Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they were fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.
I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Monday, 20 October 2014

Spooky Pumpkin Cottage Pies

  photo SAM_7628_zpseaa5f6ab.jpg

There were so many lovely goodies in the hamper that I couldn't just leave it at one recipe.  I decided that I wanted to make another heartier dish that would make a fabulous supper for the kids on Halloween night!  Although good luck to you if you can get your kids to settle down and eat supper on that day.  I never could, but I think that maybe had I created a dish such as this for them back then, they would have had a hard time resisting it!

  photo SAM_7541_zps96302649.jpg

Spooky Spiced Kale Soup

 photo SAM_7604_zpsd2599799.jpg

With Halloween only 11 days away I've been working on creating some lovely Halloween treats and dinners in my kitchen.   I just love the holidays and I especially love Halloween.  I miss having the children around these days of course as there are only the two of us, but that doesn't mean that we can't enjoy ourselves and chow down on some tasty Halloween goodies anyways!

Everything you wanted to know about Turkey but were afraid to ask!

 photo turkeycartoon_zpsee370bbe.jpg



This past week all of our friends across the pond in Canada celebrated their annual Thanksgiving holiday and in November our friends in America will be doing the same.  We don't do Thanksgiving over here in the UK, but we do love our Turkey's for Christmas and I thought it would be fun to share some of my turkey cooking tips with you all today.

I like to purchase a top quality bird for my holiday feasts, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas.  This is the one time of the year I will splurge and get a higher cost bird, and it goes without saying that I always choose free range and fresh if I can get it.  I may eat turkey minced, or in bits the rest of the year . . . but it is only this once a year that I cook the whole bird, so it is a real treat for us! (Christmas for us.)

I always remove all of the wrapping from my bird and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours unwrapped to help dry the skin out well.  That makes it a lot easier to rub any butter on and helps for nicely browned skin.  I also take it out at least an hour before cooking, which brings it to room temperature.  A cold bird put into a hot oven is a bit of a shocking experience and tightens up the tissue . . . we don't want a tough bird.  Moist and succulent is the order of the day.

To ensure a nicely moist turkey, I  like to rub a lot of butter into the flesh beneath the skin, and on top of the skin.  Now you can add seasonings and herbs to it, like I have done here today, which also adds extra flavour.  Sometimes I just slip a few sprigs of thyme, some salt, pepper and sage in with the butter, which works well also.  A bit of broth in the roasting tin and a few aromatic veggies and Bob's your Uncle.  Put that tasty bird over top of it all on a rack and start roasting!

I like to start mine off at a high temperature to assist in the browning, but after that I reduce the temperature to as low as it is safe to go and slow roast, basting it every 15 to 20 minutes with broth and more butter, or the pan juices.  (I know . . . but it's Thanksgiving/Christmas!)  If it starts to get too dark, I will tent it with some foil. 

It's really important that once your bird is done you set it aside, keep it warm and allow it to rest, so that all of those tasty juices will be absorbed back into the bird.  If you start to carve it right away, you're going to lose all of that moistness.  It will run out all over your cutting board.  Be patient.  Wait.  You'll be rewarded with an incredibly tasty and moist bird.

 

A lot of people swear by Brining . . . and others by dry brining.  I have tried both . . . and to be honest, I want my  turkey to taste like a turkey.    Dry brining with salt preserves the integrity of the bird . . . and in all honesty it doesn't end up being really salty.  Every wet brined bird I have ever cooked ended up tasting like the brine.  Not exactly my cup of tea.



This is an excellent video which gives some great instructions on dry brining.

You would be right in thinking that this bird I am showing you here today is not a turkey.  It's a chicken.  I'll be cooking my turkey at Christmas, but I did want to share a recipe with you that is fabulous when roasting a turkey, but also equally as delish when used on a chicken.


 (This is a large free range roasting chicken.)

