Friday, 30 November 2012

Border Biscuits for Christmas

Eep - this is the first of my Christmas posts! Whilst I've had a fair few emails offering a range of things I would rather just post up things that really do interest me, and that my friend's is biscuits!

I love biscuits. The tin is never empty and ranges from basics digestives, which are surprisingly my favourite, to rather posh end ones and everything in between! So when the lovely Border Biscuits got in touch it didn’t exactly take much arm twisting to agree to ‘trying’ some! The things I do for you dear reader!!

There is something quite special I feel about having a cup of tea and biscuit, something people really do not do enough of in our busy lives! I know when I'm at work I look forward to sitting down with a piping hot cup of tea, and a sneaky biscuit or two and the chance to relax and unwind for a few minutes. I don’t know if anyone saw Heston the other night with his giant pack of biccies, didn't they look awesome!! And I just loved the giant teapot and saucer, was so cute! Just imagine all that lovely tea! Above all I also have very fond memories of sitting down to have ‘elevenses’ with my beloved late Nanny Jean, and it always makes me think of her :)

Whilst I love baking, and from scratch I rarely make biscuits due to not much success other than cookies and so I have eaten a fair few shop bought biscuits varying in niceness! Border Biscuits sent me a fair few packets (did I mention I love you?) to ‘try’ including a lovely tin full which are just perfect for both giving, and receiving this Christmas. 

Within its depths there is one of my favourite flavour combinations – chocolate and orange shortbread! And sorry dearest brother, they are all mine.

I doubt anyone would be disappointed to receive a box of these! I know I wasn't!

 Many thanks to Border Biscuits for the lovely biscuit supplies!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Beef and Red wine Stew with baby Onions and Mushrooms

Oh my. Its been a long time since I made beef stew. Its not really something to be honest that crops up in my mind as I tend to cook fairly quick meal but having been sent a lovely piece of brisket in my Knorr Hamper – cue me googling it and subsequently trying to explain delicately whilst manoeuvring into cow position within the kitchen as to where it comes from on the cow to a bemused friend (google it if you want a giggle), it needed using up and what better than a winter warming stew! Even more considering the ghastly weather of late - I hope that everyone is keeping well and warm! This is also 'the beef' that should have been intended for an ill fated beef bourginnon the previous week! 

Whilst I had heard of brisket, it wasn't really something that I was familiar with cooking, even less so handling a huge slab of beef but with a sharp knife it was quickly reduced to more familiar chunks! Nothing fancy went into the stew, however the beef was such good quality it really didn’t need any lights or bells on to take it to new heights!

Serves 4


2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion roughly chopped
800g beef brisket
3 sticks celery, sliced at an angle into 1cm chunks
3 carrots, diced into 1 cm chunks
1 knorr beef stock pot
2 heaped tbsp. plain flour
Medium sized glass of red wine
400ml water
S&P to taste

*I sold my old casserole pan, which would be perfect however my largest saute pan did the job nicely!*

1) Start by heating 1 tbsp of the oil and browning the beef, you might need to do this in two stages – don’t crowd the pan

2) Remove any remaining beef from the pan to one side, add the remaining oil and brown the onion, stir in the flour, stock pot, then gently add the water stirring briskly and scraping off any stuck on bits, return the beef, cover and simmer on low for a good hour.

3) Add the carrots and celery, stir and cover and allow to gently plod away for a good 2 to 3 hours, giving the cursory stir when the lovely smells draw you into its path. Remove the lid for the last half hour to allow the sauce to thicken if desired.

4) To finish the dish, I used up some cute little onions that also came in my Knorr hamper, though totally optional!


200g Baby onions
3tbsp port
100g white mushrooms. Sliced into 4

1) Cover the onions in boiling water and sit for a few minutes, fish them out carefully, top and tail and peel – most of the skins should rub off. Reserve the soaking water.

2) Heat roughly 100ml of the onion water with 3 tbsp of port, add the halved onions and gently boil for around five minutes or until just softeneing, add the mushrooms and a splash more of the water if drying out, repeat for about 15 minutes or until the onions are cooked but retain a little bite. Use these to garnish your stew

Finish) Once the stew is at the desired thickness, and tenderness top with the onion mix, and serve with fresh green vegetables I.e. broccoli and maybe a nice potato dish. After my success with the other potatoes, I picked up a small bag of a variety called Corrole, though this time instead I boiled them, drained, added butter, fresh parsley and lemon juice (from a bottle), s&p to the same success, albeit minus the nice crispy bits. Still delicious. You can’t taste the lemon, it just adds a certain something and I will be repeatedly making potatoes this way!

Re-heats and freezes beautifully

Thanks again to Knorr and Golin Harris for my goodies :)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Turkey and Black Olive Roulade

Some nights I eat relatively quick and simple meals..some nights I feel like making more of an effort, and this was one of them! However it still was ready in under 20 minutes so not really too much effort was needed!

Serving meals up that look good on the plate always help I think, you do eat with your eyes after all as the saying goes! Also most importantly when cooking for one, you really do have artistic licence and you should make a little effort to treat yourself! Recently on a food forum we were discussing the highs and lows of cooking for one, and its a constant balancing act, however this is a perfect meal for one - you don't have leftovers for three days or even more tupperware to squeeze into the freezer and as it looks pretty, it feels that bit more special. As I used the rice water to poach it in, it also equalled less washing up - never a bad thing!

Prior to this I’d never made a roulade before and not even sure why I thought about it at the time, however I was glad I did. It actually was very easy to make, the only scary bit was trying work out how long it would take before it was cooked through due to my inexperience! Luckily my judgement paid off and the turkey was beautifully moist. This would also work really well with chicken breasts.


1 turkey breast fillet, 
Heaped tbsp black olive pate
Couple of freshly basil leaves


Start by covering the turkey in cling film and bash with a rolling pin evenly, until about 1/2cm thick and spread with the pate, tear over a couple of the basil leaves

Carefully roll up the turkey really tightly in the cling film, a little like a Christmas sweetie and firmly pinch/ tie the ends together.

I was cooking rice anyway to go alongside the turkey, so also went in the roulade and boiled gently for about ten minutes, then very gently unwrap on a paper towel lined board. Alternatively simmer in boiling water.

Once the cling film has been removed, then brown the roulade in a hot lightly oiled pan to make it look pretty and golden all over. 

Slice the roulade into rounds and serve with whatever you fancy. I had rice and roasted vegetables with a little onion gravy, which worked very well. Making nice gravy too can be a bit of effort for a single serving, however I tart up instant with a spoonful of onion marmalade - works a treat!

N.b. The olive pate was one of my random purchases for 75p reduced from about £3 – I do love a bargain! If you can't lay your hands on some, something like tapenade would be suitable.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Bacon and cheese stuffed Butternut Squash with Wild mushroom potatoes

Some days everything just falls into place..and some days, well it just doesn't ... though the latter I find are usually entirely your own fault. A recent Thursday is an excellent example; In the morning I received my lovely little hamper from Knorr, packed full of goodies to make Marco Pierre Whites Boeuf Bourginnon. So what do I do? Think, hmm beef stew…yeah about three hours or so…texted mum, promised her dinner and meanwhile go to see dear friend and my gorgeous godson…lose track of time…chatting as us girlies do so well…check on my phone just how long recipe takes..oops…change of plan!

So its now about 4pm, rummage through fridge..look in freezer…hmm what to make that mum will eat. Mr butternut is squash poking out its smooth egg shaped head from the fruit bowl..really fancy squash now…what the hell to make with it. Especially when mum bless her is a meat and potatoes kinda girl.

Re-check fridge..hmm oh and half a block of red Leicester, albeit from Iceland and one I wont hurry to buy again but made sense at time of purchase. Also note some lovely quality bacon thats for the Bourginnon recipe, and a punnet of wild mushrooms also intended for the it. Realise I am about to not be at home for the next three nights due to work schedule and prior dinner plans and the lovely mushroomies wont hang around that long.. so how to combine mr squash and wild mushrooms. Bearing in mind I am surprisingly unfamiliar with cooking both ingredients. Google shows some rather interesting recipes, including a curious sounding wild mushroom and squash bread and butter pudding but mother sounds less than enthused at this suggestion when I quickly phoned her, and even I am a bit hmm… thoughts go down lasagne route, but have to bear in mind will be cooking dinner at mums house, complete with tiny kitchen and work space of a postage stamp. But it does have a gas oven! Another thought was some kind of lasagne but it just seems too much effort, not to mention washing up and its now nearly 4.30pm, mum likes to eat about 5.30 with Neighbours.

Consulted several cook books too, still nothing quite fits. Rifle through brains, remember having a lush chilli stuffed squash many moons back, albeit not about to make chilli but then thought hmm bacon and cheese…hmm indeed.. and so this dish was born. I am also super pleased to say mum ate everything without complaint, and I rather liked this one too!

Whilst the squash is the star of the plate, a real credit must go to the potatoes. For such a simple dish, it was quite beautiful and was born out of trying to find something to do with the wild mushrooms. I urge you to try it. Since have repeated with smaller baby potatoes and equally good. Just cover your eyes when you add the butter. It is borrowed from Simon Hopkinson's Week In, Week out book. Trust me you can't taste the lemon, it just adds a wonderful note to the potatoes.

Serves Two: 

One medium sized butternut squash – nicely shaped enough to lay flat when baked
Handful grated red Leicester or similar cheese
3 rashers good bacon, roughly chopped
2 tbsp grated grana padano
3 tbsp double cream
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp sunflower oil (mum had no olive oil..)

Step One:
Stab your squash all over with a sharp knife. Microwave for a good 8 minutes or until a knife goes through very easily. Allow to cool slightly before handling carefully.

Step Two:
Heat the oil  and fry your onions and bacon until golden, softened and cooked through but not too brown. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Step three:
Once the squash is cool enough to handle, pre-heat oven to gas 5. Halve it lengthways and using a knife and spoon, carefully remove and discard the seeds, then scrape out all the lovely flesh into the bowl with the bacon in. Add ¾ of the cheeses, thyme leaves and cream, mash up well using a fork, season well to taste. Loosely pack back into the shells, top with remaining cheese, and bake for a good 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Wild Mushroom Potatoes 

Mum told me on the phone they were salad type potatoes. On arrival, well more new potato but still workable...

4 large new potatoes
200g wild mushrooms
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp butter
lemon juice - about 1/2 tbsp
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

Step one:
Place the potatoes in a suitable dish, stab them a few times, cover and microwave for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Cool slightly, and try to slice into 1/3 cm slices. Alternatively steam them. 

Step two:
Using the bacon frying pan, heat a little more oil, fry the potatoes until lightly golden, stir in the mushrooms, wilt in for 2-3 minutes, turning gently

Step three:
Add a good knob of butter to the pan, squirt over a little lemon juice and season, Season to taste, sprinkle over the parsley and serve immediately.

Moral of the story: Great quality ingredients and an inquisitive mind will always make 
something delicious!

Many thanks to Jen at Golin Harris and Knorr for the ingredients

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Knorr Giveaway!

For my latest Knorr giveaway, you can win a box full of fabulous Forman and Field goodies to make Marco Pierre Whites Bouef bourguignon.

Inside your box you will find:

200g pearl onions
unsmoked bacon
200g wild mushrooms
800g beef brisket
½ leek (the white part)
125ml port
1 celery
Bolney Estate Lychgate Red wine (its very nice!)
Knorr Rich Beef Stock Pot

To enter simply use the below rafflecopter form, the only condition is that your box will be delivered on Friday the 16th November 2012 so make sure you can receive it!

Good luck!

Thanks to Golin Harris and Knorr for supplying such a fabulous prize!
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