Vegetable and bacon pie… and a yummy use of leftover pastry

Little boy is four and a half months old (now 5 months) (… now 6 months!) and I’m going to attempt to finish my first blog post since he arrived. I did draft one a couple of months ago, but it turned into a rant about how people judge other people’s parenting skills. A shame really; what had started as a good day where I had managed to cook myself a delicious lunch from scratch (and even eat it while it was reasonably warm) turned into the day where I decided that the collective noun for mothers is ‘a judgement’. A parliament of owls, a murder of crows, a judgement of mothers… sounds about right. Today I am somewhat more positive, so here goes.

Not only is this the first post since baby arrived, it is also the first in my new kitchen. We took delivery of a new oven this week to replace the rather scary ancient gas contraption, so of course I celebrated by making pie!

This recipe was invented using inspiration from the reduced section of the supermarket and what needed using up in the fridge. I have rarely bought ready chopped vegetables in the past thinking it a bit lazy, which I suppose it is when you have time and energy. Now that I have a baby who will only let me put him down for limited periods of time I see the point of them! The chopped carrot and swede was reduced in the supermarket, as was the pastry. The spinach was in the fridge and wanted using, I wouldn’t have thought to buy it for this purpose but it worked.

Ingredients

  • Chopped carrot and swede
  • Half a pack of bacon, chopped
  • Half an onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • Teaspoon dried herbs – I used thyme and tarragon
  • A couple of handfuls of spinach
  • A splash of cream
  • A handful of grated cheddar cheese
  • Pastry – I used ready rolled

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Finely chop the onion, garlic and bacon and fry together in a saucepan which has a lid – you will need very little oil because the fat will come out of the bacon. Add the chopped carrot and swede, herbs and black pepper. Do not add salt or stock at this stage – you will probably find that the bacon makes it salty enough. Add about half a pint of water hot from the kettle and simmer until you can put a fork in the vegetables. Stir in the spinach so that it wilts, then drain most of the liquid off (you can use this later as stock for soup). Stir in cream and grated cheese, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Put the pie filling in an oven proof dish and let it cool before adding the pastry lid – pastry put on a hot filling often shrinks. Brush the pastry with egg and bake in the centre of the oven for half an hour to 45 minutes.

… and finally, I don’t like to waste things so I made some delicious little tarts with the leftover pastry and egg. I rolled the pastry thinly and used a biscuit cutter to make rounds which I pressed into a small muffin tin. These I filled with finely chopped mushrooms which I had stirred into the remaining beaten egg along with some dried herbs and salt and black pepper. These were baked below the pie for about 10 to 15 minutes.

One Pot Pasta

One Pot Pasta

This is a one-pot-wonder! A very simple pasta recipe which leaves you with very little washing up – winner.

The cost was approximately £1.50 for four portions – dinner for two plus leftovers for lunch. I have just eaten my leftovers outside in the sunshine, which is the first time I have eaten al fresco this year – always an significant occasion I feel!

One of the things I have been struggling with since stripping down my utensils to (more than) the bare minimum is only having one saucepan. Since starting the Basic Kitchen project I have struggled with anything which is served with pasta or rice. When I made veggie chilli I had to make the chilli, put it to one side, wash the pan and then cook the rice. When I made the delicious spicy stew I was too tired and hungry to spend time washing the pot and cooking rice so we dipped bread in it instead. This is an important point. I was clear at the outset of this little project that I am coming at this from a position of privilege – I do have money, I work part time so I do have time and usually energy, I love cooking and don’t consider it a chore. If it is difficult for me to cook with only one pan how much more so for someone who, for example, is working long hours for little pay or who is a carer?

So, discovering that pasta can be cooked this way was a revelation. I also think that the pasta is tastier because it absorbs the stock and tomato.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that it can be almost infinitely varied, so it is great for using up things which you have in the fridge. For this meal I used a base of bacon, onion and mushroom, but the recipe which gave me the inspiration used veggie sausages, sundried tomatoes, spinach and soy cream.

Have a go! Experiment! I would love to know what variations you make.

One Pot Pasta

Ingredients

  • One onion
  • A clove (or two) of garlic
  • 125g Cooking Bacon (see note below)
  • About 5 mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Black pepper
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • 1/2 pint vegetable or chicken stock (note, if you are not adding a tin of tomatoes you will need more liquid)
  • 4 cups of wholewheat pasta

Method

Fry the onion, garlic and bacon in a little oil and black pepper; when cooking with bacon you only need minimal oil because the bacon fat will melt. After a few minutes add the mushrooms, chilli and mixed herbs.

