Pancetta, Cheddar and Chive Scones. 

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On Sunday, even though it was Mother’s Day I had a quiet day to myself.  Mr SmartCookieSam was out taking part in a rally in his classic car, my son was working and my daughter is at uni.  So for some of the day I was at home with the dog. I know I shouldn’t be baking as I just end up eating it but I love the whole process of it. Baking is therapeutic to me.

Last week I treated myself to Lorraine Pascale’s latest book simply titled “Bake” I have most of her books including her very first publication, also a baking book.  As soon as I opened the book in the middle of Costa Coffee I was sat there drooling over the pics and mentally bookmarking what I was going to bake first.

The day after I got the book I baked some star shaped cookies but this time it was something savoury.  I’ve always loved cheese scones but these ones were slightly different in that they had crispy fried pieces of cubed pancetta in the dough.  I knew they would taste amazing.  I had a packet of pancetta cubes in the fridge from when I was meant to make a Carbonara last week and never did. So in the end they got thrown into the scones.

First, the packet of pancetta was fried until crispy.No need for oil in the pan, I let them fry in their own fat.  Once they’d cooked and were crisp, I got a paper towel out and let the fat soak into the towel to dry off.

While the pancetta was cooling down I grated some mature Cheddar into a bowl.

I  then used my food processor to combine cold cubes of butter with self raising flour, baking powder, mustard powder, sea salt flakes and an optional extra to the recipe: paprika.  I put a large pinch of this in.  After the mixture had turned into what looked like breadcrumbs I put in 3/4 of the cheese along with some chives and the pancetta.

To bring it all together I poured in some buttermilk which was about half of a carton.  This was enough to form the scones into a dough. It wasn’t sticky but the right consistency for rolling out gently.

Lorraine says her recipe makes 8 scones but I found I could only get 6 decent sized ones out of it. I often find this with scones. The recipe quantity makes far less than it’s meant to. Still six scones was more than enough for me.  I used a plain circular cutter for my scones and then once cut out they were put onto a baking tray covered in parchment. I glazed the top of the scones with buttermilk and then sprinkled on the remaining cheese.

The  scones went into the oven for about 10-12 minutes until they had risen well. I saw the cheese was bubbling and golden and couldn’t wait to test one out that very afternoon cut in half and spread with butter.  They were delicious.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cheesy Feet

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Cheesy Feet: a favourite recipe baked with children in the school I used to work with and also with my own kids.

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’m a primary school teacher.  I do supply now as it fits in much better around my family and home life but I’ve always loved teaching and working with young children.  Although the teaching profession isn’t what it used to be, I feel I have the best of it doing supply.  I don’t get all the stresses that permanent teachers have.

Before I did supply teaching full time I worked in a local primary school for eight years.  I did a lot of supply there but also worked as a teaching assistant in the KS1 class.  I loved that job, but sadly TA’s are very poorly paid for what they do.  The money didn’t bother me, what I got out of it was a lot more than a pay cheque.  I got job satisfaction and a lot of laughs, giggles and happy memories to treasure along the way.

I had only been working at the school a couple of weeks when the class teacher asked me if  I wanted to cook with the children.  I was so excited when I got asked to do this and we thought about a recipe we could use which fitted around the topic of Ourselves.  I thought about some recipes we had and apart from the obvious, making gingerbread men I remembered a great recipe I had in one of my Nigella Lawson books.  In Feast, there is a recipe called Cheesy Feet!  This gave us all a big laugh because I said to the children, sometimes cheese can be smelly and so can people’s feet if they are hot and sweaty.  This started the children laughing and saying their Dad’s feet smelled!  I told them they hadn’t smelt Mr SmartCookieSam’s feet after he’d been wearing trainers!

I had a foot shaped biscuit cutter but we couldn’t make pairs of feet as you couldn’t turn it the other way round.  So all of our cheesy feet biscuits were left feet!

Although it was ten years ago that I baked the Cheesy Feet with the children I worked with, we regularly cooked or baked in school.  I also ran an after school Cookery Club for three years as I am passionate about getting kids cooking and learning life skills. Sadly the same school has just closed down and I was reminiscing about activities we had done in the classroom.  Several former pupils remembered my cookery club and said they loved my cheesy feet!  In fact it had been such a hit, several parents asked for the recipe!