It involves creating a delicious butter rub which you rub into the flesh beneath the turkey breast, beneath the skin . . . flavoured with a balsamic and maple syrups, shallots, thyme, seasoning salt and . . . lotsa butter!  As the turkey cooks that butter melts into the breast meat, flavouring it . . . moistening it, making it all scrummy.



Don't be afraid of butter . . . you're going to skim it off all of the juices anyways . . . and it does help to keep that tasty bird moist and delicious!

 

I don't stuff my birds with stuffing . . . not a chicken nor a turkey.  I like to cook the stuffing separately in a covered dish.  It's too iffy . . . you can never really  tell if it's cooked properly, and it can keep your turkey from cooking properly as well.  Best to be on the safe side and cook it separate.  You can flavour your bird from the inside out with other things . . . in this case some orange and onion.  I have even shoved bunches of herbs inside the bird with great success . . . but not stuffing.  Trust me on this.



However you choose to season your bird . . .  if you follow these few  tips, you are in for a real treat. (Start with a  QUALITY room temperature bird and hot oven,  lotsa butter beneath the skin, sear in the oven on high and then roast on low, baste, baste, baste . . . and let it rest before you cut into it!)


 

 *Roasted Turkey with a Balsamic & Maple Rub*
Serves 10 to 14
Printable Recipe
A moist and deliciously different turkey.  This rub works wonderfully  with a roast chicken as well.

one 5-7kg Turkey, rinsed and
patted dry with paper toweling

For the rub:
2 shallots, peeled and minced
3 TBS pure Maple Syrup
1 TBS Balsamic Glaze (a thick mixture created by boilig
Balsamic vinegar until it becomes thick and syrupy.  Use a good
quality.)
1 TBS dark soy sauce
2 tsp dried thyme
1 TBS seasoning salt
4 ounces of butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup)

You will also need:
1 large orange, washed, unpeeled and cut into eighths
3 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups of chicken or turkey stock (may need more)

Take the turkey from the refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for at least an hour before cooking.  (To insure a really dry skin surface, I remove it from the wrapping the night before cooking and pat it dry inside and out with paper towels.)

Make the rub by stirring together all of the ingredients until well blended.  Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

Preheat the oven to 225*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Have ready a large roasting tin.

Put the carrots and 3/4 of the chopped onions in the bottom of the roasting tin.  Pour the stock over all.

Take your turkey and carefully loosen the skin around the main body cavity, sliding your fingers carefully inside to loosen it all over the breast.  Take care not to tear the skin.  Take the rub and push 3/4 of it under the skin, massaging it into the meat as best as you can.  I sometimes find this is easier to do by putting the butter under the skin and then massaging it down the breast from the outside of the skin.  Rub the remainder of the mixture on the outside of the turkey.  Place the remainder of the onion and the orange wedges inside the cavity of the turkey along with some salt and pepper.  Tuck the wings underneath as best as you can and tie the drumsticks together over the opening with some kitchen twine.  Place the bird on  a rack over top of the vegetables in the roasting pan, breast side up.

Roast in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes.   Reduce the oven temperature to 160*C/325*F/gas  mark 4 and roast for a further 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices..  When it is done the juices should run clear when the bird is pricked between the thigh and breast.  You may need to tent the turkey with foil if it begins to get too dark.  You may also need to add more stock if the pan becomes too dry.  When it is done, transfer the turkey to a large carving board and tent with foil.  Allow to rest for at least 20 to 25 minutes before carving.

Strain the pan juices, discarding any vegetables.  Use these juices to make your gravy.

Note - to cook a chicken in this manner, rub with the balsamic and maple mixture in the same manner on a 2kg chicken and roast at 225*c/425*f/ gas mark 7 for 20 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3 for a further 45 to 60 minutes until done and the juices run clear, basting every 15 minutes or so.  I don't bother with a rack in this case. I just roast the chicken right on top of the vegetables.

