – did I have a spare lemon for the recipe. What I did have, were a few leftover clementine oranges, one of which got pressed into service. The end result was crisp, light and very lovely. The recipe is here.  So that just leaves the clearing up and then put the kettle on! Perfect!

~~ : ~~
The original blog posting can be viewed on the Bournemouth Echo's "Taste" pages, along with my other blog posts for "Taste", at http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/blogs/taste/profile/35696/

12 September 2010

New! Flavoured Bagels

Here, are the Bagel Baker's new diversion - flavoured bagels.  :)

Firstly, we have the truly magnificent and dangerously more-ish Sundried Tomato & Olive bagel ...

and secondly, we have the awesomely gorgeous (just add butter), Cinnamon & Raisin bagel.

I've got to tell you - he's getting good at this!

11 September 2010

Rich Biscuits

We're having a high tea for our evening meal tonight, for two reasons.  Firstly, because it's our son's favourite style of meal and secondly, so that we can celebrate the chutney I made earlier in the week.  Although we're pretty well catered for with things to eat, to pad out the provisions a little, I thought I'd make some biscuits.

Photograph c/o my inhouse photographer, Chillibob.
Rose is a Blue Moon, grown by Chillibob.
We don't have much in the way of biscuit making ammunition in the cupboard, but I had an idea in mind of some crisp, thin biscuits that would go well with a cup of tea.  Inevitably, my first port of call for recipes such as these is the Be-Ro website, where I found their recipe for "Rich Biscuits".

However, needless to say, I adapted it a bit.  Well, it wouldn't be "mine" unless I changed it here and there, now would it?  *chuckle*


Ingredients :

125g self raising flour
100g gram flour
100g sugar (caster or granulated)
Half a teaspoon of baking powder
100g butter or margarine
A clementine orange, zested and half of it juiced
1 small or medium egg, beaten.

Method :

1.  Heat oven to 180deg C (fan) and prepare two baking trays by either greasing them or laying baking parchment on them.

2.  Mix the flours, baking powder and sugar together, rub in the fat.  (I put them all together in a food processor and combined them that way).

3.  Add the zest, juice and sufficient egg to make a stiff dough.

4.  Lightly flour your worksurface and roll out the dough thinly, cutting into 3 inch rounds.

5.  Place on baking trays and bake for around 15 minutes.

Do the clearing up and then put the kettle on!  :)

10 September 2010

Impossible Quiche - made possible!

I remember well first hearing of the famed "Impossible Quiche" and thinking that it couldn't be possible.  Which is, I suppose, what you're meant to think when faced with just the name and the idea.  I have often seen it, somewhat incorrectly, attributed with being able to "make its own pastry", which is of course a misnomer as it does indeed form a crust - but it is simply nothing like pastry.  It is more a cross between a frittata and a pastryless quiche.

Delicious served with a mixed salad, it makes a perfect meal for those lovers of the bacon/cheese/egg trinity.  One added - and fairly important - benefit, is that it registers right up there on the Yummy List for children!  A recipe that can do that - and regularly - is worth it's weight in gold, I find. :)

Regarding the quantities - do check that they will fit into the container you're intending on baking them in and as regards the vegetable component - anything goes.  Don't feel you have to stay with sweetcorn, as courgette, tomato, mushroom - whatever your family likes best, will do fine!



1.25 cups milk
0.5 cups self raising flour
3 small eggs, 2 medium or large eggs
1 cup grated strong cheddar cheese
Chopped pre-cooked bacon
1 onion, chopped
A handful of sweetcorn kernels
Salt & pepper.

Method :

1.  Put the flour and some seasoning into a large bowl, make a well in the centre.

2.  In another bowl, combine the milk and eggs.

3.  Pour the liquids into the flour and whisk steadily, pulling the flour down from the sides of the bowl into the mixture.

4.  Add the remaining ingredients (and no, there is no need to pre-cook the onion) and stir to combine.

5.  Decant into a baking dish and bake in a moderate oven (I use 180deg) for around 25-35mins or until brown on top. Pierce the centre with a skewer or knife to test. If egg is still runny, put it back in for another 5 minutes or so.

6.  When done, remove from the oven and leave for 1-2 minutes to settle.  Then run a knife around the edge, after which it should be relatively easy to cut portions and remove.

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