Boiled Baby’s Head

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From time to time Husband will come back from the local Co op with a packet of short dated meat saying “I thought we might have such and such this week”. The packet will then sit there getting closer to the use by date until one of us finds the time, energy and enthusiasm to do something with it.

It is not, I must point out, always me. My Husband can cook,( in fact our relationship can be dated back to a lasagna in august 2002) but claims that he is limited in the kitchen. He says that his Mum made sure that both he and his brother had the very basics, the stuff that you need to survive on your own, because she knew she was not going to be around for long, but that she passed away before teaching him the other stuff, that its useful to know but you don’t really need, such as putting a sunday roast on the table.

I have complained here before about the unadventurous nature of my family’s palate, but here is the strange thing. Husband is not afraid to experiment in the kitchen… I have no way of telling whether he’s always been this way or whether 7 years of watching me being not afraid to mess things up in the kitchen, has led to him from time to time picking up one of my recipe books, but yes occasionally he will get an idea in his head and will follow it to see whether it works.

So then, at the end of last week Husband came home with a packet of meat and said “I thought we could have a snake and pygmy”. The meat sat there until monday when it fell to me to get a bit worried about the closeness of the use by date, so whilst making dinner I browned off the meat, fried some onions and bunged the mixture with the remains of an old bottle of port into the slow cooker. To tone down the sweetness of the port and because we had no Worcestershire sauce I bunged in some fish sauce and a load of soy sauce.

Next day I was in the process of heating it up and about to break it to Husband that today was the day he learned how to make short crust pastry when he turns round to me and says “no, I was thinking of doing it as a pudding not a pie. I want to do it like my Mum did, in a bain marie in the oven” At which point we decided to have something else for tea as I pointed out we wouldn’t be eating until long after 9pm as it would take so long to cook.

On Wednesday night however, having earlier put in a plea for iron rich food I find that Husband and Spider have together been making suet pastry and there was a Steak and Kidney pudding in the oven in a bain marie and a recipe book covered with floury handprints (after an hour we took it out and started steaming it on the stove as the oven method wasn’t working) – and you know what, it was stunning !

You should never be afraid of trying something new. You should never be afraid of failure. You are never too old to try…and if someone makes an effort for you because they want to make you smile, you should tell them how much you appreciate it.

Next week we celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary…it’s amazing where some pasta and a tomato based sauce can take you.n

Boiled Baby’s Head is a colloquial term, possibly from the west midlands for Steak and Kidney Pudding.

Recipe: Radio Times Pear Tart

When I was younger and with a lot less on my mind, I was more organised (cue hollow laughter from my Mum and Islay (sister in law)). I used to keep a recipe book where I would write down or more often stick down recipes that I’d found in magazines – the rule was that it didn’t go in the book unless I’d cooked it and liked it…as I got older the number of recipes around increased at a much faster rate than my cooking and then I also discovered recipe books.

Anyway this recipe is right at the front of the book and has been made on numerous occasions but won’t be this month as it would appear I am right at the end of the Pear season – never mind plenty of other things I can make, come friday when there is flour in the house again – think I’d better start buying in bulk.

Ingredients

10oz Shortcrust Pastry

1.5lb Pears

Juice of a lemon

8oz carton whipping cream

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

3oz caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 200 deg c(400 deg F or Gas 6)

2. Roll pastry out and line a 9-10 inch flan tin with it. Prick the base and bake blind in the oven  for about 12 minutes

3. Peel, core, slice pears.  Layer pears neatly on the pastry. Sprinkle with lemon juice

4. Mix cream with the eggs and sugar. Pourthe mixture over the pears in the flan tin

5. Turn the oven down to 190 deg c (375F or gas mark 5). Put tart back in the oven for 20-25 minutes until cream is just set.

6. Cool for 10 minutes and serve…or allow to cool completly and serve…

If I ever put a photo up with this post you can assume that I finally found some pears in season… I have done it with tinned pears before but I suspect this is cheating…

Life of Pie

Feeling at a loss. The wonderful Victorian Farm (BBC2) finished on Thursday. I started watching it purely to get some background on family history (some of Husband’s family came from shropshire) but ended up really enjoying it. Haven’t had the urge to cook anything else from the programme  since the Fidget Pie although I was vaguely toying with the idea of brewing beer !

When I was searching for a similar recipe to Fidget Pie to get oven temp and timings (not owning a range as they do on Victorian Farm) I come across another pie (not surprising when you are searching through a book called Pie: Angela Boggiano) which made Husband say “wow, that sounds good”. So I made it last night as a “we don’t celebrate valentine’s day, but” meal. (Cheshire Cheese and Onion Pie)

No, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s day here. Husband claims he doesn’t do it because it’s just a feast for card makers and he doesn’t need 1 day in the year to show he loves me. Personally I think it’s more to do with his fear of being told off if he forgets it ! Me, I am relieved not to have to be creative anymore. I used to make an effort to come up with something different and unusual but by and large was disappointed by other’s lack of originality – although the year I was treated to “Egg and Chips and Champagne” was quite fun !

nice as pie
nice as pie

Anyway I came home last night to discover 2 bunches of flowers “because a house needs flowers” and thought I should do something a little different for tea – unfortunately this pie does take over an hour in the oven plus about 30 minutes to make the pastry and prep the filling, so it was gone 9pm by the time it hit the table – or our knees as by that time we were watching Almost Human (BBC2).

Anyway I am pleased to say that the pie was a success. Husband is in love with the pastry which is a cheese shortcrust and…wait for it, WANT’S TO LEARN HOW TO MAKE PASTRY !!!

This morning I am enjoying a gentle morning of CBeebies with my “young man” who does I am pleased to say celebrate Valentine’s Day, so much so that he has given me 2 Card’s. One which he made and coloured in himself, the other he bought but included 2 packets of seeds – coriander and rocket, something I haven’t seen before “Suttons Groweasy Seed Mats”.

The midget fidget and the bacon and apple pie

The midget fidget is Spider, he just does not know how to be still. Shropshire Fidget Pie on the other hand is a potato and bacon mixture covered in suet pastry as demonstrated on the Victorian Farm (BBC 2) the other night.

I am getting addicted to this programme. I started watching it initially as background for family history as some of Husband’s ancestors we were surprised to discover came from Shropshire…obviously hiked down the A5 when times were bad, but before that were miners and agricultural workers from some of the nice little villages that are now buried by Telford.

I must admit that I am having to fight the strong desire to turn the back garden into a smallholding a la Tom And Barbara Good – those piglets look so cute…fortunately they don’t stay cute otherwise I could see problems ahead when having to er, make use of them when they are older !

Anyway this Fidget Pie looks like a good budget recipe. They made it with a suet pastry but since our suet is a bit suspect I’ve just made a simple short crust pastry. I had to buy some more bacon as we only had 2 rashes which I suspect would not be enough but I did have a cooking apple in the fridge and some cider we brought in for the Fairy Goth Mother at Christmas which didn’t get used. I had to search the internet though for cooking times for a conventional oven. A recipe for Shropshire Fidget Pie is here

Pie sitting on the side waiting to be cooked either on sunday or on monday depending on what we are doing tomorrow.

Actually, I quite like mince pies…

A long evening cooking and I’ve run out of time again…more at a more normal hour!

The morning after

I don’t know where the time has gone. Thanks to the flu/virus I have ended up with a backlog of cooking, so last night I made:

· Nigella’s star top mince pies

· Nigella’s mini apple pies

· 2 batches of “24 carat brownies”

· finally cooked the Christmas cake and “iced it” with turkish delight

I’d made my Christmas cake on Monday night but ran out of time to cook it, so it had to stand over night until I got back from work. Whilst it was cooking I made my mince pies.

Turkish Delight topped Easy Christmas Cake
Turkish Delight topped Easy Christmas Cake

I have had a lot of hits on these pages for people looking for Nigella’s star topped mince pies so I thought I may as well do them and then post a link. Basically it’s a straight forward shortcrust pastry recipe using a mixture of fats and replacing the water with orange juice. The recipe can be found here. Mine are made with lard instead of vegetable shortening as that’s what I had in the cupboard (besides am a little concerned about transfats and vegetable shortening) and mine are heart topped as that’s the only cutter I have the right size.

heart topped mince pies
heart topped mince pies

Since the only reason I was making the pies was so that Spider had something to leave out for Father Christmas I only made 12. The rest I turned into apple pies using the apple filling recipe (which I will post up later).

Finally I made a double batch of my favourite Brownies. I had been planning to make some flourless brownie’s following my post yesterday on Allegra (as I was short of flour) but Husband put in a request for some nut free brownies to take to work.

nigel slater's fantastic brownies
nigel slater’s fantastic brownies

Anyway the worlds best Brownies can be found in Kitchen Diaries:Nigel Slater but it also appears in various places on the web and can be found here. My version missed out the cocoa powder as I’d run out (put in extra flour instead) and used a mixture of soft brown sugar and caster sugar…they seem to be hitting the spot at my work though – but then we are all in a Christmas mood anyway.

How could you forget Thanksgiving ?

Although I use any excuse for a celebration (and some baking) I did not celebrate Thanksgiving, mainly because this year it clashed with a more important (to me anyway) family event (so nice to know that 265 million Americans were sharing our day with us !).

Besides I find turkey unbearably dull, even though Nigella Lawson does seem to have countless ways of making it seem new. Pumpkin pie however, well that is a completely different matter. I adore pumpkin pie but I never try and make it for the simple reason that my Mum makes the best ever (don’t all Mum’s ?). I asked her once how she got such a warm, spicy slightly caramel taste to it and it turns out that it only really works with tinned pumpkin and what’s more the best recipe is the one on the tin !

I will be making my own pie at some point but I’m waiting for the NQG ( Spider’s “not quite Godfather”) to come back from the USA where he has been visiting his in laws as he swears that his wife makes the best pie ever and has promised me the recipe…

Anyway, I’m not allowing myself to do any more cooking until I finish off the Christmas cards. I have promised myself that I will, this year at least make sure they arrive before Christmas.