Quick Puff Pastry Mince Pies


Puff Pastry Mince Pies

It’s only 5 weeks to Christmas, yes 5 weeks! Really, where has the time gone? I’m feeling quite good about my Christmas preparations, my Christmas cake is baked, my family have been invited for Christmas dinner and I’ve done about half of my Christmas shopping. This year I’m on track to get Christmas organised, stress free (I hope!).

I do love a good mince pie to put me in a festive frame of mind. Well to get into the spirit of all things festive, I rustled up these super Quick Puff Pastry Mince Pies and they went down a treat with everyone. They really are the ultimate cheat using shop bought puff pastry and mincemeat but no one need ever know! With so much to do around Christmas time, a few shortcuts and cheats makes life a little easier, don’t you agree?

Puff Pastry Mince Pies

Here’s my recipe for Quick Puff Pastry Mince Pies.

Ingredients (Makes 10)

375g ready rolled puff pastry
½ jar of mincemeat (I used half of a 411g jar)
½ tablespoon demerara sugar
1 egg

Method

1. Pre heat your oven to Fan 180c.

2. Remove the pastry from the packaging and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

3. Unroll the pastry and using a 7.5cm round pastry cutter cut out 20 pastry rounds.

4. Evenly space 10 pastry rounds on two non stick baking sheets, then place about 2 teaspoons of mincemeat in the centre of each.

5. Moisten the inside edge of the pastry rounds with a little water and place the remaining pastry rounds on top to form the mince pies.

6. Make an egg wash by beating the egg with a tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the mince pies, then sprinkle with demerara sugar. Pierce each pie on the top in the centre with a knife to allow steam to escape.

7. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and puffed. Enjoy with a dollop of extra thick cream.

Puff Pastry Mince Pies

Until next time.

Julie
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Tomato and Basil Soup

Tomato and Basil Soup

How hard can it be to make a simple tomato soup? Seriously, I was beginning to question this myself. Well, a lot harder than I originally thought that’s for sure because my first attempt failed miserably. Thankfully, I’ve now come up with this Tomato and Basil Soup recipe that tastes utterly delicious with a beautiful balance of sweetness and acidity (which is where I went wrong before). Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make too. Using storecupboard ingredients this flavoursome soup is most definitely a soup I’m going to make regularly.

Tomato and Basil Soup

Here’s my recipe for Tomato and Basil Soup.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

½ tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion (very finely chopped)
½ clove of garlic (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon dried basil
500g passata
400g tin of chopped tomatoes (best quality)
200ml cold water
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
sea salt and black pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves (chopped) plus extra to garnish

Method

1. Heat the olive oil in a large lidded casserole pan, then sauté the onions until soft.

2. Stir in the garlic and dried basil, sauté for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the passata, tinned tomatoes, water, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Season with a good pinch of sea salt and a grinding of black pepper. Stir well.

4. Bring to the boil, then put on the lid and simmer gently for 1 hour. Just before serving stir through the chopped fresh basil leaves. Serve the soup in warm bowls with a couple of basil leaves on top.

Serve the Tomato and Basil soup with crusty wholemeal rolls.

Tomato and Basil Soup

The aroma that filled the house after I made this soup was just amazing. I made the soup in the morning then had to take the girls to their gym class. It was so good to come home for lunch to the welcoming smell of homemade tomato and basil soup on a very damp and cold day. My girls and I loved the soup, I hope you enjoy it too.

Until next time.

Julie
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Have you baked your Christmas cake yet?

Christmas Cake 2014

Have you baked your Christmas cake yet? If you haven’t now is the ideal time, allowing you plenty of time to feed your Christmas cake with rum or brandy before the big day. Quite a few years ago, I found a superb recipe in a Women’s Weekly Cookery and Craft Special and ever since then it has been my go to Christmas cake recipe. The kind editor at Women’s Weekly gave me permission to publish the recipe on the blog last year, so you can find it here.

The recipe is really easy to follow and the cake tastes amazing, it’s a guaranteed way of impressing your friends and family on Christmas day. I’m sure you too will be delighted with the result.

I baked my Christmas cake yesterday (a little later than usual!), now it’s wrapped in baking parchment and foil. When I remember, I’ll feed it with a drop or two of dark rum. Then, during the week before Christmas I’ll begin to decorate it with marzipan and sugarpaste.

Here’s a few of the Christmas cakes I’ve made before.

Happy Christmas Baking!

Julie
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My Kitchen Cookbooks: Paul Hollywood’s British Baking


Paul Hollywood's British Baking

It’s probably no real surprise that Paul Hollywood’s British Baking is one of the latest books to adorn my bookshelf. It was a birthday present from my husband and children along with a copy of The Great British Bake Off Christmas. Perfect for a Bake Off fan like me. I even managed to get my copy of British Baking signed by the very man himself at the recent BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show in London.

Paul Hollywood

In his latest offering Paul Hollywood has researched recipes from up and down the British Isles. The book is divided into regions, the Southwest, the South & Southeast, the Midlands, the North, Wales, Ireland and Scotland which all have their own individual baking traditions but there are many similarities too, such as griddle baking and steamed puddings.

I really like the style and layout of this delightful book, each region is introduced with a charming explanation of its baking history and characteristics. All the recipes have clear instructions and are accompanied by a beautifully styled photo. Some of the bakes I’ve never heard of before e.g Ecclefechan Butter Tarts and Kentish Huffkins, so having that all important photo is extremely helpful. Plus, you’ll find there are a few recipes with step by step photos too.

I think my favourite chapter has to be the one on Scotland, the recipes look incredibly enticing. I’m sure I’ll be making the Raspberry Crumble Cake and Treacle Sponge Pudding featured in that chapter very soon. I did find it quite amusing to see a recipe for Cheese and Chive Scones of which I have my very own version here.

I chose to bake the Marmalade Cake first of all. Worryingly, the mixture did appear curdled quite early on so I added a spoonful of flour with the last two eggs (I think the eggs were too cold!). I baked my cake at Fan 160c and after 40 minutes of baking it looked golden brown but wasn’t cooked through. I decided to cover the cake with a layer of foil and placed it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes. Once the cake had cooled and knowing my family are quite keen on icing I made a glacé icing using orange juice to finish it off. I was pretty pleased with this cake regardless of the minor hiccups I had, which didn’t appear to effect the overall bake. The cake had a lovely tangy sour orange flavour from the marmalade and a little sweetness from the orange icing, it’s definitely a cake I’d make again.

Marmalade Cake

Other bakes I’d like to try include the Denby Dale Pie (a tasty looking meat and potato pie), Chocolate Heavies (a chocolate chip biscuit I think my children will love) and the Dorset Apple Cake (perfect with my mid morning cuppa!).

I would love to know if you have tried any of the recipes from Paul Hollywood’s British Baking and how you got on. Please let me know if you have any recommendations of which recipes I should try next.

Until next time.

Julie
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Rosemary and Thyme Roast Potatoes


Rosemary and Thyme Roast Potatoes

Have you ever eaten a roast dinner, maybe in a restaurant or maybe at home and had rather disappointing roast potatoes. You know the ones, where the outside is a bit soggy or the inside a little under cooked. For me, a well cooked roast potato makes the roast dinner something special regardless of whether you are eating it with roast beef, chicken or lamb. Over recent years I’ve perfected this simple melt in the mouth recipe to create a roast potato that is crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle, just the way I like it.

I don’t usually measure out quantities when cooking roast potatoes but it didn’t seem fair to not give you some guidance on the amounts needed.

Here’s my recipe for Rosemary and Thyme Roast Potatoes.

Ingredients (Serves 2 Adults and 3 Children)

1.25kg potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves.
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Black pepper

Method

1. Peel and cut the potatoes into halves or thirds depending on their size, if very small then leave them whole.

2. Par boil the potatoes for 10 minutes.

3. Pre heat the oven to Fan 200c.

4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and shake to roughen up the edges, transfer to a large non stick roasting tin and allow to air dry for a couple of minutes.

5. Drizzle over the oil, then sprinkle over the rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and black pepper. Toss everything together so that the potatoes are evenly coated.

6. Roast the potatoes for 35-40 minutes turning halfway through roasting.

Serve immediately with your favourite roast meat and vegetables. Enjoy!

Rosemary and Thyme Roast Potatoes

Until next time.

Julie
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Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies


Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies

Now it’s November I’m officially counting down to Christmas. Oh yes, I’ve already down loaded a Christmas countdown app for the kids (they did ask, so I obliged), dug out my Michael Bublé Christmas CD and I’m planning on baking my Christmas cake next week. This year I’m going to be super organised buying presents and writing cards early, no more last minute shopping or fretting for me.

When Sainsbury’s asked food bloggers to come up with ideas for edible gifts for giving, I began thinking of the traditional foods we eat at Christmas, my absolute favourite being Christmas dinner itself. No Christmas dinner is complete without cranberry sauce for the turkey, so with the humble cranberry in mind I’ve created these delightful cookies. The cookies are packed full of tangy sour cranberries, crunchy green pistachios and sweet white chocolate chips. Stored in elegant Kilner jars, then dressed with Christmas ribbon and tags, these cookies make the ideal Christmas gift for children to give to grandparents or teachers. It’s a straight forward recipe so I’m sure older children would have fun baking them by themselves.

These cookies are incredibly moreish, so bake plenty otherwise you might eat them all before the big day.

Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies

Here’s the recipe for Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies.

Ingredients (Makes 16)

175g unsalted butter (softened)
100g golden caster sugar
100g white chocolate chips
100g dried cranberries
50g pistachios (chopped)
225g plain flour

Method

1. Cream together the butter and sugar together until thoroughly combined.

2. Mix in the white chocolate chips, dried cranberries and pistachios.

3. Add the flour and mix until the mixture becomes a dough.

4. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

5. Divide the cookie dough into 16 pieces, roll each piece into a ball. Then, place the balls of cookie dough on the lined baking sheet and flatten until about 1cm thick. Smooth the edges of the cookies with your hands if they are cracked.

6. Place both the baking sheets in the fridge to allow the uncooked cookies to firm up, chill for at least 1 hour.

7. Pre heat the oven to Fan 160c.

8. Oven bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, the cookies will be pale gold when cooked. Don’t over bake as they will lose their soft texture.

9. Once cooked remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies

Giving a homemade gift shows real sentiment, I think the lucky recipient of a jar crammed full of homemade cranberry, pistachio and white chocolate cookies would be very happy indeed.

Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies

Until next time, happy baking.

Julie
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Disclosure: Sainsbury’s sponsored me to write this blog post. All words are my own. All opinions are honest and my own. The recipe is my own.

I’ve added this recipe to the #CookBlogShare linky at Supergolden Bakes.

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Roast Pumpkin Soup

Roast Pumpkin Soup

With pumpkins piled high in the shops, now is just the right time to make this delicious pumpkin soup. Of course, if you have carved a pumpkin for Halloween then this recipe is a great way of not wasting the pumpkin flesh. It’s a hearty earthy soup, ideal for warming those toes after trick or treating or why not serve it on Bonfire night around the roaring bonfire.

Roast Pumpkin Soup

Here’s my recipe for Roast Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients (Serves 2 to 3)

600g pumpkin (peeled weight and cut into chunks)
1 medium onion (cut into 8 wedges)
600ml boiling water
1 Kallo organic chicken stock cube
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon runny honey
salt and black pepper
handful of pumpkin seeds to serve

Method

1. Pre heat the oven to Fan 200c.

2. Put the pumpkin chunks and onion wedges in a large roasting tray, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle over the allspice. Toss to ensure the pumpkin and onion are evenly coated. Roast for 30 minutes.

