Portuguese Pork and Rice- Mary Berry Everyday.

Those of you who are parents will know how frustrating and irritating it is when you try your hardest to cook interesting and delicious meals for your family.  Only for them to turn their noses up at something they haven’t even tried yet. Mr SmartCookieSam is the same as he has definite likes and dislikes. I like to try cooking different things for dinner and get bored of eating the same old meals day in day out.  Last Wednesday I had been working just for the morning so I had more time to cook and try out something new from Mary Berry’s latest cookbook “Everyday”. I had done my food shopping on the weekend and Mr SmartCookieSam had spotted some pork fillet in the fridge. He said it would be nice stuffed with black pudding. No it will not!  When I told him that it was going to be chopped up into slices to be made into Portuguese Pork and Rice, he was not impressed!

Portuguese Pork and Rice is a fantastic one pot dish that reminds me of a cross between a paella and a risotto.  I guess you could also make it with chicken or prawns if you don’t like pork.  The pork fillet I had bought was a lovely piece of meat and I sliced it carefully into bite sized strips.  These were seared in a pan with some olive oil first.

To add depth and colour to the dish there are a variety of vegetables to chop and put in.  I love the addition of banana shallots which I had never used before. I had used the little ones which remind me of pickled onions but not these.  They had a pinky purple hue to them as well so this made the dish look pretty.  Added to this was some strips of red pepper and some crushed garlic. These were softened for a few minutes.

It was then time to add the smoked paprika which is an ingredient I love using, followed by some long grain rice, a can of chopped tomatoes and a little bit of chicken stock.  To stop the liquid from boiling away and everything burning I had to put a lid on the pan. This made the moisrure stay in and the rice grains soaked up all the stock.

Towards the end of the cooking time the pork went back into the pan along with some pitted black olives.  As this was being prepared I warmed through slices of ciabatta bread and made up a side salad.

Even though both Mr SmartCookieSam and my son had originally turned their noses up at the thought of Portuguese Pork and Rice, I had a pleasant surprise.  They both tucked in with gusto.  It’s incredible how even the thought of something can turn people off until thay actually try it! For us, it was a perfect midweek dinner dish but Mary reckons it is also “great for feeding the family or for a summer lunch with a dressed salad on the

side,”

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Now what I didn’r norice until a day or so after I had posted a photo of my meal on Instagram was the position of the black olives in my dinner.  What does it look like to you?

I really want to make this again.  I can see me eating it in the summer sat outside on the patio with a large glass of rose on the side.

Love Sam xx

Hummingbird Cake- Mary Berry Everyday.

As soon as I saw Mary Berry’s new book Everyday I had to bake the Hummingbird Cake recipe from the book. A while back I’d made some Hummingbird Cupcakes which had been very popular with everyone who tasted one.  So I was keen to test out a big cake version of this “Southern US classic which takes banana cake up a notch,” according to Mary’s recipe introduction.  Mary also states that “It makes for a moist, substantial cake, beautifully offset by the tangy cream cheese icing,”

Baking the Hummingbird cake would also be a great way of testing out some Sugar and Crumbs Banana Split icing sugar I had got in my baking cupboard. I had bought it before Christmas and wanted to use it in something but not had the chance. As banana is one of the key flavours in a Hummingbird Cake, along with pineapple, this banana flavour would be a perfect additional dimension to the cream cheese icing.

Into a large mixing bowl went all the dry ingredients. Self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon, caster sugar all went in as well as some chopped walnuts.  I mixed them all up together and then put them to one side to prepare the rest of the cake.

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In another bowl I mashed up two large, ripe bananas. These were then added to another mixing bowl along with some drained and chopped pineapple chunks, two beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some sunflower oil.

Both bowls were combined together and dry mixture was folded in carefully.  The mixture reminded me of a muffin batter.  This was then divided between 2 greased 20cm/ or 8″ diameter circular tins.  The cake baked for about 25 minutes in my fan oven. When it came out it had risen beautifully and smelled fabulous. I went off to put some laundry away and to do some hoovering.  By the time I’d finished that job it was time to take the cakes out of the tin and put them on a wire rack to cool down.

The Hummingbird cake does not need much decoration.  It’s all in the taste of the cake.  In the illustraion Mary uses a cream cheese frosting for the filling and the top of the cake. I wanted to add a little bit more yet I didn’t want to overdo things.  In the end I chopped up some more walnuts and sprinkled them on top to finish off.

