Nutty Lemon Rice

This nutty lemon rice recipe is so simple, yet delicious. Rice (especially basmati rice) is notoriously difficult to cook well. Sometimes it’s claggy, sometimes it’s underdone, and it never seems to take the same amount of time to cook, which can be frustrating when you have lots of other elements to get ready for the same time. Sticky, overdone rice is not pleasant, and it takes no time at all to get from perfect rice to ruined rice.

This method allows you to err on the side of underdone, and prepare ahead. by the time it comes to serving up, it only takes a couple of minutes to finish off.

One of the key ingredients is asafoetida  – a savoury, pale yellow spice which you don’t come across very often. It has quite an aromatic flavour, and a very strong and quite strange smell, but bear with it and use a light hand until you’re used to it. Of course, you can use whatever spices you like.

The rice measurement I’ve given is quite approximate, as my best rice cooking trip is to use a little ramekin to measure the rice out as it means you can get the ratio of two parts water to one part rice spot on.

This is especially good served with kebabs or a dry curry, like our chicken satay, but would work great with something saucier too like our beef rendang. Play with the spices to make it taste right with what you’re serving up, and have fun. It’s always going to be better than plain rice, right? Oh, remember to warn people about the cardamom pods unless you want to pick them out before you plate up.

Nutty Lemon Rice

Nutty Lemon Rice

Ingredients

  • 50g basmati rice per person
  • Big pinch salt
  • One chicken stock cube
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • One onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3cm piece of fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
  • 1 tsp hot curry powder
  • A handful of cashew nuts and peanuts
  • A few slices of lemon

Instructions

  1. Slice the onion and grate the garlic and ginger.
  2. Heat the oil gently in a large pan or wok and add in the onion, garlic and ginger when it's come up to temperature.
  3. Fry until softened. Add the spices and through.
  4. Add the nuts and fry through again, then switch off until you're ready for a final heat through before serving.
  5. Either before or after the above process, get the rice going. Tip one ramekin of basmati rice per person into a saucepan, add a good pinch of salt then add two ramekins of boiled water for every ramekin of rice.
  6. Chuck in the cardamon pods and stock cube (it'll dissolve itself so don't worry about stirring), as well as a couple of slices of fresh lemon if you want it especially lemony. Set the hob to a medium simmer. Leave to cook for ten minutes or so and test with a fork. You don't need to rinse it beforehand, and you should definitely not stir it when it's on the go. You want to be almost cooked through but still with bit of bite as it'll keep cooking even once you switch off the hob and it's going to get recooked in the pan.
  7. As soon as it's ready, pour it into a sieve and rinse it with plenty of fresh cold water until cool. Stick it back in the saucepan and leave it until you're ready to reheat it.
  8. When the rest of your meal is about two or three minutes away, switch on the heat under the pan and pour the rice into the pan, mixing it with all the other ingredients until piping hot all the way through.
  9. Serve with some more fresh lemon slices on the side and enjoy!
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Chicken Satay

I can’t believe it’s taken so long to get this Chicken Satay recipe up here. In fact, I only realised it wasn’t on our blog when I jumped on to check my measurements when I decided to make it the other day, so it was definitely time to get art photographed and posted.

(Warning, this recipe contains peanut butter and coconut milk so check your allergies before you think about making this one).

This one does take a little time to make, so if you’re usually pushed for time when it comes to cooking, you might want to prepare the marinade and get the chicken soaking up that flavour ahead of time. In fact, it would be even tastier if you let the chicken rest in the marinade overnight, just make sure you give it at least half an hour out of the fridge to come up to room temperature. Of course, it’ll take even longer if you decide to make the flatbreads to go with it (but they’re so worth the time) and especially if you cook up some brown rice too – because that takes forever. Seriously.

Anyway, this recipe is for slightly spicy, peanutty chicken skewers. A bit sticky and  little bit crunchy but packed full of flavour, they can be served up with rice, noodles or bread, veg or salad, or you could even make mini ones for a starter or to serve up at a a party. The marinade itself doesn’t take all that long to whip up, but it always seems to take ages for me to trim and cut the chicken thighs, because I’m a bit funny about getting as much fat off them as possible – of course that’s personal preference. Chicken breast will work too but wouldn’t take as much cooking and will quite easily dry out if you cook it for too long. Thighs give you a little more cooking time which also helps to get that crunchy glaze on the marinade.

Let’s dive in!

Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay

Ingredients

  • 1 pack boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • thumb sized piece fresh root ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tsp hot curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • Wooden or metal skewers for cooking on

Instructions

  1. Grate the ginger and garlic into a bowl.
  2. Add the soy sauce, honey and the juice from the whole lime.
  3. Next, add the curry powder and chilli then the peanut butter.
  4. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to loosen the mixture and make it easier to mix and mix everything together.
  5. Take out 2/3 of the marinade and set it aside in a medium sized saucepan for the sauce. Slice the chicken into strips and add to the bowl with the remaining marinade.
  6. Mix the chicken into the marinade and let the flavours soak in for half an hour or so. If you're using wooden skewers, you should soak them in some water to help to stop the ends burning in the oven.
  7. Add a tin of coconut milk to the rest of the marinade that you set aside in a saucepan and turn it onto a low heat, stir together until heated through and well combined then turn off the heat until just before you're ready to serve.
  8. It's a tasty sauce hot, but if you let it cool it will thicken into a really yummy dip for carrot sticks and so on.
  9. Preheat the oven to 180c, line a large baking tray with tin foil and get your skewers ready. Thread a few pieces of chicken into each skewer in a sort of s shapes that the thin chicken strips will be evenly exposed to the heat of the oven.
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If you like the idea of peanut butter in a savoury dish, why not try our Sticky Peanut Butter Chicken recipe?

Oreo Brownies

Hello! We’re hoping that normal service has resumed now that I have a new laptop (which even works when it’s not plugged in!) and hopefully the photography will be a bit better, but no promises, as Charles has been trying to teach me some of his moves, but I’m not a very patient student.

Brownies are one of the things I have the notion to bake the most. Delightful with tea or coffee, cold or warm with ice cream, whole or crumbled, there’s just something so comforting about eating them and magical about baking them.

Most often, I’ll make these plain for a slab of gooey, dark cake to melt onto your tongue, but a different flavour and texture can be lovely too, be it nuts, chocolate chips, caramel or Nutella. In fact, we also have a great recipe for Campfire Brownies (S’mores Brownies, I suppose) made with marshmallows and Digestive biscuits. This version used up a packet of Oreo Thins we had in the biscuit drawer (yes there is an entire drawer for biscuits in our house) but you could just as happily use full sized Oreos, or even the flavoured ones (mint or peanut butter Oreos would be awesome in this recipe), just make sure they’re pushed nicely into the batter.

Oreo Brownies

Oreo Brownies

Ingredients

  • 175g Salted butter
  • 150g Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • Pinch salt
  • 300g Caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 75g Plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • Oreo cookies (as many as you want or have - I used 16 Oreo Thins, which was a whole packet)

Instructions

  1. Preheat a fan oven to 160c or 180c for non-fan. Line and grease a square baking tin.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan, gently, or in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water if you can't trust yourself to watch and stir it. Add a pinch of salt and set aside to cool.
  3. Weigh out the sugar into bowl and add the eggs. Whisk together until mixed and airy.
  4. Mix in the cooled chocolate mixture.
  5. Fold in the cocoa powder and flour until just combined.
  6. Pour the mixture into the tin, using a spatula to get as much batter out of the bowl as you can (although what's left will be yummy as it is!).
  7. Carefully place the Oreos on top in whatever pattern you like, pushing them down gently so they settled into the batter, or chop them and mix them through the batter if you'd prefer.
  8. Slide into the oven and bake for around half an hour, or until the top is glossy and there's no wobble left when you shake the tin gently from side to side.
  9. Cook for less time if you like them super gooey, but bear in mind that the eggs might still be raw and shouldn't be fed to the elderly, pregnant or very young.
  10. Allow to cool then slice up and enjoy!
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These will keep well for around a week, and if you get bored of eating them (as if…) why not chop or crumble them up and add them to the top of some ice cream, or mix them into your own homemade ice cream. Ah, so versatile. But like I say, IF they last that long… Lets us know if you have a go! Photos encouraged!

30 Things to Eat Before You’re 30

I’m going to be 30 tomorrow and Charles will be too at the beginning of July. I’ve just treated myself to a MacBook (which is how we’re getting a chance to post some content for you again – sorry about the absence but my old Toshiba finally gave up when Cress pushed it off the sofa and bent the charging cable), and it’s got me thinking about that whole bucket list caboodle. But instead of writing you a list of 30 things to do before I’m 30, it’s going to be 30 things to eat before you’re 30 (I mean, it is a food blog, right?!).

30 things to eat before you're 30

1.A Deep Fried Mars Bar People give these such a hard rap, but really you ought to try one. For some reason they’ve become synonymous with ‘Scottish’ cuisine as if we’re all wandering around with them on a Friday lunch time, but I’d be surprised if the average Scot has had more than three in their lifetime, if any. That said, it’s not to be missed. If you’re down with eating ready salted crisps at the same time as a square of Dairy Milk, you should really order one of these bad boys. It’s like that, only hot, and meeting in the middle. Do it. Just do it.