This last weekend I was feeling in a very nostalgic mood.  My daughter has just gone off to uni for the first time and my son has started college. I wanted to bake something and thought back to the Cheesy Feet.  I just had to bake them again for old time’s sake!

The Cheesy Feet are simply like savoury biscuits and they taste just like cheese straws.  You can make them in a food processor or by hand.  I can’t give the recipe here as it’s not my own, it’s Nigella’s but I can give you a link to it.

Nigella Lawson’s Cheesy Feet Recipe

I didn’t use a food processor as mine has broken and I still haven’t got round to replacing it. I’m trying to find one that juices as well, maybe it might have to go on my Christmas list? So instead I rubbed in the butter, baking powder and plain flour together until the mixture looked like breadcrumbs.  After that I combined this with some grated cheese and formed it into a ball.  Nigella said the recipe makes about 16 feet but her cutter must have been slightly smaller than mine. I only got 11 biscuits.

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The Cheesy Feet didn’t last very long in our house.

I baked the Cheesy Feet on a Saturday afternoon and put them on the cooling rack in my kitchen.  I went upstairs to get ready as Mr SmartCookieSam and I were going out that night. When I came back downstairs I noticed there were only 6 feet left! Mr SmartCookieSam had been eating them! He said they were moreish and reminded him of cheese straws, which he also loves!

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Our greedy Labradot wanted a Cheesy Foot as well!
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“I want one of those!”
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Yesterday we had had our lunch outside in the gorgeous September sunshine and then Mr SmartCookieSam asked for a cheesy foot to go with his cup of tea. One cheesy foot turned into the rest of the box apart from one which I ate with the dog sat there drooling at me.

A recipe which is easily adaptable, you could add herbs, or maybe some cayenne pepper or paprika to the dough or even some finely chopped garlic and onion! Now that would make your cheesy feet smell even more!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chicago Town Takeaway Stuffed Crust Pizzas.

Well hello there, long time no see! I’ve just looked through my blog and realised the last time I posted was during the Easter holidays.  All has been very busy in SmartCookieSam land.  I’ve been doing a lot of supply teaching and generally trying to juggle everything life has to offer.  I couldn’t do any blog updates over half term as I was away on holiday in a remote part of Wales where our cottage had no phone signal or WiFi.  I love to get away from things every now and again but you do need the internet for a lot of things these days.  Anyway, enough of my waffle.  Better get on with the job in hand.

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I was really looking forward to trying out two of the brand new Takeaway Pizzas from Chicago Town.

A few weeks ago I was given a couple of vouchers to try out two of Chicago Town‘s pizzas from their brand new Takeaway range. To be honest I’m a bit of a snob about pizza.  I only like thin crust ones and rarely buy them for me and my husband to eat at home.  If I do buy pizza, it’s usually as a treat for my kids.  They love deep pan and stuffed crust ones, these types just make me feel bloated up after I eat them.  I make my own pizzas sometimes during the school holidays if I have time but they always look very rustic! I’ll eat pizza if it’s really thin crust from a genuine Italian restaurant or from Pizza Express but I avoid other types.

It was great to try a well loved brand of pizza though.  I remember the mini deep  dish pizzas that Chicago Town do. I used to buy them as a student and when I was a single girl working full time who couldn’t be bothered to cook properly after a long day’s teaching.  Now I find deep dish pizzas too full of carbs for me. Since I’ve married and had kids though most of my cooking is done from scratch.

Chicago Town have brought out a new range called The Takeaway and it features several flavours on two different bases as well as side orders of doughballs.  Just like you would get in your local pizza takeaway.  The two bases included a stuffed crust one and the thin Classic one.  I also noticed there was a limited edition Pulled Pork topping on the stuffed crust base which I knew would be very popular with my 15 year old son!

This is what Chicago Town says on their website about The Takeaway pizzas: “Our takeaway pizzas are made with our unique rising dough that’s not pre-cooked to give you that real takeaway taste”.

I took the vouchers along with me when I was doing a weekly shop at Sainsburys.  It was quite a small Sainsburys so it only offered two varieties of the stuffed crust pizza.  One was the Pepperoni Plus and the other was the Four Cheese Melt.  The pizzas looked very big and would be ideal for a family to share or if you feel peckish to eat the whole one!  I didn’t measure how big the pizzas were but they looked enormous to me.

