I made the blondies because Aidan likes peanut butter, I like white chocolate and I wanted to make something different from Rachel Allen’s Bake cookbook. They were nice but not amazing (like her date bars). Jon is very keen on brownies made from dark chocolate so unsurprisingly he found them a disappointment. I like her idea of using peanut butter and may play around with the recipe to make a brownie version.
- 125 g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 100 g butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
- 150 g crunchy peanut butter
- 175 g light brown sugar
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 75 g white chocolate, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3. grease and line a 20 x 20cm square cake tin.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and peanut butter together until very soft. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder and the chopped chocolate and mix to form a dough.
- Place the dough into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, or until golden brown and almost firm in the centre.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, before removing and cutting into squares.
The Avoca cafe fish pie is one of my favourite dinners but I fancied trying some different fish pie recipes and I’d bought a mix of fish to try. Originally I was going to buy a pack of the mixed fish bits but I realised they worked out more expensive than buying packs of fish fillets! I also wanted to freeze some portions of fish pie for Jon’s aunt so whilst I love eggs in my fish pie and we have plenty of eggs at the moment they wouldn’t freeze so well.
I was tempted just to make my own version but I have all these recipe books to use! A browse revealed a cheesy fish pie from Jamie Oliver that I must try next but I wanted a recipe using a mix of fish and Rachel Allen’s Fish Pie from her Home Cooking book fitted the bill.
I guess unsurprisingly for an Irish cook this contains serious quantities of mashed potato. I’ve mentioned before I have a bit of a potato (especially mashed potato) phobia but my boys love it. I use a potato ricer as part of my phobia is the horror of encountering lumps in mashed potatoes. The reason there doesn’t seem to be much potato in the above picture on the plate is a lot of it dissolves into the creamy sauce. The rest of the family loved this Fish Pie and I liked it (without any extra potato), the conclusion from the others is they like it just as much as the Avoca Fish Pie but in a different way. This is definitely a comforting cold weather dish and smelt lovely as it was cooking.
Interesting blog entry on the Guardian food blog on how to cook the perfect fish pie http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/jan/27/how-cook-perfect-fish-pie.
I do plan to try the Jamie Oliver fish pie soon, my boys were initially keen as they love fish pie but less enthused when I mentioned his recipe contained spinach…
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 800 g skinless fillets of fish such as salmon, cod, whiting, hake or haddock
- 150 ml white wine
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 125 g butter, diced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 150 g mushrooms, sliced
- 225 ml double cream
- 1 heaped tbsp Dijon mustard
- 4 tbsp finely chopped mixed herbs
- 1 kg mashed potatoes
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
- Place the onion in the bottom of a large saucepan and lay the fish on top in an even layer. Pour in the wine add the lemon juice scatter with 100g of the butter and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for 15–20 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
- In the meantime, melt the remaining butter in a small frying pan and sauté the mushrooms on a gentle heat for 5–6 minutes or until softened. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Once cooked and using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the fish from the saucepan (leaving the onions and cooking liquid in the pan) to a 22cm square ovenproof dish. Add the cream to the onions and cooking liquid in the pan and continue to simmer, with the lid off, for 10–15 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the mustard, herbs and sautéed mushrooms and check the seasoning.
- Pour the sauce over the fish in the dish and spoon over the mashed potato, spreading with the back of a spoon or fork. Alternatively, pipe the mash over the fish with a piping bag and nozzle for a more professional-looking finish. The fish pie can be prepared to this stage, left to cool and then placed in the fridge overnight until ready to bake.
- Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until bubbling and golden on top. If cooking from chilled then bake for about 40 minutes instead. Serve immediately.
So many people look at the Avoca carrot cake recipe I decided it was time I tried another carrot cake. I like some dried fruit in my carrot cake although I realise many people don’t. Rachel Allen’s recipe from her Bake cookbook has sultana’s in it. The cake was lovely and moist, and kept for several days but the icing was too soft and looked a bit unappetising (I think my butter was a bit too soft). There was about twice as much icing as I wanted although that was probably because it was too soft to spread thickly (and Jon always has a grumble about icing being too sweet so I tend to be nervous about applying it thickly).
- 2 eggs
- 140ml (5fl oz) vegetable oil
- 200g (7oz) soft light brown sugar
- 300g (11oz) grated carrot (weight when grated)
- 100g (3 ½ oz) raisins
- 75g (3oz) pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
- 180g (6 ½ oz) self-raising flour
- Pinch of salt
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp mixed spice
For the orange cream cheese icing
- 250g (9oz) cream cheese (straight from the fridge)
- 50g (2oz) butter, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 275g (10oz) icing sugar, sifted
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- Preheat the oven to 150oC (300oF), Gas mark 2.
- Oil and line the loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then add the oil, brown sugar, grated carrot, raisins and chopped nuts.
- Sift in the dry ingredients and bring the mixture together using a wooden spoon or large metal spoon.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the surface and bake in the oven for 1-1 ¼ hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes before removing. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
- To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl until combined. Add the vanilla extract, icing sugar and finely grated orange zest and mix to combine. The icing sugar should be smooth and quite thick. Using a palette knife, spread the icing evenly over the cooled cake,
I’ve made meatballs before and the tomato sauce is a standard tomato pasta sauce but I’ve never made pork meatballs so decided to follow Rachel’s recipe to the letter. I liked the way she laid out the steps made it very quick to make the meal. They were lovely and herby. I find the suggestion of mozarella or parmesan odd as these are such different cheeses, I personally wouldn’t use mozarella.
Ingredients for meatballs
- 450g (1lb) minced pork
- 1tsp finely chopped parsley
- 1tsp thyme leaves
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed or finely grated
- 1 egg beaten
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-tbsp olive oil
- 300g spaghetti
- grated mozzarella or Parmesan to serve
Ingredients for the herb and tomato sauce
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion peeled and sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 x 410g tins chopped tomatoes or 900g fresh ripe
- tomatoess skinned
- 1tsp caster sugar
- 3tsp finely chopped marjoram or 2 tsp finely chopped sage
- Place the minced pork, parsley, thyme, garlic and egg into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix well together.
- Using wet hands, for the mixture into 16-20 tiny little meatballs, each about 2cm in diameter and then place in the fridge (up to 24hrs) or store in the freezer (defrosting well before use) until you are ready to cook them.
- Next, prepare the sauce, heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic on a gentle heat for about 6 mins until soft and slightly golden. Add tomatoes, sugar and 2 tsps of the marjoram or sage and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer sauce gently, uncovered for about 30 minutes until reduced and thickened.
- When you are ready to cook the meatballs, pour the olive oil into a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the meatballs and fry for 12-15 mins, turning regularly until evenly browned and cooked through. Alternatively, fry them for a minute all over until well browned and transfer to the oven preheated to 230 degrees C, Gas mark 8 for 10 minutes until cooked through.
- Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in a large pan of slightly salted boiling water for 8-10 mins until al dente. Drain well.
- To serve, pour the sauce over the cooked spaghetti and add the meatballs. toss everything together and serve with a scattering of mozzarella or Parmesan and the remaining marjoram or sage.
This is the first recipe in Rachel Allen’s Bake cookbook and for a long time I didn’t get past that recipe in the book as they were so reliable and I could convince myself they were a healthy snack… They proved to be a particular favourite of Graham who put up our fence (180ft garden so he was working on the fence for quite a while)
- 110g soft butter
- 110g caster sugar
- 110g soft brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 2tbsp water
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 250g porridge oats
- 110g self raising flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 110g raisins
- Cream the butter and sugars together with a wooden spoon or electric whisk until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the egg, water and vanilla.
- Stir in the oats, flour, salt and raisins until you have a thick and stciky dough.
- Roll the dough into walnut sized pieced and place onto a lined baking sheet, spaced out.
- Bake at 180C for 15-20mins until light golden brown but still soft.
- Allow to cool for a few mins and then transfer to a wire rack.
I still had dried dates I wanted to use and this sounded nice. It wasn’t much more fiddly than mixing up a sponge cake.
This definitely passed the taste test! For a steamed pudding it is quite light and wonderful flavour, even Aidan who doesn’t really like oranges wanted seconds. I will definitely make this again!!
- 125g Butter softened
- 50g pitted dates sliced into 4-5 strips
- 25g raisins
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 75ml golden syrup
- juice 1 orange
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 140g self raising flour
- 2 tbsp milk
1. PLace the dates, raisins and orange zest in a small bowl and mix together
2. Lightly butter 1.25litre/2pt pudding basin. Mix together golden syrup and half the orange juice and pour it into the bottom of the basin
3. Cream the butter in a large bowl. Add the sugar and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well between each addition and adding a little flour if mix appears to be curdling. Stir in the flour, then the milk an the remaining orange juice, micing them thoroughly.
4. Fold in dried fruits and spoon mixture into the pudding basin taking care not to mix it in with the syrup at the bottom of the basin. The mixture should come about 2/3 of the way up. Smooth top of mixture with back of spoon.
5. Butter a piece of greaseproof paper and fold a pleat across the centre. Cover the basin with the paper, butter side down, and secure with string under the lip of the basin.
6. Steam in a steamer or large saucepan.
7. Remove from the steamer and slide a palette knife gently around the pudding to loosen it, then invert onto a warm serving plate (one that is wider than the top of the basin. Spoon over ant remaining sauce and serve with cream or custard.
– Remove the pudding from the basin within 10 mins
– This pudding is also great eaten cold as a cake (agreed)
Everyone should be able to cook a chilli without a recipe book but this time I thought I’d try someone else’s version of chilli to see if I preferred it.
Rachel’s quantities for 6 used 700g of mince, since Waitrose sells it in 500g packs I multiplied the other quantities by half again and made some for tonight and some for the freezer. This version was definitely a success, right proportion of meat to tomato and lots of peppers.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 700g minced beef
- 1 large onion peeled and roughly chopped
- 5 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- 2 red or yellow peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 3 red or green chillies finely chopped
- 2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 x 400g tin of kidney beans
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- Put the olive oil into a large casserole dish or saucepan (ovenproof and with a lid if cooking in the oven) and put on a high heat.
- Working in batches sear the meat quickly until well browned. Remove each batch with a sotted spoon and set aside
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and garlic, cover with a lid and gently fry for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft.
- Return the meat to the casserole dish or pan and add the peppers, chillies, tomatoes, tomato puree and seasonings. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid, reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour or until the meat is nice and tender and the sauce has thickened a little. Alternatively cook in the oven, preheated to 150 degrees C (gas mark 2) for an hour.
- When the meat has cooked add the remaining ingredients and leave to simmer, uncovered on a low heat for a further 10 minutes. Check the seasonings and adjust if necessary.
- Serve the chilli with boiled basmati or long grain rice and with coriander leaves scattered on top. Place small bowls of soured cream, cheddar cheese and lime wedges on the table for people to help themselves.
My mum and sister must have bought me my Rachel Allen Bake book. I also have her Home Cooking book, I can’t remember where I got that from but probably mum and Anne as well. I like her style. In the bake book the first recipe is her Oat and Raisin cookies and I liked them so much for a long time I didn’t get past that recipe. However tonight I pulled out the bag of dried dates and thought I really ought to cook something with them and found a recipe for date bars in Bake. They are very simple to make although my butter was perhaps a bit soft as there was no chance of sprinkling the mixture.
I made these date bars again recently and since I had quite a few old dried dates to use I made double the quantities below and baked in a 30cmx23cm traybake tin. My butter for the crumble mix was colder so the crumble topping ended up a nice texture. Because the dates were old and really quite dry I heated the date mixture for longer than Rachel suggests and it was a lovely smooth filling. You can cut these into quite small pieces as they are very rich. They are superb and still tasted great 2-3 days later. Apologies for the picture, we got to the last date bar and I realised I’d forgotten to take a picture so had to do it quickly.
- 250ml water
- 200g stoned dates (chopped)
- 175g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp bicarb
- 175g soft light brown sugar
- 100g porridge oats
- 175g butter diced
1. Line 20cm x 20cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper
2. Place water and dates in saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10minutes on low heat until date mixture is very soft and thick stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Sift flour and bicarb into mixing bowl. Add sugar, oats, and mix well. Add the butter and rub in.
4. Press half the oat mixture into the base of the tin. Spread date mix over this then sprinkle/cover this with the rest of the oat mixture. Press gently.
5. Bake in centre of the oven for 40 mins or until golden brown at the edges and set in the middle
6. Allow to cool completely in the tin then cut into bars and serve.
Apparently these will keep in the tin for up to a week or they can be frozen. If they are any good I must try freezing some for lunch boxes.
Updated the following day to say; yes the date bars are good, but softer than I was expecting.