August 29, 2009

Cornish Fairings

Cornish Fairings
MUNCH RATING: 5/5

I don’t know if this is a traditional Cornish recipe or not, it’s just one I got out of the free Tesco magazine! But they are really nice biscuits, crispy but chewy at the same time. They taste quite strongly of ginger, but that just makes them nice and spicy. They went down well, the only complaint being the recipe only makes 6 biscuits! But they are large biscuits at 9cm in diameter, so they’re quite filling. But next time I will double the recipe as they’re so easy to make!

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:
I added dried cranberries as I had them in the cupboard, but you couldn’t really taste them, so next time I won’t bother adding them.

  • Makes: 6 biscuits
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C
  • Oven shelf: Top
  • You will need: a large mixing bowl, a large baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper

Ingredients:
  • 125g (4oz) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon mixed spice
  • 50g (2oz) caster sugar
  • 50g (2oz) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons golden syrup

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C.
  2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger, mixed spice and sugar.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub in with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  4. Mix in the syrup and knead until you have a smooth dough.
  5. Divide the mixture into 6 pieces, then roll each piece into a ball.
  6. Place the balls onto your lined baking sheet, spacing them well apart as they will spread. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand, until it is about 1cm thick.
  7. Bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes until they have turned a deep golden brown, watch them as they change colour very quickly at the end of cooking.
  8. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

August 27, 2009

Leek, Pea and Bacon Pasta Bake

Leek Pea and Bacon Pasta Bake

MUNCH RATING: 4/5

This is one of those speedy suppers that doesn’t require any effort! The result is a really comforting dish of sweet leeks and peas, meaty bacon, pasta and a creamy cheese sauce – yum!

You will need: a large frying pan, a large saucepan

Ingredients:
  • 3-6 rashers of bacon, chopped
  • 1 leek, finely sliced into rings
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 140g frozen peas
  • 300g pasta shapes
  • 200g tub of soft cream cheese (I used Tesco Value, only 45p!)
  • 85g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon mustard (I used Dijon)
  • black pepper

Directions:
  1. Boil the pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in the oil until it is crispy and then add the leeks and gently fry for 10 minutes until they are soft.
  3. Add the peas and gently fry until they’re heated through, about 3 minutes.
  4. Reserve 150ml of the cooking water when you drain the pasta. Add this water, the cream cheese, half of the grated cheese and the mustard to the leeks and bacon. Stir until the cheese melts into a creamy sauce. Then stir in the pasta. Scatter the other half of the cheese over the top.
  5. Heat the grill to high, then grill your pasta bake for 2-3 minutes until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown.

Golden Syrup Sponge Cake

Golden Syrup Sponge Cake

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

This cake was loved by everyone and it has gone down really quickly! It was so nice when it was still warm from the oven! But even the next day it was lovely, just zapped in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Steve’s Mum said it was just as good as the Chewy Cocoa Brownie Cupcakes I make, which is high praise indeed as their one of her favourites!

It’s great to have with just a cup of tea, but Steve’s Mum had it with strawberries and cream! You could also drizzle some extra golden syrup on top and drown it in custard. Heaven!
  • Makes: 24 squares
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 3/325°F/170°C
  • Oven shelf: upper-middle
  • You will need: a saucepan, a large mixing bowl, a 32cm x 23cm x 2cm Swiss Roll tin

Ingredients:
  • 200g (8oz) butter
  • 200g (8oz) golden syrup
  • 300g (10oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 200g (8oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons milk

Directions:
  1. Butter and line the base of your Swiss Roll tin.
  2. Gently melt the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan, stirring to combine. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 3/325°F/170°C.
  4. Sift the flour with the salt and stir in the sugar. Beat in the cooled syrup mixture.
  5. Beat in the eggs and milk, then combine with the flour mixture until smooth.
  6. Pour into the tin and level out.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes until it has risen and is firm in the centre – test with a skewer and it should come out clean.
  8. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
  9. Allow to cool for another 10 minutes before cutting into 24 squares – then devour.

