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