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Christmas Pie

Christmas is tradtionally a time of leftovers.  We’ve got just about all of the sandwich suitable turkey off it now so now it is time to think of other things to make with the bits and pieces left over.  There are lots of options available but few I’d actually enjoy.  Pie seemed the way to go.  Not only can you use the turkey but there’s nothing stopping you from using up some stuffing or leftover vegetables or even a few dollops of cranberry sauce.  Got a ham? Pop it in too!  Whatever is left or takes your fancy, within reason, then in it goes!  I usually keep things simple.  I might do turkey, stuffing and cranberry but I’d leave out the vegetables.  Ham, turkey and vegetables go well together too.  If you’ve got a lot of mash then why not skip the pastry and use that?  It really does depend entirely upon what you have and what you like.  If you’ve only got turkey to play with then a simple turkey and mushroom pie is great too. 

Makes 1 average pie dish serving 4 people. 

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g butter, chilled and diced
50g Trex (white vegetable fat), chilled and diced
3-4 tbsp chilled water

– Mix together the flour and salt.
– Add the butter and Trex and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. 
– Add 3 -4 tbsp cold water by sprinkling it evenly over the surface fo the mixture.  (I used 3 tbsp and a bit.)
– Using a flat bladed knife mix it together until it forms a dough. 
– Gather it together with your hands and lightly knead for a few seconds to bring it together. 
– Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in clingfilm.  Place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

For the filling:
1 onion, chopped
Turkey/ham/vegetables/stuffing/etc.
a good splash of olive oil
2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 pint chicken stock

– First saute your onion with a pinch of salt in a little oil in a frying pan.  Add whatever leftovers you’re using and stir gently to combine. 
– In a separate small pan add a good splash of oil, at least enough to cover the base of the pan. 
– Gently heat this until it just starts to shimmer a bit then add the corn flour.  Whisk rapidly to combine. 
– Pour in your chicken stock, still whisking and keep stiring until it is a smooth sauce. 
– Pour this sauce into the other pan and stir well to mix. 

To make pie:

– Lightly flour the worksurface and the rolling pin, not the pastry. 
– Turn out the chilled dough onto the worksurface and roll it out in one direction, turning it as you go until it reaches about 3 mm thick. 
– Place your pie dish upsidedown on top of the pastry and cut a line around the dish about 1 cm out to leave room for shrinkage. 
– Cut a second line around this about 1.5 cm thick.
– Fill the pie dish with the filling.
– Moisten the edge of your dish with a finger dipped in water then press the 1.5 cm thick strip round the outside of the dish trimming the length to fit.   
– Moisten this pastry with water again then lay the rest of the pastry over the top using the rolling pin to help lift it across. 
– I fluted the edges of this pie.  It’s very simple.  You basically place the thumb and index finger of one hand on the ‘inside’ of the pie and with the index finger of the other hand press the edge of the crust inwards between the two fingers of the other hand.  Move round the pie and keep going until the whole edge is fluted. 

– With any spare pastry I like to make decorations for the top of the pie.*  I went for a Christmassy snowman and Christmas trees.  Again just dampen any pastry you’re pressing together to make it stick. 
– Once you’re done brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and cook in an oven preheated to gas mark 7 for 40 minutes until the pastry is a golden brown and the contents heated through.  If it starts to look too brown then cover with foil or butter papers** for the remaining cooking time. 

* And any spare spare pastry I stamp out shapes with cutters, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with grated parmesan to make cheesy biscuits. 

** I keep the butter papers when I’ve used a block for covering things like this.  It saves on foil and is a great little recycling tip!

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Salt Dough

I love salt dough.  There’s something so satisfyingly primary school about it but it’s not just for kids!  It’s cheap, simple and fun.  My sister and I made up a 3 cup batch of this and set to making Christmas decorations.  We made a mixture of things: wreaths and candle holders, cut out decorations to hang on the tree and freestyle modeling decorations too, When we were kids we made all sorts of decorations and presents from it.  Handy hint, if you want to make a sheep or hair then the garlic crusher is your best friend.  We used acrylic paints to paint ours but you can use just about anything you like really.  For best results varnish the salt dough afterwards.  We didn’t because we like the rustic, homemade look and also because we’re impatient and couldnt’ be bothered to wait!  And yes, those Daleks are on the tree (round the back though) because what is more festive then the Doctor Who Christmas Special?

