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Oven Hash

Question . . . does this look like stewing beef to you?? I thought not! It doesn't look like stewing beef to me either . . . but apparently it does to Todd. I sent him to the shops this morning to get me a pound of cubed stewing beef and this is what he brought back. I had in mind to make a beef curry in my crock pot as the gas is off again today . . .

Scratch the beef curry.

I tried not to grumble at him too much . . . meh . . . these things happen. Never send a man in to do a woman's job . . . most times they will mess it up, but . . . c'est la vie!

Instead I made a lovely oven hash . . . it occurred to me that whilst my gas burners wouldn't operate with the gas turned off . . . the electric oven still would. Duh . . . it only took me three days to figure that bit out.

I also have a beautiful Morphy Richard's crock pot which browns things, and so I browned my meat, onions and peppers for the hash in that. I stirred in all the other ingredients, poured them into a casserole dish and popped it into my hot oven.

This is a very old recipe. It's called many different things . . . Texas Hash, Macaroni and Meat . . . Oven Hash. It all boils down to the same thing.

Comfort food. Simple food. Family food. Economical and honest ingredients combined to make a delicious meal that your family will love.

All you need on the side is a tossed salad and perhaps some crusty rolls. I'll make the beef curry another day . . . today we feasted on this.

*Oven Hash*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

Not a hash with potatoes, but a delicious mixture of spiced minced beef, baked with tomatoes, onions and noodles. Comfort food. Family food. Simple, maybe . . . but never plain.

3 TBS fat (You can use oil, drippings or butter)
3 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large green pepper, trimmed, seeds discarded, and flesh chopped
1 lb. extra lean minced beef
2 (400g) tins of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice (about 3 cups)
180g of uncooked noodles (2 cups) (You may also use 1/2 cup of raw long grain rice)
1 tsp mild chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano flakes
2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a 2 litre casserole dish. Set aside.

Melt the fat in a dutch oven. Add onions and pepper. cook, stirring, until the onions are softened, but not browned. Add the minced beef. Cook and stir until the mixture falls apart and is no longer pink. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour this mixture into the buttered casserole dish. cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 15 minutes longer. Serve hot.

Cooking in The Cottage today, a delicious Chocolate Bread Pudding with Raspberry Cherry Sauce.
Marie Rayner
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Lemon and Poppyseed Drop Scones

Can it be possible that we are at the end of January already??? I know! Hasn't the month just flown by! Over in North America kids will be getting ready for Groundhog Day (2nd February) and praying that the groundhog doesn't see his shadow, for if he does . . . there is sure to be at least six more weeks of winter. Crazy but true. I kinda miss Groundhog Day . . . somehow they don't quite get it over here . . . if you greet anyone with the words "Happy Groundhog Day" . . . you are met with either a blank stare . . . or a look which says they are questioning your sanity . . .

You might be asking yourself at this point . . . "What the heck does all this have to do with Lemon and Poppy Seed Drop Scones???" The answer would be absolutely nothing! It's just me babbling on about the first thing that comes into my head . . .

Poppyseed and lemon . . . a quintessential marriage of beautiful proportions . . . they go together oh-so-very -perfectly-well. Kinda like peas and carrots.

In a drop scone? Spread with honey or beautiful lemon curd??? Genius . . . pure genius!! I just love taking something traditional and giving it a unique twist.

Well . . . you just can't get much better than that. (My gas is off again today . . . so once again I can not cook . . . with the stove at any rate. blah . . . )

*Lemon and Poppy Seed Drop Scones*
Family size (must mean at least 4 or five people)

This is another one from my big blue binder. In the amount area it only says family size so I take it to mean that means a lot, because I had a rather large family. Tender and soft with a bit of poppy seed crunch and a hint of lemon, these are fabulous served with honey, or my personal favourite . . . lemon curd.

200g plain flour (2 cups)
¼ tsp salt
2 TBS white sugar
6 tsp baking powder
2 TBS poppy seeds
2 large free range eggs
500ml milk
the grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
2 tsp lemon juice
5 TBS sour cream
4 TBS melted butter
cooking spray for oiling the pan

To serve:
cold butter
Lemon curd (your own homemade or store bought, good quality)
runny honey

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, poppyseeds and baking powder in a large bowl. Put the eggs, milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, sour cream and melted butter into a large beaker and whisk them together well. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients all at once. Whisk together vigorously until they make a smooth batter.

Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Grease lightly with a little bit of oil, swirling it to lightly coat the bottom of the pan, or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Drop the batter onto the heated pan or griddle in heaping dessertspoonfuls. Cook over medium high heat until the surface is coated with small bubbles and the underside is lightly browned before flipping them over to cook and brown the other side. Remove to a plate and keep warm in the oven while you are cooking the rest, using up all the batter. Serve warm with knobs of ice cold butter on top and dollops of lemon curd or runny honey.

These freeze very well. Just pop them between layers of grease proof paper and pop them into a zip lock baggie. You can then take out as many or as few as you want at any given time, warming them up for a few seconds in the microwave.

PS - You can very easily cut this recipe in two if you don't want to make quite so many. I did.

Cooking in The Cottage today, a delicious Quick Beef, Vegetable and Barley Soup!
Marie Rayner
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Apricot Bread Pudding

I recently had the good fortune to have a whole bunch of brioche bread that didn't get eaten before it went stale . . . you might be asking yourself, why on earth would that be considered fortunate??

I mean, brioche is so rich and moist and delicious, surely one would want to eat it when it was at it's best !!!

And yes . . . we do . . . but . . .

I also happen to know that as scrummy as brioche is when it's fresh . . . . it makes an even scrummier bread pudding!

Especially in this version which has tasty cubes of brioche bread, mixed together with sweet bits of apricot that have been steeped in Lady Grey Tea, with hints of bergamot, orange and lemon . . .

Combine that with a rich custard containing whole milk, cream, eggs and the zest of orange and lemon and you have something really special indeed. We like ours warm with a cold quenelle of creme fraiche sitting atop . . . but it is equally as delicious and scrummy with some creme anglaise, or vanilla pod ice cream, which is really only frozen vanilla custard after all . . .


*Apricot Bread Pudding*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

A delicious bread pudding with the added surprise of sweet apricots that have been steeped in Lady Grey Tea.

8 ounces of stale brioche bread, crusts removed and
cut into cubes (a scant 4 cups)
1 Lady Grey Tea bag
250ml cup boiling water (1 cup)
3 ounces of dried apricots, cut into small bits (1/2 cup packed)
2 large free range eggs
1 large free range egg yolk
250ml whole milk (1 cup)
375ml double cream (1 1/2 cups)
150g caster sugar (3/4 cup)
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the tea bag and the apricots into a heat proof bowl. Add the boiling water and allow to steep for 10 minutes. At the end of that time, remove the tea bag and strain the apricots, discarding any liquid. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs, egg yolk and 2 ounces of the milk together in a bowl. Place the remaining milk into a saucepan along with the cream, sugar, lemon and orange zests and vanilla. Bring to the boil. Remove from the heat. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Gradually pour this over the egg mixture, whisking constantly until completely combined. Strain this thru a wire mesh sieve into a bowl. Gently stir in the brioche cubes and the drained apricots. Cover and place in the
Inglis Refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

The next day when you are ready to cook it, pre-heat the oven to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3.. Butter six ramekins well. Divide the pudding mixture evenly amongst them. Place on a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown and almost set. Serve warm with some creme anglaise or creme fraiche spooned on top. Delicious!

Cooking in The Cottage today a delicious Cheeseburger Spaghetti Pie!
Marie Rayner
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My Top of the Pop's (Dinner wise that is!)

Source: flickr.com via Kate on Pinterest

Wahhh . . . gas works are still ongoing here at Casa de Rayner, and so once again no cooking going on. Sigh . . . sad but true. We did have a tasty fry up at a cafe this morning . . . but other than that we've only eaten fruit and cereal today. I think it will be toast and jam for tea, but that's always good and something we both like. After the fry up, something simple and non-fattening is in order!

I thought it would be fun to do a round up of my top of the pop's main dish recipes. These are the dishes that I cook again and again. I can see that comfort food plays a very big part . . . hmmm . . . I wonder what that says about me??? Sometimes it's nice to do a review of things . . . I think so at any rate. ☺

Beer Battered Fish & Chips

What can I say. I've always been a big fan of Fish & Chips. I think they taste better in the North West as compared to the ones we used to get in the South, and you can't go to the seaside without having them. Preferably eaten on the pier, looking out to sea and doused in salt and malt vinegar. Of course, making them at home is best of all.

Cottage Pie with Potato Cobbles

Cottage Pie is a real favourite with my meat and potatoes loving husband and he especially loved this version I made using extra lean beef mince . . . lots of onions, leeks and tasty carrots, swede and peas, all in a rich gravy and topped with lovely potato cobbles and cheese.

Sticky Bangers with Buttermilk and Chive Mash

There is nothing tastier or more beautiful than a good Butcher's pork Banger . . . and when you combine them with a sticky fruity glaze and some rich buttermilk and chive mashed spuds you have something that is very special indeed!

Macaroni Shepherd's Pie

Double the pleasure and comfort with your favourite lamb and veg filling topped with luciously rich macaroni and cheese. What more could anyone want! Different, easy and oh so tasty!

Perfectly Cooked Roast Beef

We have some of the best beef in the world here in the UK, and with my foolproof way to cook it, you are guarenteed to have a delicious roast beef dinner every single time. Tasty, tender and succulent. I like a standing rib roast best of all, but this method will work with any roasting cut. I guarantee!

Simple Pot Roasted Chicken

A deliciously moist pot roasted chicken served with plenty of veg and a tasty au jus. Heartily approved by my "Mr Darcy!" It may not look like much but it is really tender and moist. We like it with roasted potatoes, sprouts and mashed carrots and parsnips. Who doesn't love a tasty roast chicken and this, in my humble opinion, is one of the very best recipes ever!

Cod Fish Cakes and Tartar Sauce

Moist fish cakes, crisp on the outside and with no fillers, flavoured with fresh tarragon and served with a delicious homemade horseradish tartar sauce. This is one of our all time favourites, and so much tastier than those frozen fish cakes you buy in the shops.

Lancashire Hot Pot

British Tradition at it's very best. This is the good, old fashioned, stodge which never fails to please. Simple flavours, beautifully put together. This is what the UK is all about.

Not Your Mama's Spag Bol

Spaghetti Bolognese is one of the UK's most beloved dishes and makes weekly appearances in a lot of homes over here. My husband hates pasta . . . he's very old fashioned in that way, having been brought up during the war. Pasta is foreign food to him and he really prefers traditional dishes. He does like this though . . . as long as I spoon it over mash. I think everyone over here has their own "secret" recipe for Spag Bol. This is mine. It's a cross between Spag Bol and Chili, and quite, quite delicious if I don't say so myself!!

Chicken Curry with Rice

You just can't beat a good curry and I do believe that curry has overtaken just about every dish as Britain's favourite dish, even Roast Beef. (Although I do have to say we do love our Roast Dinners with a passion!) I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to curry . . . preferring mine a bit on the milder side, but loving it all the same. Chicken or lamb . . . fish or vegetable. Curry is one of our favourites. This is a lovely low fat one with a beautiful addition of spinach for added colour, texture and flavour. (We like Green Thai Curry as well!

Pssstt!! We also love a really good Lamb Curry as well. This particular recipe is very good indeed.

I just noticed something is glaringly absent here . . . a Tasty Fish Pie. Time to remedy that. Look for one soon!!!

On Monday I'll post my round up of my top ten favourite British Puds! (Am hoping I have gas for the weekend!)

In The Cottage today, Tex Mex Taters . . . cooked in the microwave and with the aid of an electric skillet!
Marie Rayner
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Crunchy Tuna Wraps

Due to ongoing local gas works there hasn't been a whole lot of cooking done here today. They were supposed to turn off out gas this morning, but here we are gone 1 PM and the gas is still on. I haven't dared start anything as they could knock on the door any minute. They are supposed to be removing the old lead pipe which brings the gas into our house and replacing it with a new plastic one and replacing the old gas meter as well.

We have stayed in all day waiting for them to do the job. If they don't get it done today, they can forget about doing it tomorrow. We already have plans and we're not open to changing them . . .

So anyways, instead of cooking anything for our lunch and risking having it interrupted halfway through I made us some tuna wraps.

Britain is a Nation of Sandwich Lovers. Oh boy do they love their sandwiches over here. They are definitely Sandwich connoisseurs! I was quite amazed at the different kinds that you can find when I first arrived on these green and verdant shores . . .

Pickle and cheese. (Branstons and cheddar) Cheese and Onion. (A mixture of Red Leicester, Cheddar, spring onions and mayo.) Cheese and Tomato. (Sliced tomato and grated cheddar.) Tuna and Sweetcorn. (Tuna Mayo with the addition of sweetcorn.) Egg and Cress. (Egg mayonnaise with spicy mustard cress sprinkled on top.) Bacon and Egg. (Egg Mayo with the addition of cooked bacon.) I could go on and on . . . there just seems to be no end to the variety of tastes and flavours you can find.

There is also no end to sandwich shops either. I think there has to be at least half a dozen in the centre core of Chester alone . . . and then each grocery shop has whole sections dedicated to the ready made sandwich. Rest stops on the motorways are also filled with ready made sandwiches . . . a boasting a great variety of fillings and breads. (I love the sandwiches from M&S. They are beautiful . . . always fresh, generously filled and never dry.)

There are panini and there are wraps. I don't think any nation on earth does the humble sandwich more honor than does Great Britain. But then again . . . the sandwich was invented here was it not?

(John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich and "Inventor" of the sandwich.

It has been duly noted that the Earl of Sandwich, who lived during the 1700's, was attending a card-game tournament. He was hungry, but wanted to continue playing while eating, so he needed both hands to stay clean and he needed one hand free to hold up the cards. So he told one of the servants to fetch him some slices of roast beef and put them between two slices of bread. The other royals noted this and eventually started ordering "what the Earl of Sandwich came up with". Eventually they just started calling it a sandwich. And thus was born the sandwich.

Nobody loved sandwiches as much as my late Aunt Freda did. Oh, my . . . but they were one of her most favourite of all meals. It was a joy to watch her eating one, her pleasure was so very evident. She even made the humble peanut butter sandwich look like haute cuisine when she was eating it.

I do confess . . . I love a sandwich as well. Today I made us these tasty wraps for our lunch . . . filled with a delicious low fat tuna filling, stogged full of crunchy bits, like celery, peppers, cucumber, spring onions and shredded lettuce. With low fat mayo, the added spark of some prepared mustard and wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla . . . they were most healthy indeed.

Is a wrap a sandwich??? I think so! Mind you . . . we made up for the lack of fat in these healthy wraps by imbibing one of these after . . . but . . .

shhh . . . I didn't tell you that! for what is an eclair . . . but a sandwich of a different type . . . choux paste, cream and chocolate. Meh . . . don't burst my bubble.

*Crunchy Tuna Wraps for Two*
Serves 2LinkPrintable Recipe

A sandwich by any other name!! Tasty and crunchy and very healthy!

2 TBS reduced fat mayonnaise
2 heaped tsp of prepared mustard
1 (200g) tin of tuna packed in water, drained and flaked (7.06 ounces)
2 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
1 stalk of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
3 TBS chopped red sweet bell pepper
fine seasalt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 inches of English Cucumber, very thinly sliced
a handful of shredded lettuce
2 whole wheat tortillas at room temperature (8 inches in diameter)

Combine everything but the cucumber, lettuce and tortillas in a bowl, mixing all together well. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Lay out the tortillas. Divide the tuna mixture equally between them and spread it out to cover the surface. Lay the cucumber over top. (You want this to be very thin for ease of rolling. I use my mandoline. You may also just chop it finely if you wish instead of slicing.) Spread the shredded lettuce over top of the cucumber. Roll each topped tortilla up tightly. Cut in half on the diagonal and serve immediately.

Cooking in The Cottage today, Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry. (Thank goodness for electric skillets!)
Marie Rayner
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Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese

This is a recipe that I got yonks ago from my dear sister. It's one that is quick and easy and oh so delicious . . . a bit calorie laden . . . but once in a blue moon it's ok to have a bit of an indulgence. It's when you bring once in a blue moon treats and undulgences to EVERY day that you run into trouble . . .

This recipe goes together lickety split. Just cook the macaroni and while it is cooking beat together the eggs, milk and seasonings. Have the butter measured and the cheese measured and grated and ready to go. Then . . . quick as a wink, as soon as the macaroni is cooked you throw it all together and . . . just like magic, presto chango . . . you've got delicious macaroni and cheese!

Seriously, it's as easy as all that. I kid you not!

I always use a strong cheddar because we like the flavour of strong cheddar, but you can use a medium cheddar if you want the cheese flavour to be a bit milder. Do taste before adding salt though . . . cheese can be quite salty and it wouldn't do to add too much and spoil the dish.

You could stir in some chopped ham or chorizo, or crumbled cooked bacon if you wanted to make it that tiny bit tastier . . . in for a dollar in for a pound and all that! You could also toss in some well drained chopped tomatoes.

You could sprinkle the top with buttery crushed croutons for a bit of crunch if you wanted and even pop it under the grill to really crisp it up . . .

Me . . . I like it just as it is, and I relish every tasty morsel.

*Stove Top Mac and Cheese*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Not for the faint of heart, this calorie laden treat, but boy oh boy . . . what a delicious way to go! Easy, uncomplicated and oh so tasty!

8 ounces macaroni
4 TBS butter
2 large free range eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp dry mustard
10 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil and then cook your macaroni according to package directions. Whilst the macaroni is cooking, whisk together the eggs, evaporated milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper and mustard in a large measuring cup. Once the macaroni is cooked drain well and then return to the pot. Stir in the butter until it melts, then stir the egg mixture into the hot pasta. Add the cheese and cook and stir over low heat until the cheese is melted and the whole thing is nice and creamy. Serve hot.

Note - You can cut the calories and fat somewhat by using "light" evaporated milk. I do NOT recommend using low fat cheese however, as the melting properties are not quite the same as full fat cheese.

Over in The Cottage today, Bacon and Mushroom Sauced Chicken Breasts.
Marie Rayner
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