Mincemeat puff pastry swirls

Christmas mincemeat puff pastry rolls
I am really pleased with this new recipe. It’s going to be my festive go-to recipe for whipping up a last minute sweet treat from now on. Basically, it’s a mince pie in disguise, and one that is even easier to make and store (which is really saying something, since mince pies aren’t exactly the trickiest kitchen task and don’t take up an awfully lot of room in the freezer). This mincemeat-packed pastry is the most efficient use of freezer space and can be put together in a matter of minutes. I used shop-bought puff pastry for this recipe because it’s all about convenience, but if you have time on your hands you can always make yours from scratch.

If you’re organised and already have homemade mincemeat ready to use then it will be perfect in this recipe. If not, then you can buy lovely mincemeat in the supermarkets, and we’ll perk it up with some orange zest, fresh pear and obligatory Christmas spirit anyway.
Ingredients for mincemeat puff pastry rolls
Ingredients (makes 24 pastries)
300g mincemeat
1 orange
Splash of brandy
2 ripe pears
1 lemon
500g all-butter puff pastry

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6. Measure out the mincemeat into a bowl and add the zest of the orange and a splash of brandy. Mix together.
Adding orange zest and brandy to the homemade mincemeat
Homemade traditional Christmas mincemeat
2. Peel, core and finely dice the pears. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the pear to stop the pieces from browning.
Finely diced ripe pears
3. Generously flour the work surface and roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle, with the long edge facing you. The pastry should be about 0.5cm thick.
Rolling out the puff pastry
4. Gently spread the mincemeat onto the pastry, right up to the edges of the sides, but leaving an inch gap at the front and back. Sprinkle the pear chunks on top.
Spreading the mincemeat and pear on the puff pastry
5. Roll the pastry into one long sausage-shape. Start by folding over the long edge closest to you (as shown below) and then roll up gently, using both hands. It will get easier as the roll gets thicker.
Beginning to roll the puff pastry
Rolled puff pastry filled with mincemeat
6. Trim the edges from the pastry roll to neaten it up. Cut it in half to make two manageable rolls. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up the pastry and make it easier to slice. Alternatively you can wrap the rolls in cling film and leave in the freezer, ready to slice and bake whenever you like.
Tidying the ends of the puff pastry roll
7. Remove the firmed pastry rolls and slice into 24 circles (or 12 if you’re just using one of the rolls). Space out on a large baking tray lined with baking parchment.
Sliced puff pastry roll ready to bake
8. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and crisp on the outside. Leave to cool on a wire rack (or eat them while they’re warm!).
Baked puff pastry rolls stuffed with mincemeat
Cooling the mincemeat puff pastry rolls
Dust these flaky, spiced pastries with icing sugar for the perfect snowy effect if you like. Serve with steaming mugs of tea, coffee or (preferably) mulled wine.
Christmas mincemeat puff pastry swirls
Note: if cooking from the freezer, remove the roll about 30 minutes before you slice it. Cut off as many pieces as you need. Use a sturdy and very sharp knife, as the frozen pear makes the roll particularly hard. Bake as instructed above. Feel smug about how organised you are.

Grilled pineapple with rum

Grilled pineapple with rum and brown sugarThis is an almost embarrassingly easy dessert recipe. It’s perfect for a last-minute pudding panic, for using up ripe pineapple or for a dinner party where you really want to keep the cooking simple. Although it’s incredibly quick and straightforward, this is a super tasty and refreshing dish. The sugar on top becomes dark and caramelized with a bitter taste, the rum gives a light kick and if you’ve picked a perfectly ripe pineapples then the fruit is sweet and juicy.

Top tip: to check whether a pineapple is ripe before buying, gently pull on one of the leaves. If it comes away easily then the pineapple is ripe, if not then root around for another one.
Ingredients for rum grilled pineapple
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 ripe pineapple
4-6 tsp brown sugar
Small shot of dark rum

Method
1. Heat the grill to high.
2. Cut the pineapple into quarters – if you’d like to make this easier then you can cut the top off, but I think it looks prettier to keep it on. Use a sharp knife to remove the hard core and then slice down to (but not through) the skin at 2-3cm intervals.
Preparing the pineapple quarters
3. Lay the pineapple quarters on a grill tray lined with foil.
Preparing the pineapple quarters
4. Pour a couple of teaspoons of rum over each quarter, followed by the brown sugar.
Topping the pineapple with sugar and rum
5. Place under the hot grill for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbling and the pineapple is warmed through.
Grilled pineapple with rum and brown sugar
These are lovely enjoyed by themselves, though you could also serve it with some vanilla, or even rum and raisin, ice cream.
Grilled pineapple with rum and brown sugar

