Sunday, 27 November 2011

Sausage and bacon stuffing roll

This recipe was a new one that had its first Christmas outing last year.  My friend Julia gave me the idea for it, and I twiddled the recipe to our particular tastes.

It couldn’t be simpler to make or assemble!!

The recipe I used is as follows:

½ loaf of bread
1 medium onion
1 medium bunch of fresh sage
6 sausages, skinned
Salt and pepper
10 rashers of bacon

Firstly, cut the bread into chunks and place in the bowl of a food processor.

Peel and cut the onion into large chunks and add to the bread in the food processor

Wash and add the sage to the onion and breadcrumbs and process until everything is chopped fairly finely.

Turn into a mixing bowl and skin and add the sausages to the bowl.  Mix together with your hands until everything is combined.

Lay a sheet of foil on your worktop and layer the bacon across it.  I used back bacon as I don’t like fatty bacon, but you could use streaky if you wish.  I layered it thick/thin alternating.

Add spoonfuls of the sausagemeat mixture to the bacon and spread out with your fingertips fairly evenly.

Begin rolling up from one end as you would a swiss roll.

Pop into a greased baking tray (it will need to be deep as the sausage and bacon will let off some fat) and bake for around 45 minutes in a medium oven.

This is such a simple and convenient accompaniment to the Christmas meat, it can be sliced onto the plate and in the days following Christmas either sliced to go into rolls with some leftover turkey, or on its own.  It’s also delicious cut into thick slices with bubble and squeak!

The Big Christmas Bake Off ..... part one!

And so it begins!

In previous years I’ve gone all out baking all sorts of pastry nibbles and canap├ęs, and of course sausage rolls.  Last year I decided that enough was enough and it was time to cut back.  We don’t really want all those rich and calorie laden snacks.  With all the rich food that abounds at Christmas, all I craved last year was fresh fruit.  For some peculiar reason I had an insatiable craving for oranges – which I hadn’t eaten whole for years!

This year’s Christmas baking is considerably reduced, and much easier to tackle.

I’m going to make a Stollen, which I love.  I’ll cut it into three pieces before freezing as it doesn’t keep terribly well.

I’ll make and freeze some of Delia’s fabulous savoury palmiers.  I made them last year and they were delicious.

I’ll also make a pate to freeze for my Mum & Dad.

I’ll make and freeze ahead a lovely stuffing roll.  My friend Julia gave me the idea for this last year and I adjusted it to my own personal taste.  It’s bacon, sausage and stuffing accompaniment all in one.  Even better, you can slice up the leftover and have it in a bun with the leftover turkey in the days after Christmas.

Rather than have a whole Christmas cake hanging around ad infinitum, I’ll make a 1lb loaf of bara brith in the few days before Christmas, marzipan and ice it on Christmas Eve.

Hubby doesn’t like Christmas pudding, and to be honest I’m so stuffed after my lunch that for the last number of years I haven’t wanted anything so rich and heavy.  Last year I made Delia’s Cranberry Queen of Puddings – although I left out the spices as I prefer the crisp tart flavour of cranberries.

For the first baking day though I concentrated on Stollen, and my bacon and stuffing roll.  I also made my first ever pumpkin pie as Hubby and I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving this year!  As if that wasn’t enough, I promised a good friend that I’d make a batch of faggots as well so that was going on as well!

If I’m honest, the thought of spending a day in the kitchen, pottering quietly, gives me nothing but pleasure.  Although I do need to get myself ruthlessly organised beforehand! 

I had written myself a list (of course!) of what I need to do, and what ingredients are needed and got those all ready.  Then, to dovetail the operations most efficiently, I attempted to tackle the jobs in the most logical way.  Usually, the soundtrack to my Christmas baking days is Christmas carols, but I just can’t bring myself to do that until 1st December so for today it’s the soundtrack to Love Actually – which always reminds me of Christmas!

First job on the list was to prepare the pecan pastry and filling for my first ever Pumpkin Pie.  I cut down on the spices in this as neither hubby nor I are very keen on strongly spiced sweet dishes.

Second job was to prepare my stollen.  This is one of my favourite Christmas sweets and the recipe is from my original Delia Christmas cookbook, which has seen 20 years service this year!  Again, thank you Auntie!!  I’m cutting it into three as it doesn’t keep terribly well out of the freezer.

The third job on the list was sausage and bacon stuffing roll.  I’ve made this ahead of time as we decided to do Thanksgiving this year so we had half of the roll for that and the rest has gone into the freezer for Christmas lunch.  I’m stuffing and rolling a turkey breast joint for Christmas lunch so the bacon stuffing roll will just be a side.

Finally, faggots.  Very much an acquired taste, but I know a few people who love them and they are next to no effort to make.  I promised a friend of mine I’d make them and he’s been salivating ever since!  My Uncle and Father have also been looking forward to them.  Very economical to make, just ox liver, breadcrumbs, onion, sage and suet – and seasoning of course!  They are messy rather than laboursome.  Lazily, rather than shape little rounds, I just tip the entire bowlful into my roasting tin and cut into squares when cooked!

And that was that!  A spot of clearing up and then feet up with a cup of tea! 

Hubby rewarded me for my hard work with a whirlwind trip to London!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Christmas Planning

To paraphrase the old nursery rhyme, Christmas is coming the lists are getting fat!

I’m a big list person; lists help me feel like I’m in control.  They allow me to organise my thoughts and, with my increasingly addled brain, they remind me of what needs to be done and what I have already done!

My Christmas planning lists are legion I’m ashamed to say!  There’s a list of cards I need to send, a list of gifts I need to send and another of gifts bought and for whom, a list of what we are doing and when and then the food lists ...... yes, lists ...... plural!

·         The first list is constructed from an afternoon perusing my Christmas cookbooks and magazines, selecting recipes I want to try, or enjoyed last year. 

·         The second list is distilled from that, and roughs out what I want to make in the run up to Christmas and broadly what I want to make on each day of the holiday from Christmas Eve through to New Year’s Day. 

·         A third list, built from the second lists recipes and ingredients needed.

·         A fourth list (yes, I know!) itemises ingredients needed into a shopping list broken down into categories (fresh veg/fruit, meat/fish, dairy, tins/dried ingredients, storecupboard, baking). 

·         A fifth list (ready for a brandy yet?!) breaks the shopping list into three outings : things needed to prepare in the run-up to Christmas; things needed for the first half of the Christmas holiday and finally fresh stuff needed for the second half of the Christmas holiday.

Aside from de-cluttering my mind these lists remind me of what I need to buy, and crucially, when I’m peering at a box of chestnuts, what I wanted them for!  They help me to feel in control and remind me what I need to be doing and when. 

Most importantly, especially in today’s straightened times, it cuts waste on two fronts as firstly shopping is no longer a hit and miss trawl of the supermarket and secondly, there is no waste as everything I buy is needed for something specific and doesn’t migrate to the back of cupboard or fridge like a sad time capsule!

Now all that’s left is to face the horror that is supermarket shopping in the run-up to Christmas.

To borrow from Spartacus : ‘We who are about to do Christmas salute you!’

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Shepherd's Pie

My absolute number one favourite pie!  Probably better known as cottage pie as I make it with beef mince and not lamb mince, it’s always known as shepherd’s pie to me!

A very versatile dish, it is traditionally made with minced leftover beef.  Indeed, my mother keeps leftover meat of all descriptions for her shepherd’s pie – chicken, lamb and beef.  I have to say, odd as that combination sounds, it is absolutely delicious!

I have made various toppings over the years, a combination of any of the following: mashed potato, swede (rutabaga in the US), celeriac, carrot, parsnip.  I usually just make it with mashed potato though, very buttery mashed potato.  I always sweat the green part of a leek in a little butter and mix that in with the mashed potato to top the pies too.  A grating of cheese finishes the dish beautifully.

You can also finish it with a rosti topping (part boil and grate some potato and mix with a little butter) or a Teviotdale topping (see earlier blog post on this one).

Like most pies this improves on keeping and can be made well ahead of time, a day or even two in the fridge won’t do it any harm at all.  I usually make this pie filling in the morning and prepare the topping later in the day.

The recipe I generally use is below, but is never cast in stone, just go with what you like and what you have to hand.  It will serve four people and will freeze.

500g minced beef (or lamb)
1 onion
1 carrot
Half a small swede (rutabaga in the US)
Chopped mixed herbs to taste (I usually use a mix of rosemary, thyme, parsley, a little sage)
1 bayleaf
1 anchovy
Worcestershire sauce
1tb flour
Half a pint of beef stock (or a little more depending on how much gravy you like with your pie, if using lamb mince use lamb stock)
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the onion, dice the swede and carrot and add both to a pan with a little olive oil.  Sweat over a low heat for around 10 minutes or so. 

Add the anchovy and push around the pan until it ‘melts’. 

Add the minced beef and brown in the pan, cooking until the juices cook off. 

Add the tablespoon of flour and mix into everything.  Gradually add the beef stock stirring well. 

Add the chopped herbs and a dash of Worcestershire sauce and stir, season to taste with salt and pepper and pop in a bayleaf. 

Leave to simmer quietly on a very low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time so that it doesn’t stick. 

Decant into your pie dish (or dishes if you are freezing some for another day).  If you are making this ahead of time, allow the dish to cool and then cover and pop in the fridge until you are ready for it. 

To make the topping simply slice the green part of a leek in half lengthways, and then in half again, chopping the quarters to dice them.  Soften in a little butter for 5 – 10 minutes.

At the same time, boil and mash some potatoes (the amount you need will depend on how you are treating the pies – making all four serves for now or stashing two, or three, in the freezer). 

Add the buttery leeks to the mashed potatoes and mix together. 

If you are topping the pie for immediate re-heating spoon onto the pie filling and fork across, the ridges made by the forking will brown nicely.  Add some (or a lot!) grated cheese and pop into the oven.   

If you are making the potato topping ahead of time too (and I often do!), leave to go cold before topping the pies. 

The hot pie filling will need 20 minutes or so, until the potato topping is nicely brown and crispy.  A chilled/cold pie filling will need 30 minutes.   

I always use enamelled pie tins to cook this so if you are using stoneware they might need a little longer.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Decline of the Sunday Lunch

I read an article recently in the newspaper bemoaning the decline of the traditional Sunday lunch.  According to the article, many people “are turning to fast food in a bid to save time and money, shirking home-made meals”.  While I felt that claim to be somewhat inflammatory, it did get me thinking. 

I class myself as a competent cook, I enjoy cooking and am never happier than when I am pottering in the kitchen.  Yet the traditional Sunday roast and veg lunch makes an infrequent appearance on the table at our house.  When did that happen and why?

When I was a young bride, back in the mid 80’s, trad Sunday roast lunch was practically the law!  My then husband and I wouldn’t have contemplated otherwise.  So Sunday mornings found me in the kitchen cooking meat and veg, making gravy and then us rushing to eat lunch and get the dishes washed and put away so that we could spend the afternoon visiting first one set of parents and then another.  As the years went on, with the introduction of rolling shifts Sunday lunches began to make fewer and fewer appearances.   

After my divorce they faded even further into the background!  When I met and courted my (now) husband he was a keen cricketer so the time to make and eat Sunday lunches were a luxury I couldn’t afford during the cricket season as we often left the house at noon to reach various cricket grounds.  But what about the winter months?
When I worked I often spent Saturday or Sunday afternoons batch-cooking casseroles, lasagne/spag bol, chillies, hotpots and variations thereof, stews etc so that I could stash some portions in the freezer for weekday evenings.

Roast lunches did, of course, appear on the table from time to time, but they were a rare treat and generally only appeared on occasions when I catered for the extended family (parents, sister and brother-in-law, aunt and uncle).

I often bang on and on, as is my wont (!), about how the long working hours culture in the UK is destroying family life.  From my own, albeit very limited, experience, when I worked so much of my time was spent either at my desk or commuting to and from, that by the time I got home I was too exhausted to turn around and cook anything meaningful from scratch. 

In those days I had a repertoire of 10 minute quickies mostly dishes based around pasta; or made from leftovers; or something like a shepherd's pie, fish pie, spag bol, chilli etc made earlier and frozen.  Saturday was generally when I attempted to catch up with housework, visit friends and family and grocery shop.  By the time Sunday came around the idea of standing in the kitchen co-ordinating a roast lunch, making gravy and then (crucially!) washing up a mountain of dishes, pots and pans just too much.  How much easier is it to stick meat and veg into a casserole with some stock and push the whole lot into the oven to take care of itself.

Even today, my Sunday standby is generally a casserole or stew of some variation; Irish stew, Lancashire hotpot, Caerphilly hotpot (replace lamb with beef and onion with leek!), steak and mushroom hotpot etc.  We still have the full-on roast lunch, but only every few weeks.  I guess it’s become a habit now!

What about you?  Do you cook a traditional Sunday roast every week or are they an occasional treat?

(There is a link below to the article for anyone who wants to read it in its entirety)