Friday, 28 September 2012

# 275 Lasagne

Memory is a funny thing, ask me what I ate yesterday and I probably won't remember but I still remember vividly the first time I cooked lasagne. It happened at my in-laws' farmhouse on a very old wooden stove when A. was a toddler. It took me hours to make and I kept thinking what if turns out all horrible after all this work. It didn't and from then on my mother-in-law put me in charge of the kitchen whenever we visited them.

I cook lasagne quite often and I don't think there were ever 2 occasions when I made it exactly the same so the recipe below should be seen as a sort of guideline really more than a set recipe.

The lasagne in the photo was made with lamb mince which can be replaced by beef mince instead if you prefer, we do!

Also, I always precook the lasagne sheets in salted boiling water with a drizzle of olive oil. For some reason on the few occasions I tried using lasagne sheets that don't require precooking it didn't work and the pasta didn't cook through.


500g lamb mince (or beef mince)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 orange pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
A few slices of chorizo
1/2 can of chopped tomatoes
2 chicken stock cubes
Fresh coriander (when I don't have fresh coriander I use dried basil and oregano)
1 teaspoon chili flakes
Lasagne sheets
Olive oil
Double cream
White sauce

In a pan with a little olive oil cook the chorizo slices and the onion until soft. Add the lamb or beef mince and cook until it browns. Add the chili flakes, chopped tomatoes, stock cubes, fresh coriander and pepper. Put the lid on and cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

Reserve the lamb mince and cook the lasagne sheets as instructed in the packet. At the same time make the white sauce as explained here.

Pour a little double cream on an oven proof dish and make sure it covers the bottom. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of cooked lasagne sheets, then a layer of meat and so on finishing with a layer of lasagne sheets. Spread the white sauce on top and bake in a preheated oven until the top is bubbling and lightly browned.

Serve with a lettuce salad and enjoy.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

# 274 Photo Friday: Texture

The theme for this week's Photo Friday challenge is Texture and after going through lots of archive photos I finally settled for this one.

I can't wait to see what the next theme is going to be. To know more about this photography challenge please scroll down to the very bottom of the side bar where you'll find the Photo Friday button. Also, if you'd like to see this image in a larger size all you need to do is click on it.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

# 273 Granny smith apple pie with cinnamon custard

As Jane Austen wrote in a letter to her sister Cassandra "Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness", this particular apple pie made me very happy indeed.

Granny Smith apple pie with cinnamon custard

Shortcrust pastry (ready made and enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pie dish)
75g sugar
30g plain flour
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
250ml milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 lemon rind
3 Granny Smith apples

 Preheat  the oven to 180 ºC/Gas Mark 5.

Roll out the shortcrust pastry following the instructions on the packet. Line the bottom and sides of a pie dish with the pastry, prick the bottom with a fork, cover with aluminium foil and weigh down with baking beans. Blind bake for about 10 to 15 minutes and then remove the aluminium foil and bake for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile make the custard.

Heat up the milk with the lemon rind and the cinnamon. In a pan mix the sugar with the flour and add the eggs mixing well.

Slowly add the milk (don't forget to remove the lemon rind first) and keep stirring with a wooden spoon, make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan. Cook over a low heat until it thickens. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Fill the pastry with the cream. Peel and core the apples, cut really thin slices and arrange them in an even pattern.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and the custard is set. Remove from the oven and brush with a little jam if you want (I only had lemon and lime marmalade so that's what I used).

This pie is delicious served warm or cold.



Edited to add: Thank you to Sarah for spotting that I'd left out the milk by mistake. The recipe has now been corrected :-)

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

# 272 Showstopper Chess Cake

 Ok, I admit mine isn't much of a showstopper but I'm so happy it came out the way it did which was a lot better than I'd expected.

A. turned 13 last Saturday and after a lot of thinking and searching I decided to try one of the cakes in the book below.

Out of all the absolutely gorgeous cakes in there the Chess Cake was the only one that seemed achievable to me and once it was done A. was quite impressed by it. I'm really looking forward to another episode of The Great British Bake Off later today. Have you been watching it?


Thursday, 20 September 2012

# 271 Photo Friday: Interiors

This is my entry for this week's Photo Friday challenge.

This is the Octagon Room at Basildon Park, a National Trust property in Berkshire which has been used in several films. Jane Austen's fans may be interested to know Basildon Park was Netherfield in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film featuring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.

If I remember correctly this parrticular room was used as the drawing room at Netherfield although you may not recognise it because its shape was changed for the film.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

# 270 Summer evening walks

With the days getting shorter and Summer almost drawing to a close our family evening walks are put on hold again until next year.

We're lucky to live in a lovely small town surrounded by beautiful countryside so there's plenty of choice of where to go for a walk, however our most favourite place by far for an evening walk is the deer park.

The views are simply amazing whichever way you look and it's so peaceful and quiet we feel it's the perfect place to wind down after a busy day.

I hope you enjoy these photos, I know I'll return to them during those dark and gloomy Winter days.

If you'd like to see more then please visit my Flickr album here.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

# 269 How to poach an egg

I think I've finally mastered the art of poaching an egg and all it takes is some clingfilm! This brilliant idea  is not of my own thinking, I came across it sometime ago but can't remember where unfortunately.

I didn't try it straightaway because I thought the clingfilm would melt in the boiling water and instead of a poached egg I'd have a great, big mess. But you know what? It really works and now I can poach my eggs just the way I like them, i.e. with a firm egg white and a runny yolk.

This is how you do it.

Put some water in a small saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Cut some clingfilm and line a teacup or ramekin with it.

Grease the clingfilm with a little olive oil or vegetable oil if you prefer.

Break the egg into the clingfilm, gather it carefully and then twist and tie a knot.

Basically you're creating a little clingfilm parcel with the egg inside it. Make sure the clingfilm doesn't rip.

Set your timer to 4 minutes and carefully put the egg in the boiling water. Start the timer.

You can lower the heat a little but not too much as you want the water to be at a gentle rolling boil. Remove the egg from the saucepan when the 4 minutes are up and cut the clingfilm carefully. The egg should easily slide out on to the plate and be runny with a perfectly cooked egg white.



Monday, 17 September 2012

# 268 Thank You

2 years ago last Friday I started this blog. I'm aware that what I write here is not clever, original or well written so I find it amazing that the number of people visiting and leaving comments has been slowly but steadily increasing.

So, today I just want to say a heartfelt Thank You to all those of you who follow, read and comment on here. It really is very much appreciated.


Thursday, 13 September 2012

# 267 Photo Friday: On the horizon

Another week, another theme for the Photo Friday challenge.

This photo was taken last year during our short Summer holiday in Portugal. This is not the photo I had intended to post but because the photo I had chosen is somewhat grey and gloomy and today has been such a lovely, sunshiney day I thought I'd choose something more in keeping.

This weekly photo challenge is open to anyone who likes photography no matter their skill level, so if you'd like to take part or simply enjoy seeing the photos others have taken just click on the button you find at the bottom of the sidebar.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

# 266 Peach crumble cake

This is sort of a mix and match experiment of mine that worked. Last week while reorganising the kitchen cupboards I found a tin of peach slices almost a year over its Best Before End date. The peaches were still perfectly good and it would be a shame to waste them so I mixed 2 recipes to create this cake.

It's not a very tall cake as you can see and it's baked in 2 stages but don't let this put you off as it's really easy and delicious.

Peach Crumble Cake

Cake base

100g sugar
1 egg
90g butter, melted
150g plain flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons syrup from the tin of peaches

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC/Gas Mark 5 and line a sprinform round tin with baking parchment.

In a bowl mix all the ingredients for the cake base, pour in to the tin and spread evenly. Bake for 15 minutes or so just until the cake starts to turn golden.

Crumble topping

3 tablespoons plain flour
50g porridge oats
25g butter, chilled  and cut into cubes
1 tablespoon dark brown soft sugar

While the cake base is in the oven make the crumble topping.

In a bowl mix the flour with the oats, add in the butter and rub until the mixture resembles crumbs. Mix in the sugar.

Remove the cake from the oven and cover with the tinned peach slices (no need to drain them). Sprinkle the crumble topping over the peaches and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing the cake from the tin.



Monday, 10 September 2012

# 265 Weekend outing: Hanbury Hall

I hope your weekend was as sunny as ours, in fact last week was dry, warm and filled with sunshine which was a very welcome surprise.

Taking advantage of the good weather we revisited Hanbury Hall yesterday. You can find out more about this property here and here. And you can also see more photos of the place here and here.

Hanbury Hall.

The sunken parterre garden.

Public footpath linking Hanbury Church to the hall.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

# 264 Quick bread with bacon

It's back to school again and in my case that means having to prepare 2 packed lunches everyday, one for the husband and another for the son.

This quick bread is light, delicious and very easy to eat which makes it perfect for picnics and packed lunches. It's also quick to make as you can have it ready in less than an hour.

I used bacon but you can also use ham, parma ham or thinly sliced chorizo.

Here's the recipe if you'd like to give a go.

Quick bread with bacon

300g white self raising flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
4 eggs
100ml plain yogurt
100ml milk (if you don't have any yogurt use 200ml milk)
200ml extra virgin olive oil *
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Precooked bacon slices (I think I used about 10 slices, you can fry them in a little olive oil or you can cook them under the grill)

In a bowl mix the flour with the salt and the sugar. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well combined.

Line a small baking tray (I used my brownies tray) with baking parchment. Pour half the batter and make sure it covers the bottom of the tray.

Remove the fat from the bacon and cut into small strips all over the batter.

Pour the remaining batter on top, make sure it's nice and even and bake in a preheated oven to 180 ºC/gas Mark 5 for 30-40 minutes until risen and golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tray for a few minutes before removing it to a wire rack to cool completely.


* I did find when I tried the batter that it had an aftertaste of the olive oil. Personally I don't mind this but if you want you can use a mixture of half olive oil and half vegetable oil).


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

# 263: Photo Friday: Modern life

This week's theme on Photo Friday is Modern life and this is the photo I'm entering. It was taken last Sunday in Chipping Campden High Street.

According to Wikipedia the houses on the High Street date from the 14th to the 17th century and are made from limestone quarried locally.

Wikipedia also tells me that the large-production of affordable cars started at the beginning of the 20th century and look how popular they've become.

To see other entries or to join in this weekly photography challenge please click on the button at the bottom of the side bar.


Monday, 3 September 2012

# 262 Weekend outing: Hidcote & Chipping Campden

If you love gardens, you'll like Hidcote in Gloucestershire.  This must've been our 3rd visit and everytime there's something new to see, this time around we were pleasantly surprised because the National Trust has opened 2 of the rooms in the house.

The BBC has produced a programme on Hidcote called Hidcote: A garden for all seasons which I think you can still watch on the BBC iPlayer.

After leaving Hidcote we decided to stop in Chipping Campden, a nearby Costwold market town. This is a very pretty town and well worth a visit.

Tired from so much walking we headed home where we enjoyed some lovely homemade pancakes with strawberry jam and a nice cup of tea.

You can see more photos taken at Hidcote on my Flickr account here.