The cream cheese frosting is made with softened butter, full fat cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar. As mentioned before I substituted the plain icing sugar for the Sugar and Crumbs’ Banana Split icing sugar. I left out the vanilla extract.  This gave the cream cheese mixture a delicate banana flavouring. It was wonderfully creamy and so easy to spread on the cake.

As the icing contained cream cheese I chose to put the cake in the fridge to keep and this helped enormously.

A huge hit with everyone but the worst thing was that I kept craving more. I longed to have another slice and having the cake in the house tested my weakening willpower to breaking point.Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Curried Beef Samosas

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As soon as I got my hands on a copy of Mary Berry’s latest recipe book “Everyday” I wanted to test out loads of the recipes.  Of course being a baking addict I always go straight to the cake recipes in her books but it was actually a savoury recipe I made first.

Last weekend we ended up having Mary’s Curried Beef Samosas with a salad.  I got out the mango chutney as well.  Normally samosas are deep fried and I love them from our local Indian takeaway.  But these were baked.

Mary’s recipe introduction tells  us: “With their delicious spicy filling and crispy texture , these are guaranteed to go down well. Perfect for sharing either as a canape or a starter,”

The recipe makes 14 large samosas. As I had never made samosas before this was going to be a really tricky challenge for me.  It would be like doing origami for me with fiddly filo pastry.

The first task was to prepare the spicy beef filling.  I heated olive oil in my large frying pan and added finely chopped onion, red peppers, dried chilli flakes, garlic and tiny pieces of carrot.  Once all the vegetables had softened after a few minutes, I added in some minced beef. This was then browned carefully.  After the mince had browned I added some medium curry powder, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a spoonful of mango chutney. All this was left to cook for a few minutes until it was time to add in some frozen peas.

Such a good thing that even Mary Berry uses ready made filo pastry. Life is far too short to make your own.  I draw the line at making your own shortcrust though. I had this packet of filo pastry in my freezer left over from Christmas. Making these samosas would be the perfect excuse to use up the pastry.

Trouble is filo pastry and I don’t really get on.  I find it really fiddly to use and it always rips on me.  It’s like an edible version of tissue paper. The air was blue in my kitchen as I tried my hardest to unwrap the pastry.  I had to have a long, thin strip of pastry which was about 10 x 40cm in size to make each samosa with.  My pastry was completely the wrong size for these dimensions so I had to make do.

The pastry was quite dry even though Mary warned in her everyday tips at the end of the recipe that this might happen.  You need to work quickly brushing each layer with melted butter.  The butter soaked in quickly and I found the pasty quickly broke several times.

Samosas are meant to be a triangular shape but because my pastry kept breaking I struggled with this.  In some cases they looked like uneven parcels or spring rolls.  All I could hope for was that Mr SmartCookieSam and my son were put off by their awful appearance.  I didn’t care though, so long as they tasted great.I  did make the 14 samosas like Mary’s recipe said but half were what I would have called a walking disaster area. I won’t be getting a job in my local takeaway or restaurant making the samosas.

When I served up the samosas I thought they looked nothing like I’d eaten but then they had been oven baked and not deep fried.  The pastry looked unappetising but once I bit into the samosa I was pleasantly surprised. The beef curry filling was spicy yet not too overpowering and there was just enough of it.  I ended up having two samosas with some salad.  Mr SmartCookieSam ate a couple for lunch the day after.

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The better out of the Samosas. Believe me they did taste better than they looked!

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The samosa rejects. The picture speaks for itself!

Would I make these samosas again?  In all fairness, probably not.  I was put off by the fiddliness of using the filo pastry and I found it far too tricky to make the triangles up with out the filling oozing out all over the place.  So for me, not something I would make for an everyday meal.

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books- March 2017.

It’s been a long time since I did my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge. Every month for a few months back in 2014 I chose a book and aimed to bake or cook one or two recipes from each chapter throughout that month. It meant that any book I’d bought and let gather dust on the shelf would get some use out of it.

Or so that was the plan…

A couple of weeks back I bought Mary Berry’s new cookbook “Everyday”. There’s so many recipes in there I want to try out and it’s not all about baking.  Especially as if I bake, I end up eating it.

