The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart.

Thursday 7th December 2017.

I love making pies, quiches and tarts but I always worry about the fat and calorie content in the pastry and the fillings.  But nothing beats a homemade pie or tart, especially on a cold Winter’s evening.

I had planned out the meals to cook for this last week but forgot I was a day behind with what needed eating up first in the fridge.  I had some chicken breasts which needed to be used so they ended up being cooked for Thursday night’s dinner.  Being a supply teacher and at the time having no work booked in for the day after, I thought I’d prep ahead just in case I ended up working.  We’d all be starving by the time I got in from work. Not only that but the last thing I’d want to do is to start cooking something from scratch.  I’m glad I was prepared.  I ended up working and didn’t get home until 6.15pm.

The Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book ended up being our dinner along with some new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  It was assembled and cooked the night before and it was reheated carefully the following night.

So, back to Thursday tea time and I’m cooking two meals one after the other.  I started off with the tart and then went on to cooking the chicken breasts in a chipotle marinade with new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  Yes I know we had that two nights running but it was what I was trying to use up in the fridge before doing my weekly shop at the weekend.  I began with making up the shortcrust pastry which was fine.  It was chilled in the fridge for half an hour as I was cooking three medium onions in some olive oil and butter. The long, slow and low heat of cooking the onions really helps them to caramelise.

When the pastry was chilled for long enough, I got it out of the fridge and rolled it out to fit it into my tart tin.  There was enough pastry to overhang the edges. I filled the pastry case with baking parchment and my ceramic baking beans so I could blind bake it.  After 12 minutes I had to remove the paper and the beans then pop the pastry case back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

As the pastry case was baking, I mixed together the filling.  I mixed together two eggs and another egg yolk, along with some double cream, some grated Parmesan Cheese and some crumbled Stilton.  I was also meant to add pine nuts to the mixture but when I looked in the cupboard I’m sure I couldn’t find any.  So I left them out altogether.  I’m sure walnuts would have gone well in the tart as well.

When the pastry case came out of the oven, I mixed the filling, along with the caramelised onions together. The mixture was poured into the case and I popped the tart back into the oven.  I always put the tart case onto a flat baking tray in case it leaked out all over the oven floor.

The following day, when we chose to eat the tart, I asked Mr SmartCookieSam to put it back in the oven to reheat through for half an hour.  The result was absolutely delicious.  I’m sure it was hugely calorific, what with all the cheese and cream in the filling not to mention the butter in the pastry as well.  But it simply melted in the mouth.  What’s more is that as the tart was so big there was enough left over to eat cold the next day for lunch. It was a big hit and a recipe I’ll definitely be making again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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

Cooking The Books March 2014- Baking Update on A Passion For Baking.

I’ve not been very organised at keeping up with the old blog posts recently.  Life has been very busy both at work and at home so blogging has gone a bit by the wayside!  I also managed to delete a load of photos on my phone I’d taken of some Peanut Butter M&M cookies and some Raspberry Iced Fingers!  They were two of the ten recipes I needed to bake from my “Cooking The Books” challenge from this month, which is to bake one recipe from each chapter of Jo Wheatley’s A Passion For Baking. I got as far as sticking the photos on Facebook and Twitter but that was it!

As I don’t have time to write much at the moment I thought I would produce an updated blog post to show everyone how I’m getting on so far this month!  I’ve managed to bake seven out of ten of the recipes and as I’ve had so much on (but then who doesn’t these days, it’s a fact of life!) I can’t even remember how the recipes were baked.  Isn’t that awful but let’s hope as soon as the Easter holidays are here I can concentrate a bit more!

I was very pleased with how the Peanut Butter Cookies from the Biscuit chapter turned out.  I adapted the recipe and added in some Peanut Butter M&Ms bought in Gob Stoppers, an American sweet shop in Trinity Leeds.  This was based on a similar idea from a few months earlier where I baked Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies.  They turned out MAMOOOSIVE and even though I lost the picture to post on here, if you follow me on Twitter (@smartcookiesam) there will be a couple of pics of them somewhere about. The cookies disappeared very quickly as everyone in my family love peanut butter. A big success and one to try again in the future.

