Strawberry no-churn Ice-Cream

Thanks to a combination of luck, good weather and my limited gardening skills, I have been getting a glut of fresh strawberries this Spring. So as a lover of ice cream and easy recipes, it is a perfect opportunity to make this dessert. But don’t worry, you do not have to have green fingers or a garden, this recipe works just as well with store-bought strawberries.

This recipe is based on the easiest ice cream recipe I have ever tried to make. In the video at about halfway, I even give you the option of making this as a vanilla ice cream, which tastes awesome by the way. So please, watch the video and give this a go, then tell me what you think.

Also, this is my first attempt at using the “WP Recipe maker” plug-in. Do you like it? does it make it easier to read? Please let me know your thoughts, thanks.

Strawberry ice cream sundae

Strawberry no-churn Ice-Cream

Homegrown Strawberries added to fresh cream, to make a no-churn, ice cream. Perfect on its own or in a sundae.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Freezing time 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 10 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 20 scoops
Calories 338 kcal

Equipment

  • Mixing bowl
  • Electric hand mixer
  • Food processor
  • Deep pie dish
  • Scraper / spatula

Ingredients
  

  • 200 g Strawberries
  • 1 tin Condensed Milk 1 x375g
  • 600 ml Thickened cream
  • 5 ml Vanilla paste

Instructions
 

  • Wash the strawberries in cold water. Remove the stalk and discard any fruit that is overly soft, discoloured or shows signs of damage. Then place on a greaseproof paper lined tray and into the freezer for an hour.
    200 g Strawberries
  • Double line the deep pie dish with cling wrap and place it in your freezer. It is best that you find a spot where it sits flat and level. As when the cream is added, you don't want it to leak before freezing.
  • Pour the condensed milk, cream and vanilla into a large mixing bowl. Using the electric mixer, beat for approximately 2 minutes until smooth and thickened.
    1 tin Condensed Milk, 600 ml Thickened cream, 5 ml Vanilla paste
  • Using a food processor or blender, whizz half the frozen strawberries to a fine gravel appearance. Add the remaining strawberries and whizz some more, to break up into small chunks and combine with the finer berry pieces.
    200 g Strawberries
  • Stir the berries into the cream. The finer berry pieces will flavour and colour the cream, while the chunkier pieces will disperse evenly to give yummy Strawberry chunks.
    200 g Strawberries, 1 tin Condensed Milk, 600 ml Thickened cream, 5 ml Vanilla paste
  • Pour into the prepared tray, cover well and return to the freezer until set. This may take several hours, so allow overnight if possible.

To Serve

  • Remove from the freezer about 10 to 15 minutes before serving to allow tosoften.

Video

Notes

This would work really well with other soft berries, like blueberries, raspberries or even blackberries; the process would be the same.
Or you may want to be adventurous and start making a whole host of different flavours.
For Chocolate, omit the berries and use 100g melted chocolate and 100g of chocolate chips for a choc-chunk feast. 
For Coffee ice cream just mix 2-3 teaspoons of instant coffee in 1 teaspoon of boiling water and stir in instead of the berries.
Keyword ice cream, icecream, strawberries, strawberry

Pumpkin spice everything

This time of year food based social media is dominated by Autumnal bounty of the Northern hemisphere and there are regular comments of “Pumpkin spice” in many many forms.

The thing is, outside of the North American continent, this is an unknown mix, or at least an unknown name for an existing mix of exotic ingredients. So to read about this regularly is like getting the traffic report for a distant foreign city in a country you have never visited – mildly interesting but makes no real sense as you have no idea what they mean.

So I did the research, trawled the internet, read through a wide selection of US and Canadian cookbooks and asked a few people, and narrowed the flavours down.

Must haves” that aren’t

What I found were most recipes agreed on three ingredients, namely Cinnamon, Ginger and Allspice. but in wildly different quantities. After that it was a free-for-all as to what else was in this mix.

On one recipe a “must have” would be listed on another as “not to be used“. Some insisted on having Pumpkin in the recipe, others omitted it. The same for Sugar, Maple Syrup, Salt, Black Pepper, Juniper, Cumin, Chilli or Vanilla, to name a few. The list was soon getting ridiculous.

AND don’t start me on how much of each, or whether it was by ounce, cup, gram, bushel, bucket or handful!

But wait thats…

Then when I looked at these recipes, I soon realised that they were similar combinations adjusted each time, or copied and amended as each cook chose to make their mark, or mixed up what was available with what they liked, to add extra flavour to the glut of the orange ground fruit.

Many of the Pumpkin spice recipes are similar to old European recipes for things like Easter Bun Spice, Christmas Mince Pie spice and a few other mixes that are stars in their own right in Middle Eastern or Asian desserts.

Which on reflection is quite easily explained; Colonists and settlers to the “New World” would have limited availability to certain ingredients and use what they have to hand. Mix what they knew with substitutes, omissions and preferences that would further shape the ingredients and flavours.

So when it came to choosing and mixing for the test recipes, I went through as best I could, even having a spreadsheet of all the spices I found, and then the percentage by weight of each spice in that recipe. It then became a combination of trial and error to get something I and my family liked as that was all that seemed to matter.

Not one, but two

This led to two simple recipes that could be thrown together in less time than it would take to read this post. I therefore give you recipe 1 and recipe 2. These are in teaspoons or tablespoons, but you can easily convert to grams, buckets or handfuls as the spices appear to weigh more or less the same amount at this scale.

Note – there is no Pumpkin in either of these recipes, as this will prolong the shelf life of the spice. I would suggest to add freshly cooked pumpkin at about 1 part spice to 20, or 1 teaspoon to 100g vegetable. This also allows this mix to then be used in some other great dishes when you don’t want pumpkin in there.

Recipe 1 – “Pumpkin Spice”

  • 2 level Teaspoons Ground Dutch Cinnamon
  • 2 level Teaspoons Ground Ginger
  • ¼ level Teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • ¼ level Teaspoon Ground Mace

Recipe 2 – “Pumpkin Spice”

  • 3 level Tablespoons Ground Dutch Cinnamon
  • 3 level Tablespoons Ground Ginger
  • 2 level Teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
  • 1½ level Teaspoons Ground Allspice
  • 1½ level Teaspoons Ground Cloves

Method – for either recipe

  • Measure each ingredient carefully and place in a bowl
  • Mix well
  • Store in a clean glass jar, with a tight fitting lid, out of bright light, and use as your subsequent recipe requires.

No Pumpkins were harmed in the making of this recipe

Halloween Pumpkin Cookies

It is coming to the end of October, and all things pumpkin are coming out of people’s kitchens, all thanks to Halloween. Here in Melbourne pumpkins are available all year around, thanks to the great Aussie climate, so if you are reading this in July, February or October you may still want to give this recipe a go. The pumpkin adds a special flavour to the cookie, and as there are no eggs in this recipe, it could easily be your newest vegan favourite.

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Pumpkin preparation

The recipe requires 75g of cooked pumpkin, which is only about ½ a cup. If you have some leftover cooked pumpkin, say from a previous side dish you may use it, but me mindful of the salt. I would say that it is better to make fresh however to ensure the taste and texture is not compromised.

There is no particular type of pumpkin this calls for, but I personally prefer Butternut. It has not too thick a skin that is easily removed with a knife; a nice large section of vegetable at one end full of the yummy orange flesh; the seeds are easily removed; and they appear to be available all year around. If you have any other preferred squash I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

As I was working this recipe out, I found that a roughly 100g raw piece of Butternut, would be sufficient for our needs, any excess was quickly gobbled up by my four-legged friend when mixed with his dinner.

The pumpkin was peeled and diced quite small, then added to a flat dish with a couple of tablespoons of water. I zapped it in the microwave for a minute, stirred and zapped again for a second minute. The pumpkin was soft enough to mash with a fork, but not overly cooked. Once cooled was perfect for the recipe.

Cooked Fresh Pumpkin

“Pumpkin Spice”

I have a full post on Pumpkin spice here See recipe but essentially it is Cinnamon, Allspice and Ginger with options on a few other things too. I would recommend making a batch up, as once you taste it you will want to use in all manner of things from coffee to fruit pies to Christmas treats and more.

Recipe

Makes 20-25 cookies

Ingredients.

  • For the biscuits
    • 200g Self-Raising Flour
    • 25g Cornflour
    • 100g Unsalted Butter (or suitable vegan/plant based ‘butter’)
    • 100g Light Brown Sugar
    • 75g Pumpkin – cooked (see note)
    • 10g “Pumpkin spice” (See note)
    • Pinch Salt
  • For the decoration
    • 200g Icing Sugar
    • Orange food colouring – I used a mix of red and yellow
    • Halloween inspired sprinkles (optional)

Method – Cookies

  • Preheat oven to 175°C, 350°F Gas mark 4
  • Line at least 2 cookie baking trays with greaseproof or silicone mats.
  • Combine the flours, butter, salt and pumpkin spice in your mixer on slow speed, or by hand, until it resembles breadcrumbs
  • Add the sugar and pumpkin and mix until forms a dough.
  • On a well flour-dusted surface, lightly knead the dough into a ball and roll out to about ½ cm or ¼ inch thickness
  • Use a round cookie cutter (I have a pumpkin shaped one!) Cut the biscuits and place on the first lined tray. Allow a gap around each of at least a finger width.
  • Gather trimmings of dough, reform and repeat from step 5 until all the dough is used
  • Mark the surface of each biscuit either using a fork or as per the video with the cutter and then a knife. Ensure to go at least half way but not all the way through, so to allow steam from the centre to escape.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 14-15 minutes until golden.
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Method – Decorating

You may wish to leave plain, as they are both sweet and, if you take care to mark as above, will look good as they are. If however you want to then add icing to the top here is how I did it for mine. Note I’m no cake decorator, but this seemed to work for even my clumsy pastry skills.

  1. Sieve the icing sugar to remove all lumps into a mixing bowl,
  2. Remove about a quarter and have to one side.
  3. Add cold water a few drops at a time and mix well with a spoon or spatula by hand. Aiming for a stiff liquid.
  4. Add a few drops of orange food colouring and beat into the mix, check the colour and add a little more until the desired colour is achieved.
  5. If too runny, add some of the reserved icing sugar, and mix again.
  6. Coat each cookie or make the icing a little thicker and pipe onto the cookies and allow to set for about 30 minutes.
  7. Store in a sealed container at room temperature, these will last about a week.

Gallery

Happy Halloween

Rhubarb crumble

Recently, a friend posted on their Instagram a fruit crumble, with rhubarb and ginger. Her children called it “Gruffalo Crumble” which, if you know the book in question, is especially amusing. It being the Northern hemisphere Autumn, I have since seen several more crumbles or ‘crisps’ as the various fruits are harvested. And so I thought it would be good to both make and share my rhubarb crumble as I haven’t had it in a while, but it is always welcome.

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The Rhubarb

Rhubarb is generally sold in small bunches, the leaves already removed. The leaves are large, very large, and also poisonous, so no one needs to be bringing them home from the shops.

Forced rhubarb is not as dark as fresh rhubarb, nor as strong. It is grown in darkness, and can be harvested far quicker, it is usually this type that is sold in stores. If it is grown out in the open and not forced, the skin is dark, tough, stringy, sour and will need peeling before being used. Ask when you are buying if you are not sure or it is not labelled.

Rhubarb is great in a crumble, but can be really sour sometimes, so needs a little help in the cooking. Good companions to the rhubarb are brown sugar, fresh ginger, and lemon juice too. Together they bring out the flavour of the rhubarb beautifully. Some blueberries and diced apple completed my fruit mix for this particular crumble. Partly as I had several apples needing to be eaten, partly as blueberries were super-cheap in the shops this week.

The Crumble – tips

As for the crumble component, its an old family recipe my wife and I made up together, and makes a light, crisp and sweet topping to perfectly complement the soft fruit. There are a few tricks to making it really ‘crumble’ and not just a dry dust, or worse a large thick unbreakable concrete layer.

  • Make sure the mix is not too moist with the butter, it needs to ne still like loose breadcrumbs not a dough like mix.
  • When putting on the top of the fruit, gently squash lumps together. They will make larger clumps as they cook, to give the crumble ‘body’.
  • The Oats I use are ‘rolled oats’, be careful which you buy as there are several different types, these are not pre-steamed like ‘quick oats’, nor are they chopped like ‘steel-cut’ but are basically whole flattened oat grains to get that large open crumble texture.
  • Melted butter is absorbed easier to the mix, while allowing the mix to remain loose. Cold butter, is great for a coarse crumble, but can leave drier sections if not mixed in properly.
  • Loosen up the top of the crumble with a fork once all spread on top and it will go extra crispy.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • The Fruit
    • 500g, – 1 bunch Rhubarb stalks
    • 1 thumb sized knob of Fresh Ginger,
      • or 1 teaspoon of dried ground Ginger
    • 2 Apples
    • 1 Lemon
    • 100g – ½ cup Soft Brown Sugar
    • 250g punnet of blueberries
  • The Crumble
    • 200g -1 ½ cups Rolled Oats
    • 400g – 2½ cups of Plain Flour
    • 220g – 1 cup Melted Unsalted Butter
    • 100g – ½ cup Soft Brown Sugar
    • Pinch salt
    • 120ml – 1 cup Organic Maple Syrup – (Make sure its the real deal not corn syrup or maple flavoured rubbish)

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 130 °C 250°F Gas ¼
  • Wash the Rhubarb and if the skin is thick, peel to remove the stringy outer layer. Chop into 2-3cm, – 1 inch long pieces. Discard any leaf pieces. Place in the bottom of a large baking dish.
  • Dice 1 apple, discarding the core; zest and juice the lemon; peel and dice the ginger. Scatter these and the brown sugar evenly all over the rhubarb.
  • Cover with a good fitting lid or tightly with foil and bake for 2 hours.
  • Remove from oven and add the blueberries and other apple also diced and cored.
  • Turn oven to 180°C 350°F Gas 4 and allow to reach temperature.
  • Combine all the crumble ingredients except the maple syrup in a bowl. It should form into a coarse, wet crumb, that does not quite stick together.
  • Cover the fruit evenly with the crumble mix, pressing lightly onto the fruit. It should start to clump together and in turn will give a better texture once cooked.
  • Drizzle the maple syrup all over the top and allow to soak in for 5 minutes.
  • Bake in the oven with no cover for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

I like this both hot from the oven, or cold the next day. I can be served just as is, or with ice-cream, cream or custard. I went to the extra effort and made a classic egg custard for this and will create a separate post and link here on how to make.

Lemon Curd

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This particular recipe is another amended from the classic Mrs Beeton’s, one of my favourite classic cookbooks. I have adjusted the quantities, as once made, this stuff goes quickly.

When we moved to our home in 2003, we planted a lemon tree in the backyard. we were hopeful for fruit but is was several years before we got any. The tree suffered 10 years of severe drought, and my poor but persistent gardening skills. And only in the last couple of years has it really been fruiting. so much so I have even been donating fruit to passers by to our driveway.

If you don’t have a spare 18 years to wait for a tree to grow, shop bought lemons are perfectly fine for this recipe.

Notes

Having made this a few times there are a few things to bear in mind before you dive in and start making.

The recipe makes about 1 to 1.2 litres (3.5 – 4 cups) of liquid curd, that will need to be safely stored for later. I prepare 6 x 300ml glass jars and lids, for a total of 1.8 litres. If you have larger or smaller jars or even a combination; it doesn’t matter, just make sure you over estimate the final volume and prepare accordingly. I do this so that I then know I won’t be scrambling at the end to clean and sterilise an extra jar or two.

As with all baking and cooking, if you only have salted butter, it will still work, but not be as sweet tasting. If you only have margarine, my sympathies.

Finally, remember to relax into the process to be rewarded. Be aware this takes a while, don’t try to rush it or you will get lemon-sugar flavoured scrambled eggs, or some runny yellow ooze. DO NOT look at social media, the TV or something else to distract you, most certainly don’t try to cook other things. The stirring of curds once the eggs are added will need for full attention for around 10 minutes until it is off the heat and in the jars.

The set-up – a “Bain-Marie”

The curd is cooked in a ‘bain-marie’ a hot bath of water, kept just below boiling (around 75-80°C) to allow a low even heat, that will (hopefully) not curdle the liquid. I always use a metal or heat resistant glass bowl, not plastic for this. No one likes cleaning molten plastic from their stove.

It is a great process for many things, from this lemon curd, the warming of milk, the melting of chocolate, an old fashioned rice pudding, the even cooking of a Béchamel sauce. All will benefit from this slower, but more even cooking as the liquid can never go over the boiling point of water, and so cannot burn.

However, a couple of words of caution.

  1. As the upper container is basically heated by the steam from below, there will be leakage of steam around it. Be really careful of this steam, as you may not see it before it burns you.
  2. Always hold the upper container when stirring or whisking, even if it is a purpose built pan set, it will wobble and you could loose everything.
Pan with a glass bowl makes an excellent bain-marie

Recipe

Zesting the lemons (36 Seconds)
Music is “I have a reservation” from YouTube music library

Ingredients

  • 4 large Lemons
  • 6 x extra large Eggs
  • 450g 2Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 150g Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces
  1. Thoroughly wash and rinse the required jars and lids (see notes) then place on a baking tray and into an oven at 110°C, 225°F, Gas mark ¼
  2. Wash the lemons then zest and juice them. As we will be straining the liquid later the zest can be coarse and there is no issue if any pips are in the juice.
  3. Measure the sugar into a large heat resistant bowl, and add the zest and juice of the lemons.
  4. Place the bowl over a pan of hot water to form the bain-marie and stir gently until all the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.
  5. Take off the heat and stir in the butter until melted.
  6. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, and whisk lightly.
  7. Slowly pour the cooled lemon mix through a sieve, to remove the zest pieces and any pips, and onto the eggs whisking continuously so to combine and not scramble the eggs.
  8. Place the egg-lemon mix back on the bain-marie and stir gently and continuously. Ensure to stir the bottom, middle and sides. The mixture is going to cook mainly from where it is in contact with the bowl and a heat resistant spatula or wooden spoon is best for this task.
  9. After about five minutes, the mixture will be become thick and glossy. The exact point when it it ready is a judgement call, not a measurable one.
  10. Take the jars from the oven and carefully fill each jar to the very top and put the lids on . The heat will create a vacuum seal and preserve the curd. If you have a half filled jar as is likely, put the lid on too, it will not seal quite the same and best that you just eat this one first.
  11. Once cool, ensure to label the jars with both what is in it and when it was made.

Your lemon curd is ready to eat immediately, but will benefit from being allowed to rest for a couple of days if possible.

Waffling Waffles

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Friday, and its the beginning of school holidays my youngest woke at 5am and wanted waffles for breakfast!!

Thing is he only really wants a swimming pool of the maple syrup, and will probably only eat half of the waffles. My other son smothers the one he wants with cinnamon sugar, also smothering the worktop in the process. Both then rush off as the dining table is ‘boring’ and they have Mines to craft, you-tubes to watch, Lego to scatter on the floor and who knows what. Teddy, our dog, also loves waffles (and anything that isn’t kiwi fruit) so he generally gets a plain piece once we are done.

Fortunately, that then leaves a leisurely breakfast and chat over Greek coffee for my wife and I. Plus, I can pretend to be healthy with fruit appearing on the plate, along with the cinnamon sugar, organic maple syrup, vanilla bean ice cream and sprinkling of dark choc chips.

The recipe I use is loosely based on one from an updated edition of the glorious Mrs. Beeton’s Home management. A great book for classic recipes and ideas, I would strongly recommend anyone to have a copy. I have amended their recipe, to make this my own, and present it below

Oh and if you are worried about my waistline and all those calories I ingested, they were used up in hand splitting a whole pile of pine logs for my mother-in-law.

Recipe

The waffle stack before I drizzled the maple syrup
The waffle stack before I drizzled the maple syrup

Ingredients

[Makes about a dozen waffles]

  • 400g self raising flour
  • 120g unsalted butter
  • 3 x 70g Eggs (extra large) or 4 x 60g eggs (large)
  • 600ml whole milk
  • 5g salt
  1. Turn on your waffle iron, and allow to heat to temperature.
  2. Melt the butter, and allow to cool.
  3. Measure the flour into a large bowl.
  4. Separate the egg whites and yolks, placing the yolks with the flour and the whites into a separate large bowl.
  5. Add salt to whites and whisk to soft firm peak. I use the electric hand mixer for speed, and while noisy, it does save the arm muscles when you are still half asleep.
  6. Whisk the milk and butter into the flour to form an even batter without lumps. If you have already done the whites, you can use the same whisk no need to wash or grab another.
  7. Fold about a third of the egg whites into the batter, repeat with half of remaining, and then all. be careful folding in so not to loose all that incorporated air, that is what helps to make the crispy outer shell.
  8. Spoon just enough batter into your waffle iron, we have two different ones, a rectangular one that takes 3 tablespoons and a round one that takes 6 tablespoons. It is best to go with less is more with a waffle iron, they won’t leak on your worktop, and you get that great raggedy edge
  9. Serve with lots of sweet sugary toppings of your choice.

[This post also appeared on my Instagram feed 18th Sept 2021, minus the recipe]

Pork and Sage Meatballs in Tomato Sauce.

The other day I was in the butcher’s looking for inspiration, the various cuts and joints were all making their foodie dreams into my head. Should I go for a roast beef, some BBQ chicken wings, how about a classic Toad-in-the-hole. Then, as I stood looking at the pork belly and considering another joyous adventure to flavourtown and crispy crackling, I had a particular neuron fire with gusto. I could hear a little voice saying “meatballs, meeeeeetballs, meeeeaaaatbaaaalls!!” So instead pork meatballs it had to be.

When it came to making these, I decided to make in the food processor rather than chop, shred or dice by hand. This was partly as I needed to make breadcrumbs from a load of old crusts and some stale bread I had and didn’t want to waste. So as the machine is out, lets use it!

Normally, I would not recommend chopping an onion in a food processor. It purees some, while big bits will be stuck to the sides in an ugly mess. However, I want basically an onion puree to flavour the meat evenly, with no chunks in my final ball. So a longer whizzzy-whiz would bring up the goods with no effort.

The bread is there to allow the moisture and in turn the flavour of the meat to stay in the meatball and not leak out into the sauce, but also the flavours from the sauce to find a way in and add that extra bit of flavour.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • For the meatballs
    • 600g Pork mince
    • 1 onion
    • 1 slice of fresh bread
    • 10 -12 fresh sage leaves
    • 1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
    • Salt n pepper
  • For the Sauce
    • 1 jar passata
    • A sprig of fresh thyme – or 1 level teaspoon of dried.
    • A sprig of fresh oregano – or 1 level teaspoon of dried.
    • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Salt n pepper
  • 2 cups or 400 g white long grain rice (or tagliatelle pasta, see note at the end of recipe)
  1. Peel and roughly chop the onion, and place in the food processor, rip up the bread and add with the paprika.
  2. Turn on the machine (in a commercial kitchen it’s referred to as either “Blitz“, “Blitzing” or sometimes “whizzing“) and run until there are no large pieces left and it is evenly chopped. you may need to stop the machine a couple of times and use a scraper to get larger bits off the side of the bowl.
  3. With the processor is running, drop the sage leaves in and then add some pork mince a little at a time until all in there and combined.
  4. Season well with salt cracked black pepper
  5. Turn off the machine, (unplug it too to be safe) Take about a tablespoon of mix and with wet hands or while wearing food grade gloves is better, form into a ball. Aim for a golf or ping pong ball sort of size, a slight variation among each is not an issue.
  6. Put the ball into a large casserole or baking dish, and repeat . The balls can touch, but it is best if they are a single layer.
  7. Pour the passata, oil, vinegar and sugar into the now empty bowl of the food processor, “whiz” to combine. this also has the added effect of collecting any remnants of the meat mix.
  8. Pour the sauce onto the meatballs.
  9. Rip up the sauce herbs and sprinkle on top, season the whole dish and drizzle a little more olive oil over the top. – if however using dried herbs, stir them into the sauce or they will burn.
  10. Cover and bake at 160°C 325°F for 45 minutes. check occasionally to ensure not loosing too much moisture, add boiling water if needed and stir in gently.
  11. About 20 mins before serving prepare the rice by placing the measured amount in a pan, covering with enough cold water that there is a layer as deep to the first knuckle of the middle finger.
  12. Bring rice to boil, then turn off heat, put a lid on and allow to stand and absorb the moisture. DO NOT LIFT LID!
  13. Remove the lid of the casserole and add a sprinkling of cheese, this can be mixed with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs for extra crunch. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.
  14. Serve to your hungry guests who will be able to smell the yumminess.

Note that is you prefer these go really well with a pasta instead of rice. I prefer a simple pasta, like tagliatelle or spaghetti, but have also served with a ricotta and spinach ravioli with success.

A real slow, fire roasted Shepherd’s Pie

A classic cooked with the aid of a wood fire – This is a long process, but bear with me, it is so very much worth it !

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Most of us at some time have made shepherd’s pie in one form or another. It is one of those dishes that schoolkids make in “Home Economics” or whatever the cookery class is currently renamed . But how many of us actually make a proper shepherd’s pie?

I don’t usually like to tell people about making a dish ‘properly’, but if we are to be technical there are a couple of things to note.

  • The dish similar to this but with beef is technically a Cottage Pie [I am sure I will blog that at some point and attach the link here when I do.]
  • As here, it is a much better dish if made from the collected leftovers of a good lamb roast, and raw mince. The meat has more flavour, there is gravy and cooked veg to add too.
  • As we are using leftovers, ensure to get them in the fridge as soon as cooking is over. No one wants to get sick!
  • The mash potato should be seasoned with white and not black pepper, (this is a great general rule for potato dishes)
  • Tomato sauce/ketchup is added to the meat sauce, and if someone wants to add more when you serve, just let them.
  • Don’t rush the process, relax and enjoy.

Slow cooking as a process adds flavours and softens meat to a consistency that is incomparable. As a bonus it will fill your kitchen, or in this case garden, with the most wonderful smells too. Fats will render, the flavourful oils of herbs and spices will come to the fore, juices will become the finest jus. It also gives the perfect excuse to have some personal space, “Sorry, I cant come. I have a pot on the stove.”

Slow cooking is a year round thing, though best in winter for many dishes. The need for the oven to be on for hours; the vegetables suitable to be included being in season; the final dish being a warm hug to the soul.

Finally, as I state in the title this was fire roasted – cooked in my pizza oven no less. If you don’t have a pizza oven or a suitable BBQ to cook on, then a slow cooker, or a regular oven will do, but may take longer to get that melting meat needed.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • For the lamb roast
    • 1.5 to 2kg leg of lamb, bone-in preferred, An “easy carve’ or boneless is fine if that’s all you can get.
    • 1 large brown onion
    • 2-3 Carrots
    • 1 Leek
    • A handful – about 200g green beans
    • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
    • 2 to 3 sprigs each of Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano – or 1 teaspoon of dried
    • a good sprinkling of salt and black pepper
    • Approx. 100ml – 1/2 cup Olive oil
    • Whatever usual garnish you wish roast potatoes or salad or similar.
  • For the Mash
    • 1.5 kg good mashing potatoes, floury not waxy.
    • 1 large dollop of unsalted butter
    • about 50ml or a 1/4 cup of milk
    • a handful, up to 1 cup of grated cheese – I used “Tasty” the Australian equivalent of English Cheddar
    • Salt and ground White pepper
  • For the meat sauce – depending on how much you have left
    • 1 slice of bread
    • 2 tablespoons – tomato ketchup
4 hours of slow cook later

Method – Part 1 – First the roast

  1. Get the wood fired pizza oven or BBQ to about 200°C – 450°F but add no more extra fuel, the fire needs to naturally cool over the cooking process.
  2. Peel and chop the onion into chunky pieces, about the size of the end of your thumb, place in the bottom of a large fireproof, preferable cast iron pan.
  3. Repeat with the carrot and leek, ensuring to wash the grit and dirt from between the leek leaves.
  4. Place the lamb on top. If you wish to stud the lamb with the garlic and herbs, by all means do
  5. place the herbs and garlic around the lamb, season well and fill the pot to cover about three quarters of the lamb with cold water. Drizzle well with olive oil.
  6. Put the lid on the pan and into the oven, as far from the fire as possible. Almost close the door, but keep the flue open. As per step one, the idea is to allow the fire naturally die over the next 3 to 4 hours and the radiant heat penetrate the meat slowly, not dry it out.
  7. Check the meat after the first hour, basting and adding more water if needed. Repeat at the second and third hour mark. If the fire is dying too quickly add charcoal or just a few smaller sticks, the temp needs to stay above 150°C but not climb above the starting point.
  8. Trim the ends off the green beans, and in the last 30 minutes add them to the pot, ensuring to submerge in the cooking liquid.
  9. If you are serving any of this as a roast, allow to stand for at least 15 minutes away from the heat. the cooking liquid is an excellent sauce and does not need gravy powder or other thickeners.
  10. Try not to eat it all in the first go.
  11. Put everything not eaten in the fridge overnight.

Method – Part 2 – the Pie

  1. Remove the roast from the fridge and remove all the meat from the bones. No need for finesse, chunks is fine. Large pieces of fat should be discarded, but smaller pieces can remain.
  2. Remove the fat from the reserved cooking liquid,
  3. Using a mincer (my hand mincer is shown) process all the meat, Any cooked vegetables that are left*, including the beans and smaller fat pieces. Place all into a large cooking pot with the cooking liquid.
    1. * don’t add the garnishes or salad or whatever you served the roast with unless you think it will go okay, cucumber does not belong in a shepherd’s pie.
  4. Roughly chop the potatoes and boil in salted water or preferably steam until soft – roughly 20 minutes. I like to leave the skin on mine for extra flavour, goodness and fibre.
  5. The meat needs to have a reasonable amount of liquid like a bolognaise. if there is not enough you can add water, stock or a tomato passata, depending on what you have. Bring the meat to a slow boil, then simmer 15 minutes, stirring so not to burn.
  6. Mash the potatoes – either with a vegetable ricer, or by hand. Then add the butter, seasoning and a little of the milk. Check the consistency and add more milk only if needed, the aim is to have a firm but not stiff mash.
  7. Add the meat to a deep pie dish, and level out. If making individual pies lay your dishes out all out, and ensure to put even amount in each. The dish(es) should be no more than half full.
  8. If you want to be super-flashy, you can pipe the mash, but a spoon and dollop will get the job done quicker. Add small amounts of mash to the top of the meat in blobs and then smooth out to evenly cover. Use a fork to mark the top once done.
  9. Cover the top with the grated cheese and bake at 160°C 325°F for 15 mins until the cheese melts.

Serve immediately.

Not Your Regular Cookie

A crispy, chewy dog biscuit, which just might go well with cheese.
(Makes approximately 30)

Jump to Recipe

We made a decision on adopting Teddy, that our noodle-horse would get more than just ‘dog-food‘ wherever possible. We usually buy meat for human consumption, as the requirements and checks for safety are far higher, while ensuring our beast got proper dog-safe nutrition. I sometimes post on Teddy’s Instagram the meals we prepare and if there’s call for it, I will repost some here.

Anyway, I wanted to make something for Ted we could hand out as a treat, which would not be sugar or salt filled, have both a chewiness to it and crunch, be nutritionally good for him, also wasn’t expensive and preferably easy to make. It also had to be able to be stored for a reasonable amount of time at room temperature.

A whole tray of waffle biscuits ready to try

I messed around with a few things, and came up with these biscuits. Greyhounds are known to have delicate tummies, so the added lentils are great to help. The use of the rice and tapioca flour reduces gluten and increases the crispness to the outside and the chew to the inside.

The lentil mix I use is sometimes sold as “soup mix” a dehydrated blend of pearl barley, buckwheat, soybean, red and green lentils. I find this works really well and is easy to find in most supermarkets or independent food stores.

I make these large size as he is a large dog. If you have a smaller dog, and want to try them, you can either break up for them or make mini-cookies suitable for their smaller teeth. I would suggest keeping the lentils as they are to promote chewing, and thus saving your shoes, table-legs, books, etc from a similar fate.

Snapping one of the Lentil dog biscuits

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 100g – 3/4 cup “soup mix” lentils
  • 350g – 2 and 1/3 cups Plain flour
  • 50g – 1/3 cup Rice flour
  • 50g – 1/3 cup – Tapioca flour
  • 50g – 1/3 cup – Lard (beef dripping, tallow or bacon fat all work well in this as alternates)
  • 2g, pinch of salt

Method

  1. Soak the lentil mix in cold water overnight.
  2. Turn oven to 150°C, 300°F, Gas Mark 2, grease and line your biscuit baking trays, at least 2 will be needed.
  3. Put lentils into a pan and bring to boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to stand.
  4. Add all the other ingredients to a large bowl.
  5. Drain the lentils, reserving the cooking water , add both the lentils and 200ml – 3/4 cup of the hot cooking water to the mix.
  6. Stir well. It will be a sticky lumpy mess at first, just ensure the flour is all combined into the dough.
  7. Place 1 tablespoon blobs on the baking trays and flatten, leaving about 1 inch or 2cm all around each one. Prick with a fork to allow steam to escape and so the biscuit to crisp.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
  9. Allow to cool on the tray. They can be stored in an airtight container in a cupboard for a few weeks, or in the refrigerator in warmer weather.

As you can see from the pictures, and the video, I also cooked some of the mix from a previous batch in the waffle iron. These worked really well, but took a long time to cook, so please be patient if you try it. I do know Teddy loved these, so I will have to make again.

Lastly, What’s this thing about cheese? Well I said we ensure Ted has high quality food, and we all know dogs love cheese but should not really have it, but please check the below video for context.

Needs Cheese – perhaps a Red Leicester or a Stilton

Chewy Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Cookies

It’s absolutely irresistible! A delicious chocolate chip cookie, with the perfect combination of crunch and silky smoothness. This mouthwatering creation was inspired by a recipe in a magazine that my wife altered to suit our preferences. She’s swapped sultanas for cranberries and omitted milk chocolate chips in preference for dark chocolate. We’re sure you’ll love this recipe as much as we do.

Jump to #recipe

Tips

As with all baking sessions, I strongly recommend to read the whole recipe, then gather all your ingredients and utensils before starting to bake. Realising mid-bake your favourite biscuit tray is in the freezer with sausage rolls, or the choc chips have all been eaten, results in real frustration, and possible need to go shopping mid bake.

Also, I like to have uniform sized cookies, to prevent arguments later, and use either scales or a small mechanical ice-cream scoop; the sort with a squeeze handle, that helps the spoon contents drop out. This tool is great but is not a requirement, I do find it is a good way to get the dough onto the tray quickly and with little fuss.

Ingredient tips

For this recipe, it is best to have all your ingredients at room temperature, the butter will be softer for mixing, and there us no temperature shock and mixture clumping as they combine. A better raw mix makes for easier baking, and a far better final product.

Butter , egg and brown sugar ready to be mixed
Butter , egg and brown sugar ready to be mixed

Plain flour or biscuit flour? Any white plain flour will be okay for this recipe, but as a general guide try to use flour with a 10% or less protein content, They are sometimes referred to as ‘Soft flour’. This covers all the basic plain supermarket flour, and so there is no need to start searching packets or going to go get ‘biscuit flour’ just for this bake. Bread flour has a higher protein content, usually over 11% and will work but give a different texture and not that crisp crunch. Whole wheat, or Whole grain flour will absorb more of the moisture from the egg and would need additional liquid to work (try a tablespoon of milk). Finally, if you use Self-raising, you will get some nice, but rather dry muffins.

I would suggest you really look at the wide choice of choc chips you use when baking. Many marked “suitable for baking” contain only miniscule percentages of the cocoa solids we are wanting for good flavour. Check the ingredients on the pack before you buy, and check the taste of the chips once the pack is open. I use dark and not milk choc chips as I find they are not too sweet, have little or no milk solids too. I sometimes use just a block of good quality choc and break into small pieces, the random edges and odd sizes add to the random combination of each bite.

Recipe

Ingredients

(Makes about 30 cookies)

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 275g brown sugar
  • 1 Egg (large or extra large)
  • 185g White Plain Flour (biscuit flour if available)
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 35g Cocoa Powder
  • 85g Dried Cranberries
  • 85g White Chocolate Chips
  • 85g Dark Chocolate Chips
  • 2 g ( pinch) salt

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 160C, 325 F, Gas 3, grease and line at least 2 large baking trays with baking paper or silicon mats.
  • In a large bowl, combine the salt, sugar, butter and vanilla, careful not to overmix, but only to remove any clumps or lumps of either butter or sugar. it will still be grainy at this stage but that is okay.
  • Add the egg and beat again until smooth.
The butter and sugar mix before and then after the addition of the egg
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into mix and add the chocolate chips and cranberries.
  • Mix well to ensure all the flour is combined into the dough, and not streaky or any dry parts. This will make sure the chips and cranberries are evenly distributed.
  • Place tablespoon amounts of dough onto the trays allow at least 5cm (2 inches) between each cookie. ( resist the urge to eat the cookie dough )
  • Bake in preheated oven for 9-10 minutes per tray.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the tray then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
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