Baking: Pancakes for Shrove Tuesday

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Pancake Day (as its commonly referred to) was never really a big thing in my family. We actually had them at least once a month growing up so they weren’t really a treat, though it was pretty much the only day of the year I was allowed to put ice cream, nutella AND sprinkles on the same plate! Now I’m at university Pancake Day is a much bigger occasion; last year the campus stores were completely out of flour and eggs by lunchtime. Though I must confess, me and my housemates still eat pancakes at least once a month…

Now because I can’t ignore that fact that it isn’t just Pancake Day…Pancake Day gets its name after the fried batter recipe traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday; they were designed to use up the ‘rich food’ of eggs and flour before the 40 days Lent. This BBC article actually explains the significance of pancakes to tradition in a way I could never do, so have a read if you are interested!

Now onto the yummy stuff…

This year me and the girls are combining Pancake Day with a girly night in. After a long day of lectures we’re cooking up Toad in the Hole, and then gorging on pancakes. And maybe doing each others nails too! Because I knew (1) I’d never remember to take pictures, and (2) it would be too late to post the recipe, I had an excuse to make pancakes with my boyfriend for a chilled Saturday breakfast this weekend. The sacrifices I make for you guys!

Normally I’d use a simple batter recipe, but my boyfriend favours a crepe style pancake, so when eating with him we stick to Deila’s recipe from her Crepe Suzette dish. I’m not going to reproduce it here due to copyright, so have a look at the link.

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Pancakes5 photo 2014-03-01104034_zpsc0a415a2.jpgMy top tips for pancakes are:

  • Fry in butter. It might be unhealthy, but it just takes better. However I do like the next few alternative is a low-calories oil spray – normal oil always makes them heavy.
  • Get the pan and fat really hot before adding the batter.
  • Swirl the batter round the hot pan quickly to get a thin and even pancake.
  • Leave the pancake alone until it moves when you shake the pan – otherwise it will stick.
  • I like to sprinkle my sugar as soon as my pancake is out of the pan – whilst it is still very hot. It then goes a bit syrupy. Yum yum!

My favourite pancake topping is the simple lemon and sugar (my tastes have become somewhat more sophisticated since my days of preferring ice cream and sprinkles!), but I am also partial to a mix of nutella with chopped nuts.

What’s your favourite pancake topping?

 

Valentine’s Baking: Very Easy Chocolate Fudge Cake

2014-02-12 14.34.39A bit of a romantic themed bake for you today. If you remember last weekend I posted about making Cake Pops, and promised you my favourite chocolate cake recipe? Well here it is! I originally found it here, but have altered it ever so slightly to be more to my taste. Really all I have done is increased the cocoa:flour ratio and decreased the sugar slightly. The cake is rich and moist, but to make it even more of a treat (looking at the weather forecast, I’m getting more and more worried that I’ll be spending V-day crying into a plate of cake…so if the weather/train gods are reading this, I’d like the lines to be clear from Northampton to Canterbury please!) I added a very rich frosting. I haven’t eaten it yet, but I have a feeling it will be chocolatey heaven!

If you aren’t in the romantic mood, this cake fits perfectly into two 20-inch sandwich tins. To be honest I reckon heart-shape tins bake unevenly, so I’d recommend you use a normal tin really!

So to the really easy recipe!

2014-02-12 13.31.22Grab three eggs, and weigh them in their shells. Weigh out the same amount of butter, and make sure it is really, really soft. Weigh out the same amount of sugar, then put around 25g back. Weight out the same amount (again!) of flour, but 70g of it back and replace with 70g of cocoa powder. That’s your weighing done!

2014-02-12 13.50.54Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy…this is a great way to burn the calories in the cake before you’ve eaten them! I always find beating the butter before adding the sugar helps this step a little.

2014-02-12 13.52.01Now beat in the eggs one by one. If you add them all at once (like I did in this recipe) it will go wrong and curdle. Curdled mixture is fine in the long run, but it doesn’t look pretty, and often the cake is a little greasier than it should be!

