Root Vegetable Mash & Potato Croquettes

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My husband, while quite competent in the kitchen, feels that he is not a very good cook. Despite this, he has turned out some extremely tasty meals in the past, not least a meal for 6 including 2 types of home-made pie and home-made chips. When he cooks just for the two of us however, he tends to get a little ‘experimental’. Usually this involves taking herbs and spices at random and adding it to whatever he’s cooking. This results in some very, shall we say, interesting flavours. The other day was one of those days when we had no idea what to cook for tea, and so ended up just finding things and turning them into a meal. We had oven baked salmon, mushy peas and a Hubby-concoction, root vegetable mash. We had been given some veg by a neighbour, so to make use of it he got imaginative.

4 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 small-medium beetroot, peeled and cut into chunks

The ratio you want here is approx 1/2 potato, 1/4 carrot and 1/4 beetroot. Boil each vegetable separately to contain the flavours, then drain and mix, mashing roughly to leave it quite chunky. This way you still get the beetroot and carrot flavours coming out.

We had some left over so I made croquettes the following night. You can do this with regular mashed potato too.

2 slices bread, crumbed finely

1 egg, beaten

mashed potato

Take a dessert-spoonful of potato and roll it into a ball. Coat it in breadcrumbs, then egg, then breadcrumbs again. Place on a baking sheet. I made about 6 before running out of breadcrumbs, so if you have more potato you may need more crumbs and bread. Bake at 200ºC for 20 – 30 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.

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Chocolate-Chip Brioche Rolls

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Fresh bread, in my opinion, is one of the best, most comforting and satisfying smells there are. Making bread is also an experience I enjoy. The smell, seeing how it has risen and is all soft and fluffy, and the workout you get kneading it! And just imagine how much better fresh bread is when it has butter and chocolate in it? These are best eaten still warm, with plenty of butter.

7 g sachet dried yeast (2 tsp)

8 oz strong white bread flour

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 tbsp tepid water

2 oz butter, melted and cooled (use real butter, not margarine or butter substitutes)

Pack of dark chocolate chips

Lightly oil a 12 hole muffin tin. Mix flour, sugar and yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water, eggs and melted butter. Stir to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth. Put in back in the bowl and cover with cling film. Set it in a warm place to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size. Once risen, knead again for about 5 minutes. Cut the dough into 12 relatively equal pieces. When kneading fruit into dough I find it spits it out as fast as I can incorporate it, so as you don’t want to be messing about with chocolate for too long, here’s my little trick. Flatten out a piece of dough slightly, and scatter some chocolate chips on the table. Press the dough onto the chips, picking up approximately 10. Fold the edges down and under, trapping the chocolate inside. Place in the tin, fold side down so you have a nice smooth top. Do this with the rest of the pieces, and then cover with oiled cling film again and leave to rise until they are light and puffy and reach the top of the tin. If you want you can brush with beaten egg, then bake them at 230ºC for 10 minutes, until golden. Enjoy!

(These don’t keep too well, so make sure you eat them in a couple of days! To warm them up, wrap them in foil and pop them in a 200ºC oven for 5 – 10 minutes.)

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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I have about 5 recipes with pictures all waiting to be blogged, and I’m planning on working on some more, but in the meantime, here’s a fun little one. It does mean a bit of faffing about, but if you have a pumpkin (Pumpkin Pie will be up at some point soon!), why not use the seeds as well as the flesh?

Scrape the pith and seeds out of the pumpkin as you would if you were preparing it for cooking down the flesh. Pick out as much of the orange stringy pith, and then wash the seeds, getting rid of all the little bits. Spread the seeds out on a towel to dry. If you want to speed up the drying process a bit, either use a hairdryer or put them on a baking tray at very low heat (somewhere between 50°C and 80°C. Keep shaking them about, and make sure they don’t cook.

When the seeds are dry, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then put in the oven at 135°C for 20 – 35 minutes. Check every 10 minutes or so, and give them a shake around each time. Some ovens may cook a lot faster than others, and I know mine is pretty cool and slow. When they begin to brown, they should be done. Try one if you’re not too sure! Give them a chance to cool down, then store in an airtight container. They are great for snacking or decorating other foods, like pumpkin soup.

If you want to use them for baking, try dry-roasting. Alternative flavourings could include garlic or chili, or try some mixed spice for a more sweet autumnal flavour.

Creamy Chicken Pie

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Wow, doesn’t that look amazing? I’ve just eaten breakfast, but my mouth is watering just remembering how good this was. The pastry was absolutely perfect, the best I’ve ever made. (Actually, Hubby makes better pastry than me!)

Pastry first:

12 oz plain flour

7 oz butter

1 beaten egg plus 1tbsp cold water (or just use all cold water)

If you use a food processor, put the pastry and the butter, cut into cubes, into the blender and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Run it on the slow setting and add the beaten egg/water until the pastry forms a ball. If you do it by hand, rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs, then mix in the egg/water (I use a fork for this bit) until it forms a ball. Finish mixing by hand. Wrap the pastry in cling film and put it in the fridge until you need to use it.

Now for the filling:

2 oz butter

2 oz flour

1 clove garlic, chopped or crushed

1/4 pt milk

2 tbsp white wine

1/4 pt chicken stock

3 – 4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped, or 1 small roast chicken

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and gently cook the garlic. Add the flour and mix well. SLOWLY add the milk, a little at a time, stirring into a smooth paste between additions. Now add the wine and stock and stir frequently to avoid sticking. Once the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat.

Get the pastry out of the fridge and cut about 2/3 off to line the pie tin. Roll out the pastry and line the tin, trimming the edges. Fill the lined tin with the chicken pieces, and pour in the sauce. Brush the edge of the pastry with milk, water or beaten egg. Roll out the remaining pastry for the lid, and place over the top of the pie. Press the edges down with a knife handle or the tines of a fork, and trim the excess pastry. With a sharp knife, make a couple of cuts in the lid of the pie, and then brush with milk or beaten egg. Bake on a tray (to catch spills and save having to clean the oven!) at 200°C for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the pastry is perfectly golden.

Chicken and vegetable pie: Add some cooked veg (carrots, broccoli…) to the chicken and sauce.

Chicken and mushroom pie: Gently fry some mushrooms in butter and add to the chicken.

Chicken, ham and leek pie: Fry some leeks and add to the chicken, along with some chunky pieces of chopped ham.

 

Perfect Roast Potatoes

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As I had the day off yesterday, I decided to use that time to make a roast chicken dinner. Usually I cheat by throwing the chicken in the slow cooker, par-boiling the potatoes and preparing the veg before I go to work, then when I get home, I roast the potatoes and cook the veg and voila, a chicken dinner, after a fashion. Yesterday I had the time to oven cook the chicken, and roast the potatoes properly. My roasties are generally hit and miss, sometimes they are great, other times they are still hard in the middle. I did a bit of research, some experimentation, made my hubby eat the experiment… His conclusion? ‘Pretty good!’

Peel the potatoes and cut into halves or quarters, depending on how big they are. Put in a pan of slightly salted water, bring to the boil, and boil for 5 – 7 minutes. While they are cooking, prepare the baking tray. If you happen to have some sitting around, use goose fat; for us normal people, regular oil will suffice. Put about 2 tbsp oil in the tray and pop at the top of the oven at 190ºC – 200ºC.

Once the potatoes have boiled, don’t let them sit in the water; try and drain them straight away into a colander. Give them a minute or two to cool, and then shake them about a bit to rough them up. The roughened edges will absorb the oil and make them crispier. Dust them lightly with some flour (any flour will do, I used bread flour as I had it out at the time!) and then put them in the hot baking tray. Be careful not to splash, hot oil hurts! Shake them around a little, or turn them over, just make sure they are well coated with oil. They need about 1 hour in the oven, turn them every 15 minutes to get a nice even finish.

They were the best potatoes I’ve made in a long time 🙂 Keep your eyes peeled for more posts in the near future, I am currently making a chicken pie with the left-over chicken, and remember you can always make stock from the carcass.