A couple of days after I tried baking the Raspberry Iced Fingers from the Bread and Yeast chapter for Sunday lunch pudding instead of a massive, stodgy dessert.  Anything involving yeast is my nemesis but I managed ok with these apart from the fact they looked a bit messy.  They were very naughty but nice but better eaten fresh as my hubby tried eating one the day after and it tasted stale.  No pictures here, either but once again if you are really bothered about seeing what they look like, look through my tweets!

If you like Blueberry Muffins then you will love the Blueberry Muffin Loaf which is in the Brunch chapter of A Passion For Baking.  It has a crumbly streusel like topping which gives the cake a lovely texture.  The cake itself was easy to make and very quick, all put together into a loaf tin.  It was moist and kept well for a couple of days in an airtight tin. Although it was a brunch recipe I baked it to have over the weekend for my family to have with a cup of tea.

The delicious Blueberry Muffin Loaf Cake.

My hubby went away overnight a couple of weekends ago so I cooked some Singing Hinnies for my two children one Sunday breakfast time.  They reminded me of Welsh cakes which you cook in a griddle pan but Singing Hinnies originate from the North East as they “sing” as they are cooking on the griddle. Hinny is a term of endearment used in the north east, a bit like honey I suppose!  I thought they were delicious and I devoured them spread with jam. Definitely a recipe I have to try again and again!

Singing Hinnies "singing" away in the griddle pan.  They contained currants and were absolutely delicious!
Singing Hinnies “singing” away in the griddle pan. They contained currants and were absolutely delicious!

Last week I had another go at making macaroons, this time it was to try out some Coconut and Pineapple ones.  Unfortunately they burned a bit and the colour came out a bit brown rather than the delicate pastel yellow they were meant to be. My daughter said they tasted nice, though I wasn’t convinced.  I might have another go when I get time as I love the pina colada combination.

Pineapple and Coconut Macaroons from the Afternoon Tea chapter.
Even at a better photo angle the macaroons didn’t look their best! Never mind!

Last Sunday I attempted to bake a Swiss Roll for the first time.  I chose to try out the Chocolate Cardamom Swiss Roll from A Passion For Baking as I loved the idea of baking with flavoured sugars.  I made up a jam jar of Cardamom sugar a few days before, leaving the flavour from the cardamom pods to infuse into the sugar.  The smell was gorgeous and the leftover sugar will go beautifully in some shortbread in the future!

My made up jar of Cardamom Sugar to go in the Chocolate and Cardamom Swiss Roll.
A bit squished and probably wouldn’t impress Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood but who cares? It tasted fab!
Oooh all that cream and chocolate made this cake quite calorific but it was worth every mouthful!

So what’s left to bake this month for the Cooking The Books Challenge? I have three recipes left to bake this weekend, after all it’s the end of the month on Monday!  Onion and Port Salut Tart for Saturday lunch with some salad, Eton Mess for Sunday lunch dessert and that leaves something from the Celebration Cakes chapter.  I’m thinking of the chocolate cake decorated with lots of sweets on top!

Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Cheese, Onion and Potato Pies from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

At the time of writing it is nearly the end of February and I’m still trying to bake something from each chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess  as part of my monthly Cooking The Books challenge. Last Saturday I had to try and bake something from the Pastry chapter.  Pastry is something I either get right or wrong depending on time, mood, the weather, well you name it.  I wanted to bake something savoury for a change and it had to be something my family would eat, yet be quick to bake and not too fiddly.

So, for Saturday lunch I chose to bake the Cheese, Onion and Potato Pies, which Nigella says is “the picnic food of fondness imagination, although we eat them for ordinary tea in the kitchen fairly often,”  I agree they would make great picnic food but in the middle of the cold, wet and rainy February we’re having at the moment I think I’ll stay inside and eat them in the warm, thank you!  My husband and daughter were out, so it was just me, the dog and the cat for company.

Here’s how they were made:

I made up a batch of shortcrust pastry by hand in the traditional fashion. Nigella’s recipe uses Trex as an ingredient along with butter.

