It’s a blustery day in Cumbria not quite cold yet but with a definite feel and smell of Autumn in the air and the promise of approaching winter. I say promise because I like the feel of Autumn still sunny and sometimes warm but with rustling falling leaves and the garden slowly turning to orange and gold. I like the Winter as well but it has to be a proper one with frosty mornings and proper snow, only at the weekends, so I don’t have to drive in it. I’ve got out my warm coat, scarves and gloves so I’m ready for anything. I’m looking forward to lighting the fire for the first time and looking forward to some cosy nights in with my favourite people.
This mince and dumplings is comfort food at it’s best everyone I have spoken to about this have said……………………..Oh.oooooo I love them. But most have never made them possibly because they are not sure how to and don’t realise how easy it is. For my generation they remind us of childhood and for me of school dinners. Yes school dinners!! Maybe there is a touch of rose tinted memories here but we certainly had some memorable ones such as mince and mash, chocolate sponge with green peppermint custard (sounds absurd but we loved it), Apple pie with grated cheese-again rather odd but I was always told it was a ‘Yorkshire thing’. I think even at my tender years I thought that even odder because the cheese was always white, grated Lancashire cheese! Maybe this was some historical culinary attempt at reconciliation between Yorkshire and Lancashire. Mince and dumplings was also on the menu probably because it was relatively cheap to make and filling for all us growing girls…………………..
This is my version which lives up to that memory when I suppose the recipe was very much the same. It’s childs play to make and can be cooked from start to finish in about an hour and for most of the time it will cook merrily by itself. So you just have time to pull those curtains, light the fire and pull on that baggy old cardi you only keep for winter (shapeless and quite probably bobbly-I know you have one) and cosy up for the night………………………..
MINCE AND DUMPLINGS
For the mince:
A little vegetable oil
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
800g beef mince meat
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
About 165g turnip, peeled and diced
2 beef stock cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pan with a lid (I prefer to use a large, open shallow one with a lid) heat up a little oil and add the onions. Cook until golden.
Add the mince and stir every now and then until it is all browned. Add the chopped carrots and turnip-I have used quite a lot of vegetables so there is no need to serve more vegetables with the meal.
Crumble the stock cubes into the meat, add the water and stir until dissolved-this is quite a lot of water because the dumplings will absorb some of it.
Season with black pepper. Replace the lid and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Taste and adjust and more salt and pepper if you prefer.
For the dumplings:
250g self-raising flour
½ teasp salt
100g shredded suet e.g. Atora
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped or 1 teasp dried parsley or mixed herbs
About 8 tbsp. of water.
Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the water to make a softish dough.
Make into about 8 balls. Roll in a little flour if they are sticking.
When the mince is cooked, drop the dumplings in and spoon over some of the liquid. Put the lid back on and cook for about 20 minutes until they are risen and cooked through.
If you think it is too wet then remove the lid and simmer until the liquid is reduced.
Simple oaty biscuits to bake at home? Simple is great and it’s a shame that simple is often thought to be boring.
My mother is a Scot and I was brought up eating lots of oats, porridge, oat cakes, haggis, muesli, flap jacks, oaty bread, oaty biscuits and a delicious pudding called cranachan, a creamy mix of raspberries, toasted oatmeal and whisky. I have to admit to preferring porridge made with rolled oats (not pinhead), milk (not water) and sugar (not salt). We were subjected to ‘proper’ porridge on visits over the border to see grandparents and I still shudder at the memory. Our rolled oats of choice was Scott’s Porage Oats. Who could resist the athletic, kilted Scots man on the packet about to release his shotput over the glorious highlands?.
Oats are healthy to eat, high in fibre, cheap to buy, nutritious and their slow release, wholegrain goodness will keep you going until lunchtime and beyond…what’s not to love?
This recipe for oaty biscuits comes from a Scottish (of course) friend Fiona, have a go they are simply delicious!
FIONA’S OATY BISCUITS
125g Plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
125g rolled oats
125g unrefined caster sugar
125g block margarine or butter
Generous tablespoon golden syrup
Splash of milk
Prepare a baking tray with baking paper. (It is helpful to have two trays if you have them as the biscuits take up quite a lot of space in the oven)
Put the flour, baking powder and oats in a bowl and mix together.
Melt the sugar, margarine and syrup in a small pan and then add to the dry ingredients.
Stir until incorporated. The mixture should be quite stiff but add a very little milk if it doesn’t come off the spoon easily. Drop approx. a small desert spoonful of mixture onto the baking sheet, it helps to use a teaspoon to push the mixture off the spoon.
Bake for about 20 minutes in a medium oven at approximately 160C, Gas mark 2. When golden remove from the oven, allows them to cool a little and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
NOTE: It is easy to put too much too much mixture on the tray, the biscuits need room to spread or you will end up with one large (but equally delicious) biscuit!
These sticky pork Boston Baked Beans are just the ticket for Bonfire night.
I love it when the nights start to cut in and there is the lovely sweet smell of autumn in the air. I can’t wait to get the log fire going and look forward to cosy evenings. I have always loved Halloween and Bonfire night -maybe because my mother always made an effort to celebrate them and I have never forgotten about them. Halloween involved dressing up and anxiously searching the sky for witches and Bonfire night was always at home with a bonfire in the garden and my mums food. My ‘food memories’ are still clear in my mind; almost impossible to eat toffee apples, homemade tomato soup in a mug, sticky parkin (well, I am from Yorkshire), sausages and jacket potatoes cooked in the fire. I think I recall even doing this the day after bonfire night, the embers were so hot! I thought it the most exciting night of the year. I think I may have blocked out all the rainy nights when we couldn’t do them but I do recall tears… Organised firework displays have never done anything for me at all -perhaps because the food was as important as the fireworks.
These Boston Baked Beans are the sort of thing I would cook nowadays for either a Halloween or Bonfire party but my recipe is perfect for comfort eating at any time. So batten down the hatches and give it a go. This dish won’t spoil if it is left and it’s even better the next day.
Summer time and the plot is bursting at the seams…and the courgettes are intent on a veg patch take over. Will we ever learn not to put in so many-no, probably not because ‘you never know’ what may happen. Some plants may not make it through the minefield of growing your own vegetables………………… too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet slugs, hapless gardeners, mildew, pests etc etc. Once they get past the danger times they grow at an alarming rate the beautiful, orange flowers start appearing and, magically, they develop into tiny courgettes. It is best to pick them small but beware turn your back, they have grown into huge marrows. ‘What shall I do with them’ ? is a common cry.
I like mine sliced into rounds and simply fried in olive oil but there are lots of other options -roasted in the oven, made into soup, spiralised into salads or pasta and baked in various cakes and scones. After you have exhausted all the usual ways to deal with them try this very simple dish. It is easy to grow the delicious herb dill alongside your vegetables or it is pretty enough to go in the flower beds as well. It is my favourite fresh herb and simply used with courgettes a summer treat for me. Don’t forget it isn’t a pickle and you have to eat it fresh although it will last until the next day.
MARINATED COURGETTE WITH DILL
2/3 Small courgettes
50ml rice wine vinegar (+water)
Approx. 1 teasp. sugar*
Seas salt and freshly ground, black, pepper
Using a ‘T’ vegetable peeler remove long, fine ribbons along the length of the courgette. Move around in quarter turns and then discard the middle bit. If you have to use an older courgette I would remove half of the peel as it will be tough.
Put the vinegar in a small pan with 3 tbsp. water. Add *some of the sugar. Briefly simmer and then leave to cool. Taste- it shouldn’t be too sweet or too vinegary.
Finely chop the dill-you can do it with the stalk unless they are tough. In this case you can take them off and just chop the feathery bits.
Put the courgette, vinegar mix and dill in a small bowl and mix together.
School holidays and sunshine (well it is here in the West, sorry East but it is usually us in the rain and cold!). Time to head out for a picnic-these portable, Sausage & Egg Picnic Pies are scrumptious. They are a bit more of a fiddle to make than a cheese sandwich but they don’t curl up around the edges when you leave them out in the sun and……………they are delicious. If you can get hold of a nice, meaty, sausage rather than a more processed one that is better.
So head off in to the great outdoors or just down to the bottom of the garden or local park and have fun in the sun! Toodle pip
Well it’s been a while…I’m thinking ahead to a simple Sunday lunch or easy get together meal with the family and this roast chicken with sticky carrots fits the bill. Roast chicken is always a safe bet (and economical) so it’s my go to family, weekend, roast. My Christmas turkey always sits on top of a ‘trivet’ of vegetables & herbs to help keep it moist by raising it off the base of the roasting tin and adding extra flavour to the chicken. It also helps to make the best gravy ever so I have used this trick with the chicken. Try to get hold of to a higher welfare chicken if you can it is much better not just in terms of flavour but more because of the meaty texture-not the ‘cotton wooly’ texture of meat from many factory raised birds.
My bird is fragrant with rosemary, roasted garlic, juicy with lemon and sweet, sticky carrots AND roasted all in one pan so not much washing up-can you resist?
Here is my;
ROSEMARY AND LEMON ROAST CHICKEN WITH STICKY CARROTS
This delicious lemon curd is truly the the food of the gods and takes just 20 minutes to make. You could use it fill a light, fluffy sponge cake or lemon roulade, dollop onto freshly baked scones or use as a decadent filling for dainty sandwiches-white bread, no crusts of course. Personally, I found it very difficult not to eat the whole lot directly from the jar……not just me..I had to wrest it from my husband as well.
The curd is made in small jars as it doesn’t keep well although this is academic as you won’t be able to resist it for long
Try it and you will never look at a bought jar of bright yellow, gloopy lemon curd in quite the same way.
A special cake for a special day-what could be a nicer gift than a home baked one made with love? This is a rather special mother’s day cake which, ditching the bunting, you could use for all sorts of celebrations-the crystallized rose petals giving it a very pretty, vintage look.
I have a long history of making cakes for Mothering Sunday..with various degrees of success..for some reason my sisters and I thought it would be a good idea (and perfectly feasible) to get up very early in the morning bake a cake AND ice it….yes, you can imagine what happened but I’m sure my mum looked at the wonky cake with the icing sliding down the sides and thought it was the best present ever!
Nowadays we have ready made fondant icing which is very easy to use and gives a perfectly smooth professional looking finish -it’s as easy as child’s play to put it on just have a look at some You tube videos to show you how. I confess I am not a fan of eating it and I think that the synthetic, vanilla flavour is over sweet and spoils my lovely cake! It is a waste as I cut mine off before I eat it.. I could be harsh and say it often is used to cover up a poor quality cake and, from a business point of view, gives it a very long shelf life.
Home made marzipan is a revelation to convert even the most ardent ‘I hate marzipan’ brigade and I confess to being quite evangelical about singing it’s praises. It is easy peasy to make just stir the sugars together and bind with egg and it doesn’t have the sharp, chemical after taste of bought marzipan. Almonds are expensive so it makes commercial sense not to use too much and then to get the ‘almond’ flavour by adding a cheap, artificial flavour.
I made the bunting for a special Mother’s day message, it was a fiddle although you can buy the little paper flags from a craft shop. These I glued onto the ribbon (using a high tac glue that dries quickly and clear) and tied the ribbon onto some paper straws. Move them around to get the right ‘hanging effect’ before you sink them into the cake. also used crystallized fresh rose petals which look so..oooooooooooooooo pretty. You can also crystallise primroses, violets or forget me nots, the loveliness is endless. I did try it with snowdrops one year, they looked ok but are really too fleshy to do properly and you really need a flower with an ‘open’ face. Give it a go and you will be amazed at how easy it is.
Here is my mother’s day cake-appropriately for Mothering Sunday I have used my mother’s own recipe for it. I used a Madiera cake as it is quite firm so a good base if you want to cover it with marzipan and icing. The cake has a dense texture and lemony flavour and traditionally it was served topped with very thin slices of crystallized lemon peel.
If I’d known you were coming I would have baked you a cake…tra la la so it goes and what could be nicer to give to someone but a home made cake? This espresso coffee cake is a sophisticated marble cake with ‘Tia Maria’ liquer rather gorgeous and strictly for the grown ups. Hands off my little ones this is all mine. I’m not really one for the strict New Year resolutions viz a viz the ‘great cake eating/healthy eating debate’ so I’m going for the ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ standpoint. Much more successful with me at any rate-what about you?
I have decorated the cake with chocolate covered coffee beans – you can find them on the counter in some of the larger coffee shops or in Italian type delis etc. They are worth searching out to decorate this cake. Here is my recipe:
Let’s be honest a traditional Christmas pudding is not every one’s cup of tea and…………………….you are a tad late if you want to make one so here is a spectacular alternative. It is every bit as special (some would say more), much lighter and filled with brandy soaked fruit, juicy cranberries and ginger biscuits. In bid to show off (tick) I have decorated mine with shards of white chocolate, crystallised berries and a fair bit of edible sparkle. It looks gorgeous and there will definitely be a Tah ..da..moment when you carry it to the Christmas table.
Don’t be tempted to …….flame this pud…you have been warned..
LUSCIOUS CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM PUDDING WITH SPARKLY WHITE CHOCOLATE SHARDS AND CRANBERRIES