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The original idea in the Cooking The Books Challenge was to choose at least one recipe from each chapter of the book I was using that month.  It could vary depending on the amount of chapters and what sort of things were being cooked. With a Mary Berry cookbook and also one which featured family meals, I knew that the Everyday book challenge wouldn’t be so hard after all.

The strapline for the book is to “make every meal special”.  I cook most of my dinners from scratch but we do have the odd takeaway and use shortcuts. I don’t have time after a busy day in the classroom to make every meal special.  In fact if I have been working as with a lot of working families, it’s what you can grab at first.

So as I opened the book I laughed my head off to see the contents of Everyday’s first chapter: Food For Sharing.  Mary does love her dinner party food with canapes and little nibbles.  The only time I do anything remotely like this is at Christmas. Do people really have nibbles and bites like this everyday? Perhaps I’m missing out.

The rest of the book is divided into eight other chapters and to me  they include more of your everyday foods and meals. This does do what it says on the book cover.  The recipes are mainly every day meals but with a special twist. Also there are ideas which look very fancy but actually don’t take as long to cook as they first appear.  I was keen to try out a few recipes on my family.

What is going to be tried out in the SmartCookieSam kitchen over the next few weeks?

Food For Sharing:  I won’t be holding any fancy dinner parties this month. I’m far too busy.  But I do love the sound of the two Samosa recipes in this chapter; Curried Beef Samosas and Spicy Mexican Samosas.  I’ve got some filo pastry in the freezer I’ve not managed to use up. I might try out the Guacamole with Coriander and the Olive Tapenade if I have time one weekend.

First Courses and Light Lunches: Often at work I take along a salad, a Mug Shot, yoghurt and fruit or a sandwich.  I sometimes take soup.  Or if I’m forgetful I end up rushing out of the house and forget my lunch meaning I have to stop off at the M&S at the local garage near me.  Better get my act together.  There’s a mouthwatering recipe in this chapter for a Winter Vegetable Soup.  I also fancy trying out Mary’s Crispy Bacon Rosti one Saturday lunchtime.

Beef, Pork, Lamb and Game:  I can’t stand lamb but don’t mind venison.  There is a twist on the Cottage Pie recipe here by using minced venison in place of beef.  It looks delicious but I’m not sure whether Mr SmartCookieSam and our son will eat it. I know they will love Mary’s special Chilli Con Carne,  the Fillet Steak with Peppercorn Sauce and the Sausage  and Herb Plait.  I’m really keen to try the Portguese Pork and Rice too.

Poultry: As with lots of people, we love chicken in our house. It’s a joke that when Mr SmartCookieSam cooks it’s always Garlic Chicken.  My son said until recently, “If Dad’s cooking, it’s garlic chicken!” Though recently hubby has started cooking curries.  Now my son says “Dad’s cooking curry again!”  I’m grateful for hubby cooking and he is a great cook but sometimes I like to try different things.  So I’m going to test out Marsala Mediterranean Chicken Thighs, the Chicken Stir Fry with Teriyaki Sauce and Chicken Dijon on them. I might even try more.

Fish:  I’m not a huge fish lover though I’m doing my best to eat more fish and seafood.  I had a lot of bad experiences as a child with my Nana Margaret’s terrible cooking and it’s put me off for life.  Even smelling kippers now at breakfast in a hotel room makes me want to throw up. But I’m not going to throw up testing out Mary’s Very Posh Fishcakes, her Yuzu Salmon with Buttered Leeks and her Fragrant Light Prawn Curry.

Vegetarian: I was really struggling with this chapter.  Not because I didn’t like any of the recipes.  It was more about what on earth my carnivore mad hubby would eat.  Any recipes which contain courgettes, aubergines or are risottos are out!  I think I might have to try out the Sun dried tomato pasta with Mozzarella and the Potato, Leek and Cheese Pie though.

Sides and Salads:  Lots of variety to choose from here but I think the two different salads with bulgar wheat in as well as the Satay Chicken Salad look delicious.Once again what I would eat and what Mr SmartCookieSam would eat is another thing!

