Monday, 24 June 2013

Chicken and Stuffing Pie

This pie might look daunting, but I promise you, it’s easier than you think. It’s great with onion chutney for a picnic lunch, or with mash and gravy for an evening meal. If you are buying pre-made shortcrust pastry, you will probably need two packs – you can always make jam tarts with any leftovers!

For the pastry:
400g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp salt
100g butter, diced
100g light suet
150ml cold water

For the filling:
600g of chicken thighs (or breasts sliced lengthways to make two flat breasts)
1 tbsp oil, plus extra for greasing
170g pack sage and onion stuffing mix
400-500g good-quality sausages
1 egg, beaten

Pre-heat your oven to 180c and lightly oil a loose bottomed cake tin.
First, make the pastry by tipping the flour into a large bowl with 1 tsp salt. Add the butter and suet, and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Slowly pour in 150ml cold water, stirring with your hand, until the pastry just comes together. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead together into a ball. Take one-third of the pastry and set aside for the lid. Roll out the rest to a thickness of a £1 coin and line your oiled cake tin with it, leaving any overhang for now.
Now for the filling!
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat and brown the chicken on each side. You don’t need to worry about cooking the chicken all the way through; you just need to seal it. Set aside.
Set aside 2 tbsp of the stuffing mixture and make up the rest using 3/4 the amount of water that the packet says. Spoon the stuffing into the base of the pie, packing down well and smoothing the top.
Arrange the chicken over the stuffing, cutting pieces if needed to fill in any gaps and pressing lightly into the stuff to eliminate any gaps.
Squeeze the sausage meat from their skins into a bowl and lightly season. Form the sausage meal into a flat disc and press evenly over the top of the chicken. Again, make sure that it’s pressed down firmly to avoid gaps, and then scatter over the reserved dry stuffing.
Roll out the remaining pastry until big enough to cover the pie with an overlap. Brush the edge of the pie with egg, then lift on the pastry lid and press edges to seal. Trim the edges and roll down excess to thoroughly seal.
Cut a little cross in the middle of the pie to let steam out, and you can decorate the seal all round with the prongs of a fork. Brush all over the top with egg and bake for 50 minutes. Brush all over again with egg and cook for another 10 minutes.
It’s easier to remove the pie from the tin when it’s cool, so leave to cool be removing and cutting into slices.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Buttery Banoffee Flapjacks

Flapjacks are my go-to bake. They’re quick, easy and you can put literally anything in them! These buttery banoffee flapjacks have lashings of golden syrup, making them sticky and chewy and delicious! You can omit the shortbread, banana and fudge, and swap it for anything else you fancy – crushed KitKats are another favourite of mine, or crushed gingernut biscuits with handfuls of dried berries – just throw in whatever you have in the cupboard! If you prefer crunchier flapjacks, leave the golden syrup off the top, and bake for an extra 5 minutes.

250g rolled oats
175g demerara sugar
100g crushed shortbread
100g fudge, cut into small cubes
185g unsalted butter
6 tbsp golden syrup
1 large/2 small over ripe bananas, mashed

Pre-heat your oven to 180c and line/grease a deep, square baking tray or dish.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, sugar, shortbread and fudge.
Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, with 4 tbsp of the golden syrup.
Once melted, pour the butter into the oat mix, and stir until all the oats are well covered. Next, mix in the mashed bananas, again making sure they’re well mixed in.
Tip the mix into your tray, pushing it to the edges to fill the corners and flattening the surface with the back of a spoon. Drizzle the remaining 2 tbsp of golden syrup over the top of the flattened mix and bake for 15-18 minutes.
Leave to cool completely before removing from the tray and cutting into squares.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Cheese Biscuits - Two Ways

These cheese biscuits are the easiest things you will ever bake, and they taste amazing! You can add anything to the basic recipe to spice it up - I added a fresh chilli and paprika to one batch and caramelised onions to the other, but adding chives or spring onions instead would be great too! They're great on their own, with a little butter or as crackers on a cheese board.

Ingredients for basic cheese biscuits:
55g grated cheddar, or other hard cheese
55g butter
115g plain flour
1 egg yolk
Splash of milk

For caramelised onion variation:
Oil for frying
Half of 1 red onion, thinly sliced
1tsp sugar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar

For chilli variation:
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
1tsp paprika

Pre-heat your oven to 180c, and grease/line your baking tray(s). Put the grated cheese, butter and flour in a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Tip the mix into a bowl and add the egg yolk and a splash of milk to bring the dough into a firm but still slightly soft ball.*
Roll the the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, to the thickness of a £1 coin, and cut into biscuits with a cookie cutter, re-rolling any offcuts, until all the dough is used up. Bake for 10 minutes, until they are golden but not brown.

*For the caramelised onion variation: Heat the oil on a low heat in a small saucepan, add the sliced onion and sugar, cover and leave for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and stir in the balsamic vinegar, leave for another 5 minutes with the lid off, then remove from the heat. Knead this into the dough before rolling it out.

* For the chilli variation: Knead the chopped fresh chilli and paprika into the dough before rolling it out.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Rhubarb & Almond Crumble Tart

Who needs a birthday cake when you can have a tart?! I found this recipe on BBC Good Food online after looking through what felt like hundreds of rhubarb recipes, trying to find one that would make a great alternative to a birthday cake. Served with ice cream, cream or custard, hot or cold, this tart is perfect! And you can always use shop brought shortcrust pastry if you don’t have time to make your own… I won’t tell! Happy birthday Annie!


For the pastry:

1 egg

125g golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

250g plain flour

125g butter, cubed

For the filling:

600g rhubarb stalks

100g caster sugar

Juice of 1 orange

For the streusel topping:

140g cold butter, cubed

140g plain flour
175g golden caster sugar

100g ground almonds

1tsp ground ginger

Flaked almonds

To make the pastry, put the egg and sugar into a bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved into the egg.

Then sift the flour into the bowl and mix well, making sure there are no pockets of flour, until it is sandy in texture.

Lastly, add the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or butter knife, until it forms a sticky ball.

Turn the dough out onto a light floured surface and knead together for a few minutes to get rid of any lumps of butter, then wrap in clingfilm or greaseproof paper and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat your oven to 180c and, while the pastry sits in the fridge, chop the rhubarb stalks into 2-3cm chunks and place in a roasting dish. Sprinkle over the sugar and orange juice, shuffling the rhubarb around to make sure it’s fully coated.

Cover the dish in tinfoil and roast for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, take the foil off the dish and shuffle the rhubarb around again before putting back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Once cooled slightly, tip the contents of the dish into a sieve and drain the juices from the rhubarb. Pour the juices into a small jar or jug, and put to one side.

After the rhubarb has finished baking, turn your oven down to 160c.

Once the pastry has rested, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of a £1 coin. Line a tart dish (or round cake tin) with the pastry, making sure there are no gaps, and leaving a slight over hang around the edges.

Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper, and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 20 minutes, then remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and, while it’s still warm, trim the overhanging pastry around the edges.

While the pastry is baking, you can make the streusel topping. Tip all the ingredients, minus the flaked almonds, in a large mixing bowl and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms breadcrumbs

To assemble the tart, take the drained rhubarb and layer it evenly in the baked pastry case. Next, sprinkle over the streusel topping, followed by a handful of flaked almonds to finish.

Bake at 160c for 25 minutes until lightly browned on top.
Serve warm or cold, with the rhubarb juices as a sauce.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Plum and Almond Bake

This is another bake that came about by accident... I was testing a recipe that I'm planning to make for a colleagues birthday next week, and ended up with lots of streusel topping left over. Not wanting it to go to waste, I grabbed some plums from the fruit bowl and set about creating a fruity dessert. I think that baked in a square dish, this could easily be cut into bars once cooled and taken on a picnic, but it's nice warm with custard too.

6 fairly firm plums
1 tbsp caster sugar
Juice of 1 orange
140g cold butter, cubed
100g ground almonds
140g plain flour
175g light muscovado sugar
Pinch of caster sugar

Cut the plums into quarters, removing the stones, and place in a saucepan. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the plums and pour in the orange juice. Cover the saucepan and stew on a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the plums have gone soft and the juices have turned syrupy.
Remove from the heat and mash the plum mix with a fork before putting to one side.

Pre-heat your oven to 200c and grease or line an ovenproof dish.
Place the ground almonds, flour and muscovado sugar in a bowl and rub in the cubed butter into the mixture until crumbly.
Firmly press about 2/3 of the mix into the dish, making sure there are no holes and there is an even cover. Tip the plum mix over the base layer, making sure it's spread evenly and up to the edges. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mix evenly over the top, followed by a pinch of caster sugar and bake in the centre of your oven for 25 minutes, until golden and gooey.
If you're cutting it into bars, leave to cool completely before cutting as the plum layer will firm up a bit once cooled. Alternatively, enjoy warm from the oven.

Rhubarb and Custard Muffins

Whilst helping my grandparents out in their garden last weekend, we noticed that their rhubarb was ready to pick. Rhubarb and custard sweets were my favourite growing up, so I used the freshly picked rhubarb to make a tribute to those! The hidden pocket of custard, and the roasted rhubarb make these really moist, and they are best eaten the day they are baked, hot from the oven, with a little vanilla ice cream!

275g rhubarb
50g golden caster sugar 
1 orange
140g light muscovado sugar
75ml vegetable oil
1 egg
300ml soured cream
300g self-raising flour
12 tsp thick custard
golden caster sugar , for sprinkling
First, you need to roast your rhubarb. Pre-heat your oven to 200c and rinse your rhubarb under cold water before cutting in to small bite size chunks and placing it in a roasting dish.
Tip in the caster sugar, shuffling it around to make sure all the rhubarb is coated.
Zest the orange and put to one side, then squeeze the juice from half of the orange over the sugar coated rhubarb.
Cover the dish in tin foil and roast for 15 minutes. Remove the tin foil, give the rhubarb another shuffle and roast for a further 5 minutes.
Tip the contents of the tray into a sieve over a bowl to drain the juices and leave to cool while you make the muffin batter.
Turn your oven down to 180c and line a muffin tin with paper cases. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, egg, before adding the orange zest and soured cream, and continue mixing until thoroughly combined.
Gently mix in the flour, making sure there are no lumps, then fold in the drained rhubarb.
Divide 2/3 of the batter evenly between the paper cases, then using a spoon, press in the centre of each muffin to make a dip. Fill each dip with a teaspoon of thick custard, then gently smooth the rest of the muffin mix over the custard.
Bake for 28-30 minutes or until risen, pale golden and oozing custard. Sprinkle each with a little caster sugar while still warm, and serve with the drained rhubarb juices as a sauce.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Lemon and Poppy Seed Scones

I LOVE scones, especially the cheese ones topped with cream cheese and onion chutney from our local cafĂ©, Jacarandas! But when it comes to sweet scones, I hate sultanas, currants, raisins etc… and although plain scones are nice, they do get a bit boring! So, when I found this recipe for lemon and poppy seed ones, I couldn’t wait to give them a go. This is another recipe from JohnWhaite Bakes, and they’re great with clotted cream and lemon curd for an indulgent treat, but are just as good with butter as a quick snack too.

100g natural yoghurt
120ml milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
250g self raising flour
250g strong white bread flour
10g baking powder
100g caster sugar
125g butter
50g poppy seeds
Zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs
1 egg (beaten for glazing)

First, pre-heat your oven to 220c and grease/line your baking trays.
In a small bowl, mix together the yoghurt, milk and lemon juice and leave to one side.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and sugar. Cube the butter and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the poppy seeds and zest and work into the breadcrumbs until they are spread evenly through the mix.
Next, add the eggs to the flour mix, and mix with your hand to form sticky breadcrumbs. Now add the yoghurt mix to the bowl, a little at a time, and continue to mix with your hand until the mixture forms a soft bread dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and work to the dough for about 30 seconds, pushing it together, before flattening it out into a disc about 1.5cms thick.
Use a cookie cutter to cut out your scones, re-working and flattening the left over dough until it’s all been used. It should make about 12-15 scones in all, depending on the size of your cutter.
Place the scones onto your baking trays, and glaze the tops with beaten egg before baking for 13-15 minutes, until they have turned golden and sound hollow when tapped on the base.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Caramelised Onion and Sage Fougasse

This caramelised onion and sage fougasse, or 'stuffing bread' as it's more commonly know in our house, is amazing! The recipe is taken from John Whaite's cookbook, and was originally for caramelised onion and rosemary, but this works even better!
1 red onion
Butter for frying
1tsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp caster sugar
500g white bread flour
10g salt
7g fast action yeast
2tbp finely chopped sage leaves
350ml room temperature water
Wholemeal bread flour for dusting
Finely slice the onion and fry over a high heat in the butter. Once the butter is melted, turn down to a low-medium heat and cover the pan with a lid. Allow the onion to cook gently for 15 minutes, then stir in the vinegar and sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes, this time with the lid off. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
To make the dough, place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and stir in the yeast and chopped sage. Add the water in thirds and bring the dough into a sticky mass using your hand.
Tip the contents of the bowl out onto a well dusted worktop and knead for 10 minutes. Now add the cooled onions and knead for a further 5 minutes or so, until the onion is spread evenly throughout the dough. This bit can be a bit messy and it looks like the onion is just sitting on the surface, but it will mix in if you knead it for long enough. Place the dough in a clean, floured bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour.
Dust a tray with flour and the worktop again too. Gently tip the risen dough out onto the worktop and cut the ball into quarters, so they resemble rounded triangles.
Take one portion of the dough and, using a sharp knife, cut a line in the middle from the tip of each triangle to the flat edge. You need to cut right through the depth of the dough, but not to each end, because you do not want to cut the dough in half: there needs to be 2cm of dough uncut at either end of the line. Then, on either side of that line, at a 45 degree angle, cut three smaller lines in the same way. Stretch the dough slightly so the holes open up. Hopefully the photo above should give you an idea of what it should look like. Repeat this with the other three pieces of dough. Place on the floured tray and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 230c and place your baking sheets in to heat up. Once they're hot, slide the breads from the tray onto the baking sheets in the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then immediately remove the bread from the baking trays and place on a wire rack. Enjoy!