Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Pear and chocolate pudding

Today I passed a milestone, less than 20 days left to go in my current job. 19 days to be exact. 152 working hours. Including lunch breaks. This is where the doubt sets in. Did I make the right decision? What if the new job is even more horrid? The new job is further away and significantly less money. Should I just have tried to ride out the worries and problems in my current job? Maybe it would have gotten better? One thing I know for sure is I will miss my colleagues very much. I have been incredibly lucky throughout my career, most of my best friends have started out as colleagues. And the best thing about my current job is definitely all the people I have the joy and privilege to work with. Some have become good friends, and I hope leaving my job doesn't mean leaving them all behind.

So what better way to drown all your worries and fears than to cook a nice hearty and delicious pud. We still have a ridiculous amount of pears in the freezer. Our beautiful pear tree produced so many perfect pears this autumn, I could not get enough. Too bad pears don't keep very well as they are, as I loved to snack on our tasty and perfect pears. Nigella's chocolate and pear pudding was the first hit that came up when I googled pear dessert or something along those lines. To me pear and chocolate go together well, so I had to give it a try.

Pear and chocolate pudding by Nigella Lawson (serves 6-8):
830 grams pear halves in juice (2 cans) 
125 g plain flour
25 g cocoa powder
125 g caster sugar
150 g soft butter (plus extra for greasing)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

The howto:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and grease a 22 cm square oven proof dish. Drain the pears and place in the bottom of the dish. I used pears from the freezer, thawing them and then placing the rather limp pear bits at the bottom of the dish. Using a food processor, mix all the ingredients until a batter forms. I don't have a food processor, so I just mixed it all up with my handheld mixer. I also didn't have any cocoa powder, so I added 25 g more flour, and melted 60 g dark chocolate in the microwave and added to the batter. Pour the batter on top of the pears and bake for about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes, cut and serve with custard or ice cream.

The verdict:
I had a slight problem as the frozen pears gave off much more liquid than I would expect tinned pears would do, so I had to bake my pudding a bit longer. I think I slightly overbaked the pudding, as only a very small region in the centre of the pudding remained gooey. I think baking it according to instructions would have produced a pudding that was a bit more moist and gooey. But this was still a really great recipe, the pears and chocolate go so well together. And it was balanced well by the cold ice cream. I will definitely make this again, and I have stocked up on cocoa powder, so I can stick to the recipe next time. And maybe throw in a handful of chocolate chips for good measure.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Potato, cauliflower and cheddar bake

I really need to get out of my latest bad habit. This very self destructive pattern of behaviour, i.e. writing my blog posts in bed, is proving very unproductive. Mostly because I fall asleep within ten minutes of snuggling up in bed with my warm laptop. Even as I'm writing this, I'm struggling to keep my eyes open mid-Sunday afternoon. Which possibly explains to you why the contents of my posts are never really mindbogglingly intellectual. Eat and sleep seems to be pretty much all I do these days. And obviously struggle to get through the days at work, four more weeks to go and I'm so ready to give up on it all. Three month notice periods should be illegal.

Ok, I'm back, I did fall asleep for a full hour. This will mean there is no way I will be able to go to sleep on time tonight. 

Today's recipe is a side I made for the delicious apple and cider roasted chicken I wrote about earlier. This dish would work either as a vegetarian main or a side to something nice and meaty. It is rather decadent with all that cheddar. But we had a big chunk of leftover cheddar which was starting to look like it would try to make it's way out of the fridge on it's own unless I used it up rather soonish. The recipe is again from the great The English Kitchen blog, and I have used it pretty much unaltered, I just doubled it as I wanted to have plenty of leftovers to feed us during the week.