The pizza  turned out to be a godsend for me.  A couple of days later my husband had to go out to a meeting and we ended up eating separately.  I had to take my daughter to her dance class so a quick tea was needed.  Out came both pizzas, quickly popped into the oven and dinner was ready 1/4 hour later.  We shared the two pizzas between the three of us which gave us four enormous slices.

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The Pepperoni Plus Stuffed Crust pizza was enormous and had a generous helping of perpperoni and cheese on it.
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Here is the Four Cheese Melt Stuffed Crust pizza about to be put in the oven.
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The cooked Four Cheese Melt pizza was cut up into six large slices, two each for myself and my two children!
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My kids absolutely loved the Pepperoni Pizza, another two slices each for us

I tried both the Pepperoni Plus and the Four Cheese Melt varieties and I really enjoyed them. The pizza. despite being a stuffed crust one didn’t feel at all doughy to me.  The stuffed crust contained a delicious tomato sauce and the toppings showed a generous layer of cheese and pepperoni under a mouthwatering tomato sauce.

The verdict? Great tasting pizzas and ideal for those times if you are busy and want something to pop in the oven.  Tasted a lot better than the pizza I once had from a local national pizza takeaway.  Much less “doughy”, cheaper at about roughly £4 for a pizza if you bought one from a takeaway and also took a lot less time.  Would I buy them again? Well as I’ve said before I don’t really buy pizzas and haven’t made one of my own for ages.  It tends to be a treat for me if I go out for an Italian meal.  I would try them again if I knew I was in for a busy week and was pushed for time to cook.

I was sent the vouchers for free so that I could try out the pizzas and review them.  I have not been paid to write the post.

Love Sam xx

Scandelicious Baking- An Update on the August Cooking The Books Challenge.

It’s been a few weeks since I updated my blog. There’s been so much going on.  Once the school holidays are over I’m back into work mode and there is barely time to get the jobs around the house done.  Then again, I haven’t managed to get anywhere near my computer.  So I thought I’d better get something writen down.

My August Cooking The Books recipe book challenge from Scandelicious Baking seems like a lifetime ago now.  Although I found it enjoyable and I had plenty of time, I didn’t get round to baking two of the recipes I’d originally planned to bake. These were a Pistachio Pavlova with Boozy Cherries and a Norwegian AlmondTart.  I don’t know what happened at the end of the holidays, guess I just ran out of time.

So, to recap I think I would like to look at what I did get round to making.  On the whole I have really enjoyed testing out some delicious recipes. Different flavours and things I wouldn’t have thought to try.

I love making fish pie for my family so I thought the Scandelicious Fish Gratin would go down well with my family.  Instead of being topped with pastry, mashed potato or breadcrumbs this version of a fish pie was topped with some crushed Swedish Krisprolls.  Well I didn’t crush them enough so the topping looked very rustic and unappealing.  Also my son (who used to love my fish pie) refused to eat it.

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The Scandelicious Fish Gratin had a topping of crushed Krisprolls.

To make the Fish Gratin filling I poached some cod cut into large chunks in some milk infused with peppercorns and nutmeg.  After this I made a sauce which had leeks, onion, eggs and creme fraiche in to add to the fish.  This was then poured into a baking dish ready to be topped with the crushed krisprolls!

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The fish gratin filling.
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The finished fish gratin. Looked a bit unappealing and appealed even less to myself and my family. Not a big success at all.

After eating some savoury cheesecake from a buffet once I was keen to have a go at baking one myself. So I had a go at the Scandelicious Cheese and Onion Cheesecake.  The cheesecake contained an oatcake and porridge oat base which had been combined with melted butter.  To make the filling I whisked egg yolks with a pinch of salt, then added some Quark and some cream cheese along with some flour, chopped spring onions and some cheese.  Now in the recipe Signe Johansen suggests Vasterbotten cheese which I have never even heard of, let alone seen it in my local shops.  In the end I used Jarlsberg cheese and grated it straight into the mixture.  In another bowl I beat some egg whites which were then combined with the cheese mixture.  When this was ready it went straight on top of the base and was baked in the oven for about half an hour.

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The finished Cheese and Onion Cheesecake.
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Delicious with a salad.
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I had a slice on its own for lunch the following day.