3. Make up the stock with the boiling water and stock cube.

5. Put the cooked pumpkin and onion into a blender, then add half the stock, honey, a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper then blitz.

6. Add the remaining stock and blitz in the blender again until smooth, adding a little extra water from the kettle to get the desired consistency.

7. Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and crusty seeded bread on the side.

Roast Pumpkin Soup

Roast Pumpkin Soup

Happy Halloween, until next time.

Julie
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I’ve linked up this recipe to Tea Time Treats organised by Janie at The Hedge Combers and Karen at Lavender and Lovage, this month hosted by Janie.

Tea Time Treats
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Chorizo Style Sausage and Bean Casserole

Chorizo style sausage and bean casserole

I was recently asked by Sainsbury’s Bank to write about my perfect night in. As a busy mum of three very lively children, I’m quite often exhausted by the end of the school week. So for me the perfect night in now that the dark nights are creeping is enjoying a delicious home cooked meal, drawing the curtains and curling up on the sofa watching TV. OK, please don’t tell me I’m boring, that’s just the way I like it. I’m more than happy to spend the evening watching Downton Abbey, however my husband is not so keen and would much rather watch an action film instead. So to create that perfect night in for both of us once the kids are tucked up in bed, we reach a compromise and settle down to watch usually a good thriller or maybe a romantic comedy with the emphasis on comedy rather than romance!

My warming chorizo style sausage and bean casserole is the kind of food I crave in autumn and it’s ideal for creating that perfect night in for two. It’s brimming with flavour and easy to rustle up as well.

Chorizo style sausage and bean casserole

Here’s my recipe for Chorizo Style Sausage and Bean Casserole.

Ingredients (Serves 2 adults)

6 chorizo style pork sausages (I used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference sausages)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (diced)
1 large carrot (diced)
1 stick of celery (diced)
1 red pepper (cut into 2cm squares)
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
400g tin of haricot beans in water
400g tin chopped tomatoes
salt and black pepper

Method

1. In a large lidded casserole pan heat the olive oil, then brown the sausages all over. Remove the sausages.

2. In the casserole pan sauté the onion, carrots, celery and red pepper with the smoked paprika and cumin until everything begins to soften (about 10 minutes). Add a bit more oil if it starts to catch at the bottom of the pan.

3. Return the sausages to the pan. Add the tinned tomatoes, then fill that same tin with water and pour into the pan. Add the drained haricot beans too. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Bring to the boil, put on the lid and place in a pre heated oven at 180c Fan for 1¼ to 1½ hours.

Serve the casserole with plain rice or creamy mashed potato. Enjoy!

For your chance to win the ultimate perfect night in package including a 40″ HDTV, £250 of Sainsbury’s vouchers and a top 10 DVD selection courtesy of Sainsbury’s Bank simply describe your perfect night in (the ‘enter here’ button will take you to the Sainsbury’s Bank website).

Enter Here

Entries must be submitted by Friday 14th November and the winner will be picked at random on Monday 17th November. Only UK entrants are eligible.

Until next time.

Julie
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Disclosure: Sainsbury’s Bank came to me with the opportunity to write about my perfect night in, I received vouchers and DVD’s in return. All opinions are honest and my own, the recipe is my own. To enter the giveaway click on the entry button, which will take you to the Sainsbury’s Bank website whereby you can complete your entry. Sainsbury’s Bank are responsible for the giveaway and the accompanying terms and conditions.

I’ve added this recipe to the #CookBlogShare linky at Supergolden Bakes.

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BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show

Mary Berry

Yesterday I attended the BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show in London with my eldest daughter but we very nearly never made it. The journey into London was fraught with disaster and I was unsure that we would get there at all. Thankfully, luck must have been on our side and we arrived just in time to watch Mary Berry in the bakes & cakes theatre. Best of all we were in the front row which I didn’t realise until we got there. Mary was a real pro and demonstrated how to make raspberry & apples muffins and fig & nut bars.

Our next stop was the book signing queue, we waited patiently to get Mary Berry to sign my well used copy of her Baking Bible and the new book Mary Cooks the Perfect. It made my daughter’s day when Mary said ‘Keep up the baking, young lady’.

A little while later we queued again for book signing with Paul Hollywood, we were well positioned and could see and hear Paul being interviewed by Jo Wheatley winner of GBBO series 2. After the interview Paul came across and began the book signing, we were close to the front of the queue so we didn’t wait for long before we met Paul and he signed his latest book, British Baking for me.

Paul Hollywood

The show is not just about seeing your baking heroes but is also a chance to stock up on much needed baking goodies and also to buy bakes from artisan producers. I loved the shabby chic vintage plates from the Simply Vintage Designs stall. I recommend you try the brownies from The Brownie Bar they were so delicious, the pistachio and white chocolate brownie was gorgeous.

At lunchtime with aching feet it was lovely to sit down to an afternoon tea of finger sandwiches and dainty cakes. With nothing planned afterwards we had an opportunity to take a look at the stunning cakes on the cake parade from the professional cake decorators. Here’s a few pictures of my favourites.

The show cake decorating competition had a Halloween theme, judged by John Whaite the prize was afternoon tea with Mary Berry. These cakes were truly exceptional, especially those from the junior category.

Later in the day we saw chocolatier Paul A Young being interviewed on the stage, feeling chocolate inspired we then popped across to the Lakeland shop and bought chocolate making moulds. The very kind ladies at Lakeland arranged for Paul A Young to sign a copy of his book with a photo opportunity too, thanks Lakeland.

Our final stop was to watch Mary Berry being interviewed, which was a real pleasure. Mary talked passionately about her hopes for all children being about to cook for themselves by the time they leave school. I couldn’t agree more.

Mary Berry

During the day we caught glimpses of this years Great British Bake Off contestants, including Richard, Chetna, Kate, Martha, Luis and the winner herself Nancy. Making the show a must for Bake Off fans.

Today is the final day of the show, if you are unable to go but want to win a signed copy of Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect why not enter my giveaway.

Until next time, happy baking.

Julie
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How to make: The Perfect Vanilla Buttercream

Vanilla buttercream is the ideal filling for a Victoria sandwich cake and makes a cupcake something special. The perfect vanilla buttercream relies on good quality ingredients, unsalted butter, icing sugar, the best quality vanilla extract and a splash of milk. It’s incredibly easy to make but takes a fair few minutes to achieve a creamy texture. If you have a stand mixer that can do all the hard work for you, then it really is no bother to make at all.

Here’s my recipe for the Perfect Vanilla Buttercream.

Ingredients (enough to top and fill a 20cm sandwich cake or 12 cupcakes)

200g unsalted butter (softened)
400g icing sugar (sifted)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (I use Nielsen Massey)
1 tablespoon of milk
Gel food colouring (optional)

Method

1. Beat together the butter and icing sugar until the mixture is light and airy, start off on a slow speed then increase the speed as the buttercream comes together. If your stand mixer has a bowl lid, then use it to prevent icing sugar flying everywhere. Mix for several minutes.

2. Next, mix in the vanilla extract and milk. If you want to colour the buttercream add a drop or two of the gel food colouring now, then mix well. Add only a small amount of the gel colour at a time because the colour will develop as the buttercream is being mixed.

3. The buttercream is ready when it tastes creamy and smooth (with no grittiness from the icing sugar). You are looking for a consistency that is not too stiff but firm enough to pipe.

Your vanilla buttercream is now ready to use. If you wish to use it later, place a layer of cling film directly on top of the buttercream and store at room temperature (not in the fridge). This will prevent a crust developing on top.

I’m off to the BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes show tomorrow, I simply can’t wait. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Until next time.

Julie
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