Monday, 29 December 2014

After Christmas

Many apologies to my few followers that I've not been around for a while. I've lacked inspiration, so I've not be able to inspire you. However, the festive season always gets my creative juices running. There's so much food around, and I hate to see things go to waste!

So here's a leftovers pie - but it's a bit posher than usual. First off let me say that this isn't exactly my own idea. I stole it from fellow blogger Lee at Kitchen Connection. I didn't follow it exactly though. Her recipe is for small triangular parcels. I went for something a bit bigger.

This is my cheese, onion and potato filo pie. 

Don't waste your time trying to make filo. Even TV chefs say you should buy it ready made.  I bought a pack 'because it's Christmas' but I had no idea what I was going to do with it until I read Lee's post.  I've always avoided filo in the past because I was a bit scared of it, to be honest, but there's no need to be.

This pie took three sheets (and they come in packs of six, so I've frozen the other three). I cut them all into halves.

I began by greasing a pie dish with melted butter. Then I laid three half-sheets into the dish, with melted butter between each layer.

Then I put leftover cooked potatoes and some fried onions in. Between the lumps I dotted bits of cheese. I used what we had left over - some brie, a bit of goat's cheese, and cheddar.  I wish I'd used more cheddar.  I also seasoned it, but it would have benefited from a bit extra pepper, or maybe a little mustard.  It could also probably have benefited from a rasher or two of bacon. 

Once the filling was in I folded over the edges to make a rough side to the pie, then I topped off the hole in the middle by ripping strips off the remaining half-sheets and crumpling them up (like in the photo).  The whole thing was then brushed with more melted butter and popped into the oven at 190C for 20 minutes.

It browned nicely, but the bottom was still slightly soft. I think next time I'll use a metal pie dish, not a ceramic one.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Don't waste your money on this kind of stuff
Do you spend a fortune on breakfast cereals?  Well stop it. Here's a way to make a cheap, tasty and healthy version of muesli.

Serves 4

In a large bowl, place -
8 tablespoons dried porridge oats
Any 4 of the following:
     handful of raisins or sultanas
     6 dried dates, chopped
     4-6 dried apricots, chopped
     6 glace cherries, chopped
     a grated apple
     tablespoon of any dried fruit
A sprinkling of chopped nuts
A couple of teaspoons of seeds
A good glug of fruit juice

Stir it all together then add enough cold water to make it look like wet porridge. Cover and leave overnight.  By morning it will have slightly solidified because the  dried fruit and oats will have absorbed the water.
Serve with milk or yoghurt.  Each portion contains one of your five a day.   And there's no added salt or sugar!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Cocktail hour

It's a bank holiday weekend in the UK and the weather promises to be warm and sunny, so what better time to enjoy a cocktail or two?

You can pay around £8-10 a time for cocktails in a bar, but you can mix up several at home for the price of a round in your local pub.

For cocktails you don't need the best brands of spirit. Supermarkets will sell you their own label, and by the time you've mixed them up you won't notice the difference.

So pop a couple of ice trays in the freezer and hop off down to your local supermarket while they solidify. Pick up a half bottle of sweet vermouth, a half of bourbon, a half of white rum, a couple of oranges, a couple of limes and some fresh mint. And you're made. You should also have change out of £25 if you shop wisely.

You don't need posh glasses. You don't need a proper shaker. You can use any old wine glasses, a jug and a long spoon.

Don't have a spirit measure? I bet you have some measuring spoons. Measure equal amounts of vermouth and bourbon into a jug, Add ice cubes and give it a good stir. Meanwhile remove a sizeable slice of peel off one of the oranges, wipe the orange side around the rim of a wine glass and drop it into the glass. Your cocktail should be cold by now. Strain it into the glass (a tea strainer is fine!) settle into the garden or anywhere comfortable, and enjoy.!

Whizz up some ice cubes in a food processor or grinder and put into a jug. Add a measure of white rum. (A standard pub measure is 25ml, or five teaspoons.) Squeeze half a lime into it. Add half a teaspoon of sugar. Crease up a few mint leaves and mush it all up together. Then tip it onto your glass. You can decorate the edge of the glass with a lime slice if you like. Bottoms up!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Setting a Festive Table

Setting a festive table
Compliments of the season to you all. I hope you're all ready for your big day, whichever big days you plan to celebrate over the holiday season.  I just thought I'd show you a few tips on how to make your table nicely festive without going overboard. Chances are you'll have all the things you need for these ideas, or you can always adapt them to suit what you have.

Setting a festive tableDo you have a colour scheme for your festivities? The dining room in Auntie Anne's house is red this year, mainly because I had a lot of red baubles and plenty of that curling ribbon. I also have a rather smart red table cloth, so I can blend the shades for a co-ordinated look.

I like to have some sort of decoration on the table, but nothing that interferes with the meal. Nothing so tall that it gets in the way of conversation, and nothing so short that it's possible to stand your glass half-way onto it and spill wine on everything.

Setting a festive tableFirst and most important thing to remember is that a special occasion calls for the best crockery, the best cutlery, the posh glasses and whatever you have that normally lives at the back of the cupboard because it isn't for everyday use. You don't have 'best'? Then make sure you polish everything well with a dry tea cloth so it sparkles.

You can see the overall effect of the decorations in the top photo. You'll notice there are festive baubles in various shapes, suspended on curling ribbon and hanging from convenient pictures. What you can't see is that we have a sheet of lights suspended from the ceiling beams. That's not necessary, but it does add a festive touch.

Setting a festive tableTo create a central decorative area on the table I ran a roll of tartan ribbon from end to end. Wrapped around that are strips of curling ribbon, suitably arranged, with the ends run between my thumb and a scissor blade to increase the curls. Then I scattered table confetti (holly leaves) across that. Usually I would also scatter chocolate coins around, so that people could help themselves when it came to coffee and liqueurs, but on this occasion we planned to adjourn to the lounge for that - so I didn't.

Setting a festive tableIndividual place settings had a gift, a nice napkin, and a colour-themed cracker. I also tied some tartan ribbon around the stems of the wine glasses and some tiny red baubles that were meant to be used as gift wrapping, but I had some left over.

Setting a festive tableThen I tied some Christmassy ribbon around the backs of the chairs. I didn't have any more tartan - so it's not the same theme, but I didn't really care. One three-metre roll of wired ribbon was enough for two chairs.

Finally, at the far end of the table I put a large, plain, glass vase with some lights in it. That's very trendy this year, but I've been doing it for a while now. What Auntie Anne does this year the world will do in a while!

One last thing. A table this good needs a meal to match.
Setting a festive table

Monday, 20 May 2013

Photo editing

It seems some people are having a lot of trouble editing photos in Blogger. So I think I might run through a few options to see what you can do.

First of all, there are several ways to upload a photo to Blogger. Most of them you get to by clicking on the little picture icon:
photo editing But not all.......

If you understand html there are other options. But for now, let's look at what happens when you click the little picture.  It offers upload options:
From this blog
From Picasa Web Albums
From your phone
From your webcam
From a URL

Now, some of you will have realised that 'From this blog' and 'From Picasa Web Albums' creates a problem after a while. Blogger limits the amount of space you can have to store your photos and you have to pay for more.
(Unless you've been clever and shrunk all your photos in the first place. I didn't - so I ran out of space pretty quickly and I'm too tight to pay for more.)
You need an app to use your phone. I shall assume if you are capable of uploading an app, you are capable of uploading a photo!
Ditto webcam.
From a URL can be very useful but BEWARE of copyright infringements.

If you have a website elsewhere (like I do) you can use the URL to insert a link.  A URL will look something like this:
and if you paste it into your text, Blogger will automatically make a link to it.
If you paste it into the space given when you use the 'From a URL' option (as above) you'll get this:

Note.  I took the photo. I own the copyright. I also own the rights to the website where it appears. If you don't fulfil those conditions GET PERMISSION before you use the picture.

There is another option.  That photo also appears on (one of) my Flickr site(s).  Flickr can give you a URL for the picture but it can also give you (under the 'share' option) HTML or BBCode.  That looks like this:
<a href="" title="Malmesbury Abbey House - The Wrestlers by historyanorak, on Flickr"><img src="" width="375" height="500" alt="Malmesbury Abbey House - The Wrestlers"></a>

But to use that you need to be in the HTML option at top left of the Blogger composer.  If you don't understand HTML, avoid using it.  (Or look here)

This post has gone on quite long enough.  Come back to the next post for stage 2.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Barbecue chicken

Sorry, no photo for this one. I was too busy eating to get the camera out!

A quick note on barbecue sauce. It's easy, and home-made has considerably less sugar and salt than any of those 'cook-in' sauces you can buy in jars.

Last night we had chicken and chips, but to make things a bit tastier I marinaded the (already cooked) chicken breasts in some homemade barbecue sauce all day before popping them in the oven for around half a hour to warm through.

Start with some tomato puree and oil. They mix together to make a great paste that sticks really well to food. Then you need to remember to add five things:
  • salt
  • sweet
  • heat
  • sourness
  • aroma

Salt's easy. You can, if you like, just add salt. But if you use something like a couple of anchovies, or some Worcester sauce, you get salt plus flavour.

Sweet. Honey, sugar, marmalade, jam. Just stick in a relevant amount. Tablespoon of conserve, just a teaspoon of pure sugar will be enough. Pulped fruit such as plums or apple is also an interesting variation.

Heat. Well. Chilli and ginger are the obvious ones here. But don't forget black pepper.

Sourness. Lemon juice is good. So is some sort of vinegar. Or if you have tamarind that's also very yummy.

Aroma. Well, that's whatever you like. Garlic is essential in my opinion, but if you don't like garlic, don't add it. Any kind of herb or spice that you like will add to the taste.

Last night's mix consisted of tomato puree, olive oil, celery salt, brown sugar, freshly-ground black pepper, dried ginger, garlic powder, balsamic vinegar, and ground cumin.  And very good it was too!  

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Emergency rations

We're snowed in here at Auntie Anne Towers so I've done a bit of a review of what's available to make sure we won't starve. It's unlikely to be a long haul - but it's looking like it could be a few days before normal service is resumed.

This is when your store cupboard is vital. I have a few fresh veg - and I never allow myself to run out of spuds or onions. Beyond that it's down to the staples.

Think in headings.

I always have dried pasta in store, and there's some fresh pasta in the freezer. So I have spaghetti and I have shapes (currently shells). That means, with some judicious tin opening, I could make:
Spaghetti vongole (I have a tin of clams - but tuna fish would work just as well) Just use some garlic - dried will do to give flavour - and a small onion, to add flavour to the dish. A splash of white wine and a sprinkling of chilli flakes would help. And scatter a few dried herbs over the top - Italian ones for preference: basil, thyme, oregano.
Macaroni cheese. It doesn't have to be tube-shaped pasta in mac and cheese you know. Add some mustard to the sauce for extra punch.
Pasta bake. Just part-boil your shapes and add them to a sauce made from tinned tomatoes with herbs, garlic and onion. Add a few mushrooms if you have them. A tin of sweetcorn nibs wouldn't hurt either.

Risotto. You can make almost anything into a risotto. Tinned peas, mushrooms, tinned tuna, frozen prawns. As long as you have garlic and onion and some good stock you put by for this kind of occasion, you're made!
Curries. Whatever you have in a tin can be curried. Or this is maybe the way to use up your veg. Or leftovers. If you understand curry spices, go for it. If not, use ready-mix curry powder. Dried coconut, yoghurt, banana flakes, sultanas, all add to the flavour and help vary your dishes.
Chinese. If you've got soy sauce and some sesame oil you can make anything taste Chinese. Specially if you have five spice powder, ginger and garlic.

Seriously - take a good look around your kitchen and see what you have. We had tapas-style dinner yesterday so there were a few bits and pieces in the fridge that I've whizzed up together today into a pan of soup. The stewed peppers have given flavour and the leftover potato salad made it thick. There's some ciabatta that's going a bit dry today, but it'll make great garlic bread. If I make that into cheesy garlic bread it's almost a meal in itself.

Buon appetito!