Hunting around for ideas for tea the other night revealed that I had some Spanish style sausage meat left over from the meatballs I made earlier in the week, celery, carrots and some potatoes busily spurting in the bag. Those potatoes really need using up! So I decided to make a layered bake.
You could replace the Spanish style sausage with any other meat that takes your fancy or you could just leave it out and maybe add a few peppers into the mix for a veggie treat.
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
250g sausage meat
3 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
a few sprigs of thyme
600ml stock ( I used vegetable)
salt and pepper
Butter a shallow baking dish well. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of potatoes. Layer the onions, garlic, celery and carrots and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the thyme. Break the sausage meat into chunks and place on top. Season again lightly. Add the final layer of potatoes. Pour over the stock and then season again lightly. Place small chunks of butter on top.
Cover the dish with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 for about 1 hour, until all is tender. Take off the foil and cook for a further 20 minutes until the top is brown and crispy.
My eldest daughter is quite taken with the chicken nugget. She has had them at parties and has started to ask me for them at home. Now, I am not completely militant about what they eat, they consume more than their fair share of sweet things (don’t tell the dentist) but I don’t like to put food that has most likely come from ill-treated animals, is likely to be the worst bits of those badly treated animals covered in E numbers and other nasty things that we don’t need to eat, in front them for their dinner. So, I don’t mind them having them at parties (no kid wants to seem different from the rest), but I am not going to serve them for an evening meal.
This garbled philosophy of mine – give them good things to eat but try not to make them feel different – came to a head at the weekend when we were driving past a McDonalds. My children are aged 6 and 4 and I have managed to not take them to a McDonalds yet. I know that McD has attempted to clean up their act and provide healthier food, but it still doesn’t make me want to take my children there to eat. There are lots of independent cafes and restaurants that we go to regularly so I have never felt the need to sit them down to a Big Mac and fries.
Well, on Sunday as we were driving past the golden arches, the eldest said “What is McDonalds? Everyone at school talks about it and has been?”, she said this in a voice which suggested that everyone at school might have been a bit shocked to hear that she had never been and she didn’t know what it was. Oh, the parental guilt flooded over me. Poor kid. I fear it might not be too long before I have to darken the door of our local McD.
Anyway, in the meantime and as a strategy for keeping that moment a little further in the future I made some chicken nuggets. These ones are made from organic free-range chickens, who I hope had happy (albeit short) lives.
It is hard to be precise about quantities, particularly of the breadcrumbs as it depends on how thick you like your coating to be. I double dipped mine, i.e flour, egg, breadcrumbs, back into the egg and then more breadcrumbs. You will need a thick layer of breadcrumbs on a plate. Sorry I can’t be more accurate.
One good-sized chicken breast makes about eight nuggets.
1 chicken breast
About 3 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
Chop the chicken into small chunks (two bites per nugget is about right).
Spread the flour onto a plate and season with salt and pepper.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat together.
Spread breadcrumbs in a thick layer on a plate.
Take a nugget and coat in the flour, tap gently to get rid of any excess flour. Dip into the egg, making sure it is well coated and then roll in the breadcrumbs. You can then double dip if you prefer a crunchier nugget. Dip back into the egg and roll again in the breadcrumbs. Place on a plate. Repeat with the other pieces of chicken. You can now refrigerate these until you are ready to cook.
Lightly grease a baking tray and place the nuggets onto the tray. Sprinkle lightly with oil. Place in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or towards the bottom of the Roasting Oven of the Aga for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the coating is golden. Serve with a salad and hope that your children forget about burger restaurants.
We had the leftovers from a roast chicken in the fridge and I needed a dinner that could be prepared ahead and then put in the oven half an hour before we wanted to eat. This chicken pie was the result. It was rich and creamy and delicious and probably the best chicken pie I have made yet.
For the pastry top:
75g (3oz) cold butter
150g (6oz) plain, all purpose, flour
3-4 tbsp of very cold water
For the filling:
Glug of olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 sticks of celery, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1-2 rashers of bacon (optional)
The leftovers from a cooked chicken ( I used the meat from a leg and about half a breast worth off the carcass, but this was a big chicken from the butchers to begin with)
2 tbsp plain, all purpose, flour
glug of sherry or madeira (optional)
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
Make the pastry by placing the flour and butter in a food processor and whizzing until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the water (you may need less or more, so take care) and whizz until it just comes together. Be careful not to overmix. If you don’t have a food processor, place the flour in a bowl and add the butter in cubes. Rub the butter and flour together using the very tips of your fingers and lifting the flour up high to incorporate air. When it looks like breadcrumbs mix in the water using the blade of a knife and then form into a ball when it starts to come together. Try not to handle the pastry too much.
