Leek and Potato Soup

I love a good bowl of soup. I don’t make it often enough and I should do.  It’s cheap to make, filling and keeps you warm on a cold day.

One of my favourite soups is Leek and Potato and thankfully it’s one that the rest of my family will eat, too.  Though in the past I didn’t tell my son it had leeks in it, I just used to say it was vegetable soup to him in case he turned his nose up at it.

About  three weeks back I made this delicious, comforting soup. (see, I’m really behind with the blogging at the moment). Anyone fancy buying me a new laptop? No, I thought not. My laptop is slow and keeps disconnecting from the Internet. Not a serious problem in the scheme of things but it does slow work down somewhat.

I adapted the recipe from Mary Berry’s Cookery Course, which is a well used book on my shelf.  First the leeks and onions were chopped up and fried gently in butter. After that, in went some thinly sliced potatoes.  To this I then added some hot chicken stock.  Unfortunately it wasn’t home made, sorry Mary! The soup was then seasoned and left to simmer.  Mary Berry’s recipe also suggests a few gratings of nutmeg. I didn’t have any nutmeg but I sprinkled on some parsley instead.

After about 20-30 minutes simmering I took the pan off the heat and allowed the soup to cool down for a couple of minutes. Out came the stick blender to puree up the soup. Finally. I added in a swirl of half fat creme fraiche. Mary’s recipe uses single cream but I didn’t have any so, creme fraiche had to do.

A perfect lunchtime bowl of soup for myself and Mr SmartCookieSam with a chunk of crusty bread.  There was enough left for me to have for lunch on two days during the week either at home or at work.

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Tomato Provençale Tart.

The SmartCookieSam family have just come back from our summer holidays in the South of France.  It’s been 9 years since we last went to France.  We’ve always loved going there and as I speak French, it always feels like a special place to me.  Of course part of going to France is to enjoy all the lovely food and wine and our holiday  was no exception.

We stayed in a beautiful villa outside the medieval town of Flayosc near Draguignan and for most of our shopping used the huge Carrefour supermarket on the edge of Draguignan.  I was blown away by the sheer quality of the fruit and vegetables for a start.  Tomatoes never taste the same in the UK as they do in the mediterranean countries, to me.

The day after we got home I had to head up to our local supermarket to stock up.  I’d been so taken by all the Provencale type foods and dishes I’d seen, I was keen to make something  French for our dinner.  My son was over at his girlfriend’s house and he balks at anything with tomatoes in it unless it’s ketchup! I was looking in one of the Great British Bake Off books and found a mouthwatering sounding recipe in the book to accompany the 2013 series The Great British Bake Off Everyday.  There was a recipe for Roast Tomato Tart.  It captured all the typical Mediterranean flavours and could be adapted to have pesto sauce  in it in place of mustard.  I chose to stick with mustard.  The tart is a shortcrust pastry base infused with rosemary, baked blind and then spread with Dijon mustard and grated Gruyere cheese.  Then the tart is topped with sliced tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and then salt and pepper.

The recipe makes a tart in a circular 1 x 23cm loose based quiche tin but I chose to try out a rectangular flan tin I’d bought in John Lewis last year and never used.  I found I had slightly too many tomatoes to go in the tin but I just added them to the side salad I was serving with the tart.

Ingredients:

200g plain flour

1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (I used dried, as I didn’t have fresh)

140g butter chilled and diced

3-4 tbsp iced cold water

800g ripe tomatoes

1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard or pesto sauce

175g Gruyere or Emmental cheese, grated

1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

A couple of pinches of herbes de Provence

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, you make up the rosemary shortcrust pastry.  This can be done in a food processor or by hand.  I thought that by the time I’d faffed about getting the food processor out, I could have made up the pastry.  But if you have one and it’s not a pain getting it out of the cupboard, it makes making pastry so much easier.  Rub the butter into the flour until it makes fine breadcrumbs then add the water little by little.  Form into a ball with the end of a round bladed knife.  It should be a soft but not sticky dough.  Wrap the dough into cling film and put in your fridge to chill for about 15 minutes.

Flour your work top with some plain flour or if you’re like me, pour too much out so it goes all over the kitchen floor.  When you have done that, get the dough out of the fridge and roll the pastry out to fit the flan tin allowing extra to overhang because of shrinkage.

Then the oven needs to be heated up to 190oC/

 

Excuse the awful pictures but I was taking the photos in a hurry.  Especially doing them before Mr SmartCookieSam saw me taking the pictures and would say he didn’t “want to see his dinner on bloody Facebook!”