Deep Fried Mars Bar
Photo Credit https://theculturetrip.com

2. Lobster Weirdly, this was Charles’ suggestion. I say weirdly because he is both too tight to actually buy lobster and allergic to fish (apparently) so he won’t be taking part in this one. My Mum, loves lobster. It was the ultimate in 80s decadence. But it’s all a bit too much for me. If you want to cook it properly, you have to be prepared for the wriggling in its bag in the car, the going in the freezer, the squealing and then the decapitation, and after all there’s the removal from the chill, trying not to cut yourself and then attempting to serve it up as something halfway to pretty. In any event, I find it all a bit too sweet and rich. Nevertheless, it should be on this list because, really, it’s for you to make up your own mind about.

3. Caviar Again, this is Charles’ pick, although I’m not sure either of us has had it. It has such a highly regarded cultural status, though, that really we ought to give it a go. Like lobster, it’s a foodstuff that has made its way into common speech so you should at least taste the stuff, right?

4. Snails Tastes like chicken, looks a bit like mussels, generally in a creamy sauce. Do the French actually eat snails or are they just something they can flog to tourists for top dollar?

5. A T-Bone Steak This is another pretty 80s one. Part fillet steak and part sirloin with a bone in the middle, it’s verging on an average supper for Desperate Dan. My Grandad was always keen on the idea of one of these, but surely if one part of the meat is cooked well, the other steak will be all sorts of wrong? Definitely man food.

6. A Really Good Chocolate Cake There’s chocolate cake and there’s chocolate cake and if you’ve had a really good one, you’ll know it. I spent years trying to perfect my recipe and I reckon it’s getting there. You should always have a knockout chocolate cake up your sleeve.

Chocolate Cake

7. A Hendricks Gin & Fever Tree Tonic ‘Nuff said.

8. Freshly Picked Watercress I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly had watercress but Charles and his Dad rave about it. They’re from the South East of England and apparently there was once a watercress farm (?) nearby where they would be able to pick up bags of the stuff, fresh as you like, and apparently it was pretty unmissable.

9. Hot Smoked Salmon on Oban Pier This, clearly, is one of mine. My auntie and uncle used to have a holiday home on the bank of Loch Awe, nestled in the foothills of Ben Cruachan. Spectacular views, barely any TV or mobile reception and 20 minutes from the nearest Tesco. One of the highlights was a Saturday trip to Oban, where there was the most fabulous fresh fish shack on the pier. They sold tremendous langoustines, dressed crabs an wriggly lobsters, but what In remember most is being introduced to hot smoked salmon there. The texture is totally different to regular smoked salmon, given that it’s been cooked and smoked at the same time. It’s beautiful. Although I’m not sure it would taste quite the same if you weren’t pulling your coat up past your ears to ward off the drizzle while watching the ferry come in.

10. Lardy Cake More Englishness here. It’s some sort of risen bread bun type substance, packed with lard and dried fruit. Apparently it’s delicious and best eaten on the first day before it turns stale and while the edges are still crisp. I’m yet to try one, but apparently they’re much healthier than they sound….

Lardy Cake
Photo Credit: www.goodtoknow.co.uk

11. A Krispy Kreme Doughnut You can love these, hate them, or feel something in between towards them but you really should try them. They’re synthetic, often too sweet and must be eaten fresh, but they’re an American import so we Brits have to go made for them. Our favourites are the Original Glazed, Lemon Meringue and Lotus Caramel Biscoff.

12. A meal at a Michelin Starred Restaurant Charles has got me convinced that this would be somewhat disappointing. And he probably has a point. Overpriced, notoriously small portions, and you can’t always pick what you want to eat. Still, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. Surely it’s a life experience you really need to be open to?

13. Lasagne in Rome If you thought you knew lasagne (no matter how delicious your homemade or favourite restaurant’s version is) you won’t know proper lasagne until you’ve eaten it in Italy. It’s a food cliché in some ways, but come on – homemade pasta sheets, Italian tomatoes, cheese and fresh herbs – what’s not to like? Interestingly, the version I had in Rome was constructed with about a dozen layers of pasta and hardly any sauce at all – it was carbalicious and just shows you really need to go back to the source with some things. Interestingly, the best thing I’ve had to eat in Italy was a wild boar ragú pappardelle in Florence….

14. A Proper French Baguette If you’ve ever spent some proper time in France, you’ll be overwhelmed by just how seriously the French take their bread. It’s like a religion and it’s glorious. Fresh every day from the local baker, or from the supermarket at a push (although French supermarkets are a million miles from the ones we’re used to, stocked with shelves of beautiful fresh bread, brioche, pastries, delicate patisserie and exquisite lemon meringue pies. even service station sandwiches are something to behold. What you don’t realise, however, is that the French rarely eat actual proper baguettes (which are much narrower and crispier than the ones we’re used to here), but rather gravitate towards flutes which are broader, longer and have much more soft bready insides than their more famous cousins. And don’t start me on French butter……

French Baguette
Photo Credit: www.Food52.com

15. Any Sort of Portuguese Pastry We’re getting into a bit of a travel theme here, but to be honest you really do need to travel to broaden your gastronomic horizons. I spent a couple of days in Portugal with my Mum a couple of Novembers ago. It was grey, wet and unbelievably cold due to a bitter wind blowing in from the Atlantic. but their Port houses are excellent and one thing I wasn’t expecting was just how good their pastries are. We went in search of shelter from the rain and a hot drink and stumbled into a cafe. Their coffee is strong and short – much like a Turkish coffee  – and it takes some getting used to, but I could eat their pastries all day. I know Portuguese custard tarts are pretty famous, but it doesn’t stop there. I had the most divine almond croissant that wasn’t quite a croissant type affair – powdered sugar on top, flaky and buttery and stuffed with almond paste. Don’t visit Portugal without trying at least a couple of their pastries. And their Port of course…

16. Greek Souvlaki Ok, a pause in the globetrotting (although my most memorable Greek food was a red snapper dish at a marina restaurant). Souvlaki looks and tastes wonderful, provided you like pork, bread and yoghurt, you’re in. I’ve made it a couple of times and it always seems a bit odd trying to make the meat turn white with vinegar and lemon juice, and it doesn’t seem like you’re packing in much flavour, but it is typically Greek with lashings of oregano, a skewer and a yoghurt dip. Try Aki’s Kitchen’s recipe for starters.

17. Your Own Homemade Bread You couldn’t expect a list of 30 things to eat before you’re 30 without your own homemade bread, surely? Bread making can take some time to master, but it’s so worth it. Try it on a rainy day and fill your home with the heady scent of fresh bread, then rip it open, barely cool enough to touch and load it up with butter and jam. Just try it. It’s a very satisfying experience. There are many things that just aren’t the same (even from a bakery) than making your own and gobbling them up fresh, and bread has to top that list.

homemade bread

18. A Spaghetti Sandwich This is probably not for everyone (or even for many!) but one of my childhood favourite lunches or snacks was a couple of slices of cheap white sliced bread, buttered and loaded up with hot Heinz spaghetti (you know the stuff that comes in a tin in that bright orange sauce?). It’s messy, it’s childish, it’s fiendishly unhealthy, but by gosh it’s moreish.

19. A Cheese Toastie This is probably one of those things that people will surprise you by saying they’ve never had before, but surely it’s the most basic comfort food. With good bread or bad bread, fresh bread or stale, cheap cheese or luxurious cheese, this is always going to be a winner in my book. Bonus points if you drizzle on some worcestershire sauce.

20. A Dominos in the car It’s not really proper pizza but it can be ruddy delicious. Eaten in the car on the way home from a long day in the city when you’re starving and a little bit chilly, it tastes even better. Or when you’re in the office on a bank holiday and you decide to treat yourselves. Bonus points if you plump for the garlic dip.

21. A Proper Burger Whether you make it or eat it somewhere where they make them properly, a real, honest burger is hard to beat. It needs to be made with good beef so you can serve it up rare, and it should ideally come with bacon, cheese and maybe an egg, a brioche bun and really good chips. Ooh and onion rings. If you eat out and they won’t serve your burger rare, they’re making it with poor quality meat – get out of there!

22. A Freshly Picked Tomato I can’t stand tomatoes, but apparently they taste best when they still smell like the vine and they’re slightly warm from the sun. This one suppose you either grow your own or know someone who does.

Freshly picked tomato

23. Homemade Pasta I used to be fairly scathing about fresh pasta, but if you make your own it’s an entirely different beast from the shop bought variety. Ravioli stuffed with your choice of filling, or spaghetti cooked in a buttery, white winey, herby sauce with a little chicken stock – and it really isn’t as hard to make as you would think. You do need a pasta machine though.