Potato, cauliflower and cheddar bake serves 4-6 as a side (from The English Kitchen):
4 large potaoes
1 small head of cauliflower
1 large or 2 medium onions
2 cups of cheddar (this was not doubled from the original recipe as I thought it was more than plenty)
2 tsp dried thyme
black pepper
150 ml chicken stock

The howto:
Peel and slice the potatoes and onions into 1/2 inch thick slices. Similarly, slice the cauliflower. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes generously with water and bring to a boil. Then add the cauliflower and onion and cook for 8-10 minutes, until potatoes start to soften. Discard water and let stand for about 10 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Transfer half of the potato, cauliflower and onion mixture into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over the thyme, some black pepper and half of the cheese. Add the rest of the veg, thyme and some black pepper. Pour the chicken stock into the dish, and top with cheddar. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

The verdict:
This was a really nice side to go with the chicken. For me, it would have been enough as a main dish in itself, but I don't think it would have been quite substantial enough to keep the Culinary Consultant happy. But with all that cheese in there, it definitely isn't a light and healthy vegetarian choice. But boy did it taste good.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Pot roasted chicken with apples and cider

Sometimes I get myself into the most ridiculous situations. A few nights ago, the road I usually drive to get home was closed. I still don't know the roads around here very well, and there aren't too many route options to take to get home as we live pretty much in the middle of no-where. So I had carefully looked at the maps and planned my alternative route home. It was past 9pm in the evening, I was exhausted after two classes at the gym. And when I get to the roundabout where the road was closed, and I was going to take my alternative route, that too was blocked. No pre-warning whatsoever. There was only one way I could go at the roundabout which was completely the wrong direction. To make a long story short, about 40 minutes later I made a damsel in distress call to the Culinary Consultant who came and rescued me. We drove back home on some teeny tiny things which were supposed to resemble roads. I was so happy when I finally made it home about an hour and a half after first heading off home from the gym. Goes to show it might be good to have a bit more local knowledge. As a thank you for dragging my poor man off the sofa late on a Friday night, I wanted to cook something extra nice for him.

We eat a lot of chicken at the InvisiblePinkHouse. I dread to think how many chickens have given up their lives for our dinners. The Culinary Consultant really likes his chicken. I don't mind it. I always used to cook only chicken breasts, but then we started experimenting with roasting whole chickens. After doing it a few times, it became routine, and it's a really quick and easy way to prepare a nice Sunday roast dinner and at the same time have plenty of leftovers for the following week. I like to use the chicken for my packed lunch salads. And there are endless options for using up the leftovers. Chicken soup, pie, enchiladas, fajitas, sandwiches... When I saw this recipe for pot roasted chicken in cider on one of my favourite food blogs, The English Kitchen, I knew I wanted to try it. The fact that we still have plenty of apples from our own apple tree stored in our conservatory made it even more appealing. 

I have made some minor adjustments to the original recipe, but please hop over to the English Kitchen to check out the original blog post. Also, the pictures are much better than mine which once again were taken in the dark and turned out really bad. But trust me, no matter how it looks, it tastes amazing and is well worth the prep time!

Pot roasted chicken with apples and cider:
1 tbsp oil
1 medium sized roasting chicken (mine was just over 2 kg)
200 g bacon lardons (original recipe said 175 g but the pack I bought was 200 g so used all of it)
1 large brown onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 small cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 fresh sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped and roughly chopped
250ml apple cider
150ml chicken stock (5 fluid ounces)
4 small apples
25g butter
2 tsp caster sugar
freshly grated nutmeg (I only had dried nutmeg)
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 tsp corn flour
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste  

The howto:
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C. Start by seasoning your chicken outside and inside with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a flame proof casserole or roaster if you have one, or in my case, a big frying pan, and brown the chicken on all sides. Transfer the chicken to the side. In the same casserole or frying pan, cook the bacon lardons until starting to brown. Add the onion and cook until it starts to soften. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another few minutes. Add the apple cider and cook until the amount of liquid has reduced by about two thirds. The place the chicken on top of the sauce (or transfer the sauce from the pan to the casserole and the place the chicken on top), cover with aluminium foil and a tightly fitting lid. The original recipe suggested to roast for an hour. I have always trusted the formula on the wrapping for the chicken: Cook 45 minutes for each kilogram plus add 20-30 minutes. For my two kg chicken this meant roasting for two hours. 

