The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Luxury Fish Pie.

SundayDecember10th2017.

I was never really keen on fish until I met my husband. As a child I had several experiences with badly cooked fish. This was mainly from my Nana Margaret, my Dad’s mum who was a hopeless cook. I remember the time I threw up when we were on holiday in Scarborough as she stunk the holiday flat out with her kippers. Another time she bought some haddock from the local fishmonger and it was so overcooked, it would have made a great wash leather. Every time fish was on the menu I’d refuse to eat it.

Not only that, but I have a terrible fish phobia. For years and years I couldn’t bear to even go near the fish counter in a supermarket. I know the fish are dead and they’re hardly likely to jump up at me but they freak me out. I don’t know where the fear comes from but I do remember two things from my childhood. My Dad used to keep fish and he had a tank with two massive ugly fish called Oscars in them. They looked really grumpy and were large and grey. I must have been about seven or eight when we had them and one night I had a dream that they jumped out of the fish tank, grew wings and chased me around the house. Their tank used to be in our front porch and I remember looking down at the floor so I couldn’t see them. Another incident happened when we were on holiday in Scarborough. My Dad, brother and cousin went fishing and caught several tiny plaice. They were still flopping about when Dad brought them back and he put them in the bath! My brother joked that he was going to put them in my bed and every time he went near me, he’d pretend he had the fish and was going to stick it down my neck. This fear of fish still lives with me to this day! If we go swimming in the sea on holiday my kids tease me and say “Ooh look mum, there’s a fish!” I can eat certain types of fish now, thanks to Mr SmartCookieSam being great at cooking it and he’s got me eating salmon, scallops, prawns and some white fish. I still felt physically sick though when he ate a portion of whitebait right in front of me in Italy a few years ago. The batter was so thin you could see their eyes through it. But, having said that, if I am cooking fish it can’t look like a fish to me! It has to be ready filleted with no skin on and certainly no head and tail with its eyes looking up at me!

I chose to test out another recipe from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book, this time being an Indulgent Fish Pie. This is a recipe suggestion in the New Year’s Eve chapter of the book. I remember Mary Berry once cooking a fish pie on one of her programmes and saying she always has fish pie on Christmas Eve. We don’t in our house, in fact fish pie is our traditional meal on Good Friday. Normally on New Years Eve we have a Chinese takeaway if we’re at home. On Sunday, I thought a comforting fish pie was just what we needed. I’d bought some fish the day before in our local Morrisons, although I thought the choice available was a little bit poor. I ended up buying pre-packed and there weren’t any raw prawns on the shelf. My phobia came to the fore when I also realised I would have to take the skin off the salmon to cut it up into chunks! I was really freaking out, I couldn’t even bear to look at the skin, let alone touch it! In the end I turned the fillets over so I couldn’t see the skin and cut the salmon into chunks and then the skin off the bottom. Straightaway I scooped the skin up with some kitchen roll so I couldn’t see it and threw it into the bin.

After all that drama, it was easy to make. I boiled some potatoes and mashed them. I didn’t use double cream in the mash, only a tiny bit of butter. I also made a simple parsley sauce as well as hard boiling some eggs. When these were cooled, I shelled and quartered them, mixing them in with the salmon chunks, some cod chunks and some prawns. I poured over the parsley sauce and then finally topped this with the mashed potato. The recipe uses watercress as an ingredient, which I love. Salmon and watercress sauce is gorgeous but this time I’d forgotten to get some.

The fish pie then went into the oven to bake. I didn’t want to over cook the fish or it would end up like my Nana Margaret’s wash leather haddock. I don’t pre-cook the fish anyway and as the recipe introduction says “all the flavour is released into the pie,”

I’m glad to say my husband had seconds. I didn’t, but I did have a substantial portion.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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

Leek and Potato Soup

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.

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Payday Millionaire- Cheesy Potato Pie.

img_0903A 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:

10 Truths About The Rise And Fall Of A Payday Millionaire

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

Ingredients:

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.

 

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Put the baked beans into an ovenproof dish.
  • Spread the mash evenly on top of the baked beans.
  • Grate the cheese and sprinkle it on top of the pie.
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Here’s the pie ready to be popped into the oven.
  •  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.
  • Serve immediately.

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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.

Gordon Rhodes’ Spice Rubs, Crumbs, Stuffings and Sauces.

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.

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Here is a picture of my Leftover Turkey and Ham Pie.
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Here is the remains of the Turkey and Ham Pie, showing the Gordon Rhodes’ bread sauce which had turned into a delicious, creamy sauce for the pie.

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.