Wrap the pastry in cling film or a plastic bag and chill in the fridge.
Fry the onion, carrot, celery and bacon (if you are using it) in the olive oil until the onion is translucent, the celery and carrots are tender and the bacon is cooked. Add the chicken and then the flour and stir to mix well. Leave to cook for a minute or two to cook the flour and then add the sherry or madeira if you are using it and stir well. Add the stock gradually, stirring all the time to incorporate the flour and prevent lumps. Let this bubble away for five minutes. Add the cream and stir well to combine. Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
Put this mixture into a pie dish. Wet the edges of the pie dish. Roll out the pastry to fit the dish. Seal the pastry with your fingertips all round the edge of the dish. Make a hole in the centre with a small knife to allow steam to escape and brush with milk or egg wash. Cook in a preheated oven at 200°c (gas mark 6) or the Roasting oven of the Aga for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown all over.
You could serve this with a green veg, but it is not really necessary.
Last night’s tea was completely inspired by Nancy over at Good Food Matters. She made the most delicious Tomato and Mozzarella Strata, all bubbling and pillowy. Well, last night I had the remains of a cooked chicken in the fridge and half a loaf of bread on the side. So I adapted Nancy’s Strata by adding the chicken chopped small as the first layer, cooking chorizo in with the tomato sauce and used feta instead of mozzarella. A very fine dish indeed. Pop over to Nancy’s to find out how to make your own savoury bread pudding.
This was the dish before it was baked in the oven for forty minutes.
You can watch me make a similar version in this video
Shropshire Fidget Pie is, I have to admit, something I became aware of only a few years ago. It seems it went out of fashion for some time. The interest in eating local food has revived its fortunes and I finally got to taste a fidget pie a couple of months ago at our local National Trust property. The National Trust cafes tend to serve superb local food and this one serves food that is harvested on site from the walled garden and the farm. Fortunately for me one of the cooks at this property is also a family friend so when I saw her just before Christmas I grilled her for the recipe. She told me what made up the filling.
Anyway, as a true Salopian I thought it was about time I made a Fidget Pie. (For those unaware, a Salopian is someone born in Shropshire. The county was previously known as Salop, goodness knows why they felt the need to change the name). Some of you might be aware that I am very proud to be a Salopian and a Midlander so to cook something that hails from the county makes me very pleased.
Our friend’s advice and a search around the internet has led to this version. It is a combination of several recipes. At the National Trust they make it in a pasty shape but it is also made like a pork pie in some recipes or as a topped pie as I have in this version.
It was a total success. Mr OC was a bit dubious when he heard what was in a Fidget Pie, but he was certainly won over tonight. The combination of cider and apples really deliver a tasty punch. This is a pie that comes highly recommended by me and Mr OC.
For the pastry:
8 oz plain white flour
4 oz cold butter
4 tbsp cold water
For the filling:
1 bramley apple, cored, peeled and sliced
2-3 potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
250g (10oz) ham or gammon
1 tsp brown sugar
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried sage or 4-5 fresh leaves finely chopped
2 tsp cornflour
150 ml (¼ pint) double cream
300ml (½ pint) cider
Beaten egg for brushing over the top of the pie.
Start by making the pastry. Put the flour and cold butter into a food processor and whizz until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the water (you may need more or less) and whizz until it forms a ball. Put the pastry into a plastic food bag or wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
For the filling, boil the potatoes for 3 minutes and then add the onions to the water and boil for another 2- 3 minutes. Drain well.
Using a dish that measures 23cm x 30cm layer the apples, potato, onion and ham into the dish, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the brown sugar and the sage.
In a jug stir together the cornflour and the cream until combined and then mix in the cider. Pour this over the filling.
Roll out the pastry to the size of the dish and then cover the dish, pressing down well around the sides. Make a hole in the top of the pie. I used my blackbird as a steam vent. Brush with the beaten egg.
Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the baking oven of the Aga for about 1 hour until the pie is golden brown.
I have never before made oxtail stew. Shocking really. I tend to buy shin of beef for a stew but I spotted two lovely pieces of oxtail in the butchers on saturday and thought it was about time I tried it. I have always thought that oxtail was a cheap cut, but the butcher says that it is comparatively expensive as it costs about the same price as shin but of course has more waste with the bone. It is also very popular this time of year and the cow only has one tail. So apparently it’s not the cheap option. However, bones give better flavour and this stew was tasty. It was quite a lot more work than a shin stew though, as the oxtail gives a great deal of fat, almost a mugful in this case. So you need to make it the day before, chill it, then scrape off the top layer of fat that will have solidified on the surface. I then chose to take the meat off the bone before reheating to make it easier to eat at the table. I like to eat a stew with a spoon.
Britain is having a miserable weather week, rain and dull skies so stew is a popular comfort food. This week I read about Wendy’s beef cheek stew, which will be next on my list to try I think.
You probably do need to have a slow cooker or an Aga to make this stew as it needs about 8 hours simmering away and this may be costly in a normal oven.
This is a general guide, put more or less in as you feel and you could add potatoes or pulses to make it even more substantial.
1kg of oxtail, separated into pieces (they can come tied in a bundle)
2 onions, sliced
5 sticks of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
50g (2oz) flour
50ml madeira or sherry
900 ml (1½ pints) of good beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried mixed herbs, or a bundle of fresh herbs if you have them to make a bouquet garni
salt and pepper
Method Brown the meat well in a large casserole dish that is suitable for the hob and the oven, otherwise do the browning and cooking in a frying pan and then transfer it all to a casserole dish that is suitable for the oven or into a slow cooker. It is unlikely that you will need oil as the oxtail will release plenty of its own fat. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the vegetables to the pan and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrot and celery are tender. Add the flour and stir well and cook for a minute or so. Add the madeira or sherry and mix well and then gradually add the stock, stirring to make sure the flour is well combined into the gravy. Add the meat back into the casserole dish, with any juices that may have gathered on the plate. Add the herbs and season generously. Bring to a gentle simmer and then place in a low oven (the simmering oven of the Aga) or into a slow cooker for about eight hours. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before placing in the fridge overnight. Skim off all the solidified fat and, if you wish, remove the meat from the bones. Reheat the stew at a gentle pace until piping hot. Serve in large warmed bowls with lots of bread.
It has been ages since I shared something savoury with you. It’s not because we eat cake and nothing else in this house, it’s because my savoury food is never very photogenic. I would like it to look like this or this but it never does. My presentation skills are always lacking. I never pile things into towers I just spoon it onto a warmed plate. It is especially difficult to get a good photo of an evening meal in an English winter. With a cake I can take it outside and take a photo using the little natural light offered by our dull January days. With an evening meal the sun was last seen a good few hours ago and the lights in our kitchen are of the spot variety which means wherever I stand I am always casting a shadow.
Anyway, I decided that last night’s meal was so good it needed to be shared with you regardless of whether it looks a bit of a mess in the photos. I had roasted a gammon joint, but I should have boiled it or soaked it the previous day because it’s just a bit too salty . So I thought if I layered it into a potatoes boulangere this might reduce the ham’s saltiness but add a good flavour to the potatoes. Then I thought I might add carrots too to add an extra savoury element.
The end result was very comforting indeed, soft and squidgy veg and tender ham with a crispy potato topping. I urge you to try it soon. If I had more time I would have crisped the top more, but we were both very hungry.
Serves 2 hungry people
2 large potatoes, sliced thinly
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion sliced thinly
4 ham slices
400ml vegetable or chicken stock
Method I use a tin measuring 26cm x 20cm and butter it generously. Then place a layer of potato, a layer of carrot, a layer of ham, then a layer of onion in the tin and season generously with pepper (you won’t need any salt). Top with a layer of potato and pour over the stock. Dot with more butter. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180°, gas mark 4 or the baking oven of the Aga for 1½ hours. Remove the foil and continue to cook for another ½ hour until browned on top. Serve in a pile on a plate if you are anything like me. A chunk of good bread is obligatory to soak up the juices.
Here it is before the final layer of potato.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Analytical cookies are used to understand how visitors interact with the website. These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc.
The _ga cookie, installed by Google Analytics, calculates visitor, session and campaign data and also keeps track of site usage for the site's analytics report. The cookie stores information anonymously and assigns a randomly generated number to recognize unique visitors.
Set by Google to distinguish users.
Installed by Google Analytics, _gid cookie stores information on how visitors use a website, while also creating an analytics report of the website's performance. Some of the data that are collected include the number of visitors, their source, and the pages they visit anonymously.
YouTube sets this cookie via embedded youtube-videos and registers anonymous statistical data.