24. Your Own Victoria Sandwich Much like a really good chocolate cake, a freshly made Victoria Sandwich stuffed with tasty jam is a thing to behold. Learn how to make your own and you can whip one up whenever you fancy.Victoria Sandwich25. A Freshly Baked Scone See above…. Make them big, make them fluffy and add whatever you fancy (sultanas, cheese, cherries, chocolate..), spread thickly with butter and jam or dollop on some clotted cream. Now pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey

26. An Extreme Steak Sandwich Steak sandwiches used to be in my regular rota when I live on my own. You need a decent ciabatta or baguette, in my opinion. Minute steak works if you have a screaming hot pan. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with fried onions. Charles reckoned the CAU version is about the best you can get.

27. A Meatball Sub The meatball sub is iconic – and after hearing about them on Friends (you know Joey was mad for those) I couldn’t rest until I’d made one, complete with marinara sauce and melted cheese. I’m sure it’ll be on the list if we ever make it to New York.

28. A McDonalds Everyone knows someone who claims to have never had a McDonalds. I could go years without having one and be perfectly ok about it, but really you need to try a cheeseburger, Chicken McNuggets and a McFlurry at some point in your life. Rumour has it that you get fresh fries if you ask for them unsalted.

29. Eggs Benedict This is the king of breakfasts for me. In fact anything with a muffin and poached eggs is pretty excellent, throw in some bacon and you’re right on the money.

30. Exactly What You Fancy, When You Fancy It Tonight, I made burgers and garlic bread pizza. Because we fancies it and we had the materials and ability to make such a thing. It was epic. And that’s what life’s all about.

Garlic Bread Pizza

Cheers, guys!

Honey and Mustard Glazed Ham

This honey and mustard glazed ham looks pretty impressive, right? It’s delicious too, but don’t be fooled: it’s really very easy to make if you have a little time on your hands.

We like to cook our own hams if we can, for two reasons: 1. they always end up much more delicious than the ham you can buy in supermarkets (and even delis) and you can flavour them exactly hoe you want and 2. it’s a much, much cheaper way of giving yourself a good supply of ham. A joint will usually cost between £5 and £10, and you can easily pay £4 for a few decent slices (and the stuff you buy often isn’t even very good).

It’s always a good idea to have one of these babies in the fridge if you have people coming to stay for a few days. Homemade ham makes epic sandwiches, but can also make a relatively simple meal by adding it to pasta with some mushrooms and creme fraiche, or even in thick slices as ham, eggs and chips. It’s simple, but it’s pretty unbeatable.

This one is finished off with a really simple honey and mustard glaze. It’s so much more straightforward than you think but it’s also delicious and well-balanced.

Let us know what you think!

Honey and Mustard Glazed Ham

Honey and Mustard Glazed Ham

Ingredients

  • A gammon, joint, smoked or unsmoked
  • 1 litre orange juice (the cheap stuff will do)
  • A chicken stock cube
  • 1 bay leaf
  • cloves
  • 4 tbsp runny honey
  • 4 tbsp Dijon mustard

Instructions

  1. This ham is prepared in two stages. First, it is boiled, and then it is baked in the oven to set the glaze. The cooking time is dependent on the size of your gammon joint, and the label will usually tell you how long it needs, so don't panic! When boiling, I usually refer to the time on the label, which is usually about an hour and a half, and then knock off 10 minutes since it'll be going back in the oven for half an hour.
  2. Start with a large stock pot. Put the gammon into the pot and pour over the orange juice. Dissolve the stock cube in boiling water and then top up the water until the ham is covered. Add the bay leaf and turn to the hob a low to medium heat. Start timing it when the liquid hits simmering point but don't let it boil over.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200c.
  4. Once the time is up, turn the heat off and carefully fish out the ham and move it to a chopping board. You might want a friend to help with this if you don't have a carving fork.
  5. Carefully cut off the very top layer of skin, but leave plenty of fat behind. Score the fat diagonally in both directions so it criss crosses, and push a clove into each corner where the crosses intersect with the crisses.
  6. Now move it onto a foil lined baking tray.
  7. Get a bowl out and mix up the glaze. It really is as simple as mixing the honey and mustard together.
  8. Now spoon it on top of the ham. It'll start to drip off a little but don's worry too much about that. scoop as much as you can back over the top, and keep a little of the glaze back for a second coating once the first layer has set.
  9. Pop it into the oven for 10 minutes, take out and reglaze, and then put back in the oven for another 10 to 20 minutes, or until the glaze has set and is turning dark around the edges.
  10. And that's it! Slice it up carefully and enjoy!
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If you liked this recipe, but you prefer your ham a little fruitier, why not try our Mango Glazed Ham or Cranberry Glazed Ham? And if you have leftovers, you can always cut it up into chunks and add it to a delicious pie like this Turkey and Ham Pie.

