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Sunday 30 November 2014

Slow Cooked November Round Up - St Andrew's Day

Happy St Andrews Day!

Saltire at Wallace Monument, Stirling
At the end of November, what you really want is something warming to eat.  St Andrews Day falls on the 30th of November and the November Slow Cooked Challenge was all about warming dishes or dishes with a Scottish theme.

First up it's breakfast at Kevin's Crafty Larder with Slow Cooker Oatmeal, the perfect breakfast to come home to after early morning dog walking.

A Simple Beef Stew is the offering at Jo's Kitchen, it's an old fashioned stew with lovely suet dumplings, the gravy looks particularly rich and tasty.

Now we head across the channel to France and the kitchen of De Tout Coeur Limousin for a bit of chilli heat in this Thai Curry Pork Noodle Soup

Time for a little snack? I'm delighted to introduce Nasifriet and her entertaining blog By the Way. Slow Cooked Zesty Pumpkin Jam sounds amazing and is definitely going to feature on my post Halloween pumpkin cooking next year.

Beef is popular this month, let's hope it is Scotch Beef for St Andrews Day.  Anyway Beef and Vegetable Casserole looks like a lovely warming dish entered by Deon at Food Jam.

Venison is definitely associated with Scotland and Lucy at Baking Queen 74 has made a lovely warming Slow Cooker Venison Sausage Casserole with Borlotti Beans.

We interrupt this comfort food fest for a bit of a domestic!  You'll have to pop over to Lavender and Lovage to find out what was the cause of the temporary marital disharmony, while you are there you should bookmark the recipe for Sticky Christmas Marmalade Chicken.

A bowl and spoon is the recommended way to eat Bonfire Bangers, Pumpkin and Lentil Stew the bowl of comfort food from Dominic at Belleau Kitchen.

It's always nice to finish with a chocolately dessert, so thanks to Sarah of Tales from the Kitchen Shed for sharing these delicious looking Slow Cooker Individual Pear and Chocolate Puddings

Many thanks to all the entrants to the Slow Cooked Challenge, if you are looking for some more St Andrew's Day recipes you can find them St Andrew's Day Menu

The December challenge will be published on 1st December, so remember to come back and find out what the theme will be.

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Sunday 23 November 2014

Hot Chocolate and Comfort Foods

As autumn becomes winter, a walk on a cold bright day is a real treat.  I'm treating you to a few photographs from my weekend walk as well as some ideas for to warm you up when you get home,

A nice bowl of porridge will do the trick and this Hot and Steamy Porridge from Nature's Path hits the spot.  It's organic and gluten free and comes in three different flavours: original; maple syrup and Spiced Apple.  Add milk or water and either cook on the hob or 70 seconds in the microwave and enjoy a very tasty bowl of porridge. The porridge has a lovely texture and the flavoured sachets don't taste in any way artificial, we enjoyed them all, however the portions are quite small (hubby said he would need two!) but ideal for a healthy snack.

Chilly water, running fast after all the rain we had recently.  Brrr, that does make me feel cold, the ground was muddy and wet too and if I hadn't had my walking boots on my feet might have got cold and wet.
A lovely cup of hot chocolate to warm me right down to the toes! Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate comes as pure chocolate beads, it melts easily and tastes of real chocolate, because that's what it is.  A packet of Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate would be a perfect stocking filler or treat yourself to a Hans Sloane Cocoa Pod, a chocolate shell full of drinking chocolate beans, watch the video below to see how much fun it is to make hot chocolate this way.

It's even more fun if you add some mini marshmallows and candy canes to dress up your hot chocolate.

Maybe you would prefer a nice cup of tea.  I've reviewed Tea Vivre teas before (All the tea from China) they are very high quality teas sent direct from China. This time I was invited to an Oolong tasting and have the following teas to tell you about:

Anxi Monkey King (Ma Liu Mie) Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea

  • Grown and produced in Anxi, Fujian
  • Hand made into small, rolled up, jade colored leaves.
  • Pale yellow-green colored tea when brewed
  • Delightfully fresh floral taste and aroma
Taiwan Jin Xuan Milk Oolong Tea (Flavored)

  • Grown and produced in Alishan, Nantou, Taiwan
  • Evenly and tightly rolled tea leaves
  • Pale yellow-gold tea liquor
  • Strong milk fragrance
Taiwan Monkey Picked (Ma Liu Mie) Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea
There is a baked flavor when brewed Monkey Picked Oolong tea, which was ever named Maliumie in China. It is come from Li Mountain, Taizhong, Taiwan, which belongs to the top 10 of Taiwan teas.