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the apples. Peel and cut them into chunks. Cook on medium heat in a frying pan in the butter until apples start to soften a bit. Add the sugar and nutmeg and cook for a few more minutes. Let cool. When the chicken is ready, remove from oven and place on a carving tray, cover with aluminium foil and let rest for about 10 minutes. Pour the contents of the casserole into a saucepan and let cook and reduce for about 10 minutes. Mix the water and corn flour and add to the sauce, let boil for a few minutes to thicken. Taste, and season with black pepper and salt if needed. I found no salt was needed. Add the apples to the sauce. Carve the chicken and serve drenched in the apple sauce.

The verdict:
I chose to cook this recipe as the apple and cider combo sounded delicious, but also because it was a different method to how I usually cook chicken. Although this method doesn't produce nice, crispy skin which the Culinary Consultant loves, the meat was really moist and juicy. And then there is the sauce. The sauce with the bacon lardons and apple chunks is simply amazing. Beyond a doubt one of the finest and most tasty sauces I have ever managed to make in my entire life. The original recipe suggests to thicken your sauce with a butter and flour mixture which I am not very fond of, so I decided to stick with my trusty cornflour. The original recipe also suggests adding cream to the sauce, but I didn't have any at home and didn't want to buy a whole tub just to use a tablespoon or two so I left it out and it still turned out really good.

The recipe is really convenient to cook in one pot most of the way if you have a roaster or casserole which can also handle cooking on the hob. As I have an induction hob in my kitchen and no induction compatible roasters I did the preparation steps in a big frying pan, then transferred everything to the roaster, and again transferred the juices back to a saucepan when it came time to prepare the sauce. A bit more work, but not too bad. And definitely worth the yummy result.
Card of the day:
As you may or may not have noticed, my cards now have a blog of their own. So please, head on over to InvisiblePinkCards to take a look, I think the card blog will be updated a bit more frequently than the food blog, as I have quite a bit of backlog of crafting projects to publish. But don't worry, the food blog will also go on as usual. If you want to be kept up to date with new blog posts on both blogs, you can like the InvisiblePinkFacebookpage.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Pizza dough bread

The other day, I wrote a post about Jamie Oliver's pizza dough recipe which I have taken a liking to. The great thing about it is that it also makes a really nice bread. So the last time I made pizza dough, I doubled the amount I usually make, and had enough for one pizza crust and one loaf of bread. Which actually turned out to be a rather large loaf of bread as I might have left it to rise for longer than planned due to getting lost in my little world of crafting. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, pizza dough and bread without any extra effort. The bread will proof nicely while you are baking your pizza, and once the pizza is ready the bread is ready to go into the oven. Easy and convenient and gives enough bread to feed two people for a week!

Pizza dough and bread (directly borrowed from Jamie Oliver):
Makes enough for one large oven tray of pizza and one loaf of bread
800 g tipo '00' flour or strong white bread flour
200 g fine semolina flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 x 7g instant yeast sachet (about 2x2 tsp)
1 tbsp caster sugar
650 ml lukewarm water
4 tbsp olive oil

The howto:
Measure all dry ingredients in a big bowl. Add the water in small amounts while mixing with a wooden spoon. When dough is well mixed, add the olive oil. Transfer the dough onto the table and knead until smooth. Transfer back into a bowl, cover and let rest in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size. 

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. After rising, knead the dough lightly. Separate half of the dough to make your pizza crust and form the other one into a loaf (or make two loaves). Slice the top of the bread a few times, and sprinkle lightly with flour. Let rise for about 40 minutes. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until knocking at the bottom of the bread with your knuckles produces a hollow sound. Let cool completely before slicing (at least in theory, in practice everyone knows it's impossible to resist warm bread straight out of the oven).
The verdict:
This recipe is a really quick and easy bread recipe. If you are making a pizza dough you might as well get twice the benefit from your efforts and make a loaf of bread at the same time and almost no extra effort. And we all know that home baked bread is more healthy than store bought, less salt and no weird additives. And nothing beats eating a few slices warm with the butter melting on the bread. The bread is light and fluffy and perfect for lunch sandwiches.
Card of the day:
This time, I got the inspiration for my card from the Simon Says Stamp Wednesday Challenge. The theme this week is emboss it, and I have a number of embossing folders I haven't gotten around to using so I thought this would be a good opportunity. As the theme for the Simon Says Stamp Monday Challenge is "Anything goes", I'm also entering that challenge.

I used a Sizzix embossing folder on Tim Holtz Tea Dye cardstock for the background. After embossing, I sanded the cardstock, inked the edges and distressed using the blades of my scissors. I used Tim Holtz Distress Paint in Antiqued Bronze on the embossing folder to stamp the background behind the sentiment, stamped the sentiment from the Tim Holtz Grunge Cirque stamp set in Tim Holtz Aged Mahogany distress ink and heat embossed using Papermania Copper embossing powder. The star is also from the Tim Holtz Grunge Cirque stamp set, and was stamped in Aged Mahogany Distress ink on scraps left over from the background for the sentiment, so the stars have some veins of the Copper Distress Paint running through them. I attached everything onto Tim Holtz Aged Mahogany cardstock.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Poor woman's Beef Wellington

Life is progressing at a rather steady pace at the moment. I have been easing off on the work front after my resignation, no more 10+ hour days, I aim to get into the office as close to 9am as possible (I have made a bit of a game out of it, trying to estimate what time I should leave to arrive as close to 9am as possible) and leave as soon as the clock strikes 5pm. I think I've been consistently clocking out at 5.01pm or 5.02pm all of last week. I am thoroughly enjoying taking it easy, work is still a horrible pain but I have stopped caring about it now that I know I will be leaving soon. Six more weeks to go, that feels like an eternity, but at the same time I know the time will just flash by and soon it will be the end of February. I am enjoying sleeping late in the mornings, not having to leave the house until 8am is such a luxury. At the same time I'm trying not to get too used to it, as I know I will have to get up ridiculously early to make it to my new job, and I also know there won't be any nice 9 to 5 days. But for now I'm enjoying a relaxed pace of life and will tackle any changes as they come without worrying too much ahead of time as I have made my choice to make this change and worrying about it won't help.

I have been trying to get back to my gym routine after the Holidays and did two classes on Friday night. This resulted in a Saturday spent moaning every time I moved, not to mention being exhausted enough to actually take a two hour midday nap. I am completely against napping, it upsets the sleep rhythm and should be avoided whenever possible. But I was simply so exhausted that I thought I would lie down on the bed and just close my eyes for a second. I woke up two hours later and felt wonderful. Well, to be honest, I felt a bit groggy but also warm and relaxed. I then spent the rest of the day in the kitchen. I try to prepare as much food for the upcoming week as possible over the weekend. Often we don't get home from the gym until 9, 9.30 pm and cooking anything at that time is simply impossible. It has to be something you can just grab from the fridge and heat up in the microwave. The other day I got a craving for the type of pasty my mum used to make for us when we were kids. It sometimes had meat, sometimes salmon filling. As we had some minced meat in the freezer, and we are trying to save on food bills and use up things from the freezer, I went for a mince meat filling this time. The recipe is great, it makes two large pasties and is enough to feed an army, or two hungry people for several nights.

Mince meat pasty like my Mum used to make (makes 2 large pasties serving 6-8 ppl each):
2x320g pre-rolled puff pastry (I prefer the all butter kind)
1 cup rice (uncooked)
4 eggs
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
750 g minced meat
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of dried chilli flakes

The howto:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Cook the rice according to the instructions. Hard boil the eggs and peel. Finely chop onion and garlic. Cook onion in olive oil in a large pan until translucent, then add garlic. Cook for another minute or two, add minced meat. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Discard any excess fat and liquids from the cooked meat. In a big bowl, crush the eggs using a fork. Mix in the rice, meat and spices. Unroll the puff pastry onto a parchment paper lined baking tray. Take half of the filling and spread onto half of the pastry, leaving about half an inch free around the edges. Fold the other half of the pastry over the filling, and use a fork around the edges to seal the pastry. Repeat using another batch of puff pastry for the other half of the filling (or freeze the other half of the filling for use later). Brush the pastry with an egg if you like (I was running short of eggs so I didn't). Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and puffed.

The verdict:
I love anything encased in puff pastry. I also get childhood flashbacks from the combination of minced meat, rice and hard boiled eggs. My mum also used to make a pasty like this with a rice, boiled egg, salmon and dill filling. Which I will try if I ever manage to find reasonably priced salmon in this country, but until then I will stick with the minced meat. This is not the most healthy of dinner options but it is delicious, filling and you can easily cook a huge batch at once and freeze in individual servings for easy lunches or dinners. 

Card of the day:
I have still been playing with the Penny Black Life's Messages stamp set after my successful scrapbook pages the other day and made this card. The colour combo is Stampin' Up Blushing Bride and Pool Party. The background is from the Fan Fair DSP. I used the Gorgeous Grunge stamp set to stamp the background. I then made a banner from Pool Party cardstock and stamped using the Fresh Vintage stamp set, which I also used for the figure in the top right corner. I used a stamp from the Life's Messages stamp set in Blushing Bride onto white cardstock, and added some Gorgeous Grunge for the background. For the finishing touches I punched a few butterflies using a Fiskars punch and added Papermania adhesive gems from the Capsule Red Hot collection.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Great pizza dough

I don't know about you, but I am too old and cynical to make New Year's resolutions. However, going through last autumn, which was rather rough especially on the job front, I realised I was focusing way too much on the things that were wrong in my life. Particularly when I was laying in bed at night I often felt overwhelmed worrying about the next day at work. I would spend the weekends worrying about the coming Monday. I would even wake up in the middle of the night worrying. This was all before I was offered my new job, things are much better now. But I also decided I can't just wait around for things to get better, I have to work on changing my life. I did a bit of reading about self help for anxiety and although I found most of the stuff out there absolute rubbish (to put it mildly) there were some good ideas as well. I guess it's all about finding what works for you.

One idea I decided to implement was to keep a happiness journal. It's pretty simple, every night when I go to bed I write something in the diary, forcing myself to identify at least one thing from the day that made me happy or that I was thankful for. Some days it has been something rather small, but I have found that most days there are several things I can easily identify. This is a nice routine that makes me think of happy things last thing in the night before I go to sleep. If later my thoughts stray to more unhappier things, I try to think of the things I just wrote about. 

Another thing I have read about on several blogs is to choose one word to focus on for the year. Kind of like a mantra for the year. I guess it's about evaluating your life and thinking about what you could change to make life better. I chose the word 'cherish' for 2014. I want to live more in the moment, not worrying too much about what is to come or what has happened, but focus on the moment and cherish the good things. Like the moments in movies where time slows down. I want to find those moments next year and focus on them. Less worrying, more cherishing.