(Leftover) Turkey and Ham Pie

I make this (leftover) turkey and ham pie every year to use up leftover Christmas turkey and ham, although it’s just as good with leftover roast chicken.  The Ham can be substituted for bacon, and you can even add sliced mushrooms and/or sweetcorn.  It’s ridiculously simple, you can make it in advance, and it’s sure to impress.  It is a little calorific though! You can switch the double cream for creme fraiche – we just had some to use up.

We had my father-in-law for supper and he was very enthusiastic about this little baby, and professed that I’d worked far too hard on it.  Little does he know how easy it is to put together.  In fact I quite fancy another one of these now….

Let’s dive in…

Turkey and Ham Pie

Turkey and Ham Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • A slosh of white wine (optional)
  • 1 tub creme fraiche or double cream
  • 1 Knorr chicken stock pot
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (ideally freshly grated)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • A couple of handfuls of cold roast turkey or chicken
  • Cubed ham or bacon, about a handful or two of that
  • 1 sheet ready roll puff pastry
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Start by slicing the leeks into narrow half moons. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the leeks. Cook them on a low to medium heat for around 10 minutes then add the wine and garlic.
  2. Cook those out and tip in the cream, then mix together. Add the seasoning, herbs and nutmeg and then the mustard and stock. Mix together and heat through.
  3. Add the chopped meat, and also some chopped mushrooms or sweetcorn if you fancy. Cook that all out for 10 minutes or so then see how the consisteny is. If the sauce seems a bit thin, mix the flour with a little water and pour a little in. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously and then check the consistency again. Repeat until the sauce is as thick as you'd like, then allow to cool completely. If you don't let the mixture cool it'll steam into the pastry and melt it from underneath.
  4. Tip the cooled mixture into a pie dish, casserole dish or pyrex dish.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180c fan.
  6. Cut the pastry to fit your dish, and use any scraps to make little decorations - I used a star cutter and twisted some strips for round the side. Beat the egg together and brush it round the edge of the dish. Place the pastry on top being careful not to let it dip into the filling. Press it down around the edges and cut a cross in the middle to let the steam out. Egg wash the top of the pastry and add the decorations then egg wash again.
  7. Put in the oven for half an hour or so and until the sauce is bubbling and the pastry has risen and turned golden.
  8. Serve up with some lovely veg and enjoy!
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And if you need to know how to roast that bird, we have some recipes for that too! Try our Clementine and Thyme Roast Chicken or Harissa Roast Chicken for something a little different.  If you want to try something really unusual, this Beer Can Chicken is really beautiful and can be eaten with salad in the summer, as well as taking about half the time to cook as a normal roast chicken.

If a pie isn’t your thing, this Chicken and Avocado Open Sandwich will use up your leftover roast chicken too.

Mince Pie Chelsea Buns

I’m going to commit the cardinal sin of food blogging here and admit that in the case of some food items, there are existing recipes that simply cannot be beaten.  All you would do is alter them, but you would be very unlikely to improve them.  But, thankfully, they often can be adapted.  Whether it’s that perfect chocolate sponge which can be filled and iced differently or flavoured with a hint of orange or a drizzle of brandy, or a beautifully buttery shortbread which can be made in a number of shapes and thicknesses, or iced and filled with jam, there is always some leeway for evolution.

This recipe is one of those adaptations, and a fantastic way to use up Christmas leftovers.  As you may know, I make my own mincemeat and mince pies every year, but more often than not I make far too much, and with little need for yet more dried fruit in the leaner months of self-restraint it can often end up in the bin.  This is a brilliant recipe for using up that leftover mincemeat, although it would of course work with jarred mincemeat, or even a little crumbled up Christmas pudding.

The buns are pure Paul Hollywood (although I’m always fairly certain these people get a bit of a helping hand with their classic recipes) but it is a ruddy good Chelsea bun mix and it’s also really straightforward, but the filling and zesty orange icing are all mine, so I’m fairly sure I’ve added enough value to make these buns worthy of inclusion in our blog.

As you may have gathered, we’ve had a bit of a busy month, first trotting around Basel and going to my work Christmas party in the Cotswolds, and then working really hard to get finished up with work for the Christmas break and getting the house and fridge ready for a big family Christmas.  But don’t think we haven’t been working on recipes – they just haven’t quite made it here!

Mince Pie Chelsea Buns

Mince Pie Chelsea Buns

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7g (1 sachet) fast acting dried yeast
  • 300ml milk
  • 40g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 25g butter
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 5-6 tbsp mincemeat
  • 1 tbsp apricot jam
  • 200g icing sugar
  • zest and juice of one orange

Instructions

  1. Mix together the flour and salt, then add the yeast and mix well.
  2. Meanwhile, pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the butter. Put over a low heat and warm until the butter has melted.
  3. Mix the warm milk and butter into the flour mixture, then add the egg.
  4. Put the bowl into your mixer with the dough hook installed, and allow it to knead away for about 20 minutes. If you don't have a mixer, lightly flour the board and knead the dough by hand for around 20 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
  5. Place in a bowl and cover then leave to rise for at least an hour (or several if you live somewhere cold) until the dough has at least doubled in size.
  6. Roll the dough out into a large, even rectangle. Melt the 25g butter and spread over the dough using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon and then the mincemeat.
  7. Roll the longest side over and over towards you, as tightly as you can, like a swiss roll. Once you have your long roll, slice into 9 even pieces.
  8. Butter a square or round tin and lay the pieces into it, one cut side down, one cut side up. Cover again with cling film and leave for a second prove for around an hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 200c and pop the buns in for around 25 minutes or until golden and baked through. If they're getting too brown, cover with tin foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes.
  10. Once removed from the oven, spread the tops with apricot jam and allow to cool.
  11. Zest the orange into the icing sugar and then add the juice from the orange. Mix together to form the icing. If you think it's a little thick for your liking, add a little water. Drizzle over the buns and allow to set. Or dig in. They will rise up and bake together, meaning you have the joy of pulling apart these sweet sticky buns before digging in. You might wish to have a napkin handy...
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Pesto and Bacon Chicken

We all have one of these pesto and bacon chicken recipes don’t we? Or at least some sort of recipe whereby we stuff a chicken breast with something gooey then wrap it in some sort of porky meat.  Delicious when done well; dry and horrible when done poorly (usually when cooking for someone you want to impress).

This recipe uses homemade pesto, although your can buy your own (but seriously, make ours, it’s really easy and very tasty indeed) and smoked streaky bacon, but feel free to riff with unsmoked bacon, non-streaky bacon or even prosciutto or pancetta.  And you may need a couple of cocktail sticks.  Try not to overcook it though because it will turn dry and horrible pretty rapidly.

Scared yet? Let’s begin.

Pesto and Bacon Chicken

Pesto and Bacon Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken breast per person
  • about 3-4 tbsp fresh pesto
  • 2-3 rashers smoked streaky bacon per person
  • 2 cocktail sticks
  • a little olive oil

Instructions

  1. Unless you're preparing this several hours ahead, take the chicken breasts and bacon out of the fridge nice an early - an hour before in a cold kitchen won't do you any harm.
  2. Carefully, slice the chicken open along one side, but not all the way to the edges, so you're creating a pocket. When I say 'carefully, I mean don't cur yourself but also look where you're going. If you can get the slice in the chicken to pass through the middle depth wise, you have more chance of an evenly cooked chicken with the filling in the middle. Bear in mind that's it's to be stuffed too, so you need the right balance between having a pocket big enough to without the stuffing falling out everywhere, and actually making enough room to get lots of pesto in there.
  3. Next, spoon in and spread around the pesto.
  4. Stuff it as full as you like, but it's good to have a decent enough layer which will also let you close the pocket up again with relative ease.
  5. Now, grab your bacon. If the rashers are quite wide, cut them in half lengthways, then start to wrap them around the chicken at a slight angle, so that the next slice can join onto the first.
  6. Using cocktail sticks, skewer the chicken in a way that can take in the bacon and close that pocket you've made. 2 -3 cocktail sticks should be enough, but it's a good idea to count them so you can tell whomever you're serving how many they're looking for to avoid any unpleasant surprises!
  7. Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat and fry the chicken on both sides until the bacon is browning and crispy.
  8. Place on a baking tray in the centre of the oven for around 10 minutes (less if you cook it in the pan for a long, long time) and then check one they're cooked through by sticking a sharp knife into the thickest part of the breast to make sure none of the chicken is translucent. Cooking it through should be easiest if the chicken is an even temperature to start with by being out of the fridge.
  9. Serve with sweet potato wedges or pasta and peas and enjoy!
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If you like pesto, you could also try our Salmon and Broccoli Cous Cous Bowl or Pesto Chicken Quesadilla.

Chorizo, Pepper and Potato Tortilla (Spanish Omelette)

This chorizo, pepper and potato tortilla (Spanish omelette to the uninitiated) is the perfect dish for one of those nights (or lunchtimes) when you don’t have much of anything to make a meal out of.  Due to extensive flooding, we found ourselves delayed in being able to get to the supermarket this week, but thankfully we have the remains of a large sack of potatoes kicking about, and we always try to keep eggs, peppers and chorizo in the house (among other things like onions, sweet potatoes and garlic) so we came up with this creation.  Neither of us has had a Spanish Omelette/Tortilla before, but as far as we’re concerned, you can’t go far wrong with chorizo, peppers and potatoes so it was most definitely worth a shot.

I did a quick bit of Googling, and of course there are a number of schools of thought as to how one of these should be made, most of which involved cooking it entirely on the hob, flipping it over halfway through, and knowing how useless I am when flipping pancakes, the grill option seemed to make much more sense.  And we’re all about making things easy.

So here it goes: dig in and let us know what you think.

Chorizo, Pepper and Potato Tortilla (Spanish Omelette)

Chorizo, Pepper and Potato Tortilla (Spanish Omelette)

Ingredients

  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 1 cooking chorizo or about 1/3 of a cooking chorizo ring
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 6 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • grated cheese, optional but delicious
  • 1 tbsp or so olive oil

Instructions

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes - not too finely, and chuck the slices into a large frying pan, covered with salted water. Let them simmer, topping up the water if it dries out before the potato slices are nice and tender.
  2. When cooked, remove from the pan and add the oil. Now fry the potato slices, half at a time, until lightly golden. Remove and set aside for now.
  3. Slice the onion and fry until soft, then set aside.
  4. slice the chorizo into pound coin sized pieces and half each piece, then fry those off until just turning crisp.
  5. Mop up some of the fat, and beat the eggs together in a jug along with parsley and seasoning.
  6. Layer the potato slices in the pan with the onion, chorizo and pepper slices (they'll cook enough in the pan) then gently pour over the egg, letting it fill in the gaps. Turn your grill or oven up high.
  7. Let the pan sit over a low to medium heat, letting the egg gently set, like you're making a regular omelette.
  8. Slide the pan under the grill while the egg on top is still raw. Leave it there for a couple of minutes then remove and sprinkle on the cheese. Put it back under the grill until the cheese is melted and turning golden then carefully remove and set the pan on a worktop saver. Try not to leave it under the grill for any longer than you have to, as the eggs will turn rubbery.
  9. Slice up and serve with peas or salad and enjoy!
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Campfire Brownies

The colder and darker it gets, the more I hanker for a mug of something hot and a slice of something sticky, and these campfire brownies are just the ticket.  Dark, sticky and just sweet enough, these guys will beat smores hands down.  I baked these on Bonfire Night instead of my usual Bonfire Night Cupcakes, and they went down rather too well.  They’re not great for the waistline but the dog walking will make up for that (we hope!).

There seem to be recipes for brownies everywhere these days, in all shapes, colours and varieties, some an improvement, some, well, not so much, but trust me when I say that these really are quite delightful (if I do say so myself).  I haven’t called them smores brownies because a) Starbucks has done that b) we don’t live in America and c) they don’t have a solid cracker base, but the toasted marshmallow on top gives just enough of that campfire vibe.

Campfire Brownies

Campfire Brownies

Ingredients

  • 175g salted butter
  • 150g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 75g plain flour
  • 7 chocolate digestives
  • mini or regular marshmallows, enough to cover the surface area of the tin

Instructions

  1. Place a medium pyrex bowl over a small saucepan (get the two sized so the bowl will balance inside the rim of the saucepan, so it can be suspended over water) and add some boiling eater to the base of the saucepan (not so full that it touches the bottom of the bowl but no so empty that it could boil dry). Weigh the butter and chocolate into the bowl and set over the simmering water, which should be set over a low to medium heat on the hob. Stir gently until both have melted and combined, then carefully remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. While that's cooling, line and grease a 9 inch square loose bottomed cake pan and break up 8 chocolate digestives into small uneven pieces (but not crumbs!). They're going to be mixed into the brownie mixture to add another texture so think of them like large chocolate chips or nuts.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until fluffy.
  4. When the chocolate mixture has cooled, fold it into the eggs and sugar.
  5. Add the cocoa powder and mix this in well, followed by the flour. Once the flour is in, mix until just combined, then mix in the broken digestives. Don't over mix!
  6. Scoop into the tin then top with as many mini or full size marshmallows as you fancy, pressing them down slightly into the chocolate mixture to make sure they'll combine.
  7. Pop the tray into the middle of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until there's no wobble when you shake the pan a little.
  8. Allow to cool then remove the while lot from the pan as a slab, either by loosening the loose bottom or just by lifting out the greaseproof paper. Cut into squares and enjoy with a mug of tea and coffee!
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Why don’t you check out some more of our tasty bakes like these Honey and Lemon Madeleines or these Chewy Oat and Sultana Cookies?

Common Sense recipes for everyday eating