August 21, 2009

Grow your own Onions 2009

  • ONION SETS: ‘Centurion’
  • PLANTED OUTSIDE: 22 May
  • WATERING: Water if the weather is dry (not otherwise). Stop watering once the onions have swollen.
  • FEEDING: Feed occasionally
  • LOOKING AFTER THE CROP: Break off any flower stems which appear. When swollen, pull back the covering soil to expose the bulb surface to the sun.
  • HARVESTING: When the bulb is mature the foliage turns yellow and topples over. Leave them for 2 weeks and then carefully lift with a fork to a dry day. They should be dried if not used immediately.
The photos below were taken on 22 May:

Onionpreplanting7 Steve’s sister gave me some onion sets as she had some leftover. This one has started to sprout already, so it was one of three that I planted in the bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onionsplanted6

You need to plant them 10cm apart and with their tips showing. You can see the tip of this set at the bottom of the photo below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo below was taken on 1 June:

Onions1June

Although we’ve had a lot of rain and sun lately, I’m still quite shocked how quickly the onions have shot up in just over a week! Steve’s sister said that some of the onions she planted rotted because they got too much rain, so I’m watching out that they don’t get too much water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo below was taken on 13 June:

Onions13June

The tops of the onions look like spring onions now! So I’m waiting for them to turn yellow and topple over and then I think I can remove some of the soil to expose the bulb to the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update 25 June:

I haven’t bothered to take a photo of the onions as it’s not very interesting! The tops of the onions are just really, really long at 26 inches long and that’s all there is to say really!

The photo below was taken on 25 July:

Onion25JulyThe foliage has fallen over and the bulb has just started to poke through the soil. They’ve got a while to go yet before they’re ready though.

 

 

 

 

 

The photos below were taken on 21 August:

Onions21Aug

I lost the foliage on one of the onions and on the others it had fallen down weeks ago. They weren’t growing so I decided to pull them up as I thought they were a lost cause. Steve’s sister said her onions didn’t grow very well either. As she gave me the onion sets, I wasn’t upset that they didn’t grow. She said she bought them from Wilkinsons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onionspulled21Aug

As you can see, only 1 onion set actually started to grow any bigger. So that’s the end of the onions!

 

I have now used the space that the onions were taking up for my butternut squash as the plants are trailing so much!

August 17, 2009

New and improved pizza!

Pizza_new

MUNCH RATING: 4/5
 
I used a different recipe for the dough and I think it tasted much better than the recipe I tried from BBC Good Food. It’s just as easy to make and I made it quicker by cheating and using a ready made tomato sauce. I also used a different brand of yeast, so the pizza didn’t have the funny aftertaste that I got when I used Tesco’s Fast Action Dried Yeast. I used Doves Farm Quick Yeast, which comes in a packet so you can easily measure out the amount you want, rather than have half used little sachets everywhere.

Although it was much better than my other attempt at pizza, there is still room for improvement! It was crispy around the outside but still a bit stodgy underneath and in the middle, but Steve likes it like that!

I used my new Prestige Baking Sheet, which was the perfect size and it was so easy to clean – even the tomato sauce that got burned onto it. I didn’t bother putting it onto another tray that had heated in the oven (as the BBC Good Food recipe suggests) and I got exactly the same results.

  • Makes: 1 large pizza
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C
  • You will need: a large bowl, 1 large baking sheets
  • Prep Time: 15 mins plus 30 mins to let the dough rise
  • Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:
FOR THE DOUGH
  • 175g (6oz) strong white flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 120ml (4 fl.oz) lukewarm water
  • 2 Tablespoon oil
FOR THE TOPPINGS
    • Tomato Sauce (I used half a 350g jar of Lloyd Grossman’s Sweet Red Pepper Sauce)
    • 125g mozzarella, roughly torn into pieces
    • 2 mushrooms, finely sliced
    • 1 sweet orange pepper, finely sliced
    • 2 slices of bacon, roughly chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed or grated
    • small handful of mature cheddar cheese or parmesan, grated
    • fresh basil leaves

