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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Last Monday afternoon I got in from work and finished my jobs. It was one of those afternoons where I had an urge to bake something. It had to be something quick that I could sling together and chuck in the oven before disappearing off to collect my kids from school.
Brownies or blondies work well for me as I make them such a lot, you get it down to a fine art and they don’t take long to whip up and in the oven. So, for this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge where I am baking a recipe from every chapter of Rachel Allen’s Bake, her recipe for White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blondies would be just the ticket. In the recipe introduction Rachel says “Fed up of brownies? Try blondies! These little squares are great on their own, eaten with ice cream they are simply sinful!” Well we all need a pick me up or a little treat to help us get through life don’t we?
I looked in my baking cupboard knowing that I’d bought a packet of white chocolate chips a couple of weeks back and would have enough to go in the blondies. But when I opened the cupboard.. they just weren’t there! I can only put it down to my kids helping themselves! So frustrating, but I couldn’t prove who had took them! Luckily though I had a packet of dark chocolate chips and they would have to do instead!
To begin with I creamed some butter and crunchy peanut butter together in a large mixing bowl. When this was done I sifted some plain flour and bakingpowder in another bowl. To the peanut butter bowl I added soft brown sugar, egg and some vanilla extract. Finally in went the bag of chocolate chips.
As for the tin, I used the square one I always use for my brownies. It’s a either a loose bottomed one I bought a few years back in Lakeland or one I bought at a Jamie At Home party which isn’t loose bottomed but still worked as well. Either tin always makes either 16 small square brownie bites or 12 large ones. No problem again here, the dough went into the tin fine and 25-30 minutes later out it came after being baked in the oven at 170oC (electric fan oven here).
After about 1/2 hour’s cooling time I attempted to cut up the blondies and quickly hid them in a box in the cupboard away from my family. They were going into work to share with my work colleagues and I thought if my family knew there were blondies about there wouldn’t be any left the next day.
I thought I’d got away with it as it was an afternoon when I was at home and my kids were still at school. I had hidden the evidence but when we got in from the school run my daughter started sniffing when she came back in. She said “Have you been baking? I can smell chocolate!” My kids have baking radar but I lied and said she was imagining things!
Once again I’ve not been able to devote much time to blogging and another few weeks have slipped by. Though that’s nothing new at this time of year for me. I realised I’d not been able to stick at my Cooking The Books Challenge. It’s been getting more and more tricky to manage much baking at all, let alone cope with a book challenge!
But we’re nearly at the end of November and I wanted to have a go at SOMETHING. So I looked on my bookshelves and found an old favourite bought back in 2008; Rachel Allen’s Bake. I have used several recipes from this book in the past but wanted to dig it out again and have a go at some recipes I had missed out on. All I know my family would appreciate too, which is tricky. Also I thought there is no way I’m baking something that I wouldn’t get round to eating or my family would eat, just would be a waste of effort and money.
So what am I tempted to have a go at? Remember, to complete the challenge I have to bake one thing from each chapter of the book. Sadly I just know I won’t have time for that but will do as much as I can.
Sweet Mouthfuls: Lots of yummy bakes here to choose from but I know Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Blondies will go down well.
Cakes: I’ve always wanted to try baking a Kugelhopf after seeing Luis bake one on this year’s Great British Bake Off.
Puddings:My family love Chocolate Sponge puddings so we’re going to try the Chocolate Lava Cakes for one Sunday lunch dessert.
Breads and Savoury Bites: Not a lot of spare time to devote to savoury baking this week but if I do get some time I would love to bake some Paper Thin Crispbreads to have with dips when my mum comes to stay this weekend.
Tarts and Pies: We’re going to have a Chicken and Leek Pie for Sunday lunch when my mum stays.
Breakfast and Patisserie: Patisserie is something I’ve not very experienced in and nwould prefer to try new techniques when I have mopre time. Instead I’ll stick to the good old muffins and make up the 30 Day Muffin batter. I’ll either make the muffins into apple and cinnamon or banana and maple syrup ones.
