Monthly Archives: December 2013

Mince Pies


Makes 12 or so and takes about 45 minutes

Christmas in Britain would not be the same without these. Countless millions are sold and consumed every year, but it is so easy to make your own. By using self raising flour the pies are light and soft. Adding the lemon to the flour introduces an extra flavour to the mincemeat. Fresh from the oven and served with cream – pure decadence.


200 gm/7 oz/2 cups self-raising flour (or plain flour with baking powder added)

100 gm/3 1/2 oz/1 cup butter out of the fridge, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 lemon finely grated zest and juice

250 gm/8 1/2 oz/2 1/2 cups mincemeat

Icing sugar for dusting


1 Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, add the butter and together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2 Stir in the sugar and lemon zest, then using a round bladed knife stir in the lemon juice and a little cold water, until the mixture comes together.

3 Work the dough gently into a ball and then roll out to about 3 mm/ 1/8 inch thick. Stamp out 9 cm/ 3 1/2 inch diameter rounds and line a greased 12 hole baking tin.

4 Spoon a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into each case.


5 Roll out the remaining pastry and stamp out stars and place them centrally on each case


6 Bake in a pre-heated oven set to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6/moderate hot oven, for 12 to 15 minutes until the pastry is golden.

7 Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar

8 At stage 5 you could freeze them for later baking. Just put them in the freezer, in the baking tins and when frozen remove them and put into bags. Bake in a hot oven straight from the freezer for about 18 minutes



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Red Onion and Cheese Galettes


These are easy to produce, look fabulous on the plate and just melt in your mouth. They make a light meal suitable for a lunch or as a separate course at a dinner party or more formal occasion. And before anyone writes, yes I made only 3 instead of 4, using the same quantities of ingredients. It was just that I was cooking for 3 people not 4, and I did not want any leftovers.

Serves 4 Preparation Time: 10 minutes.        Cooking Time: 45 minutes.


10ml/1 desertspoon Olive oil

10gm/1oz/1 desertspoon Butter

330gm/11oz/2 cups Red onions, finely chopped

5ml/1 teaspoon Sugar

Salt and Pepper, freshly ground

250gm/8oz Ready-rolled Puff Pastry *( see separate recipe for easy make puff pastry)

120gm/5oz/ Strong Cheese (Cheddar)

15gm/ 1/2oz/ Fresh Thyme or equivalent dried Thyme.

Heat oil and butter in a saucepan, and then add the finely chopped onion, and the sugar. Season and then with the lid on cook gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lay out the pastry on a floured surface and cut into 4 equal rectangular portions. Position them on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, draw a line around the edge of each portion, forming a 1cm/1/2inch border.


Divide the cooked onions between the portions, leaving the border clear. Sprinkle the thyme on top of the onion and then repeat with the cheese.


Brush the borders with beaten egg or milk and then bake in a preheated oven set at 200C/400F/Gas Mark 5/moderate hot, for 15 minutes.






Serve immediately or cold, with either some green vegetable and boiled potatoes or salad.


Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Cheese, Main Meal, Pastry, Recipes, Side Dishes, Student Food, Vegetables

Tomato Sauce

A tomato sauce that you can tinker with around the edges according to what dish it is complementing is what I am offering here, and it is so easy to make.

Serves 4 with preparation time about 10 minutes and cooking time about 20 minutes



1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 onion finely chopped

1 clove garlic crushed

450gm/1lb tin of tomato pulp or passata

salt and pepper

For a hot sauce

1 level teaspoon chilli flakes

For a savoury sauce

2 level teaspoons of dried mixed herbs or herbs of your choice

For a sweet and sour sauce

1 desert spoon of sugar (adjust to your taste)

2 desert spoons of pineapple juice or white wine vinegar

For an Indian sauce

1 level teaspoon of your favourite curry powder (adjust to your taste)


  1. Gently fry the onion in the oil for about 4 minutes then add the garlic, cooking for another 3 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato, salt and pepper and the herbs or spices of your choice.
  3. Bring to the boil cooking for a few minutes.
  4. Use a stick blender to smooth the sauce then check the flavour and adjust  if you need to.
  5. Decant into a serving jug or dish and keep warm until ready to use.

