I like to think I am pretty honest with you. Not in a take a photo of my stretchmarks and post it to Instagram kind of a way. I’d have to be paid a lot to do that. (I do have a price for this kind of thing… don’t we all? Oh, okay, just me). Anyway, I digress. I am honest with you in that I don’t pretend making macarons is easy. I don’t try and profess that making homemade soup brings you closer to God (whichever one you worship… even the God that is blue cheese). I’m also not going to pretend these meatballs are speedy. READ MORE
Venison is lower in fat than chicken, high in protein and always free range. Of all the game meats, it has the most delicate flavour and pairs wonderfully with this punchy stroganoff. Don’t be tempted to over cook haunch steaks, a flash fry is all they need. READ MORE
Pressure cookers eh? What do you make of them? Up until this summer I’d always been slightly scared of them; the hissing sound, the old scare stories of exploding pans from the 60’s, the locking of the pan… They were not for me.
Then in July I got the chance to use one. Except it wasn’t any old pressure cooker, it was one that plugs in, rather than sits on your stove top, and is was all whizzy and had different buttons for different foods. I set to work to have a play and this beef rogan josh was just one of the recipes that sprung out of the Pressure King Pro by the end of the day. READ MORE
Now I know this sounds like a lot of ingredients and possibly therefore hard work, but I promise you it’s not. It’s the dish that really gives back. It’s pretty quick to prepare, you make the filling the day before you want it and then on the night just assemble and bake. Everyone loves it and it’s grown up enough for having friends over for dinner and yet homely enough for a regular Tuesday night supper. I serve with green beans usually plus a little mashed potato if I’m feeling especially in need of comfort.
If you’re the type of person who wraps all their presents for Christmas by September and laughs in the face of panic buying then you might even make the filling ahead and stash it in the freezer ready for a rainy or even a snowy day. Just imagine having this as a standby supper… And if slow cooker standbys are your thing then have a look here. Loads of ideas.
My slow cooker beef bourguignon pie
Serves 6 – 8
Mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a bowl and then toss the beef in it, making sure each piece is well covered. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the beef cubes about 8 – 10 at a time, turning the pieces in order to brown them. Don’t overcrowd the pan! If you do the pieces won’t brown. Once each few pieces are brown transfer to a dish. Repeat until all the meat is brown.
Fry the smoked bacon, onion and garlic in the remaining oil then add the browned beef. When the onion has softened and the bacon cooked through add the Burgundy, beef stock, bay leaves and thyme and bring to the boil. Once bubbling away, scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure all the meat juices are incorporated into the sauce and then transfer to your slow cooker. Add the shallots and mushrooms and leave on ‘low’ for 3.5 hours. (If you don’t have a slow cooker you can use the oven at 140C/gas mark 1 for 2 hours, though ensure your casserole dish has a well fitted lid.)
Once the beef is well cooked and easy to break apart with a fork, remove the bourguignon from the heat and allow to cool (if your sauce is very thin then you can strain the meat and vegetables over a colander, retaining the sauce into a saucepan, then reduce over a high heat stirring constantly). When completely cool (I leave mine overnight in the fridge) you can assemble and bake your pie. Please don’t try and assemble when the filling is hot as the pastry will melt with the heat resulting in a very unsatisfactory looking pie.
Preheat your oven to 220C/gas mark 7 and place the cold pie filling in a large pie dish. I prefer enamel pie dishes as they conduct heat best. Then roll the pastry out onto a floured work surface using a lightly floured rolling pin. You need to roll it to about the thickness of a pound coin, just about 3cm larger than the pie dish. Trim the edges of the pastry you have rolled to remove some strips about 2cm wide. Egg wash the rim of the pie dish, then fix the strips to the dish, pressing down firmly. Egg wash the now pastry lined dish rim again, then place the rolled out pastry lid over the top, being careful not to stretch the pastry too much (or it will shrink when baking). Press down gently around the edges and use scissors to cut the edge of the pastry to about 1/2 cm larger than the rim of the pie dish.
You can then ‘knock up’ the edges of the pastry as per the photo above, or you can use a fork to press the pastry together leaving a pleasing pattern on the edge. Make a hole in the centre of the pie, in a cross shape, about 4cm across, using sharp knife (you can use a pie funnel if you like but this isn’t necessary – if you do use one insert before adding the pastry lid.) Egg wash the whole pie with a pastry brush and then bake for 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
In association with Schwartz.
Do you have a best friend? I hate the very label.
I went to a school where every girl had to have a best friend. The class was divided into neat little pairs. Every so often someone would decide they wanted to break best friends and have a new best friend, which would of course mean everyone had to break best friends. It was barbaric. One girl in particular was responsible for a lot of the rumours spread that resulted in the inevitable breaking of friends, tears, sleepless nights and snotty tissues. She was expelled in the end. Although at my school it was called being ‘asked to leave.’ Private schools love a euphemism.
Recently I noticed a friend of a friend on Facebook post a photo of herself and the mutual pal together with the label ‘I love my best friend!’ or something similarly twee. It made my blood boil. So territorial, so exclusive to every other friend either woman may have. It’s as rude as not replying to a party invite. Don’t even get me started on that.
The only kind of best friends chat I tolerate in this house is between brothers. Ie/ my sons. I tell them all the time to look after each other, that they’re so lucky to always be best friends etc etc until I feel my voice grow hoarse. Years ago, when my eldest were still in utero, I read that if you tell a child something enough it becomes their reality. So I carry on with my indoctrination of sibling best friendery. It’s working so far. Who knows how long it may last.
These samosas were made by my little boy Max who is almost 3. He did a mighty fine job, brushed the filo, folding the triangles. They’re delicious warm with a stir fry as a ‘fusion supper’ (husband’s words not mine) or cold in lunch boxes. Beware they’re moreish.
Pork, beef and apple samosas
Make the filling by frying the onion and garlic in the oil until soft on a medium heat in a frying pan. Add the pork and beef and turn the heat up. Fry until browned then turn the heat down and add the crumbled stock cube. Chuck in the mushroom, pepper, carrots, apple, cranberry sauce and black pepper and fry until everything is soft and the carrots and apples are starting to stick to the pan. You basically want a really dry mixture. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and line two baking trays with non stick paper. Take a square of filo and brush with melted butter then fold in half into a long rectangle. Brush with butter again and place some filling into one corner then fold that end over to make a triangle. Keep folding, using butter as an adhesive until you reach the end of the samsosa and then paint the edges shut using the butter to fold the filo over. This video is very useful if my instructions are lacking.
Repeat for all 12 samosas making sure to pack them tightly then bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and very hot. Be careful if small people are eating them warm as the filling really retains it’s heat.
I don’t think I’m a natural canapé maker. They always seem like a good idea, and then, a bit like making your own Christmas cards, after 5 or so, boredom sets in and I’m wishing I’d let the shops do the hard work for me.
Not so with these little beauties. They’re easy peasy, can be made in advance (hurrah for no last minute stress) and even tick the manly box. Because even in miniature form, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is a fully respectable canapé for even the most manly man. The full recipe, courtesy of Sainsbury’s is here. But if you prefer to watch it rather than read it you can see me and the lovely Nicola making them together.
Makes about 12
Charlie has many women in his life. One of them turned two recently. When asked what birthday she was celebrating she told everyone ‘six.’ Clearly this habit of adding 4 years to her age won’t last forever but I like that she knows her spiritual age.
Charlie’s spiritual age is currently eight. He loves the number eight – it’s taken over top spot from number two. He used to have two stories before bedtime every night. Now when you ask him how many stories he’d like he always replies ‘eight’. He finishes any counting game with the number eight too. He also requests eight treats after dinner each evening. Life is unfortunately full of disappointment for Charlie.
This pie was inspired by Charlie’s love of the aforementioned number. It has eight key ingredients. It is a man-pie (is there any other sort?) and serving it more than makes up for stealing your man’s beer to make it with.
Feeds 4 – 6. Also inspired by a pie on my lovely friend Hannah’s blog.
This is just so quick and easy to make. No stock, just crack open a can of Boddingtons. This does mean the pie is extra boozy in taste which is a bonus in my book. Worth getting hold of skirt – it is delicious and traditionally used for Cornish pasties, meaning once it’s encased and allowed to steam away it stews to the point of tender pretty quickly.
Preheat the oven to Gas 5 and make sure you have a pie dish that’s about 20cm in diameter. I use a ceramic one but metal will do too. Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan then add the onions. Fry for 5 minutes until the smell fills the kitchen, then add the beef. The aim is to fry until the edges of the beef have browned so whack the heat up to achieve this if your beef is looking pasty.
Next add the carrots, mushrooms,thyme, salt and pepper. Give the mixture a good stir with a wooden spoon and turn the heat down slightly before adding the flour. Give it all another good stir to make sure everything is evenly covered in flour. Then add the Boddingtons. Keep stirring as the mixture thickens and then simmer for about 5 more minutes.
Once the ‘gravy’ has thickened transfer the lot into your pie dish and then lay the thinly sliced potatoes on the top, covering the pie filling until you can see it no longer. Then cover your pie with pastry. If using short or puff make sure you secure the edges to the pie dish by lining the rim with pastry offcuts using water, then securing the pastry lid to the offcuts with egg. Crimp the edges and leave a little overhang (cut off once cooked for perfect edges) then brush the lot with egg to get that wonderful creosotey glazed effect. Bake for 35 mins in the oven and serve with green things to offset all that beef and ale and pastry.
Today my mother and father (AKA Nan-kneeee and Baa Baa) kindly looked after Charlie whilst I had the pleasure of visiting the Coventry branch of Ikea. (Less said the better, though I do have a wonderful storage solution for all the stuff we need for the imminent Baby Bell #2.)
When I returned we asked Charlie whether he’d like a little brother or a little sister. With no hesitation he replied ‘baby bus.’ I like to think I’d do most things for my precious first born but I draw the line at birthing a bus.
Onto the recipe! My friend Sophie served this bolognese with pasta twirls to her twins and Charlie when they played together last week. Charlie lapped it up. I knew there had to be some wonderful magic ingredient. When quizzed Sophie revealed the secret was very simple – grated carrot. Now Charlie loves carrots any which way he can get them, so added grated carrot was bound to be a hit.
I took my normal bolognese recipe and used baby stock cubes from Boots to cut out some salt, then added finely diced bacon at the onion frying stage to increase the flavour and re-add a bit of saltiness. Then, just before letting the bolognese simmer and develop for 1 hour added three grated carrots. (I didn’t peel them, just a quick scrub.) Once ready I open froze tablespoons of the mixture onto greaseproof paper, then transferred to freezer bags when rock solid. Charlie likes his ‘bolognese’ served with frozen peas and pasta but frankly this would be pretty good with most accompaniments.
Sophie warned me this toddler adaptation is very sweet. I clearly have immature tastebuds as Mr B and I enjoyed it very much on top of large field mushrooms with a sprinkling of grated cheese grilled on the top. Mmmm…
Today I cut Charlie’s hair. Previously he’d been having it cut by a friend of my mothers. This hairdresser is one of those who visit you at home, so rather than have someone staring up your nose as they lather your hair, they have a rather fine view of your bent over backside.
Charlie doesn’t like my mother’s hairdressing friend. In fact he went as far as to injure himself on one occasion, drawing blood on my mother’s watch, in order to escape her snippy clutches. This is sad as she cut my late grandmother’s hair, my mothers and now Charlies. But the tradition can’t continue. Charlie is so distressed by her presence it seems unfair on her more than him. No-one wants to be treated like the child catcher.
I was ready for a fight so I had all my weapons lined up. Cbeebies was the first one to be released. I had yoghurt covered raisins, banana chips and orange squash all lined up as placation tools. If it got serious there was always Daddy who was upstairs photographing things for eBay. As always, Charlie surprised me by not giving a damn. I snipped away and he hummed nursery rhymes with baby blue eyes glued to the box. His hair looks okay-ish. Not bad enough to make anyone feel sorry for him anyway. I feel a huge sense of achievement as I sit on the sofa this evening.
A recipe tonight for steak in disguise. I think this treatment of beef suits those who aren’t exactly keen on huge hunks of thick bloody steak but do like a bit of the iron rich stuff now and again. I’ve used a version of chimichurri sauce but rather than using it post cooking, have used it as a marinade. So you end up with a kind of grassy looking steak.
Whizz everything together in a food processor except for the beef. Cover the minute steak in the marinade and refrigerate for 4 hours minimum or overnight if poss. Remove from the fridge about an hour before you want to cook the beef. Then either pop on the barbecue for about 1 minute either side (or longer if you’re preggers like me – see pic) or under the grill for the same amount of time. Serve with rice or cous cous or if you need more green in your life, a green salad.