Superfine Taiwan Qing Xiang Dong Ding Oolong Tea
Produced in Taiwan, this Superfine Taiwan Qing Xiang Dong Ding Oolong Tea is grown in the area higher than 1000 meters. Dong Ding Oolong Tea is famous around the world. The tea tastes brisk and soft with long aroma.

Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess” Oolong Tea
  • Grown and produced in Anxi, Fujian
  • Tea buds covered in white tips, with one or two leaves
  • Bright-reddish orange tea liquor
  • A mellow, sweet taste

Finally here is a whole book of Comfort Food: Recipes to warm the heart and feed the soul by Carolyn Caldicott with Photographs by Chris Caldicott

Comfort is packed full of hale and hearty, wholesome and warming, quick and easy favourites. So when you are feeling a little under the weather or just in need of warming up, you can dip into this little book and find the perfect recipe to warm you up and cheer you up.  Here are few examples:

  • Potato Rosti and Poached Egg
  • Creamy Fish Pie with a Cheesy Potato Topping
  • Toad in the Hole
  • Chunky Salmon Fishcakes with Chive Cream
  • Rum and Raisin Bread and Butter Pudding
  • Dark Chocolate Dipped Honey Nut Bites
  • Spiced Banana and Raisin Bread with Vanilla Mascarpone Topping
  • Mulled Wine
Comfort by Carolyn Caldicott
Published by Frances Lincoln
RRP £9.99

To order Comfort at the discounted price of £7.99 including p&p* (RRP: £9.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG258.
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

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Monday 17 November 2014

Love from Indie Street and an Edinburgh Giveaway

Do you have friends in Edinburgh, or love to visit this fabulous city?  If so you are in luck, because there is an amazing new concept called Love from Indie Street, where you can browse a virtual high street of Edinburgh's best independent businesses from your armchair and choose a personal and original gift voucher for your family and friends. From restaurants to florists and beauty salons to gift shops, there is something for everyone.

View of the Balmoral Hotel, Waverley Station and  Princes Street, Edinburgh  from the Scott Monument
It can be tricky (and expensive) to send gifts through the post and some people can be difficult to buy for, so we often rely on gift vouchers to make sure that the recipient receives a gift they would like and it arrives in one piece!  The difficulty with gift vouchers is that they are generally for large multi-national companies.  So Love from Indie Street,  allows you the flexibility of a gift voucher while allowing the gift recipient to choose from a range of independent retailers whose offerings are so much more interesting and original.

You can search for gifts by type: Children, Fashion, Food and Drink, Health, Home and Leisure, or you can choose by price or by occasion.  You can even set up your own wish list so you get the vouchers you would like!   I've picked out five different gifts, which really appealed to me, some are 'things' others are 'experiences' and  prices range from £5 to £95. There are many more options so please do go and do a little window shopping on Indie Street, I'm sure you will be tempted.

Handmade Chocolate and Hot Chocolate from Coco This voucher can be used to choose a hand made chocolate bar from Coco Chocolate's wide range and enjoy a hot chocolate in one of their beautiful Edinburgh Shops. A perfect stocking filler or secret santa present! from £5.00

Creative Cookware The perfect stocking filler for the budding chef in your life. Let them upgrade their utensils drawer or baking cupboard to take their culinary feats to the next level vouchers at  £25/£50/£100
Coast and Bridges Bike Tour Cycling is very popular, so what better for the cycling enthusiast in your life than this 5 hour, 42 km cycle tour starts in the heart of Edinburgh’s port, the vibrant and buzzing Leith on the east coast of Scotland. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants for a pre or post ride snack. The tour then heads on a beautiful route out of town to the north west, following the shore line of the Firth of Forth towards the iconic Forth Road and Forth Railway bridges and the picturesque town of South Queensferry. Where you will see the Forth Rail Bridge and one of the best views of Edinburgh as you look back along the waterline and then head back to town. £40 (other tours are also available)

Baby Food Casting  Isn't this just so special? Capture the memory of just how precious and small a baby is with a stone casting voucher.  An ideal gift for new parents or proud grandparents and is something they will treasure forever. The baby casting is of two baby feet, mounted in a beautiful box frame. Choose between a natural wood or white frame. The frame comes with a choice of three mount colours; Ivory, Baby Blue or Baby Pink. £80 (other castings are available)