Puddings and Desserts: Now for an everyday occurence, I definitely don’t have puddings and desserts.  I’ve even stopped having out weekly Sunday lunch dessert.  This is mainly because my son now works on a Sunday so we don’t eat our dinner until late. Eating a pie or a crumble late in the evening gives me indigestion so I don’t bother. All of Mary’s pudding recipes look scrumptious and I’m so tempted by her Apple and Lemon Galette and her Blackberry and Apple Crumble Pie.  But when would we eat it though?

Teatime: Now as you all know I’m a baking addict and I confess to always looking at the baking chapter first in a book like this.  As Mary Berry is the baking queen herself, her baking recipes never disappoint.  I’ve seen several recipes in this chapter I want to try but of course if I bake them, I eat them.  I would love to try out Mary’s Hummingbird Cake, her Pistachio Shortbreads, the Lemon Meringue cupcakes and her Chocolate Reflection Cake.

Watch this space and read on throughout the next few weeks to see how many recipes I actually do get to try out.

Love Sam xx

 

 

Walnut, Gorgonzola and Pancetta Fusilli.

My family and I love travelling (money and time permitting, of course). So when Ingham Lakes and Mountains asked me if I would like to create a recipe inspired by one of their holiday destinations for their #InghamsFoodieFinds campaign, I jumped at the chance.

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Nearly five years ago Mr SmartCookieSam took me to Italy for my 40th birthday.  He kept the trip a surprise until a week or so before the trip. We went to Venice, Lake Garda, Lake Como and up into the Italian Alps. One day we had a memorable and breathtaking road trip up along the Stelvio Pass and stopped for lunch at a roadside hotel called La Fontanella. It was near the town of Madonna de Campiglio.  In the winter it was a ski resort but as this was July we sat outside on the terrace enjoying the stunning views of the Dolomites.  Our lunch was delicious and I remember the starter we had to this day.  I’ve recreated it and adapted it at home many times and is a perfect summer weekend lunch. Preferably sat outside with a huge glass of wine on the side (here’s hoping!)

The starter was a very filling Walnut and Gorgonzola Fusilli.  Mr SmartCookieSam is not a big pasta fan but he loves this.  I sometimes add pancetta to mine at home to appease the carnivores in my house. It is very quick to make and makes a perfect weekday supper if time is short.  Not an everyday treat though as there is a lot of butter, cream and cheese in the recipe!

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter.

WALNUT, GORGONZOLA AND PANCETTA FUSILLI

Ingredients:

200g fusilli fresh or dried (whatever you prefer)

125g creamy Gorzonzola

100g walnut halves

50g butter

150ml single cream

1 packet of cubed pancetta

First you  need to cook the pancetta in a frying pan.  I dry fry it as it contains enough fat.  Preheat your oven to 180oC/ Gas 4 ready for toasting the walnuts.

While you have the pancetta frying, cook the fusilli in a large saucepan of boiling water according to the packet instructions.  Or if you are like me who was in a rush, you’ll end up chucking the pasta in the cold water and hoping for the best!

When the pancetta is crisp, remove from the frying pan and put to one side.  Chop the walnuts up into bite size pieces and lay on a baking tray.  Toast them in the oven for about 5-8 minutes checking them regularly so they don’t burn.

Next, melt the butter in the frying pan.

Then add the cubed Gorgonzola to the melted butter.

Add the pancetta and the toasted walnuts into the pan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  When the pasta is ready, drain carefully and toss with the sauce.  Serve immediately.

My family love this dish with chunks of toasted ciabatta bread to dip in olive oil and balsamic vinegar or with a side of mixed salad leaves.

 

Heritage Crafts USA Cross Stitch Map.

Here’s a project I just started before Christmas and I know it won’t be a quick one.  I love the cross stitch map kits which Susan Ryder of Heritage Crafts designs and have stitched several of them over the past twenty five years.  Starting with a map of the traditional West Riding of Yorkshire where my grandparents were both brought up.  This was a gift for them which I stitched while I was at uni in the early 1990s between assignments.  The map took pride of place on my grandparent’s sitting room wall of their holiday flat in Scarborough and eventually was joined by a North Riding map and another one of Kent where they lived.  The map stitching became a bit addictive. I had to stitch one for myself. Now in my own sitting room at home I have a Yorkshire map for where I live and Nottinghamshire for where I grew up. For Mr SmartCookieSam we have a map of Australia, Cardiganshire (Ceredigion) and Norfolk.