Here are some of the tools I like to use when cooking my holiday bird.

 photo 1200849_-_Turkey_Thermometer_zpsefddd80f.jpg

Eddingtons Meat Thermometer for Poultry and Beef.    £8.95 from Kitchen Monger.  

  photo KGrHqJp4FYGqLT7BQbdUZ0ZQg60_35_zpsfdd7ef52.jpg 

For another way of roasting your holiday bird, why not try an Oven Roasting Bag.   These handy bags from Heuck fit up to 22lb Turkey, and make for a quick and easy clean up.  Good for roasting turkey, beef, lamb, pork, chicken or duck, and also available from Kitchen Monger at the price of £3.95 for a package containing two roasting bags. 

 photo prodzoomimg8192_zpsa7dc69cd.jpg 

One of the most difficult things to do is to lift the turkey out of the roasting tin onto a platter.  They are heavy and awkward and somewhat cumbersome.  I have some really handy Turkey Lifters which make the job a whole lot easier.  You just slide them into to the bottom of the turkey at both ends, where the holes won't show and life the turkey out with ease.  This particular set from Eddingtons is durable  and easy to use and comes in a set of two.   Available at Amazon.uk for the price of  £2.95

Many thanks to Eddingtons for sending me these products to try out!

Celebrate the Great British Banger with Newman's Own Hot Dog Sauce

  photo 230384011_0_640x640_zps16d1a1a0.jpg

British Sausage Week (3rd – 9th November) is an annual celebration loved by all food fanatics, and what better way to spruce up the ever popular sausage sarnie than adding Newman’s Own Smokin’ Hot Dog Sauce!

This authentic, American-style sauce is deliciously tangy; made with authentic American mustard, a hint of chilli and pairs perfectly with any sausage. So in order to celebrate British Sausage Week on 3rd – 9th November why not sling the uninventive tomato ketchup to the side and tantalise your taste buds with Newman’s Own Smokin’ Hot Dog Sauce!

The Newman’s Own Smokin’ Hot Dog Sauce is available from Morrison’s, RRP £1.89



 photo Jumbo_Hot_DogsPack_zps3bd7ab14.jpg

*Smokin Jumbo Hot Dogs with Onions*
Serves 4

A delicious hotdog recipe for British Sausage Week from the people at Newman's Own. 

1 TBS sunflower oil
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 TBS water
4 jumbo hotdogs
4 large sub rolls or hotdog rolls
Newman's Own Smoking Hot Dog Sauce



Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the onions and stir well. Cook over a gentle heat for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add 2 tablespoons of the water and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened and translucent but not browned.  Add the remaining water and stir. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid, to keep the onions warm.  Meanwhile cook the hot dogs in a pan of simmering water for 7-8 minutes until heated through, or according to pack instruction. Drain well.  Cut the rolls down the middle and divide the onions between them, add a hot dog to each. Serve with a generous drizzle of the Smoking Hot Dog Sauce.

Note - I was not provided any product or compensation for this post.  I quite simply enjoy this sauce.  It is one of my favourites, and if you haven't tried it yet, you really should!   Did you know 100% of the profits earned from Newman’s Own are given to charity by Newman’s Own Foundation? When Paul Newman founded Newman’s Own in 1982, he decided that all the profits should go to worthy causes. His vision is still their guiding principle today, and thousands of charities have benefited, and continue to benefit, worldwide.  I love being able to eat something delicious and know that I am also helping charities at the same time.

Smoked Sausage and Cabbage Skillet Supper

 photo SAM_7710_zps98c5bf4a.jpg

I confess most Sundays when we get home from church I am absolutely starving.  It will have been at least 8 hours since I have gotten up and probably about 6 since breakfast so about that time I could just about eat anything.  If I have been smart and planned ahead, I will have dinner waiting for us in the crock pot.  If I haven't I will have to resort to looting the cupboards and refrigerator to see what I can come up with quickly.  Such was today . . .

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lemon Curd Shortbread Wedges

 

I have never made any secret about my great love for anything lemon . . . oh I do so adore it.   Especially lemon curd.  It's such a fabulous ingredient and can be used for so many different things . . .  aside from eating it with a spoon from the jar . . .  and of course I'd never do anything like that would I?  

 photo sheepish_zpsbb82f61e.jpg  Guilty as charged . . .