2014-02-12 13.58.52Gradually sift in the cocoa and flour mixture, incorporating the mixture fully. It should be thick and fudgy looking (a little like brownie mixture!) but if it looks too thick add a splash of milk.

2014-02-12 14.23.17Spoon into a tin (which you have greased well, obviously…don’t be silly like me and forget!) and bake for 20-25 minutes at 170C, until firm to the touch, but with a slight give. Let it cool completely before removing from the tin.

2014-02-12 14.34.39Now to make the frosting! I used this recipe, but found it to produce ridiculously thick icing which I had to thin with a lot of water. It wasn’t exactly ideal, but it sure tastes good! I’d like to try this frosting again but on a slightly plainer cake.

2014-02-12 19.37.12You want to melt 100g of chocolate, beat into 100g of soft butter, and then beat in 400g of icing sugar and 50g of cocoa powder before thinning down with two tablespoons of strong coffee. I used 300g of icing sugar and it was still very thick!

2014-02-12 20.02.44I sandwiched the two cakes together with some of the icing, then attempted to smooth (not so neatly!) the rest over the top and sides. I was slightly constricted with the size of my tin (I AM buying a domed cake stand with my leftover Amazon vouchers!) so it wasn’t the neatest work I’ve ever done. To try and disguise the damage I added a final flourish of grated white chocolate (grated a piece of my nail off in the process…) which I think works well!

2014-02-12 20.19.19So that’s my little Valentine’s themed post – together with my favourite and easiest chocolate cake recipe. Its the type of sponge that’s easily adapted to anything – I’m thinking of introducing orange and/or chilli to a version soon!

Are you baking for your loved one this Valentine?

Baking: Cake Pops

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After a week of deadlines, the start of some rather scary modules, and horribly wet and windy weather, a night out was less than appealing. This led to me and a housemate (she blogs over at Life of Libby and took the fabulous pictures on this post, if you’re interested!) spending a Friday night in making cake pops. Actually we didn’t make the cake pops that night. We kinda underestimated the time and sheer effort they take, although the cake element did get made! The cake part is a recipe I’m working on that you should be able to read in less than a fortnight once it gets a Valentine’s makeover, so today I’m just going to talk about Cake Pops.

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Cake Pops are an American thing, and haven’t been overly popular here in the UK. I reckon that’s because they’re not really a commercially baked good, they really wouldn’t be great at anything but their freshest. They are baked a good cake, crushed into crumbs (gotta admit doing that hurt a little, especially as the cakes looked pretty much perfect!), mixed with cream cheese, left to harden, and then dipped in melted chocolate and decorated. To be honest if I was ready this I’d have stopped by now. My reaction is pretty much “why on earth would you take good cake, break it up, and mix it with cheese?!” But I have to admit these do make a good and calorific change to plain old cake, they’d be fantastic to make with kids and, if you are better at decorating than us, they’d be a pretty impressive bake.

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So, to make cake pops;

  • Make a cake. We went for a rich chocolate sponge (recipe coming soon).
  • Blitz the cake in a food processor until it’s all crumbs.
  • Beat some cream cheese until a little lighter than it normally is.
  • Add the crumbs to the cream cheese, We used 1 sandwich tin worth of cake (freezing the crumbs of the other) to one tub.
  • Mix really, really well. You don’t want any cheesy lumps!
  • Shape into balls and push a stick halfway through.
  • Refrigerate for a few hours. We didn’t do this, and found it was a really important step. If you don’t, you will make a mess and lose many cake pops as they turn into mush.
  • Melt some chocolate. We went for a mixture of white, milk and orange chocolates.
  • Dip the cake pops into the chocolate. There’s an art to this, and unfortunately its not one we possess.
  • Decorate as you see fit, we took the easy options of chocolate shavings to hide our dreadful dipping!

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And that’s it, a quick guide on how to make cake pops! They do taste nice, I did enjoy them, but they were a lot of effort and at the end of the day I’d rather have a slice of cake. And save a couple of hours, and plenty of washing up…

Have you ever made cake pops?

