The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge: Bakewell Tart

OMG, I started doing this blog post about 2 months ago at least and didn´t get any further with it!! Things have been really hectic what with birthday parties, ballet shows, parent´s visits etc, not to mention a 10 mnth old screaming baby that is spending more and more time awake and is not happy to be sat anywhere and is constantly disgruntled....hence making it difficult to do anything, let alone blog or even bake and/or cook!!! By the time, I finally get the kids off to bed I´m not so far behind myself as I am constantly knackered!!!
So going to keep this blog post really short but sweet...kind of like me,really....hehehe!!!As I love both Cherry Bakewells and Almond Slices, both of which you can find the recipes on my blog if you click on the links, and as I´ve never actually made a Bakewell Tart before, I decided to make it for this "month´s" Great British Bakeoff Technical Challenge. I wasn´t worried about this bake as I´ve already mentioned I´ve made both Cherry Bakewell tarts and Almond slices which are very similiar and in my opinion fairly easy bakes. I can imagine that they could be more difficult if you didn´t have a recipe to follow though. The hardest part is the shortcrust pastry as it got very sticky and broke quite a lot...I think the best tip I can give you here is to roll it out on top of clingfilm and then place another layer of clingfilm on top of the pastry so it´s between the rolling pin. However, this Mary Berry recipe(click on the link for the recipe) does not disappoint and it is worth the effort as it´s delicious...I´ll definitely be making this again!!As I made it quite awhile ago, I don´t remember if there were any other issues or difficulties in making this bake.


Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge: B: Barley: Irish Stew

April is here, which means the start of spring and better weather but also plenty of April showers. Spring is my favourite time of year, especially living in Spain as it´s not too cold nor too hot and it´s ideal for picnics, BBQ´S ,walks in the country, bike rides...need I go on!!!Also, all the flowers and the trees are starting to blossom and bloom and the air is fragrant with their perfume and of course you can´t forget all the cute baby animals being born!!So, just as the weather is changing and we are preparing to move onto the letter C in our Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge, we have room for just one more hearty, warming winter dish,which is comfort food at its best, Irish stew.

When I started writing this post, the weather had changed to bright, sunny, blue skies and the temperature had started to warm up but now we are back to dull, dreary and very wet weather, ideal for this stew!!I had originally wanted to make Irish stew in time for St. Patrick´s Day but unfortunately couldn´t find the right cut of lamb so delayed it and ended up buying a quarter of lamb for half the price of the usual fillets I buy!!It´s all separated and bagged up and in the freezer, ready to be used. I think I have enough for at least 3 or 4 different meals!!Unfortunately, my daughter who usually eats stew at both of her grandparent´s house took one look at it and said she didn´t like it and wouldn´t even try it...so much for getting her to eat more variety and try new things!!!

The recipe is adapted from Classic Potato Dishes edited by Lisa Dyer and also included parsley dumplings which would be delicious with it but I didn´t have all the ingredients for the dumplings so left them out but it´d also be great with some crusty bread or French baguette to mop up the juices, anyway without further ado on to the recipe:

Ingredients(4 people)
2tbsp olive oil
1/2  or 1 large onion, sliced
1 leek, sliced
1 large carrot,sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
about 700g lean lamb cutlets or lamb shoulder, cubed
60g pearl barley
900ml lamb/beef stock(I used a beef Oxo cube as didn´t have any lamb stock)
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
salt & pepper
fresh parsley to garnish

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan and gently fry onions, leek,carrot and celery for 5 mins,without browning.
2. Add stock,lamb and pearl barley and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat.
3. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes,adding the potatoes after 20 minutes.
4. Season with salt & pepper and serve garnished with fresh parsley(picked straight out of my garden!)

I loved this hearty stew and it will become a staple during the cold winter months from now on. I´m glad I tried barley as I love the taste and texture it gives to dishes...am looking forward to experimenting more with barley and hopefully I´ve inspired you to try it and experiment with it too!Maybe one day I´ll also manage to get my daughter to try it too.I also had plenty of leftovers too which I could freeze to take out for a day when I haven´t got time to cook!!


Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge B: Barley: Butternut squash, mushroom, sage & pearl barley risotto

A new month is here and it brings with it a new letter, the letter B, for the Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge. And what ingredient have I chosen for this month´s challenge, I hear you asking...well, I decided to go for a grain which I´ve never tried before and is also very economical...barley. Barley....what do I do with barley you might be wondering. I didn´t know myself until deciding to cook with it but barley can be used in many dishes, particularly soups and stews or even as a main grain to replace rice for example, such as in the following recipe.

 Barley can be bought in various forms, among which are hulled barley, pearl barley and barley flakes. My first problem was that I wanted pearl barley and I wasn´t sure if I´d bought hulled barley or pearl barley!!! If you want to join in with the Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge, you can use barley in any of it´s forms! Barley is a very healthy grain to eat as it contains many essential nutrients, such as protein,dietary fibre,B vitamins and minerals. If  3 grams of barley is consumed daily it can lower blood cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar. You can find out more about the health benefits of barley here.Plus it is a very economical and affordable grain.

 I had intended to make Irish stew in time for St. Patrick´s Day but unfortunately couldn´t find the cut of lamb I was looking for so went for plan B...a risotto using pearl barley instead of rice.It was perfect as I had some butternut squash that needed using up and I could use my home grown sage, which is starting to look a bit like a jungle I have that much of it! I based the recipe on the following BBC Food recipe but modified it a little. We really enjoyed the end result, a rich tasty nutty risotto...the barley tasted a little nutty, if slightly chewy....it maybe could have done with slightly longer but I enjoyed the texture and taste on the whole.

 Ingredients (2 people)
37g butter roughly(I didn´t bother weighing it, just eyeballed it most of the time!)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
110g butternut squash(peeled and diced)...it was all I had left!!
1 sprig of fresh sage,(leaves only, chopped)
1/2 litre of vegetable stock
125g pearl barley, rinsed
3-4 mushrooms, sliced(the mushrooms gave the risotto a lovely earthy flavour as well as padding out the risotto as I didn´t have enough butternut squash)
                                                      salt & pepper
1. Heat around 15g butter( I didn´t weigh just guessed so might have been slightly more or slightly less!)in a saucepan till it melts and then add onion and butternut squash with a pinch of salt.
2. Fry for 10 mins until onion is translucent , then add garlic and mushrooms and cook for a further two minutes.
3.Heat vegetable stock and half the sage in a different pan.
4.Add some more butter (15g) to the onion and squash and mushrooms and then add the pearl barley, turn up heat and cook for 2-3 mins
5.Lower the heat so risotto is on a medium heat and add a ladle of stock to risotto...cook stirring occasionally until liquid has absorbed.
6. Keep adding ladles of stock and cooking until the liquid has absorbed and all the stock has been used up and barley is tender...it should take 30 minutes. If the barley is still chewy or hard, just add more water and cook longer until barley is tender.
7.Season with salt & pepper and add a little more butter(7g?) and stir, then serve and garnish with remaining sage.

Unfortunately I couldn´t get my daughter to try this dish with it being vegetarian but it is a very tasty dish and I really enjoyed the barley.I´m looking forward to the next dish I´m going to make with barley and I hope it´s inspired you to try it too. I´d love you to share your barley recipes!


Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge: Avocado: Avocado, Bacon & Poached Egg On Toast

Thought it was about time for another avocado recipe before moving on to the letter B of the Eat More Variety challenge. I´ve seen a lot of avocado on toast recipes popping up everywhere lately so I thought I´d try it as it seems a perfect thing for lunch or in my case, tea or supper  and appears to be quite healthy. Unfortunately, I didn´t manage to persuade my husband & daughter to try this dish so it didn´t suceed in getting them to eat a more varied diet, which is one of the whole points of this challenge!!So, for now the winning dish is the creamed chicken & avocado but I enjoyed this tasty suppertime treat and avocado is going to become if not a staple, a more frequent food in our diets...I just have to figure out how to sneek it into my husband´s and daughter´s meals!!!I´ll be giving some of these avocado recipes a go too.I´d love to hear any of your favourite avocado recipes and hopefully some of you might participate in this month´s letter B challenge.

After looking at various avocado on toast recipes and a trial avocado on toast recipe, which was a bit of an epic fail, I came up with this recipe as I had some leftover bacon bits, or lardons, that needed using up and based on a recipe for Avocado & Onion sandwich in The Dairy Book of Home Cookery, came up with the following:

Ingredients: (1 person)
2 slices of wholemeal(or white,according to preference) bread
1 small-medium ripe avocado
leftover bacon bits or lardons
2 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp cream or milk (optional)
Olive oil

1.Mash the avocado with lemon juice, cream and paprika.
2. Poach egg in some boiling water and a splash of malt vinegar
3..Fry the bacon or lardons in some olive oil
4. While bacon is frying, toast the slices of bread
5. Place mashed avocado on top of toasted bread, then the poached egg and place the bacon on top.

I actually only made 1 egg as you can see in the photo and just grated some cheese on top of the avocado & bacon on my second slice of bread but I much prefered the avocado on toast with the poached egg...it just seemed to have more flavour with the runny egg yolk merged with the bacon


Cooking England County by County: Buckinghamshire: Buckinghamshire Stokenchurch Pie

It´s been a while in coming but finally I have got round to cooking the next county,Buckinghamshire.

Buckinghamshire is in South East England and is a largely populated county with heavy industry and rich in agriculture.I suppose that in the past farming might have been predominant in this county and this is reflected in the dishes typical of this county although I haven´t found many dishes from this county. One of the traditional recipes, I came aross is Buckinghamshire Stokenchurch Pie, which I´d never heard of nor tried and the very sound of it intrigued me. A pie filled with meat, macaroni and hard boiled egg!!Ummm, it didn´t sound very convincing to me so highly skeptical,I decided to make it.
I´m certainly glad I did though as it is surprisingly tasty!! The only complaint I had with it,is that it was slightly on the dry side....I´d have liked a bit more gravy style sauce in the pie...although that might mean risking a soggy bottom(and we can´t have that, can we?) Also, I could hardly get my daughter to try it, despite being one of the main reasons I am making dishes from the different counties in England so my daughter can experience and learn about English food & culture!!! I have to learn how to make smaller pies as well though as there was far too much for the two of us and we ended up stuffed and feeling like: Who ate all the pies?!!! This recipe is also good because it uses up leftovers and so fulfills my New Year´s Resolution of reducing food waste.

I refered to the following recipes from the Green Chronicle and The Foody and sort of amalgamated the two and came up with the following recipe:
(for shortcrust pastry):
200g plain flour
100g cold butter
1/4 tsp salt
6-8 tsp cold water
270g leftover cooked lamb(you could use any meat),minced or finely chopped (I actually found that this was too much and would probably use about half the amount if it´s only for 2!)
55g cooked macaroni (again I found this too much for just for the two of us and would use about 25g next time!)
145ml beef stock (I used an Oxo cube but you could use leftover stock or gravy from the meat)-The cooked meat soaked up the stock very quickly so I would use more next time!)
2 hard boiled eggs
salt & pepper to taste

1. Prepare the shortcrust pastry by sieving the flour and salt together, then rub in the butter till it looks like breadcrumbs, then add the water tsp by tsp and mix to form a dough(add more water if it doesn´t come together) either leave in fridge for 30 mins or use straight away.
2. Roll out pastry thinly and line a pie dish with it.
3. Add stock to minced meat and then add cooked macaroni and place in the pie.
4. Slice the hard boiled eggs and place on top of meat mixture, then cover eggs with more meat filling and season with salt & pepper.(I actually forgot to season it but it was still tasty!)
5.Roll out remaining pastry to make a lid and crimp the edges, make some holes in the centre of the pie to allow steam to escape.
6. Bake in a preheated oven at 190ºC for 30 minutes until pastry is a golden brown.


Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge: Avocado: Creamed chicken & Avocado

One of my New Year´s resolutions is to eat a more varied diet,as I believe that a varied diet is healthier and also because there are many ingredients I either hardly eat or cook with or don´t like. So, I came up with this Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge to try and encourage me to eat more things I don´t like or don´t eat very often and discover recipes that use these ingredients in ways I like. I also want to encourage my daughter to try more things and also eat a more varied diet as she is quite fussy.

For letter A, the ingredient I´ve chosen is avocado.I neither dislike nor love avocado...it´s just something I don´t eat much of...in fact I only eat it in guacamole.I used to buy them for my daughter and mash them up for purees when I was weaning her and she loved them but as she got older I stopped buying them and needless to say, she stopped eating them!!

Avocados contain a lot of fat but it is "good" fat and they are also rich in B vitamins, K vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and potassium so they are a great ingredient to include in your diet.You can read more about the nutritional benefits of avocados here.

Of course, the obvious choice of recipe to make with avocado is guacamole,which I want to do one day, but I was looking for something different and more original and came across the following recipe for Creamed Chicken & Avocado, taken from Delia Smith´s Complete Cookery Course. The avocados didn´t appear to be ripe and I found this trick on the Internet about how to ripen avocados quicker by placing them in a plastic bag with a banana as the banana contains something which speeds up the ripening process, so I did this and it worked for one of the avocados but not the other.Unfortunately, I couldn´t persuade my daughter to try even the smallest bite of this dish but we thought it was absolutely delicious and my husband even went so far as to describe it as being in his top 10 of sauces so I will definitely be repeating this dish despite it not being maybe the healthiest dish!! I served it with wholemeal pasta which is great with the creamy sauce and it´d be lovely with some crusty bread to mop up the sauce!

If you´d like to join in with the Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge all you have to do is post a comment or send me an email, write a post on your blog using this month´s ingredient: avocado and link it back to this post and at the end of the month, I will write a post linking and sharing your recipes. The recipes can either be sweet or savoury. I look forward to seeing and trying your avocado recipes!!

Ingredients:(2 people)
1 chicken breast(fried)or leftover chicken, about 250g,chopped
25g butter
25g flour
125ml milk
75ml chicken stock(I used an Oxo cube)
75ml cream
1tbsp dry sherry
lemon juice
1 ripe avocado
pinch of salt & black pepper
25g cheese,grated( I used extra mature Cheddar cheese)
1. Preheat oven to 200ºC
2. Melt butter in a saucepan and then add flour to make a paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring all the time.
3.Add milk, cream and chicken stock and bring to simmering point, then cook gently  for 2-3 mins, stirring all the time.
4. Remove from the heat and add chicken, sherry, salt,pepper & lemon juice.
5. Halve & quarter the avocado and remove the stone and skin, slice thinly and place in a casserole dish.
6.Spoon creamed chicken on top of the avocado and then sprinkle grated cheese on top and cook in the oven for 20-25 mins.


Cheese & Herb Sausages

First of all Happy New Year to you...it´s been awhile but haven´t been able to find much time to make the recipes I want to blog, let alone blog about them, with one thing and another. So with the New Year, comes the new resolutions. Have you got any? Would love you to share them with me. I have a couple of resolutions, one of which is to eat a healthier and more varied diet and the other is to try not to waste food so hopefully you´ll see some of this reflected in my blog.

While waiting to get around to making my next British county, Great British Bake Off technical challenge or dish from Asturias, thought I´d leave you with this quick recipe for Cheese & Herb sausages. It may not be the healthiest of dishes but it is tasty, vegetarian and is British into the bargain!This is a recipe taken from Delia Smith´s Complete Cookery Course and is based on the recipe for the famous Welsh dish, Glamorgan sausages so without further ado, I´ll leave you with the recipe. This is so simple that you could even try making them with kids and I think most children would enjoy these, however we couldn´t get my daughter to so much as try them!!! BTW, I know the photo is horrendous but when there´s no natural light, you don´t have a lot of time, you are hungry and you don´t want your dinner to go cold....there´s no choice but to rush the photos!!!

Ingredients(for 2-3 people):
150g white/wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 medium onion, grated
110g extra mature Cheddar cheese,grated(this is personal preference,you could use a milder cheese if you prefer)
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
3/4 tsp English mustard powder
1 egg yolk
salt & black pepper to taste

Coating & frying:
10g breadcrumbs
10g grated Parmesan
1 egg white, lightly beaten

1.Place breadcrumbs, Cheddar cheese, onion and mixed herbs in a bowl and add mustard powder and season with salt & pepper.
2.Add egg yolk and stir ingredients together until they bind.
3. Divide into 12 small portions and shape into a sausage form using your hands.
4.Mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan, then dip each sausage first into egg white and then in breadcrumbs and Parmesan to coat.
5. Heat oil and fry sausages until crisp and golden on all sides and drain on kitchen paper.

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