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Apricot & Almond Breakfast Cake


  photo SAM_7687_zpsea3e81b4.jpg


Oh, I do love the weekend.  I know that I don't work outside the home anymore, but that doesn't mean that my Saturdays and Sundays are not still special to me in the way that they always were.   I still use the weekends to relax and kick back . . .  and to bake and do all the things that I enjoy but don't have time to do during the week.  I don't know how I ever managed to get everything done that I did when I was working full time . . .  because my time seems to evaporate like water these days!  Anyways, I suppose what I am trying to say and saying very badly is . . .  I love baking special things at the weekend!


Friday, 17 October 2014

Happy to say I've got Plenty of Personali-tea!































A few weeks back, PG tips launched a fun quiz to determine your PG personali-tea. (You can find it on their Facebook page here.) As they explained, "With so many different varieties available, it’s all about providing teas for every taste and finding the perfect tasting cuppa for your personality." I took the quiz and . . .  no surprise here . . . I came out as Mellow!  What fun!


Baked Cheese Dip and a Gourmet Mac and Cheese


When Queen Elizabeth visited France this year for the D-Day Commemorations she experienced one of France’s most cherished and traditional cheeses. As her annual speech approaches on Christmas Day, why not follow suit and discover the delights of Comté for yourself?

Comté is handcrafted by artisans, using a method which has not changed for centuries. Thanks to its versatility, Comté pairs superbly with both red and white wine along with Champagne, making it a tasty choice for Christmas party nibbles. To make Comté even more festive why not pair it with orange zest, which perfectly complements its creamy undertones? What’s more, the intense flavours of Comté make it the perfect addition to your Christmas cheeseboard. Thanks to their aromas of butter and caramel, young Comté is especially complimented by chutneys, especially the sweet, rich flavours of fig chutney.

Comté’s full-spectrum of delicious flavours makes it ideal for numerous festive recipes, such as scallops with a Comté and hazelnut crust. The breadcrumb, hazelnut and Comté mix adds a deliciously festive twist to lightly fried scallops, making it the perfect Christmas Day aperitif. Or, when the festivities are over, why not add it to your Boxing Day platter, or combine it with leftover turkey in some delicious puff-pastry rolls? Warm, melted Comté and spice-infused Turkey breast is encased in a golden-brown pastry, which will keep your family full even after the decorations have been taken down.

Comté is available from all major supermarkets, as well as specialist farm shops and delis. To learn more about Comté, its complex range of flavours and ideal pairings please visit www.comtecheese.co.uk. You can also follow Comté on twitter @Comte_Cheese or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/ComteCheeseUK.  

I was recently sent some of this lovely cheese and challenged to come up with some recipes that you might find handy over the holidays!

 photo cheesedip4_zpsf45475bd.jpg

This first recipe is for a lovely cheese dip/spread.  It's simple to make and would be perfect for an informal holiday get together.

 photo cheesedip3_zps192c840c.jpg

This delicious cheese is simply cut into cubes and mixed with some fontina cheese and scattered into a baking dish along with some olive oil, garlic and some herbs.  It is then popped under the grill until the whole thing melts and amalgamates into a  rich and scrummy mixture which is excellent for dipping or spreading onto toasted slices of baguette.

 photo cheesedip_zps41077eab.jpg


*Baked Cheese Dip*
serves 4 to 6

A delicious dip to serve at the table, family style so that everyone can just dig in and enjoy some spirited holiday conversation!    