Strawberry Fool

Homemade strawberry fools
Today we’re talking about a quick, easy, straightforward dessert. The kind that you can rustle together in 20 minutes with just a few simple ingredients, and leave in the fridge until dinner time. This is the ideal dinner party pudding, especially during the summer months when you can get hold of perfectly ripe, juicy strawberries. I may be biased, but I think it’s hard to beat Scottish strawberries. Usually the smallest strawberries are actually the ones with the strongest, sweetest flavour, despite the enticing look of the larger, perfectly-strawberry-shaped fruits.

I loosely based this recipe on one from BBC Good Food (my go-to website for recipe guidance and inspiration). I finally got to use a splash of the delicious elderflower liquor that I was given for my birthday. We only added one shot of the liquor, and actually our strawberries had such an intense flavour that they overpowered the elderflower taste. If I was making this again I would definitely add another shot, but of course this will depend on what type of liquor you are using and how flavourful your strawberries are. My advice would be to taste the fool as you go along, to make sure you get the balance just right.
Ingredients for homemade strawberry fool
Ingredients (serves 6)
300g ripe strawberries, plus 100g extra chopped into small pieces
300g Greek yogurt
3 tbsp icing sugar
300ml double cream
1-2 shots of elderflower or fruit liquor

Method
1. Place 300g of your ripest strawberries into a blender and blitz until smooth.
Strawberries for blending to make strawberry coulis
Strawberry coulis
Homemade strawberry coulis
2. Beat together the yogurt and icing sugar.
Greek yogurt and icing sugar for a strawberry fool
3. Add the double cream and whip until thick. You want the mixture to form stiff peaks, but not have that over-whipped consistency.
Adding the double cream to the fool mixture
Whipping the cream and yogurt for a strawberry fool
4. Fold through the liquor and most of the chopped strawberries.
Folding the chopped strawberries through the strawberry fool mixture
5. Very gently fold through the strawberry coulis a little at time so that the mixture is rippled and not completely combined.
Folding strawberry coulis through the fool mixture
6. Spoon the fool into small tumblers or wine glasses, top with the remaining chopped strawberries and chill for at least an hour in the fridge.
Spooning the homemade strawberry fool into cups
We had these little puddings after Sunday dinner, served with amoretti and ginger biscuits. They had a light, but rich consistency and a really intense sweet strawberry flavour. We didn’t actually use all of the strawberry coulis, but it kept in the fridge for the next couple of days and was amazing drizzled over vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt.
Homemade strawberry fools

Homemade Pasta (Recipe 1)

White plate of homemade tagliatelle
Let’s talk about pasta. More specifically, let’s talk about homemade pasta. Tasty, satisfying, versatile, impressive, quick and, best of all, easy; making your own pasta from scratch is guaranteed to have your friends and family oooh-ing and aaah-ing and complimenting you on the dedication you have to cooking. Well my friend, lap it up as you laugh on the inside and reminisce about the 2 glasses of wine that you knocked back while you made it. The longest part of the process is letting the dough sit in the fridge for an hour (this is when most of the aforementioned wine drinking probably took place) and the trickiest part of the process is rolling out the dough. If you have a pasta machine and a spare set of hands, then this is a breeze. If not, then never fear, I’ve found that pasta is easily a one-woman job. A rolling pin, or a bottle of wine (SEE? SO MANY USES), will do the job of the pasta machine and you can use a sharp knife to cut the pasta to size.

The only ingredients that you really need for pasta are flour and eggs. That’s it. 00 flour is the super fine flour that Italians use to make pasta so if you can get your hands on that then great. However, I’ve been advised by my go-to foodie friend that regular plain flour works too. The most basic pasta dough recipe that you can follow is 100g flour to 1 egg, which will serve roughly one person.

I add a small amount of olive oil for elasticity and a pinch of salt for seasoning. Semolina can also be added to your dough to give it more texture and bite. The proportions of semolina to flour in a recipe vary from family to family, and depend on where in Italy you are. Apparently, the further south, the more semolina in the recipe.