Narcissus Flower School 3 hour workshop Treat the budding florist in your life with a voucher for a three hour workshop at the Narcissus Flower School. Perfect for those who would love to learn the traditional craft of floristry in a modern school, these practical, classes are suitable for the complete beginner with a new interest through to those who may be considering a career in floristry. £95

The options go on and on, there are restaurant gift vouchers, romantic hotel break gift vouchers, vouchers for handbags, gift shops, galleries and special gifts for children. All of them are delightful, and then there are Love from Indie Street vouchers, the perfect gift to give someone if you are not sure exactly what to get them but know that they love using Edinburgh's best independent businesses. You buy the voucher and they can then choose where they want to use it from all of the businesses that are part of the Love from Indie Street community. All they have to do is contact Love from Indie Street once they have made their choice and they take care of everything else.

I have a £20 voucher for Love from Indie Street to giveaway, simply complete the activities on the Rafflecopter widget to enter.  Due to the nature of the giveaway it is open to anyone over 18 (virtual voucher sent to email address) and not confined to the UK, however the recipient of the voucher must be able to redeem it at one of the independent retailers in EDINBURGH.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Friday 14 November 2014

Creamy Trout and Spinach Pasta

This is a real 'store cupboard'  and 'no waste' recipe.  I had two Scottish trout fillets in the freezer,  in the fridge there was half a lemon,  a bag of 'reduced by the supermarket to 45p' spinach, half a carton of soured cream from the Fish Tacos we had at the weekend, and an onion, Add to that some pasta and seasonings from the larder and hey presto...

Creamy Trout and Spinach Pasta 
Serves 4

10g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Knorr Herb Flavour Pot (or tsp dried mixed herbs)
150ml Soured Cream
240g baby spinach
220g Scottish Loch Trout
Juice of half a lemon
250g pasta of your choice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and gently saute the onion.  It should start to soften and become translucent and not brown.
2. Put on a pan of water and heat until boiling, add a little sea salt and then the pasta, cook for around 10-12 minutes until just cooked.
3. While the pasta is cooking, either poach the trout in a little stock in a pan or cook for 3-4 minutes on medium in the microwave until the salmon is opaque. Flake the fish.

4. The onion should now be soft, so add the soured cream and the Knorr Herb Flavour pot (or dried herbs), then add the lemon juice.  If it looks like the cream is going to split keep stirring, because it's soured cream it's more stable and should hold together, season with sea salt (I use Skye Sea Salt) and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

5. Drain the pasta and place in a warmed, oiled serving dish.
6. Place the spinach into the pasta pan with a a tbsp of water, put on the lid and cook over a medium heat until the spinach starts to wilt.  This will only take a couple of minutes.
7. Add the spinach and the flaked trout to the sauce and mix gently, then add to the pasta and mix through with two forks.

Serve as it is or with a salad. You can find more Omega 3 filled fish recipes at the Fish is the Dish website.

I'm entering this dish for the 'No Waste Food Challenge' the blog event run by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary and hosted this month by Slice Off Me

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Thursday 13 November 2014

Bacon and Egg

What a treat!  Two books dedicated to two of the most versatile and tasty ingredients, bacon and egg. I have a review and a recipe from each book and a copy of 'Bacon' to giveaway, see bottom of  this post for details.

Let's start with Bacon by Theresa Gilliam.  It's not just another bacon cookbook, the book is described by the author as an ode to bacon and it also covers curing and smoking bacon at home.

The recipes are divided by the phases of the day: Dawn, Midday, Dusk and Dark which is rather fun, but before that comes Bacon 101.  Learn all about the different types of bacon and different cooking methods and then, if you are really ambitious, you can tackle home curing and smoking bacon yourself.  There are also some instructions for a couple of basics, clarified bacon fat and a tender and flaky pastry case made with said bacon fat.

I would  love to wake up to some of these recipes,  Gingerbread and Bacon Waffles, Maple Bacon Twists, Bacon-stuffed French Toast and Breakfast Hand Pie.  Having a bit of a thing for scones, I chose to make the Bacon Cheddar Scones (see below)

And so to lunch and I could happily make and eat a Bacon and Apple Grilled Cheese Panini or a Power Lunch Spinach Salad.  There is an amazing Deconstructed BLT which is actually a soup and another BLT variation,  the BLT Mac and Cheese.

Everything from a classic Pasta alla Carbonara to a Korean-Style Hangover Stew and, oh my goodness,  mouthwatering Bacon-Wrapped Beef Tenderlions with Pomegranate Glaze.  No bacon book would be complete without a recipe for that wonderful preserve, Bacon and Onion Jam.