The pastry came together fine for me, usually I get my food processor out but I couldn’t be bothered to get it out of the cupboard.  I hoped it wouldn’t be too difficult to work with as my hands get quite warm when working in the kitchen.

I chopped up 6 spring onions for the filling. Nigella says “the trick is to use spring onions which have all the flavour but none of the BOey breath of the usual onion!”
Also for the filling I peeled and diced about 500g potatoes.
My two Yorkshire pudding tins.
The potatoes were par-boiled in salted water for about 5-10 minutes. They had to be soft but still retain their shape.
After the pastry had chilled for about 20 minutes I rolled it out and cut 16 circles (8 tops and 8 bottoms) with a circular cutter. This cutter was slightly bigger than the base of the tins.

It was here where I realised the pastry was a bit thick in places and I should have rolled it even thinner.  No wonder I struggled to get 16 circles out of it.  I also noticed there was loads of filling left over, in fact half of it!  Did I make too much or wasn’t I putting enough inside the pies?  I struggled to seal the pies properly as well.

The bases were pushed into the bottom of the Yorkshire pudding tins.
To make the filling I mixed together the spring onions, potatoes and some grated cheddar along with some parsley and some creme fraiche.

Nigella suggests using Cheddar, Red Leicester and Parmesan cheese in the filling but I only had cheddar and some grated Mozzarella.  I put the same quantity of cheese in the mixture and the flavours seemed to work.

Filling the pies with the onion and cheese mixture.
The lids went onto the pies and I made a hole in the top of each one before putting them into the oven.
The finished pies- very riustic looking yet very yummy!

We had the pies with a large salad for our Saturday lunch.  One was enough for me and still warm from the oven it tasted absolutely fantastic. Well worth the effort and I will definitely make them again, they’re a lovely treat on a weekend lunchtime if you have the time to make them.  I was expecting to have some leftover to eat the day afterwards but my hubby ended up eating three!

My husband worked his way through three of these pies!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess- Star Topped Mince Pies.

After making mince pies for everyone else it was finally time to make some for ourselves!  It was Christmas Eve afternoon, we’d been out to the pub for our traditional Christmas Eve lunch and to be honest I didn’t feel like doing any more baking.  But the rolling pin and the flour beckoned.

I’ve always enjoyed using Nigella’s recipe for Star Topped Mince Pies from her Domestic Goddess cook book.  Nigella has always been one of my idols and I have loved baking from her books ever since I bought her Domestic Goddess book back in 2004. This book, along with her Feast book encouraged me to bake. I was depressed when my son started school as at the time my career was on hold bringing up my children and to Nigella I feel indebted.  Her books gave me the confidence to try new things and to bring me through a difficult time.

So back to 2013 and to a better place! I never make mince pies with lids as it’s always far too much pastry for me but I like these.  They don’t come out too big either but with a spoonful of brandy cream on top equals heaven to me.

Everyone who comes to our house over Christmas gets offered one of these and I’m pleased to say they go down well with most people who like mince pies.

The pastry is sweetened with the juice of an orange, no sugar added here.
My last precious jar of my home-made mincemeat. I swear by Delia’s recipe in her original Christmas Collection book.
Orange squeezing for the pastry.
The pie bases ready to go into the greased and lined tin. I grease my tins with Dr Oetker Cake Release Spray.
Another favourite tool of the trade is this tart shaper which I bought at a Pampered Chef party over 10 years ago. It pushes the pastry into the tin easily.
One of the trays ready to go in the oven.

Nigella says that this recipe makes 36 mince pies but I just about managed to get 24 out of the pastry.  I wondered if the pastry had to be rolled even thinner than I’d done it but I was worried about it breaking.  I do find it annoying when recipes say it makes a certain number only for it to make a lot less. I sometimes find this with buttercream when icing cupcakes. I should have made double!  I have some mincemeat spare so if I do need to make more at least I can make more!