In Pictures: Christmas Holiday

I have a lot of pictures to show from my Christmas holiday and as most of today is being spent on a train back to university (I can’t wait to see everyone again, although I’m already missing the people at home!) I thought I’d just do a simple photo-heavy post and show you them all, with a few explanations. Let me know if you want more lifestyle posts like this…here goes!

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2013-12-21 17.45.43Coming back to my mum’s amazingly decorated tree!

2013-12-21 17.49.50Snuggles with this cutie…

2014-01-03 09.43.46…and this one! I enjoyed spending lots of time with my boyfriend. During term time we’re anywhere between 150 and 200 miles apart, and although we try and see each other every fortnight it’s been great to see him every single day for a long period of time. We tried to do a lot of ‘dates’ this holiday to offset me having to study, and it’s been great!

2014-01-09 13.47.01One of our dates included a wander round Borough Market, where we lunched on this yummy paella.

2013-12-31 10.41.18I received some lovely expensive make-up…

2013-12-28 09.22.09…and got myself some fab bargains!

2013-12-23 15.21.05Did a little bit of baking.

2013-12-31 10.39.10-1And made sure I pampered myself!

2014-01-02 13.49.20Made the most of the Christmas leftovers.

2013-12-31 13.31.54Devoured some bread baked by my boyfriend (and resolved to make my own!)

2014-01-04 19.42.19Made some amazingly good Massaman Curry.

2014-01-11 16.19.00Watched a lovely sunset…

2014-01-11 16.20.53…whilst drinking a yummy hot chocolate!

2014-01-13 19.34.51I was treated to my favourite meal, fish pie! Thank you to both my boyfriend and his mum for their joint effort in this meal, it was wonderful!

BeHwDX8IYAAjbmpAnd this was topped off by lemon-y pancakes with the papers the next morning.

2014-01-15 20.48.02One of our date nights was a lovely Italian meal (paid for via a voucher we received for Christmas) which we finished off with a trip to the local cinema purely for the Ben & Jerry’s counter! I went for Peanut Butter Cup, with is my absolute favourite, and Smores. The perfect combination in my eyes!

And finally, perhaps best of all…

1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_nYep, I managed to secure my Year in Industry placement which forms part of my degree! I feel really proud of myself for gaining one so quickly, it was my first non-retail/leisure interview, and I didn’t have to start panic-applying to every single placement I could find! I have a few posts set to publish on the University of Kent’s Employability blog about my application journey, but as soon as they are up I’ll be reblogging on here to give some tips. Back to the subject- I’m looking forward to working within the Pricing team of one of the UK’s biggest insurance companies from July, it’ll definitely be a change from university, and it’s an amazing opportunity. So excited!

 

How was your Christmas holiday period?

New Year’s Resolutions 2014

Happy New Year everyone, I hope your celebrations seeing in 2014 were lovely! Mine were spent doing some of the catering for a dinner party which has inspired a post or two, but for now I’m going to share with you all my New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve split these into a few categories, and I hope to keep you updated throughout the year, in a bid to keep me on track!

Academic

Weirdly, I’ll only be studying for around 5 months of 2014 as I’ll be on a placement from July, so I’m kinda struggling to this of academic based resolutions. However I have a few broad things I want to work on:

  • Take better notes for all subjects. I’m not a bad notetaker, I’m just inconsistent. And guilty of spending boring lectures on Bloglovin’. My main aim is to work on my notetaking for my more written modules – numerically I’m fine, but I find keeping up with theoretical financial lectures more difficult.
  • Come up with a better revision plan. Basically, I want to make sure I’m not learning content when I should be revising! I guess my main aim is to do more past questions.
  • Make full use of my Filofax. It was a little neglected last term, and my organisation suffered, so I definitely want to improve this.
  • Self-teach Excel. A little add-on which I think best fits in this category. I use Excel for budgeting, but I’d really like to be able to do more of it before I’m required to use it in a professional setting. I just don’t want to look like an idiot for not understanding it!

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Blogging

The important one! 2013 was the year I really started to blog properly and this year I want to go on developing and improving this site.