Ah now to move to the dark side which includes all those recipes that take bacon just a step further than you expect and are ideal for a party.  Try a toast with a Bacon Martini while nibbling Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates and Bacon Cheese Puffs. For dessert some candied Bacon S'mores, Cardamom Cupcakes with Maple, Bacon and Cream Cheese Frosting and Bacon Baklava.  Finish by nibbling on some Bacon, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Who is it for?  
Well it's obviously for  bacon-lovers, whether it is the cook or their family who love bacon, there is something in there for every bacon lover.

Theresa Gilliam is a food stylist and recipe developer by profession and, along with photographer EJ Armstrong, has created really mouthwatering photographs which show off the food without too much fuss. The recipes are well laid out and range from the very simple with a few ingredients to some more challenging recipes and, most challenging of all the curing of your own bacon.

It's obviously not suitable for vegetarians, and is very much a specialist book.

The Verdict
There are some really delicious classics and also some inventive recipes using bacon.  It may find a place on my bookshelf or be a gift to a true bacon lover as I know they would not be disappointed.

Bacon Cheddar Scones
makes 6

270g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
4 rashers of cooked and crumbled bacon
360ml double cream

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 7.  Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the cheese and bacon until it is evenly distributed and coated with flour. Stir in the cream until the dough is just moistened, about 30 seconds. Do not over mix.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until it is just smooth, about 30 seconds.  Pat the dough into a rectangle, 2.5cm thick. Cut the dough with a 7.5cm round cutter into circles, or use a knife to cut into 7.5cm squares.  Place the scones on the prepared baking tray, 5cm apart.

Bake for 5-18 minutes until golden brown.

*Over the top bacon lover's tip:  Before putting the scones in the oven, brush with a little melted Clarified Bacon Fat.

I served the Bacon Cheddar Scones with Gravadlax and dill dressing, they were full of flavour and would be good with soup.

BACON, Recipes for Curing, Smoking and Eating
by Theresa Gilliam
Photography by EJ Armstrong
RRP £25
published by Jacqui Small (@JacquiSmallPub)

Now on to EGG by Michael Ruhlman, A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient.  In the introduction Michael Ruhlman tells how US TV personality Alton Brown, described the egg as the 'Rosetta Stone of the kitchen' an ingredient which unlocks the secret language of the kitchen.  Well this book has taken the subject of the egg and created a guide to the language of the egg.

The Egg Flowchart is a remarkable achievement, the book contains a copy of the flowchart in a pocket on the back page.  It's an extended version of what is on the front cover of the book and looks at the egg in all it's forms. It is from this flowchart that the book was mapped out.  The whole of the introduction is fascinating and gives a real insight into how Michael Ruhlman thinks, cooks and writes.

Part One: Egg/Whole/Cooked in Shell
Who knew you could say so much about a boiled egg!  Learn how to make Perfect hard boiled eggs and then use them in Egg Salad Three Ways. The soft boiled egg can have degrees of doneness that can tax the most skilled of cooks, the instructions and advice in this chapter will certainly help to make it easier to get you a soft boiled egg the way you want it.  Soft boiled egg recipes include Soft-Boiled Eggs on Artichoke Hears with Creamy Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette, Pork Ramen with Soft-Boiled Egg and Spring Onions.  There are even instructions to cook eggs sous-vide.

Part Two: Egg/Whole/Cooked out of Shell
Includes Weekend Broken-Yolk Fried Egg Sandwich, Quail Eggs Croque Madame, Frisee Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette and Deep Fried Egg, there are coddled eggs, shirred eggs and, of course, eggs poached in water and in sauces.  Poached Duck Egg on Duck Confit Hash sounds glorious as does Eggs in Puttanesca Sauce with Angel Hair Pasta.

Part Three: Egg/Whole/Cooked out of shell/Blended
A page and a half is devoted to scrambling eggs so that you can make people swoon!  The Omelette also gets a full page and step by step photographs to ensure that nothing is missed. Recipes include Omelette with Creamy Morel mushrooms and Potato, Onion and Cheese Frittata.  Moving on to Baked egg (dry heat) and we come to the recipe that I recreated: Marlene's Bacon and Sausage Breakfast Strata, a savoury bread pudding (recipe below).  Egg wash is also part of blended egg and essential to enable panko breadcrumbs to stick to Breaded Chicken Cutlets with Dijon and Thyme. Egg is explored  as a binder for meatballs and as a custard in a Classic French Quiche with Chorizo and Roasted Peppers, Creme Caramel and Bourbon Brioche Bread Pudding.

Part Four: Egg/As Ingredient/The Dough-Batter Continuum
As you see we are moving on from dishes which are dominated by egg to those where egg is more equal in it's position in the recipe such as Challah, Pasta, Italian Drop Biscuits with Lemon Glaze, Gougeres and Profiteroles. Oh and, of course, Cake and the Egg with 'The Keys to Fabulous Cake' and Regina's Lemon Cream Cake looks like a totally Fabulous Cake.  All the basics are explained including the notorious 'Creme Pat' and a luscious looking Chocolate glaze which doesn't even include and egg.  The cakes just go on and on looking so tempting.   Then suddenly we are returned to the savoury with Sweetcorn and Sweet Pepper Fritters with Chipotle-Lime Mayonnaise, Prawn Tempura and back to the sweet with Crepes Suzette.

Part Five: Egg/Separated/The Yolk
The yolk is Michel Ruhlman's favourite part of the egg and with recipes like Caesar Dressing for Crips Cos Lettuce and Croutons, Blanquette de Veau, Mayonnaise and it's variants and one my favourite foods Pasta Carbonara, it's not surprising that the yolk is given such high status. Then there are those tricky stars of the eggy world Hollandaise and Bernaise.  Egg yolks also create dreamy sweets think, Creme Brulee, Vanilla Ice Cream and a Poire William Sabayon.

Part Six: Egg/Separated/The White
Egg white is like a magic substance acting as a binder, a setting agent, they can clarify stock and be used as a powerful raising agent.  Fabulous impressive recipes such as Seafood Roulade with Scallops and Crab which is laid out in step by step photographs, creamy Orange-Ginger Panna Cotta and 'The Amazing Meringue'.  I really want to make nougat as it's my husband's favourite sweet treat, this recipe looks relatively simple and again has step by step photos so I might just finally get around to making it.   Soft egg white in dishes like Ile Flottante and  egg white cake like Angel Food Cake are also featured.

Just when you thought there were no more variants on the EGG, there is just one more.

Part Seven: Egg/Separated but Used Together
This includes Curried Devilled Egg Canapes, Mango-Lime Semifreddo, Chocolate Espresso Kahlua Souffle (yes, please) and Eggnog.

Who is it for?
I had to think about this quite a lot as this is an unusual book, designed in a very different way from most cookbooks.  I would say that this book is for the kind of person who likes to be precise, to understand their ingredients, the science behind the recipe and practice making simple dishes until they 'make you swoon' as Michael Ruhlman would say.  Also someone who wants to challenge themselves to make those recipes which can so easily go wrong without attention to detail.  In saying that, there are lots of recipes here for everyone and great care has been taken with the instructions so if you follow them, you are most likely to create a good result.

There is a lot of information, many recipes and excellent photographs.

As a cookbook it isn't laid out in the usual way, savoury and sweet recipes are in the same chapter of the book as they are organised by use of the egg, but there are two Indices, a Recipe Index by technique and a General Index.

The Verdict
There are some great recipes in the book some of which I have already marked for later.  I'm not sure I'm 'geek' enough to work my way through all the text on eggs, I rarely follow a recipe completely and tend to use them as a guide, so those very technical recipes are probably not for me.

Marlene's Bacon and Sausage Breakfast Strata
(This is one of the less technical recipes!)
Serves 6-8

240g bacon rashers
240g sausage meat
1/2 onion, cut into dice
6 eggs
240ml milk
240ml double cream
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
7-9 slices or cubes, toasted or allowed to sit out for a day or two (enough for two layers in your dish)
300g grated hard cheese (such as Cheddar, Gruyere or Emmental).

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C (Gas 3).  Butter a 23x 33cm baking dish and set aside.
2. Place the bacon rashers in a large frying pan, cover them with water and put he pan over high heat. When the water has cooked off, reduce the heat to medium and cook the bacon until nicely browned and crisp.  Remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper.
3. Add the sausage meat to the bacon fat in the pan.  Cook the sausage meat, breaking it up as it cooks.  Meanwhile, chop the bacon coarsely.
4. When the sausage meat is nearly cooked through, add the onion and continue to cook until the onion is tender, another 5 minutes or so.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage meat/onion mixture to the plate with the bacon.
5. Combine the eggs, milk, cream, mustard powder, salt, pepper and cayenne in a large bowl or glass measuring jug. Whisk or blend with a hand-held blender until the custard is uniform.
6. Put half of the bread cubes in an even layer in the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle half of the bacon-sausage meat-onion mixture evenly across the bread.
7. Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly over this. Repeat the layers. pour the custard over them.
8. The dish can be baked right away or covered and refrigerated for up to a day.  Bake until the centre is hot and the tip is invitingly browned, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
9. Cut and serve hot.  Alternatively, leave it cool then chill it in the refrigerator and eat it cold, or cut the chilled strata into serving-sized pieces and reheat in a 180C (Gas 4) oven to serve.