I’m yet to experiment with different proportions of semolina to flour, but here is the recipe that I have been using lately. I find it has a lovely bite, especially if only cooked very briefly, and a rich flavour. It holds up to a flavourful sauce and I’ve used it to make tagliatelle and raviolis so far (like here in my Seafood Tagliatelle).
Ingredients laid out for homemade pasta dough - 00 flour, eggs, semolina
Ingredients (serves 3)
225g 00 flour
75g semolina
3 medium eggs, beaten (if you have large eggs then add the mix a bit at a time in case you don’t need it all)
Small glug of olive oil
Pinch of salt

Method
1. Weigh out the flour and semolina and mix together with a pinch of salt. Pour into a mound on your work surface and make a well in the middle.
Flour, semolina and salt in a mound on the work surface, with a well in the middle
2. Pour the beaten egg and olive oil into the well and use a fork or your fingers to slowly begin to incorporate the liquid into the dry ingredients.
Egg and olive oil poured into the well in the middle of a mound of flour and semolina
3. Combine to a stiff dough and knead for 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but preferably one hour. Set up your pasta machine, if you’re using one.
Ball of kneaded homemade pasta dough
4. Cut the dough in half, wrapping one half back up and putting it in the fridge. This will make it easier to deal with rolling out the dough – if you have many spare pairs of hands and a super long kitchen then knock yourself out and do it all at once. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Half the pasta dough rolled into an oblong shape on a floured surface using a rolling pin
5. Lightly flour the work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into an oblong thin enough to go through the first setting of the pasta machine. If you’re going rustic then continue with the rolling pin until you have a nice thin dough and then use a knife to cut your pasta shapes.
Starting to roll the homemade pasta dough through the pasta machine
6. Flour the pasta machine and put the dough through the thickest setting. Fold the dough on top of itself so that it’s half the length and put it through the same setting again. Now take the thickness down a setting and repeat the process. Do not be tempted to skip a setting as the pasta is likely to tear!
A long piece of pasta dough being rolled through a thinner setting on the machine
7. I take this dough to the second thinnest setting and then put it through the larger cutter to make pieces of pasta about 1cm wide. You can take it as thin as you like and either use the cutter on the machine, or cut by hand with a knife.
Using the pasta machine to cut the pasta into tagliatelle
8. Lay your pasta on a tray sprinkled with semolina, which will stop it sticking together, or hang the pasta until you are ready to use it. I got a fancy pants pasta hanger for Christmas, but I used coat hangers when I didn’t have one (how did I survive??). Repeat with the second half of the dough.
Homemade tagliatelle hanging from a wooden pasta drier

Cook in heavily salted, boiling water. The pasta will cook in 2 minutes.

If you give homemade pasta a go then let me know how it works out, or if you have your own favourite pasta recipe or semolina to flour ratio then I would love to hear it!

Sausage and Bean Casserole

Roasting tray with sausages, peppers, tomatoes and beans
A girl can’t live off cakes and bakes. This may be controversial, but, sadly, it’s true. This week I have a few savoury recipes for you, and today’s one is the perfect weekday meal during the colder months of the year: few ingredients, quick and comforting. It really is just a case of bashing some ingredients into the oven and letting them work their magic. You can also adapt the recipe according to what you have in your cupboards – use whatever variety of tinned beans and tomatoes you have, add a red onion or sprinkle over some chilli flakes.

Ingredients for casserole laid out - sausages, peppers, mustard, tinned tomatoes, tinned butter beans and oregano
Ingredients (serves 4)
Olive oil
12 Cumberland sausages
2-3 tsp Dijon mustard
2 red peppers
1 tin cherry tomatoes
1 tin butter beans, drained
1-2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
2. Add a glug of olive oil (about 1 tbps) to a roasting tray and heat in the oven for 5 minutes.
3. Use scissors to cut your sausages apart and add to the roasting tray, moving the sausages around in the hot oil. Cook for 20 minutes, shaking half way through.
4. Add the mustard to the sausages and cook for another 10 minutes.
5. Chop the peppers into chunky strips and add to the roasting tray. Cook for 10 minutes.
6. Finally pour in the tomatoes and beans and season with the oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for a further 10-20 minutes until hot and bubbling.
Dinner plate of sausage and bean casserole, broccoli and buttered bread
Serve with fresh bread and steamed vegetables, as we did, or with a side of mashed or baked potatoes. We guzzled the lot between 4 people, but if you want to make the sausages go further (say 2 per person) then I would add an extra tin of both tomatoes and beans, so that there is enough to go round.