  • Comment on a blog a day. I’m a massive blog reader, but I always seem to just read rather than participate. I definitely want to start showing other bloggers that I appreciate their work!
  • Keep to a blog schedule. I ideally want to post around three times a week, plus the regular weekly posts such as the What’s Cooking Wednesday series.
  • Improve my photography. I was debating whether to invest in a Nikon bridge camera over the past few weeks, but have ultimately decided against it, instead focussing on my own technique before upgrading my equipment.
  • Continue developing the blog. This is a broad one! I’m considering going self-hosted, I want to alter the design I currently have, and I also want to branch out into other areas – for instance I have a lot of beauty related reviews coming soon.

Cooking/Baking

My main aim is to really tighten up my budget (I’ll need to find the money for a deposit on a new rented property around May time, so money is going to be tight!) and expand my repertoire.

  • Save money. Ideally I want to spend around £10 a week over the next term, with a big shop at the start bringing it up to an average of £15 weekly. I’m also aiming to post a few money-saving tips in the future, including one that saved me a whopping £50 last term!
  • Continue experimenting with tomato-free recipes. I think I’ve cracked the Tomato Free Slow-Cooker Bolognese, but I want to work on a faster version, and also play about with curries.
  • Buy joints of meat. I received Save with Jamie for Christmas, and have been inspired by the leftover recipes. I’m definitely going to be trying a few! Linked with this, I also want to learn how to joint a chicken, as I think this will be a lot cheaper than buying the parts separately.
  • Expand my baking knowledge. Yes, I can cook muffins, but I want to expand into traybakes, and maybe even more impressive cakes. My main aim? To bake my own bread. Hopefully as good as this loaf my boyfriend made a few weeks back.

Bread

Beauty

My blog is going to become a littleee more beauty orientated as I’ve become a lot more interested in it. My aims are;

  • To find the perfect foundation for me. I thought I had found this recently, but its not quite blendable enough for me.
  • Clean and maintain my make-up brushes. I recently invested in a whole new set, and am determined to keep them in the best possible condition.
  • Try Pixi Glow Tonic. I just think that, from what I’ve read, this would be perfect for my skin.
  • Take my make-up off every night. Without fail. I’ve gotten my skin to what is pretty much the best it’s been since pre-teenage years, and now I want to maintain it. Unfortunately I’m kinda lazy, but I’m determined to combat that this year.

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Personal

And finally a mish-mash of things that don’t really come under any category;

  • Exercise more. The standard resolution. For many years my aim has been to begin running, but its slowly beginning to dawn that my ankles are too weak to run without proper supporting trainers, the cost of which I can’t justify right now. So I plan to walk more, be more active, and use online exercise classes to improve my fitness.
  • Learn to knit. Properly. I’ve been trying for over a year, and its probably one of the most difficult and frustrating things I’ve ever tried to do. But I’m determined that by next winter I’ll have knitted myself a scarf.

But really, all of my goals amount to one thing – be a better person in everything I do. A lot of self-improvement is on the cards for me this year!

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? 

Baking: Easy 17/170 Cupcake Recipe (with a Sprinkle of Glitter)

A little bit late perhaps, but I couldn’t resist sharing what is one of my favourite recipes with you! I think a good basic cake recipe is something everyone should know, and this is mine. I like it because it is easy to remember, always works, and tastes delicious no matter how it’s decorated – I’ve had it topped with nutella and covered in a simple runny icing. I have to admit though, that this is my favourite way! Topped with a simple vanilla buttercream, they taste delicious and (as long as your piping skills are okay) look impressive. And if your piping skills are similar to mine, just claim they are meant to look rustic…and sprinkle with some edible glitter.

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Ingredients

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 170g self-raising flour
  • 2 large eggs (should weigh around 150g)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Some milk, if needed, to loosen the mixture
  • For the buttercream – 125g unsalted butter, and 250g icing sugar (again, you may need a little milk to loosen)

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Method

Preheat the oven to around 170C.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, light, and fluffy. It’s easier to use very soft butter and an electric mixture (though I did use the old-fashioned combination of wooden spoon and elbow grease!).

