I love a good bowl of soup. I don’t make it often enough and I should do. It’s cheap to make, filling and keeps you warm on a cold day.
One of my favourite soups is Leek and Potato and thankfully it’s one that the rest of my family will eat, too. Though in the past I didn’t tell my son it had leeks in it, I just used to say it was vegetable soup to him in case he turned his nose up at it.
About three weeks back I made this delicious, comforting soup. (see, I’m really behind with the blogging at the moment). Anyone fancy buying me a new laptop? No, I thought not. My laptop is slow and keeps disconnecting from the Internet. Not a serious problem in the scheme of things but it does slow work down somewhat.
I adapted the recipe from Mary Berry’s Cookery Course, which is a well used book on my shelf. First the leeks and onions were chopped up and fried gently in butter. After that, in went some thinly sliced potatoes. To this I then added some hot chicken stock. Unfortunately it wasn’t home made, sorry Mary! The soup was then seasoned and left to simmer. Mary Berry’s recipe also suggests a few gratings of nutmeg. I didn’t have any nutmeg but I sprinkled on some parsley instead.
After about 20-30 minutes simmering I took the pan off the heat and allowed the soup to cool down for a couple of minutes. Out came the stick blender to puree up the soup. Finally. I added in a swirl of half fat creme fraiche. Mary’s recipe uses single cream but I didn’t have any so, creme fraiche had to do.
A perfect lunchtime bowl of soup for myself and Mr SmartCookieSam with a chunk of crusty bread. There was enough left for me to have for lunch on two days during the week either at home or at work.
A few weeks ago PaymentSense approached me, along with several other food bloggers to see if we could help. The idea was for us to come up with a recipe to serve four people that would cost £5 to make. It could also be a meal which was able to be divided up and either serve 2 people over 2 days or be ideal for eating as four individual portions. asked some food bloggers if they would like to share their favourite go-to recipes. These had to be created with a budget of no more than £5 for 4 people in mind, Payment Sense provide card payment services benefitting small businesses with their special rates and better customer services. We were not paid for our contributions.
On their website PaymentSense also have some interesting and thought provoking articles. One article which is very relevant to my post is this one:
A few weeks ago PaymentSense conducted some research into looking at how fast people are spending their disposible income once they have been paid and what their own situations can be like as they get closer to the end of the month. The term “payday millionaire” means that once you are paid, people tend to act like money is no object, going around splashing the cash on unnecessary purchases and buying rounds of drinks. I’m guilty of this, how many times have I gone out and bought a new pair of shoes or treated myself to a new Nordicware Bundt tin when I’ve just been paid. What was interesting was that the research showed that about one third of the people changed their eating habits in order to help budget their money until payday. So they would scrimp and scrape cooking on a budget or some may even attempt a diet!
I was approached, along with several other food bloggers to see if we could help. The idea was for us to come up with a recipe to serve four people that would cost £5 to make. It could also be a meal which was able to be divided up and either serve 2 people over 2 days or be ideal for eating as four individual portions.
It didn’t take me long to choose which meal I would submit to the campaign. My Cheesy Potato Pie has been a firm favourite for many years. I first started making it as a student about 25 years ago. I also cooked it frequently for my own family as my two children were growing up. Now it has turned full circle and my daughter is now making the pie at uni. Money was tight at home when my children were very young and I often behaved like a payday millionaire. I still do but nowadays I have to be more careful. I work as a supply teacher in my day job and the money comes in dribs and drabs according to when there is a demand for a supply teacher. When it is the school holidays when I don’t have money coming in or when it is close to payday I rely heavily on meals like this.
My Cheesy Potato Pie is simple and quick to make. It is served with a layer of baked beans on the bottom of the dish. The baked beans don’t have to be an expensive brand like Heinz. I only had Heinz in the picture as I’d bought a pack of 4 cans which were on special offer in the supermarket a couple of weeks before. The same goes for the cheese topping. I sometimes use the budget cheese or whatever’s on special offer at the time. To add a bit of extra something to the pie, you can serve it with a side of bacon or sausages or even veggie burgers which my daughter prefers. I even like eating the pie on its own and it’s a perfect choice of comfort food. I know I’ll be making this lots once all the Christmas food has been eaten up, until our bank balances have had a chance to recover!
