December 29, 2019


Just in case you STILL have some turkey leftover, this is what we do each year with ours.
This year I made a version of our traditional Christmas Dinner Pie (which you can see here) using leftover potatoes instead of pastry as a topping.

All you do is to put all the Christmas dinner leftovers, including shredded turkey, sprouts, carrots, stuffing, bread sauce, parsnips, pigs in blankets - everything in fact - into a suitable sized dish.  Pour over the leftover gravy or make more if needed.  Top with sliced potatoes and spray those with oil spray (or brush with melted butter).  Bake for 30 minutes at 180 fan until the potatoes are browned and the filling is bubbling around the edges.  Delicious !!  We enjoyed ours on Boxing Day but many of the leftovers will keep for a day or two longer in the fridge before you have to use them up.

The next day I used my recently discovered risotto recipe to make a turkey, leek and pea risotto.  I used this recipe here but I used chunks of turkey (including the last couple of pigs in blankets that had amazingly escaped discovery in the fridge) and chicken stock (Oxo cube) instead of the smoked haddock and fish stock. I replaced the spinach with frozen peas, adding them with the turkey before the risotto went in the oven. 
The recipe serves 4 people so I simply halved the quantities to make a satisfying dinner for the two of us.  It was scrumptious!

We still have a little turkey left which is still good so for tonight's dinner we will probably have a turkey, leek and mushroom pie with a pastry lid.  There will be sprouts (fresh ones!) and carrots to go with it and almost certainly reheated leftover Christmas pudding with custard and home made brandy butter to follow.  Long gone are the days when I threw out the remaining turkey when I ran out of ideas to use it up.  Nowadays leftovers are one of the best parts of Christmas for me!

December 27, 2019


It's not that long since I made my first upside down cake, only about forty years since they were fashionable!
More recently I found myself with a fresh pineapple that hadn't been used for its intended purpose so I looked on the internet for suitable cake recipes and stumbled upon this recipe on the Tesco website*.  It looked incredibly straightforward, but see note at the end of the recipe.

In fact it could hardly have been easier, simply arranging the sliced pineapple in the tin and spooning the cake mixture on top.  No caramel topping to leak out of the tin and the easiest possible sponge cake mixture which I made even quicker using Stork soft margarine and the all in one method.  I didn't have a 25cm tin as specified in the recipe so used my 23cm tin and it was fine, just the right depth I thought.
In place of the caramel topping on the fruit you simply drizzle runny honey over the finished cake.  I didn't have any in stock so used golden syrup instead.  It was yummy!
The sponge was light, tasty and altogether delightful, the pineapple was sharp and delicious, offset by the subtle taste of the golden syrup which was not overly sweet.
It was such a success that I decided to make it again for this year's alternative to Christmas pudding, decorating the finished cake with a few glacé cherry halves and sprigs of rosemary from the garden for a festive touch.  It was quickly rustled up on Christmas Eve, the longest part of the preparation being to trim and slice the pineapple!  It went down really well, enjoyed with a little cream, custard, or home made brandy butter, or in some cases, all three!
1 medium fresh ripe pineapple
175g Stork soft margarine for cakes (or softened butter if you prefer)
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
175g self raising flour
2-3 tblsp milk
1 tblsp runny honey (or a good squirt of squeezy golden syrup)
Preheat the oven to 180 C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.  Butter a 23 cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.
Prepare the pineapple by removing the top and bottom and slicing off the outer skin and tufts.  Cut in half vertically and remove the woody core with an apple corer or sharp knife Slice into thinnish slices about the thickness of a £1 or 1€ coin.  Arrange the slices in the bottom of the tin, covering as much area as possible.  (You may have some pineapple left over.)
To make the sponge beat together all the remaining ingredients except for the golden syrup in a large bowl until smooth and well combined.  Add enough of the milk to loosen the mixture but not make it too soft. 
Spoon the mixture carefully over the fruit and level the top.  Bake for about 45 minutes until done.
Leave in the tin for 5 minutes then release the clip and leave to cool.  When cool, remove the ring, put a plate or cake stand upside down on top and invert the cake.  Remove the circle of baking paper and drizzle a little honey or golden syrup over the top.
Cuts into 10-12 slices.

* Since I first wrote this post Tesco have changed the recipe on their website and it now uses tinned pineapple, which is a shame.

December 15, 2019


Whoosh, where did the last few weeks go?
It's certainly not that there has been no baking going on chez nous.  Indeed, there has been an above average amount of baking, cooking and entertaining and consequently a shortage of time to write about it.
We returned to the UK at the end of October and immediately turned the house here upside down to have two bedrooms decorated, one upstairs and one downstairs.  (It's a bungalow with a dormer extension.)  So far we have done all the decorating ourselves but by now are thoroughly fed up with it so this time wielded the wallet instead of the paint brush.  Paul the decorator was a joy to have in the house (he is very house trained and totally unlike any workmen we have ever had the displeasure to meet before).  He did a brilliant job of first the upstairs bedroom then the downstairs, on consecutive weeks.  All very good but it still meant moving furniture yet again from one room to another then back again.  I swear I never ever want to do that again.
With the furniture still displaced we then put Daisy into the cattery, loaded Hugo into the car to return to France for just one week to "close up" the house there and say goodbye to it until next Spring.  When we got back to the UK we then had to restore the house here to something like habitable and get back to normal life.  Not that I can actually remember what normal is like. 
You may wonder what any of this has to do with a risotto but I have to say that this recipe is a joy to have discovered.
Our nephew and his girlfriend cooked this for us when we went round to theirs one evening last week to meet their new cat and dishwasher.  They bought their very first house a couple of months ago and Nick went round soon after to put in place the plumbing and electrics for a dishwasher - their first one of those too.  Having only ever previously lived in rented houses they haven't had the opportunity to gain DIY skills, all repairs having to be done by landlords, or, more often than not, put up with undone.  The dishwasher finally arrived and was successfully installed at about the same time as they got their own cat, having not been able to have one of those before either.
The cat Mavis is adorable, the risotto was delicious and rustled up in no time at all and the dishwasher worked brilliantly.  They are busy people, often getting home from work quite late, so having a repertoire of quick dinners is essential.  I asked for the recipe and couldn't wait to try it myself. 

You can see it here on the BBC Good Food website.  Curiously, some of the reviews describe it as bland.  Well, au contraire, for me/us it was packed full of flavour, utterly delicious, rich and creamy.  I made it myself this evening and even my dad enjoyed it too, it being the first risotto he has ever eaten (at the age of 91).  I used a Tesco fish stock pot (little plastic thing) and skinless, boneless smoked cod as that was what was available.  I am also looking forward to adapting the recipe using bacon and mushrooms instead of the smoked fish.
a small knob of butter
1 large leek, washed and thinly sliced
300g risotto rice
700 ml fish or veg stock
250 ml whole milk
375g (approx) smoked cod or haddock, skinned, boned and cut into large chunks
3 tblsp crème fraiche
100g baby spinach
Preheat the oven to 200C / 180 fan / gas mk 6.
Melt the butter in a large ovenproof dish or casserole over medium heat and cook the leek slices for 4-5 minutes, stirring, until just tender.  Add the rice and stir for two more minutes.
Add the stock and milk, bring to the boil and bubble for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and sit the fish chunks on top.
Cover with a lid (or foil) and bake in the oven for 18 minutes until the rice is tender.
Remove from the oven and stir through the crème fraiche and spinach.  Season with salt and pepper and cover with the lid again.  Leave out of the oven for 3 minutes by which time the spinach will be cooked.  Serve immediately.
Makes 4 generous portions.