Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Goliath Sausages

Autumn has come to my world surprisingly early this year.  It’s only mid-September and yet the blackberries have gone over, the night time temperatures have slipped to single figures and the mornings are chilly.  Taking the dog for an evening stroll now means returning to the cosy glow of a lamp lit home. 

Yesterday was one such perfect autumn day.  We had a lovely romp out in the cool sunshine and then came home to put this casserole together.  The only thing missing in my world was the Aga!! 

This dish is really just a pared down version of the Guinness sausages recipe I gave a few months ago.  I called it Goliath sausages because I cooked them in one of my husband’s favourite ales – Wychwood’s Goliath ale.  In reality, you could use any ale or dark beer of your choice! 

For two of us I used : 

6 good meaty sausages
2 large onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 small carrot
1 sprig of rosemary
1 bayleaf
1tb flour
2tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 anchovy (optional, but gives a lovely meaty depth of flavour)
Salt and pepper to taste
1tb olive oil 

Firstly, brown the sausages all over.  While they are browning, peel and slice the onions into thick half-moons. 

Cook the onions in the olive oil for 10 to 15 minutes, so that they get nice and brown without burning.  Peel and dice the carrot and cook with the onions.  Finely chop the garlic and add that, cooking for a few minutes.  Add the anchovy and push around the base of the pan to ‘melt’ it. 

Add the flour to the onions and carrot and mix well in, gently pour in the ale (so that it doesn’t froth up too much) and stir in.  Add the rosemary, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce and sausages and give another stir.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Bring to a simmer on the hob and then cover with a close fitting lid.  Cook in the oven at 150oC/275o F/gas mark 1 for 3 hours.  You want to have a nice gravy with this so if it seems to dry out at all just add a little more boiling water (half a cup or so). 

This really is best served with buttery mashed potato to mop up the gravy!


Monday, 10 September 2012

Blackberry Crumble

Crumble in any guise is a lovely comfort food.  Blackberry crumble is perfect at this time of year, and my absolute favourite. 

The simple rule of thumb with crumble recipes is that you need half the quantity of butter to flour, and the same amount of sugar as butter. 

For a small crumble for two of us I used : 

Approximately 8 to 12oz of blackberries 
2 or 3tsp sugar, to taste

6oz plain flour
3oz butter
3oz caster sugar 

Simply clean the blackberries (I always soak them in salted water for a few hours to get rid of any ‘visitors’!) and arrange in a buttered dish adding sugar to taste. 

In a food processor (or mixer, or by hand) mix the flour, sugar and butter together to achieve a breadcrumb texture.  Sprinkle the crumble topping over and cook at 200oC / 400oF / gas 6 for approximately 30 minutes or so. 

Best served with custard, although ice cream is nice too!

Herby Roasted Sausages and Root Vegetables

This is such a quick and easy dish to put together that it’s perfect fare for a weeknight dinner.  It’s also relatively inexpensive, and quite filling. 

Obviously you can use whatever assortment of root vegetables you and your family prefer, or have to hand.  The quantities are easily adjusted to suit the number of people that you are feeding too. 

The recipe (such as it is!) given below is what I used to feed two of us. 

6 good meaty sausages (I always prefer Cumberland)
1 large carrot
½ medium swede (rutabaga)
1 large potato
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
Appx 1tb each of chopped fresh rosemary and sage (use less if using dried herbs)
1tb olive oil

To prepare simply peel and dice the potato and carrot into nice big chunks, cut the swede into smaller pieces as it will take longer to cook.  Peel the onion, halve it and cut each half into quarters.  Peel and slice the garlic and finally wash and chop the herbs. 

Simply toss all of the prepared vegetables, herbs and sausages in a large roasting tin with the olive oil and finally add a seasoning of black pepper. 

Cook in a hot oven (220oC / 425oF / gas 7) for approximately 45 minutes.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Hobgoblin Casserole

This is nothing more than beef in beer; I named this after my favourite ale to make it with!  You could use any good beer, I just prefer the Wychwood Hobgoblin.  Wychwood’s Goliath is another very good one, or you could try one of the Black Sheep ales which are very good.

This is a bit of a cheat’s recipe in that I cut out quite a few corners because of time pressures.  With the flavour of the ale and the long slow cooking it makes little difference to the finished dish though! 


For two people : 

1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
½ lb of stewing beef
4 large mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thickly
1 sprig of rosemary washed and finely chopped
1tb Worcestershire sauce
1tb tomato puree
1tb flour
1 bottle of good ale/beer
Salt and pepper to taste 

Gently cook the onion and carrot in 1tb of olive oil for a few minutes, while you chop the rosemary. 

Add the beef to the onion and carrot and stir together, then add the rosemary and the flour and stir well.  Slowly add the beer (because it will froth up) and then the Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, mushrooms and seasoning. 

Cook,covered in a slow oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours at 150oC/300oF/Gas mark 2


This is delicious served either with mashed potatoes, or brown rice and a green vegetable.


Friday, 24 August 2012

Redcurrant Muffins

The basic muffin recipe here is a Delia Smith one (from her summer collection) that I have been using for very nearly 20 years!  It’s a very adaptable recipe, easy to scale up or down and you can add whatever variety of fruits you have to hand.  

For 12 muffins : 

10oz plain flour
½ tsp salt
1tsp baking powder
3oz caster sugar 

8fl oz milk
4oz butter (melted)
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract 

4oz redcurrants (or blueberries, blackcurrants, cranberries etc!) 

Simply sift the flower into a bowl together with the salt and baking powder. Add the sugar and stir together. 

Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly.  Beat the eggs and add to the milk, then add the cooled butter. 

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a gentle folding action until both are combined.  Rinse and add the fruit to the bowl and stir. 

Spoon into muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes at 200oC/400oF/gas mark 6.



Thursday, 2 August 2012

A Disturbing Development

I’ve just taken a peek at the old homestead to see how preparations for my arrival are coming along and have a very, very disturbing development to report.


This is Mum & Dad’s bed.  Note the Sealy Posturepedic pillow top mattress, topped with a feather mattress (I appear to have been adopted by the Princess and the Pea).

This travesty appears to be my bed.  Note the plastic box with a duvet folded up in it.

This will never do.  I intend to make my first goal sleeping on the big bed.  Obviously I need to ask my cousin Ruby for a few tips – she seems to have it all worked out from this picture.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Slimmers Creamy Pea and Ham Pasta

This is a lovely comforting dish for those rainy days, pasta is always a real comfort food!  It’s very quick and simple to put together and well worth making double the quantity and freezing the surplus as a pasta bake for another time.  Made with light, or extra light Philladelphia cheese this is quite low on the calorie front for such a creamy dish. 

For two people : 

1 cup of peas
2 or 3 slices of ham
200g dry weight of pasta
Half of an 8oz (200g) pack of Philladelphia
½ pint of chicken stock 

Boil the pasta according to packet directions. 

While the pasta is cooking, simmer the peas in the chicken stock and roughly dice the ham.  When the peas and pasta are cooked, add the Philladelphia to the stock and stir well in to make a smooth creamy sauce, add the ham and heat through. 

Drain the pasta and return to the pan, adding the sauce and stirring through to combine.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Visit

What an eventful few weeks I’ve had.  I’m now all of six weeks old and my breeder has started weaning me onto puppy food.  I’m liking this development very much!

I’ve started exploring outside, what an interesting place this seems to be.  My brothers and sisters and I have lots of fun scampering around in the sunshine, although Mum seems to do a disappearing act from time to time, looking for what she calls peace and quiet.

I had some visitors last weekend when my new Mum & Dad came to visit me.  We had just had our lunch and were enjoying a little snooze in the garden when they arrived to see us all.  It was very exciting.  I had lots of cuddles and kisses and got to show off all the new things I’ve been doing.  My brothers and sisters enjoyed the excitement too.  I was quite glad to have a sleep after all of that.

I see things on the home front are improving.  My toy collection has grown since I last looked.  I have lovely new water and food bowls, and a smashing new red collar and leash.  I’m looking forward to debuting that when we go on our walks.

I am quite perturbed to see that Mum has installed a baby gate across the bedroom door.  I was hoping to spend my days lounging on the big bed – it looks very comfortable up there.  Oh well, I’m sure if I practice my pitiful look she’ll crumble and let me have a lie on there.

I only have just over three more weeks left here now before I go to live in my new home.  I’m quite looking forward to seeing my new home and all the exciting things to explore there.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Green Olive & Lemon Tapenade Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This is simply a twist on the sun dried tomato tapenade stuffed chicken breast recipe I gave earlier. 

I made a green olive and lemon tapenade, based on Delia Smith’s tapenade recipe from the Summer Collection and used that to stuff the chicken breasts.

For two people I used: 

2 chicken breasts
4 slices parma ham
2dsp green olive and lemon tapenade
2 or 3 basil leaves
Freshly milled black pepper to taste 

For the tapenade : 

14oz (400g) green olives, drained and rinsed
3oz (75g) capers, drained and rinsed
2oz (50g) anchovy fillets
2 big cloves of garlic
1tsp Dijon mustard
2tb extra virgin olive oil
Zest of a lemon and the juice of half a lemon
2tb fresh basil
Freshly milled black pepper 

To make the tapenade you simply place all the above ingredients into a food processor and pulse so that you get a coarse mixture.   

(The quantities given above will give you far more than you need for this recipe, but it is such a versatile paste that it never goes to waste.  Stir some into cooked linquine, tagliatelle or spaghetti; spread some on toasted rustic bread, smear some onto a crust as you pass the fridge etc etc!  In theory, this should keep in a jar in the fridge for up to two weeks, but I find it gets used up well before that!) 

To stuff the chicken, simply butterfly the chicken breasts, season with pepper and spread each with a dessertspoon of tapenade.  Add 1 or 2 torn basil leaves and fold over the top flap of the breasts.  Wrap in the parma ham and place in a baking dish.  Drizzle them with a little olive oil and give another seasoning of ground black pepper. 

Bake in a hot oven (190oC / 375oF / Gas Mark 5) for 30 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through. 

You can serve this with pasta, buttery boiled new potatoes or over rice.  A crisp salad alongside is always nice too.  Ditto some crusty bread and a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The New Arrival

My name is Holly and I was born a few weeks ago.  This week my new Mum & Dad came down and chose me out of the whole litter to go and live with them.  I’m too young to leave my real Mum yet, so for the next few weeks I’ll still be living here with all my brothers and sisters. 

My new Mum probably hasn’t realised it yet but I chose her, I cleverly clung to her arm so that she would know I wanted to stay with her and my new Dad.  Humans are so gullible like that! 

Clearly, my new Mum & Dad are book parents; just look at all the books they have on puppy care and living with a Golden Retriever.  I’ll teach them all they need to know about looking after me in the first few days!! 

Mum seems to be very taken with this particular book, it even seems to have taken over from her go-to book – Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course.  She is taking this very seriously.  Perhaps I should humour her when I join the household so that she doesn’t think she’s wasted her time. 

This seems to be my toy basket.  It’s looking very lean; just a satanic looking teddy bear, a ball and a raggy bone looking thing.  They’ll do to be going on with but I hope that they are going to give me a better selection of toys ....... or look out furniture!! 

This looks like Mum’s best moose-fur slipper – I bet a chew on this will get me some attention.  I must bear that in mind if she seems tardy to respond to me! 

I’m going to have a sleep now because I am only a very little girl.  You’ll be hearing some more from me in the coming weeks as I join my new family and find my feet.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Sausage and Leek Pie

The idea for this delicious pie was given to me by my Mother, who saw a TV chef (I think she said it was Phil Vickery) make it on television.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.  As my husband loves sausages in all shape or form I knew it would be a winner with him!

This is what I did, it will serve four people, or two people twice!

1 pack of ready-made shortcrust pastry
8 good quality meaty sausages
1 leek
1 knob of butter
1 bunch of herbs to your personal taste, I used sage and rosemary from my garden
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 egg (optional) 

Simply clean the leeks, halve lengthways and slice.  Sweat gently in the butter until the leeks have softened. 

Skin the sausages and place in a mixing bowl, add the chopped herbs and season with black pepper.  Mix thoroughly with your hands. 

Line a pie dish or plate with the pastry, keeping enough back for the lid. 

Add a generous layer of sausage meat to the bottom of the pie, top with the sautéed leeks and then a final layer of sausage meat.  Add a pastry lid to the pie and brush with beaten egg (or milk if you don’t want to waste a good egg washing pastry!). 

Cook at 150oC / 300oF / gas mark 2 for an 1¾  to 2 hours.  If the pies begin to brown too much before the end of the cooking time simply cover with a folded sheet of greaseproof paper to protect them. 

This pie will be delicious with a generous dollop of either tomato ketchup or your brown sauce of choice!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Egg & Bacon Flan

Over the years I have made many, many quiches with all sorts of ingredients and a quiche remains one of my favourite comfort foods.  In recent years I have re-discovered the classic quiche Lorraine, or egg and bacon flan as my Grandmother used to call it!

It’s a very simple dish, using refrigerator staples – bacon, eggs and cheese and really quite a frugal dish.  But such a classic combination and it can be taken to all new levels of tastiness by using really good quality ingredients.  Make it with best quality, oak or applewood smoked bacon, really strong cheddar and what I call proper eggs (from properly free-range hens) and you have yourself a real treat.  Nothing, but nothing can bring cheer to the weary soul like a very good, very simple quiche. 

The method below is pretty much the basic one I’ve been using for umpty tumpty years and will never let you down.  The only adaption I’ve made is to incorporate Delia’s tip of using a little parmesan cheese just before it goes into the oven.   

Like all my recipes, this is far from set in stone.  You can, of course, vary the basic recipe with whatever assortment of meat, fish or veggies takes your fancy. 

A small flan for two people : 

Grease and line a small flan dish with pastry.  The one I used was 7" in diameter and produced a nice deep quiche.

2 eggs
½ pint of milk (you can use a mixture of milk and cream for very best results!)
2 or 3 oz of good cheddar cheese (Welsh by preference please!!)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices of bacon, cooked and cut into strips
1oz or so of parmesan cheese 

Simply grate the cheddar and add to the bottom of your lined flan dish.  Add the cooked and chopped bacon.  Beat the eggs and add the milk (or milk and cream mixture), seasoning to taste.  Gently pour the egg and milk mixture onto the bacon and cheese and add a final grating of parmesan cheese. 

Cook at 180oC / 350oF / gas mark 4 for 35 to 40 minutes, until the quiche is golden and set.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Courgette, Bacon and Tomato Pasta Bake

This is really little more than a play on the bacon and tomato pasta bake I made earlier this year.  It’s not quite as frugal, but the cost of a courgette is never going to break the bank!   

Pasta bakes are always a bit of a faff if you are making them for immediate consumption. However, they are a really handy standby for making ahead of time, either for later in the day or the evening before you want them. 

For the sake of 15 minutes work of an evening, you have a really tasty dinner waiting for you when you come home from work the following day. Just pop it in the oven and go away until it’s ready!

For two people I used : 

3 thick rashers of bacon, cut into strips
1 courgette (zucchini) quartered lengthways and cut into small pieces similar in size to the penne
1 450g tin of tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
180g penne pasta
Freshly grated cheddar or parmesan cheese 

Dry-fry the bacon in a small frying pan until it starts to brown, season with a little black pepper and stir around.  Add the courgette pieces and then add the tinned tomatoes, stir and leave to simmer gently for 10 to 12 minutes. 

At the same time, cook the pasta according to packet directions, drain, return to the pan and add the sauce and combine the two together. 

Decant into an oven-proof dish and add a grating of parmesan cheese.  
Bake at 190oC / 375oF / Gas mark for 25 minutes, until the cheese and top pasta is browned.

This just needs a little bread to mop up the delicious tomato juices and a nice salad on the side.   

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Creamy Courgette Pasta with Sausage Meatballs

My husband absolutely loves sausages so I am always looking for different ways to cook them for him.  Pasta is one of my favourite meals, in any form, so sausages with pasta makes an appearance in our house frequently.  This is a very quick and simple meal to make for workdays, especially if you make and cook the meatballs the night before you want them. 


Sausage meatballs are an absolute doddle to make and well worth making in bulk to keep in the freezer for future use.   

To serve two people generously you want : 

1lb good quality sausages (or sausagemeat) 
½ pint chicken stock
1 courgette (zucchini)
Half of an 8oz (200g) pack of garlic and herb Philladelphia
6 to 8oz (180 to 200g) dry weight of penne/rigatoni.
Generous handful of rocket (arugula) 

To make the sausage meatballs simply skin the sausages and pinch each into about three pieces, rolling the pieces into balls as you go.  You could fry them on the hob, but I can’t bear frying so I pop them into the oven to cook.  They will only want 20 to 30 minutes in a hot oven – but keep an eye on them.  (If you don’t want to use all the meatballs (and I never do), pop the unused cooked ones into the freezer for another time.) 

Prepare the courgette by cutting it into pieces roughly the same size as the penne/rigatoni.  Cook the pasta according to packet directions.  While the pasta is cooking you can get on with the sauce. 

To make the creamy sauce simply simmer the courgette and cooked meatballs in the chicken stock, in a wide frying pan until the stock has reduced a little.  Add half a tub of garlic and herb cream cheese (low fat is just as good) and stir into the stock until it is smooth. 

Drain the pasta and add to the creamy meatballs and stir well to combine.  Add a handful of fresh rocket and stir again. 

If you are making this with meatballs that haven’t been frozen then it is well worth doubling up on the quantity and stashing the extra in the freezer to make a pasta bake on another evening.

To cut down on cost and time, it is worth making the sausage meatballs when you have the oven on for something else and stashing them in the freezer to use at a later date.  When you want to use them you simply need to defrost overnight. 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Creamy Chicken & Courgette Pasta Bake

Yes, slimmers and creamy in one sentence, thanks to low-fat creamed cheese!  I whipped this up quickly to use up some leftover cooked chicken that I had hanging around.  I thought a courgette would be a nice addition and make a change from the standard mushrooms, ham or asparagus. 

As always with pasta bakes I would put this together well ahead of cooking time, and even plan ahead by cooking surplus pasta the day before. 

For two of us I used : 

6oz dry weight of penne pasta
6 oz leftover cooked chicken
1 medium courgette (zucchini)
½ pint of chicken stock
Half of an 8oz (200g) pack of garlic and herb Philladelphia creamed cheese 

Put the pasta on to boil and cook as per packet directions. 

Prepare the courgette (zucchini) by halving across the middle and cutting slices off the central core (which can be discarded).  Cut the slices into strips and chop into pieces approximately the same size as the penne. 

Cook the courgette (zucchini) in the chicken stock while the pasta is cooking, so that the stock reduces.  Add the creamed cheese and mix well, making sure that all the cheese is blended with the stock and there are no lumps. 

Drain the pasta and return to the pan, add the courgette and cream cheese mixture and leave to cool.  Once it is completely cold add the chicken to the pan and stir it in and then spoon the mixture into a baking dish.  Top with some grated cheese, a mixture of cheddar and parmesan is always nice. 

From cold, in one of these enamel dishes the pasta bake will want approximately 25 – 30 minutes (depending on the size of the dish) at 190oC / 375oF / Gas mark 5.  In a stoneware dish it will take a little longer. 

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Chicken & Asparagus Pasta Bake

The weather has cooled somewhat considerably today so a pasta bake is just the ticket!  This is really no more than a tweak of my standard chicken pie recipe, but very tasty and a perfect way to use up leftover chicken. 

As always a pasta bake is a real faff to make and only really worth making if you are doing it in advance.  If you can plan ahead and cook surplus pasta a day or so before you want to make this you can cut down quite considerably on the work.  On working days I would always double up on the pasta for dinner and make the sauce the night before I wanted it.  So long as you let everything cool before you add the cooked chicken there won’t be a problem. 

For two of us I used : 

6oz penne pasta
6oz asparagus
6oz cold cooked chicken (leftovers is fine)
½ pint of chicken stock (about half a cup)
1oz butter
1dsp flour
1 stick of celery
Salt and pepper to taste 

Optional : approximately 1oz cheddar cheese grated to top the dish before baking. 

Simply clean and dice the stick of celery and sweat gently in the butter for about 10 minutes or so.  Add the flour and stir until it is all combined in the buttery juices.  Slowly add the chicken stock, a little at a time and beat well after each addition until all the stock is added and you have a smooth lump-free sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes so that the flour cooks. 

Cook the penne for 10 minutes in boiling salted water, Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the wooden ends and then cutting the spears into three, roughly the same size as the penne.  Add the asparagus to the pasta for the last two minutes of the cooking time. 

Drain the pasta and asparagus and rinse under cold running water before returning to the pan. 

As soon as the pasta and the sauce are cold add the chicken and combine with the sauce.  Turn into an ovenproof dish.  You could add a grating of cheese to the top if you wish – I invariably do! 

From cold, in one of these enamel dishes the pasta bake will want approximately 25 – 30 minutes (depending on the size of the dish) at 190oC / 375oF / Gas mark 5.  In a stoneware dish it will take a little longer. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade Stuffed Chicken Breasts

The sunny weather has got me in full-on Mediterranean mode at the moment!  This is another one of those simple assembly jobs that always seems to impress people.  It’s a twist on the pesto chicken recipe below, and like that I always prefer to make it with home-made tapenade (my favourite recipe is Delia’s sun dried tomato tapenade, link below) but you could, of course, use ready-made. 

For two people I used: 

2 chicken breasts
4 slices parma ham
2dsp tapenade
2 or 3 basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste 

Simply butterfly the chicken breasts, season and spread each with a dessertspoon of tapenade.  Add 1 or 2 torn basil leaves and fold over the top flap of the breasts.  Wrap in the parma ham and place in a baking dish.  Drizzle them with a little olive oil and give another seasoning of ground black pepper 

Bake in a hot oven (190oC / 375oF / Gas Mark 5) for 30 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through. 

You can serve this with pasta, buttery boiled new potatoes or over rice.  A crisp salad alongside is always nice too.  Ditto some crusty bread and a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping! 

The tapenade recipe makes far more than you need for this recipe, but it’s so tasty that it’s worth making the whole amount of tapenade and using it to top slices of crusty bread or as a pasta sauce.