Finally on to the reason we are here for today. I like making home made pizza. There might be a place for the Italian style "really thin and crispy crust with not too much topping" type of pizzas (in my mind the only place for those would be in Italy). At home I love a pizza with loads of topping and a thick dough-y crust. With loads and loads of cheese on top.  And the dough has to be just right, I don't like it if it gets too crusty and hard, it should be nice and soft and almost bread-like. I often used to put my own pizza dough together without a recipe, just estimating ingredients. Some times I would get it right, some time I would get it wrong. Then I found Jamie's pizza dough recipe, and I haven't used another one since I first tried this one. It's easy, it's quick and it turns out perfect every time. It's the perfect consistency to knead, it's not too sticky and not too dry. Jamie certainly knows what he is doing. I think the secret to success is to use the tipo '00' flour (although I have also successfully used this recipe with regular white flour) as well as the addition of semolina which adds a nice texture. The only modification I have made from Jamie's original recipe is to half it, as that makes a perfect size dough for my large oven pan for one gigantic pizza (based on the instructions in the original recipe the half serving is enough for 3-4 medium sized thin pizza bases). Also my method for mixing the dough is a bit different (and in my opinion less messy) from Jamie's, check out the original recipe if you want to follow Jamie's method. Oh and sorry again about the less-than-inspiring photos, but after all, it's a blob of dough.

Jamie's pizza dough (enough for one large pan pizza):
400 g tipo '00' flour or strong white bread flour
100 g fine semolina flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 x 7g instant yeast sachet (about 2 tsp)
1/2 tbsp caster sugar
325 ml lukewarm water
2 tbsp olive oil
The howto:
Measure all dry ingredients in a big bowl. Add the water in small amounts while mixing with a wooden spoon. When dough is well mixed, add the olive oil. Transfer the dough onto the table and knead until smooth. Transfer back into a bowl, cover and let rest in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size. 

After rising, knead the dough lightly and roll to desired size. Top with your favourite topping. Today I used spinach, roast veg and mozzarella on my half, and chorizo, mushrooms and Stilton on his half. If you want to have a look at what I made out of this pizza dough, there is a picture on my Facebook page here. Feel free to like if you want to keep up to date with the blog.

The verdict:
This is a quick and easy pizza dough that always turns out perfect for me. You can turn it into thin based pizzas or use it for deep dish pizzas. You can even use it for bread. It's easy to knead and work, and it turns out nice and soft. I know I won't use another pizza dough recipe ever again because for me, this is the perfect pizza dough.

Card of the day:
I haven't attempted scrapbooking very much, but when I found the Penny Black Life's Messages on the lovely Kath's blog I knew it would be a perfect stamp set for scrapbooking. However, I haven't gotten around to playing with it until I decided I should make myself a nice little scrapbook page to remind me of my word for 2014. I used Baked Brown Sugar cardstock for the background and the squares. The paper is from the Stampin' Up Fan Fair DSP. I used the Gorgeous Grunge stamp set for the background. I printed and fussy cut the year and the "Cherish" expressions. I used one of the stamps from the Penny Black Life's Messages in Baked Brown Sugar. To finish, I inked using Baked Brown sugar around the edges of the background and the edges of the squares. I will attach pictures of things I cherish onto the brown squares. The page is now hanging on the wall next to my crafting table, reminding me to focus more on the good things in life this year.

I also made another scrapbook page using a black and white photo to balance the colourful background. I coloured the stamp using Stampin' Up colours Bermuda Bay, Rich Razzleberry, Melon Mambo, Pumpkin Piea and Old Olive. The stamped image was matted onto Rich Razzleberry cardstock. The background paper is from Stampin' Up DSP International Bazaar. The banners are cut from Rich Razzleberry and Melon Mambo cardstock and DSP from the Sycamore Street set. The date was stamped using the Hobbycraft alphabet typewriter clear stamp set using black Hobbycraft ink. I am quite pleased with how the projects turned out. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Leftover turkey pie

Looking back at 2013, one thing I did learn was that sometimes you should just trust that things will work out. I spent most of October and November applying for jobs. Interestingly, the first job ad that caught my eye was for a project manager at the University of Cambridge for a project I happened to know from my earlier job. I applied for it, but thought it sounded a bit too good to be true, and that I would have no chance actually getting it. The deadline for applications was also far away. So I kept applying for other jobs, quite a lot of them, and many of them jobs I didn't even really want but I kept thinking they must be better than the one I have. And I spent a lot of my holiday entitlement going to job interviews. I kept getting disappointed when I didn't get the jobs. Finally I got a call, an interview for the job I had first applied for. On top of it all, the interview was on a day I couldn't make it because of previous work commitments. So I emailed whether they would be willing to move the interview, which fortunately they were. 

Long story short, I was offered the job the following working day. The morale of the story: if I had just believed I could get the job I wanted, and knew I was great for (it's not often you tick every box on the job application requirements list) I would have saved myself so much stress, disappointment and wasted holiday days (not to mention money spent in ridiculously expensive parking garages). As Mum always says, you have to believe that life will carry you. I don't know what my future job has in store, or what 2014 has in store for me but maybe I will have a bit more faith that life tends to find it's way, one way or another. I'm not saying things will just sort themselves out if you aren't willing to do something about them, but sometimes you just have to have faith.

So after these deep philosophical thoughts brought on by the New Year, on to more mundane issues. I promise this is the last leftover turkey recipe as I used the last leftover turkey for this pie. Again born out of no other inspiration than whatever food I happened to have lying around after Christmas. I do like to play fridge roulette and see what comes out after combining the random ingredients I can find.

Leftover turkey pie (serves 4-5):
1 shortcrust pastry (I used some left over store brought pastry)
2 cups leftover turkey and sausage meat from the turkey
100 ml crumbled blue cheese
1 tomato
200 ml cream
3 tbsp cottage cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sweet paprika 
a pinch of cayenne pepper
50 g grated cheddar

The howto:Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Shred the turkey and roughly chop sausage meat. Line a pie tin with the pastry. Fill with meats and top with the blue cheese. Thinly slice tomato and place on the turkey. Whisk cream, cottage cheese and egg lightly with a fork. Add spices. Pour on the pie. Top with grated cheddar. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and pie is golden brown.

The verdict:
The pie turned out really tasty and creamy with a just the right amount of blue cheese to give a subtle flavour but not too overwhelming. The cream and cheese made the slightly dry turkey nicely moist and tasty. Well, adding cream and cheese to anything will make it taste great. This will make a great takeaway lunch for the first painful days back at work. 

The card:
I continued to play with my Wildflower Meadow set, here is a few other cards I made. The first one is using the same colour combination as my previous card, I coloured the stamp with Stampin' Up Old Olive and Melon Mambo and Tim Holtz Distress Worn Lipstick. I then embossed using the Wildflower Meadow embossing folder. The sentiment is from the Chalk Talk stamp set and stamped onto Old Olive cardstock using Old Olive ink. I added a few adhesive gemstones and some organdy ribbon from my stash. I matted the card onto Old Olive cardstock and attached everything on Kraft cardstock.

The second and third card were both stamped onto white Hobbycraft cardstock using Baked Brown Sugar ink and embosse using the embossing folder. For the first of the brown cards I stamped the sentiment from the Chalk Talk set onto Baked Brown Sugar cardstock and fussycut it. I added some brown bakers twine and attached the sentiment using dimensionals. For the second card, I re-stamped the Wildflower Meadow using Strawberry Slush ink and fussycut the flowers and attached using dimensionals. I stamped the sentiment from the Chalk Talk set and attached using dimensionals. I also used some pink ribbon from my stash. Both cards were then matted onto Baked Brown Sugar cardstock and the first one attached to Whisper White and the second onto Sahara Sand card.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Leftover turkey soup

Happy 2014!! So begins the difficult period we have to endure every year when learning to write 2014 instead of 2013. Oh the pain and misery... But seriously, this is going to be a great year! Yes, there might be some residual Christmas induced blubber to get rid of, and yes it's still dark, wet and miserable. But days are getting longer by the minute, and soon enough it will be spring. And with spring comes light, sun (maybe not on this island, but elsewhere) and of course planting the garden. 

We have so many plans for the garden next spring. There will definitely be tomatoes again in the greenhouse. We had such an amazing crop of tomatoes last year, let's see if we can do the same this year when we have to grow everything from scratch. At least that is what we will try to do, plant from seed. If that fails, plan B is to buy plants, but of course we will still have to keep the poor little things alive once planted. We are also doing potatoes, onions and garlic. Sweet peppers, cucumbers and courgettes. Our cucumber and courgette crop was not particularly successful last year, but we have learned from our mistakes. And I want more herbs. I have already used up what little thyme we had. So next year there will be more thyme. And loads of dill. The parsley will have to go. As will the fennel. There will be oodles of basil. Some coriander. I am also thinking maybe some heirloom carrots and beetroot. There is a really pretty white and pink striped beetroot I would love to grow. Heirloom tomatoes would be great, I love the whimsical look of them. Check out these babies. In general, I love the thought of going back to grow the varieties which were bread for flavour rather than looks. How depressing is it that every single tomato is exactly the same colour and each cucumber the same curvature and length. But it will be a good six months before we know whether we will be successful at growing our own veggies. At least we have the fruit trees which hopefully produce some crop whether we turn out to have a green thumb or not. 

The recipe is another one of my Christmas leftover creations. It is a mild flavoured creamy winter warmer soup. Which helped me get rid of a lot of the leftover turkey and leftover root veg as well as some of our own potatoes which should have been tucked away in the dark instead of left in the conservatory in the light. 

We also made our own turkey stock from the leftovers of the giant bird. The Culinary Consultant stripped the meat of the bird and then tossed all the leftover bits and bobs along with the carcass (stripped of the lemons and herbs left inside of the bird for roasting) into our biggest stockpot saucepan. One onion, one chopped up sad and somewhat unappetising parsnip along with garlic, whole black peppers and bay leafs from our own bay tree were added. Everything was left to cook for about 6 hours or so. That gave us enough stock to freeze one batch and make this soup. I have always thought making stock is really hard work, but it's actually really easy, just chuck everything in and leave to cook. Sieve and voilá, you have your own low sodium and no preservatives stock.

Leftover turkey soup:
About 2 l (home made) turkey stock
6 potatoes
6 carrots
1/2 medium swede
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
leftover turkey to taste (my soup contained a lot of meat)
ground black pepper to taste
dried mixed herbs to taste
salt to taste
about 1 1/2 cup leftover cream

The howto:
Peel and chop the veg. If using swede, chop it into finer pieces than the potatoes and carrots as it cooks slower. Add all the veg, onion and garlic in a big sauce pan with the turkey stock and cook for about 40 minutes. Add the turkey, spices and cream and cook for another half hour or so.

The verdict:
This is a really simple little soup, and it can easily be adapted to help you get rid of all your leftover Christmas veg and loads of turkey. Delicious with a nice slice of bread. If you feel like getting rid of some of that Christmas weight, you can leave out the cream, but I like the added richness and decided I'll start a new, healthier life next week. I still have too much leftover Christmas goodies to start right away. Plus, you need some comfort food to get through those first gruesome days back at work.

The card:

Right before Christmas I got the Stampin' Up Wildflower Meadow stamp and embossing folder set. I was so busy preparing all my Christmas cards and then preparing for Christmas and then recovering from Christmas that I didn't get around to play with it until now. Today's card is stamped with the Wildflower Meadow stamp and embossed with the embossing folder from the set. I coloured the stamp with Stampin' Up Old Olive green and the flowers with Tim Holtz Worn Lipstick and the Stampin' Up Melon Mambo. For the sentiment, I used part of a stamp from the Punch Bunch set in Old Olive and then part of a stamp from the Chalk Talk set in Melon Mambo. I added a striped organdy ribbon in Melon Mambo, matted onto Melon Mambo cardstock and attached everything onto Kraft cardstock. Very much a "spring is coming" card!