Chilli Pies – Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies

I’d rather liked the picture of these chilli pies in the The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies cookbook, when it mentioned they are good hot or cold I wondered whether they might be suitable for packed lunches.

The chilli is easy to make and you could use any chilli recipe. The addition of a little polenta was a good idea to absorb some of the sauce. Instructions were nice and straightforward. I made the chilli and pastry one day and rolled out the pastry and made the pies the next. The pastry was a bit fiddly and a tendency to tear so I was a bit mean with the filling and had quite a bit left. I suspect practice would make it much easier to handle. I was pleased with how my little pie bundles looked before they went into the oven.

I will definitely be making these again, and would probably increase the quantity of pastry until I get better at handling it. They were delicious both hot and cold and I think they stay together well enough to be put into a lunch box.


  • 500g lean minced beef
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml red wine
  • 300ml of beef stock
  • 40g pickled green Jalapeños, sliced
  • 2 tbsp quick cook polenta
  • 3 tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander
  • salt
  • pepper
For the pastry
  • 100g plain flour
  • 200g quick cook polenta
  • 150g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 75ml just boiled water
  • 50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1 egg beaten.


  1. Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes, adding the garlic for the final minute. add the mince to the pan, breaking up any big chunks with a wooden spoon. Fry over a medium heat for 5 mins stirring regularly.
  2. Sprinkle with Paprika and cook for a further minute.
  3. Tip the tomatoes, red wine, stock and Jalapeños to the pan, stir well, season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and simmer for 25minutes, add 2 tablespoons of polenta and stir until the mix thickens. Remove from the heat and add the chopped coriander. Leave to cool.
  4. To make the pastry, put the flour and polenta in a large bowl, rub in the butter until the mix resembles breadcrumbs
  5. Add the just boiled water and mix with a wooden spoon until the mix comes together, leave to cool for a few minutes then wrap the mix in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour.
  6. Remove from the fridge and knead in the Parmesan
  7. Pre heat your oven to 200 degrees c.
  8. Divide the dough into 8 balls, then on a well floured worktop roll each ball out into a 16cm round.
  9. Divide the filling between the 8 discs, leaving a 2cm gap around the edge of each disc.
  10. Now brush the exposed edge of the discs with the beaten egg and carefully bring the edges up to cover the filling, pinch together to make a small parcel.
  11. Brush the completed parcels with beaten egg.
  12. Place the pies on some baking paper and cook in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.

Sarah’s Picnic Loaf


We’re heading into London to watch the Paralympics equestrian events this afternoon so I decided to make up some food to take rather than have to queue for fast food. I got this recipe from Sarah on the Omlet chicken forum. It’s a bit retro, I remember hollowed out loaf sandwiches when I was a child but haven’t come across them in years.


  • 1 loaf (I used Waitrose stone baked boule)
  • 1-2 tbsps olive oil
  • pack salami
  • pack mozarella sliced
  • 1/2 jar roasted peppers in oil
  • 1/2 jar sun dried peppers


  1. Cut a lid off the loaf and hollow out so there is about 1-2 cms bread remaining (put hollowed out bread aside to make breadcrumbs for the freezer)
  2. Brush lid and inside of loaf with olive oil
  3. Line base with Salami
  4. Add layers of mozarella, peppers, sundried tomatoes and salami, finishing with a layer of salami
  5. Put lid back on and wrap tightly in tin foil
  6. Refrigerate overnight
  7. Cut into wedges and rewrap in tin foil

Gingerbread Muffins – Muffins Fast and Fantastic

Blueberry muffins are on the left in the above photo and Gingerbread muffins on the right.

Although the Muffins Fast and Fantastic book by Susan Reimer is one of my most used cookbooks and a slim volume I still haven’t tried every muffin recipe. I had to make cakes for the scout tea tent at the local horse and country show and I wanted to fit in a skiff (row) down to Henley and back before I needed to leave for my turn in the tea tent. When I have to make cakes in a hurry it’s almost always muffins from this book. Muffins Fast and Fantastic

Initially I made 2 dozen blueberry muffins using the basic muffin mix and adding frozen blueberries. (the basic muffin recipe is here ) When they came out of the oven I remembered Jon is particularly fond of blueberry muffins, so I decided to keep some back and make some more muffins for the scout teas so I had a skim through to see what I haven’t tried before. Having successfully made a Mary Berry gingerbread traybake recently the gingerbread muffin recipe caught my eye so I made 2 dozen of those as well. The gingerbread muffins are delicious. Light in texture and a pleasant but not overwhelmingly gingery. I like a very gingery gingerbread as well but there are times you want something lighter. I’ll be making these again soon. Quantities below make 10 – 12.


  • 225g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.25 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 110 – 170g soft brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp black treacle
  • 180ml milk
  • 90ml vegetable oil (I often use olive oil but with lots of spice veg oil is fine)
  1. Prepare muffin tins. preheat oven to 200C (180C fan oven)
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices n a large bowl
  3. In a separate bowl beat the egg then mix in the sugar. Add treacle (warm slightly before)  and stir until blended. Add milk and oil and continue to stir briskly until well mixed.
  4. Pour all of the wet mixture into the dry and stir to combine. This requires more stiring than other muffin batters due to the stickly nature of the treacle. (The batter will appear thinner and smoother than usual muffin batters).
  5. Spoon into muffin cases. Bake for 20 – 25 mins until tops feel quite firm.

Greek salad

I don’t need to look up a recipe to make a Greek salad but I thought it would be useful to post one up so I can direct my boys to it when I want them to make up a Greek salad for dinner.

These quantities make enough for 6 people (or 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day) and it takes about 10 minutes to make. We had this salad together with with a piece of pitta and humus each and some grilled halloumi cheese for dinner tonight.


  • 1 cucumber
  • 8 medium tomatoes
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 200g feta cheese
  • handful pitted black olives
  • 3 generous slugs of olive oil


  1. Slice or chunk cucumber and put in large salad bowl
  2. cut tomatoes in half, cut out the core then cut each half into 3 pieces and put into salad bowl with cucumber
  3. Peel red onions, cut in half then cut each half into thin slices and put into salad bowl
  4. Put three good slugs of olive oil over salad and toss
  5. Cut up feta cheese into cubes and put on top
  6. Cut or tear olives in half and put on top
  7. Toss salad gently to mix a bit more
  8. Serve

Tuna pasta salad – Mine

Since I’m recording recipes I might as well record mine (even if they are very simple). This tuna pasta salad is a popular week day dinner and packed lunch option for the summer. It takes about 15mins to make and the quantities below feed 4-5 people.


  • 225g dried pasta (shells work best but fanfalle is also good)
  • 2 tins tuna (preferably in water or brine)
  • 1 small tin sweetcorn
  • 3-4 tbsp capers
  • 5-6 chopped spring onions
  • 6-8 tbsp mayonnaise


  1. Cook pasta according to instructions on packet but it is probably bring pan of water to the boil, put in pasta and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Whilst pasta is cooking chop spring onions and place in large bowl together with drained tuna, drained sweetcorn and capers.
  3. Drain pasta and rinse well with cold water, drain well
  4. Put pasta in bowl and add mayonnaise.
  5. Stir well
  6. If possible chill before serving

Muffins Fast and Fantastic by Susan Reimer

Having the time to make several updates to my cookbook blog in one day is highly unusual but since I have the time I thought I’d just put in a recommendation for this little Muffin book.

They are muffins in the North American sense of the word obviously (as it would be very difficult to fill even a leaflet with English muffin recipes). I was bought this book by one of my sisters and I know she has two copies so that she never loses a copy (although I just looked on her shelf of cook cooks and neither copy are there right now). It is quite a slim book but well worth getting. The recipes are low sugar and I always use olive oil instead of butter so they are another healthy snack. They freeze well and a frozen muffin popped into a lunch box in the morning defrosts by lunchtime. I also make up several dozen at a time to put in the freezer for some elderly relatives. Most of the recipes in the book need to be either eaten or frozen on the day, the main exception I’ve found are the apple muffins.

My favourite out of the recipes I’ve tried in the book are the apple (recipe below), banana and the Buttermilk & Jam muffins. I also love the basic muffin recipe with 1/2 jar of mincemeat mixed in.

Apple Muffins

  • 255g Plain flour
  • 3tsp (15ml) baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp (7.5ml) mixed spice
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 170g eating apple, finely chopped
  • 150ml milk, ideally semi skimmed
  • 90ml olive oil or equivalent quantity butter
  • 80g raisins or sultanas (optional)
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper or silicon cases. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C (or Gas mark 5).
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, spice and sugar into a large bowl and mix together.
  3. Mix together milk, and olive oil/melted butter into a separate bowl and beat the egg into this mixture. then stir in the apple followed by the dried fruit (optional).
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until almost mixed. It is quite a thick batter, the apples will release more moisture as they cook.
  5. Spoon into the muffin cases and sprinkle each muffin top with some brown/demerara  sugar
  6. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until lightly browned on the top and springy to touch. Leave to cool in the tin for few minutes.

Basic Muffin


  • 9oz/255g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional I don’t put it in)
  • 3-4oz/85-110g fine granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 8fl oz/240ml milk
  • 3fl oz/90ml veg oil/butter (I use olive oil)


  1. Preheat oven to 190 C gas mark 5
  2. Sift together dry ingredients
  3. Mix wet ingredients togetehr in a separate bowl
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined (about 30 secs)
  5. Put mix into 12 muffin cases and bake for 20-25mins

Optional extra ingredients
85-100g chocolate chips, or
85-140g chopped dried fruit (note you may need a little extra liquid with dried fruit additions)

Banana Muffins

  • 280g/10oz plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 large well ripened bananas
  • 100g/4oz fine white granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 60-90ml/2-3 fl oz milk
  • 90ml/3fl oz veg oil or melted butter (I use olive oil)
  • 85-100g Chocolate chips optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence optional

Banana Oatmeal variation that I usually make (with choc chips)
reduce flour to 225g/8oz add 60g/2 oz rolled oats to the wet mix

  1. Mix dry ingredients (except oats if using as they go into wet mix)
  2. Mix wet ingredients and add oats if doing oatmeal version
  3. Mash bananas add to wet ingredients
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until just mixed
  5. Spoon into 12 muffin cases
  6. Bake 20-25mins @ 190 C