Total Pageviews

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Fruity Mincemeat Recipe

I struggle with mincemeat & mince pies (the fruit kind). I hate mixed peel & currants, ugh makes me cringe just thinking of it. So Christmas has always seen me eat 1 mince pie just to get into the spirit & eat only my mums Christmas pudding (fantastic) any other is anathema to me! I have never in all my years thought about making my own, let alone cutting out the horrors!!!!
Well suddenly here we are in a country where we cannot get mincemeat in a jar & a FB friend asked why I didn't make my own? I seemed to think it would be one of those practically impossible things to do, but she inspired me to try & for this I am very grateful, its been a blast :-)))) Thank you Frances Connelley x
I had a word with my mum after trawling Google LOL & now use an old family recipe adapted to my taste & what I can find here, without too much running around!.
If you, are a mincemeat virgin, I recommend you have a go, its fun & exciting :-) substitute what you don't like for what you do. For ex pats in Bulgaria or soon to be ex pats I will put photos of the dried fruit I used as I have no idea what it is????

So here is my recipe & observations.........

8 oz Apples cored & chopped small (not peeled)
4 oz Suet (if you can't get suet, like here in Bulgaria, substitute with butter) Fortunately I had some :-)
4 oz Dark Sultanas
4 oz Light Sultanas
2 oz Dried Cranberries, chopped
4 oz Cherries, I used my home grown brandy infused cherries, but glacé is OK or preserved if you cant get hold of glacé. I also use cocktail & add some of the juice..
4 oz Candied mixed fruit chopped finely
6 oz soft Muscavado dark brown sugar
1 Orange, Grated zest & juice
1 Lemon, grated zest & juice
Some Cherry juice (if using Cocktail cherries)
1 oz of slivered Almonds
2 tsp Mixed spice
1 scant tsp Cinnamon
2 pinch of Fresh grated Nutmeg
4 tbs good Brandy (no homemade Rakia in this LOL)
Combine everything in a large bowl, but NOT the brandy, one ingredient at a time stirring after each item added. Make sure its all combined well. Cover with a clean cloth & stand overnight so that all the flavours meld together.
Next day, pre heat oven low as possible, cover bowl loosely with foil & bake in oven for 2 - 3 hours, stirring a few times.
Remove from oven & cool.
It will be swimming in fat, stir regularly while it is cooling down.  When it is cold, stir again & add the brandy. Mix this in well, pack into sterilised jars & seal.
Personally I can't wait to try it. It smells gorgeous & tastes divine so I can only hope it tastes even better in two weeks time, when I make the pies!

This will keep for years so it is possible to make large batches & leave to mature :-)

Play around with your ingredients, use figs or dates etc suit it to your own taste & enjoy.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Sausage Rolls For Christmas Various

Puff Pastry, Nigels favourite!
Mmmm the sausage roll. Wonderful when hot, moorish when cold. A Christmas time must & no party is complete with out a plate full on the food table! Over the years we have become lazy & been seduced by the quick bake frozen packs of pork mush surrounded by uncooked pastry we can just shove in the oven gas mark blah & out comes a plate full of sort of home baked rolls! Or we are even more seduced by the easy party food, packs of soggy puff pastry rolls full of preservatives & other unsavory ingredients.
I used to do the same. But every Christmas or party mum would make proper sausage rolls, which have always been unsurpassed.
I have finally found packs of sausage meat here & have decided to go the route of making my own. My efforts are trial & error & not particularly good looking but i am sure they will get better as I practice more.
Here are my three trials, all tasty in their different ways
Any suggestions or recipe's will be thankfully recieved & tried :-)
Love this pastry light short crust, but over all they were a bit dry so the plan is to change the filling recipe & see what happens then. These were my very first homemade sausage rolls ever :-) Not very pretty but authentic looking ;-D Made with just sausage meat, garlic & thyme.
These are made with bought filo pastry sheets but the filling is different. These were very scrummy, light crispy pastry & very moorish. Made with sausage meat, onion & thyme, but I still prefer a homemade pastry.
These are by far the best, very tasty & will be on my Christmas table along with the same mix in puff pastry (for differing tastes) Here is my recipe.......

1 pack Sausage meat
1/2 an Onion  chopped small
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Sage
3 Rashers streaky bacon cut into small pieces
So pretty simple mix all the above ingredients together by hand or in a food processor, if you are doing it by hand you need to chop the bacon into tiny pieces if you are using a FP then put in the onion & bacon process till chopped small add sausage meat & herbs (at this point you could also add some nutmeg).
I then wrap it in foil & put in the fridge to chill, till the pastry is ready.
Short Crust Pastry
220g flour
55g Butter cold
55g Lard cold
Pinch Salt
3 tbsp Cold water
1 Egg
Sift flour & salt into bowl, add butter & lard chopped up small & with your fingertips rub in to the flour till it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add the water to form into a soft dough & comes away from the bowl clean. A light touch gives the best pastry!
If you are heavy handed then a food processor is ok.....
Place flour & salt into bowl whizz to get air in. add butter & lard whizz till fine breadcrumbs are formed the through the hopper add the water while machine is running, one tbsp at a time. If the dough doesn't come away from sides add a tiny bit more till it forms the dough.......
Now place the dough in a flattened ball into some cling film & put in fridge for half an hour.
Remove the dough & let it soften for a couple of mins, meanwhile oil a baking sheet & beat an egg.
Lightly flour your surface & roll out the pastry, quite thinly but not so it rips! Cut off the jagged edges, to give a straight edge. Roll your sausage meat into 3 sausage shapes, you may need to sprinkle them with flour as they will be very sticky. Put one of the sausage's on the pastry.  With a pastry brush, brush the pastry with the egg, roll the pastry over the sausage meat cut & press to seal. Do the same with the rest of the meat & pastry (you may need to roll the cut offs). Place on the baking sheet, cut to size & wash with the egg to give a glaze.
Bake in the pre heated oven 220c (200c fan) for 20-25 mins
If you like crisp pastry eat same day,  but I prefer it softer so when they are cold put into an air tight container & leave at least over night. 

Monday, 5 December 2011

Preserved Pears in Syrup

Time to finish off the pears
I had lots of pears this year, not just mine which amounted to a few (we have lots of tree's but they need attention) but our neighbours tree just kept dropping them. Nigel also harvested a load, as they were not going to. I wish I had filled a barrel every day with the fallen pears as we would have a lovely load of makings for Rakia! Next year there will be a barrel waiting :-)
My freezer has been full so I couldn't keep cooking cakes, so it has been a gradual process. I have made upside down cakes galore & a huge frangipane. I decided to preserve a couple of jars for later use leaving just enough for some individual pear tarts, to be blogged later.
This makes a nice light but sweet syrupy preserve, also its not too cooked so will hold its shape for tarts & not be too squidgy & wet for cakes. I have only preserved two jars as I will be using them soon. They will be stored in the fridge
So here is the my way of preserving our pears.........
Citric acid or Lemon juice
Clean & sterilised glass jars
Peel, core & slice, or chop, the pears, into whatever size you want. I am going to use them for tarts so sliced mine. In a saucepan fill with water add sugar I used 6 tbsp for 2 jars. Stir till the sugar is dissolved & place pears into this. Bring to a boil then simmer for a while. You want the liquid to get very hot but don't want to cook the pears too much so keep it short. It is all guess work! The more sugar the sweeter & more syrupy your preserve will be, so this is very much up to your taste.
Meanwhile heat the jars in an oven 120c 20 mins to sterilise them, pour boiling water over the lids. When you are ready, carefully remove jars from the oven & put one tsp of citric acid into the jars. Spoon the pears in careful not to break them & then top up with the syrup. Fasten the lids to jars as soon as possible. The very hot mixture & the very hot jars will cause them to seal.  Give the jars a gentle shake to mix in the citric acid.
You will hear the lids popping as they cool down & you will see when you push the top of the lid there is no popping or movement. This is how you know the jar is sealed properly. 
The Village way of preserving for a long period is........
Half fill the jar with pears. Spoon in 6 tbsp sugar in each jar & fill to top with water, place lids on jars & shake to dissolve the sugar.
Place a cloth across the bottom of a very large pan & place the jars in. Top up the pan with water to lid level & bring to the boil. Boil for 20 mins.
Now you can either take out the jars very carefully & place somewhere to cool down or leave them in situation to cool over night.
These will store for a year or two in a cool dark place.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Quiche Lorraine