3/4 pound of medium strength comte cheese
3/4 pound of fontina cheese
60ml good quality olive oil (1/4 cup)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 TBS fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 TBS fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp flaked sea salt, rubbed in your fingers
1 good quality French Baguette, sliced and toasted and rubbed with a clove of garlic  

 
 photo cheesedip2_zpsb6f1ca0c.jpg  

Preheat your grill to medium high.   Place your grill rack no closer than 5 inches beneath the flame.
Trim off and discard the rinds of your cheeses.  Cut the cheese into 1/2 inch dice.   Mix them together and then scatter them in a heavy cast iron shallow gratin dish or skillet.  Drizzle the olive oil over all.   Mix together the garlic, thyme, rosemary, black pepper and sea salt.  Sprinkle this mixture evenly over top of the cheese.   Place the pan beneath the grill and roast until the cheese melts, bubbles and begins to turn golden brown in spots.  Serve the melted cheese at the table along with your toasted baguette slices and a spoon so that people can dip in and spoon the dip out onto the bread.  Alternately you can just serve with torn chunks of baguette and people can dip the bread.

 photo gourmetmacandcheese1_zpsb1b76342.jpg

The next recipe is for a Gourmet Mac and Cheese that is the perfect do ahead that you can have waiting in the fridge, ready to pop into the oven when your company arrives and would also be the perfect casserole to serve along side of your leftover sliced ham and turkey on Boxing Day.   A few crusty rolls and some salad and your Boxing Day is sorted!

 photo gourmetmacandcheese2_zpsa9435276.jpg

Its also very simple to make but has a gloriously rich holiday feel and flavour  which comes from the use of three different cheese, including that lovely almost caramel like richness of the comte cheese.

  photo gourmetmacandcheese_zpsb08d51b2.jpg

*Gourmet Mac & Cheese*
Serves 4

A truly creamy and rich version of macaroni and cheese with three delicious cheeses and a crunchy topping.  

fine sea salt
8 ounces of maccheroni pasta (macaroni or some other tublar pasta)
2 TBS unsalted butter
a handful of crushed buttered Italian crackers, I used whole wheat (Similar to Saltine crackers)
90g of finely grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup)
2 TBS plain flour
450ml of whole milk (about 2 cups ), gently warmed
2 ounces grated strong cheddar cheese (3/4 cup)
2 ounces grated Comte cheese (3/4 cup)
2 ounces grated taleggio cheese (3/4 cup)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of ground nutmeg  

Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions in lightly salted water.  Drain well, rinse in cold water, and drain again.  Set aside.  

Melt  the butter in a large saucepan.   Whisk in the flour in and allow to cook over low heat for about a minute.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk.  Cook and wisk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon and thickens.  Stir in the cheddar cheese and all but 3 TBS each of the Comte and taleggio cheeses.   Whisk and stir until all of the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.    Remove the pan from the heat and fold in the cooked pasta.  

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a shallow 1 litre baking dish.  Pour in the pasta and cheese sauce.   Mix together the remaining cheeses along with the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over top  Sprinkle the crumbled crackers over top.  Bake in the heated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.  Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. 




























Comté cheese is made in the Massif du Jura region of France and has been for over 1,000 years. Montbéliarde and French Simmental are the only cows allowed for the production of Comté milk. They must only be fed with natural feed and have at least 2.5 acres of grazing pasture.

Comté’s methods of production are still based on the original co-operative approach and artisan traditions. Each day it is lovingly crafted in around 160 small village fruitières. Often situated in the heart of the village, each fruitière continues to receive milk from dedicated dairy farms situated within an 8 mile radius to guarantee its absolute freshness. This radius also ensures all 160 remain active and the Massif du Jura region maintains its fruitière diversity.

Lovingly crafted every day, the freshly made cheese wheels are pre-ripened for a few weeks before moving to one of the 16 maturing cellars. Here the affineurs look after them for 4 to 18 months or more; regularly turning, salting and rubbing each one with brine solution. Over time a crust appears and every Comté wheel develops its unique smooth texture, rich colour and delicious range of flavours.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Banana Bread and BREAD

 photo SAM_7621_zps1f0c45a6.jpg

I baked what is possibly the most delicious Banana Bread I have ever baked yesterday, and that is saying a lot.  I've baked many Banana Breads in my life time and I have my favourites but I think this recipe just kicked the lot to the curb and took their place!    A bold statement indeed!