2013-12-23 15.08.01Add the vanilla extract in. I used about a tablespoon…but I like my vanilla flavour to be strong. Most recipes use about 2 teaspoons.

2013-12-23 15.08.42Beat in your eggs until smooth. I would suggest not doing what I did, and instead beat them in one at a time. My mix curdled and split everso slightly.

2013-12-23 15.10.47Then slowly mix in the flour until it is just combined. Don’t overmix or your cakes will end up dry and tough.2013-12-23 15.21.05As you can see, my mix was a little thick, so I added a little milk. Then spoon your mixture evenly into 12 cupcake cases (this amount should make the perfect amount for perfect sized cakes).

Now put in your preheated oven for 17 minutes (note: there is a lot of 17/170 in this recipe – hence why it is so easy to remember!). After 17 minutes they should be lightly golden, and still a little sticky looking on top, but should spring back when pressed lightly. Take out and leave to cool completely.

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Now time to make the buttercream! Beat the butter until soft, then beat in half the icing sugar. Add vanilla extract, followed by the rest of the icing sugar. Thin with milk if needed.

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Now time to decorate. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can just use a knife to smear the buttercream over. I got lucky and was given my boyfriend’s piping bag to play with – it was my first time, so please bear that in mind when dismissing these shoddy results!

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And there we have it – creamy, not-too-sweet, vanilla cupcakes that don’t look too bad! I then added a sprinkle of edible silver glitter (the cheapest I have found this is in Tesco). I had also used a Festive Cupcake set which included pretty cases, and stickers on cocktail sticks, which I used to adorn my cupcakes. Along with birthday candles, for a Christmas birthday.

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What’s your favourite simple bake?

12 Days of Christmas (#8): Gifts for the Baker

Apologies for this post coming up so late for Christmas, however I made this bundle up for a housemate of mine, and needed to wait til she received it before publishing!

As you can probably tell from this blog, I’m a massive lover of baking, and this housemate is also relatively keen on baking. She also seems to love vintage-style items (her room is amazingly well decorated!) and so I went with a slight vintage theme on a baking gift set for her present. Oh, and some cute reindeer cake cases, as it is Christmas after all!

IMAG0448I bought a vintage-themed baking set from Wilkinsons; a thick and decorated ceramic bowl, with a mixture of cookie cutters inside. I love this type of bowl!

I then scoured Ebay searching for a nice, not-too-expensive, slightly pretty rolling pin, and ended up finding one with a floral print end. It was delivered really quickly, is a good weight and really looks great for the price. Yes, you can get cheaper rolling pins, but I didn’t want to go down the plain route! I can’t find exactly what I bought, but this set is similar.

Finally, I bought a Kilner jar from Wilkinson’s, which I plan to fill with the dry ingredients to make some kind of Christmassy bake – that’ll be another blog post!

All in all, I reckon this is a fabulous little gift set, I’d be happy to receive it! I’m almost reluctant to give it away! Best of all, it falls under the £20 barrier, so is perfect for those on a budget.

 

Do you make up gift sets or hampers to give as presents?

Birthday Thanks

It was my birthday a few quite a few days ago, and I’ve been meaning to do this post since to show you all what fabulous friends I have. Now, I now we are all in the same boat, all on a very tight budget, and so I really don’t expect gifts at all, let alone some of the wonderful things I received. Everything I was given was just totally ‘me’ and I love it all – it shows what great friends you have when everything they buy you is perfect!

2013-12-05 10.27.41Here’s just a selection of what I got!

  • First up is the canvas at the back. Amazing, my housemate actually painted that herself. When I realised she hadn’t bought it, I feel in love with it that little bit more. It’s absolutely stunning, and will look good in both my student room, and my dream-bedroom I’m planning for when I finally have my own house.
  • Then there’s the apron in the corner, which another housemate asked her mum to make for me (seriously wish I had a mum that could sew, let alone wishing that I could sew something like this!). Between this and another friend gifting me a recipe binder, you’d think they were hinting at me doing some baking! But honestly, I love both of the gifts, and they will be so, so  useful. Not to mention that a floral apron was actually on my Christmas list!
  • Lots of chocolate, which is helping me get through a period of stressful assessments and placement applications (I so wish there were more actuarial industrial placements available!). Plenty of fluffy socks, which are vital as we have a cold kitchen floor. Plus I love fluffy socks, and wear them pretty much constantly. I have been known (accidently of course) to shower in them…
  • A 2014 calendar, which will go perfectly in my room. And it’swipe clean, so great for tracking assessments and important to-do’s. Looking forward to using this!
  • A new Cath Kidston mug. I love my Cath Kidston mugs, they’re a perfect size for hot chocolates, so I love that I now have two at university!
  • Libby was shocked to hear this year that despite wearing dresses/skirts with tights a lot, I’ve never tried Primark’s super-cosy tights, so she treated me to a pair. Once this horrible wind dies down, and I’m not in danger of flashing anything, I’ll be trying these. Is is weird to be so excited about a pair of tights?
  • I was also treated to some new make-up, and related bits-and-pieces, including a MAC blusher I’ve wanted for five long years. It’s been worth the wait!

But what was my best present? Well, we all went out for a meal for my birthday, and it turns out that everyone had been secretly talking behind my back. It turns out that one of the people I had invited had deliberately agreed, despite knowing she wasn’t coming. Because my wonderful friends had arranged to get my boyfriend down to my university town and surprise me. They’d been planning for WEEKS, everyone knew (including my mother, who nearly let it slip a few hours beforehand!) and they managed to keep it a total surprise, although I did start getting a little suspicious at various points. To everyone who was in on this and made this happen – thank you so much, you will never know how grateful I was to spend my birthday, and an extra few days, with my boyfriend. Those in long-distance relationships will understand!

So that’s it, a quick round-up of my wonderful presents, and my even-more wonderful friends. Thank you guys – I love you all!

 

Love Your Leftovers: Pizza Pinwheels

If you made my Chicken & Sausage Pie recipe, or indeed any pie recipe, you might find yourself with some spare pastry hanging around. I certainly did! Rather than throw it away (I have a ‘thing’ about throwing perfectly edible things away) I decided to make something, and raided my fridge/freezer for other things to use up. I have to admit though, I was very, very tempted to just make some Cinnamon Swirls

I found some Pesto (from my Tomato-free Bolognese recipe), chorizo, and cheese, and so some version of Pizza was going to be born. I also decided I wanted something portable, so I could use it for lunch the next day, so had a little google and found this recipe…and improvised. Here’s my very quick version, which taste delicious. They are easily adaptable for your own tastes, and whatever you have in too!

I’m not going to write this properly, with a full ingredients list, because it depends on what you want to include, but I’ll outline what I did and the basic method – the rest is up to you!

2013-11-25 16.15.40Take your strip of leftover pastry, and roll in out a little, so it’s long and thinner. Spread with the pesto.

2013-11-25 16.17.30Sprinkle with grated cheese, and top with the chorizo slices. This did make it quite greasy, so next time I’m going to try ham instead.

2013-11-25 16.18.58Roll up tightly – a bit like this:

2013-11-25 16.19.38Then cut into slices – mine worked well at around 1 cm width. Place on a foil covered baking tray.

2013-11-25 16.21.52Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, the cheese should be bubbly, the pastry golden and crisp. All totally yummy!
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Try to resist eating, if you can. These would be great served with a salad as a main meal, but I’m going to enjoy them instead of a sandwich in my lunch box. This is definitely an idea I’ll be trying again, with lots of possible variations!

 

How do you use up leftover pastry?

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Chicken & Sausage Pie

This seems like a bit of a strange recipe to write on a student blog, as it seems so expensive – and I must admit the price did make me wince slightly when buying ingredients. But actually it makes a huge amount, and the cost spreads out. Each portion of pie is roughly £1.50, and whilst that’s not the cheapest meal around, its far cheaper than buying a ready meal.

Pies are so fun to make too! There’s so many different stages, but none are complicated (unless you are attempting to make your own pastry, with a cling-film roll instead of a proper rolling pin), and you can tailor the flavours to your own tastes completely. They are perfect for crowds – I made this when it was my turn to cook the house Sunday dinner and it was very well received. Not only did I make enough to feed four hungry girls, I made four individual pies for my freezer too – 2 hours work (and a lot of washing up) but I filled my freezer, relaxed from revision, and generally made a mess in the kitchen. Something I recommend!

2013-11-24 19.16.25And who wouldn’t want a dinner like that?! Served with plenty of mash and veg, this would have actually served at least another person, so I got at minimum nine servings out of this recipe, and I can’t wait to eat some of the ones I have stashed away in the freezer! I originally made a similar recipe from a Times magazine – I no longer have that recipe, so improvised with what was in my cupboard and what I remembered!

Ingredients

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  • Four chicken breast (£7 from Tesco)
  • 6 sausages (I bought 16 for £5, also in Tesco, working out at £1.88)
  • 1 slice of bread, this recipe is perfect for using the ‘end bit no-one wants’ (5p)
  • Two regular onions (40p)
  • A large knob of butter (20p)
  • A handful of the cheapest mushrooms, optional (20p)
  • 2 chicken stock cubes (10p)
  • Two tablespoons of flour (5p)
  • Some herbs and seasoning (5p)
  • 1-2 packs of ready-rolled puff pastry (£2 from Sainsburys)

Splitting the recipe into eight servings, this works out at £1.49 per serving.

Let’s make pie!

First of all, cook your chicken – preheat the oven to 200C, and get four large squares of tin foil ready. Spread each with a little oil, place a chicken breast in the centre, and season with salt and pepper (I also added a bit of thyme). Wrap the foil into a parcel, it should look a little like a Cornish pasty in shape. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then leave to cool.

2013-11-23 16.20.42Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, and sweat down with the butter until soft.

2013-11-23 16.44.00And while that is going on (see, we’re multi-tasking here!) remove the sausages from their skins. Pulse the bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs, and mix this into the sausage meat – a kneading movement works well here. If you want, add a bit of lemon juice to this mixture – but don’t worry as it’s far from essential. Shape the mixture into balls – it makes lots, the picture below shows half of mine…

2013-11-23 17.03.57By now your onions should have sweated down. Make the stock up (you need 1.5-2 litres). Add the flour to the onions and stir to make a roux, then slowly add the stock whilst stirring. Once it’s all in the pan, add some herbs, salt and plenty of pepper, and your mushrooms (if using). You could also add vegetables at this point, I imagine some chopped carrot would work well.

2013-11-23 17.06.11Leave your sauce to simmer on a low heat for a bit, whilst you brown the sausage balls in a little oil. Make sure the pan is hot when they go in, or the bread will absorb oil and the final result will be greasy.

2013-11-23 17.34.48Back to the chicken. Remove it from it’s foil parcels, and drain any grease on a piece of kitchen towel. Cut up into bite sized pieces.

2013-11-23 17.43.15Once all of your elements are prepared, put some chicken and sausage in the bottom of your chosen dish.

2013-11-23 17.49.14Ladle in the sauce until it is roughly this full…

2013-11-23 17.49.19And bake for around 30-45 mins at 160C. If you are making a day in advance, keep the filling in the fridge, top with pastry when ready to cook, and bake covered with foil for 30 minutes, and then uncovered for 30 minutes. If freezing, use pastry that has NOT already been frozen (I made my own for my individual ones), defrost fully before cooking, cover and bake for 40 minutes, and then uncovered for 30 minutes. Remember to only use my timings as a guide – everything should be fully cooked and piping hot.

2013-11-24 19.10.14If you want, you could get fancy with your pastry and make some pretty shapes on top…mine was a little rough looking though!
2013-11-23 19.17.58Serve with plenty of green vegetables and mash, and you have a filling dinner for under £2.

2013-11-24 19.16.25

Having made this, I’ve been inspired to make more pies – I’m planning on making some steak ones over my Christmas holidays! Does anyone else make double portions and freeze meals to save time?