    Directions:
    1. Sift the flour, dried yeast, salt and sugar into a large bowl.
    2. Make a well in the centre and add the water and the oil.
    3. Use a round-bladed knife to mix into a ball of dough and then tip out onto a lightly floured board.
    4. Knead well for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and will spring back when lightly pressed.
    5. Place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and put in a warm place to prove for about 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size (I put mine in the cupboard next to the tumble dryer whilst it was on!)
    6. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C.
    7. Take the proved dough out of the bowl and carefully place on a lightly greased baking tray. Spread your fingers and gently press the dough down to flatten it (this is knocking back the dough) and create either a circle or square shaped pizza. I made mine into a 10x10 inch square pizza and it was quite thin.
    8. Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza, leaving a space around the edge.
    9. Carefully arrange your toppings over the tomato sauce – I like to overlap the mushrooms and peppers with the mozzarella cheese and then have the bacon and garlic on top to get crispy. I then finish with the grated cheese and some black pepper.
    10. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. I added some fresh basil leaves in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
    You might also be interested in:

    August 15, 2009

    Roast honey and cumin chicken

    Honey and Cumin Chicken

    MUNCH RATING: 1/5

    This recipe is from one of those cards you can pick up free from Waitrose. I was really looking forward to making it as I liked the sound of the honey and cumin. The photo on the card made the chicken and potatoes look really crispy and caramelised, so I thought it would be a really tasty dish. It’s also a one-pot dinner, so I thought it would be quick and easy. But it didn’t quite turn out that way!

    Basically the liquid that you have to add doesn’t get absorbed by the potatoes or evaporate, so they don’t get nice and crispy. So after the recommended cooking time I drained off the liquid, took the chicken out of the oven to stop it overcooking and then put the potatoes back in the oven at top whack to crisp up a bit. I left them in for 30 minutes as I couldn’t wait any longer! I started cooking at 5.45pm and it wasn’t ready until 7.30pm – the recipe says it only takes 50-60 minutes!

    So the method for this recipe was rubbish and to be honest, it was pretty bland too. The honey and cumin was a nice combination, but it lacked punch. Steve said he preferred my garlic roast chicken which is just something I throw together!

    I found the recipe on the Waitrose website and it seems everyone else thought this recipe was fantastic! I’m not sure what they’re doing differently, but this isn’t a recipe I’ll be making again!
    • Serves: 4
    • Oven temperature: Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C
    • Prep time: 15 minutes
    • Cooking time: 50 minutes to 1 hour (yeah right!)

    Ingredients:
    • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
    • 2 Tablespoons honey
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed
    • 4 chicken legs or thighs, scored
    • 700g new potatoes, quartered
    • 2 small red onions, quarter (I only had a brown onion)

    Directions:
    1. Mix together the oil, honey, cumin, garlic and vinegar with seasoning. Pour over the chicken pieces and leave to marinate for 15 minutes (longer if you have time). Whilst the chicken is marinating, preheat the oven to 220ºC, gas mark 7
    2. Remove the chicken from the marinade, pour the marinade into a large roasting tin and add the potatoes and onions so that the pieces are in a single layer without much space between them. Pour over 150ml cold water and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
    3. Add the chicken pieces and toss in the juices. Return to the oven for 35–40 minutes, basting regularly, until the chicken is cooked through, and there is no pink meat. Serve with watercress, rocket and spinach salad or steamed green beans.

    August 14, 2009

    Pasta Bake

    Tagliatelle Al Forno

    MUNCH RATING: 4/5

    This is basically like a lasagne, but instead of using lasagne sheets you use cooked tagliatelle, so it is much quicker to cook as it is just flashed under the grill. I’ve made dishes like this before with a mince beef tomato sauce, but the addition of the wine really makes a difference, as do the herbs and nutmeg, so they are well worth buying.
    • Serves: 4
    • You will need: an ovenproof dish about 9 x 9 inches

    Ingredients:
    • 225g (8oz) minced beef
    • 2 Tablespoons oil
    • 50g (2oz) lean bacon, chopped
    • 1 small onion, finely chopped
    • 1 small carrot, grated
    • 2 Tablespoons red or white wine
    • 65ml (2½ fl.oz) stock
    • salt and pepper
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • 1 medium tin tomatoes
    • 2 teaspoons tomato puree
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed
    • bay leaf
    • 100g (4oz) dried tagliatelle
    • 450ml (¾ pint) Béchamel sauce*
    • 100g (4oz) grated cheese

    Directions:
    1. Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook until golden brown.
    2. Add the onion and carrot and cook slowly until soft and transparent.
    3. Stir in the minced beef and cook until the meat changes colour.
    4. Add the wine, stock, salt and pepper, nutmeg, tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for approximately 45 minutes.
    5. Cook the tagliatelle in boiling salted water with the remaining Tablespoon of oil. Drain well.
    6. Place a layer of meat mixture in an ovenproof dish, cover with a layer of tagliatelle, then a layer of Béchamel sauce and then a layer of grated cheese. Repeat these layers finishing with a layer of cheese.
    7. Brown under a hot grill or in the top of a hot oven Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C.
    * Make the sauce using 450ml (¾ pint) milk, 40g (1½oz) butter and 40g (1½oz) flour.