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My fantastic hamper containing the entire range of Gordon Rhodes products: 5 cooking sauces, a bread sauce, five different stuffings, two of which are gluten free and their entire range of herb and spice rubs and crumb coats.
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The handwritten note inside my hamper. Thankyou and yes we most definitely did enjoy our prize!
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My hamper also contained some very useful recipe leaflets and a brochure showing the entire range. There are also some more recipe suggestion on Gordon Rhodes’ website.
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I love Southern Fried Chicken and was really excited to try and create my own, healthier version baked in the oven instead of deep fried with this Cajun spice mix.
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The other two spice mixes I’d not tried before was the Easy Crumb Easy Go Garlic and Herb mix and the Hazy Lazy Summer Citrus and Herb Sprinkle. They would both go down well coating on chicken for my family.
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I have really enjoyed using Gordon Rhodes’ sauces. They help me out no end, especially during the winter months if I am out teaching all day. I put one of the sauces on with the meat and vegetables in my slow cooker in the morning and when I come home I am greeted with a mouthwatering dish like this. My family love it when I make chicken curry.
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I made “Inside Out Chicken Kiev” which was one of the recipe suggestions on one of the leaflets in the hamper. I coated chicken breasts with olive oil and then dipped the breasts in some of the garlic and herb coating.
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The “Inside Out Chicken Kiev” was a massive hit with my family. Even my fussy eater son cleaned his plate!
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My prize hamper has helped me out over several Sunday roasts recently. For two weeks running we had a beautiful roast chicken served with one half of the bread sauce mix and one of the stuffing mixes. The following week we had the remainder of the bread sauce and another packet of stuffing. The stuffing worked well either stuffed in the bird’s cavity or served separately in another dish.
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Hugely popular in our house at the moment- pulled pork. I love cooking it in my slow cooker and serving it with either bread rolls, coleslaw and pickles or with jacket potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Either way there are clean plates in our house.
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Pulled Pork, one of my favourite foods at the moment. It can have honey added to the mix. I don’t bother, I just leave it as it is.
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We love chilli con carne in our house. It gets served with boiled rice but recently I have started serving it in baked tortilla baskets sprinkled with grated cheese, salsa and a dollop of creme fraiche on top. The Gordon Rhodes sauce is another perfect mix to pop in the slow cooker on a busy morning.
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Here is the eagerly awaited Southern Fried Chicken which tasted fabulous with wedges and veg.
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The Southern/ Cajun spice mix also turned out to make gorgeous spicy potato wedges one night.

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.

Happy Cooking.

Love Sam xx

Sticky Toffee Loaf Cake With Fudge Icing- from Delia’s Cakes

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:

No dates in this sticky toffee loaf cake but there were plenty of chopped pecan nuts!
No dates in this sticky toffee loaf cake but there were plenty of chopped pecan nuts! I chopped these first before getting on with the rest of the cake.
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Butter, black treacle and golden syrup went into a saucepan to be melted together on the hob.
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The treacle mixture melted down to look like this.

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!

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The spicy aroma filling my kitchen once the Sticky Toffee Loaf cake came out of the oven was just heavenly. It rose perfectly in the oven. Here it is just cooling down.
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As the cake cooled down on the work top I got on with making the fudge icing.

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.

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The fudge icing as it melted.

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!

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The finished cake! Ta-dah!
My mum tried a piece down at the Village Hall when we went there for tea and cake.  I didn't eat any as I'd already sampled lots of cake when I was judging the competitions earlier.
My mum tried a piece down at the Village Hall when we went there for tea and cake. I didn’t eat any as I’d already sampled lots of cake when I was judging the competitions earlier.

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.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding- The Great British Bake Off Everyday

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.

I chose these four beautiful apples for the pudding.
I chose these four beautiful apples for the pudding.
The apples were peeled, cored, chopped into quarters and then into large chunks.
The apples were peeled, cored, chopped into quarters and then into large chunks.
I weighed out some walnut halves and broke some of them up to make them a little smaller.
I weighed out some walnut halves and broke some of them up to make them a little smaller.
Butter, sugar, flour and eggs were creamed together in a large mixing bowl.
Butter, sugar, flour and eggs were creamed together in a large mixing bowl.
The walnuts and apples were then folded into the mixture.
The walnuts and apples were then folded into the mixture.
The mixture was then spooned into a greased baking dish.
The mixture was then spooned into a greased baking dish.
While the pudding was baking I made some toffee sauce. Sugar, butter and double cream were heated together.
While the pudding was baking I made some toffee sauce. Sugar, butter and double cream were heated together.
This is what the sticky toffee apple pudding looked like when it came out of the oven.
This is what the sticky toffee apple pudding looked like when it came out of the oven.
The toffee sauce is put into a separate jug. It is a pale colour as I had run out of brown sugar, only had caster sugar left!
The toffee sauce is put into a separate jug. It is a pale colour as I had run out of brown sugar, only had caster sugar left!
A serving of the Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding with the toffee sauce poured over. We also had it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Leftovers for another day!
Leftovers for another day!

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.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx