Heston’s Scotch Eggs

Three very good things. A crisp crunchy breadcrumb coating. Then fragrantly seasoned sausagemeat, and finally, a golden yolked egg in the centre.

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A passed some pretty important exams, and we made some scotch eggs to celebrate, although we probably would have ended up making them anyway. Despite my misgivings about boiling oil and raw meat, they were surprisingly straightforward to make. We went for Heston Blumenthal’s recipe, and it was a winner.

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I also baked a carrot cake based on this recipe but I screwed up the cream cheese icing by overwhisking it, so the cake was a decidedly drippy affair and no photographic evidence to show for it. Sorry.

Have a scotch egg recipe instead to make up for it. You’ll need plenty of oil…

Heston’s Scotch Eggs

Adapted from Heston Blumenthal at Home

Makes 5

  • 6 medium eggs
  • 400g sausagemeat
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • plain flour
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 3 slices of stale bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs
  • around 500ml vegetable oil, for frying

Cook 5 eggs in a large pan of cold water over a high heat. As soon as it starts to simmer, cook the eggs for 1 minute 45 seconds then place under cold running water for 2 minutes. Leave them in the cold water for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile prep the sausagemeat. Put it into a bowl and add the thyme, mustard, cayenne, paprika, chives, salt and pepper and use your hands to mix the seasoning thoroughly into the meat. Divide into 5, and shape into round balls. Between two sheets of clingfilm, flatten into patties. Chill the sausagemeat for 15 minutes in the fridge.

Peel the egg shells away from the cooled eggs.

Now, with the chilled sausagemeat, flatten the patties into flat circles, and place an egg into the centre of each sausagemeat circle, wrapping it around the egg until it is fully encased.

Put enough flour to coat the eggs in a shallow bowl, and season with salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, crack the remaining egg, and mix with the milk. Put the breadcrumbs into a third bowl. Roll each sausagemeat wrapped egg in the flour, then dip in the beaten egg. Then roll the egg in the breadcrumbs, ensuring it is thoroughly coated. You can repeat the flour, beaten egg, breadcrumb stage again with each egg for a better coating of breadcrumbs. Gently shake off the excess.

Fill a small saucepan halfway with oil. Heat to 190˚C, or when a cube of bread dropped in turns golden in 1 minute. Drop a scotch egg into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes, constantly turning to ensure it is thoroughly cooked and golden on all sides. Fry one at a time. When golden, remove with a slotted spoon and place the scotch eggs on some sheets of kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.

When all the eggs are fried, put into the oven at 190˚C and bake for a further 10 minutes. Eat fresh.

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Pork and Mustard Sausage Rolls

I’ve posted about sausage rolls and rough puff before. A good puff pastry elevates a sausage roll from a greasy café staple, to a minature gastronomic heaven.

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Rough puff is the easiest way to get that – quicker and less complicated than the traditional version, with flaky layer that fall apart messily on eating. Emma from Poires au Chocolat has written a comprehensive tutorial on it, which beautifully explains the whole process from start to finish.

I ran out of plain flour – so went with strong flour instead, and as my stores of butter were looking deplete, I halved it, to see what would happen.

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It actually turned out really well. The sausage rolls puffed beautifully in the oven, and you could still see layers of clearly defined pastry. The photo above doesn’t adequately showcase how well they rose, they looked like little pastry pillows stuffed full of tasty filling.

Although the reduction in butter meant the pastry wasn’t quite as flaky or tender, it was also less overtly buttery, which made it an even better pairing for the delicate herby flavours of the seasoning, and the pork sausagemeat itself.

Though the pastry makes a fair few sausage rolls, be aware they disappear very fast. A splodge of tomato ketchup, and away you go.

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A lot of people feel the need to lighten their diets and practice a little abstinence throughout the month of January. I’m afraid I’m not very good at doing either, so I’ll probably be making up another batch of these. Delicious!