Boil the kettle to make the stock (I had to guess the amount because I don’t currently have a measuring jug – all part of the fun of the Basic Kitchen project!). Add the pasta, tinned tomatoes and stock to the pan and give everything a good stir. Cook on a low heat with a lid on the pan for ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. You may find that you need to add a little more boiling water if the sauce begins to dry out. Test the pasta to see if it is how you like it (I like mine to still have a bit of ‘bite’) and taste the sauce. Add further seasoning if necessary.

Serve with some cheese on top.

Cost

  • One onion – £0.09
  • A clove (or two) of garlic – £0.05
  • Bacon – £0.15 (see below note)
  • About 5 mushrooms – £0.47
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs – £0.01
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes – £0.01
  • Tin of tomatoes – £0.40
  • Stock cube – £0.04
  • 4 cups of wholewheat pasta – £0.29

Total cost = £1.51  – pretty good for four servings!

A note on bacon. By far the most cost effective way to buy bacon is to get what I call the ‘scrag ends’ – the bits which the butcher ends up with when he has cut all the perfect shaped rashers. I usually try to get this at the butchers because it is a cheap way to get high quality meat, however, I did my shopping in Tesco this week so the bacon was seriously cheap but not ‘butchers quality’. Buying bacon in this way is always a bit of a surprise – sometimes you get tiny offcuts, other times thick pieces which are almost gammon steaks. This packet contained three gammon steaks – so guess what we will be having for supper later in the week! So, all in all, 60p well spent!

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Chicken, Bacon and Haggis

Last night Steve and I had a delicious and very simple meal. There isn’t much to be said about it – it was proper old fashioned meat and two veg for a cold snowy night. I couldn’t even be bothered to do mashed potato so I bunged a couple of baking spuds in the oven.

I adore haggis. I had some in the freezer left over from Burns Night – I have a habit of buying far too much haggis (as you do). I defrosted more than would fit in the chicken so we had the extra wrapped just in bacon, a bit like a stuffing ball. If you don’t like or can’t get hold of haggis then stuffing would be a nice substitute.

A word on chicken thigh – it is tastier than chicken breast and quite a lot cheaper. What’s no to like!

I could have done much more interesting vegetables, and probably would have done at a weekend – but it was a tired Thursday evening and my husband and I were more in the mood for a card game than for cooking! A chuck it in the oven and ignore it meal was definitely the order of the day.

chicken bacon and haggis

Ingredients

  • A boned chicken thigh per person
  • Four rashers of bacon per person
  • A handful of haggis each (possibly not a very helpful measure! I had frozen the (uncooked) haggis chopped into chunks so I could grab one or two at a time as needed)
  • Potatoes, vegetables and gravy – if the mood takes you you can be rather more creative with this than I was!

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC; put the potatoes into the top of the oven straight away if you are baking them. The potatoes take longer than the chicken so there is no need to rush the next bit (I was impatient and ended up having to give the potatoes a blast in the microwave for five minutes part way through cooking, which disrupted the card game somewhat!).

Flatten out the chicken; you will find that because the thighs have been boned there is an obvious place to open it up.

Take about a tablespoon of haggis and wrap the chicken around it. Next, wrap a couple of rashers of bacon around the chicken to hold it together as a parcel. Any remaining haggis after you have done chicken for everyone can be made into balls  with bacon wrapped around. Place in an oven dish and bake in the bottom of the oven for half to three-quarters of an hour.

Serve with vegetables and gravy (I ‘cheated’ at gravy; I found instant granules at the back of the cupboard, doctoring it just a little by using the boiling water from the carrots and adding a little of the juice from the cooked meat).

Simples!

Pork, Apple and Leek Pie

This delicious pie used leftover roast pork, it would also be nice with leftover cooked chicken or lamb.

Pork, Apple and Leek Pie

Ingredients

  • A couple of handfuls of cooked Pork, diced
  • A few rashers of Bacon
  • One Leek, washed and chopped
  • A cooking apple (I used Bramley)
  • Teaspoon of Mustard seeds
  • A couple of grinds of Black Pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of ground Mace
  • A generous slosh of Cream (you can use creme fraiche if you prefer)
  • A sheet of Puff pastry
  • An egg

Method

Fry the bacon, mustard seeds and leek in a pan with a little butter. While this starts cooking peel and chop the apple and then it add to the pan along with black pepper and mace.

When the leeks have softened turn off the heat and stir in the leftover pork and the cream.

Lay the ready rolled puff pastry onto a baking tray and brush the edges with egg. Place about three handfuls of the filling onto one side of the pastry – it’s important not to overfill it*. Fold the other half over to form a lid, turn the edges and press down with a fork. Next, use the fork to make holes in the top to let steam out, brush with egg and sprinkle with some salt crystals.

Bake in the center of the oven at 180oC for approximately 45 minutes.

Enjoy!

* if you have extra filling it is nice with a baked potato, or you could freeze it for a future pie. I had a go at putting it in a quiche but there was too much liquid in it so the consistency wasn’t right- it was yummy though!

 

 

Pasta Carbonara – with Bacon & Crème fraîche

This is a simple (and delicious) take on pasta carbonara, which Emma and I made for her second cooking lesson. Emma said that she made it again later in the week and it was just as wonderful.

I’m afraid I didn’t take the best photographs ever for this post – partly because I had lost my phone and was using a strange camera, but mostly because I was too impatient to scoff the lot!

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Ingredients

These quantities are for one person, if you are feeding someone else it is easy to double it (or triple it!).

  • One Cup of Pasta
  • One tablespoon of Olive oil
  • Two rashers of bacon
  • One clove of Garlic
  • ½ teaspoon of Dried Oregano
  • A small onion
  • Four Mushrooms (we didnt’t end up putting these in because Emma is not a fan, you could substitute in courgette instead)
  • Two tablespoons of Crème fraîche
  • A handful of grated cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Chop the onion and garlic and add to a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil (we used some  basil olive oil – yummy), along with a couple of grinds of black pepper and the oregano. Turn the hob on to a medium heat.

Using scissors, chop up the bacon into small pieces and add to the frying pan. Give everything a good stir.

Chop the mushrooms and add these to the pan.

Next, boil the kettle for the pasta. Put the pasta in a saucepan with a grind of salt and a tiny splash of oil, add the boiling water and give it a little stir so that the pasta doesn’t stick together. Cook on a medium heat.

While the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese.

When the onion and garlic is beginning to look nice and browned then turn off the heat (you can leave the pan in place). When the pan is no longer sizzling add the Crème fraîche, a tablespoon or two of the hot water from the pasta and half of the cheese.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and then add it to the frying pan. Put the heat back on low below the frying pan and give everything a nice stir until the cheese is melted.

Serve with the extra cheese on top and salt and pepper to taste.

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Teaching James to cook – Part One

I have taken it upon myself to teach my idiot neighbour (his own words!) to cook. James is a bit of a character, an extravert with paranoiac tendencies (again, his own words!). His usual weekly shop includes chips, pie, fish, bread, sandwich-spread, tinned fruit, ice-cream, Pavlova, coffee and, most importantly, Cava.

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Meet James. He wants you to know that he has cut his hair since this picture was taken.

The first lesson was in making a simple pasta sauce with tinned tomatoes, onion and bacon.  We also added aubergine because I had some which needed using up.

The end result was (…in his own words) Pop-tastic! Not ‘alf!

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion
  • 1 clove of Garlic
  • 6 Rashers of bacon
  • about 6 pieces of pepper preserved in oil
  • 1 Aubergine (not compulsory, I just happened to have one in the cupboard)
  • 500g carton of tomato passata or a tin of tomotoes
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • Dried pasta, a cup per person
  • a handful of grated cheese

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Method

Chop the onion and garlic finely. Using scissors, chop the bacon into chunks.

Fry the onion, garlic and bacon in a little of the oil from the preserved peppers.

When the onion is beginning to soften, add the pepper, aubergine and mixed herbs and fry for a little longer.

Add the tomato and simmer until the aubergine is tender.

Next, put the pasta into a saucepan and add boiling water. Bring to the boil on a high heat and then turn down to ‘simmer’. Be sure to keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t boil over.

When the pasta is al dente (meaning ‘just done’ as opposed to ‘mush’) serve with the sauce and a generous sprinkle of cheese on top; see HERE the little video of James trying to find out if the pasta is ‘just right’.

… what James learned today

  • what al dente means;
  • how to make a simple scrumptious meal; and
  • the contrast between feeding yourself ‘stupid & lazy food’ and easy home-cooked food is huge – it tastes better, goes further, makes you feel better and is cheaper.

…I have a lot to learn but I’m looking forward to the next lesson.

A Quick Sunday Lunch for One

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This was delicious!

I first defrosted some part-cooked stuffing wrapped in bacon which was in the freezer from my pre-Christmas food preparations; I’m pretty sure it was Delia’s chestnut stuffing.

Then, I roasted new potatoes, onions and carrots at 180oC in a very similar way to how I cooked the potatoes on Friday. After about 20 minutes I added the stuffing balls, followed after another 5 minutes or so by a handful of walnuts (at this point I added a little more olive oil).

When it all looked nice and roasty I cooked some frozen peas, took a pretty picture for you and then scoffed the lot!