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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

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.

 

Sun Dried Tomato and Mozzarella with Spiralised Veg (Mary Berry Everyday)

I have a massive addiction to Lakeland. It’s very hard for me to come out of one of their stores empty handed. I see so many fantastic products on their shelves that I wish I just had the money or the room for in my kitchen.

At half term week I met up with my mum at Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield.  My mum and I both love cooking and baking. I’ve been trying to lose some weight and so far have lost 1 1/2 stone since last July.  I know I need some carbs in my diet but I would like to reduce this.  One way I can do this is to use a vegetable spiralizer instead of using pasta.  Ar first I thought, what’s wrong with a bit of pasta>  But then after going to a restaurant and trying courgetti for the first time, I actually found I liked it.

Since then I’ve been keen to get a spiraliser. There were about 5 or 6 different ones to choose from on the shelf in Lakeland, ranging from a hand held simple one to a massive one which had different interchangeable blades.  The one I chose sits comfortably on the work top. It  stays put with suction pads and has four different blades of varying thicknesses.  I thought that I would get a lot of use out of it, especially when my daughter is back from uni in her holidays.  Once I got the hang of using the spiralizer I was really enjoying it.  My first attempts were a bit messy and both the courgettes and carrots came out in short strips instead of the curly, long spirals I had seen on other peoples’  Instagram and Twitter pics. I made far too much for one person really as neither Mr SmartCookieSam or my teenage son like courgettes. Though I did mix in a few carrot spirals in with their spaghetti.

I decided to make Mary Berry’s Sundried Tomato Pasta sauce from her new Everyday book which is just out.  Not a success at all.  I didn’t chop the sun dried tomatoes up enough and Mr SmartCookieSam pushed them to the side of his plate. After that he said “I can’t eat this, sorry,” and put his knife and fork together.  I agreed with him but not only did the pasta dish taste vile, it looked vile as well.  The mozzarella was meant to be cut into little pieces on top of the sauce but it was so grainy and bitty that it was in large clumps.  It wasn’t the spiralised veg, they were lovely. It was the disgusting sauce.  So sorry to say this time but this is the first Mary Berry recipe which didn’t go down well in our house.

After we had tipped the disgusting food in the bin I went and found the biscuit tin. Mr SmartCookieSam asked for some cheese and crackers. So much for trying to eat healthily and cut carbs. I had four cream crackers with Brie on top.  Ooops, better luck next time!

Our New Years’ Day Tradition- Steak and Mushroom Pie.

Happy New Year!  I hope that 2017 brings you luck, health and happiness. 2016 was a mixed year for a lot of people and I just hope this year doesn’t continue in the same way.  I feel a different person to the one I was at the beginning of 2016 and now I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I will be going back to Slimming World after not being able to make recent group meetings as well as trying to breathe life into this blog. It’s been a bit neglected recently.  This I would love to change.

Every New Year’s Day in the past we have usually eaten a big lunch at home and then gone out for a walk afterwards.  I tend to bake a pie and serve it with lots of vegetables and gravy.  This year things were different.  My son had been out at a party and got back in the afternoon from his friends’ house.  My daughter was working from lunchtime until the evening.  Our family New Years’ Day lunch ended up being a quiet tea time instead.

I chose to bake a Steak and Mushroom Pie this time as I had some braising steak in the freezer.  It was a cinch to make as I made a cheat’s shortcut. Not with the shortcrust pastry- that was homemade but with the pie filling.  I love Gordon Rhodes’ Gourmet Sauce Mixes and buy them regularly from my local farm shop.  I used their Slow Comfortable Stew mix with braising steak, a large onion, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a little water. Cooked for about 6 hours on a low heat in my slow cooker, it made the beef melt in the mouth and taste deliciously tender. I can’t bear tough beef. The sauce mix also suggests adding in chopped potato and carrot but I didn’t do this seeing as I wanted to serve these with the pie. Instead, nearer the end of the cooking time I put 250g of halved mushrooms into the slow cooker to soften for the last half hour.

The shortcrust pastry was made with 175g cold butter cut into cubes, 350g of plain flout and ice cold water to mix.  There was plenty of pastry dough left over so I gathered it into a ball, wrapped it in cling film and put it in the freezer for another time.  I bet I’ll forget about it, go to the freezer in a few week’s time and think “What the hell is this?”

As it was New Year’s Day I found my large number cookie cutters and cut out 2017 to stick on the top.  Mr SmartCookieSam said it looked too nice to cut up.

