Roasted Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, Chorizo & Ricotta Pie.

This week I had a few mummy and baby friends over for lunch and decided I would cook my chicken and bacon pie. Although it turned out fine, I took for granted that it’s usually a weekend pie, especially when you’re cooking the chicken from scratch and don’t have hubby to watch the baby.

What I should have cooked was my simpler and more summer lunch appropriate…

Roasted Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, Chorizo & Ricotta Pie.

The slice is nice!

This is a sweet, creamy, cheesy savoury pie that I got from an old cookery book my mum gave me years ago.  Although, I’ve mixed the recipe up a bit over the years.

Pastry ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry base;

  •  200g Plain Flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g White vegetable fat (cut into small pieces)
  • 50g Butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 2-3 tbsp Iced water

You can of course use shop bought pastry for extra ease but I find this pastry very easy to make.

Sift the flour and salt in a bowl and then rub the fat and butter into this using your fingertips until it becomes a breadcrumb consistency.  Next sprinkle drops of the ice water over the top and blend the mixture with a spoon until it clumps together (you may not need all the water).  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and press together to form a ball of dough.  Chill for at least 30mins.

Pie Filling

For the filling;

  • 3-4 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves (left in skins)
  • 150g Chorizo, sliced into 1cm chunks.
  • 125g ricotta cheese
  • 100g Cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 2 tbsp Crème Fraîche
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Some sprigs of rosemary
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to170°C(fan assisted)

Cut the sweet potato and red pepper into 2.5cm cubes.  Lay these out onto a large baking tray along with the garlic, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25mins.  Then add the chorizo and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove and leave to cool.

While cooling, get a large bowl ready.  In it squeeze out the pulp of the roasted garlic.  Next add the ricotta, cheddar, crème Fraîche and egg yolks.  Mix until smooth and set aside.

Ricotta Filling

Remove you pastry from the fridge.  Roll to app £1 coin thickness and big enough for your pie dish.  Line your pie dish with the pastry and trim the excess.  Spoon the ricotta mixture into the pastry dish and spread to cover the base.  Then cover this with a layer of your roasted vegetables and chorizo.  Brush the exposed edges of the pasty with your beaten egg, scatter with a few sprigs of rosemary and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.

Season to taste and enjoy.  Easy Peasy!

Yum!

Advertisements

Salty Sweet Chocolate Covered & Cinnamon Sugar Dusted Pretzels.

If you are a real foodie like me, you will have noticed a current trend for salt in desserts. Salted caramel and chocolate recipes in particular.  Although, in my household there is a bit of a divide in opinion as my hubby isn’t so keen.  I on the other hand love it!

When I was researching my chocolate truffle recipe I discovered from chefs and chocolate connoisseurs that a tiny pinch of salt is supposed to bring out the flavour of the cocoa.
Although it seems to be a recent trend in the UK, it’s a traditional addition to sweet baking over in the US.  And today’s recipe is an old classic combination…

Salty Sweet Chocolate Covered & Cinnamon Sugar Dusted Pretzels.



The original beloved combination is usually for the small crunchy pretzels covered in chocolate. As much as I love them, I don’t fancy standing around for hours sculpting 100s of tiny knots which, let’s face it, will be devoured in a matter of minutes. I would however still recommend to buy these from the supermarket and dip in melted chocolate yourself. Yum!

Today’s recipe is for the larger soft pretzel that you can eat warm from oven for breakfast or linger over the strange flavour sensation with a cuppa or cold glass of milk.

I will admit the recipe is a tad technical but trust me it’s all worth it in the end.

Ingredients

For your basic soft pretzel

  • 450g Strong White Flour
  • 150g Strong Brown Flour
  • 1 level tsp fast-acting yeast
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 375ml Warm Water

Today I have used my gorgeous Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer with the dough hook attachment but you can also knead by hand.

Dough Hook

Sieve the two flours together in your mixer bowl and then add your yeast, sugar and salt.

Mix together the warm water and oil in a jug.  With the mixer on its slowest setting add the liquid slowly until you form the dough.  Let this need for about 10minutes.

Oil a large bowl and place the kneaded dough inside and add another coating of oil.  Cover with a damp clean cloth or cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-3hrs until it has doubled in size.

Now for the technical bit…

You will need the following:

  • 2 oiled baking trays
  • A little flour for dusting your work surface
  • 2 clean tea towels
  • Small glass or water (for finger dipping)
  • 75g Bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 litrewater
  • Large pot
  • Large Slotted spoon
  • 1-2 tbsp Sea Salt (ground)

Once the dough has risen, knead it a little for a minute or so and then divide into 12 pieces.  This division makes 12 large soft pretzels.  I have made a number of different sizes today so the smaller you go the more you will get.

As you roll out and sculpt each pretzel place the rest of the mixture back in to oiled bowl and cover.

For the sculpting. Roll out your dough into a long strip to about 1-2cm in diameter.  The thinner you go the crispier the result.  Now follow the photographs to get your shape.  To seal at the end, dip you finger in some water and coat the tips and press in place.  Place your finished form on your baking tray and cover with your clean tea towel.

Pretzel Sculpting

Today I also made some bit size pieces by simply rolling the dough out to the long strip and cutting into 2cm bites. You get about 10 per 1/12 of the mixture.

Leave everything to rise a bit again under you tea towels for about 10 minutes.  While this happens preheat your over to 220C.

In a large pot mix the water and bicarb.  Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.  Then, three at a time, poach the dough for 30 seconds per side.  (This poaching gives the dough a coating that results in the dark brown finish of the pretzel). Remove the dough with your slotted spoon draining as much water as possible and place on your baking tray.

Before Oven

Once all your little sculptures are lined up, sprinkle with your sea salt and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking.

After Oven

For the toppings.

Cinnamon Sugar Dusted.

  • 15g butter melted
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon

Whilst still warm from the oven, brush the pretzels with the melted butter.  Mix the caster sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the pretzels and enjoy straight away.

Cinnamon Sugar Dusted

Chocolate Covered.

  • 100g Milk Chocolate
  • 50g White Chocolate (optional)

Leave your pretzels to cool.  Melt the chocolate in a microwave.  Dip your Pretzels in the chocolate and place on a lined tray to set.  If you are too impatient like me, place in a fridge or freezer.  Then for purely decoration purposes, melt the white chocolate and flick a few stripes on top using a teaspoon.

Chocolate Covered.

And for a mixture of the two and perfect for a dinner party dessert.

Pretzel Bites with melted dipping chocolate.

Using all the same ingredients from both recipes.  Coat your bite size chunks while warm with your butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Melt the chocolate and place into individual pots.  Then get a cocktail stick or skewer and dip away!

Bites with Melted Chocolate

Homemade Floral Baby Hair Band

In recent weeks Isla, who is now 14.5 months old, has had a sudden growth of hair. She was born with a full head of dark hair but (like many) lost this after a few weeks.
Today, it’s grown back into beautiful blonde hair that’s just starting to thicken out. She’s a proper girly girl with it; whenever she finds a flower or a hair-tie of mine she always tries to stick it on her head. Unfortunately, it’s still a bit too fine and short to be tied up. I have tried it and although ridiculously cute, I worry it’s a bit too tight to hurt her head or damage what little locks she has.

Hair bands on the other hand are perfect! Especially as she has a few wispy bits at the front that are always getting into her eyes or food! I find they are great at completing a pretty little outfit, especially for a party of special occasion.
We’ve got given quite a few of the classic Alice bands which I’m getting addicted to. But at £5 a pop it could soon start becoming an expensive addiction!
Therefore I decided to attempt my own…

Homemade Floral Baby Hair Band

Hair Bands

This is a really easy project. The flowers I have previously made for my Sensory Play Mat.

The following items were bought for £2 from my local haberdashers and it could make at least 4 hair bands. Today I’ve made two.

Materials

You will need

  • 2 pieces of craft felt in different colours
  • 1m thin elastic
  • Some buttons to match felt
  • Some thread to match the felt
  • A needle
  • Scissors
  • Craft glue (preferably non toxic for chewing babies)
  • Small bit of paper or card

First get your small piece of card (or paper) a cut out a 5cm circle for a template. With this then cut circles from each of the felt.  Also cut two extra smaller circles approx 1.5cm diameter.

Template

Next cut your elastic to your desired length. Find this out by wrapping it around your childs head for a snug fit.

Thread your needle with doubled up thread at around 30cms (when folded) and tie a knot in the end.

Flower Steps

Take your felt circles and fold twice into quarters.  Sew through the outside edge and then 1/4 way along through to the front again, then back through another 1/4 way along and then finally through to the front again at the inside edge. Repeat for all 5 circles.  Scrunch the petals tightly together and then take the needle and thread back through the petal.  Once at the end again, pull tightly and tie the two ends in a knot (image 5).  Next thread through the opposite end petal and stitch at the back a few times, then trim and there you have your flower.

Button

Next take the small circle we cut earlier and glue this in the centre of your flower.  Once dry, sew your button securely to this circle.  You may wish to stitch this to the flower also for extra security.

Elastic sew

Next take your elastic and stitch the end to one side of the opening on the back of your flower. Take the other end of your elastic and overlap this by approx 1.5cm, going over the opening, then sew through both layers of elastic onto the flower.  Make sure your elastic isn’t twisted!  For neatness you can also cut another bit of felt and glue over the join.  This might also be less of an irritant for your little one!

And there you have your cute little outfit topper!

Isla wearing her hair band

Chocolate Truffle Gift Jars.

When I was budgeting to leave my job and calculating all the expenditures I would have with a new baby, I pretty much had everything covered.  I even managed to budget an allowance for things for myself too.  What I didn’t however take into account was the spending on others.  I’m mostly talking about gifts here.  There are Birthdays, Christmas, Anniversaries, new jobs, new babies, Valentines Day and dinner parties that I can’t bear to turn up empty handed to.  So my next venture is for a homemade luxury present of…

Chocolate Truffle Gift Jars.

Truffles

This recipe is for 3 different flavours of Mint, Coffee & Cardamom and Plain chocolate.  The chocolates are extremely rich with very subtle flavourings so you need only give 4/5 truffle per gift.  The recipe makes 36 truffles in total though, which can be eaten yourself, given as gifts and frozen for whenever you need them.

And making sure to continue my frugality throughout my blog, I will be reusing baby food containers for the gift jars!

Ingredients

Ingredients:

Makes 12 truffles of each flavour

  • 300ml Double Cream
  • 250g Good Quality Dark Chocolate cut into chunks
  • 125g Good quality Milk Chocolate cut into chunks
  • Medium Knob of Unsalted Butter (separated into three)
  • Salt
  • ¼ tsp Peppermint Extract
  • 1tbsp instant Coffee
  • Crushed seeds of 1 cardamom pod
  • 50g Caster Sugar
  • 1 drop blue food colouring
  • 1 drop green food colouring
  • 1 drop of peppermint extract
  • 50g chocolate vermicelli
  • 125g White Chocolate cut into chunks

Place the following ingredients in three separate bowls for each flavour:

  • Coffee
    • 100g dark chocolate
    • Small knob of butter
    • Pinch of salt
    • Finely crushed seeds of 1 cardamom pod
  • Plain
    • 100g dark chocolate
    • Small knob of butter
    • Pinch of salt
  • Mint
    • 50g dark
    • 50 gmilk
    • Pinch of salt
    • ¼ tsp Peppermint Extract

Heat up your cream 100ml at a time (for each flavour)until hot but careful not to boil. For the Plain and Mint truffle, pour directly over your ingredients and leave to sit for a few minutes.  For the coffee add you tbsp of instant coffee to the cream in the pan until dissolved.  Then cover your ingredients and leave to stand for a few minutes also.  After a few minutes the chocolate should have slowly melted, now stir each bowl until fully mixed.  Leave to cool a little then cover with cling film and place in the fridge to set for at least 3hrs.

Coatings

To Coat the Truffles:

For the mint truffles.  Put the caster sugar into a pan along with 1tsp of water, 1 drop of Peppermint essence and a small drop each of blue and green food colouring.  Let this bubble of a high heat for 4-5 minutes watching so it doesn’t burn.  Get some greaseproof paper ready in a small bowl and pour your hot sugar mixture into this.  Put in the fridge to allow it to cool completely (approx 30mins) *WARNING hot sugar mixture is like molten lava, so be extremely careful when handling it*

Once cooled and set you will have a hard boiled sweet like consistency.  Wrap this up in another layer of greaseproof paper and a clean tea towel.  Then smash up into small crystal dust pieces and place into a separate bowl and then back into the fridge until ready to be used.

When the truffle mixtures have set completely get the following ready for the coatings.

  • 1 large baking tray or plate covered with greaseproof paper
  • 1 bowl filled with Chocolate vermicelli
  • 1 bowl of your green mint crystal dust
  • 1 bowl of melted white chocolate
  • 1 wooden skewer/metal fork

To make you basic truffle ball…

Boil water in a kettle and pour into a mug.  Put a teaspoon into the mug to heat up.  Scoop up the chocolate and roll into your hands to make a wall nut size shape.  Dip your teaspoon back into the hot mug between each stage to keep it warm.  Moulding the chocolates by hand gets really messy as the chocolate melt but its perfect for coating the chocolates.

For your mint truffle mixture, roll each moulded slightly melted ball in the green mint coating.  Then place on the prepared baking tray.  Do the same for your Plain chocolates and Vermicelli.

For your coffee truffle.  Make sure the white chocolate has cooled slightly.  Then skewer (or fork) each moulded ball and dip into the melted chocolate.  Using a separate fork, slowly remove the skewered chocolate and transfer to the baking sheet.

Put you tray with all of the chocolates into the fridge to cool and set again for 20mins.

Once the white chocolate has set, melt the remaining milk chocolate from earlier.

We now want to decorate the white chocolate with milk chocolate strokes.  You can do this by flicking the melted chocolate from a teaspoon over the truffles.  However for more precision you can make a small piping bag and pipe the lines on.  You can find out how to make one from my friend Graces blog HERE (very wonderful cupcake decorator).

Again return the chocolates to the fridge for one final cool and set.

Once set, your truffles are now ready to be devoured!

Enjoy with some coffee

For the gift wrap…

  • Pretty patterned paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • White card
  • White string
  • Clean, peeled and sterilised baby jars (or similar).

These jars are really easy to make.  Soak your leftover baby jars in boiling water for an hour.  This should loosen the paper wrapping so it’s easily peeled off.  Scrub off any details on the jar lids with a metal scourer.  You can then sterilise your jars and lids through sterilising fluid, baking in the oven, putting through a steamer or running through a baby bottle sterilise.

Once dry and sterilised you can decorate.  Cut circles of the paper to fit the lid and stick on with glue.  Make little gift tags with small bits of card with a strip of your matching paper along the bottom.  Then make a hole in the top and thread through your string and tie around your jar.  I also made a truffle key which I printed and stuck to the back of my tags.  The graphic for this is available to print HERE.

Gift Tag with Chocolate Key

Depending what size jar and truffles you made, fill your jars then cover with the lid and keep refrigerated until you give them for a gift or eat yourself. These can be stored for 4 days or one month in the freezer.

Happy Gifting!


Coronation Chicken Pizza

Unless you’ve been locked away for the past few months, you will know it’s the Queens Diamond Jubilee over the next week. So, I’ve decided to jump on the band wagon with a Jubilee recipe.

Perhaps because I’m originally from Ireland, I didn’t come across the original base of this recipe until I moved to live in England nearly 10 years ago. However, it’s been a firm sandwich filler favourite ever since.

Originally concocted for the banquet to celebrate the Queens coronation in 1953, I have created my own modern version with…

Coronation Chicken Pizza.

It’s only recently that I discovered how easy pizza is to make. I will admit, I’ve always been reluctant to attempt any recipes with yeast in. When I was younger I didn’t have much patience for sitting around waiting for things to rise but now that I am older (and a little bit more boring perhaps) I’m actually quite interested in science of it all. The fact that yeast is a living thing amazes me but the magic of a small ball of dough doubling into a billowing pillow by itself is fascinating. Geekery aside though I challenge you to find something better than a good pizza, crunchy salad and cold bottled beer outside on a summers day!

The recipe is actually more of a deconstructed coronation chicken but does contain most of the same ingredients as the original recipe by Rosemary Hume in 1953. It makes 4 large pizzas, so great for a small jubilee party. Luckily, if you only want to make one, all the ingredients are freezable, including the pizza dough.

Like with my Creamy Chicken and Bacon Pie, left over Sunday roast chicken can be used. For now though, I have followed the original 1953 method of poaching a chicken with my own choice of flavourings.

For the poached chicken you will need:

  • Whole Chicken 1.5kg
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1.5 cm fresh ginger

Put the chicken in a large pan and fill will cold water leaving the top of the breasts out of the water. Add the cinnamon stick, peppercorns, salt, bay leaf and ginger and cover the pan. On a medium heat bring to a simmer and then reduce right down and leave to cook for 1hr 30mins.

While the chicken is cooking make the pizza dough.

Dough Ingredients

For the Pizza dough you will need:

  • 325ml Luke warm water
  • 1/2 tbsp Golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin Olive oil
  • 7g sachet of fast acting yeast
  • 1/2 tbsp Salt
  • 500g Strong white bread flour
  • 2 tbsp semolina or polenta (for later)

In a measuring jug mix the water, sugar, oil and yeast together and leave for 5 mins. In that time, sieve the flour and salt together onto a clean and dry work surface, then make a large well in the centre. Dust a large bowl with extra flour.

Slowly pour the liquid in the well and using a fork gradually stir in the flour from around the well. Once combined, flour your hands and kneed the dough for few minutes. When you think the dough is formed (it will still be sticky) put into the floured bowl adding another dusting to cover the top of the dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. (Near the cooking chicken is good but if you are preparing in advance you can leave it on a chair in front of a warm oven).

After an hour your dough will have doubled in size! Turn this out onto a floured surface and then kneed again for a few more minutes and then its ready to be used. For now though, separate into 4 equal balls, cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator (you can also freeze the dough at this stage).

*If putting in the fridge then make sure to take it out leave at room temperature for at least 15 mins before you want to to cook your pizza.

Dough Rise

Your chicken should be done by now too. Take this out of the pan and check that the juices are running clear. Leave to rest and cool on a chopping board.

Once cooled enough to handle break up the chicken into chunks and leave on a plate to cool completely.

Sauce ingredients

For the sauce and marinade you will need:

  • 1tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1/2 medium sized onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Mild curry powder
  • 1.5cm chunk of fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 50ml red wine
  • 50ml water
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 slices of lemon
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 tbsp mango chutney
  • 400g tin/cartoon chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp golden caster sugar

Heat the oil in a flat based pan and add the finely chopped onions. Fry for 3/4mins and then add the ginger and curry powder and fry for a further 2 minutes.
Next add the tomato purée, wine, water, Worcester sauce,1 bay leaf, two slices of lemon, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10mins.
Take off the heat, let it cool a little and then add the mango chutney and stir thoroughly.
Now remove around half the mixture from the pan and set aside to cool. This will be the paste to marinade the chicken.

Add the chopped tomatoes to the rest of the mixture in the pan along with the sugar. Bring to the boil again then reduce and simmer for 15 mins stirring occasionally. Let to cool slightly before putting the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl. We now have a smooth sauce for the base of our pizza.

Toppings

For the toppings of each INDIVIDUAL pizza you will need:

  • 30 g mature chedder cheese grated (or similar)
  • 1/2 red onion finely sliced
  • 30 g almonds
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 30 g sultanas
  • 4 tbsp creme fraiche

Preheat your oven to as hot as it will go and insert the tray you will be cooking your pizza on.

*Tip – if using a baking tray turn it upside down so you can easily slide the pizza off later.

Take your marinade from earlier and extract 2 tbsp from it and set aside. In a clean bowl take your chunks of chicken and coat this with the remaining marinade.

Soak the sultanas in some boiling water for 5 minutes to make them moist.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with 2 tbsp of semolina/polenta and a large dusting on flour. Roll out your pizza dough so that it is about £1 size deep. You can use a floured rolling pin or you hands.

Take the tray out of the oven and reduce the temperature to around 180C
Transfer you dough onto your tray. Spread the tomato base evenly over the pizza, along with the marinated chicken, red onion, cheese and 1/2 the sultanas. Cook in the oven for 8-10mins.

While it cooks…

In a clean bowl mix two tbsp of the marinade with 4 tbsp of creme fraiche. Roughly chop the remaining half of the sultanas and stir into the creamy mixture. Set to one side.

Toast the almonds in a dry flat pan on a medium heat for 3 mins and remove immediately onto some kitchen paper and set aside.

Remove the pizza from the oven and scatter the toasted almonds and creamy sauce over the pizza and garnish with some coriander.

Serve with any leftover creamy sauce and toasted almonds and ENJOY!

Finished!