    Beef and Ale Stew

    Beef Carbonade-1

    MUNCH RATING: 5/5

    This is a really tasty stew and I made a huge batch of it so I could freeze some portions. It tastes even better the next day/reheated.
    Next time I’ll try cooking it in my slow cooker.
    • Serves: 4-6
    • You will need: a large ovenproof casserole dish
    • Oven temperature: Gas mark 3/325°F/170°C
    • Prep time: 30 minutes
    • Cook time: 2 - 2½ hours

    Ingredients:
    • 1.3kg (3lb) braising steak (chuck & blade) or beef brisket, cut into large cubes
    • 50g (2oz) butter
    • 1 Tablespoon oil
    • 3 large onions, sliced
    • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
    • salt and pepper
    • 2 level Tablespoons flour
    • 1 level Tablespoon soft brown sugar
    • 300ml (½ pint) beef stock
    • 450ml (¾ pint) brown ale (such as Newcastle Brown Ale)
    • 1 Tablespoon wine vinegar
    • bouquet garnis (parsley stalks and tarragon wrapped in a bay leaf)
    • 2 bay leaves

    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to Gas mark 3/325°F/170°C.
    2. Melt the butter in a heavy based pan and add the oil.
    3. Fry the beef quickly on all sides, in batches. Remove from the pan and set aside.
    4. Reduce the heat and add the onions and garlic, cook until golden brown.
    5. Push the onions to one side, then add the flour and sugar and cook to colour the roux.
    6. Return the beef to the pan, then stir in the stock a little bit at a time. Add the vinegar and brown ale and bring to the boil.
    7. Add the bouquet garni and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.
    8. Cover with damp greaseproof paper and a lid and cook in the oven for 2-2½ hours.

    COOK’S NOTES:
    • This stew is great with added carrots too as they become really sweet and tender. I cut them into 1 inch triangular wedge chunks and add them after the onions have become golden brown.

    August 12, 2009

    Carrot and Coriander Soup

    Carrot and Coriander Soup

    MUNCH RATING: 5/5

    This soup has a lovely creamy texture, but without the cream so it’s good for you! I have a real aversion to coriander leaf, but strangely I don't mind coriander seeds which does add a nice flavour and compliments the carrots. You could use ground coriander, but I like the lemony fragrance of the seeds and it’s fun to smash them to smithereens!

    This made enough for about 5-6 servings.

    Ingredients:
    • 25g (1oz) butter
    • 1 Tablespoon crushed coriander seeds
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 2 rashers of lean bacon, cut into pieces
    • 454g (1lb) carrots, sliced
    • 25g (1oz) long grain rice
    • 1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable stock (I just used Knorr Stock pots)
    • salt and pepper

    Directions:
    1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion, bacon and coriander seeds and cook over a gentle heat until the onions are soft - do not allow them to brown and if necessary half cover the pot with a lid. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
    2. Add the carrots, rice, stock and seasoning. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
    3. Liquidise the soup until smooth, return to the saucepan and reheat if necessary.

    COOK'S NOTES:
    • Dry fry the coriander seeds to intensify their flavour and make them easier to grind.

    August 11, 2009

    Best Ever Chocolate Brownies

    Choc brownies

    MUNCH RATING: 5/5

    These brownies are truly decadent! They are super fudgy and squidgy and most definitely calorific but they are worth treating yourself. When they come out of the oven they are still really runny and undercooked, so they’re best when they’ve been in the fridge overnight and they’ve set a bit more.

    My brother took these into work and his colleagues LOVED them! 3 of them have asked me to bake them a batch each!