Not a scrap left of the pie. I’m beginning to feel like who ate all the pies here after all I’ve eaten.  But I won’t give up baking, I’ll just have to keep myself away from it!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Payday Millionaire- Cheesy Potato Pie.

img_0903A few weeks ago  PaymentSense  approached me,  along with several other food bloggers to see if we could help.  The idea was for us to come up with a recipe to serve four people that would cost £5 to make. It could also be a meal which was able to be divided up and either serve 2 people over 2 days or be ideal for eating as four individual portions. asked some food bloggers if they would like to share their favourite go-to recipes. These had to be created with a budget of no more than £5 for 4 people in mind, Payment Sense  provide card payment services benefitting small businesses with their special rates and better customer services. We were not paid for our contributions.

 On their website PaymentSense also have some interesting and thought provoking articles. One article which is very relevant to my post is this one:

10 Truths About The Rise And Fall Of A Payday Millionaire

A few weeks ago  PaymentSense conducted some research into looking at how fast people are spending their disposible income once they have been paid and what their own situations can be like as they get closer to the end of the month.  The term “payday millionaire” means that once you are paid, people tend to act like money is no object, going around splashing the cash on unnecessary purchases and buying rounds of drinks.  I’m guilty of this, how many times have I gone out and bought a new pair of shoes or treated myself to a new Nordicware Bundt tin when I’ve just been paid. What was interesting was that the research showed that about one third of the people changed their eating habits in order to help budget their money until payday. So they would scrimp and scrape cooking on a budget or some may even attempt a diet!

I was approached, along with several other food bloggers to see if we could help.  The idea was for us to come up with a recipe to serve four people that would cost £5 to make. It could also be a meal which was able to be divided up and either serve 2 people over 2 days or be ideal for eating as four individual portions.

It didn’t take me long to choose which meal I would submit to the campaign. My Cheesy Potato Pie has been a firm favourite for many years.  I first started making it as a student about 25 years ago.  I also cooked it frequently for my own family as my two children were growing up. Now it has turned full circle and my daughter is now making the pie at uni.  Money was tight at home when my children were very young and I often behaved like a payday millionaire.  I still do but nowadays I have to be more careful.  I work as a supply teacher in my day job and the money comes in dribs and drabs according to when there is a demand for a supply teacher.  When it is the school holidays when I don’t have money coming in or when it is close to payday I rely heavily on meals like this.

My Cheesy Potato Pie is simple and quick to make.  It is served with a layer of baked beans on the bottom of the dish. The baked beans don’t have to be an expensive brand like Heinz. I only had Heinz in the picture as I’d bought a pack of 4 cans which were on special offer in the supermarket a couple of weeks before.  The same goes for the cheese topping. I  sometimes use the budget cheese or whatever’s on special offer at the time. To add a bit of  extra something to the pie, you can serve it with a side of bacon or sausages or even veggie burgers which my daughter prefers.  I even like eating the pie on its own and it’s a perfect choice of comfort food.  I know I’ll be making this lots once all the Christmas food has been eaten up, until our bank balances have had a chance to recover!

CHEESY POTATO PIE

Ingredients:

5-6 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks

1 x400g can of baked beans

100g grated cheddar cheese

butter and/ or milk to mash the potatoes with

8 sausages/ rashers of bacon or other accompaniment.

  • Put a large pan of water onto boil.
  • Peel and chop the potatoes and put into the pan of boiling water. Boil until soft.

  • Mash the potatoes with a knob of butter or with milk if you prefer. Or even use both!
  • Put the baked beans into a large ovenproof dish and spread them around, covering the bottom of the dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 180oC or Gas 4.

 

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Put the baked beans into an ovenproof dish.
  • Spread the mash evenly on top of the baked beans.
  • Grate the cheese and sprinkle it on top of the pie.
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Here’s the pie ready to be popped into the oven.
  •  Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the topping is crispy and golden brown.
  • While the pie is in the oven, cook the bacon or sausages in your preferred way.
  • Serve immediately.

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I chose to cook some sausages with my cheesy potato pie. The ones featured in the picture are frozen Slimming World ones which I found in Iceland a few weeks back.  I tend to get the best quality sausages I can find for the cheapest price but these were bought while I was following Slimming World leading up to Christmas.  Back to it in the New Year!

This pie could be made in four individual dishes or in two smaller ones which serve two people. It keeps well in the fridge overnight and can be frozen.

The cost of this dish is roughly about £4.00 including the sausages which makes this a very economical meal.