Pork and Mustard Sausage Rolls

For the rough puff pastry:

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 125g unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
  • pinch of salt
  • 150ml ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 8 Cumberland/Lincolnshire sausages
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • Wholegrain mustard
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Make the pastry first. Tip the flour into a bowl and add the chunks of cold butter. Rub in roughly, so there are lots of little chunks of butter still remaining. Then throw in the pinch of salt, and tip in enough water to bring the whole mixture together into a shaggy dough. You may need a bit less water.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and pop into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. Then take it out, and roll it out into a long rectangle. Fold this in three, like a letter, turn 90˚ and roll out into a long rectangle again. Fold into three again, then wrap and return to the fridge once more for another 30 minute rest.

After the 30 minutes has elapsed, take the pastry out, and roll it out into a rectangle once again, and fold. Turn 90˚ and fold once again. Return to the fridge for another rest. Repeat the process a third and final time, then the pastry is ready to use.

Now you’re ready to make sausage rolls. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Prepare a large baking tin with raised sides.

Squeeze the sausages out of their skins, and mix thoroughly with the chopped garlic.

Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Trim into a long rectangle. Brush a layer of wholegrain mustard down the centre of the long rectangle, then lay on the sausagemeat in a line down the centre of the pastry. Wrap the pastry around the mustard and sausagemeat to form a roll, and seal the edges together. Trim off any excess.

Flip the sausage roll over so the seam faces downwards, then slice with a sharp knife into 1 inch long pieces. Lay each roll on the baking tray with some space between each to allow for spreading.

Brush the tops of the sausage rolls with beaten egg, then stab the top of each roll with a fork. Pop into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer onto a cooling rack and eat warm or cold.

The Best of 2014

I have epic Quality Street withdrawal symptoms. This consists of my eyes honing in on anything purple and plastic, and poking around hopefully around all the cupboards in case I hid some chocolates in one of them. My pockets rustle with empty foil wrappers.

Last year, I wrote a recap post. There’s been so much baking in 2014 I knew I’d do it again. I’ve really stretched myself in so many ways, trying difficult techniques, and a heck a lot of French patisserie. So here we go!

The year started off with setting myself the challenge of conquering River Café’s infamous chocolate nemesis. What a way to start January.

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Buoyed from my first challenge, I finally braved the italian meringue method of macaron-making. With Pierre Hermé’s book, there was no stopping me! I baked and baked and baked, and my family pleaded with me that they were all mightily sick of macarons.

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On a similarly Parisian theme, I had to bake fresh fruit tartlets, and these strawberry beauties had me sold.

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Then even more French patisserie with the Gateau L’Opera

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Perhaps a change from French indulgence. This summery red, white and blue cheesecake was absolutely delicious, and required no baking at all. Less of a French theme going on, unless you just count the colours.

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Many birthdays followed, requiring the obligatory inclusion of chocolate cake. Never put birthday candles on this cake in 30˚C heat – it melteth….

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Then time for something savoury with these chorizo sausage rolls which were the BEE’S KNEES and sure to get another outing in the future!
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And then, come Christmas, bringing in the festivity with these gorgeous mince pies. I couldn’t stop making these over and over again.

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For 2015, there’s a few things I’d like to get to grips with.

Red velvet cake has always been a tricky one with me, so I’d love to find a recipe I was 100% happy with. Then in the savoury department, perhaps I’ll finally get round to making a pie that doesn’t contain apple! Pork pie anyone? Then perhaps more experimentation with yeast – brioche, and maybe a homemade Panettone next Christmas!

Let’s see what happens :).

Happy New Year! 

Christmas is Coming…

It’s Christmas Eve! Yay!

I’ve finally summoned my festive spirit out of the dark hole it’s been hiding in, and the kitchen smells gloriously of baking pastry, and wintery spices. The tree is up and sparkling, I’m belting out Frozen on repeat, and there’s golden glitter nail polish on standby if I remember to put it on.

I baked up a batch of pork and mustard sausage rolls.

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They weren’t quite as good as the chorizo and pepper sausage rolls I made earlier in the year, but they were still very moreish, and I ate more than my fair share! All I did was spread a thin layer of wholegrain mustard against the pastry, then adding the sausagemeat and rolling it up. They definitely make a great change from the sweeter snacks that lying about in abundance this time of year.

