Slow Cooker Rice Pudding

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I was getting my breakfast yesterday when I noticed the milk looked a little odd. So I went through the whole ‘The milk’s turning!’ rigmarole, swilled it about in the bottle a bit, sniffed it, checked my tea looked and tasted ok…. it was fine, just 4 days past the date on the label. I decided there and then that rice pudding was definately in order. Here’s the recipe.

1 oz sugar

2 oz pudding rice

1 pt milk

a pinch of nutmeg

Butter the inside of the crock pot, and tip in the sugar, rice and milk. Give it a stir, then sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg over the top. Cook for about 6 hours on low, or 4 on high. If you like the skin, just leave it to it’s own devices, if you’re not so keen, give it a stir half an hour before serving. You may want to add a bit of extra milk, depending on how thick you like it. If you’re out all day it won’t come to too much harm if it’s left longer than the 6 hours, but make sure you put some extra milk in, and bear in mind the rice will disintegrate slightly. It still tastes good though! Serve plain or with a dollop of jam, syrup or honey.

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Scotch Eggs

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Easy peasy, and really versatile, you can serve these hot with chips/potatoes and beans, or cold with a salad, or even as part of a packed lunch. The only thing to watch out for is timing the eggs. I walked off and forgot about them, about half an hour later I went to the kitchen and wondered what the noise was. It sounded like a heavy duty gate hinge in the washing machine. Then I remembered and ran for the cooker, where the eggs were bouncing around in about an inch of water. Ooooops!

4 hard-boiled eggs (15 minutes should do the trick), cold and peeled

1 pack of sausagemeat (400 – 500g)

2 slices of bread, crumbed

And that’s it. The sausagemeat I used on this occasion had herbs ready added, but you can mix in some herbs and pepper if you want extra flavour. Split the sausagemeat into 4 equal pieces. Here comes the messy part. Flatten a portion of the sausagemeat, then wrap it around an egg, pressing and rolling until the egg is evenly covered. Next, roll the sausage-coated egg in the breadcrumbs, pressing them on well. Place on a baking sheet, and do the same with the rest of the eggs. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes  at 180°C. Simples!

These can be made in advance and kept in the fridge, either on the baking sheet if only for a few hours, or in an airtight tub, then cooked from chilled.

*Variation: Crumble a couple of slices of black pudding into the sausagemeat and mix in well for a tasty alternative.

Lemon Blueberry Loaf

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Last week I bought a packet of blueberries because they were reduced due to having reached their sell-by-date. I have kept them in the fridge for 7 days and when I sorted through them today I found one that had gone bad. One! And they would have been thrown out a week ago! Sorry, Hubby confiscated my soap box a couple of days ago when I went on a rant about something else. Anyway, at risk of the rest going bad, I decided I had better get on and use them. And what better way to use up blueberries than in a Lemon Blueberry Loaf? Answers on a postcard please.

1/2 cup (4 oz) butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp lemon zest

1 cup blueberries

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl, beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Now add the flour and baking powder in three batches, alternating with the milk. Add the lemon zest and mix well. Fold in the blueberries (if you have a problem with them sinking once cooked, toss them in a bit of the flour before adding) and scrape the mixture into a lined loaf tin. Bake at 180°C for an hour, or until fully cooked.

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix glaze ingredients together and cook either on medium heat in a saucepan, or for about 20 seconds in the microwave, until sugar has dissolved. When the loaf comes out of the oven, pierce the top with a toothpick (a fork would work) and spoon the glaze over the top, letting it all soak in. Let it cool for about half an hour before removing it from the tin and cooling it completely. Best served while it’s still warm, but cold is good too.

*Cook’s notes: I was a bit slap-dash with this today, as I couldn’t be bothered with too much measuring, but it still turned out extremely well. One of my eggs happened to be a double-yolker, and I just zested about half a lemon straight into the bowl. I also over-vanillaed, as there was only a teensy weensy bit (ok, half a teaspoon) left in the bottle. When you bake, just relax and have fun, it usually turns out well!

Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apple

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First, let me apologise once again for the terrible picture. I really do need to work on my photography skills, as I don’t imagine you are all that eager to cook and eat what is in the picture. It really tastes good, honest!

Ok, so this is really quick and easy, it takes about 15 minutes to prepare. Here goes.

1 onion, sliced

1 apple, cored and sliced

4 pork chops

1/2 pt vegetable stock

Fry the onion and apple until it is nicely browned, then set to one side. Brown both sides of the chops, and place them in the bottom of the slow cooker. Arrange the fried apple and onion on top, pour in the vegetable stock, and cook on low for 8 hours. And there you have it. I fried some potatoes in the same pan, to give them extra flavour, but any type of potato would be good with this.

*Early preparation tip: To save time later on with the potatoes, I peeled and par-boiled them while I was preparing the pork. I then drained them and left them in the pan for the afternoon. When I was ready to serve dinner, I sliced them and put them straight into the hot frying pan. By the time the veg was boiled, the potatoes were ready too.

Where, oh where, has my little cow gone?

This weekend Hubby and I had a weekend off work. These only roll around once a fortnight so we have to make the most of them. This usually means that weekends are just as busy as regular working days, the only difference is we get a few extra hours in bed in the morning. We end up rushing around catching up with family, shopping, maybe have a day out walking or photographing the countryside, and on the very rare occasion, treat ourselves to the cinema and dinner out. This weekend was no exception, but we were home early enough in the afternoons for me to make a pork roast dinner on Saturday and Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Chocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookies on Sunday. The roast dinner was a treat as I don’t often have the time to oven roast a full meal, and the cookies were so good they should be illegal!

Anyway, as I didn’t try out any new recipes to share, I thought I’d tell you a bit about what I do at work. One of my many tasks is to ‘check stock’. In the summer months the heifers and young stock live outside, and making sure they stay where they’re put can be a near impossible job. A couple of times a week I go round and check on each field of cattle, counting them to make sure they are not wandering the back lanes, having a secret rendezvous with the nearest bull or attempting to drown themselves in a ditch. These scenarios all happen at least once every summer, often more than once. Last Friday was slightly more tricky than usual.

In order to keep track of how many head of cattle are in which fields, we keep a list in the farmhouse kitchen. I check the list to make sure it hasn’t altered since last time I looked, jump on the quad bike (and try to remember to check I have fuel and 4 fully inflated tyres) and set off. On Friday I came to a field which should have had 25 calves in, but was empty. I checked all the other fields round about, found 1 extra in one of the fields, but couldn’t see any sign of the rest. So I had to find one of the bosses and ask what had happened to them. He told me where they were, so off I went again. When I got to the field, there was one missing. I found it two fields away, as close to a field of milk cows as possible, practically touching noses through the wire. As they were all accounted for, I went on to the next lot, 60 black and white Holstein heifers. When you are surrounded by a herd of heifers, all trying to lick you, and the bike, jostling and milling about, with their black and white patches making one cow merge into the next, you very quickly end up frustrated and bog-eyed. Today, this wasn’t a problem. They weren’t there. It was like a game of hide and seek, looking in each field as I rode past. To be fair, it is hard to lose 60 heifers, so it wasn’t too long before I found them, and luckily for me, they were all spread out across the field making it pretty simple to count them. Having finally accounted for them all, I just had to go back, update the list and head home for a much needed cup of tea!

Country Chicken Casserole with Sour Cream Scones

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First of all, I would like to apologise for this picture. I am not a professional photographer as I’m sure you can tell.  A girl can’t be good at everything!

This is what we had for tea last night. A slow cooker favourite, it doesn’t require much preparation so it’s pretty quick and easy. Here goes.

1 large onion, finely sliced

2 carrots, peeled and cut into strips

8  oz bobby beans, cut into 1-2 inch lengths

* 1/2 pepper (not necessary, I just needed to use it up and found it really added to the flavour)

4 chicken portions (I use breast, but thigh will work just as well)

10 fl oz chicken stock

Fry the onion in a little oil. I treated myself to a cast iron skillet and this was the first time I used it, I don’t know why I didn’t get one sooner! (I also treated myself to some books, but shhhhh!) Prepare the vegetables and put them in the slow cooker. Once the onions are browned, add them to the slow cooker and brown the chicken in the pan for about 5 minutes. When the chicken is done, place it on top of the vegetables and onion, pour in the chicken stock, and cook on low for 4-6 hours. This can be served with mashed potato, but my current favourite accompaniment to casseroles and stews are buttermilk biscuits. Unfortunately, I had no buttermilk, but I did have some sour cream left over, so I made sour cream scones instead.

8 oz plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

2 oz butter

5-6 fl oz sour cream

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and cut/rub in the butter until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in enough sour cream to make is hold together in a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead for 30 seconds. Pat it out to about 1/2 inch thick and cut out using a cookie cutter. (I used a small cutter, about 2 inches diameter, you could cut into squares or triangles if you wanted.) Place them on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12 – 15 minutes at 230°C. As soon as they come out the oven, split and butter them. Serve immediately.

The great thing about scones or biscuits is that you can bake up a batch and freeze any extra. When you want to use them you can pop them straight into a warm oven from frozen for about 20 minutes, either on a baking sheet or wrapped in a tea towel (don’t burn the towel, I speak from experience!)

Sour Cream Substitute

I don’t usually keep sour cream to hand, I just buy it in if I plan a recipe that needs it. But every now and then I come across a recipe that I really can’t wait to try, so postponing it until I get into town to buy sour cream is not an option. I came across a substitute that is fine for baking with, but which you wouldn’t really want to use as a dip or side dish. (I apologise for my grammar, I’m not fully concentrating!) You need a container with a lid, I favour a jam jar, but a bottle would work too. Put 1/2 pint (1 cup) of milk and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in the jar, put the lid on and give it a good shake. I try and make this at least an hour before I use it to give it time to react, but when it starts to curdle and thicken it’s good to go. I don’t know what the shelf life is, I always use it the day I make it. At the end of the day I’m not too worried if I have to throw a bit of it out, it’s only milk! If it’s left to stand a while it will separate and look kinda gross, but just give it a good shake. And there you have it, cheap, simple, and great for things like Lemon Cupcakes, Sour Cream Scones or Crazy Crust Chili Pie.