I’m not very good at baking bread or using yeast but I wanted to have a go at the Spelt Picnic Buns.  I’m not that used to using spelt flour either but I like eating spelt bread.  These buns were meant to be useful for eating on a picnic but we never got to go on one as it was too cold or wet during the last couple of weeks of the school summer holidays.  I baked the buns in my muffin tin but they were not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting them to turn out a lot a bigger than they were.  They tasted delicious though and I had one spread with butter at breakfast.

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Scandelicious Spelt Picnic Buns.

So here ends the Cooking The Books Challenge for August and I had more challenges for days in the month than I had time for.  There are lots more recipes I would love to bake from Scandelicious Baking.  I can definitely recommend the book.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Man Quiche from Holly Bell’s Recipes From A Normal Mum.

About a month ago I was really excited when Holly Bell’s new book “Recipes From A Normal Mum” came out.  Series 2 Great British Bake Off Finalist Holly has been a great favourite of mine and I love following her page on Facebook, reading her Recipes From A Normal Mum blog and her Twitter feed seeing what recipes she creates for her young family.   I like her recipes very much because not only are they imaginative, they use easy to find ingredients that can be bought locally and not just in an expensive or exclusive shop. I also get bored cooking the same things week in week out- not Spag bol or Shepherd’s Pie again?

So when my copy of Recipes From A Normal Mum popped through the door on the last day of term I couldn’t wait to open the package and look through the book.  I wasn’t disappointed.  There were loads of recipes I could tempt not just my family with.

One recipe which caught my eye was the “Man Quiche”.  I love the humorous titles Holly gives her recipes and wondered what it was to make it into a Man Quiche.  She explains in the recipe introduction: “Imagine my surprise when after bagging my old fashioned husband he revealed a penchant for quiche.  My Dad had always held firm that real men don’t eat quiche.  It turns out that very rarely dads can be wrong.”  Well Holly my husband is old fashioned, too and prefers meat and two veg type meals to pasta, etc. but he loves quiche.  I knew he would enjoy this one as he loves leeks and mushrooms so in this case it definitely was a “Man Quiche”  What a shame the other man (or almost man as he’s 14 years old!) in our household turned his nose up at the quiche and said he wasn’t eating it.  Nothing new there, then!

So, one Sunday afternoon when I was busy trying to meet myself going backwards I started off making some parmesan cheese flavoured shortcrust pastry.  I’m ok at making shortcrust now and I allowed time for it to chill in the fridge.

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Weighing out the cubes of cold butter needed to make the parmesan shortcrust pastry.
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The shortcrust pastry dough made in the traditional method before being wrapped in cling film and being chilled in the fridge.
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The pastry rolled out and in the 23cm round tart tin. I pricked the base a few times with a fork then put it in the oven to blind bake with my ceramic baking beans inside.

So far so good!  I was feeling quietly smug and confident thinking, this is going to be a winner here!

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While the case was blind baking I made the filling, here are the leeks and mushrooms frying on the hob.

I was really upset by what happened next!  I was trying to do too many things at once along with trying to rush.  It was getting late and I wanted the quiche ready for when my hubby came home from the race meeting he was at.  I didn’t know what he would have eaten all day.  I’d had a bit of an issue with the Blackberry and Elderflower cake I was baking (more about that here) so I wasn’t in the best frame of mind.  Then to top it all I get the pastry case out of the oven to check on how its going on as it’s blind baking and the next thing the whole bloody quiche case, tin, parchment paper and baking beans all fall out of my hand onto the floor.  The tin dropped onto my toes, but I moved out of the way so quickly I was lucky I didn’t get burnt!  I ran to the cupboard and got my Nordicware cake lifter out and scooped up the case and the tin as best as I could.  Half the case had broken but there was enough to put a little on the bottom but not on the sides!  While I was faffing around with the pastry I found my dog had rushed into the kitchen and had started to lick the baking beans still on the floor!  So I had to get chase him out, scoop up the beans which were still hot from the oven (hadn’t worried the dog though!) and chuck them away.  I was so upset and was crying from frustration.  There wasn’t much food left in the house as we were off on holiday a few days later and I didn’t want to buy too much in for it to go to waste!

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Thankfully all’s well that ends well.  The quiche looked very untidy but I managed to create the filling happily by adding eggs, cheese, double cream and some thyme together and mixing it in with the leeks and mushrooms.  These baked well in the tin on top of the rustic looking pastry.

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The finished Man Quiche.