Egg - A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient
by Michael Ruhlman
Photographs by Donna Turner Ruhlman
RRP £25
Published by Jacqui Small (@JacquiSmallPub)

I have one copy of Bacon by Theresa Gilliam to giveaway, just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tuesday 11 November 2014

Speedy Beef and Vegetable Pie - for Random Recipes #45

This month we are rifling through our magazine cuttings for Random Recipes, the challenge run by Dominic at Belleau Kitchen.  I have all but given up buying magazines as I can find recipes on the internet with so much more ease.  However, a couple of weeks ago I had a little time to kill in the supermarket and so was drawn to browse through the cooking magazines.  Eat in is a new magazine for me and I was drawn to the Comfort Food on a Budget.  This mag has been sitting around on the dining room table, so I picked it up and it opened at this Speedy Beef and Vegetable Pie.

Speedy Beef and Vegetable Pie
Serves 4-6
1 tbsp veg or olive oil
1 onion chopped
500g beef mince
500g frozen mixed vegetables (I didn't have any so used diced carrots)
25g onion gravy powder (didn't have any of that either,  substitute tbsp flour and beef stock cube)
320g sheet puff pastry
Milk for brushing (I used a beaten egg)

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/ Gas 7.  Grease a 20cm square ovenproof dish (more deviation from me!).  Heat the oil in a saucepan over a high heat. Saute the onion for 3 minutes or until softened.  Add the mince and cook for 3 minutes or until browned.
2. Add the vegetables, gravy powder and 125mil hot water. (If using flour add a tbsp of flour and cook, stirring for 3 minutes to cook out the starch, crumble in the stock cube then add the water.) Cook stirring for 3 minutes or until the sauce is thick. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish and set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes but longer if you can.
3. Place the pastry sheet over the mince to cover. Tuck the overhanging pastry inwards to form a border around the inside edge of the dish. Score the top of the pastry with a sharp knife.  Brush with milk.  Bake for 15 minutes or until browned.  Serve the pie with herbed mash or vegetables.  I served my pie with slow cooked Braised Red Cabbage.

The pie was excellent, it always surprises me what seems to hit the mark on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but this pie was definitely a hit!

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Sunday 9 November 2014

Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage and Celeriac Coleslaw

I love Mexican food, there is something about all the layers of  textures and flavours, the tortillas, the chillies, the tomatoes, the sour cream and the cheese.  When they all come together they seem to make a magical combination that is quite delightful.

I've made Mexican dishes with chicken, with beef and with vegetables but never with fish, time to put that right.  If you have been reading my recent fish recipe posts you will know that I've been eating oily fish twice a week but I hadn't had any fresh mackerel.  Mackerel has quite a strong flavour and a solid meaty texture, so it can stand a bit of chilli heat without being overpowered.  It's also No. 2 in the top 30 Omega 3 rich fish, second only to herring, so really good for you.

Mackerel is also really good value for money, I got three medium mackerel for £2.54.  I prepared them myself but if you don't have the stomach for that, then I'm sure you could get mackerel fillets or ask your fishmonger to fillet them for you.

Have you tried these new Stand N Stuff Soft Tacos from Old El Paso? The tortillas have been shaped in the little baskets making them much easier to fill and eat.  The Chunky Guacamole is a good stand by to keep in the fridge too, for those times when you don't have a ripe avocado!

Fish Tacos
Serves 4

3 medium whole mackerel, filleted
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 Old El Paso Stand n Stuff Soft Taco Kit (contains 8 Stand N Stuff Soft Flour Tortillas, 1 Tomato Stir in Sauce, 1 Cool Herb Topping Mix)
3 tomatoes
100ml sour cream
100g grated cheese
1 lettuce
Old El Paso Chunky Guacamole

1. Cut the fillets into chunky pieces and place in a glass or ceramic dish.
2. Mix the spices and salt together and sprinkle over the fish pieces, mix together to cover the fish with the spices.  Place in the fridge and leave for at least 30 minutes.
3. De-seed the tomatoes and chop finely, place in a bowl and set aside.
4. Mix the Cool Herb Topping Mix with 100ml sour cream in another bowl.
5. In a hot pan, add a splash of oil and add the spiced fish mixture until the fish becomes opaque.
6. Turn down the heat and add the Tomato Stir-in Sauce and stir gently for 2 minutes.
7. Add half the grated cheese (50g), stirring until the cheese has melted.
8. Warm the tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds or on a baking tray, covered with foil in the oven at 165C/Gas 3 for 7-9 minutes.
9. Fill the Stand and Stuff Flour Tortillas as follows:

  • Lettuce
  • Fish mixture
  • Chopped Tomatoes
  • Grated Cheese
  • Cool Herb Topping Mix
  • Squeeze of Chunky Guacamole at each end!

I served the Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage and Celeriac Coleslaw

Red Cabbage and Celeriac Coleslaw
Serves 4-6

1/4 red cabbage, finely sliced
1/2 medium celeriac root, finely sliced into julienne strips
1 large carrot, grate half and julienne slice the other half
1/2 a small onions, finely chopped

Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix.

To make the dressing
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
25 ml olive oil
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp soured cream
salt and freshly ground pepper

Place all the ingredients into a jar or dressing shaker (or you can whisk in a bowl) and shake until completely mixed.  Pour over the vegetables and mix.  Chill until ready to serve.

What a tasty supper dish, we really enjoyed it.  The fish held together well and combined well with the spices.  I loved the Stand N Stuff Tacos, they held the fillings so well and I could see them being really brilliant for buffets and much easier for children to manage than the traditional tortilla.  As long as you don't fill them too full, you can pick them up and the filling will stay in while you bite into them.  I was also pleasantly surprised by the Chunky Guacamole, it definitely tasted of avocado and no obvious artificial flavour, not as much texture as the real thing but handy to keep in the fridge.

Read more about the benefits of eating oily fish at the Fish is the Dish website. 

The mackerel is a really thrifty buy, and the coleslaw is pretty cheap to make too. The meal can also be made with standard tortillas to make it less expensive.  With all these money savers I'm entering this recipe for Credit Crunch Munch, the blog event run by Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All and currently being hosted by My Little Italian Kitchen 

I was provided with the Old El Paso products for review, I was not paid and all opinions are my own. 

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Friday 7 November 2014

Muesli Rolls and a #review of Bread by Dean Brettschneider

Do you remember the lovely Pie book by Dean Brettschneider?  Well he's done it again, this time Dean has created a superb book of Bread, as he says in the introduction "passion is my main ingredient" and that passion certainly comes through.

The book begins with an informative chapter on the History of Bread Making.  Starting with the Egyptians through the spread of wheat from the western half of Asia through to Europe and Africa  and on to the middle ages and the regulation of bread.  The skill, craft and art of the baker has been admired throughout history, there may be more science now, but the principles are still the same.

Ingredients come next and if you ever wonder about the different types of flour, their properties and which to use for what, this is the book for you. Equipment is also comprehensively covered, most of it is already available in your kitchen with a few added extras like a proofing cabinet, hot rocks and chain, apparently the preferred method for creating steam for baking crusty breads!

We all need a little Bread Know How starting with the 11 basic steps in making and baking breads, this comes with step by step photographs and includes different ways to mould bread e.g. baguette, small rolls.  Sourdough can strike fear into an amateur baker's heart but Dean is there to guide you through the chemistry behind this natural yeast to give you a good understanding before you move on to the recipes.

Savoury Breads and Sourdoughs includes Turkish Pide, Beetroot and Thyme Baguettes, Dean's Sourdough, Polenta Petites Boules, Onion Fougasse, Cheese, Bacon and Onion Paves, Carrot and Coriander Ciabatta and Potato and Rosemary Focaccia and many more.

Grainy and Healthy Breads includes Dark Beer, Walnut and Cranberry Rolls, Gluten-free Bread, I love the sound of Vine Fruit, Treacle and Rosemary Sourdough and Muesli Rolls (see recipe below)

Quick Breads and Scones try the Spinach, Pumpkin, Cumin and Feta Damper, it's a meal in itself and I'm definitely going to try the Garden Vegetable, Cheese and Hidden Egg Savoury Muffins, a bit like a Scotch Egg but with Muffin round it rather than sausage meat.

Festive breads come from all around the world, Swedish Christmas Rye Crackers are a favourite of mine, they have big holes in the middle where they are traditionally baked on a pole.  For a sweet treat there is Dresden  Christmas Stollen and Panforte.