Leftover pastry!
Two dozen mince pies ready and cooling down. Merry Christmas!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mary Berry’s Cookery Course

Mary Berry’s Cookery Course: “A Step-by Step Masterclass In Home Cooking”

The blurb on the back cover says: “With Mary at your side, sharing her secrets of success and guiding you through her masterclasses, you’ll be able to build an impressive repertoire of over 100 recipes to delight your family and friends,”

The front cover of Mary Berry's Cookery Course. Pic courtesy of Google Images.
The front cover of Mary Berry’s Cookery Course. Pic courtesy of Google Images.

I was in my local Morrisons shopping when I spotted Mary Berry’s latest cookbook on the shelf.  At a RRP of £25 it is not a cheap book but at the special offer of £12.50 I thought it was good value.  I flicked through the pages and immediately spotted page after page of delicious easily created recipes for the beginner.  These were beautifully photographed with clear, easy to read step by step instructions.  The book is published by Dorling Kindersley who are renowned for their clear, user friendly style of photographs and instructions. I knew straightaway that this book would not disappoint.

At the beginning of the book there is a clear guide on Basic Equipment.  This is useful if this book is for a complete beginner or maybe a student or young person moving into their own home for the first time.  I thought this book would be good for my daughter to use. She is 15 and has taken GCSE Hospitality and Catering. Although it will be a few years yet before she flies the nest, she does love to cook and experiment.

There is also a useful Technique Finder section towards the beginning of the book.  This is particularly helpful is you want to find the page reference quickly for basic techniques, such as separating eggs or greasing cake tins, etc.  The glossary of cooking methods and techniques is also handy for new cooks.

Then, the book is split into several chapters: Soups, First Courses, Eggs, Fish, Poultry and Game, Meat, Pasta and Rice, Vegetables and Side Dishes, Salads, Puddings, Cakes and Biscuits and Bread.  Each chapter starts off with a Master Recipe which features step-by-step pictures and details of how you go through every stage of the dish.  Mary says in the Introduction to the book that “These recipes are my favourites and show you everything you need to achieve great results every time,” 

master recipe
Master Recipe for Caesar Salad. Picture from Dorling Kindersley.

Each chapter also has a section entitled Mary’s Secrets of Success.  These are some useful guidelines that not only helps to make cooking easier, they also help to achieve great results.

mary's secrets of success
Mary’s Secrets of Success double page spread for the Puddings chapter. Useful advice and guidance. Picture courtesy of Dorling Kindersley.

Armed with this fantastic book, I wanted to put it to the test.  Making pastry has always been a problem with me and I had been recently feeling more confident about tackling it. This was down to Mary Berry’s advice given on one of her Great British Bake Off Masterclass programmes where she demonstrated how she made her mouthwatering Tarte au Citron.  I was totally blown away by Mary’s tips and techniques especially with rolling the pastry out and getting it into the flan tin that I just had to have a go myself.  

I made Mary’s Quiche Lorraine recipe and followed it to the letter.  I have to say it was a complete revelation and I was totally gobsmacked by the results. Although I didn’t roll the pastry thin enough so therefore there was a bit of the soggy bottom (that Great British Bake Off innuendo still has us sniggering in our house!) the rest of the quiche was very impressive.  It was mouthwatering and although my son turned his nose up at it, my hubby, daughter and I enjoyed it with a green salad.  I just want to say a big thank you to Mary Berry for giving me my pastry baking confidence back after 30 years of believing I couldn’t make pastry.  I still need a lot of practice but I’m determined to try lots more recipes.

Quiche Lorraine, recipe featured on page 88 of Mary Berry's Cookery Course.
Quiche Lorraine, recipe featured on page 88 of Mary Berry’s Cookery Course.
Delicious served hot or cold. We ate our Quiche with a large salad. The rest was eaten cold the next day at lunchtime.

To sum  up I would say that the Cookery Course book is perfect for a young person just starting out or for an adult that would like to learn the basics but with delicious and inspiring recipes to help them on their way. A lot of the recipes are included in Mary’s other books, such as her Baking Bible but that is ok if you don’t have them already and want a good “all rounder”.

I have decided to review this book which I bought with my own money to feature on my blog. I am not being paid to do this or being promoted in any way. I am doing this to show you a book which I love.

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx