Apple Amber Cake

I cannot believe how lazy I’ve been about my blogging recently.  Life has just been so hectic and every time I try to sit down and write something, there’s always something else to do.  I’ve also started on a diet, so I have been trying my hardest not to bake as much. This is torture to me as I really miss it.  So I made a deal with myself. I  said I would bake only for Cake Club or for special occasions. Famous last words: I lasted 4 days after joining Slimming World!  It got to Sunday lunch time and I was working my way through a massive bag of beautiful rosy apples my Dad and step mum had given me.  I just had to bake something and found the perfect recipe in Miranda Gore Browne’s book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can.

Apple Amber is a traditional Irish pudding which is a bit like an Apple Meringue Pie.  Miranda’s recipe is a cake version where the base is a whisked lemon sponge.  The apples are spooned on top as a filling and then the meringue goes on top and is baked in the oven.  It sounded too mouthwatering for words.

First, I had to make the apple filling.  This I tried to do on the Sunday morning when really I should have been finishing off my pile of ironing.  The ironing basket was getting as tall as the Empire State Building but that didn’t stop me from baking!  I used 3 apples as they were quite small and finely chopped them.  Miranda had said to grate them but I find grating things hard work. So I peeled the apples, cored and sliced them into little cubes. They were then put into a pan to stew with some sugar.  As my apples were eaters and quite sweet, I drastically reduced the sugar but added in lemon juice.  Once the apples were pureed down a bit, I took them off the heat and stirred in two egg yolks.

Miranda suggests using a springform cake tin but I couldn’t find the right size one in my cupboard. I just used a normal circular tin but a deep one I use for Christmas cakes.  This gave me enough depth for the lemon sponge cake base, the filling and the meringue part.  As the filling was cooling, I started on the cake part. I whisked butter and sugar together in my KitchenAid, then added in some vanilla extract and two more egg yolks.  While this was whisking away I weighed out the dry ingredients for the cake. I used self raising flour, baking powder and some lemon zest. Finally I added in some milk.

The cake baked very quickly in my fan oven and only took about 20 minutes. I felt the time passed by in a flash as I was doing the meringue part while the sponge was cooking.  Apart from smashing an egg on the work top and then making a mess of separating another egg, I finally managed to make some meringue.  I’m getting better at meringues but sometimes I worry about burning them.

At last it was time to assemble the whole cake together and finish it off in the oven.  I spooned the apple mixture on top of the sponge still in its cake tin and then finally on went the meringue.  I wanted it to look like a big snowy mountain but it just looked like a big mess.  I just hoped it would taste nice.  Back into the oven it went for 15 minutes.

When the cake was ready to come out it smelled wonderful in my kitchen.  I gave it time to cool down before attempting to get the cake out of the tin.  It slid out easily apart from one tiny bit of sponge which got stuck to the side of the tin.  I had greased it, too.

Later on I served the Apple Amber Cake up for pudding.  I had a tiny mouthful and found it quite sugary, even with my sweet tooth. Funnily enough Mr SmartCookieSam, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth liked it and over the next couple of days had more slices of it.  My son ate the cake and meringue bit and left the fruit! I will definitely have a go at baking it again but was wondering if there was a way of reducing the sugar content in the meringue and the apple puree so that it didn’t taste so sweet.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Annabel Karmel’s Busy Mum’s Cookbook- A Review.

The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is the latest publication from food writer Annabel Karmel and was published a couple of months ago. My family have grown up with Annabel’s recipes right from when I started weaning my daughter back in 1998 using purees from the Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. I’ve bought several of her books over the years from her Family Meal Planner, to her Kids In The Kitchen inspired books, to her party recipe one. I’ve kept all the books though I don’t think my kids would appreciate butternut squash purees now! Having said that, I regularly go back to recipes from the Family Meal Planner, which has been my lifesaver in the kitchen for the past 16 years.

So, when Annabel brings out a new book which isn’t directed at babies and toddlers, I’m always keen to buy it. I was very impressed with the Busy Mum’s Cookbook as it fits into my lifestyle. I work most days as a supply teacher, a job I love but I’m always shattered when I get in from school.  All the recipes I have tried out of the book so far have fitted into the slot of being suitable for busy parents and not just Mums!

The introduction states: “Many of us stick with what we know and trust when it comes to cooking, especially when our lives are busier than ever! Yet the result is often a collection of six or seven failsafe recipes that families rely upon week in week out!” 

I have easily fallen into that trap. I think I’ve cooked chilli con carne or chicken curry every week for the past year but I do it because I know my son will eat it. Annabel Karmel’s own children have always been a massive part of her cookery career, she tests recipes out on them and there used to be photos of them in her earlier books. Now they are grown up but they still influence her recipes, just like I do when I try to recreate my own dishes at home. 

The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is split up into seven sections each featuring a stack of recipes to suit all lifestyles. 

Roasted Tomato and Pesto Pasta.
Chapter One is called “20 Minute Recipes” and features plenty of recipes which can be cooked in a very short time. Last Monday evening I tried out the Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto on my family. It says the cooking time is 10 mins and the preparation time, 8 minutes. I had to roast the cherry tomatoes in the oven with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar which took all of 10 minutes. While the tomatoes were roasting the pasta was cooking on the hob. When it had cooked I added pesto sauce to the pasta and mixed it with the tomatoes and mozzarella pieces. Ideal for a a quick weeknight supper.

Golden Syrup and Ginger Loaf Cake
Annabel’s baking recipes are just divine and I must admit I always looked at the baking and dessert chapters first when I bought her earlier books. For every special occasion dinner I must have made Annabel’s naughty but nice version of Tiramisu and baked a lot of her cakes and cookies  for children’s parties. I know sweets and desserts get a bad press but to be honest I can’t see the problem in having the odd treat here or there. So it was great to see a handful of delicious recipes at the back of the book in the Sweets chapter.  Last Sunday I tried out the Golden Syrup Ginger Cake which is described as a “deliciously moist, gently spiced cake (which is) perfect for an afternoon tea treat.” 

 To me it sounded like McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake which I used to eat as a child for tea at my Nana Margaret’s house. I’ve not had it for years. So I was tempted to try baking the cake to see if it was the same. I used my Nordicware Gingerbread Man Loaf Bundt pan which has only been used once before, great to give it another outing. I greased the pan well with Wilton Cake Release.  Flour, caster sugar, cinnamon and ginger were combined in one bowl. In another in went eggs, sunflower oil and golden syrup. They were then mixed together and the batter poured into the tin.  It tasted lovely even though I could have done with more mixture to fill the tin! It looked very small! 

Three Tomato Bruschetta, although only one type was used in my version.
Last Friday night was perfect to sit out and enjoy the gorgeous sunny weather. I had loads of tomatoes to use up and had the idea of making the Three Tomato Bruschettas for my family. Though we only had one type of tomato, this recipe was a lot more fiddly than I thought. I had to peel and de-seed a whole punnet of cherry tomatoes which took a lot of time. The Bruschetta recipe is in the Lunchboxes and Snacks chapter.  Lunchboxes is something I never get right. When my kids were at primary school they had Lunchboxes and I used Annabel’s own Lunchboxes book for ideas when my daughter first started in Reception. Her pasta salads and fruit salads with dips would come back untouched and she used to say “Why can’t I have fruit winders in my lunchbox?” Or “……has Cheesestrings in hers, why can’t I?” I tend to be a bit disorganised with my own lunches, I end up with half a carton of soup or a noodle pot. If I’m feeling really lazy then I buy a sandwich from a local garage with an M&S food shop attached to it. Same goes for my husband, when he’s working in his office, he’s across the road from a fantastic bakery so he nips there for a sandwich or a pasty. The kids follow what their friends are doing in town. So unless I sort myself out, I can’t see myself using the lunch box recipes much!

Chocolate and Oat Cookies

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love baking biscuits, hence my blog name SmartCookieSam. Last Friday I had some spare time and decided to bake some of Annabel’s Chocolate and Oat Cookies. My son is going through his GCSEs at the moment and my daughter has been busy in her college course. What better than a sweet treat to start half term off? The cookies were very simple to make using butter, brown sugar, flour, an egg, some vanilla extract, baking powder, a small amount of ground ginger, porridge oats and dark chocolate cut into chunks.  No sooner than they had been put on the cooling rack, then half of them disappeared! That’s a good sign. If they’re still there in the biscuit tin a few days later that’s when I start getting worried. 

Pasta Arrabiata

My son and husband aren’t massive pasta fans but they liked the Pasta Arrabiata recipe. It was a perfect standby storecupboard supper to knock up after a busy day at work. It went very well washed down with a couple of glasses of wine! I forgot to tell hubby that Arrabiata sauce has chillies in it! 