Makes however much you want, just multiply up keeping the same ratios. 

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp vegetable oil (don’t multiply this up, just add 1 tbsp unless you’re making a bucket load in which case add a few!)

– Mix together the salt and flour. 
– Add the oil.
– Gradually add the water and mix.   
– Once you have a smooth, kneadable dough you’re ready to go!
– Shape as you like and lay the finished product on baking paper. 
– Bake in the oven on gas mark 1 for 5 hours or microwave for 3 minutes then test and do longer if the dough is still soft underneath. 
– When cool paint as you wish and varnish if you like. 

NB.  YOU CANNOT EAT THIS RECIPE.  IT IS COMPLETELY INEDIBLE!

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Soft Bread Rolls

I’ve been having good successes with bread for a while now but I usually stick to the same recipe because it works and makes excellent bread.  However, while excellent, I was after a bread roll with a soft crust instead of a nice crusty one.  While sometimes a crusty bread roll is exactly what you need at others you really need something easy to bite, for example a bun to go round a burger.  I had thought I was going to have to find a completely new recipe to get this softness in my rolls.  Luckily I stumbled upon a tip that was so ridiculously simple it was brilliant.  Brush the bread rolls with melted butter when they come out of the oven.  So simple and it works! 

I changed the recipe from my usual a little bit as I’ve been experimenting with a few different things with my bread recently I find using milk instead of water makes a very nice bread and the top comes out slightly darker.  On a crusty loaf it seems to make a delicious chewy blistered crust with nice flavour.  But essentially this is the same as my regular bread and a doddle to make. 

Makes 6 small rolls, 4 large

250g strong bread flour
4g fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
150ml milk, warm
2 tbsp olive oil
a little melted butter

– Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a medium sized bowl. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the milk and oil. 
– Mix until it forms a dough then turn out onto a floured worksurface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and soft. 
– Lightly oil a bowl using your hands and then continue to knead the dough with your oil  hands until the oil is worked in. 
– Put the dough in the oiled bowl and move around so it’s covered in oil. 
– Place in a warm place to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. *
– Knock down the dough and knead it for a minute. 
– Divide the dough into the portions you want and shape into round balls by pinching the bottom sides together until you have a smooth top. 
– Place on a baking tray and gently flatten a little with the heel of your hand. 
– Repeat for each ball of dough. 
– Leave to rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes until the dough has roughly doubled again. 
– Bake for 10 minutes at gas mark 7. 
– Remove from the oven and immediately brush the tops generously with melted butter. 
– Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

* I’ve started to rise bread in front of the fire now that it’s getting frosty.  I place it on the hearth with a glass bowl over the top to keep out the drafts.  Seems to work very well!

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100th Recipe Celebration Cake

Yay!  This is my 100th recipe posted here!  To celebrate I made a cake.  Chocolate cakes and I have a tricky relationship.  I’m very demanding when it comes to chocolate cakes.  I am after perfection!  I’m not sure I’m quite there yet but this is the best chocolate cake I’ve made yet.  It’s moist and fudgey and squishy but not too rich.  It’s quite dense but stops just short of being called brownie-like.  The best thing about it is that it can be thrown together in a blender or mixer if you don’t want to do it by hand.  It was ridiculously easy.  All in all this cake was a success. 

I was going to do fantastic things icing this cake.  I made fondant icing from scratch, well, a box of fondant icing sugar.  But I had to get the Kenwood out to mix it and spent over an hour rolling it out.  Blood, sweat and tears went into this icing, literally.  Then I finally had it rolled out to the right size.  I went to pick it up to drape it over the cake and… DISASTER.  It stuck to the plastic sheets I’d been rolling it out between and then it stuck to itself and then it fell apart.  I honestly don’t know if it was too wet, sticky, or too dry, cracked into pieces.  But I cried. 

So I just stopped with the buttercream icing and decided that may be I should practice with ready rolled a bit first.  Learn to walk before I try running if you will.  As for the decorations… well, I have the artistic ability of a drunken ferret.  I love edible ball bearings and all baked goods should be blessed with them.   Strawberries or raspberries would look great on this but they’re out of season at the minute so I used raspberry jelly sweets instead.  A layer of fresh fruit inside would be nice too. 

