Thursday, 28 November 2013

Bangers & Mash Pie - GreenVale Farm Fresh Potatoes Review

Bangers and Mash Pie

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Slow Cooker Chilli Con Carne

Slow cooker Chilli Con Carne Crockpot recipe
Slow Cooker Chilli Con Carne
There are certain meals that are best eaten at certain times and on certain occasions. This Chilli Con Carne has seen many an England footballing failure but more often an England Rugby success. It's a meal for sharing with friends and family. Big bowls and happy memories. This recipe serves two but it has doubled and tripled in order to feed whoever has come round.

The reason it feeds just two is that it is also a perfect Friday night meal. We don't do takeaways but by Friday evening quite frankly I've had enough of the week and need a takeaway meal that is easily made at home. I start by preparing this dish the night before in order to let all the flavours develop. If you're not that organized you can just make it up in the morning and put it straight into the slow cooker. Once Friday night comes and all the kids have been dispatched to bed all that is needed is to cook some rice. For an even easier accompaniment simply serve it with some crusty bread.

I found the original recipe in an OXO cookbook (hence the use of a stock cube). However, it wasn't for a slow cooker and involved lots of frying off before leaving it to cook on the hob. All this sounded very unnecessary and rather labour intensive. This takes a few minutes to prepare and then the slow cooker does all the work. Being an authentic recipe it also included kidney beans but I do use baked beans. I know some people will shudder at this but once a student and now a mother, there is always a tin of baked beans in my cupboard. If you want to go back and use kidney beans please do but you may need to add some more liquid to replace the bean juice.

Serves 2


1 Onion, chopped
8oz (225g) Minced beef
1 Beef stock cube (to be crumbled in)
1tsp (5ml) Chilli powder
½ tsp (2.5ml) Ground coriander
½ tsp (2.5ml) Ground cumin
½ tsp (2.5ml) Dried oregano
¼ tsp (1.25ml) Garlic granules
400g tin Chopped tomatoes
400g tin Baked Beans
2tbsp (30ml) Tomato purée


1. The night before you want to eat this meal place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well until it is all combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. In the morning bring the bowl out of the fridge and set the the slow cooker to pre-heat on high for 10 minutes.
3. Put the chilli into the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours and serve with rice or crusty bread.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Vegan Chocolate Orange Sponge Cake

Vegan chocolate orange sponge cake egg less egg free dairy free recipe baking
Vegan Chocolate Orange Sponge Cake
Another Clandestine Cake Club meeting and another cake inspiration. Our secret location was Thyme to Eat, a vegetarian café located in the Shambles area of Chesterfield. Since Thyme to Eat specialise in vegetarian food it was our chance to bake some cakes for various dietary requirements. As this was a Clandestine Cake Club meeting I immediately reached for my Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook as I had previously made the Vegan Lemon Cake in it and it was very nice.

I've obviously changed the lemon to orange and added cocoa to get the chocolate hit. The original recipe uses Limoncello which is something that has never entered his house and probably never will. I substituted lemon extract for it then and used this same trick by using orange extract this time. I use Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Valencian Orange Extract but if you can't get hold it then old-fashioned zest and juice of a real orange could be used. For the soya spread I use Pure Dairy Free which is easily available in supermarkets.

Although this recipe doesn't have the same light and airy texture of a Victoria sponge made using eggs it is a pretty good alternative. It's also excellent even if you are not vegan and find you need to make a sponge cake in a hurry and you don't have enough eggs. As they say the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and I came home with just one slice left and compliments from the owner of Thyme to Eat.

Equipment: 2 x 8in/20cm sandwich tins.


9oz (250g) Self-raising flour
1oz (25g) Cocoa
1tsp (5ml) Baking powder
7oz (200g) Caster sugar
3½ fl oz (100ml) Corn oil
7 fl oz (200ml) Cold water
1tsp (5ml) Orange extract


4oz (100g) Soya margarine/spread
10½ oz (300g) Icing sugar, sifted
1tsp (5ml) Orange extract


1. Line and grease 2 8in/20cm round sandwich tins
2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.
3. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together and stir in the sugar.
4. Add he oil, water and orange extract and fold in until the mixture is well combined. It should look more like a muffin mix.
5. Spoon the mixture evenly between the two tins and cook for 15-20 minutes until the sponges are cooked and springy to the touch
6. Leave in the tins for a few minutes before removing and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.
7. For the filling put the margarine/spread in a bowl and then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the orange extract and beat well until the ingredients is mixed together.
8. Spread the top of one of the sponges with the filling and carefully place the other sponge on top. 
9. To finish off dust the top with either icing sugar or cocoa powder.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Pancetta & Onion Applewood Tart

Pancetta & Onion Applewood Tart
It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is perfectly fine for a food blogger to use ready made puff pastry, especially for a quick family supper. I usually like tomato purée or crème fraîche as a base but as you have probably realised by now I have recently been introduced to a new spread. Applewood Spreadable is made by the same company who made the Applewood Smoky Cheddar Cheese. It obviously tastes terrific just spread on some bread or crackers but it forms the basis of many a quick family dish.

I've been fortunate enough to receive a lovely hamper of goodies from Applewood Spreadable in order to create some recipes. This is one of those recipes but fear not the ingredients list is very short, the skill level extremely low but it will still be gobbled up by all the family. I've used onions but you could substitute spring onions or leeks. To add another taste and texture you could layer some slices of tomatoes on top.

Equipment: 1 baking sheet - I used my Swiss Roll tin which measures 13” x 9”, rolling pin if using block puff pastry, frying pan.


100g Pancetta
1 Onion, chopped
500g Pack Puff Pastry (mine was a block)
5 tbsp (75ml) Applewood Spreadable


1. While you prepare the other ingredients get the puff pastry out of the fridge and leave it to rest.
2. Start to cook the pancetta in a frying pan.
3. When some of the fat has been released from the pancetta add the onions.
4. Cook until the onion has softened and starts to colour.
5. Transfer to a plate with a piece of kitchen towel to mop up some of the excess fat.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.
7. Roll out the puff pastry block to the size of your baking sheet.
8. Put the pastry on the baking sheet and prick all over. I like to fold a bit of each side over in order to make a bit of a lip or crust.
9. Spread some Applewood Spread all over the base.
10. Cover the base with the pancetta and onions and cook for 20 minutes.

Great served with potato wedges or a selection of your favourite vegetables.

Applewood Spreadable send me the hamper and its contents for free. No payment was made for this post. All words, photos and recipe are my own.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Beer Cake

Beer Fruit Cake
Beer Cake! Yes, that's got your attention. However, you may be asking what the teetotal Ness is doing baking a beer cake. I'm a member of a number of Clandestine Cake Club groups and each meeting gives a new theme and hence the opportunity to make new cakes. The Chesterfield group held a meeting with the theme of 'Festival' in conjunction with the Chatsworth Road Festival. For those not local to area Chatsworth Road is a long road running from the bottom of Chesterfield out into the Peak District and onto the magnificent Chatsworth House. Our lovely organizer Fiona has arranged a number of our gatherings on the Chatsworth Road due to its abundance of thriving independent businesses.

While most of the other attendees focused on the 'Festival' theme I was immediately drawn to the Chatsworth Road element. Another reason Chatsworth Road is well-known is due to the the high volume of pubs situated along it. On its way out to the Peaks it runs through an area called Brampton and this is the inspiration for the challenge that is the Brampton Mile. Whilst the number of pubs has decreased over the years many a stag or hen night has started at one end of Chatsworth Road with the intention of having a drink in each of the pubs along the way down. With this in mind I decided to make a cake with beer and found one from the appropriately local Thornbridge Brewery, based near Chatsworth House.

According to Thornbridge Brewery, “Five malts and six hops combine for bitter chocolate flavours with dark roasted fruits,” for the Wild Raven IPA. This seemed perfect for adding to a fruit cake. At ABV 6.6% it also had the strength to hold its own when cooked. Since the recipe calls for just 150ml of the 500ml bottle you may be wondering what happened to other 350ml. Sadly my CAMRA member husband had been temporarily stuck down by a particularly nasty affliction which had rendered him teetotal. So 50ml went in the Christmas pudding (next year's vintage) while the remaining 300ml formed the basis of a beef in beer casserole in the slow cooker.

As this recipe uses dried fruits I am entering it for this month's Tea Time Treats hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked as the theme is dried fruit.
Tea Time Treats 
Vine fruits is also the theme this month for One Ingredient run by Laura at How To Cook Good Food and this month's host Nazima at Franglais Kitchen.
 One Ingredient November 2013
With the local beer this recipe has to go over to Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary for her Shop Local challenge which highlights the use of local produce.

Equipment: 1 7in (18cm) cake tin (I used my Lakeland deep fancy tin), electric whisk/beaters


8oz (225g) Self-raising wholemeal flour
½ tsp (2.5ml) Baking powder
4oz (110g) Unsalted butter, softened or baking spread
4oz (110g) Demerara sugar
1tsp (5ml) Mixed spice
Zest of 1 Lemon
¼ Pint (150ml) Beer (Real Ale)
2 Large eggs
12oz (350g) Mixed dried fruit (including citrus peel)


1. Prepare the tin by greasing it.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/Gas mark 3.
3. In a large bowl put all the ingredients except for the dried fruit and beat well using an electric whisk or beaters.
4. Stir in the dried fruit and then transfer the mixture to the tin.
5. Cook for 45 minutes and then check to see if the top is cooking too quickly. Cover with greaseproof paper if it is.
6. Cook for a further 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
7. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.

This cake is best left a few days to mature if you can bear to leave it. Just make sure it is covered with foil or greaseproof paper and stored in an air-tight tin.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Vegetable Bake with Applewood Mash

Vegetable Bake with Applewood Mash
There's no denying that it is now the time of year for comfort food. It's dark in the morning, dark by late afternoon and grey, raining and blustery inbetween. Comfort food usually points to something that is tasty but actually not that good for you. This dish is different. It's full of vegetables to fill you with vitamins and minerals but hearty enough to warm you through. I made this on Halloween evening while my little monsters were out trick or treating. It can be prepared in advance and then simply put in the oven to heat through.

This recipe was inspired by the lovely hamper sent to me by Applewood Spreadable. As part of their blogger challenge they have asked a number of food bloggers to create dishes using their delicious smoky cheddar cheese spread.

Since there is a large amount of vegetables in this dish I would recommend you prepare all the vegetables first before you start. The list of vegetables is what I had to hand and what was sent to me by Applewood Spreadable. By all means do your own fridge raid and add or substitute whatever vegetables you like. If you wish to bulk it out further I would suggest adding a tin of beans such as butter beans or cannellini; baked beans would also work. If you don't have fresh basil use dried basil or mixed herbs.

One note on the amount of potatoes used. My oven-proof dish is deep with a small surface area so if your dish is bigger you may need more potatoes in order to cover the top. Add some more Applewood Spreadable if necessary.

Serves: Generously serves 4 as an accompaniment or 2 as a main meal

Equipment: 1 large frying pan, 1 oven-proof dish


2 tbsp (30ml) Olive Oil
1 Carrot, diced
1 Parsnip, diced
1 Leek, chopped
1 Onion, chopped
1 Courgette, diced
1 Aubergine, diced
3oz (85g) Mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
12oz (350g) Potatoes, diced
400g tin Chopped Tomatoes
2tbsp Tomato purée
Black pepper, to taste
Handful fresh basil leaves, torn
2 tbsp (30ml) Applewood Spreadable


1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. In a large frying pan heat the olive oil and start to sauté the carrot, parsnip, leek and onion.
3. When the onion starts to soften add the courgette, aubergine, mushrooms and garlic.
4. Put the potatoes onto boil while the vegetable mixture keeps cooking gently.
5. When the vegetables start to brown slightly add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, black pepper and basil.
6. Continue to cook until the potatoes are well-cooked and ready to mash.
7. Drain the potatoes and start to break down with a masher.
8. Add the Applewood Spreadable and stir into the mash.
9. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the oven-proof dish and the spread the mash on top of it.
10. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes or until the mash starts to brown.

I was sent the Applewood Spreadable and hamper for free. No payment was made for this post. Recipe, words and photographs are my own. Please note that Applewood Spreadable is not suitable for vegetarians but Applewood (hard) Cheese is.