Baked Meals: Loads to choose from here but I reckon the Simple Sausage and Bean Bake will be perfect for a quick and easy dinner one night this week.
Holiday and Celebration: For the final chapter here there is a huge selection to choose from again but I know my family would love the Festive Jam Cookie Sandwiches.
Not really much of a challenge for a fairly experienced baker like I am but then again I don’t have much time at the moment. Let’s see what happens- watch this space!
Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’m doing a Cooking The Books Challenge. This started off well back at the start of the year but then as life got in the way! I logged on to update SmartCookieSam and realised it’s been well over a month since my last post. I haven’t been quiet on the baking front though. It’s mainly been trying out recipes from The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking cookbook that came out to accompany the latest series.
So the idea of this post is to share with you some of the bakes I’ve made from the book. Here goes!
I love baking traybakes as a little goes a long way, especially at coffee mornings or fairs. The Golden Carrot traybake was a big success at my school’s MacMillan Coffee morning. I had to put pieces aside for the staff before they all got sold!
I also baked the Irish Brack recipe from the Bread Chapter of the book. It was very similar to the Yorkshire Tea Loaf recipe I regularly make. This went along to the MacMillan Coffee morning and about half of it sold, not as popular as carrot cake!
For one of the Sunday lunch puddings over the past few weeks I’ve been trying out various recipes from the Bake Off book. When on holiday in Normandy several years ago I loved the melt in the mouth apple tarts you could buy in the local patisseries. The tart is called Somerset Apple Tart in this recipe because it calls for Somerset Apple Brandy if you have it. Mine was Normandy Apple Tart as it had genuine Calvados in it. I love Calvados in cream to go with mince pies at Christmas but would struggle to drink any, too strong for me! Of course I would not get a job as a patisserie chef with my offering. When blind baking the pastry case I left it in the oven a bit too long and the sides burned. At least Mary Berry would be impressed that the tart didn’t have a soggy bottom though! My two kids, especially my son weren’t impressed by the tart. They said “Yuck, cooked apples!” Everyone else enjoyed it though and all the better with a splodge of whipped cream on the side.
Being a sweet toothed monster I thought it was about time I tried out some savoury recipes and I wanted to try out the cheese and mustard loaf. I thought it would be perfect on an Autumn Saturday along with a bowl of warming soup. So last Saturday I baked the loaf to have with some homemade vegetable soup. Again, my son wasn’t complimentary about my baking saying “Why do you have to put cheese in it? Why can’t you just cook some “normal” white bread?” Been there, done that, wanted to try something else! Both my hubby and I enjoyed a big slice with our soup though.
My hubby is a cheese lover and would prefer cheese and biscuits instead of a pudding if we go out anywhere. He reminds me of Wallace when he says “Got any cheese?” so the other day I bought some Harrogate BlueShepherd’s Purse Cheese and had a go at Norman’s Farthing Biscuits from the Bake Off book. I thought Norman was a lovely guy, one of my favourite contestants from this year’s series. His quote about Tiramisu “I can’t even spell it” or words to that effect makes me smile. So I was keen to try out his recipe for Farthing Biscuits although mine seemed to puff up a bit in the oven. They tasted great though and even my fussy son liked them. Thankyou Norman, will be baking these again!
Another Sunday dinner or lunch dessert. These individual puddings were made in my Alan Silverwood Pudding Moulds which I think I bought from Lakeland. They are massive though and I should have shared one with my hubby. Anyway both of us were feeling greedy and had one to ourselves. No wonder I am struggling with my weight and was up half the night afterwards with heartburn. It did taste like heaven though; white chocolate sponge topped with a chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce is plain chocolate, cream and butter heated together.
I was given some apples to use up from a neighbour so I incorporated some of them into this Sticky Apple Sponge Pudding. Very like the flavours of a Sticky Toffee Pudding but with sliced apples added to the bottom of the dish. A hit with all of the family despite the kids pulling the sliced apples off the cake. Apart from that it was scrumptious.
