Pecan Pie

One of the best smells to come out of the oven!

One of the best smells to come out of the oven!

First attempt at this recipe as a test run for Christmas and third attempt at yet another way to make shortcrust pastry! But I think it turned out great, have a look. This recipe is from the Queen of puds Mary Berry, which you can get from this book

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

175g Plain flour

90g Chilled butter

2tbsp cold water

1 lightly beaten egg white

For the filling:

150g Pecan halves

30g Unsalted butter

60g Light muscovado sugar

30g Caster sugar

125ml Golden syrup

3tbsp Brandy (I use amaretto because I have it in the cupboard)

1tsp Vanilla extract

2tbsp Single Cream

A quarter tsp of cinnamon

Pinch of grated nutmeg

1 Large egg lightly beaten

2 Egg yolks

Equipment:

9in fluted loose bottomed flan tin

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First serious note: if you can get pecan halves already shelled then do so! It took me ages to shell them.

Make the pastry. Add the flour and butter to the bowl and rub together until they are like breadcrumbs. Add enough water until the pastry comes together. I found that I had to add more water than the recipe suggests to get the pastry to form. Roll out and put in the tin, pushing into the flutes of the tin. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30mins. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Blind bake for 10mins. I used ceramic beads for this and some grease-proof paper, but I hear rice or beans are just as good. Take out the beans and wash with the egg white before returning to the oven to crisp up and go golden. Leave to one side.

Toast the pecans in the same oven for just shy of 10mins. Keep a few whole then chop the rest roughly.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan gently until browned. Add the sugars and the golden syrup and cook until the sugars dissolve. Add the brandy (or amaretto) and bring to the boil. It’ll go all frothy and try to over boil, just take it away from the heat every time it tries. Take off the heat and add the cinnamon, cream, nutmeg and vanilla extract.

In a bowl whisk together the egg and egg yolks. Add a little of the hot syrup and whisk, then add half and whisk together, then add the rest. leave to cool.

Now Mary puts the pecans in the the pastry case and then pours the syrup over them. But in the future I think I will mix the pecans into the syrup and then pour it in. this is because when I did it Mary’s way the pecans floated to the top of the syrup when it set.

Bake in the oven at 180 degrees celsius for 40mins until golden and set. 🙂

Chilli Wraps

Sometimes I mix Parmesan into the cheese to add a bit more flavour

Sometimes I mix Parmesan into the cheese to add a bit more flavour

This is a weekly meal in our house. I’ve adapted a recipe for the chilli from the Hairy Dieter’s first cook book, which you can get here. I don’t follow it completely as in theirs they make the wraps into bowls which they serve the chilli in. I just use the chilli recipe and make a dinner kit for whatever else I have in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

500g Beef Mince Meat

1 Medium Onion (finely chopped)

2 Cloves of Garlic (chopped)

1tsp Ground Coriander

1tsp Hot Chilli Powder

1tsp Cumin

2tbsp tomato puree/sauce

1tsp caster sugar

300ml beef stock

Oil for the pan

For the sides:

300g Cream Cheese

A small bunch of Chives

1 small Lime

1tsp Smoked Paprika

4 Spring Onions

6 Flour Tortillas

Grated cheese of choice

Equipment:

For cooking the mince all you need is a medium sized pan with a lids that fits.

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Put the mince, onion and the  garlic into the pan and brown off. Make sure there are no lumps while the mince is cooking. With the onion and garlic I blitz it quickly in a little food processor so it mixes with the mince well. Brown for five minutes then add the chilli powder, coriander and cumin and cook for a further two mins, giving it a good stir. Then add the stock, sugar and tomato puree. I have always used tomato ketchup in this recipe (as I usually don’t have puree in the fridge), it seems to work the same. Lower the heat and simmer for 30mins, stirring occasionally.

Whilst that is happening make the side dishes. I always have cream cheese in the fridge so I make two sides to go with the mince. Divide the tub in half. Add the lime juice and some zest if you fancy. Chop up the chives and mix in. For the other half chop up the spring onions and add them to the cheese. Then add a good shake of smoked paprika and mix (also a tiny bit of salt and pepper if it’s too creamy). Two dead easy additions to the meal. If you have some lettuce in, you could have them with some salt and pepper and lime juice tossed in a bowl too. This meal changes every week for us, I take advantage of whatever is in the cupboards.

When the mince has simmered for 30 mins turn up the heat high and cook away the liquid. This can take 5-10mins. If oil starts to leak our of the meat you can always skim it off or try to pour it away. Once the liquid has gone take off the heat and transfer into a bowl.

And there it is! A quick and simple dinner that you can change up depending on what you have in. 🙂

Mum’s Mince Pies

Add brandy to the mince to make a boozy mince pie!

Add brandy to the mince to make a boozy mince pie!

I went to Mum’s this week to bake some mince pies and had a go at her tried and tested recipe!

