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

 

 

Christmas Leftovers- Mincemeat Loaf Cake.

I know it’s New Year now but I can’t bear throwing things out or wasting things.  As I’ve been doing Slimming World up to Christmas and hoping to start back at my local group on 4th January, I can’t really be baking things or eating leftover cake and mince pies.

But what to do with the two spare jars of homemade mincemeat which were sat taking up space in my cupboard? Mr SmartCookieSam said it would last until next Christmas but I’m not always so sure.  So I had a look through my recipe books and spotted an ideal way of using up a whole jar of mincemeat without taking too much time and effort up.

This Mincemeat Loaf Cake recipe comes from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection. The recipe actually makes two small loaves.

As Mary says in the recipe notes: ” These are great to have on hand at Christmas time. They freeze superbly and make a nice present…. the mincemeat adds spice and moisture to the cakes,”

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The idea that the cakes freeze well was a real winner for me.  I don’t want to be eating cakes right now but there is room in my freezer to put the loaves away and bring out for another time.  They’re always useful if one of my friends pops round for a cuppa or for taking into work to share with colleagues.

The recipe was simple to make.  I mixed mincemeat, softened butter, light muscovado sugar, 2 beaten eggs, self raising flour, currants and raisins together in a large mixing bowl.  To this I also added an extra teaspoonful of ground mixed spice. This was all mixed together and put into two loaf tins lined with special loaf tin liners.

 To finish off I needed to stud whole almonds into the top of the loaves.  I realised I didn’t have any whole almonds left, only flaked ones.  I sprinkled some flaked almonds on and also added some whole glace cherries before sticking the loaves in the oven.  They baked for about 1 1 /4 hours while I got on with the ironing.  As I was doing the ironing there was a lovely smell wafting about the kitchen, very tempting but not helpful when trying to lose weight!

The loaves didn’t look that big compared to what I was expecting, I would have preferred to have baked one big loaf instead of two tiny ones.  It smelled wonderful though and once it had cooled down I was tempted to cut one of the loaves open and see what the inside looked like.  I didn’t eat any, honest!

Wrapped up in cling film they’re now in the freezer.  Let’s hope I don’t forget I’ve made them!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Stem Ginger Shortbread #GBBOtwitterbakealong

When August comes around, it’s always exciting in lots of ways.  For me being a teacher the summer is my one chance to catch up.  It’s also usually when my family go on our summer holiday.  This year we went away in July instead but there has still been loads of things to enjoy.  Not only that but August means Great British Bake Off time!  This year it’s starting later (think it’s Wednesday August 24th) due to the Olympics but the excitement and the build up for GBBO fans has started already.

On Twitter I love to get involved with anything GBBO related and a few of my Twitter followers and friends are doing a bake along.  It’s called #GBBOTwitterBakealong and there’s a different theme each week. When the Bake Off is actually on, we’ll be baking something from the show like the technical bake for that week or something connected with that week’s theme.  This week on the Twitter Bake Along has been biscuits so we had to bake some biscuits and post them on Twitter.  I love any excuse to bake biscuits so I had a look at what was left in my baking cupboard and also looked at recipes I wanted to have a go at.

I looked in Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cooking and found the perfect recipe for busy weekend baking around all the other jobs I had to do.  It was her recipe for Stem Ginger Shortbread.  My whole family love it when I bake shortbread for them but aren’t so keen on the ginger.  The recipe called for five balls of stem ginger and that’s exactly what I had to use up.  It’s funny how my kids say they don’t like my ginger cookies, yet when I bake them they miraculously disappear.

Out came my well used and loved Alan Silverwood traybake tin.  It’s been bought thinking of Mary Berry and traybakes though this time, it was to make shortbread fingers.  I greased it carefully with Wilton Cake Release then started on the shortbread itself.  The stem ginger needed to be rinsed and patted dry so that the sticky syrup came off it.  This was easy enough and then I chopped the ginger into little chunks to go into the shortbread.  When I’d finished this, I then started on the shortbread itself.  I put tiny cubes of butter into a large mixing bowl and then added plain flour, rice flour and caster sugar to the mixture.  Mary’s recipe used semolina but I didn’t have any so I used some rice flour from the last time I baked shortbread. It gives the shortbread a nutty taste but works wonderfully well in the recipe.  All the ingredients were rubbed in together and then formed to make up a dry dough. At this stage, I tossed in the chopped stem ginger and then mixed it into the dough evenly.

