Sweet Potato Cottage Pie

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aka Jelly’s Miraculous Return from being a massive lazy bum.

So, I’ve been terribly rubbish and awful with not posting for like 6 months so I do apologise about that. Here’s a proper tasty, easy peasy cold January kind of a recipe. Adapted from BBC Good Food. Totally customisable to your taste.

P.S. Happy New Year!

Serves 4 very well, 5 quite well and 6 well

Ingredients

3 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
hefty sprinkling of thyme
300-400g minced beef/lamb
100g puy lentils
1 cup of peas
flour to thicken, if necessary
1l stock (beef or vegetable)
3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes
3 large potatoes, cut into 3cm cubes
150g yoghurt
salt and pepper
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground paprika
few handfuls grated cheese

Method

Heat some oil in a large/deep saucepan. Sweat the onions for 5 minutes then throw in the garlic, thyme and carrots. Cook for 5 more minutes before adding the mince, stirring and breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Once fully browned add the lentils and stock. Simmer for 30 minutes or so, until nicely thickened – add flour if necessary.

Meanwhile stick all your potatoes in another large saucepan. Boil until soft, then drain and mash with the yoghurt. Season to taste, add the peas and stick in a large casserole dish. Cover the meaty mixture with the mash (if you’re feeling fancy you could pipe it, but if not just stripe with a fork). Stick in the oven (180°C/350°F/gas mark 4) until the mash begins to crisp then add the cheese and cook for a further ten minutes.

Picture soon to follow…!

Scrummy Pie

See, told you so.

J

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Homemade Chai in a Bottle

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Makes approx. 1.5 litres chai concentrate

Ingredients
10 tea bags
2 cinnamon sticks
80g light brown sugar
3-inch piece of root ginger, grated
10 whole cloves
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 whole star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
peel of one orange (I peeled it like an apple, so the large strips won’t fit through the sieve at the end)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Method

Add all ingredients except the teabags and vanilla extract to a large saucepan along with a litre of water and bring to the boil. Boil around 800ml water in a kettle and add to the teabags. Leave to soak for a few minutes and squeeze. Add the tea to the pan. Simmer for 20-30 minutes before straining to remove the bits. Add the vanilla extract and decant into bottles whilst still warm. Seal the bottles and allow to cool.

Store in the fridge once cool. I would guess (though this hasn’t been tested) it would keep for 2-4 weeks unopened and 2 weeks once opened. When required, pour out around 2cm of syrup (more or less depending on taste) into a cup before topping up with hot milk or boiling water.

Makes a great Christmas gift all dressed up with ribbons, tags and a cinnamon stick and would also be nice as a flavouring in cakes and traybakes.

Feta and Roasted Vegetable Bulghar-Wheat Salad

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This tasty salad makes a nice change from the old ham sandwiches. It’s really easy to make and lasts all week so I tend to make a huge tub of it on a Sunday and it will keep until Friday – not that it ever really lasts that long. It looks really posh too.

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

1/2 butternut squash, diced into 1-2 cm cubes
1/2 courgette, diced into 1-2 cm cubes
1 medium sweet potato, diced into 1-2 cm cubes
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cup of bulghar wheat
1 vegetable stock cube
handful spinach, chopped
100g feta
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
4 tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper

Method

Heat the oven to 160*C whilst you prepare the vegetables. Throw them into a bowl and coat well in the sunflower oil. Add a teaspoon of each of the herbs and put on a baking tray in the oven to roast for 40-50 minutes until soft. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, add the bulghar wheat to the a bowl and cover with two cups of boiling water. Add the stock cube and stir well. Cover with clingfilm and leave to soak for 10-15 minutes, stirring a couple of times.

When the bulghar wheat has soaked up the water, add the vegetables to it. Leave to cool before crumbling over the feta, adding the herbs and adding the chopped spinach. Chop the tomatoes and add to the salad. Season well and store in the fridge.

Cheese, Onion and Mustard Swirls

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We love swirls. Sweet or savoury, they are an easy way to make eye-catching office munchies or a traybake to share at a party. These swirls are a take on a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, which we handily ‘borrowed’ from G’s sister on an extended (never-ending) loan. Oh well. More time to bake all of the deliciousness.

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Makes 24 perfect for sharing or 12 as more of a substantial lunch.

Ingredients

375g plain flour
1 tsp salt
black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
7g dried fast-action yeast
150 ml milk
80 ml water
55g butter, melted, plus a bit extra
1 medium onion
170g cheddar
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper
1 tbsp onion chutney

Method

Begin by making up the dough. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt to one side of the bowl and yeast to the other. Throw in the sugar and pepper wherever you fancy. Pour in the melted butter, add the milk and mix well, then continue to add the water more slowly until you reach a slightly sticky-consistency dough. Throw out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around ten minutes.

Leave to prove in an oiled bowl until doubled. Meanwhile if you fancy, you can begin grating the cheese and the onion into a bowl.

When the dough has proved, tip out onto a well-floured surface and roll out to approximately 48 cm x 30 cm if you want many to share, or 36 cm x 30 cm if you want them more for a substantial snack. Brush on a little melted butter to help everything stick before spreading on the mustard. Season well. Sprinkle on the cheese and onion evenly before rolling towards you, along the 48 cm or 36 cm edge, to make a tight roll.

Cut the roll into 24 x 2 cm slices if making them to share or 12 x 2.5 cm swirls if making them for lunch. Line one or two deep baking trays with baking paper (depending on how many you’re making). Fit 12 swirls snugly into the tray – obviously if making 24 smaller swirls, you will need two trays. Leave to prove for around an hour in a warm place until the swirls are merging into each other.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 170*C until golden brown. Whilst they are still hot, mix the chutney with the water in a small glass or bowl. Brush the tops of the swirls with the glaze to give a wonderful sticky shine that makes them look irresistible.

Yum.

Spanakopita (Greek Feta and Spinach Spiral Pasties)

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More flipping swirly things! (Sorry)

Sadly, I haven’t ever managed to capture a shot of these little things. Once they come out of the oven, they are so elusive, you’ll be lucky if you can catch one for lunch the day afterwards. Inspired by a number of recipes, I have amalgamated the ‘best bits’ of each into this tasty concoction.

Ingredients

6 sheets of filo pastry (no, I don’t make my own – maybe one day I’ll give it a go)
1 bag of spinach (approx 500g)
200g block of feta
1 medium white onion
1 tsp garlic paste or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
handful rosemary (fresh, chopped), or 2 tsp dried
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 medium egg
a sprinkling of plain flour
a little bit of milk

Method

Start by chopping up your spinach quite finely. Squeeze out as much of the water as you can from it, over a sieve to catch any bits you drop. This will seem tiresome, but it really is worth it. Grate the onion and similarly, squeeze the water out of that. Add the squeezed spinach and onion to a bowl. Crumble over the feta, herbs and mix well before adding 1/2 of the egg to bind it all together. Save the last bit of egg for later.

Open out your filo sheets onto a well-floured surface. Begin by brushing egg round the outside of the first sheet. Add 1/6 of your spinachy mixture in a long line along the longest edge of the filo sheet, leaving 1 inch around the edge clear (which should be covered in egg). Fold over the filo 1 inch lengthways and widthways, to fully cover the line of spinach and begin rolling the pastry to form a long sausage. Try not to catch any big bubbles of air.

When you have a spinachy sausage, brush one side of it with egg and use this as the glue to hold your spiral together. Roll the sausage around one end fairly tightly and use a bit of egg to glue down the last centimetre. You should have something that looks like this.

Brush the outside with egg and place on a greased tray. Repeat for the remaining 5 sheets of filo.

Bake in the oven at 160*C for around 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Take a photo before they all get nommed.

Chocolate Biscotti

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These make a great biscuit to dunk in tea. Once baked, they will keep for up to a week but they also freeze well if you choose to save some for another day.

Makes approx 50-60 biscuits.

Ingredients

60g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
220g sugar
2 eggs
260g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g chocolate of your choice (if using milk chocolate, lower sugar to 200g)
optional: 100g pistachios or other nuts, chopped

Method

Beat the butter, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Add eggs, sifted flour and mix to create a smooth dough. Add in chopped chocolate and nuts. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 160*C and grease a baking tray. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth. Halve the dough and roll into a log shape of around 30 cm or the length of your baking tray. Brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm. Leave to cool completely before slicing diagonally into 1 cm slices. Heat the oven to 140*C, places sliced biscuits on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes until dry, turning half-way.

How to bake the World’s Best Brownie

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Brownies are great. Everybody loves a well baked brownie – you might know someone who doesn’t, but you only remember them because they are one in a million. This recipe is extremely versatile. It’s a rich, moist brownie that you can throw anything into to make it your own. The other great thing about this recipe is it is extremely difficult to get wrong – there is no danger of overmixing anything and it ending up as a chocolatey mess, and I have found that using the basic ranges of ingredients works just as well – just don’t tell anyone!

Ingredients

200g dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter (or baking spread/Stork)
300g sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 large eggs
80g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
65g plain flour

Method

Melt the butter and chocolate  in a bowl above a saucepan of boiling water slowly. You can do this in a saucepan directly, but just be sure to do it slowly and keep stirring it regularly – it will be fine. Add the sugar to a bowl (or a large jug) along with the vanilla essence. Pour in the chocolatey buttery mixture and stir well. Add the four eggs and mix thoroughly until smooth. Sieve the flour into the bowl and beat until smooth and silky – you can try very hard – but I have never found it possible to overmix this – just beating it with a wooden spoon until smooth works just fine. Line a brownie tin with baking paper (neatly – this is the most important bit!) and pour in the mixture. Gently bash the tin on the worktop Bake for around 15 minutes at 170° until the outside is cakey and the middle is still a bit squidgy. As a general rule – check your brownie and if it wobbles when you shake it – it needs longer – ideally 5 minutes after the time it stops wobbling. There is a varying degree of squidgyness so if you’re into eating your brownie with a spoon – you probably want to leave it for less time – mine turn out quite sturdy, but moist in the middle. This advice becomes very important when you start adding things like raspberries and cheeseecake topping.

Optional extras:

You might like to try adding chopped nuts, chocolate chips, cherries, fresh raspberries (you can add frozen too – but you’ll need to substantially increase the cooking time) or chopped stem ginger. Add to the mixture at the end.

If dark chocolate is not your thing – this recipe works just as well with milk chocolate – just knock the sugar down to 250g and the butter down to 200g.

Adding a cheesecake topping and swirling it through the mixture adds a wonderfully simple, yummy extra. Mix 150g cream cheese with 60g icing sugar and a tsp vanilla extract. Beat in one egg and dollop on top of the mixture. Swirl through with a skewer or knife. Alternatively pipe it in lines and sweep the skewer through it in alternate directions for a posh pattern.

You could use this mixture to create a base for a normal cheesecake, or a triple layered brownie cheesecake. I would recommend halving the recipe and adding the cheesecake and raspberry cream layers according to the recipe here. You could just as easily add a non-baked cheesecake mixture to the top of a thinner brownie base and chill to set. Any other ideas for how to use this ultimate brownie recipe would be greatly appreciated – post ideas below!

For more of our brownie ideas and thoughts, see Our Quest for the World’s Best Brownie.