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Easy Make Puff Pastry

I think that we have all been spoilt a little with the availability of ready made puff pastry, but what to do if you run out and the shops are shut? This is really easy to make but you do have to think ahead if you have a meal in mind because you will be using the freezer and fridge a bit to keep the butter or margarine cool.

This recipe came to me from my friend Josie Kendall, who is a fantasic baker, and I hope to be featuring some more of her recipes in the future, and also some recipes of her husband Andrew, who apart from being a very capable engineer is no mean cook either.

This makes about 500 gm/16oz pastry, with a preparation time of about 10 to 15 minutes


175gm/6oz/1 cup butter

225gm/8oz/2 1/2 cups plain flour

pinch of salt

4 or 5 tablespoons cold milk or water that  has been in the fridge for at least 2 hours

Method – remembering that here speed is of the essence, so have your knife and jug of water to hand before you start.

  1. Wrap the butter loosely in foil and put in the freezer for a good 2 hours.
  2. Grate the frozen butter into the flour, using a coarse grater and working quickly. If the heat of your hand starts to melt the butter, dip the butter into the flour and continue.
  3. Knife the butter into the flour.
  4. Add sufficient water and continue knifing until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  5. Put in to the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out quickly and using.

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Stuffed Tomatoes


This is another of those recipes that for me lifts an ordinary recipe into the realms of the outstanding. When I think of all the years that I have laboured under the impression that tomatoes and peppers had to be stuffed with a rice mixture. Well when I saw this North African recipe, I was almost quivering with excitement to try it. It did not disappoint me or my wife.

The recipe which I first saw in Treehugger, was a little more complicated than my version, calling for among other things, for pinenuts. Well, yes I agree that pinenuts would be rather nice, but they are also rather expensive, and so I used alternatives. Pinenuts will have to wait for that special occasion. I have made this twice now and first time I used ground almonds and this time I used smashed up hazel nuts. Both were very tasty but for me the ground almonds edged it. Although the smashed hazel nuts added another dimension to the texture.

Ingredients  – Serves 4 Preparation about 10 minutes and cooking time about 55 minutes

4 large Beef Steak Tomatoes (or double up on smaller tomatoes)

2 tablespoons olive oil

I onion finely sliced

1 clove garlic minced

600gm/190z/4 cups zucchini coarsely grated

1 teaspoon chilli flakes (or to taste)

50g/2oz/2 tablespoons of ground or smashed nuts (almond/hazel/walnut or pinenut)

salt and pepper


Cut the top from the tomatoes and scoop out the flesh and seeds, retaining them for another meal. Sprinkle with a little salt.

In a frying pan, gently fry the onion for 5 minutes in the olive oil, until it softens.

Add the garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes.

Add the grated zucchini and dried chilli and fry for 10 minutes turning the zucchini every 2 minutes or so.

Add the nuts and season to your taste. Stir well.

Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture, filling to the brim.


Put the filled tomatoes into a suitable greased oven proof dish or loaf tin and put them into a pre-heated oven set at 180C/350F/Gas 4/moderate, for about 40 to 45 minutes.


Serve immediately with boiled potatoes and a green vegetable of your choice.

NB I think that instead of ordinary onions, spring onion/scallions would add an extra flavour. Even leeks would be interesting here as well

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Christmas Pudding


I have been using this recipe for years, and it always produces excellent puddings, and is simplicity itself to make.  They also keep exceptionally well, with one pudding being eaten 12 months after it was made. Anytime from now until the first week of December is ideal to make them and this recipe will make enough to fill 4 x 1 pint/ pudding basins.


250 gm/8 oz/2 1/2 cups dark sugar

250 gm/8 oz/2 cups unsalted butter

1000 gm/40 oz/ 8 cups mixed sultanas,raisins and currants ( I can only get sultanas in Italy and our puddings are none the worse for it).

125 gm/5 oz/1 1/4 cups  plain flour

125 gm/5 oz/ 1/4 cups bread crumbs

1 lemon, zest and juice

5 eggs beaten

1 teaspoon heaped ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon heaped mixed spice

1 teaspoon heaped grated nutmeg

1 pinch salt

150 ml/5 fl oz/ 1/2 cup brandy or rum.


Pour yourself a glass of brandy for while you are mixing the ingredients

Put all the dry ingredients, including the butter into a very large mixing bowl.

Add the liquid ingredients and start stirring.

In between taking sips of brandy, continue stirring until the mixture is well and truly mixed, especially the butter.

This stage is optional. Leave overnight covered by a clean tea towel, to mature the flavour.

Turn the mix into greased pudding basins, pressing the mix down well into the basins, and to within 1cm/1/2inch of the top. This is to allow for expansion during the cooking.

Cover with a circle of kitchen paper. Then put foil over the top of each basin, tying it down and forming a handle, to facilitate lifting hot puddings out of the cooking pan.

Most recipes that I have read about Christmas Puddings recommend using string to tie down the foil and make a handle. However I have in the past had puddings slip from the string and fall back in to the pan, so now I always use thin garden wire. This is the sort that is covered with dark green plastic. Turn the edge of the foil up, to support the wire or string, while you fiddle it into position and secure it.

Put a pudding in a large pot, placing the pudding upon an upturned saucer. Pour boiling water in until it comes 1/3 up the side of the pudding basin. Put a lid on the pan and boil gently for about 5 1/2 hours, topping up with boiling water from time to time. It should look a dark brown colour at this stage.

When cool, change the kitchen paper and foil and tie as before

Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas Day, when the pudding will need another 2 hours of boiling. Serve with the sauce of your choice.

Some thoughts on the boiling. 7 1/2 hours boiling is a lot of gas or electricity, and if we did not have a wood burning stove upon which we do a lot of cooking during the winter months, then I would use our pressure cooker. I do not use our pressure cooker that much and so I am not too familiar with cooking times, but a quick scan on the internet yielded a lot of information (such as- cook as for chicken) which you would need to pick over. But it should be possible to reduce the cooking time to about 2 hours or thereabouts. I do have a confession to make here though. Pressure cookers frighten the life out of me. As an engineer, I am very much aware that that thing hissing away is a high pressure bomb, and yes I know all about safety margins, extensive testing to destruction, etc etc etc, but when I use one I always exit the kitchen, until it is safely hissing away.

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Deep Fried Sheep’s Eyeballs



Okay I confess these are NOT deep fried sheep’s eyeballs, however one can,with a little imagination, envisage the initial resistance as one bites into a real sheep’s eyeball and then the sudden relaxing of resistance as the teeth penetrates and the contents empty into your mouth – Got the picture?

I created these many years ago when I was invited to a party and we were urged to bring unusual foods for the party. They are simplicity to make, along as you don’t laugh too much when you are making them.  I presented them at the party as Deep Fried Sheep’s Eyeballs, and they created a great deal of comment. Interesting as well when they were pounced upon by the gourmets and pronounced as the best eyeballs they had tasted! They are just as nice served hot or cold, though probably with a tasty accompanying sauce.

Serves 4 as an antipasti or starter, with preparation taking about 10 minutes and cooking about 10 to 15 minutes


Grapes, the largest and seedless grapes you can buy, green or black

300 ml/10 fl oz/1 1/4 vegetable oil for frying

150 ml/5 fl oz/1/2 cup warm milk

100 gm/3 1/2 oz/1 cup flour

1 egg

packet dried yeast

1 teaspoon of chili powder


  1. Mix together the flour, milk,egg, yeast and chili, and allow to develop into a fairly thick batter for about an hour in a warm place.
  2. Pour the oil into a saucepan so that the oil will cover the grapes, and heat to about 190 C/375 F.
  3. Dip grapes into the batter and fry for about 4 minutes, remove and place on kitchen paper to drain.
  4. Keep them warm whilst doing the rest.
  5. Serve immediately.


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