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

Spaghetti Carbonara- Midweek Meal. 

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I’m all on for a quick mid week meal. As with any working parent, the last thing you want is to have to make something complicated and time consuming when you’re exhausted after a long day.  I’m very lucky in that when I have full time work placements in my role as a supply teacher, Mr SmartCookieSam is great at cooking and having dinner on the table.  But even then there are times when he’s late himself or away working. Or there are days when I’m not working myself. On working days I love meals like Spaghetti Carbonara as it’s quick to make and everyone in our house likes it.  I know it’s one of my son’s girlfriend’s favourites as well.

I’ve tried lots of different carbonara recipes but it was the first time I tried Mary Berry’s version in her “Cooks The Perfect Step By Step” book. Her “My New Spaghetti Carbonara” had added mushrooms and bacon to it, as well as garlic. So it wasn’t an authentic Carbonara, but it still tasted amazing.

While my spaghetti was cooking in my large saucepan, I fried a packet of bacon lardons in their own fat.  Once these had started to cook and crisp up, I removed the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and added a tablespoonful of olive oil to the pan.  Then I fried two crushed cloves of garlic and some quartered closed cup mushrooms.  (Mary suggested chestnut mushrooms, but I don’t like them!) These were then cooked for about 3-4 minutes.

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When the pasta was nearly ready, I combined  2 large beaten eggs and some parmesan cheese, along with  4 tablespoonfuls of double cream in a measuring jug. The pasta was then drained and added to the frying pan with the mushrooms, garlic and the bacon all at once. At the last minute I tipped in the egg mixture, taking the pan away from the heat so that the eggs didn’t become scrambled.

The result was delicious and made four very generous servings of Carbonara.  The whole thing only took about 20 minutes to make from preparation to putting on the table.  Quicker than ordering a takeaway around where I live!

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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