Ingredients:

For the Pastry:

225g Plain Flour

150g Unsalted Butter

75g Caster Sugar (plus some for dusting)

Pinch of Salt

1 Egg Yolk

1 Egg

The Zest of One Lemon

 

For the Mince:

1 Jar of Mince 400g approx (you can make your own but the supermarkets have a great range)

3 tsp of Brandy

1 tsp of Mixed Spice

 

Equipment:

Round pastry cutters – Whatever size you want really, just make sure the bottom cutter is bigger than the top cutter

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Mix the butter, sugar, eggs, egg yolk and zest until thoroughly combined. Add the flour until the pastry comes together.

Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30-60mins. Learning from the Chocolate and Walnut Tart I found that the pastry was too short and by resting it for longer in the fridge, it makes it easier to handle afterwards. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

Whilst it’s resting mix the mince with the sherry and the mixed spice (you can use more or less to taste) and leave to one side.

Generously flour the surface and roll out the pastry. Cut out bottoms and put in well buttered muffin tins. Then bring the pastry together again and roll out to cut out the tops. (This recipe easily makes 24 mince pies).

Spoon in the mince mixture and egg wash the sides, put a top on and put a hole in for the steam to escape. Egg wash the tops.

Bake for 25-30mins until they are golden.

Once baked leave to cool on a wire rack then dust with icing sugar.

Have a go! 🙂

First attempt at Shortcrust pastry with a Chocolate and Walnut Tart

The lemon zest in the pastry adds a fresh flavour to the tart

The lemon zest in the pastry adds a fresh flavour to the tart

I’ve never made shortcrust pastry before so I thought if I wanted to carry on with this blog seriously I better get on and make some! This is also a test run tart for gifts this year as part of the home-made Christmas we are planning this year.

(The recipe I followed for this is form M&S’s Step by Step Cook’s Encyclopedia, which can be found Here

Ingredients:

For the Pastry:

115g Caster Sugar

125g Unsalted, Softened Butter

2 Egg Yolks

Grated rind of 1 Lemon

250g Plain Flour

For the Filling:

125g Plain Chocolate

250g Ricotta Cheese

40g Icing Sugar

2tbsp of Amaretto liqueur

1tsp Vanilla Extract

100g Finely Chopped Walnuts

Equipment:

23cm/9in Flan tin with a loose base

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Pre heat the oven at 180 degrees celsius. Mix the caster sugar, butter, egg yolk and lemon in a bowl.

Sift in the flour and and continue to stir the mixture with a spoon until you can get your hands in there. Work it until you can make it into a ball. Cover with cling film and leave to rest at room temperature for about 10mins.

Whilst that is happening melt the chocolate in a bowl over some boiling water. When there are only a few lumps of chocolate left take it off the heat and melt completely. I used cooking chocolate for this but I think I will use eating chocolate next time for a sweeter tart.

Mix the ricotta cheese, icing sugar, amaretto, vanilla extract and walnuts together and add the melted chocolate.

Put to one side and butter the flan tin.

Flour a surface and roll out two thirds of the pastry. This recipe makes a very crumbly pastry so roll it out as best you can and then push it into the tin. Make sure it is pushed into all the flutes and the base has an even covering.

Spoon the filling into the tin and smooth it down. Then roll out the remaining pastry to make a lattice pattern on the top. (it was so fiddly and this part took me the longest!)

Bake for 35-40mins until the pastry is golden.

Take out and leave to cool in the tin until it is really cool. Then pop out of the tin and serve with fresh cream.

It was a great way for me to practice shortcrust although it made a really short pastry. If you wanted an easier dough I wouldn’t add the whole amount of flour, but be careful, mess with it too much and it won’t work.

If you have a go let me know how it goes! 🙂

 

 

Pancakes from Leftovers

Add sugar to the leftover batter for sweet pancakes

Add sugar to the leftover batter for sweet pancakes

As I mentioned in my last post about Toad in the Hole  I always have batter left over. For a quick and easy meal I add about 2tbsp of Caster sugar to the batter and half a tsp of baking powder (to make them rise a little). Give it a good stir!

Then heat a non stick pan with a little oil, medium heat should be fine you don’t want to cook them too quickly and end up with burnt pancakes. Spoon a small amount per pancake and turn after 2 or 3 minutes (when it is a nice golden colour). Set aside on some kitchen paper. As you can see in the image, mine are all shapes and sizes, the best thing is to just keep an eye on them because they will catch. Make sure you keep a film of oil in the pan for subsequent pancakes otherwise they will burn.

And there you have it! An efficient way of using up the leftover batter. I had mine with some bananas we had in and a bit of indulgent double cream. But of course you can put anything with them!

Let me know what you put with your pancakes 🙂

 

Toad in the Hole

I add balsamic vinegar to the onions to make it sweet for the gravy

I put dried Thyme in the oil when it was heating up in the oven

Ingredients:

6-8 Sausages

250g Plain Flour

350ml of Milk

4 Eggs

Pinch of Salt

1tsp of dried Sage

1tsp of dried Thyme

2tbsp of Sunflower Oil

For the Gravy:

500ml Chicken Stock

1 Red Onion

2tbsp of Plain Flour

Splash of Balsamic Vinegar

Equipment:

A rectangular oven proof dish, frying pan, measuring jug for pouring the batter and a whisk to get rid of lumps!