Makes 1×8″ cake

For the cake:
225g granulated sugar
200g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
120ml milk
60ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
120 ml boiling water

For the buttercream*:
180g plain chocolate
225g unsalted butter, softened
240g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

– Heat your oven to Gas Mark 4 and prepare two 8″ sandwich tins. 
– In a large bowl mix together the sugar, flour, cocoa**, baking powder and salt. 
– Add the egg, milk, oil and vanilla essence to the dry ingredients and mix well.  It make seem very dry but keep at it.  It will come together to form a dough.  Keep mixing until it is a smooth, even consistency. 
– Add the water and mix thoroughly. 
– Pour the batter into the two tins.  If you want completely equal layers you can weigh them but I usually do it by eye. 
– Smooth the batter out so it is even. 
– Bake for 25-30 minutes.  You will be able to see if the centre is uncooked and a skewer inserted will come out clean. 
– Make up the buttercream by melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.  Allow to cool.   
– Cream together the butter and the icing sugar and then add the vanilla essence. 
– Mix well then add the melted chocolate and stir thoroughly until everything is combined. 
– Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes or so then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
– Once completely cool fill between the two cakes and ice all over with the buttercream using a palette knife to smooth it over the cake. 
– Decorate as you wish. 

* I only made 2/3 this amount and it needed more so expect better coverage than seen in the photo. 
**Sift this in or you will get lumps.

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Pizza

We have homemade pizza fairly frequently in our house.  We’ve tried dozens of different recipes and techniques trying to find the best pizza dough recipe, the most frequent problem is that the middles become soup so we got pizza trays with holes in, which helped a bit.  Last Christmas I got mum a pizza stone but it wasn’t as impressive as all that.  Up until tonight mum has always made the dough and done all the work but tonight I was put in charge.  So I turned to google and my usual foodie haunts trying to make the best damned pizza this family has ever had.  Boasting it may be but I may well have succeeded!

The secret would appear to be part cooking the base first.  It gets all big and puffy but when you put the toppings on that goes down and means that the middle doesn’t stay all goopy but still retains a bit of crispness.  We are also guilty of piling on the toppings, in the past I have been known to have up to an inch deep on mine.  I have no will power, you see.  We set up a little area with all the toppings layed out in bowls to build our own to spec. and I just keep piling it all on!  This, of course, means that they take longer to cook so be aware that if you’re spare with the toppings it’ll take less cooking time, if you’re like me they’ll need longer. 

Makes 3 large pizzas, if not from a family of gluttons makes 4 individual ones. 

For the dough:
500g strong bread flour
2 tsp salt
1x7g sachet fast action yeast
1 tsp sugar
300ml warm water
2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
2x400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp herbes de provence (or basil, oregano or any herb that’s good with tomato)

For the toppings:
Whatever you like!  I always think that cheese on top is the only must, below that anything goes! 

– First, as it’s now winter here in the uk, I would remind you to prepare a warm draft free place for the dough to rise.  By the fire, on top of a radiator or boiler, in a gently warmed oven, wherever works for you.  I usually put the oven on the lowest setting (Slow Cook) while I prepare the dough then turn it off when I put the dough in and leave it.
– In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, yeast and sugar. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. 
– Mix with a wooden spoon until mostly combined, then get in there with your hands to get it together and get any bits stuck to the bowl off by rubbing the dough around.    
– Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic adding more flour if necessary.
– Wash your bowl if necessary then lightly oil the bowl using your hand to spread it about. 
– Continue to knead the dough for a minute or two with your oily hands. 
– Place the dough in the bowl then turn over so it’s coated with oil. 
– Cover and leave to rise in your warm draft free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. 

– Meanwhile prepare the sauce and toppings.  Chop up whatever you’re putting on the pizzas and leave them ready for people to put on themselves if you’re doing it that way. 
– For the sauce melt a knob of butter and a small splash of oil in a medium sized pan. 
– Add the garlic and stir on a low heat until just starting to brown. 
– Add the onion and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes until it is very soft and starting to go transparent. 
– Tip in the tomatoes, tomato puree and herbs and stir well. 
– Turn up the heat and simmer for at least half an hour until the sauce is reduced by half, making sure to stir it occasionally so it doesn’t stick. 

– Heat your oven to as high as it will go.  Mine does gas mark 9. 
– Once the dough has risen knock it down and lightly knead it for a minute. 
– Cut into portions and cover the dough you aren’t working with. 
– Roll out the portion of dough into a very rough circle about 5mm thick. 
– Pick it up (you’ll lose the shape here) and place it on the pizza tray then pull and stretch the edges into a circle and neaten it up. 
– Repeat for each portion of dough. 
– Leave to rest for 10 minutes. 
– Put the bases into the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  *
– Remove from the oven and put the sauce on and spread out to the edges then put your toppings on. 
– Put back in the oven and cook for 15-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and the edge of the crust is golden brown. 
– Slide off the trays and onto plates to serve. 

*I had to do some improvisation with the oven shelves as I had 2 shelves and 3 pizzas.  I could have used the top oven as well but I’d rather only use one oven if I can and save energy.  I placed a deep cake tin on the bottom of the oven and put the grill tray on top of that to create an extra shelf.  Then I swapped the pizzas about throughout cooking so they were cooking at about the same rate.  Obviously opening and closing the oven so often meant they took longer to cook but better that than having the top one burnt to a crisp and the bottom one still soft!

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Filed under Breads, Mains, Moderately easy

Italian Stuffed Dough Balls

The filling for these dough balls came from a recipe called Italian Chicken so I thought I’d carry over the name.  Rather than being Italian in style the mix of flavours is what makes it Italian.  The tang of garlic mixed in with the bursts of tomato over the creamy base makes and excellent, and moreish, combination.  Tonight we had Italian Chicken and I thought I’d make some dough balls filled with the left over cheese mix.  I’ve tweaked the recipe from the first time I made Dough Balls and now they’re even better!  They only take an hour to throw together so it’s perfect if you don’t have time to make bread during the day. 

Makes 12 dough balls

250g strong bread flour
1 tsp (approx 4g) fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water
250g soft cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tbsp herbes de provence

– In a medium sized bowl mix together the flour, yeast and salt.  Make a well in the centre. 
– Tip the water and oil into the well. 
– Mix together with a wooden spoon until the mix comes together into a dough. 
– Once combined tip our onto a floured worksurface and dust with flour. 
– Knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. 
– Set aside to rest in a covered, lightly oiled bowl for 10-15 minutes. 
– Meanwhile mix together the cheese, garlic, tomatoes and herbs in a small bowl. 
– Lightly knead the dough so all the oil is absorbed. 
– Divide the dough into 12 balls, covering the dough you aren’t working with. 
– Roll each ball out into to a circle about 3″ in diameter. 
– Place a heaped teaspoon of cheese mixture in the centre of each circle. 
– Gather the edges of the circle together and pinch closed so the seam disappears. 
– Place in an oiled baking dish leaving a little space between balls. 
– Bake at gas mark 7 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on top. 
– Serve warm to enjoy them at their best.

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Filed under Breads, Easy

Mushroom Bruschetta

Last Christmas I bought my dad some mushroom plugs so he could grow his own mushrooms (yes, he’s the hardest man on the planet to buy for) and finally this month we saw mushrooms!  I think he’d abandonned the logs in his workshop so we were all a bit surprised to see massive oyster mushrooms sprouting from behind the hoover! 

 Monster Mushrooms

Homegrown Oyster Mushrooms

The hunt was on to cook them in some way that would use them solely in their mushroomy goodness.  We had thought of simply having them on toast but none of us are breakfast people so I upgraded that idea to mushroom bruschetta.  While I was at it I also made a batch of my Tomato and Mozzerella Bruschetta

Bruschetta!

Makes 12

2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 tbsp olive oil
1 ciabatta loaf
1 clove garlic
~250g mushrooms
2 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp parsley, chopped

– First infuse the garlic in the oil by lightly heating in a small pan.  Set aside to cool. 
– Slice the ciabatta into slices about 1cm thick. 
– Slice the garlic clove in half and rub over the sliced bread. 
– Brush both sides of each slice with the garlic infused oil. 
– On a health grill, very hot griddle or under a grill toast the bread until browned and stripey, turning once. 
– In the meantime heat the remaining garlic infused oil in a frying pan then add the mushrooms. 
– Cook until lightly browned then season to taste. 
– Add the creme fraiche and parsley and stir gently until it melts and coats the mushrooms. 
– Remove the bread from the grill and put a spoon of mushrooms on each slice. 
– Eat straight away.

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