Wednesday, 27 February 2013

P is for Pretty Plates

It's always a struggle to find pretty plates for summer.  I don't want to use china outside, but plastic or melamine look cheap.  And then I spied these in the Wallace Collection Shop.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

S is for Snack

Having got bored with the usual snacks, I made these mozzarella munchies using a variation of the recipe in Paul Hollywood's How to Bake book.

There were more...I just didn't find my phone quickly enough before they started disappearing...


  • 1 roll of butter puff pastry
  • 1 pack of smoked Pancetta lardons
  • 1 250 grm ball of mozzarella, torn into small bits
  • 6 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and sliced on the diagonal into 10 mm pieces
  • (White) pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


  1. Heat the oven to 220°C and cut some baking paper to fit your usual oven tray
  2. Pan fry the lardons until they start to color but are not browned
  3. Unroll the pastry and cut in half into two rectangles
  4. Scatter the meat, cheese and onions evenly over the pastry and then grind over some pepper*
  5. Re-roll the pastry forming two sausage shapes
  6. Cut each roll into six and place the slices on the oven tray
  7. Brush the tops and sides with some of the egg to glaze and pop into the oven for about 20 minutes
  8. Serve warm with or without a side salad.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

H is for Husbands

I am lucky.  Look what my husband made for Valentine's supper!  The recipe is a combination of Jamie Oliver's steak and ale pie filling and a Paul Hollywood hot water pastry crust.

Preheat the oven to 220°C

For the filing, gather

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 25 grms butter
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 medium red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 kg quality shin of beef, diced in 1" pieces with the bone
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 400 ml ale
  • 2 heaped tbpn plain flour
  • 1.5 litres beef stock
  • 140 grms pearl barley
  • 3 teaspn English mustard
  • 2-3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • S&P


  1. Put the oil, butter and herbs into a large casserole pan on a high heat.
  2. Add the onion, meat, the shin bone and season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Stir together, and cook for 10 minutes, scrapping the bottom occasionally.
  4. Add the flour and mix in before adding the tomato purée, ale and stock.
  5. Stir until the liquid begins to simmer.
  6. Turn the heat down very low, pop the lid on and let it cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  7. When the hour is up, stir in the pearl barley.
  8. Put the lid back on and simmer for another hour, then remove the lid and simmer for a further 30 minutes, or until the meat shreds easily and the gravy is thick.
  9. Spoon away any oil from the top, then stir in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce
  10. Season to taste then set aside to make the pastry.

For the hot water crust, gather

  • 265 grms all purpose (plain) flour
  • 55 grms strong white bread flour
  • 55 grms unsalted butter, cubed
  • 65 grms lard
  • 1 teaspn salt
  • 135 mls boiling water
  • 1 egg, beaten


  1. Mix the flours together in a bowl and then rub in the butter.
  2. Melt the lard and dissolve the salt in the water.
  3. Pour the liquid lard into the water, mix and then pour that onto the flour.
  4. Mix with a pastry cutter until the dough is cool enough to handle and then kneed together into a ball on a lightly floured board.
  5. Knead for two minutes until the dough is smooth.
  6. Working quickly, take two thirds of the pastry, roll out till it'll line your bowl.
  7. Then roll out the remaining third until it's big enough to top the pie.
  8. Add in the beef contents, discarding the shin bone as you do, pop in a pie funnel and then top the pie with the pastry lid.
  9. Seal and then glaze with the egg.
  10. Bake for 20 mins at 220°C and then turn the oven down and bake for a further hour at 180°C.  [As we have an Aga we just transfer the pie from the roasting oven to the baking oven]

Serve the pie with garden peas.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

P is for Paper Flowers

This post is courtesy of Dozi Design. Several sprigs are now work-in-progress for our hall in time for tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

H is for Hearts

Not usually into schmaltz, but these pretty table decorations do look nice against the dark wood of my table for Valentine's.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

C is for Chinese New Year

It's now the Year of the Snake!  Kung Hei Fat Choi!  恭喜發財!

And I'm looking to auger in fortune / prosperity with my sign which is the character for these good things upside down and which signals that luck should be about to arrive!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

R is for Ribbon Roses

We're away the week before Valentine's so I wanted a different table centre decoration for our romantic repast à deux--one that would last.

424 inches of red 1½ inch ribbon is now on its way through the post so I can make them.

Monday, 4 February 2013

D is for Duck

Got home to find a present from our neighbour: a brace of pheasants and a couple of ducks hanging on a nail off the side of the house.

My hubby obliged with the gunky job, which he does very efficiently with the pheasants by just removing the breasts, and taking the saddle off the duck with a few slashes of the knife.  No mess with feathers since the skin's removed with them still on.

The pheasant's gone in the freezer for another evening, but this is a really simple recipe that keeps the duck breasts moist as there's no skin to protect them.

  • 3 tbspns clear honey
  • 2 tbspns light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspn crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspn crushed ginger
  • 100 mls orange juice
  • Zest of an orange
  • Grind of Sichuan pepper
  • 200 grms small mushrooms, cleaned (or larger ones halved)
  • 12 spring onions, trimmed and cut into thirds
  1. Preheat the over to 180°C*
  2. Put the duck breasts in an ovenproof dish
  3. Stir together the ingredients apart from the mushrooms and the onions
  4. Pour the liquid over the duck meat
  5. Roast in the oven for 5 minutes
  6. Put the mushrooms and onions in the dish tossing a bit in the liquid
  7. Cook for a further 15 minutes
  8. Serve with stir fry veggies and rice
* or simply put in the baking oven of the aga

Served two (given we were hungry and the ducks were wilds ones).  Sorry no photos...