Thursday 28 February 2013

Sausage & Pepper Pasta

I could big up this dish a little more. Perhaps 'Sausage & Pepper Pasta' isn't fancy enough and I should stick 'supper' at the end of the title or call it a 'stew'; only it doesn't cook for that long. It has a slight kick to it but nothing that will blow your head off or have the kids spitting it out. It does though have the things that kids love, namely sausages, tomato sauce and pasta. I've listed two separate ingredients for this recipe – one meat and one vegetarian. My only gripe with the vegetarian version is that this recipe is for 4 people so I allow 2 sausages each and the vegetarian sausages I use come in packs of 6 rather than 8 (please rectify this just me Quorn and Cauldron).

Although the recipe includes peppers as well if you haven't got any or don't like them this still makes a very tasty tomato sauce to have with sausages and onions.

Serves 4

Meat Ingredients                                              Vegetarian Ingredients

8 Pork sausages                                         8 Vegetarian sausages

1 tbsp (15ml) Oil                                        1 tbsp (15ml) Oil

1 Large onion, sliced                                   1 Large onion, sliced

1 Red pepper, sliced                                    1 Red pepper, sliced

1 Yellow pepper, sliced                                1 Yellow pepper, sliced

2 Cloves garlic, crushed                               2 Cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp (5ml) Paprika                                     1 tsp (5ml) Paprika

Tin of chopped tomatoes                             Tin of chopped tomatoes

½ pint (284ml) Chicken stock                       ½ pint (284ml) Vegetable stock

1 tsp (5ml) dried oregano                            1 tsp (5ml) dried oregano

1 tsp (5ml) Demerara sugar                         1 tsp (5ml) Demerara sugar

½ tsp (2.5ml) Worcestershire Sauce              ½ tsp (2.5ml) Vegetarian     
                                                               Worcestershire Sauce or                                                                Henderson's Relish

Salt and Pepper to taste                                Salt and Pepper to taste

10oz (300g) Dried pasta                             10oz (300g) Dried pasta

Parmesan, grated to sprinkle on top             Vegetarian Italian hard cheese,  
                                                               grated to sprinkle on top


1. In a large saucepan heat the oil and cook the sausages until evenly browned.
2. Remove the sausages from the pan and drain on a piece of kitchen paper.
3. Using the same oil fry the onions until just softened.
4. Put the peppers in the pan and fry for another 3-4 minutes.
5. Add the remaining ingredients except for the sausages and mix well.
6. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. While the mixture is cooking slice the sausages and then add to the pan and cook for another 10 minutes.
8. Cook the pasta while the sausage sauce is simmering.
9. Serve the pasta and sausages together with the grated cheese on top.

Monday 25 February 2013

Ginger Preserve and Chocolate Cake

Ginger preserve and chocolate cake
My Mother often gives me food items that she has found reduced and knows it will be gratefully received when trying to feed my hungry horde. This is usually yellow-stickered meat which has been reduced by vast amounts. Occasionally, though, she gives me other things which I presume she bought on whim, unable to resist such a good bargain. When I left her house at Christmas she pressed a jar of ginger preserve into my hand muttering something about how I could do something with it.

Now I'm not really one for preserves of this type. I stick to mainly olive spread for toast and sometimes join the kids with Marmite or chocolate spread. Jam is used for Victoria Sandwich cakes and scones. My husband goes for marmalade and peanut butter. So this jar has now become a problem for me and quite frankly I AM SICK OF THE SIGHT OF IT.

My cupboards are full to bursting at the best of times and it seems to have found a home on the top shelf in front of the self-raising flour. This means I have to unpack everything in front of the flour container in order to get it out of the cupboard and I use a lot of flour. I can't give it away or sneak it into school raffle or hamper prize because it has been opened and sampled. By me. Yes, one morning while at breakfast I had a bit of it on some toast because my Mum kept bringing it out and finally I cracked when she suggested for the umpteenth time I should try some. It is very strong tasting and like the label describes, warm and spicy. If I did start to have some on toast each day it would still take a long time to finally get shot of it due to its intense flavour. The fact I've had it now for two months and not opened it again just shows that it's not going to disappear by its own accord. In such desperate times there is only one solution – bake it into something.

Inspired by Jen's choice of ginger as this month's theme for her hosting of We Should Cocoa on behalf of Chocolate Log Blog and Chocolate Teapot, I thought the ginger preserve would be best used in a cake. As such I will be putting it forward for this month's challenge on Jen's Blue Kitchen Bakes blog.

I also have to say thank you to Jen for making me aware of the No Waste Food Challenge which is run each month by Turquiose Lemons. February's ingredient is preserves so I shall be entering this recipe for Kate's blog.

I've covered this with chocolate flavoured icing but you could use a chocolate ganache and even put some more ginger preserve on top.


5oz (150g) Self-raising flour

1oz (25g) Cocoa powder

½ tsp (2.5ml) Baking powder

4oz (110g) Butter, softened or baking spread

2.5oz (75g) Soft light brown sugar

2 Large eggs, beaten

4oz (110g) Ginger preserve


3oz (85g) Icing sugar

1 tbsp (15ml) Cocoa

1 tbsp (15ml) Hot water


Large mixing bowl

Electric whisk

2lb/1kg Loaf Tin, lined


1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

2. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.

3. Add the butter, sugar, eggs and ginger preserve and beat well with an electric whisk.

4. Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin.

5. Bake for 30 minutes and check the top isn't burning too much. Cover if needed. Cook for another 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

6. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes before leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

7. Once cool make the topping by sifting together the icing sugar and cocoa.

8. Add the water and stir together.

9. If you want thicker icing just add more icing sugar. Leave to set.

This recipe uses about a quarter of a jar of ginger preserve so one down, three to go...

Monday 18 February 2013

Potato Salad with Chives

Potato salad with chives

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook – Book Review

It's the baking phenomenon that started just two years with the idea of agreeing to meet up with strangers on the premise of bringing a home baked cake, sharing it with others, eating it and taking a selection of leftovers home. The 'clandestine' nature of the club is that the location of the gathering isn't disclosed by the organiser until a couple of days beforehand. Started by Lynn Hill in her home town of Leeds in 2010' the Clandestine Cake Club  now has so many branches that I'm not going to state the number because by the time I publish this post I'm sure it will be outdated. I can tell you though that enthusiastic bakers are now forming groups in all four corners of the world.

Helped by the growth in baking fuelled by the BBC's 'Great British Bake Off' and all things vintage and homemade à la Kirstie Allsopp, cake making has been the UK's recession beater. With more and more people becoming concerned about the provenance of their food quite often the only solution is to make your own from scratch. If you're after classics such as Victoria Sponge or Battenberg they're in here with an added twist. I'd have to say though if you are a novice baker this probably isn't the first book you should reach for as there are a dazzling array of ingredients, methods and cake tins to contend with. If things don't turn out as planned there is a very helpful section entitled 'Cake Wrecks'. Along with advice on burnt or soggy cakes there are tips on how to rescue your cake if you drop it – the nightmare of every Clandestine Cake Club member en route to a meeting.

One of the first things that struck me about the book was the beautiful photography. While I do like to see a picture of every recipe in a cook book (greedy, I know) this one doesn't fall far short. Dreaming up different settings and props for the number of photographs in a book isn't an easy task. It's one that has been worth the effort as I found myself continually flicking through the book and drooling at the cakes on display. Onto the index (inadequate or non-existent book indexes are another pet peeve of mine) and the recipes are listed by both cake name and main ingredients. Annoyingly however is that although there are a number of bundt tin recipes in the book none of these are gathered together under 'bundt'. This is just a small gripe and probably I'll be the only person bothered by it.

Lynn Hill has contributed many of the recipes herself but credit should be given to the weird and wonderful combinations put together by members of Clandestine Cake Clubs around the world. There's a wheat-free 'Blood Orange and Rosemary Cake, a 'Magic Bean Cake' which contains a tin of haricot beans and a love it or hate it 'Chocolate & Marmite Caramel Cake'. These are the type of recipes most baking books wouldn't dare publish but see them in print and you'll be looking for an excuse to bake them.

So what to try first? I fear I may have copped out a bit as I went for one of my favourite cakes in the form of the 'Heavenly Carrot Cake' by Kirsty Lloyd of Abergavenny. My only defence is that I had every ingredient listed in the recipe in my kitchen already, including a glut of carrots that needed using. This carrot cake contains no bananas (a personal 'hurray') but gets texture and moistness from walnuts and orange juice soaked sultanas (tick, tick). I thought I was going to have to abandon this recipe before I even started as the method calls for the sultanas to be soaked overnight in orange. Helpfully the shortcut of gently heating the sultanas in the orange juice for a few minutes is given. As the book is officially released on Valentine's Day I decided not to use the recommended 20cm tin but use my 22cm heart shaped tin instead. Once cooked as per the exact instructions and cooled I made the traditional cream cheese topping. The addition of the vanilla extract in the frosting meant it wasn't as sickly sweet as some toppings are.

I bought this book myself, nobody is paying me to write about but would I recommend it? Yes, I would. I've already bookmarked a recipe for a Clandestine Cake Club meeting I'm going to next month and desperately hoping for a hidden or secret ingredient theme in order to make another one. So buy this book, bake a cake but please remember to share it with some friends or even strangers.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Cheese topped beef pie

Years ago the standard Sunday meal was a roast joint of meat of some variety. The brilliant thing about a joint of meat is that a long cook on the Sunday meant little cooking on Monday as the leftovers were used in a quick and simple dish. Often in my house as child Monday was actually 'Cold meat Monday'. This would involve slices of the cold roast meat from the day before (never my favourite; warm it up, please), salad made by my Nan sometime in the afternoon so by dinner time it was a soggy mess, and boiled potatoes but not potatoes that should have been peeled and boiled. If we were lucky there would be enough meat to have on the Tuesday and this would be cooked treat and for beef my Mother would cook 'Cheese topped beef pie'. Normally a pie means pastry but in this case it's more like a crumble topping. 

The original recipe was one my Mother had kept from many years previously and was probably issued by some promotional board such as the 'Beef farmers of Britain' or the 'Automated Electrical Company of the UK'. I remember phoning my Mother and asking her the recipe and scribbling it down so I could share the delights of this dish with my family. Over the years I've added and tweaked it to just how I like it but it's easy to adapt. If you have some leftover vegetables such as carrots or something green like peas, broccoli or beans, you could add them in too.

One of the reasons that Sunday roasts are no longer the norm in many households these days is that so many families don't sit down together for meals and a Sunday dinner is seen as something that should be eaten out at a pub or restaurant rather than at home. Another big factor is the price. Meat is expensive, therefore squeezing as many thrifty meals out of a roasting joint is essential. Where my Mother lives there are number of supermarket – Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Waitrose, and they all have more than one branch nearby. Amazingly, they all seem to reduce short dated food by up to 90% on a regular basis and when I go to visit my Mother she insists I take back a freezer bag full of food. This is only way we were able to enjoy a top rump of beef for Sunday dinner this week. The original price was £12.99 but was reduced to £2.60. If you don't believe me here's the evidence!

How else could you make two meals for a family of four for such value? I also make up extra gravy to use in the recipe. Alternatively, just use some instant granules. The cheese topping needs a small quantity of strong cheese, so root around in the back of fridge for any that needs using up. The rest of the ingredients should be hanging your kitchen. For this reason I am entering this recipe into February's Credit Crunch Munch run by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and hosted this month by Camilla at Fab Food 4 All.

Credit Crunch Munch

Cheese topped beef pie – Serves 4


1 large onion
1 tablespoon (15ml) oil (sunflower, vegetable – your choice)
1 tablespoon (15ml) plain flour
¾ pint (450ml) beef/meat gravy
8oz (225g) cooked roast beef, diced
black pepper, pinch
nutmeg, pinch (if you don't have any just leave out – no disaster)


2oz (50g) plain flour
1oz (25g) margarine, spread or butter
1½ oz (40g) strong cheese (mature cheddar or a blue cheese such as Stilton works well)


1. Fry the onion until golden.
2. Add the flour until it browns but doesn't burn.
3. Add the gravy and bring to the boil.
4. Mix in the beef and seasonings.
5. Put the mixture into an oven-proof dish.
6. Make a crumble topping with the flour and fat by rubbing together in a bowl.
7. Add the cheese.
8. Put on top of the beef mixture.
9. Cook at 190°C / gas mark 5 for 15 minutes.

I served mine with reheated roast potatoes, Chantenay carrots (reduced of course) and broccoli.