Beef and Guinness Pie

Beef and Guinness pie 3

Now for a warming Sunday dinner. This is not a pie you can pull together midweek – this is pie that needs time, although not attention, and so slots in nicely between mounds of washing and blasts of vacuuming. This makes enough for 2- 4 people depending on appetites.

First the filling. Fry 60g of smoked bacon lardons in a frying pan in a small amount of sunflower oil til coloured and releasing fat into the pan. Scope out and set aside. Finely slice 2 shallots and then fry them in the bacon fat til soft. Then add to the bacon. Coat 600g of cubed stewing beef in 2tbsp of seasoned flour. Add a bit more oil to the pan and fry the beef in batches until brown. Put all the meat mix into a clean pan.

Take a 500ml bottle of Guinness. Add a splash to the frying pan to deglaze it. Then add this to the meat mix along with the rest of the Guinness, a splash of Worcester sauce, 2 bay leaves and 2 sprigs of thyme. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and cover.
Beef and Guinness pie 1

Leave on a low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (more won’t hurt it) until the beef is tender. Thickly slice 250g of chestnut mushrooms and add them to the pan. Cook for another 30-45 minutes. Remove the filling with a slotted spoon and reduce the remaining liquor by about a third – you want a thick sauce that just covers the meat. Put a teaspoon of cornflour into a mug and add some of the liquor a teaspoon at a time to form a thick paste. Return to the pan and boil stirring vigorously until the liquor thickens. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of redcurrant jelly (to taste) and season. Return the meat to the pan, stir and leave to cool.

Now for the pastry.
Beef and Guinness pie 2

Cube 75g of butter and 35g of lard. Add to 225g of plain flour and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Blitz until breadcrumb in texture. Then add a tablespoon of water at a time until it starts to come together and then bring together with you hands. Chill for 30mins.

Split into 1/3 and 2/3. Roll out the larger piece and line the bottom of the pie dish. Add the cold filling. Roll out the lid and then put on top of the pie filling. Crimp the edge and trim. Chill the pie for 30 mins.

Turn the oven onto 180C and preheat a baking tray. Decorate the pie and put a couple of slashes into it before washing with beaten egg. Put the pie tin onto the baking tray and bake for 45min til the pastry is golden and the filling piping hot.


A light Saturday lunch – Tomato and Gruyere Tartlet

Tomato tartlet 2

This weekend is one of those quiet pottering weekends. A weekend of cleaning, walking and making some headway on the pile of ironing that is so large it’s probably visible from space (!). But we also need to eat and as I’m on a pastry binge at the moment it’s a tasty tart that I’m after.

This is an Olive magazine recipe and you can find the full sized version on the cover of its September edition. It’s a mixture of gruyere cheese (in both the pastry and filling) with roasted baby plum tomatoes with a light scattering of thyme.

Tomato tartlet 1

As this was lunch for just the 2 of us I halved the recipe and instead made two tartlets, chilling the pastry again after lining the tins to try and avoid shrinkage.

I also added a spoonful of my homemade tomato chilli jam to the gruyere and egg filling rather than Dijon mustard which cut through the rich cheesy base. As they were smaller they didn’t take quite as long to cook and we ate them warm from the oven.

Tomato tartlet end

I love most things with cheese and these were no exception. A nice crispy pastry with a squidgy tasty filling. I think I would add a bit more chilli jam next time as I feel it needs a bit more heat to it. It certainly worked well as smaller individual tartlets judging by LSH’s quickly emptied plate…

A Final Taste of Summer: Rose-scented Strawberry Tarts

Strawberry tart

We came back from holiday to a late burst of summer sun which meant that the return to “normal life” wasn’t as bad as it could have been. However the boots and jumpers are now out of the wardrobe, the final flush of roses are starting to die off and rain is currently hammering against the kitchen window. It’s only a matter of time before we clear out the veg and fruit beds in preparation for winter. So it’s time for a tasty fruit tart to try and recapture those summer memories.

Strawberry tarts - cases I came up with this tart to use some of my rose petal jelly . The pastry base is a Pate Sucree recipe from the Leith’s Baking Bible (if you’re into Baking it’s worth getting a copy as pretty much every baking technique or recipe you could want is in here). I didn’t follow the method precisely and ended up just bringing all the ingredients together on my worktop as you would for pasta. The important thing here is to chill once the mix is brought together and then chill again once you’ve put it into the pastry cases. I didn’t trim until after this second chilling when I then cut it along the rim of the cases before blind baking. As you can see there was no shrinkage (hurrah!).

Strawberry tarts - creme patI left these to cool whilst I did the creme patisseire. Again this was a Leith’s recipe with the addition of a couple of drops of rose water, rather than vanilla extract, once the custard had been made. It’s important to taste at this stage – you can always add a bit more flavour if you think it needs it. Again chill and when you’re ready to use give it a quick beat before carefully folding in the whipped cream and putting into the pastry cases.

Strawberry tart - preglaze

I then arranged half strawberries on top of the creme pat before making the glaze. This was a couple of heaped tablespoons of rose petal jelly which I heated in a pan with a splash of lemon juice. Once it was thin I used it to glaze the tarts using a silicon brush. The tarts were then chilled until ready to serve.

The rose petal jelly and rose water just gives the tarts a hint of that summery rose fragrance which works really well with the strawberries. A definite splash of summer for a rainy day.

Strawberry tarts - final

Spicy Lamb Empanadas

Spiced Lamb Empanadas

I’ve complained on my blog before about how difficult it can be to find many speciality ingredients where I live with many herbs and spices requiring a special outing. I love trying out food from across the globe and it’s so frustrating to find that the key ingredients I need are nowhere to be found.

But now I may have the answer in the form of Kitchen Nomad and their monthly box scheme. The idea is that you subscribe and each month they send you a food parcel with various ingredients from difference areas of the world along with recipe cards. I think it’s a brilliant idea – not only do I get forced out of my culinary comfort zone and get to try things I’d never have thought of cooking, I also get those hard to find ingredients. So it was with a great deal of excitment that I opened my first box and found it was the Lebanon!

kitchen nomad - box

The box is filled with various spice mixes including a version of Lebanese Allspice that I had never even heard of before let alone used, pomegranate molasses, za’tar, tahini and a few other things. With it were a number of different recipe cards and the first one I’ve made is the spiced lamb flatbread. Whilst the bread itself wasn’t anything special the lamb topping was something else! Spicy with a subtle sweet undertone from the molasses and a definite kick from the chilli flakes. I’d made the full amount of lamb and so I left half of it in the fridge to turn into little empanadas the next day.

I used the Dan Lepard recipe I’ve used previously but this time I left out the cumin and replaced it with a teaspoon of the Lebanese Allspice. The flour smelled amazing – really fragrant. I could have just sat and inhaled it happily!

Spiced Lamb Empanadas - lamb

I then fried the lamb mix until cooked and left it to cool. The pastry was then rolled out and cut into 10cm circles. I rested them for about 5 minutes and then gave them another quick roll to thin them out a bit more before putting 2 teaspoons of the lamb mix onto them and sealing with water.

Spiced lamb empanadas - pre bake

You can freeze them at this stage (you just defrost before baking). I baked them for 20 min at 180C and they were delicious! Crispy fragrant pastry stuffed with tangy, spicy lamb. And just as nice eaten cold the next day. Next time I’ll turn the full lamb mix into these as they were a definite triumph! I look forward to seeing what the September box brings.

Butternut Squash Minis

Butternut squash pasties - finished 2

It’s still hot. The news is dealing with this in its usual positive way which is that widescale death and devastation are going to result. Whilst that’s possibly true of our back lawn, I suspect that most of us are going to muddle along quite nicely until it breaks and we go back to complaining about the rain and cold again.

LSH and I headed for the Lake District for a couple of days walking. We had planned on heading up some fells but as the temperature was over 25C when we got there at 10am , we decided to stick with a low level walk broken up nicely with a couple of pub stops. This included one owned by the National Trust (The Sticklebarn) so I’m chosing to see my half of cider more as a charitable donation than a drink. We still managed to do just over 8 miles which we felt was an achievement given how hot and muggy it was. Too hot to walk in the Lakes! Has to be something of a first there.

Back home the bread is rising quickly, possibly too quickly. What would normally take about an hour on my kitchen table is taking half that. So instead of bread I’m making a quick pastry instead. I’ve had my eye on Dan Lepard’s Sweet Potato Crescents in his Short and Sweet book for a while. I’m missing a few things – sweet potatoes, a red pepper, spring onions and ground cumin – but otherwise I think I have everything I need. Sharp eyed owners of this book will quickly realise that what I’m missing are pretty much all the ingredients needed for the filling but I have a plan. Instead I’m going to use butternut squash, the emergency bottled pepper lurking in the fridge and a red onion along with freshly grinding some cumin seeds.

Butternut squash pasties - pastryThe pastry isn’t too difficult and turns out a lovely vibrant yellow from the turmeric. Clearly my seed pounding technique needs a bit more work as it also has little flecks of cumin running through it, but the overall effect looks good.

Whilst Dan doesn’t say to do this, I end up wrapping it in clingfilm and popping it in the fridge whilst I do the filling as it is already really sticky to work with and I fear that another 30mins will make it unrollable.

Butternut squash pasties - filling

For the filling I steam 300g of chopped butternut squash until tender. Then I fry half a finely chopped red onion in 1 tbsp of sunflower oil.

After about a couple of minutes, I add 2 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced) and a finely chopped red chilli. Then I added the squash with the ground coriander and let it cook down for a few minutes. I mashed the squash with a fork and added the chopped red pepper. I gave it another minute or so before 2 tablespoons of frozen coriander leaves were stirred through it and the whole thing left to cool.

I then assembled as per the recipe and baked (we don’t have a deep fat fryer and I’m a bit squeamish about deep frying without one). The baked versions didn’t have the crispness you’d get with the fried ones but they came out OK with a nice golden sheen to them. I did feel that they lacked a bit of taste which may have been down to steaming the squash – I think that roasting it before adding to the onion etc would have given a better result and I’d probably add a bit more chilli and maybe some cumin to the filling as well. But as LSH was happily drowning them in sweet chilli sauce I don’t think he noticed. One to experiment with I think so let me know any suggestions you have. Enjoy the summer! Butternut squash pasties - finished


A really easy snack – Serrano ham and cheese pastries

pastry rolls finalThere are times when you don’t have time to, or want to, spend ages baking so here’s a quick post with a quick recipe.

You’ll need:
a 500g pack of all butter puff pastry (you can even use ready rolled if you want to make it even easier)
125g mozzarella,
6 slices of Serrano ham and

Preheat the oven to 200C (fan oven).

pastry rectangles

Flour your worktop and roll out the pastry into a square about 5mm thick. Divide into 2 rectangles (if ready rolled just cut it in half).

pastry rolls - fillingCover the pastry with the ham, leaving a cm edge.

Chop the mozzarella cheese into small pieces. Put down the right hand edge of each pastry rectangle. Dot pesto over the cheese and ham.

Roll the pastry over the cheese so that the centre of the pastry will be a cheesy core. Keep rolling over the ham to form a long sausage shape. Brush water along the edge to seal the pastry. Cut each roll into 2-3cm pieces.

Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.filled pastry roll

Put the pastry rolls cut side up onto the baking trays. Leave a decent space between them as they will spread.

Brush with milk.

Bake for 30min until the pastries are golden.


Serrano and cheese roll - close up


A small taste of summer


The LSH and I have been on our hols which has coincided with a period of wet and warm weather. As a result the garden has had a growth spurt and burst into bloom. The rose next to the patio looked like this before we went and now looks like this.


All the rose bushes are full of fragrant flowers which should last for another few weeks. We’ll then get another smaller flush in September.

More roses

All this colour has put me in the mind to bake something summery. This is one of my favourite summer quiches. The original recipe was from Good Food Magazine but I’ve tweaked it quite a bit since then and this is the result. It’s full of bright red cherry tomatoes and vibrant green broad beans with large chunks of salty feta. It also freezes quite well.

The pastry is a mix of 100g plain white flour and 100g wholemeal spelt. Put into a food processor with 75g of cubed unsalted butter and blitz till breadcrumb like. Add cold water a tablespoon at a time until the dough just starts to come together. Bring together into a ball with your hands and wrap in cling film. Pop it in the fridge for an hour.

Grease a 23cm tin. Roll out the pastry and pop into the tin pressing it firmly into the sides. The pastry may fall apart at this point but you can easily patch it. It’s worth keeping a small bit to one side in case there are any cracks during the blind bake. Prick the base and sides with a fork.
Pastry base

Line the tin with greaseproof paper and baking beans and blind bake for 10 min at 200C. Remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 10mins.

Meanwhile defrost and blanch 260g frozen broad beans – remove from their skins. Halve about 16 cherry tomatoes (or as many as you can fit into the pastry case). Crumble 250g of feta into chunks.

Whisk 3 medium eggs. Add 150ml of double cream and season – bear in mind that the feta is salty so I go heavy on the pepper with a pinch of salt.

Once the base is baked add the tomatoes (cut side up), cheese and beans. Pour over the egg and cream mixture. Return to the oven for 30 min or until the filling is set.

Feta, tomato and broad bean tart

We served it with new potatoes and salad for a fresh, tasty summer tea.
Tart for tea