The dough was carefully pressed into the tin with a back of a teaspoon so that it was level. To give it a crunchy topping Mary Berry suggested sprinkling on two tablespoonfuls of  Demerara sugar to the top of the shortbread.  I didn’t have any demerara sugar so I used light brown muscovado sugar instead. This was a bit clumpy though.

The shortbread baked for about 40 minutes and by this time it had turned a pale golden brown.  The smell was just heavenly and I was so tempted to scoff one there and then.  But I had to let them cool down so they could be cut up into fingers!

The shortbread fingers were divine and they went down very well.  As I type the day after, there are only 4 left! I need my jaw wiring with shortbread around! I didn’t eat them all though, please believe me!

The shortbread was cut into 12 fingers. Though one finger is never enough!
The Stem Ginger shortbread fingers were sprinkled with two types of sugar.
Stem Ginger Shortbread- from Mary Berry’s latest recipe book Foolproof Cooking.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Salted Caramel Chocolate Traybake 

 

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Salted Caramel Traybake- a recipe adapted from a Mary Berry recipe in her new book “Foolproof Cooking,”

 Last week I was getting over a nasty chest infection and didn’t have much energy. I spent about 9 consecutive nights sleeping on the sofa as it was the only place where I could sleep propped up on the sofa. I still didn’t sleep very well though and my back was in agony. I had to take time off work which I don’t like doing.  So the last two weeks I just wasn’t myself!

Thankfully I’ve been able to recover with it being the Easter holidays and have been back in the kitchen.  My son is currently working on a media studies film project and has had friends over to help him with filming. My daughter has been on hand to help out with the make up and special effects and good old mum here has been the transport and the catering manager!

Last Friday it had been a horrible day for filming. So when they finished after filming in the mud and the rain,  I thought they deserved a chocolatey treat.  But what could I give them?
In the end I found the perfect recipe to adapt in Mary Berry’s latest book “Foolproof Cooking”. I’ve had the book since it first came out but not made anything from it. The recipe is called “Bonfire Chocolate Traybake” and it looked perfect for feeding a crowd. Although being April it’s the wrong time of year for Bonfire Night but as Mary says in the recipe introduction: “Being a traybake it cuts into squares and is so perfect for packing into a box and sharing with family and friends at an event such as Bonfire Night,” Mary’s recipe was also  plain and didn’t need any decorating or icing. I chose to add icing on mine, though.

I love baking traybakes as they are easy to bake and always feed a crowd.

The finished traybake cut up into large squares.

The  traybake was very simple to put together.  I used my trusty Alan Silverwood traybake tin which was simply greased with Cake Release. I didn’t need any baking parchment to line the tin.

Mary’s original recipe uses dark chocolate but I used two 100g bars of Lindt Salted Caramel chocolate which I melted along with some butter.  When this was done, I weighed out some caster sugar and mixed this in with the melted chocolate mixture. This was then left to cool down then I added three eggs one at a time into the bowl.  Afterwards it was time to add the dry ingredients.  To keep the cake moist the cake is flavoured with ground almonds which are added at the same time as self raising flour and baking powder.  I could imagine the addition of ground almonds would also give a lovely flavour, as well as helping the cake to keep longer.

I added my own icing to the top of the traybake to finish it off.

  A very quick mixture to make up and one which didn’t have a list as long as your arm of ingredients.  Before long it was ready to be spooned into the tin and baked.  It didn’t take long to bake at all, only about 25-30 minutes.

The traybake smelled heavenly when it came out of the oven.  I know Mary Berry said the recipe didn’t need icing but I wanted to give it a finishing touch.  So as the cake was cooling I made up a chocolate icing using a bar of melted plain chocolate and melted butter.  This was quite runny on its own so I chose to add some icing sugar to thicken it up a bit.  I had stocked up on some of my favourite Sugar and Crumbs Salted Caramel Icing Sugar so I added 60g or 4 tbsp of it to the mix.  It thickened up beautifully and spread well onto the top of the traybake.  I cut the traybake up into portions and then to finish, sprinkled it with some gold sugar crystals I had in my baking cupboard.

When my son and his friends finished their filming, they were tired and hungry so a chocolate traybake square hit the spot for them.  As the traybake kept well it got eaten over the next few days bit by bit.

A wonderful recipe that could be adapted and not just for any time of the year.  I would love to try this with different chocolate flavours. I bet a mint or a chocolate orange one would be delicious.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx