Archives for posts with tag: Cooking

Cheese Swirls

At work this week we celebrated a Macmillan Coffee Morning.  Because I am lucky enough to work in a generous and perhaps greedy office, we actually did a weeks worth of cakes and savouries with people donating food, time and money to raise money for Macmillan nurses.  I am fortunate enough not to have experienced the work of Macmillan, but recent years have brought me closer to the effects of cancer upon people and their families so the cause which has always been extremely worthy has become increasingly poignant for me.

I am not a baker and am definitely not capable of baking a cake (although my new friend at NR11 Blog has inspired me to try…soon!) so I did a quick cheat and made my team some cheesy pastry swirls.  Dead simple and I didn’t use shop bought pastry because I am incapable of making my own, but because all the TV chefs have said that it’s okay and they do it too.  I believe that they were a success, all gone by tea break in the morning, so I thought I’d share the recipe!

Cheesy Pizza Pastry Swirls

1 roll of puff pastry

1/2 an onion, chopped finely

100g grated cheese

50g tomato puree

Herbs and seasoning for the tomato base, I used some fresh thyme, black pepper and a little bit of dried basil as that was what was within easy reach!

First, take the pastry out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature.  While it’s warming up a little, use the time to finely chop the onion and grate the cheese.  Now’s also the time to preheat the oven to about 200C.  Make sure you eat the bit of cheese that won’t grate because you are fearing for your finger tips.  No one wants fingertips in their swirls, so you’re doing it for the greater good.

Put the tomato puree into a little pot.  Add your herbs and seasonings, plus a tiny bit of water.  Mix it so that it’s all well incorporated and at a consistency that is thicker than your standard pasta sauce but that you’ll be able to spread.

Once everything is prepped, now’s the fun part.  Unroll the pastry, but keep it on the little bit of plastic so you don’t have much washing up.  Take your tomato paste and spread it across the pastry.  I made sure to cover the whole area right up to the edges, but left about 2cm on the far end.  This means that when rolled, you can use the ‘dry’ part of the pastry to finish the seal at the end.  Now take the onion and cheese, sprinkling it across the tomato base.  Make sure it’s even and not too thick in any place.  Once you’re happy everything is spread nicely, it’s time to roll!

The joy of buying shop bought pastry is that once you’ve unrolled, it’s really easy to roll it back up again.  Make sure that you keep it even and fairly tight as you go, you don’t want the cut pastries to fall apart in the oven!  Squish (technical term) the dry part against the roll to be sure to close it all up.  Slice your nice swiss pastry roll up, about a finger width per slice.  Pop the pieces on a baking tray, making sure to leave a couple of centimeters between each one.  This is puff pastry, after all, and it will puff.  A quick glaze with some milk (an excuse to use the pastry brush you have in the back of that drawer!) then put it in the oven and – ta-dah! – about 20 minutes later you’ll have a house that smells of pastry and cheese and anyone who popped over for a cup of tea will be bitterly disappointed that they don’t get to eat the tasty treats.

Well, unless you are nicer than I was at least.  Dead easy, still a bit homemade, and delicious all within 30 minutes.  What more can you ask for?

There would be countless variations on this theme too.  Feel free to add other bits (maybe some chorizo? Peppers? Fresh tomato?) as you fancy but make sure you don’t over-fill it.  If you do, they may fall apart which would be a disaster.  They wouldn’t be suitable to serve for any charity bake, you’d have to eat them all and start again.  And no one wants that, do they?!

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Mmmm….The Good Life.  They have a pig, grow all their own vegetables and gently mock their neighbours.  There’s definitely something to be said about it.  My Good Life is kind of limited to a couple of (slow to ripen) tomato plants, a chili plant I saved from the reduced section in Tesco and a courgette plant that has not delivered the glut of giant green beasts I had slightly hoped for, rather more delicate little yellow zucchini that actually complement a salad rather well. Providing you aren’t too hungry though, because there really haven’t been that many.

Imagine my delight when I received a bag full of allotment grown beetroot.  “Delight” is perhaps a strong word, but I did get a little excited as I decided what to do with them.  I could roast them (with chillies, balsamic and maybe some cherry tomatoes if my plants ever do decide to let the fruit ripen?).  I could chip them, cutting them into crisp sized slices and popping them in the oven. Tyrrells can do it, why can’t I?  (I did try it.  Tyrrells obviously either deep fry them, which would be yummy but rubbish for the diet, or have bigger, hotter ovens.  My beetroot chips were a little bit gooey.)  But really, there was only one option when you think of beetroot, you pickle them!

People who know me well know that I would happily eat my own mother if she was nicely pickled (no reference to your wine intake mum, I promise!) but I have never tried to actually pickle anything for myself.  I love pickles.  One of my lifetime highlights was eating McDonalds with 6 other people, who all gave me their burger pickles.  Moving to England, it was the discovery of pickled onions that got me through the withdrawal I suffered when decent dill pickle spears were no longer available in supermarkets.  Piccalilli is a recent discovery in my world, but by golly it’s a great addition to any boring salad.  And don’t even get me started on just how many jalapenos I could actually fit onto my cinema nachos.  Pickling my beetroot was clearly the way forward.

I love a good Google and I found my recipe on the Down to Earth blog.  It has a really awesome step by step how-to and I have to admit that sterilising the jars in the oven was quite a revelation to me.  I mean, seriously – heat kills germs?  A whole new world has opened to me.   I think I will preserve *everything* that crosses my path now.

Of course I took pictures.  Any questions, let me know!

First you boil…

Beetroot 1

…then you peel (wear your asbestos hands obvs!)….

Beetroot 2

…slice….

Beetroot 3

…..and PICKLE!!! Yay!!

Beetroot 4

I told you I got my hands on a lot of beetroot.  More is coming my way.  I have already tried to mix it up with a giant jar containing some sliced onion (I found a Polish recipe online.  I didn’t follow it but I did steal the onion idea, except I didn’t have a red onion).  I might try some chilli beetroot with some homegrown chillies.  What else should I experiment with?  The Good Life is so on its way…but do I really have to wait til October before I can try it?

Has everyone else enjoyed their bank holiday weekend?  It’s been lovely seeing the sun again and remembering just how awesome England is in the spring.

After a busy day in the garden (ah, another post to come!) we decided that a takeaway was in order to celebrate just how brilliant we were at gardening and reward how hardworking we were.  An overpriced and not quite amazing pizza was delivered, eaten, and not enjoyed quite as much as we expected.  So now it’s going to be all about making our own takeaways and seeing if we can do it better.  Maybe not always easier, but definitely more satisfying.

First stop: kebabs.  Gyros to my American friends.  Proper doner kebabs like the ones that spin around in the dodgy kebab shops that you know you would never set foot in if you hadn’t already visited several fine drinking establishments and ideally an old-fashioned dance hall.  Or something.  With cheesy chips.  Cause chips are always nicer if they are cheesy, right?

The thing is, I’m not original and if I want to make something a quick google will usually find the recipe for what I want.  However a bit of creativity and willingness to adapt to either what is in the cupboard, or what tastes best, means that these googled recipes are often the best thing ever.  Doner kebab – well just follow this link here.  It involves minced lamb, plenty of fresh herbs and garlic, a little bit of chilling time (4 hours, but next time will try to plan ahead and go for an overnighter) and putting your meat into a brick shape.

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Like, how can you not love a brick shaped piece of meat?

This needs to be grilled til its burned and brown on the outside.  Flip. Burn and brown – in a good way.  Flip again and repeat til the smell is overwhelming you with its deliciousness.  You’ll end up with something like this:

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To my mind, the smell was better than any late night kebab shop.  It was like all your guilty pleasures rolled into one with the knowledge that the mince was not mystery meat.  The herbs were fresh, the meat was moist and the pita bread filled with more salad and slices than you’d ever get on Prince of Wales Road.  Score.

To complete the kebab, some nice fresh salad (no indigestion-inducing onion that has been out for days!) and some kick ass homemade salsa to replace any chili sauce out of a giant bottle.  And the cheesy chips?  Some nice homemade wedges cooked to perfection on a pizza stone, with über cheap cheese sprinkled on top.  Because perfection is not always pricey.

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I think takeaway perfection may become a favourite.  Let me know what your homemade cheeky secrets are please, I want more!

 

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