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This is a recipe I have done to death! Mum makes it all the time and does it perfect. I think it’s because she has refined the recipe from doing it over and over. Although Mum’s gravy is hard to beat!

First, preheat the oven at 220 degrees celsius (fan assisted). Then mix the milk, eggs, flour and pinch of salt together in a bowl. Add the flour gradually as you whisk. you’ll still get lumps but if you spend a good five to ten minutes whisking the lumps will disappear. Set to one side (the batter can be made in advance the day before but no earlier). Put the Sunflower Oil in your baking dish and put it in the oven to heat up, you want it smoking before you add the sausages and batter. Sprinkle the Thyme on the oil now.

Heat a drop of oil in a pan and add the sausages. Sprinkle the dried Sage over them as they are browning. When they are a good colour add them to the dish in the oven and pour the batter around them. If you have a deep dish add all of the batter. But if, like me, you have quite a shallow baking dish, then fill until you can just see the tops of the sausages. Getting the level right is important, put too much in and the yorkshire pudding will be spongy and sometimes uncooked, put too little and it will go too crispy.

Cook for 30-40 minutes until the yorkshire is crispy and golden (you can have quick peeks in the oven, look for too long and the pud will fall).

While that is cooking (towards the end), roughly chop the onion and fry in the same pan you browned the sausages on a high heat for 3 minutes. Add the Balsamic Vinegar, enough for the onions to soak up and reduce down a bit. Add the stock and the flower and stir until all the lumps disappear. I would add the flour in stages though, tackle the lumps in waves! When that is ready it’s time to put it all together.

Side Dishes:

There’s nothing better than mashed potato and carrots: dead simple. I don’t do anything to the carrots other than salting the water they boil in. But for the mash I add salt and pepper, milk or double cream if you’ve got it and feel extravagant. I also add about a tsp of Dijon Mustard (to mash from two large potatoes). It gives it a little subtle heat and flavour.

Let me know if you give it a go! 🙂

Pumpkin Soup

 

The seeds at the end add a bit of crunch

The seeds at the end add a bit of crunch

To kick off this blog i’m going to start with this seasonal favourite. It’s a really simple recipe and if you make lots you can change it up every time you eat it.

Ingredients:

1 Large Pumpkin

2 Medium Onions

2 Big cloves of Garlic

2 Litres of Vegetable or Chicken Stock

2 tsp of Turmeric

2 tsp of Ground Coriander

Nutmeg

Mixed seeds for finish

Equipment:

The only thing I would say here is it’s much easier to use a stick blender and make sure you have a pot bigger than 12in in diameter.

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First of all chop and peel the pumpkin. Easier said than done! I chop the pumpkin in half then scoop out the innards. Then I cut it into manageable slices (a bit like a melon) then peel each slice. I’ve found that it is much easier this way. A useful tip is to use the peeler on the inside of the pumpkin slices to get rid of all the slimy netting. cube and set to one side. I also used a Harlequin squash with this, but that was only because I had it in the cupboard (makes the soup more yellow. Roughly chop the onion and crush the garlic with the back of the blade.

Heat up some olive oil in a big non-stick pot.

Add the pumpkin, onions and garlic and cook on a medium/high heat until softened. Then add the turmeric and the ground coriander and stir so that all the veg is covered in the spices. Season and put the lid on for five mins.

For the stock I used two vegetable stock cubes because I had them in the cupboard, but chicken stock cubes would do. If you make your own stock even better!. Make the stock up and pour into the pot until the pumpkin is covered.

Cook on a medium heat until the pumpkin is soft. Remove the lid and get the stick blender in there. blend until it is as smooth as you can get it. If it is too thick for you at this point add a little more stock or water and keep blending. If you find it is too thick later you can add a little double cream to thin and smooth it out.

Now Grate Nutmeg onto the soup. I didn’t specify an amount because it’s up to you. I put in a healthy amount until it speckles the soup. It goes really  well with the pumpkin and tastes autumnal. also season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat through and serve with some dried mixed seeds sprinkled on top. 🙂

Leftovers:

This recipe makes a lot of soup, so I get a big plastic container and store it in the fridge which will keep it for about a week. You can also freeze it and it should last a month or so.

Alternatives:

Because there was so much of it I realised it could get boring, especially as the plan was to eat it during the week. I bought some smoked streaky bacon, cut it up and fried it in a pan until it was crispy. Then added it to the soup when serving. The salty smokey flavour worked really well with the pumpkin and the nutmeg. Another serving saw some double cream and chopped leeks added. I fried the leeks with a little balsamic to add a tiny bit of sharpness to cut through the soup.

Let me know what you think if you have a go!