    Steve’s Mum likes to eat these with strawberries and cream as a nice dessert.
    • Makes: 16 squares
    • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
    • Oven shelf: top
    • You will need: an 8-9 inch square tin, greased and lined with baking paper

    Ingredients:
    • 185g unsalted butter
    • 185g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Tesco value)
    • 3 large eggs
    • 275g caster sugar, golden if possible
    • 85g plain flour (or ground almonds if you have a wheat intolerance)
    • 40g cocoa
    • 50g white chocolate, roughly chopped
    • 50g milk chocolate, roughly chopped

    Directions:
    1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
    2. Put the butter and dark chocolate into a small bowl and place over a pan of hot water to melt. Allow to cool.
    3. Beat the eggs and sugar for a few minutes using an electric hand mixer until pale, thick and mousse-like. This can take up to 5 minutes so be patient!
    4. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
    5. Sift the flour and cocoa into the combined mixtures and gently fold in. Stir in the chopped milk and white chocolate.
    6. Pour into the lined tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the mixture no longer wobbles when the tin is gently shaken. The top should be dark and have a shiny crust.
    7. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for at least 1 hour before attempting to cut into squares.
    8. Store in the fridge wrapped in foil for about a week, if it’s not eaten before then!

    August 9, 2009

    Pollinating Butternut Squash By Hand

    Squash plants have two different flowers: male and female. For fruit to grow successfully, pollination needs to occur between the two different types of flower.

    Squash rotten 9 Aug 

    If your fruit is turning black and is rotting it means it hasn’t been pollinated properly.

    Squash male flower 9 Aug-1

    The photo above shows the male flower, which is usually on a long straight stem coming from the main plant.

    Squash male flower 9 Aug

    If you look inside, you will see they have a single stamen on the with pollen on it.

     Squash female flowers and fruit 9 Aug

    The photo above shows the female flower. You should be able to tell which ones are female flowers because they will have the fruits attached.

    Squash female flower 9 Aug

    This one was closed, so I had to use my fingers to open it up. The female flower has a multi-stemmed stigma on the inside and without meaning to sound crude, it looks like the female form on the human anatomy.

    Squash female flower hand pollinated 9 Aug

    In the above photo you can see where I’ve taken some pollen from a male flower stamen (the bright yellow powder) and rubbed it onto the female flower stigma. Try to get it onto all parts of the female stigma.

    Try and check your plants every day to see if there are any female flowers that need pollinating. They tend to wilt quickly and then they fall off, leaving you with rotten fruits!

    August 8, 2009

    Leek and Bacon Quiche

    Leek and Bacon Quiche whole copy

    MUNCH RATING: 4/5

    I’ve never made a quiche before and even though I like Quiche Lorraine, I thought I’d do something a bit different by making a Leek and Bacon one.
    I made some shortcrust pastry which was really easy to do and the recipe below makes enough pastry for 2 quiches if using an 8-inch flan tin.
    Steve and I did like this quiche a lot as the pastry was really nice and the filling didn’t taste too eggy, but we were discussing different fillings and agreed next time I’ll make a Breakfast Quiche with sausage, bacon and mushrooms. I’d like to add some cherry tomatoes but Steve wasn’t keen on that idea, so I’ll add caramelised onions instead.

    • Makes: 1 quiche but enough pastry for 2
    • Oven temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C then Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
    • Prep time: 20 minutes
    • Cooking time: 1 hour
    • You will need: an 8-inch flan tin

    Ingredients for the Shortcrust Pastry:
    • 225g plain flour
    • 55g butter, cold
    • 55g lard, cold
    • approx. 9 teaspoons water

    Directions for the pastry:
    1. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl.
    2. Cut the fat into small pieces and add to the flour. Rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you shake the bowl, any big lumps of fat should rise to the surface, so you need to rub these in.
    3. Make a well in the centre, then add the water and using a round bladed/palette knife, mix into a firm dough. Don’t force the mixture together, if you need to add another teaspoon of water to bring together the dry bits at the bottom of the bowl then that’s fine.
    4. There is no need to chill this dough, so you can roll it out and use it straight away or store it in the freezer for another time.
    5. You only need half the amount of pastry for 1 quiche, so split it in half and freeze whatever you don’t need - if you have a spare flan tin then it’s ideal if you line that tin with the pastry and then pop the whole thing in the freezer, then it’s ready to use for next time!
    6. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C.
    7. Roll out your pastry to 2-3mm thick and use it to line an 8-inch flan tin, pressing it into the flutes, then neatly trim away the excess with a knife. If your tin has a lip then make sure it is covered with pastry as when it bakes it will shrink. Then line the tin with some greaseproof paper and fill with a layer of baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes, it should be pale golden brown. Remove the baking beans and the paper and return the pastry to the oven for about 5 minutes to dry out the base.