I love anything with ginger in it so I just had to bake the Grasmere Gingerbread recipe in the Bake Off book. I can’t get enough of Grasmere Gingerbread but the original recipe is a closely guarded secret. I bet this is as near to it as you get though. The gingerbread was going to be taken with me into work to put in the staff room but it never got there. All my family kept nibbling!
I also love anything with almonds in, so I was keen to have a go at the Morello Cherry Bakewell Tart. I’ve had a go at Bakewell tart a few times before but always used raspberry jam in it. I bought some Morello Cherry Jam in the supermarket and baked this version for another of our Sunday lunch desserts. I was surprised when my son said he liked it! I nearly passed out cold on the floor! HE ACTUALLY LIKED SOMETHING I BAKED! Well, I know it’s a winner then. Again I managed to overbake the pastry. Why is it that there’s always something else going on?
In the true spirit of the challenge I haven’t baked everything I set out to bake. I really wanted to have a go at some of the more complicated bakes such as the Princesstarta, the Kouign Amann’s and a couple of the savoury pies. But it has been so busy recently and I have really struggled to fit these bakes in around my day job and what I’d actually need them for.
Watch this space for November’s challenge: I’m going to be changing things a bit so I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve worked it all out!
It’s been a few weeks since I updated my blog. There’s been so much going on. Once the school holidays are over I’m back into work mode and there is barely time to get the jobs around the house done. Then again, I haven’t managed to get anywhere near my computer. So I thought I’d better get something writen down.
My August Cooking The Books recipe book challenge from Scandelicious Baking seems like a lifetime ago now. Although I found it enjoyable and I had plenty of time, I didn’t get round to baking two of the recipes I’d originally planned to bake. These were a Pistachio Pavlova with Boozy Cherries and a Norwegian AlmondTart. I don’t know what happened at the end of the holidays, guess I just ran out of time.
So, to recap I think I would like to look at what I did get round to making. On the whole I have really enjoyed testing out some delicious recipes. Different flavours and things I wouldn’t have thought to try.
I love making fish pie for my family so I thought the Scandelicious Fish Gratin would go down well with my family. Instead of being topped with pastry, mashed potato or breadcrumbs this version of a fish pie was topped with some crushed Swedish Krisprolls. Well I didn’t crush them enough so the topping looked very rustic and unappealing. Also my son (who used to love my fish pie) refused to eat it.
To make the Fish Gratin filling I poached some cod cut into large chunks in some milk infused with peppercorns and nutmeg. After this I made a sauce which had leeks, onion, eggs and creme fraiche in to add to the fish. This was then poured into a baking dish ready to be topped with the crushed krisprolls!
After eating some savoury cheesecake from a buffet once I was keen to have a go at baking one myself. So I had a go at the Scandelicious Cheese and Onion Cheesecake. The cheesecake contained an oatcake and porridge oat base which had been combined with melted butter. To make the filling I whisked egg yolks with a pinch of salt, then added some Quark and some cream cheese along with some flour, chopped spring onions and some cheese. Now in the recipe Signe Johansen suggests Vasterbotten cheese which I have never even heard of, let alone seen it in my local shops. In the end I used Jarlsberg cheese and grated it straight into the mixture. In another bowl I beat some egg whites which were then combined with the cheese mixture. When this was ready it went straight on top of the base and was baked in the oven for about half an hour.
I’m not very good at baking bread or using yeast but I wanted to have a go at the Spelt Picnic Buns. I’m not that used to using spelt flour either but I like eating spelt bread. These buns were meant to be useful for eating on a picnic but we never got to go on one as it was too cold or wet during the last couple of weeks of the school summer holidays. I baked the buns in my muffin tin but they were not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting them to turn out a lot a bigger than they were. They tasted delicious though and I had one spread with butter at breakfast.
So here ends the Cooking The Books Challenge for August and I had more challenges for days in the month than I had time for. There are lots more recipes I would love to bake from Scandelicious Baking. I can definitely recommend the book.