In the end my hubby rang and said he would be getting his dinner after the race had finished as they were doing the results so I didn’t need to worry about dinner for him.  Both my children turned their noses up at the quiche. My son wouldn’t eat it at all and I forgot my daughter doesn’t like mushrooms! So only I had a slice of it with some salad for my dinner!

The following day I was out for dinner with friends and my hubby was at home with my kids and my daughter’s boyfriend. Apparently hubby had a huge slice of leftover quiche after their dinner and hubby said to my daughter’s boyfriend “It looks horrible but it actually tastes quite nice!” Praise indeed from a man who never gives praise and is more critical than Paul Hollywood, Gordon Ramsey and Simon Cowell rolled into one!  The quiche ended up being lunch for my daughter’s boyfriend the next day as well!

I will definitely bake the Man Quiche again and Holly says “you can add a handful of fried lardons or chopped bacon” which to me sounds like a great idea!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books March 2014- Onion and Cheese Tart from A Passion For Baking.

It’s nearly the end of the month and I’m three recipes away from completing this month’s Cooking The Books challenge from A Passion For Baking.  I needed to bake a recipe from the Pastry chapter as well as one from the Desserts and the Celebration Cakes chapters before Monday 31st March. With only two days to go I’d not been very organised this month.

For the Pastry chapter recipe I had chosen the Onion and Port Salut Tart.  When deciding on a recipe to bake it has to be one my family will eat and one that will fit in around what we’re doing and if I have time to make it in the first place!  I originally wanted to make it on Saturday this week but I never got round to it.  In the end I ended up in York eating in Wagamama with my hubby and son!  In the end the tart became my Mother’s Day lunch!

So, late this morning after I’d realised the time due to the clocks going forward, I thought I’d better get my skates on and produce something for lunch.  Only I realised I’d planned to make Eton Mess with meringues so Sunday lunch became a very late lunch/ early tea! When I first saw this recipe I knew that an onion and cheese tart would be fine with my family, only I couldn’t find Port Salut in my local Sainsburys the other day.  I wasn’t even sure what sort of cheese Port Salut was, doesn’t that sound stupid?  It sounded like a French cheese to me but I wasn’t sure what I could use as a substitute.  In the end I bought a piece of Emmenthal cheese as I have used it before in a quiche and it worked really well.

So here is how I made this delectable tart:

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I sliced up four medium onions ready to caramelise.
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As the onions were frying, I made up a batch of shortcrust pastry. It was wrapped in cling film and chilled for about half an hour while I finished cooking the onions.
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The pastry was rolled out, trimmed and the base pricked with a fork. It was then put in the freezer to chill for another 20 minutes.
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Out came my baking beans and the pastry case was baked blind for about 20 minutes.

At this stage I was meant to take the beans out of the pastry case and give it another five minutes or so in the oven baking blind.  Only, I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough as I was trying to sort out some laundry in the meantime. I know I can multitask but not today, I hoped and prayed my tart wouldn’t have a soggy bottom. Snigger, snigger!

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The caramelised onions were spread on the bottom of the tart.
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Then, to the filling! I mixed double cream, milk, eggs, salt, pepper and some tarragon together. It was meant to be thyme as the herb flavouring but I couldn’t find any in the cupboard!
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I grated the piece of Emmenthal and mixed some in to the mixture, the rest was sprinkled on the top of the filling.
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After about 30 minutes at 180oC this is what the tart looked like. I couldn’t wait for lunch as I was starving. It smelled gorgeous.
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The case round the outside looked thin and crispy but sadly it did have a little bit of the old soggy bottom. I think I should have baked it blind for a bit longer.
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A slice of the tart.

I have to say this is one of the nicest recipes I’ve worked with. Nothing faffy or over complicated and it went down well with my family. We sat down to eat it finally at 5pm once my daughter had finished work.  It was delicious with a jacket potato and veg though I think it would be lovely with new potatoes and salad too.  We ate half the tart, there’s plenty left over for tomorrow night. Well that saves me cooking again, I suppose!

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:

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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.

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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!”
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Also for the filling I peeled and diced about 500g potatoes.
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My two Yorkshire pudding tins.
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The potatoes were par-boiled in salted water for about 5-10 minutes. They had to be soft but still retain their shape.
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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.

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The bases were pushed into the bottom of the Yorkshire pudding tins.
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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.

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

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My husband worked his way through three of these pies!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx