T’is the Season!

It’s the first week of December, and in my world that means only one thing…

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TUACA PIE!

This recipe, inspired by the Hot Tuaca Apple Drink that Diana and I had in Lewes, is one I save specially for this chilly time of year! Tuaca, for those of you who don’t know, is a caramel based brandy which is delicious moreish. I start soaking raisins in it around September… They soak up the scrumptious  flavours then pump them around the pie during the cooking stage.

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Don’t worry if you don’t have 3 months free to leave fruit soaking, a week should suffice or if you only have a day just slosh a little extra liquor in the pie when you cook it. But the longer you leave them, the more they will boozily swell! Mine were near enough the size of olives when I returned to them!

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So. Raisins ready? Apron donned?

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It’s pie time.

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Goat’s Cheese and Red Onion Tart with HOME MADE PASTRY!!

The other delicious thing I brought back from Amsterdam was a couple of lovely Dutch cheeses. A scrumptious Gouda with Pepper, and an irresistible Goat’s Cheese.

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The question of what to do with Cheese The First was answered very quickly

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And as for Cheese The Second? Last weekend, Stephen hosted a cheese and wine night at his home… The perfect excuse to make some delicious cheese-based snacks for all!

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One of the reasons I enjoyed making this is that it reminded me of my days working at Gresham College- the early days, that is, back when Barbara Anderson was the Academic Registrar! We would occasionally host events that had marvellous drink receptions at them which included copious amounts of wine and, when we were lucky, delicious canapés produced by Fine Taste Caterers. One of these canapés would be a miniature Goat’s Cheese and Red Onion Tart! They were outstanding and along with the never-ending pour of red wine, I was in heaven! More often than not, these evenings would feature a spontaneous 30 minute break consisting of Barbara and I hiding in the kitchen, guzzling wine, gossiping and scoffing these delicious canapés! Unfortunately, such delights retired along with Barbara eight months later, but the memory remains as strong as the cheese! I knew these would be a favourite for Stephen’s party!

Another reason I enjoyed making this, or perhaps I should say was proud to make it, is that after much threatening I finally made my own puff pastry! So this recipe contains a step by step walk-through for that too, and I hope more pastry lessons are to follow!

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The Best of British

Recently, a selection of Spanish friends challenged me to cook a British meal that was “actually good and not boring”. Immediately, I was up to the challenge! But I must admit to being stuck. What’s the British classic that stands out as a beauty?

Like any modern woman with a question that can be resolved with a public vote, I turned to Facebook. There were oodles of suggestions each more British than the last- Roast Dinner, Pie & Mash, Fish and Chips… But one stood out to me as deliciously challenging and I couldn’t resist. I opted for Beef Wellington.

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Now, first and foremost the theme of this dinner was British, and nothing but! So after deciding on Beef Wellington, I thought very carefully about what ingredients are to be used, where they are to be sourced, and what sides and beverages are to be selected.

For the ingredients, my local farm shop sorted me out nicely.
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As someone that had never cooked or eaten a Beef Wellington before, I was incredibly nervous about this dish. I had no idea about cooking times or temps, so I used this Gordon Ramsay Recipe as a guide. You will see it calls for smoked pancetta to be wrapped around the beef… Which sounds absolutely amazing and something I will do in the future, but was unfortunately something I knew I would lose British points for. I still wanted that smoky bite to it though, so was very happy to find Smoked Garlic in my farm shop! Just what I needed for the job!

Among other items, Smith’s Farm Shop is also where I bought our starter- the royally delicious Brixworth Pâté, local to my home town of Northamptonshire and so perfect it’s rumoured the Queen of England herself has it ordered in to Buckingham Palace by the kilo!

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For the sauce? I wracked my brains to come up with something. A red wine or brandy sauce would be good, but wouldn’t work with my accompaniments. A white wine sauce? Also good, but name me one decent British white wine. Finally it came to me… A bizarr invention that might just be crazy enough to work…

Gin Stilton Sauce
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Finally, the drinks. It can only be Real Ale! I had great fun introducing people to their first sips of a variety of top ones! Noted favourites included Hob Goblin and Well’s Banana Bread. The Scottish Innis & Gunn was used to get the Spanish pallets adjusted and ready for the taste of ale and seemed to do the job very nicely as there was no holding back the beer from this point!
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The final point I’ll mention is the cut of beef to be used. Any Beef Wellington recipe will tell you to use fillet, which sounds like a delicious and tender treat… But go into Waitrose and ask for a piece of fillet steak big enough to feed 4 people in a Beef Wellington, and you will be quoted in the region of £30-£40. After 5 minutes of jumping from one foot to the other in a little panic as to which is the best alternative cut that will cook nicely, have a good flavour and remain tender, the kindly butcher eventually guided me to a silver side joint, bigger than the fillet cut I had just been shown and more than half the price. Better! So, if you follow this recipe, keep in mind that it’s with this particular cut of beef and I took very delicate measures with the cooking times as a result!
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So, now we know the facts, let’s press on!

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Ooh, I really fancy a PROPER sausage roll…

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So, once again, I’ve proven a lousy blogger, having failed to post anything now for over a month and now hastily rectifying that with two posts in a row. It’s just one of those things! Sometimes work gets in the way and leaves you either no time or no energy to indulge in your hobbies.

Back in June, I proudly began a new job in Local Government which I must admit to enjoying quite a bit! The people are nice, the work is challenging and there are certain perks, such as the occasional work-from-home day. The nice thing about working from home is that I start significantly earlier than I would if I were driving to the office for one hour first… This leaves me no shame in treating myself to an extra tasty lunch!

The last time I worked from home I couldn’t shake that “ooh, I really fancy a PROPER sausage roll” feeling. So, with a little apple, a little sugar, a little spice and a lot of meat, that’s exactly what I went for!

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