Then, I baked another batch of scrummy mince pies, and liberally dusted them with icing sugar.

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I’m in the process of defrosting my last piece of the Gateau L’Opera which will be served up tomorrow as dessert, all that remains is to pipe on a suitably jolly message over the top, and sprinkle it liberally with gold glitter.

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Hope everybody else is getting their festive bake on (or helping eat it all). I’ll be making the most of the holiday season this year – with my baking cupboard bulging as ever, what other delights will be coming out of the kitchen I wonder?

Maybe some more of these gruyère and smoked bacon straws?

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To all my blog readers, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! 

Gruyère and Smoked Bacon Straws

Crispy and crunchy, with salty smoky bacony goodness running through the centre, and a generous punch of gruyère cheese. It’s perfect fodder for the party season.

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You can wield them like a wand, have a minature duel, stick them out of your mouth like walrus tusks, or just gobble them down in several bites. If you try not to lick your lips, it’s well nigh impossible!

Make them long or short, or fat or thin…no matter, because they all taste scrummy :). Indeed, the tight button on my jeans can attest to how terrifyingly moreish these are! I was going to add some wholegrain mustard to some of the straws but I didn’t bother in the end. I still think it would be a great addition – for super posh cheese straws!
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If you don’t have any puff pastry lying about handily, I’ve included a recipe for quick rough puff pastry underneath that doesn’t take too long. Of course, you can completely skip this step and just buy it in the supermarket!

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I’m starting to wish I was more organised, and did all my Christmas shopping in November! John Lewis, usually so reliable, failed to deliver and various online parcels are still pending. In-store, everything has flown off the shelves, so I might have, ahem, to throw in some last minute substitutions.

Gruyère and Smoked Bacon Straws 

Makes around 9 straws

  • 110g unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 130g plain flour
  • 50ml water, cold
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • large handful grated gruyère cheese
  • thin strips of streaky dry-cured bacon or pancetta

Cut the butter into small cubes. Tip the flour and salt into a bowl, and rub the butter in roughly until half rubbed in, with plenty of small lumps of butter. Tip the water into the bowl, and bring together with a table knife into a rough looking ball of dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and pop into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Once chilled, take out the pastry ball, and roll out into a long rectangle, three times longer than wide. Fold into three like a letter, and wrap again. Chill for another 30 minutes. Once chilled, take the pastry out, turn it 90˚, roll it out into a rectangle and fold again. Repeat this step until you have done 3-5 folds in total.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Now roll out the puff pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin and baste with beaten egg. Sprinkle over with grated cheese. Gently press this into the pastry to make sure it sticks. Then turn the sheet of pastry over, baste the other side with beaten egg, and sprinkle over a layer of grated cheese on that side too. Cut the pastry into strips. Lay over a slice of bacon and roll the pastry strip up into a straw. Place on a baking tray. Then repeat this with all the other strips of pastry.

Bake the cheese straws for 25-30 minutes until golden and the bacon is crisp at the edges.

Leek and Bacon Tart

I promised a yummy puff pastry tart recipe, and here it is!

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I tweaked this tart, because I wanted the pastry base to cook to a really crisp finish, and for the toppings to retain lots of flavour with getting too salty in combination together.

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Here’s what I did. When baking with shortcrust pastry, you nearly always blind bake the pastry before the toppings go on. So I thought I’d pretty much copy this with puff pastry. I docked the middle well, glazed the whole shebang with beaten egg, and it came out of the oven after 15 minutes looking like a beautifully risen brown pillow.

I then sprinkled on the cooked leeks, bacon lardons, a little cheese, and stuck it back in the oven. It didn’t seem to need that long, only 10-12 minutes, and it came out, the pastry brown and crackly, the lardons even cracklier. I was basically licking my lips as I took the photos!

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I’ve only made one adjustment to the recipe below. I’d fried the bacon lardons to such a crisp finish that I didn’t think they needed the extra oven time. Instead throw them over the pastry once the whole tart is done.

Leek and Bacon Tart

Adapted from BBC Good Food

  • rectangle of puff pastry, cold
  • 90g bacon lardons
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 16g herb and cheese Boursin (1 wrapped portion in a 6 pack)
  • 10g grated gruyère cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Roll out the puff pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin, and lay onto a baking tray. Trim the edges to form a rectangle with a sharp knife, and score a border within the rectangle 1.5cm from the edge. Prick the pastry within the border thoroughly with a fork. Put into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Lightly fry the bacon lardons until crisp. Remove from the pan. Fry the sliced leek in the bacon fat until soft. Mix the leeks with the boursin, and set aside to cool.

Brush the borders and the centre of the puff pastry rectangle well with beaten egg. Be careful to not let it drip over the cut edges, as it stops the pastry rising properly. Bake for 15 minutes until puffed up.

Spread a layer of leek over the pastry, and top with a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Bake the tart in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden, and crisp. Sprinkle the bacon lardons over the top. 

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Browsing the web, I’ve also come across links for all sorts of other amazing-looking puff pastry tarts. Check out these breakfast tarts from Drizzle and Dip, oh I am so definitely making these next!

Chorizo and Pepper Sausage Rolls

My best and worst ideas result from trying to avoid wasting offcuts of food. Once at university, my flatmate was trying to make fudge. It refused to set and we tried to turn it into cakes, by adding in approximately about half a tub of baking powder and strawberry food colouring. You can imagine the results were dire.

These mini chorizo sausage rolls are the complete opposite – they are stonkingly delicious! I had some pastry scraps and fancied using up the chorizo I had lying around too. It sounded pretty tasty in my head, and luckily, it turned out very tasty in reality too!

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I know it’s still November, but I can’t help thinking these would be perfect little bite size nibbles at Christmas parties. My pastry offcuts made 5 perfectly sized rolls, and I ate two warm out of the oven. Yummy. Sausage rolls are one of those delights where the homemade version is really so much tastier than anything you buy in a supermarket.

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I reckon the presence of chorizo instead of standard sausagemeat already makes them a little bit special, but you could always fancy these up even more by sprinkling some fennel seeds over the top or cracked black pepper.

Chorizo and Pepper Sausage Rolls

  • puff pastry offcuts
  • Spanish chorizo sausage, straight not curved segments only
  • 1 pepper, thinly sliced and lightly sauteed
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Roll out the puff pastry into a narrow long rectangle. Peel the paper around the chorizo away. Slice lengthways down the middle to split it partially open, and stuff this cavity with the cooked peppers. Lay the chorizo down the centre of the puff pastry rectangle. Now gather the sides of the puff pastry and pinch together in the middle to seal the pastry around the chorizo. Now flip the log of pastry wrapped chorizo over so the fold is underneath. Now cut the log into inch wide pieces. Prick the top of each chorizo roll with a fork, and brush with beaten egg. Pop them into a baking tray and put into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, reducing the oven temperature to 180˚C halfway through baking. Your chorizo might have oozed a lot of oil during baking, in which case transfer your rolls carefully onto a cooling rack to cool down. They might not get that far!

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Parma Ham, Leek and Gruyère Tart

I had a few days off recently, and used them to literally wander around central London, gorging myself on delicious things. Then I would trundle back home and cook up yet more yummy dishes, like this puff pastry tart for example.

I’ve always got a bit of puff pastry hiding in the freezer, and whilst there are loads of great uses for it (cheese straws, sausage rolls, jammy tarts, tarte tatin, a pie)….my favourite remains a savoury open tart.

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It was really scrummy, though I will be making a few alterations (as always) to make it even better! 🙂

I forgot to sautée the leeks, and they were as a result a little crisp, and scorched. I would definitely remember that next time, as well as upping the quantity of ham, and reducing the cheese.

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Beware flimsy baking trays! Mine warped, with one corner leaping a spectacular 3 inches. As a consequence, my tart didn’t emerge from the oven quite as neatly rectangular as I had hoped, and more of a rusticated rhombus.

I’ve got another half block of pastry, so I’ll be sure to try this tart again in the next few weeks, and feedback on how it turns out. I’ve also got a veggie-friendly mushroom version that I made earlier this year.

Toad-in-the-Hole

I have a bad track record with making toad-in-the-hole. For some reason, I always end up with something more claggy and floury than I’d like, and I never get this tremendously billowy rise that I always see elsewhere. This time I followed this Nigel Slater recipe to the letter, and whilst I still didn’t get pillows of batter, it looks pretty similar to the photo by the recipe, which is always reassuring. Even more so, from the eating, it went down very well.

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It’s fancied up by wrapping each sausage in a slice of cured ham, and throwing in a tablespoon of mustard into the batter to liven it up. There’s a rather joyous contrast between the crisp exterior of the batter, and the fluffy texture within. Sadly, your arteries won’t thank you.

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Toad-in-the-hole is decidedly comfort food in the much-loved-but-definitely-stodge department. For me, it comes with a good dollop of childhood nostalgia. I do wonder how people who had never grown up with something like this percieve a dish with such an odd name. Does it also seem strange to find out it’s actually not got anything to do with toads, but is an arrangement of sausages baked in batter?

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Toad-in-the-Hole

Adapted from Nigel Slater on BBC Food

  • 2 eggs
  • 125g plain flour
  • 150ml milk
  • 150ml water
  • 1 tbsp grain mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 Lincolnshire/Cumberland sausages
  • 6 thin slices of prosciutto
  • 1 tbsp oil

Whisk the eggs, flour, milk, water, mustard and salt and pepper together until smooth. Then set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220˚C. Take the skin off each sausage, and wrap around a piece of prosciutto instead.

Lightly grease a roasting tin with 1 tbsp oil and arrange the sausages in the tin. Heat until the oil starts to sizzle. Pour out some of the excess fat (I forgot to do this step hence even more artery badness, oops) then pour over the batter. Return to the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden and risen. Serve hot.

Penne Carbonara

I was once told by an Italian that the way I pronounced penne actually sounded like pene, the Italian word for penis. And no matter how much I tried to correct my pronunciation, it always caused a riot of mirth whenever I started talking about pasta. So maybe I should only whisper the name of this dish in the vincinity of any Italian-speakers out there. Just in case.

I realise that this carbonara may be my first savoury recipe post of the year! Shock, horror! What a glorious thing it is too. As with most pasta-based dishes, it is surprisingly quick and speedy to concot, as well as being perfect for dinner à deux. I’d never cooked this before, so turned to Google for a quick skim. The sheer volume of different recipes out there, in all shapes, sizes and uctuousness, is quite mind-boggling.

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In the end, I went for a trusty James Martin recipe, which requires a rib-sticking quantity of double cream. I had only a dribble left over from making this summer berry cheesecake, so substituted the remainder with single cream. The quantity we made could easily serve 4, but you can adapt it for 2 just by halving the ingredients.

I realise that the way I’ve made this, it’s not strictly speaking an authentic carbonara anymore. However, the mushrooms and spinach do add a zazzle of colour, texture and some veg so I’m not complaining!

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By the way, the mirth I generated amongst Italians was not limited to pasta dishes alone. Chicken Katsu was thought to be very amusing too. I don’t think I should elaborate on this.

Penne Carbonara

Adapted from James Martin on BBC Food

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 150g pancetta, cubed
  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 25ml double cream
  • 75ml single cream
  • 50g finely grated parmesan (reserve some for sprinkling)
  • 350g penne
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a frying pan until hot, then add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Add the mushrooms and when almost cooked, throw in the spinach until just wilted. Set to one side.

In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks, cream and most of the parmesan, reserving some for sprinkling later. Season well with salt and pepper.

In a pan of salted boiling water, cook the penne until done. Drain, then add to the bowl of cream mixture, and stir continuously until smooth. Add the parsley.

Dish the pasta into bowls, and season again with salt and pepper. Garnish with a sprinkling of parmesan, and a little sprig of parsley. Serve outdoors in the summer sun, with a simple tomato salad on the side.