Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bread Pudding

I don't often have a lot of stale bread around the house, but this week I happened to be in the supermarket when they were reducing sell-by-date loaves to 12p to clear them! I'm not a huge fan of defrosted bread, and besides I don't have a lot of space in my freezer at the moment, but none of that matters, because my favourite way of using up stale bread is, of course, cake-related . . .
Bread Pudding 

450g stale bread
225g sultanas
100g Demerara sugar
2tsp mixed spice
2 eggs
granulated sugar for topping

Tear the stale bread (crusts and all!) into roughly inch squared pieces, put them in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 170C / 325F / Gas3
Grease a 8" square tin

Drain the bread and squeeze the excess water out. Don't worry too much about getting every last drop out, just do your best ~ I tip the whole lot into a sieve and squeeze handfuls as I transfer the bread back into the bowl. Add the sultanas, sugar, spice and eggs and give it a good mix to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add just enough milk to make a soft dropping consistency, then turn into your tin and bake for about an hour to an hour and a half.
Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar and serve cut into thick slabs, either warm with custard or cold with a nice cup of tea.

You can use any kind of bread for this. If you never have much bread left when your loaf is going stale, simply save the slices you do have in the freezer until you get the amount you need.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Shepherd's Pie

It's that cosy comfort-food time of year ~ hoorah!

I've wanted to share this recipe with you for a while but thought it might be tricky. This is one of the most bung-it-in dishes I make, I never weigh any of the ingredients, so how can I share it? Then I figured what the hell, I'll just tell it like it is and let you try my way of cooking. Everybody has their own spin on a Shepherd's Pie anyway so feel free to tweak away to your heart's content. Here's how I do it:

250g mince (beef or lamb)
gravy granules
baked beans
brown sauce / Worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4

Start off by filling a pan with chopped peeled potatoes, and boil these until they're cooked.

While the potatoes are cooking, brown the mince. I often cook mine from frozen, flipping the block of meat over as each side browns and scraping the cooked part off with my spoon. So long as you cook all the meat through this is fine. While the mince is browning, finely chop your onion and add it to the pan. Once all the meat is cooked and the onion has softened, drain the excess fat ~ not down the sink!!! It will congeal in the pipes somewhere and cause a horrible blockage! I usually line a bowl with kitchen roll, drain the fat into this and throw it in the bin when it's cold.
Add a mugful of gravy to the meat and onions. I use about 3 heaped teaspoons of beef gravy granules. You want a nice thick gravy because you don't want your meat mixture to be too runny. You can add a crumbled beef oxo cube too for an extra oomph of flavour if you like.
Next I add a handful (yes, literally!) of peas, a handful of sweetcorn, about half a small tin of baked beans, and either a big squeeze of brown sauce, or a generous splash of Worcestershire sauce.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain then mash them with a generous knob of butter and enough milk to make a creamy mash.
Half fill an ovenproof dish with meat mixture then top with spoonfuls of mash, this is easiest to do if you go around the edges first then fill in the middle. You want the mash to be about 4 - 5 cm (1 1/2 inches?) deep. You may well have made more mash than you need but that's ok, homemade mash freezes well and is a godsend to have stashed in your freezer for those days when you're short on time.

Put the pie on a baking tray and cook in the centre of the oven for about 20 - 30 mins until the mash is golden and the gravy is bubbling up around the edges.

How lush is that? Just the thing for a cold autumnal tea. The quantities I listed makes roughly 3 or 4 portions. I usually make one large pie to share then two individual pies for the freezer. Unless I've done a lot of taste testing, then there might just be one individual pie . . .

Oh, and if you're wondering ~ a Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb mince, a Cottage Pie is made from beef.
And they're both delicious.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Cheesy Bacon Loaf

Oh dear, it has been a while hasn't it ~ a whole month! I'm sorry! I blame my lack of ability to take decent photos, I've made some yummy things I'd like to share with you but I've found it really hard to get a good shot now it's getting dark so early.
Well today I decided I wasn't going to let that stop me.
I found this recipe on Pinterest and it looked lush! Except the original recipe had jalapenos in ~ yuk! It was also rather higgledy-piggledy ~ using cups, ounces and grammes. So I did my usual trick of tweaking here and there, and Oh My what a result!

I've made savoury 'cakes' before (cheese and bacon too) and they can be a bit odd ~ your eyes see a cakey texture so your taste buds expect sweet. But this one really worked. It has a gently savoury flavour and a moist spongy texture with a lovely crunchy crust. Give it a go, you won't be disappointed!

Cheesy Bacon Loaf

6-8 slices back bacon (1 x 225g pack)
340g plain flour
2 rsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp sugar
150g cream cheese
150g grated cheddar
250ml buttermilk (or 250ml milk soured with 1 tbsp. lemon juice)
2 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4

Grease a loaf tin (mine was about 7 x 4")

Grill the bacon and chop into roughly 1cm chunks. If you're not using buttermilk, mix the lemon juice and milk together and let it stand (to sour) while you mix the other ingredients.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese to loosen it a little then mix in the bacon and cheddar, then the buttermilk and oil. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Turn into your loaf tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 mins until golden brown on top.
Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack.
Cut a nice thick slice and enjoy!

This would make a lovely breakfast, or a hearty snack. I'm pretty sure the guys at work will enjoy a slice too, if there's any left in the morning!