Not quite Bread a novel idea to have 'not bread' in a bread book, but worth it for recipes like Wholemeal Spicy Lavash-style Crackers, Danish Smorrebrod (oh yes!)step by step Danish Pastries and oh my goodness Spiced Chocolate, Cointreau and Sour Cherry Bread Pudding (faints).

Sweet Breads bring us more of the good stuff with a Chocolate Chip Brioche Breakfast Plait, Cinnamon and Raisin Toast Bread and NYC Sticky Pecan Buns, a decadent treat.

Basic Recipes is where you will find all  the things you need to know about Sourdough Levain (day by day), glazes, icing, creme patissiere, Swiss buttercream and Cream Chantilly.  Not to mention Cramelised Onion Decorating Dough and homemade raspberry jam.

Weights Measures and Temperatures are clearly laid out with tables for pretty much everything you will need.

Formulas (should that not be Formulae?) now this is a good chapter even if it does involve sums!  How to scale ingredients, balance recipes and the secret of Bakers' percentages.

The Glossary has many of the baking terminology that can confuse, all explained in a couple of pages.

Who is it for? This book would suit beginners, with the step by step photo instructions and also those who want to expand their bread making skills and repertoire with demanding breads like sourdough and sweet breads.

Pros: Really clear instructions, a well laid out book, beautiful photographs and inventive recipes.

Cons: There are quite a lot of non-yeasted recipes, I don't mind this and they are great ideas, but may be a no no for purists.

The Verdict: I have quite a few Bread books and have reviewed some here on the blog.  I did wonder if I would see anything new or different in this book from Dean Brettschneider, I think it is worth a place on my bookshelf and I suspect some of the others may be ousted!

Muesli Rolls makes 15
450g (2 3/4 cups)strong bread flour
50g (1/3 cup) wholemeal or whole wheat flour
40g (1/2 cup) jumbo rolled oats
8g 2 3/4 tsp instant dry yeast
10g (2 tsp) salt
30g (1 1/2 tbsp) treacle (blackstrap molasses)
20g (1 tbsp) honey
20ml (4 tsp) olive oil
370ml (1 1/2 cups) water
40g (scant 1/2 cup) walnut pieces, chopped into small pieces
30g (3 tbsp) linseeds (flaxseeds)
20g (2 1/4 tsp) sesame seeds
80g (1/2 cup) sunflower seeds
80g (2/3 cup) pumpkin seeds
40g (1/3 cup) dried cranberries
40g (1/4 cup) dried apricots, cut into pieces
80g (1/2 cup) small chocolate drops or chocolate chips (optional)
100g (1 generous cup) jumbo rolled oats, to decorate

Place flours, oats, yeast, salt and wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, combine to form a dough.  Tip dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 15 minutes, resting it for 1 minute every 2-3 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Check dough throughout kneading for stickiness; add a little more water or flour if necessary to achieve a soft dough that's  not too firm.

Add walnuts, seeds, dried fruit and chocolate(if desired). Knead until well incorporated and combined into dough.  Place dough in  a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and leave in a warm place for approximately  1 1/2, until dough has doubled in size. Gently knock back dough in bowl by folding it back onto itself several times. Cover again and leave for a further 30 minutes.

Tip dough upside down onto a lightly floured work surface.  Sprinkle flour over top of dough (which was on the bottom of the bowl).  Very carefully turn dough over and gently flatten to 2cm (3/4 in) thick.  Using a dough scarper or large chef's knife, cut dough into 7cm (2 3/4in) squares.  Using a pastry brush, brush the tops with water, Sprinkle entire surface of each roll with rolled oats, and pat down gently to stick them on.

Line a baking tray (cookie sheet) with baking (parchment) paper.  Place rolls onto lined tray (sheet), leaving a 2-3cm (3/4-11/4in) gap between each roll.  Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and leave to prove for 30-45 minutes, depending on room temperature.

Place rolls on baking tray (cookie sheet) in a preheated 230C/450F/Gas 8 oven, apply steam and quickly close oven door.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning tray around halfway through baking if needed Remove rolls from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

The rolls are quite dense in texture but full of flavour, they are particularly good toasted.

Bread by Global Baker, Dean Brettschneider
Published by Jacqui Small
RRP £25 

To order Bread at the discounted price of £20.00 including p&p* (RRP: £25.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG232. 
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

I was provided with a copy of Bread to review, I was not paid and all opinions are my own. 

I'm entering the Muesli Rolls for Bake of the Week at Casa Costello.

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