    Ingredients for the filling:
    • 2 medium sized leeks
    • 25g butter
    • 2-3 rashers of bacon, grilled and cut into pieces
    • 75g mature cheddar cheese, grated
    • 2 large eggs
    • 150ml double cream (I used Elmlea)
    • salt and black pepper
    • pinch of cayenne pepper

    Directions for the filling:
    1. Trim the leeks, discarding the dark green part. Wash the white part of the leeks and slice thinly into rings.
    2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the leeks and mix well. Season with salt and black pepper. Cover with a piece of damp greaseproof paper and a lid and sweat the leeks until they are tender. Stir in the bacon.
    3. Place the leek and bacon into the blind-baked pastry case and sprinkle on the cheese.
    4. Whisk the eggs with the cream, salt and cayenne pepper. Pour the liquid into the pastry case, being careful not to overfill it (you might not need all of it).
    5. Place in the top third of your oven and cook for 10 minutes at Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C , then reduce the temperature to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

    Leek and bacon quiche slice

    I served the quiche with Vichy Carrots: allow one large carrot per person and peel and cut them into even sized batons. Place in a fairly small saucepan and add a generous knob of butter, a pinch of sugar and some salt and pepper. Add enough water to the carrots so that they are barely covered, then boil rapidly for about 10-15 minutes, until the carrots are tender and the water has evaporated so that you are left with a lovely buttery glaze.

    August 6, 2009

    Apple and Blackberry Crumble

    Apple and Blackberry Crumble inside

    MUNCH RATING: 5/5

    The crumble topping is more like the topping you have on an Apple Crisp, which is an American dessert. I used apples because we always have some apples sitting untouched in the fruit bowl and this is a perfect way to use up the ones that are starting to go a bit soft. I always prefer to use eating apples to cooking apples, as I think they’re naturally sweeter (and not so sharp so you don’t have to add so much sugar) and they keep their shape more, so you have something to bite into, rather than a spoonful of mush.

    I went out into the garden and picked some blackberries that were overgrowing from next door’s garden. They’re bang in season now, so go out and look in a nearby hedgerow and you’ll probably spot some ripe for picking!

    • Makes: 4 individual crumbles
    • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
    • Cooking time: 20 minutes (or 30 mins if doing 1 large dish)

    Ingredients for the filling:
    • 2 eating apples (I used Gala), peeled, cored and cut into bite size pieces
    • big handful of blackberries (as many as you can pick!)
    • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar (depends how sweet you like it)
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (this is optional but if you’re making these in advance then I’d use it to stop the apples going brown)

    Ingredients for the topping:
    • 50g rolled oats
    • 100g ground almonds
    • 150g melted unsalted butter
    • 50g plain flour
    • 100g soft brown sugar

    Directions:
    1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
    2. Put the apples and blackberries in a small bowl and mix well with the sugar and lemon juice, if using.
    3. Mix together all the topping ingredients together.
    4. Distribute the fruit between 4 ramekins and then sprinkle over the topping, but don’t press it down too firmly.
    5. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
    Apple and Blackberry Crumble

    I bought this set of 4 ramekins from Amazon for £6.99. They are 3.5 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep, so the perfect size. They are blowtorch, dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. I plan to make crème brûlées in them next!

    August 4, 2009

    Chicken Thigh Pie

    Chicken Thigh Pie

    MUNCH RATING: 4/5

    I’ve adapted a Rachel Allen recipe to create a filling with a creamy sauce. I
    made the pastry myself and it was lovely and flaky, but ready-made puff pastry would be good for this too.

    Next time I will add a bit more beurre manié (equal parts of flour and butter mixed to a firm paste) because the sauce was a bit thin after the pie had been baked – I think the frozen peas released a lot of water.
    This was quite a time consuming and labour intensive meal to prepare, but it was worth it as both Steve and I really enjoyed it. You could of course cut loads of corners by using ready-rolled pastry and cooked chicken, but I get so much pleasure out of cooking that I prefer to cook from scratch.

    I called this Chicken Thigh Pie as that is the part of the chicken I like to use, but you can use breast if you prefer and adjust the cooking time of step 1 for the filling.

    • Serves: 4 people if served as part of a 3 course meal (or 2 very greedy people for a dinner)
    • Oven temperature: Gas mark 8/450°F/230°C for 15 minutes, then reduce to Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for 15 minutes.
    • You will need: a shallow 1 – 1¼ pint capacity ovenproof dish

    Ingredients for the Flaky Pastry:
    • 100g plain flour
    • 38g cold butter
    • 38g cold lard
    • 4-5 Tablespoons water

    Directions for the Flaky Pastry:
    1. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl, then add half the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
    2. Add 4 Tablespoons of water to the mixture and blend lightly together with a palette knife. If the mixture isn’t coming together easily and there are dry bits in the bottom of the bowl then add more water a ½ Tablespoon at a time (there are many factors that affect pastry-making, so only use measurements as a guide).
    3. Once you can bring the mixture together with your hands into a soft but not sticky dough, then you can roll it out into a long rectangle, about 30cm long, onto a lightly floured board until it is about 5mm thick.
    4. Mark the rectangle of the dough into thirds, without cutting all the way through.
    5. Dot the top two thirds with half of the lard, then fold the bottom third up to cover the middle third.
    6. Fold the top third down to enclose all the fat. You should now have a small rectangle.
    7. Using your rolling pin, seal the edges by pressing down firmly. Give the pastry a quarter turn clockwise.
    8. Roll again to form a long rectangle and repeat steps 4 to 6 but this time use the remaining butter.
    9. Fold and roll again, but this time use the remaining lard.
    10. Fold and roll for the last time without any fat being added.
    11. Cover the pastry with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.
    * I thought a diagram would be useful so here are my best efforts using Photoshop and Steve’s help! (click to enlarge):
    FLAKY PASTRY DIAGRAM.jpg

    Ingredients for the filling:
    • 500g chicken thighs, bone in
    • ½ carrot, cut into chunks
    • ½ onion, cut into wedges
    • 300ml chicken or vegetable stock
    • pinch of dried rosemary and thyme (or fresh if you have it)
    • salt and black pepper
    • 85ml double cream
    • ½ onion, finely chopped
    • 3 rashers of bacon, chopped
    • 6 button mushrooms, sliced
    • 1-2 Tablespoons of beurre manié
    • 100g frozen peas
    • ½ small tin sweetcorn
    • 1 beaten egg, to glaze

    Directions for the filling:
    1. Put the chicken, carrot, onion wedges, stock, herbs and seasoning into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked and no blood appears when you cut into the chicken.
    2. Remove the chicken and vegetables from the pan (you can discard the vegetables), reserving the stock for the sauce. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and cut the meat into bite size pieces. Put the chicken in the pie dish.
    3. Whilst the chicken is cooking, gently fry the chopped onion until it is soft but not coloured. Add the bacon and the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Put this mixture into the pie dish with the chicken and mix well.
    4. Put the reserved stock back into the saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cream and whisk in 1-2 Tablespoons of the beurre manié. Boil the sauce for a few minutes to cook out the flour in the beurre manié and for the sauce to thicken. Pour the sauce into the pie dish over the chicken mixture and mix well. (If you are baking the pie immediately then you can proceed with the next steps, otherwise allow to cool before covering with the pastry).
    5. When you are ready to bake your pie, add the peas and sweetcorn to the chicken mixture and mix well.
    6. Roll out your pastry onto a lightly floured board until it is large enough to cover your pie dish.
    7. Cut a strip 1cm wide from the outside of the pastry and place it on the moistened rim of the pie dish, then brush with water.
    8. Carefully place the rest of the pastry over the pie mixture and seal the edges together by pressing firmly. Trim off the excess pastry and knock up the edges of the pie with the flat of your knife.
    9. Make a small hole in the centre of the pie to allow steam to escape and place a greaseproof paper funnel in the hole.
    10. Glaze the top of the pie with the beaten egg.
    11. Cook in a preheated oven at Gas mark 8/450°F/230°C for 15 minutes or until golden brown and then reduce to Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for 15-20 minutes.
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