CHEESY POTATO PIE
5-6 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 x400g can of baked beans
100g grated cheddar cheese
butter and/ or milk to mash the potatoes with
8 sausages/ rashers of bacon or other accompaniment.
Put a large pan of water onto boil.
Peel and chop the potatoes and put into the pan of boiling water. Boil until soft.
Mash the potatoes with a knob of butter or with milk if you prefer. Or even use both!
Put the baked beans into a large ovenproof dish and spread them around, covering the bottom of the dish.
Preheat the oven to 180oC or Gas 4.
Spread the mash evenly on top of the baked beans.
Grate the cheese and sprinkle it on top of the pie.
Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the topping is crispy and golden brown.
While the pie is in the oven, cook the bacon or sausages in your preferred way.
I chose to cook some sausages with my cheesy potato pie. The ones featured in the picture are frozen Slimming World ones which I found in Iceland a few weeks back. I tend to get the best quality sausages I can find for the cheapest price but these were bought while I was following Slimming World leading up to Christmas. Back to it in the New Year!
This pie could be made in four individual dishes or in two smaller ones which serve two people. It keeps well in the fridge overnight and can be frozen.
The cost of this dish is roughly about £4.00 including the sausages which makes this a very economical meal.
Last year I discovered the company Gordon Rhodes and their delicious range of spice rubs, crumbs, cooking sauces and stuffings when at the BBC Good Food Show in Harrogate. I remember buying three of their cooking sauces: a chilli con carne one, another one for pulled pork and a curry one. All turned into mouthwatering one-pot meals which my family loved. I enjoyed them so much that I had to buy more and was so pleased to find a couple of my local farm shops stock their products.
Last Christmas I tried out Gordon Rhodes’ bread sauce mix and some stuffing. It was a quiet Christmas with just the four of us and I didn’t want to be making everything from scratch. I felt as if these products helped me to cut corners without compromising on quality and taste.
I follow Gordon Rhodes on Twitter and often tweet about how I enjoy using their products in my cooking. They had asked their followers to post photos of a dish they had created using one of their products as an ingredient in a Christmas leftover dish. They would choose which dish they liked best and the winner would get a hamper of their complete range of products. What a fantastic prize that would be. Two days after Christmas and we had my sister in law to visit. I didn’t want to just serve her slices of leftover turkey and ham so I thought of a way I could turn my leftovers into something a bit more special. I love baking pies and had some leftover shortcrust pastry in the freezer, some turkey and ham, some veg, the Gordon Rhodes stuffing and bread sauce that was leftover. I had the idea that the bread sauce would act as a thickener for a sauce in the pie along with a bit of stock.
I was over the moon when Gordon Rhodes said that they liked my idea of using the bread sauce as a thickener in the pie and that I had won the hamper! I couldn’t believe it as I knew how much fun I would have creating dishes I had not made before with the products I had not seen before in their range.
A few days later my wonderful parcel arrived. It came beautifully packaged in a cardboard hamper which I’ve kept in my cupboard to use again.
About a month later after getting my prize I still have one packet of stuffing and three of the spice mixes yet to try out. It will be interesting to see what I can come up with.
Gosh, is it really nearly three weeks since my last post? Well over half term I was away on holiday up on the Isle of Mull, a beautiful part of the world and since I’ve been back I haven’t managed to get anywhere near my laptop. So better late than never I suppose!
Last month I spent a very busy afternoon baking four different cakes to take down to the Village Hall at my local Open Gardens event. Usually I have a stall at the Open Gardens where I sell all my handmade cookies, cupcakes and other treats but this year I had been far too busy as well as it being the day before I was due to go into hospital. I also ended up being the judge at our village baking competition so a stall would have been a bit tricky to fit in. Anyway, I found four different cakes I fancied trying out on visitors to our village and hoped that they would be fine.