There was another chapter in the book dedicated to Entertaining. Well I can’t remember the last time I had friends round for dinner. It was probably about 10 years ago. Ever since I went back to work doing dinner parties is the last thing on my mind. Though I have had several parties and get togethers. This usually ends up being buffet food or a BBQ or maybe cakes and lots of drink though! I can’t see me cooking any recipes from the Entertaining chapter soon,  though! 

So, to sum up I was extremely impressed with Annabel’s book. It is going to be well used in the next few years I bet as it was the case with her baby and toddler feeding books. I can wholeheartedly recommend it! 

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx

Coconut and Cherry Sponge Cake- Mercers of Yorkshire Cherry Jam.

Cherry and Coconut Sponge, a twist on an old retro favourite from childhood.

 A couple of years back as family circumstances changed we stopped having our traditional Sunday lunch at lunchtime.  My daughter was out at work and would miss having a Sunday lunch and the chance for us all to sit down over a roast dinner.  So our Sunday meal got moved to the early evening once she was in from work.  Because we were eating late I stopped making a Sunday pudding.  I really miss making a pudding on a Sunday as we don’t usually indulge throughout the week. It just makes it a bit more special.  This last Sunday I really wanted to test out an idea I had for a Cherry and Coconut Sponge cake using some Red Cherry Jam I had picked up at the Good Food Show a couple of weeks back.  It was baked in a bit of a rush though.  I have been running around like a headless chicken this weekend trying to get all my jobs done as it is a busy time for me at work in my day job supply teaching. I don’t want to be ironing or cleaning bathrooms when I’ve got in from work during the week, so I’ve been trying to keep on top of things.

 

Baking this cake gave me a great opportunity to use some special products like my favourite. Sugar and Crumbs icing sugars.
 

It was 2pm and I’d only just got dressed!  That makes me sound like a right lazy slob but if I don’t have to go anywhere I stay and do all my housework in my PJ’s. I ironed, cleaned the bathrooms, hoovered and dusted upstairs and by 2pm I was ready for a cup of tea and a baking session.

To bake the Coconut and Cherry Sponge Cake I adapted Lynn Hill (Founder of The Clandestine Cake Club’s) own recipe from the first Clandestine Cake Club cookbook which was published back in 2013.  This cake was wonderfully retro, the sort you grew up eating or your granny baked.  I don’t remember my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) baking it, though I do remember her baking lemon cake and fruit cakes.

I started by greasing and lining two 8″ diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins.  Once this was done I then weighed out some softened butter and caster sugar. This was creamed together with my hand held electric whisk.  To this I added three free range eggs, one at a time and then some self raising flour. Lynn’s original recipe calls for using vanilla extract for flavouring, but instead I used a few drops of some natural coconut extract which comes from Lakeland.  To add to the coconut flavour I also added some dessiccated coconut. The mixture was then divided between the two cake tins and put in the oven, preheated to 160oC.  After about 25 minutes when the cakes were risen and sprung back when touched, out they came to cool on the worktop.

While the cakes had been cooking I thought about how I could decorate the cake. Lynn’s original recipe used a butter and cream cheese icing which sounded delicious along with a filling of jam.  I decided to use some of my Mercers of York Cherry jam which is absolutely delicious.  Instead of the butter and cream cheese icing which I couldn’t do anyway as I didn’t have the cream cheese, I whipped up a carton of cream and to this I added some Sugar and Crumbs Natural Flavour Coconut Icing Sugar.  I got this ready and decided to go out for a run.  I’m doing the Couch To 5K app at the moment as I’m entering the Race For Life in June so I’m trying to train when I can.  An hour later, I’m back home feeling a bit tired but ready to decorate the cake.

One top of one cake I spread about 6 tbsp jam and to the other I spread about half the coconut cream mixture. These were then sandwiched together. The rest of the cream was spread on the top of the cake with a dozen glace cherries spaced around the edge. To finish off, I sprinkled desiccated coconut on top of the cake.

 

A blast from the past.. a sponge topped with dessicated coconut. I chose to use cream instead of buttercream for my icing.
  

A coconut flavour sponge, layered with cherry jam and coconut cream.

Even though the cake was meant to be a Sunday dessert treat we were far too full to eat it.  So at the time of typing it is in a box in my fridge waiting to be eaten throughout the course of the week. 

 

A perfect Sunday afternoon treat.
 

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Colourful Chinese Egg Fried Rice #LittleKitchen

To make a change from my usual baking and sweet recipes which I create, it has been a welcome change to bring you something completely different. This is a recipe I have used for nearly 15 years with my own two children and also one that has been made at an After School cookery club that I used to run.

When Wren Kitchens contacted me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would like to be involved in their #LittleKitchen campaign, I was really excited. Although I’m really busy at the moment in my teaching career and with home commitments, I love to take part in schemes which are very close to my heart.

The #LittleKitchen campaign has been created to encourage children to cook by being involved in food preparation and cooking. Wren Kitchen’s philosophy is something I heavily relate to: the kitchen is the heart of the home and where the family whatever their ages are able to come together. They talk, prepare food and have fun while they’re doing it.  At the same time you spend precious family time together as well as creating healthy and delicious food.  Not only that but by being involved in the food preparation process, children have fun, a sense of responsiblity and also are more likely to eat something that they’ve made themselves.

 It is always a challenge to find meals which tick all the boxes.  Is it delicious? Does is contain portions of fruit and veg which will count towards your 5 a day? Will the kids actually like it? I think this recipe has proved time and time again that it does fulfill that need.

My Chinese Egg Fried Rice recipe is one that children of all ages can help to create and it is a valuable recipe to add to the repertoire. I am convinced that being able to cook simple, yet nutritious, but fun meals is a valuable life skill as everyone has to eat. My own daughter is off to uni this autumn and she will be able to cook the Egg Fried Rice for herself and her friends.  The beauty in this recipe is that you can used whatever leftover veg you have left over, so long as they are chopped up small.  It can also have frozen peas and sweetcorn in it so it fills out the dish. All the ingredients are cheap so it is a useful budget dinner.

CHINESE EGG FRIED RICE

You need:

225g dry weight long grain or basmati rice

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped finely.

1 pepper, deseeded and chopped

Approx 75g frozen peas

2 medium eggs, beaten

3 tbsp rapeseed oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

If you fancy substiuting any of the vegetables, feel free.  I sometimes use 3 or 4 spring onions in the rice instead of the ordinary onions. I used a yellow pepper here but the colour doesn’t matter. Just use whatever you have at hand.

108
All you need for you and your children to make this delicious egg fried rice.
109
Step 1: Cook the rice following the instructions on the packet.
110
After about 5 minutes cooking time, add the diced carrots to the boiling pan of rice.  About 5 minutes after that add your frozen peas or maybe if you fancy it, some sweetcorn.
111
In a frying pan or a wok, heat one tablespoonful of oil, then soften the onions and peppers for five minutes or so while the rice is still cooking.
112
Crack two eggs into a small bowl and beat them up.
113
Set the softened onions and peppers aside on a small plate and heat up the remaining two tablespoonfuls of rapeseed oil.
114
Pour the beaten eggs into the heated frying pan or wok. Fry in the oil for a minute.
115
Flip over the mini omelette and cook for another minute. As this picture shows I’m rubbish at making omelettes.
116
Chop the omelette up into tiny, bite size pieces.
117
Mix the drained rice mixture with the softened onions, peppers and the chopped egg as well as some soy sauce.
119
Serve in a massive bowl and let everyone help themselves. My family love this fried rice with left over chicken pieces which is great for a leftover Sunday roast dish.

KIDS IN THE KITCHEN:

Even very young children can take part in making this dish.  My own two children used to help by using a child friendly knife to cut and prepare easy to cut vegetables like peppers and to help weigh out ingredients.  I included them in every step of the process even though they kept away from the hob when I was frying the vegetables and boiling the rice.  When the dish was put on the table I let them serve themselves.

As children get older they are more able to cope with cutting more difficult vegetables, such as onions and will be able to peel the carrots.  You could involve them by adding the vegetables and rice to the pans at the right time and they could stir the contents of the pan.  They could also make the omelette with help.  Teenagers will easily able to cook the Egg Fried Rice without supervision. Though my children will always leave me their mess to clean up afterwards!

Happy Cooking.

Love Sam xx

Family Mealtimes with Dr Oetker Pizzas

I was really looking forward to my pizza tea.

One pizza for each of my family minus hubby who was away working
 This is a blog post I was meant to write about last month and due to all my crazy commitments it never got written. Now half term is here I’m beginning to catch up with myself again. Blogging ends up being pushed to the back of the queue when I’m trying to get everything else sorted.
Anyway, I was contacted by Brazen PR who asked me if I would like some vouchers to try out Dr Oetker’s new product, their Calzone Speciale. I said yes, all my family love Calzone if we go out for an Italian meal. We also love the Dr Oetker Ristorante Pizzas which to me are very useful if you are having a busy week and don’t have much time to cook.
Dr Oetker Calzones are only available in Asda at the moment. I don’t often go to Asda, as both local Asdas are about 12 miles away from me and I find them far too crowded. I can never get a parking space when I go to Asda!  I do like Asda though, don’t get me wrong. It’s just I have other supermarkets nearer to me. The vouchers could also  be used with the Ristorante Pizzas so that’s what I decided to do as they were more widely available.  I found these in my local supermarket which is Morrisons.

I chose three different flavour pizzas, two of which my children had already tried and loved. According to Dr Oetker’s website they are “the nation’s favourite thin and crispy pizza” which cooks “to perfection in  about 10 minutes” I must admit I don’t buy pizzas that often, they’re usually something I enjoy when eating out. But I was keen to try the Pollo flavour, which had chicken and sweet corn on the top. I knew my kids would scoff down their favourite, the Pizza Mozzarella which is like a Margarita pizza with basil on top. Another winner in our house is the Pepperoni Salami one.

One busy Thursday night last month I had just the opportunity to use the pizzas. Hubby had been in London working for the day and had eaten out. I had been at work all day and as soon as hubby got back I was on the road to my mum’s overnight about 2 hours away. So a quick but tasty dinner was needed. Usually I try to share out the flavours but my kids said “Ugh no!” to the chicken one. So I ended up with it.

I would give my pizza 3 stars out of 5. Even though it had been in the oven for the recommended time and temperature it tasted doughy to me. I don’t like deep pan pizzas and much prefer thin and crispy bases. The topping was ok, but I’m not really a fan of chicken on pizza. My kids enjoyed their pizzas and they loved the bases. They also thought there were plenty of toppings. 

pollo, pepperoni and Mozzarella pizzas from Dr Oetker Rstorante range

Thankyou so much again to Brazen PR who very kindly sent me the Dr Oetker vouchers. I’m hoping to try the Calzones in the fur when I can get to my nearest Asda.

Love Sam xx

Forever Summer with Nigella Lawson

Forever Summer? Now wouldn’t that just be the ticket? As I look out of my kitchen window at a cold, wet and rainy landscape I can’t help thinking we have been just a little bit short-changed here in the UK when it comes to summer.  I was lucky enough to escape to Ibiza for a week in August which was wonderful, even though we were blessed with rain and thunderstorms when we were there. But it wouldn’t be a British Bank Holiday if it wasn’t raining would it?

When I came back from Ibiza I was determined to hold on to the concept of summer.  I am definitely a Spring and Summer person. I have much more energy and get up and go when the sun is out. To me, summer is a time when I can open up the patio doors, sit out with a drink and my cross stitch and to relax.  Being a teacher in my day, this relaxation is very important to me in the school holidays when I’m not rushing around after my teenagers.  To me, summer is also a time when you can eat simple but delicious food or even get the BBQ out. Though to be honest we have only had about 3 BBQs this year. The last one was nearly cancelled as the heavens opened when my husband pulled the BBQ out and got it set up!

Another thing I tend to do when I have more time is to cook from recipe books I’ve bought but not had time to do anything with. I love Nigella and use her recipes a lot but there’s one book on my shelf of hers that I’ve hardly used.  To be honest it’s my brother’s book which I’m borrowing off him. He lives in Canada but he’d left two of his Nigella books at my mum’s house! So Paul if you’re reading this I hope you don’t mind, I’m looking after them for you and making good use of them!  One of the books is Nigella’s “Forever Summer” and upon reading it you are immediately transported into a world of dinners and BBQs on a terrace, with the blazing sun pouring down as you chat and sip on a delicious cocktail.  Instead I’m thinking it’s more like bangers and mash weather than bangers on the BBQ here.

But it is a shame that the UK climate and all our wishes of a gorgeous hot summer were dampened down this year. I’m determined to still enjoy some yummy food though.  Over the last few days I have enjoyed testing out a couple of the recipes from Forever Summer in the vain hope that we might get some better weather to take us into September.

Last weekend we had a quiet Bank Holiday weekend at home and when it is like this you want to enjoy good food and great company of family and friends.  For Sunday I attempted some Mint Chocolate Mousse which is one of the delicious dessert recipes in Forever Summer.  Nigella says it “tastes best when made with the best quality mint chocolate”. I tend to use Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense bars as they have mint pieces and oil in it rather than a soft fondant. But when I was out meeting my friend for coffee we went to a local farm shop which didn’t sell any mint chocolate bars. There were some other gorgeous ones to choose from but I had my heart set on a mint mousse.  In the end I bought good quality chocolate buttons and added some peppermint extract that I already had at home.

122
I bought two large packets of Montzenuma organic dark chocolate buttons from a local farm shop. They were absolutely gorgeous. To make them minty flavour I added a couple of drops of natural peppermint extract bought from Lakeland.

I was a bit nervous about making chocolate mousse as it involves separating eggs which I always muck up. Then I had to whisk egg whites.  I managed though and the mousse turned out much better than expected.  Shared out equally and spooned into rather retro looking sundae dishes, this pudding turned out to be a lovely decadent treat.

124
The chocolate mousse made five large dishes full. Served in my late mother-in-law’s sundae dishes which was a great excuse to get them out of the cupboard! The mousse was filling, creamy and rich.

For Bank Holiday Monday I wanted to create a Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake.  The picture in the book showed a mouthwatering sandwich cake.  Each layer had the sponge cake and was then topped with a layer of chewy meringue and finished off with a sprinkling of flaked almonds.  Well, it serves me right for not reading the recipe right.  I did separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl.  But that’s where it ended.  Instead of keeping the meringue separate, I wasn’t concentrating and threw the egg whites in with the rest of the sponge.  That wasn’t meant to happen! So in the end I was left with a flatter version of a Victoria Sponge!  I didn’t have any flaked almonds in either, so I sprinkled on some icing sugar hoping that it might make the cake half decent!  We were far too full up after our gammon. and pineapple so the cake went in the fridge to eat during the week.  It tasted ok and a small slice was very welcome when I got in from work absolutely exhausted after a long day.

123
Here is my bungled attempt at the Strawberry Meringue and Cream Cake in Nigella’s Forever Summer book. As you can see it looks as flat as a biscuit and no sight of any meringues!

For our Bank Holiday dinner I cooked a gammon joint.  I usually boil gammon in a large pot on my hob so it takes all the salt out of it.  This time I tried it in my slow cooker which didn’t turn out too well.  It was still very salty and the meat instead of coming out in slices, fell apart like pulled pork!  I attempted to make the accompanying pineapple salsa.  None of my family liked it though, which was disappointing.

IMG_2764
We tried some Gammon with Pineapple last weekend for the Monday Bank Holiday. It didn’t turn out how it should have done as I tried cooking it in my slow cooker. The pineapple salsa wasn’t my cup of tea either!

For me, summer conjures up beautiful coloured and tasty salads.  One of my favourite salads is a well made Greek Salad so I was keen to try the version in Nigella’s book.  Her version includes fennel though which I can’t stand as I don’t like anything with an aniseed flavour.  I left it out.  This version also includes some finely sliced red onion which was marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar and sprinkled with black pepper.  The salad was absolutely delicious, the feta cheese and olives were just delicious, a mixture of creaminess and saltiness in the same dish.

Nigella's Ultimate Greek Salad, was delicious as a side with roast chicken and roasted Mediterranean vegetables.
Nigella’s Ultimate Greek Salad, was delicious as a side with roast chicken and roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

I have really enjoyed cooking from Forever Summer over the past few days. There are a lot of recipes in the book which my family won’t touch with a bargepole but I’m keen to dip in and out of it.  Let’s hope we have a decent summer next year!

Love Sam xx

 

Cheese? Yes Please! Cooking with Pilgrim’s Choice Cheddar.

A couple of weeks back I was contacted by Pilgrim’s Choice to see if I would be interested in trying out some of their cheeses and to use them in my baking and cooking.  I was only too happy to agree as we love eating and cooking with cheese in our house.

So I was sent a voucher for two large packs of cheese which I took along to my local Sainsbury’s when I was doing my weekly shop and chose two sorts of cheddar. To be honest this was the only variety of Pilgrim’s Choice cheese available in my nearest Sainsburys but this was perfect to fit around what I would be able to cook and use with my family.  It was great to think about how I could use the cheese.  I tried to think of as many different ways of using it as possible.  Also, I love to see how far I can make products go using a minimum of waste or money.  Many thanks to Pilgrim’s Choice for giving me the opportunity to try out their cheese.  I know there are many more varieties to taste which I do hope to try out in the future!

148

Although I was keen to get started, it wasn’t until the following weekend that I actually got started on my “Cheesy Challenge”.  I was very busy at work and it was very tempting to hack into the cheese and just use it for sandwiches.  Though you can’t beat a gorgeous mature cheddar and pickle sandwich! But that wasn’t the point, I had to think and be creative.  My friends on Facebook and Twitter came up with some great suggestions and my mouth started watering, especially at the thought of baking cheese scones!

Here is what I did get round to cooking with my delicious Pilgrim’s Choice cheese:

One Sunday lunch we had a large bacon, leek and cheese quiche served with the mature Pilgrim’s Choice cheddar.  This had new potatoes and salad with it.  The following day we sneaked the leftovers for lunch. I adapted Holly Bell’s “Man Quiche” recipe from her fabulous book “Recipes From A Normal Mum”,

054
To make a Bacon, Leek and Cheddar version of Holly Bell’s Man Quiche I grated some Pilgrim’s Choice mature cheddar and added it to the quiche filling. This went really well with the leeks, bacon, tarragon and double cream.
055
The uncooked “Man Quiche” about to go into the oven to be baked.
056
The cooked Man Quiche.

I love using cheese as part of a snacky lunch on a cold winter’s day.  I was on my own one Saturday lunchtime and wanted something comforting, yet filling. I had some leeks still to use up after the quiche and knew they went well with cheese so thought I’d try and put them in my cheese on toast lunch.

149
I softened some leeks using some Frylight spray in a small saucepan.
150
I grated some Lighter Pilgrim’s choice cheese and added it to a beaten egg in a mixing bowl.
151
The cheese and leek mixture was spooned onto a couple of pieces of toast and put under the grill to melt.
152
The Cheese and leeks on toast was absolutely delicious and kept me warm. It was very filling and I really enjoyed my Saturday lunch.

I was absolutely rubbish at my Home Economics classes at secondary school, such a long time ago back in the 1980s!  But one dish I remember cooking was a very economical Cheese and Potato Pie.  You mixed cooked mashed potato with grated cheese and put it in a dish on top of a layer of baked beans.  This was then put in the oven and cooked until crispy.  I loved this meal and made it a lot when I was single and also as a student as it was so cheap to cook.  I decided to cook it one Wednesday evening as it had been a busy day at work and I didn’t have much left in the fridge.  I cooked it with some gorgeous bacon from the local farm shop and my children absolutely loved it.  My daughter asked me why I didn’t cook the Cheese and Potato Pie more often.  I don’t know why but I need to cook it more often, there were clean plates all round!

164
Cooked creamy mashed potato to which I added grated Pilgrim’s Choice lighter cheddar.
165
A layer of baked beans was added to the bottom of the pie dish.
166
Grated cheese being added to the mashed potato.
169
The Cheese and Potato Pie was baked in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top became all crunchy and crispy.
170
The cheese and potato pie served with a couple of rashers of crispy bacon.

My final bake with the Pilgrim’s Choice Mature Cheddar was by making these absolutely massive Cheese Scones. The recipe I used was adapted from one of Paul Hollywood‘s recipes.  It should have been a Cheese and Chive Scone recipe but I added paprika instead of chives and made the scones twice as big as they should have been.  They contained a chopped red onion too and gave the scones a delicious sweet taste to them.  I baked them last Tuesday during half term week for us to have instead of a piece of bread or a roll with some soup at lunchtime.  I discovered that they tasted much better warm, slathered with butter and were at their best when they were totally fresh.  My daughter and I loved them but my son wasn’t so keen on them.

002
My enormous Cheddar Cheese and Onion scones based on a Paul Hollywood recipe.
003
Cut in half and waiting for some butter to go on top of them. Just delicious!

I was very impressed with the two large packs of Pilgrim’s Choice cheese I used.  The packs were resealable and kept well in my fridge.  I know I will buy more in the future as the large packs were tremendous value and were perfect for my family and our needs.

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx