Monthly Archives: December 2010


Over the summer I discovered just how easy it was to make my own pasta.  I kept meaning to write out a step by step but somehow just never got around to it.  Well, today is the day for clearing up loose ends so I thought I’d better get on with it!  Also, I got a pasta machine for Christmas so I doubt I’ll be making it this way again.  No doubt I’ll be posting another recipe for the machine method next year!
Now one of the great things about this recipe is that you can scale it up as you wish.  You can also make extras, dry it and save it for later. 

 Serves 2

1 large egg
100g ’00’ pasta flour

Start with your flour and your egg.

– On a clean worksurface make a well in the flour and crack the egg into the centre. 
– Use your fingers to work the egg into the flour until you have a dough. 

Mix until it comes together as dough.

– Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is soft, supple and elastic. 
– Leave the dough to rest for 20 minutes. 
– Roll the dough out to a thickness of less than 1mm.  It will swell when you cook it so make sure it is good and thin. 
– Cut the dough into strips, you can use your rolling pin to keep the lines straight. 

Roll out the dough.

– Separate out the strands of pasta and lay on a tea towel. 

Dry the pasta.

– If you want to dry it for later use then it’s easiest to coil bundles of the pasta in nests until dry then store in an airtight box. 
– Cook in boiling salted water for 6 minutes.  Drain and serve as you wish.   

End result: yummy pasta with whatever you like on top!


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Filed under Basic, Moderately easy, Sides

Mushrooms In Garlic Butter

Making up a large part of my mother’s collection of, I would guess, over a hundred cook books is the St Michael range.  She has almost every volume, in fact, she may actually have every volume but I’ve never asked.  If you need a cook book for any type of cookery, this range will have the title just for you.  They are retro in the extreme.  I love just browsing through the pictures to have a giggle, one of the things I love is that there is always a photo. I never trust a cookbook I can’t see pictures in!  They also happen to contain basically fool proof recipes.  I’ve never met one that didn’t work.  The Last Minute Christmas Cake recipe came from one, the family Chilli Con Carne recipe did too.  They are basically culinary gold!

Possibly the most useful one is the Microwave Cooking volume.  You wouldn’t think that a book on microwave cooking witten in 1983 would be anything other than horrendous.  Microwave cooking, for goodness sake!  Nowadays the microwave seems to be the province of ready meals and reheating leftovers.  You might, god forbid, boil your water in it (if you do I want you to go away now, I’m afraid we may not be able to remain friends after all).  It doesn’t exactly speak of haute cuisine.  All the things that these days are “bad” are the essence of the microwave: fast, convenient, easy, fuss free.  If you’re a “real cook” cooking “good” food then you should be standing there in the kitchen, pots and pans steaming, wooden spoon in hand.  Bunging your ingredients in on high for 4 1/2 minutes is, at best, cheating, surely! Not so, I say!  The microwave may have a bit of a bad rep. but it can produce some culinary gold!  We make a mean steamed pudding in ours and my Chicken Liver Pate is another, or this recipe for Mushrooms in Garlic Butter.  Ready in 10 minutes and utterly delicious!

Serves 4

450g button mushrooms (whole if small, cut into quarters if especially large)
1 tsp herbes de provence
2 cloves garlic, crushed or very finely diced
1 tbsp lemon juice
100g butter
1 tbsp double cream

– Place the mushrooms, herbes, garlic and lemon juice in a heatproof bowl. 
– Cover with a plate or clingfilm and cook in the microwave on high for 6 minutes. 
– Uncover and drain off any excess liquid. 
– Stir in the butter, chopped into pieces, and cream and season to taste.  (Mushrooms need a reasonable amount of salt and I think a good dash of pepper works wonders too.)
– Cook uncovered for 2 1/2 minutes. 
– Take out and give a good stir. 
– Serve in ramekins (or rice bowls like I did here) with some nice crusty bread.


Filed under Easy, Starters

My pre-Christmas Dinner

Well, I am very, very pleased to say that my very first dinner party in my very first house was a resounding success.  I nearly killed myself trying to bring it all together in time but I did it and we had a truely lovely evening.  We were supposed to be going to a carol service before dinner but unfortunately my sister’s train was delayed getting back from Exeter so we missed that but no matter, I’m just glad she was able to make it at all!  We started the evening with drinks and a few light nibbles (I was going to make these all myself but sanity prevailed and I grabbed a few packs of party food from Tesco!)

I had a roaring fire and the whole house was as warm and welcoming as I could wish.  This was my first opportunity to really show it off so I did the traditional and hid everything I usually have lying about in the spare room!

Then on to the main event, Dinner!  We started with Buttered Mushrooms and crust bread.  Again, I didn’t cook the bread myself because, again,  sanity prevailed!

Then on to our main of Turkey Wellington.  I may Wellington more things in the future because, despite being tricky overall, it wasn’t actually all that hard when you broke it down.  And it certainly had the “wow” factor!  I served this with brussel sprouts, batons of carrot and celeriac dauphinoise.  Oh calamity!  I dropped the dauphinoise on the floor! Upsidedown! In the pile of sweepings I’d just done! I fair turned the air blue! But, no matter, I still had half a celeriac! Thank goodness for huge root vegetables and my buying extra of almost everything “just in case”!

My sister, the obligatory vegetarian, had a main of Butternut Squash and Sage Pithivier, the recipe for which I shall post soon.  She certainly seemed to like it but with ingredients of puff pastry, butternut, marscapone, sage and garlic it seemed a fair bet!

And for dessert the gorgeous, stunning and oh so simple Cranberry Fool!

All followed by a shared sliver of Christmas cake.  We were all stuffed but I knew if we didn’t cut into it then I would just sit looking at it going, “oh, no, it’s too pretty to cut just for me!” So we bravely gobbled down a morsel each!

I had an absolutely lovely evening.  It was worth all of the stress, panic and chaos.  This is my first proper home, something I’ve always wanted and to have all of my family round and to be able to show off this home I have made myself and have somewhere that is so uniquely mine in the first place means an awful lot! Now that I’ve got the hang of this entertaining lark I’ll have to do it more often! So who’s coming to dinner?

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Buttered Mushrooms

For the starter for my pre-Christmas Dinner I needed something I could prep ahead, that was vegetarian and that we all would enjoy! I settled on this recipe because it fit all of the criteria, however, I really should have read the recipe, serves 8!  When you think about it (I was too stressed to think!) it is basically butter, very, very tasty butter but still, no one needs a whole ramekin of butter! (Except my Dad it would seem, who ate the whole of his!)  I have a lovely set of mini ramekins, which would have been the perfect vehicle for this but no matter, I’m not objecting to keeping the leftovers. Oh, I can already imagine this simply stired through some plain pasta with a sprinkling of parmesan! Delish!

Serves 8 (or 4 fathers with shoclingly low cholesterol considering!)

250g butter, softened (Whatever you like to eat is fine, I use Lurpack Lightly Salted)
1 onion, very finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 sprigs of thyme, plus extra to garnish
30g dried porcini mushroom
250g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tbsp brandy
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp parsley, chopped or dried
crusty bread rolls and salad to serve

– Soak your mushrooms in a pint or so of boiled water.  Then drain them then chop, keeping the stock for something else as it’s too good to waste!
– Melt 50g of the butter in a large pan then add the onions and fry until soft. 
– Add the garlic and your sprigs of thme and cook for another minute or two. 
– Add both your mushrooms and stir well so they’re coated.  Cook for about 10 minutes until soft. 
– Add the brandy and lemon juice and cook until no more liquid remains. 
– Turn off the heat, stir through the parsley and season to taste.  I’d add a fair sprinkling of salt as mushrooms need it.  I’m also keen on a hefty grind of pepper. 
– Leave the mushrooms to cool. 
– Once cool, fish out your thyme sprigs. 
– Soften your butter so it’s just on the point of melting.  You can either use the defrost setting on the microwave or beat, beat, beat it!
– Mix the mushrooms into the butter then divide between 8 ramekins/bowls/teacups, whatever!
– Chill until set but take out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to serve it so the butter softenes to spreading consistency.
– Serve with a small salad and crusty bread rolls.

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Filed under Easy, Starters

Turkey Wellington

Ok, the pièce de résistance for my pre-Christmas dinner the Turkey Wellington!  I wanted to serve something that was traditional, so Turkey, but I didn’t want to do a whole turkey because that’s for Christmas dinner at my parents’.  I also wanted something really show offy!  Now, this dish is complicated.  But none of the steps are, in and of themselves, complicated.  It’s just a matter of following the process through a step at a time.  Now, to break this down I even stopped to take photos, my camera loves flour, really! 

Serves about 8 I’d say.  Or 4 with plenty of leftovers (makes a cracking sandwich!)

~1.6kg Turkey breast (freezer section in Tescos!) defrosted
~900g streaky bacon, rindless (3 packs of Tesco value rind on streaky bacon for me)
500g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

For the stuffing:
2 onions, finely chopped
knob of butter
350g minced turkey
250g sausages, skinned (just use your favourites, Coop Lincolnshire for me!)
2 eggs, beaten
150g dried cranberries
150g unsweetened chestnut puree
100g fresh white breadcrumbs

– First take your turkey breast and remove the skin and any gross bits. (Yes, I’m 5). 
– Then trim the breast to make it more of a cylinder. 
– Tie the breast with string.  (I sort of followed this video but fudged the first bit coz I didn’t follow.) 

Trim and tie your turkey breast.

– Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a very large frying pan. 
– Season the breast then place in the pan and brown evenly on all sides. 
– Set aside to cool. 

Pan fry the breast until golden brown.

– Now for the stuffing!
– Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan. 
– Add the onions and cook til soft.  Leave to cool. 
– Mix the minced turkey and sausage meat in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Easiest with your hands, use a spoon if you’re squeamish!
– Add the eggs and mix until thick and smooth. 
– Mix in the onion, cranberries, chestnut puree and breadcrumbs and seasoning and mix until everything is evenly distributed. 
– Set aside. 

– Roll out your pastry on a floured surface until it is about 45cmx45cm.  Size it up so it will wrap around your turkey. 
– Place your bacon over the pastry, laying it so there are no gaps, leaving a few centimeters at the edges.  Keep back about 5 rashers. 

Cover the pastry in bacon.- Spread the stuffing over the bacon, reserving a few heaped spoonfulls. Spread the stuffing over the bacon.

– Place the turkey in the centre of the pastry, topside down. 

Place the Turkey in the centre topside down.

– Spread the remaining stuffing on top of the turkey.   
– Gently pick up the bacon and fold it over the turkey.  Do this a bit at a time, pressing it to hold it in place. 
– Use the remaining 5 bacon rashers to cover the gap. 

Wrap it in bacon.

– Fold one long side of the pastry up and over the top. 
– Brush the edge  with egg. 
– Fold the second edge up and press to seal the two edges together. 
– Now brush the sides with egg and fold up, press to seal. 

Fold up the pastry.

– Next, carefully roll/lift it onto a greased baking tray. 
– Use the egg to stick any decorations you want to the top. 

Flip onto tray and decorate!

– Set aside until you want to cook it. 
– Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6/200C. 
– Brush with egg and pop it in the oven for 1 hour 25 minutes.  Unfortunately there’s no way to check it for doneness so if you happen to cut into it and it looks a little pink, bung it back in the oven. 
– After the 1 hour 25 minutes take it out of the oven and leave it to rest for 20 minutes. 
– Use two large fish slices to carefully lift it onto a carving board. 
– Slice and serve. 

Serve with as many trimmings as you wish!


Filed under Christmas, For the Keen Cook, Mains

Cranberry Fool

For the finale I wanted something that screamed Christmas but wasn’t something traditional.  Again, it also had to be something I could prep beforehand and set aside.  This produced all of the “Wows” I could have wished for when I brought it out at the end of the meal.  Even my dad was tempted to eat some and the man hates desserts!  I have to say it was delicious! Despite the fact that it’s made of cream and sugar it’s actually a very light dessert.  The perfect end to a gluttinous meal!

Serves 4

250g fresh cranberries
200g caster sugar + 3 tbsp
400ml double cream
1 egg white, beathn until frothy

– Put most of the cranberries in a small pan with 150g of the sugar.  Keep back 16 or so for the garnish. 
– Cook the cranberries in the pan with a lid on until the sugar melts and bubbles.  Cook for ~10 minutes until the cranberries are soft.  They will pop, do not scream like a girl (ahem) when they do so. 
– Use a spoon to mash them up once they are cooked. 
– Set aside to cool. 
– Whilst they are cooling take a large mixing bowl and pour 200ml of the cream and the remaining 50g sugar into it. 
– Use a hand mixer to beat until the cream forms soft peaks. 
– Stir the remaining 200ml cream into the cranberries until a wonderful pink colour. 
– Tip this pink mixture on top of the whipped cream. 
– Stir through only a few times to acheive a marbled effect. 
– Spoon into four cocktail glasses. 
– To garnish take the remaining cranberries and dip them in the egg white. 
– Put the 3 tbsp sugar on a plate and drop the cranberries onto the sugar.  Roll around until evenly coated in sugar. 
– Set aside to set. 
– Once hard, plce a few cranberries on each dessert. 
– Chill until ready to serve. 


Filed under Christmas, Desserts, Easy

My Christmas Cake

I will be hosting my first proper Christmas dinner later today (Well, pre-Christmas but still!) and I am franticaly working to get it all ready, I’ve got some , hopefully, yummy recipes to post up afterwards, fingers crossed it all works!  However, I thought I’d take a quick break to post a picture of my Christmas cake.  I’ve made two others for my colleagues but this one is all mine!

Right, now back to it… why did my sister decide to turn veggie this year? She couldn’t have waited til new year?  Ah well, she’s stuck in Exeter at the minute so I may have a delicious vegetarian main to eat tomorrow! Hopefully though everyone will arrive safely and the food will all be ready in time. Wish me luck!

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Filed under Cakes

Malteaser & Baileys Cheesecake Pots

I’m not too sure of the thought process that called these into being but I was pottering about the house one day when I was suddenly struck with it.  I had to make them, right that second!  So I did! And I am very, very glad that I did because these are lovely! Baileys and Malteasers are one of those combinations that just clicks.  The Baileys isn’t overpowering, more of a scent than a flavour, and it combines with the maltiness of the Malteasers wonderfully.  This dessert is a sure fire hit with almost every woman on the planet!

Makes 4

75g unsalted butter, melted
6 digestive biscuits, crushed
120g Malteasers, crushed (+4 for decoration)
250g marscapone
300ml double cream
4 tbsp icing sugar
4 tbsp Baileys

– Mix together the melted butter, crushed biscuits and crushed malteasers, reserving a few spoons of crushed Malteasers for decoration. 
– Press this mixture into the bottom of four glasses or ramekins. 
– Put the marscapone, double cream, icing sugar and Baileys in a bowl and use a hand held mixer to beat the ingredients together until forming peaks. 
– Spoon the cream mixture on top of the biscuits in the glasses. 
– Top each one with one whole and a sprinkling of crushed Malteaser. 
– Chill in the fridge until 20 minutes before serving, ideally leaving them for a few hours, then bring out to come to room temperature and serve.

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Filed under Desserts, Easy

Christmas Cake

I did a very quick post on this cake last year but at that point I hadn’t actually cooked it yet.  Now, however, I have!  I made this cake for someone at my office.  It was my first fruitcake and the first cake I’ve ever covered in marzipan and icing!  I’m very proud of myself.  It certainly went down a treat as I’m due to be making another one for another colleague this week!

The great thing about this cake is that is it so very, very simple.  I spread it over three days but you could easily do it in one with the right scheduling.  I simmer the fruits day 1, mix and cook the cake day 2 and then ice on day 3.  However, I see no reason you couldn’t simmer the fruits of a morning, cook the cake in the late afternoon and then ice it in the evening… if you have the time that is! For me, grabbing snatches of time over a few days works best, especially at this busy time of year. 

No matter how organised I thought I was, Christmas has once again snuck up on me and hit me full force.  Yesterday we went to pick out and dig up our tree.  Today we’re going to the Panto, (York Theatre Royal, the best Panto in the UK! If you physically can go, you should!) then on Wednesday it’s my sister’s Birthday and on Saturday I am hosting my first dinner at my house for my family, there will be Carol Singing and  a Brass Band in the market place and then dinner at mine.  Like I say, busy, but so much fun!

Makes 1×8″ (20cm) cake

125g butter
500g mixed dried fruits
125g dates, stoned and chopped (or apricots or prunes, big fruits are what you’re after.)
175g brown sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200ml water
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon

90g glace cherries, chopped
60g chopped mixed nuts
45ml brandy
250g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder

– In a large pan melt the butter and then add the dried mixed fruits, dates (or other fruits), sugar, bicarbonate of soda, water, mixed spice and cinnamon. 
– Bring this to the boil and cover.  Simmer for 15 minutes. 
– Leave the pan, covered, overnight. 
– The next day put it in a mixing bowl, or use a machine like a kitchen aid or kenwood chef to do the hard work!
– Add the cherries, nuts and brandy.  Mix a little. 
– Add the flour and salt and mix in. 
– Add the eggs and the baking powder and then mix thoroughly making sure everything is well combined. 
– Line an 8″ cake tin with foil, shiny side down, and 2 layers of greaseproof paper. 
– Brush lightly with oil. 
– Tip in the cake mix and level out the top.  Create a small dip in the middle with the back of a spoon to prevent doming. 
– Place a small ovenproof dish or tin of water in the bottom of an oven heated to gas mark 2. 
– Place the cake in the oven on the middle shelf and cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours covering the top with foil after 1 hour. 
– Test with a skewer to see if it’s done.
– Cool in the tin then turn out and pour on a little more brandy before either wrapping and storing or covering with marzipan and icing.

To ice your cake:

– 3 tbsp apricot jam, melted
– 1 pack readyroll marzipan
– 1 pack readyroll icing

– Place your cake upside down on a cakeboard. 
– Brush the top with apricot glaze. 
– Unroll your marzipan and smooth hour any wrinkles. 
– Fold it back over a rolling pin and use the rolling pin to lift it over to your cake and carefully place centrally on the top. 
– Smooth down the sides using your hands.  Gently does it.  You don’t want any pleats in there.  The heat of your hand should ease the marzipan into place.  If it goes wrong and pleats then make sure you trim and smooth it. 
– Trim off the marzipan at the base of the cake.  If you have any gaps at the bottom of your cake you could use the marzipan to fill them. 
– Next unroll the icing.  Again, smooth out any wrinkles and lift across with the rolling pin. 
– Again, ease the icing smoothly over the cake using your hands to smooth it all out.  This is easier than with the marzipan. 
– Trim round the bottom of the cake with a very sharp knife. 
– Decorate as you wish!


Filed under Cakes, Christmas, Moderately easy

Mincemeat 2010

Last year was my first attempt at making mincemeat for Christmas.  It was good, but it wasn’t quite right.  Unfortunately, with things like mincemeat you have to wait a year for your next attempt!  I thought that last year’s had too much suet so I cut that down, I also prefer orange to lemon so switched orange juice in for the lemon juice.  All in all I think it’s better, but perhaps to be improved on again next year!

(Yup, same photo! Imagine less suet in there!)

Makes 3 lbs (Sorry to mix up the metric and imperial but the jam jars say 1lb and I filled 3 of them!)

750g mixed dried fruits
80ml brandy
a scant 50ml lemon juice
100g shredded suet (I use veggie just in case)
1 large bramley apple, peeled and grated
250g dark brown sugar
1/2 a small nutmeg, grated

– Mix together the dried fruits, brandy and orange juice in a large bowl. 
– Leave to sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. 
– Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.  
– Spoon into sterilised jars. (Putting them through the dishwasher is easiest or wash them in hot soapy water then dry them in the oven for 10 minutes.)
– Press down with the back of the spoon to get all the air out of the jar. 
– Put on the lids and leave in a cool dark place (read cupboard!) for 2 weeks then make mince pies!  Yum!

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Filed under Basic, Christmas, Easy