Now you may wonder why I am stitching a map of the USA.  I have never lived there but have visited twice, once to Boston and another time to New York.  It’s just that when you see a beautiful kit with so much fabulous detail, you just get itchy fingers and you have to stitch it. Also these maps to me are educational.  You learn about the Geography of a country and where all the places are as you stitch them as well as stitching landmarks and rivers and state borders.  It also gives me an incentive to get on a USA road trip in the future.

I’ll post pics of my progress and I’m aiming to have the picture stitched by the end of 2017.  Being a primary school teacher I have the summer holidays and often take my cross stitch away on holiday with me. Here’s what I have achieved so far:

December 2016:

Starting in the middle of the map.  Don’t look too close at the name places. My reading glasses broke and stitching the names over one strand of even weave is really tricky when you can’t see a blessed thing!

January 2017.

Getting some State borders added.  Can you see one of the Great Lakes appearing?
We have some of the border with Canada and the East Coast is beginning to take shape, as with a bit more of The Great Lakes.

February 2017

As I type it’s the last week in February and I’ve not stitched any more on the map. I’ve been knitting this month.  All will be revealed later.  Hope to get some more done soon! I’ll keep you updated.

Love Sam  xx

Cross Stitcher Magazine’s 2017 Stitchalong. 

January 2017

Now as you all know, my SmartCookieSam blog is meant to be about my love of baking and cooking.  But baking up until last summer wasn’t doing my health any good. I’m too busy in my day job to make a living from baking (though I would love to do this in an ideal world) but when I did bake I’d find I’d be the champion quality controller! Cue a two stone weight gain!

Cross stitch is also a great passion of mine.  I started cross stitching when I was in sixth form to help relax me when I wasn’t revising for exams.  I’d been lucky that my Nana Margaret (my Dad’s mum) was a keen stitcher and she had showed me how to cross stitch when I was about 8. I never forget the wonderful parcel of red Binca she sent me with lots of beautiful cottons.  She taught me a skill for life and has been so therapeutic for me. Definitely mindfulness at its best. Cross stitch helped me relax when my kids were babies and toddlers once they had gone to bed.  An hour to concentrate on something which I had an end result to was a joy to me.  All at a time when I had given up work to look after my children and my confidence had taken a nose dive. Cross stitch, although wasn’t bringing in the pennies was something I could take a pride in.

Fast forward to January of this year and I saw a fantastic project I wanted to do.  It’s in Cross Stitcher Magazine and is their 2017 StitchAlong.  I’ve never done a StitchAlong before and the idea of stitching a small part every month really appealed to me.  The magazine release a small part of the chart every month so by the end of the year you have a complete project.  You don’t know what the finished project looks like, either! This StitchAlong is going to be a months of the year wall hanging and the design has been created by Susan Penny. In the January 2017 issue of Cross Stitcher Magazine we were given the January chart and a list of the threads and the fabric needed.  The fabric suggested was a pale, delicate dove grey even weave. This looked absolutely gorgeous but I already had some cream even weave in my stash. So rather than forking out for more fabric I stuck with what I already had.  The same went for the threads. I used a close match of DMC threads.

January 2017- making a start on the Stitchalong. Forgive the messy stitches. My reading glasses had broken and I was stitching in poor light.
It took me about three evenings to stitch the January part of the StitchAlong.
In early January the February 2017 issue came out with the new part of the chart.  Love the reds and pinks we get to stitch to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

February 2017.

I had a great idea about stitching the next part in time for 1st February and saving it as a cover picture on my Facebook profile.  Didn’t quite happen that way.  I can’t remember what I was doing but it didn’t get finished until the weekend after.  Must have been a very busy work week I think. The colours aren’t an exact match to the chart ones as I wanted to use up what I had got in my stash.  I think it’s a good likeness though.  The February one took about three nights to do which I was happy with.

Part two of the StitchAlong is this gorgeous Valentine’s Day tree complete with hearts and bird.
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It’s always a treat to get the next issue of CrossStitcher magazine! Here is March 2017 bought in early February with the next instalment.  Hope this isn’t a premonition of the weather we are going to have in this March!

Keep following my progress as I stitch my wall hanging.  At the time of typing I’m about to start stitching March’s picture.  I’ll add the photos as soon as it’s done.

Love Sam xx