First of all I chose to bake Delia Smith’s Sticky Toffee Fudge Loaf Cake which comes with a fudge icing. Another recipe also to tick off my Cooking The Books Challenge for May. I love Sticky Toffee Pudding and have made different variations of it in cake form. But this version as a loaf cake looked absolutely delicious. I didn’t have any dates in my baking cupboard, though so I ended up adding an equal amount of raisins to the mix instead.
Here’s how it was made:
Once the mixture in the pan had been taken off the heat and cooled slightly I added two beaten eggs. After this I weighed out the dry ingredients needed for the cake: plain flour, mixed spice, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda. These were sifted together then folded into the melted mixture. Delia recommends Silverwood bakeware in her latest book. I love Silverware cake tins and love my traybake tins but my loaf tin is equally fantastic, a Lakeland one. As you might have gathered I swear by Lakeland’s loaf tin liners and can’t do without them whatever loaf cake I bake. They worked perfectly with this one too!
I used my brand new pan which my auntie bought me from John Lewis on my birthday. My mum had bought me some new pans but my auntie treated me to the small one in the set. So the pan was “christened” by having the fudge icing made in it. It was a very rich icing: evaporated milk, butter and brown sugar which was melted and then simmered until it thickened up.
My icing turned out a little bit runnier than the one shown on the picture in the book. But it still looked presentable to take down to the Village Hall. I hoped it would go down well as it was a very warm day and I usually associate sticky toffee pudding as a Winter comfort food!
My mum enjoyed her piece of cake and I was glad by the time I saw the cake about half of it had gone. That was a relief. I would definitely bake it again.
Last weekend I was delighted when our neighbour popped round to see us with a couple of carrier bags full of apples picked from their tree. I was pleased as my own apple tree hadn’t produced anything this year. This was disappointing as although it is a small tree, I did manage to get a few good apples off it last year. One bag from my neighbour’s stash was full of small apples ideal for my daughter’s horse to chomp on, the other was full of crisp apples perfect for cooking and baking with.
As we had my Mum staying with us last weekend I chose to cook a Sunday roast- a large chicken followed by a naughty but nice pudding involving apples. I didn’t want to make something I had already made before, though. I also didn’t want to make a steamed pudding as I have never made one before and wouldn’t know where to start!
Once again I turned to my copy of The Great British Bake Off Everyday as I remembered there being a Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding recipe in there. It seems like I am doing a lot of baking from this book at the moment but I suppose I go through fads and phases. Upon reading the recipe, the introduction said it was a “very simple all-in-one sponge mix.. a good way to use slightly tart windfall apples”. This was good news to me, I didn’t want to spend ages faffing about.
To be honest I wasn’t really in a baking mood as I had been up half the night worrying about my daughter the night before. She had been to a concert and was staying overnight at her friends’ house. I wanted to know that she was back safely at her friends’ house but my stomach was churning so much, it took me until 3am to get some sleep. I also woke up with a sore throat which wasn’t good news as it has not been long since I had a cold! I had to produce something for Sunday lunch though.
We all really enjoyed the pudding and the apples were a great addition to the mix. My son said “Why do you have to ruin it with apples?” and “I don’t like it when apples are cooked” but he did eat all the sponge and sauce part. Everyone else enjoyed it and it made a huge portion. The recipe stated that it served 6 but I thought it was nearer 10-12! I thought the portions were generous too. I will definitely bake this again and might try it with pears instead.
I’m still catching up on all my blog posts and realised I had made this cake over three weeks ago for the Clandestine Cake Club VCake Event which was called “Regional Cakes”. As I am originally from Nottinghamshire I wanted to find something that reflected my home county’s heritage. This was easier said than done. When I searched on the internet for some Nottinghamshire baking recipes I was very unlucky. I only found one recipe, which was for Nottingham Goose Fair Gingerbread (which are rather like brandy snaps and certainly would not be allowed at the whole cake only Clandestine Cake Club!
After a good hour searching an idea came to me. I knew that the Bramley Apple tree originated from Southwell in Nottinghamshire (pronounced Suthall, not South-well). Southwell is slap bang in the middle of the county and is a pretty town with a Minster and a racecourse. It wasn’t far from where I grew up and I remember as an 8 year old going on a school trip to the Minster as part of a History topic on The Normans. I don’t remember much about the trip all except I bought a pen with my spending money in the Minster and I left it on the coach. I didn’t get any sympathy from Mr Clarke, our teacher!
Anyway, I thought well I could adapt a recipe I already had using Bramley Apples from Nottinghamshire. It had been my wedding anniversary a couple of days previously and my mum (who lives in Nottingham) was up staying with us for the weekend. I thought we could have some Apple Cake for our pudding at lunchtime served with some ice cream. There was a gorgeous sounding recipe that I could use from The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook called Dorset Apple Cake. The original recipe was by Karen Burns Booth. Karen said in the recipe introduction that the cake could be baked in a springform round tin or in a rectangular traybake tin. I chose to bake my version in my Alan Silverwood traybake tin as I just couldn’t find the base of my springform one!
So, here;s how it was made:
The rest of the cake!
The cake was a big success with the adults in our house although my son said he didn’t like it because it had cooked apple in it. All the more for us then! I cut the cake up into 16 pieces which were large ones and served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. There was plenty left over for me to take into work in a box the next day to share with my work colleagues. It went down well as there was none left by the Tuesday!
If any of you reading this do know of any Nottinghamshire baking recipes then please do tell me. I would love to bake more.
I was really excited to be watching episode 2 of The Great British Bake Off. We’re beginning to get to know the faces of the contestants of this new series and what they are capable of. As Week 2 was bread week and one area of baking I really struggle with, I was glued to the TV to see if I could pick up any tips or advice. The breadsticks looked amazing and my mouth was watering at the thought of a pile of breadsticks washed down with a large glass of red wine. I had to make do with a cup of tea and I had already had my dinner. I was totally gobsmacked by the over-the-top bakes of the showstopper bread. It seems as if they are doing really taxing things this year and upping their game. I’m sorry to say this but I wasn’t impressed by the Octopus football bread . However I was amazed by all Kimberley’s bakes and was very surprised when she wasn’t made Star Baker. Ruby though did extremely well and I was pleased to see her being recognised for all her efforts. It was sad to see Lucy go, though. I thought she could have got further in the competition.
So, the technical bake for this week was English Muffins. As it was a bread bake it would be one of Paul Hollywood’s recipes. I had to explain this to my children that I meant the sort of muffins you had at McDonalds with bacon and egg for breakfast, not ones with chocolate chips in! I for one love English Muffins and my favourite dish on the menu at Betty’s in Harrogate is their delicious Eggs Benedict. So, I thought I would try it out on Saturday to see how I got on. I was dreading it.
So on Saturday morning, my hubby was out working and the kids were still in bed (well they are teenagers!) I decided to get on with it so we could have the Eggs Benedict for lunch. I always make a mess of Hollandaise sauce though, so I cheated and bought a jar of it from Tesco. I wish I hadn’t though, the list of additives on the label was shocking! It was a Finest one but even that had glucose-fructose syrup in it? Why? Totally not necessary but because I’d ordered it as part of an online shop I hadn’t checked the ingredients list first, yuck!
At this stage I thought I would get the kettle on and make myself a cuppa. It was great to sit down for 5 minutes before the kids surfaced. I didn’t get much time for sitting down as there was washing to hang out and some ironing to get on with. Why is it that on a day when I try out a Technical Bake, it ends up being a day where you have loads to do?
At this stage my hubby got in from work. He had been out to get a few jobs done that he needed to catch up with and came in absolutely starving. I said if he wanted the dinner a bit quicker he could poach the eggs for me while I did the muffins. He agreed to this thankfully as his poached eggs are sublime! This is the bit where I wanted it all to go right as when you make something for the first time, especially when you are making it for your family, you want it to go right.
Fortunately, the muffins turned out really well. I’m not sure if they would be Great British Bake Off standard but I was pleased with them. If my family eat the lot, then that to me speaks volumes!
This is a Technical Bake I would definitely try again for a winter Sunday teatime if I have enough time to make them.
If you bake English Muffins, it would be great to know how you get on with them.