Everyone loves a quiche, even if its secretly, well unless they don't like cheese or eggs. I love it.
A short crust pastry tart filled with cheese, eggs, bacon, onion (tablet time) & I add peppers for extra flavour. Mmmmm Its difficult to wait for it to cool down enough to eat! In my youth when I first discovered the delight of homemade quiche I had to bake two. One to eat for tea with my husband or guests & one to eat straight out of the oven! LOL honest, how bad is that!!! Now I am more in control & just bake the one. Still one of the best things to add to any party table & will definitely be added to our boxing day table.
220gr Flour
55g Butter
55g Lard
3 tbsp COLD Water
Pinch Salt
In a bowl sift flour with a pinch of salt, Cut up butter & lard into small cubes ( make sure its very cold). Rub in fats till you get soft breadcrumb like mix. Add enough COLD water to form a soft dough. Add water slowly.
Place dough, covered with cling film, in fridge for 30 mins. Meanwhile grease a flan tin & pre heat the oven 230c (210c fan)   Remove from fridge & allow 5 mins them roll out on a floured surface.  Line the flan tin so the pastry is just over the edge. As you lift the pastry carefully fit it into the base & around the edge.  Pinch with your fingers to crimp the sides, as in the photo. It helps if you have a tin with crimped sides but if not you can create this with your forefingers. With a sharp knife held upright trip the edges of the flan case. Chill in fridge again 10 mins. Prick all over the base with a fork & line with baking beans or foil & bake in the oven for 8 mins then remove beans & foil & bake a further 5 mins till pastry is set dry. Reduce oven to 160c (140c fan).

6 slices Bacon cut up
1 onion sliced or 3 heads of Garlic
3 Eggs beaten
12 floz Milk
Pinch salt
5 oz Cheese grated fine
1 tbsp Flour
Fry the onion or garlic in a little oil or fry light. Fry the bacon, but not too much. In a bowl mix milk salt eggs & stir in the bacon & onion mixture. In another bowl mix the cheese with the flour then add it to the milk & bacon. Mix it together very well.
Pour into the pastry case & bake 35 - 40 mins till quiche is set.
Stand for 5 - 10 mins before serving.
Can also be served sliced into individual portions cold
Can also.....
Add tomatoes if you like. Season with black pepper
Sprinkle cheese into the bottom of the case, add sliced tomatoes & sprinkle bacon or ham over the top. Combine egg & milk season & pour over the bacon & cheese. Sprinkle your fav herb over the top (thyme, basil etc) & bake for same amount of time.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mini Stuffed Peppers

Picture is not so pretty, but these little stuffed peppers are very tasty
A dish here in Bulgaria which we have often with our Bulgarian family, but only when in season, as they are one of the main crops we grow here in the villages. Typically a Bulgarian version will be filled with rice but these are filled with mince. The small peppers when baked like this are lovely & sweet.
Stuffed Peppers
Peppers, cored & de seeded
1 sml Onion  coarsely chopped (or a few more cloves of garlic crushed & chopped)
1 Clove Garlic Chopped
 2 Rashers of Bacon
4 oz chicken livers
8oz Mince meat
1 tbsp Oil
Salt & pepper
Tomato sauce
1 Onion (or 3 cloves Garlic)
1 oz Butter
1 oz Flour
14 oz Canned Tomatoes 
1 tbsp Tomato puree
1 tsp Sugar (or equivalent sweetener)
Pinch mixed herbs
Salt & pepper
Boil fresh peppers in already hot water for 5 mins. Place them in greased baking tray. cook mince, garlic & onion till lightly browned. Season with ground sea/rock salt & ground blk pepper & spoon into the peppers.
Melt the butter & fry onion then place in a food processor with a plastic blade. Add rest of the ingredients & process until smooth. Sieve to remove pips. Bring to the boil in a saucepan & simmer for a few mins all the time stirring. Pour over the peppers cover with a lid or foil & bake in oven 180c (160c fan)  for 40 mins.
Serve with rice

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Fruity Pork

We eat more pork here in Bulgaria than we ever did in the UK. One reason is, its reasonably cheap as meat here goes. Also pork has a taste here unlike the stuff in UK which is very bland, in fact tasteless & hard to decipher in a cooked dish. Off course the best pork is the village pig that has just been killed, wow that is amazing!!!!! Anyway the way round the fact we eat lots of it is to find different ways & recipes to make it different.
The following is a very easy, quick & tasty way to serve pork chops & not an apple in sight. I make my own plum jams & preserved plums in syrupy juice so it was very cheap too.
Pork chops
Oil for grilling
1 tbsp Cornflower
1/2 pint Chicken stock
4 tbsp Plum jam
2 tsp Red wine vinegar
Allspice, a couple of good pinches
Plums, fresh or home preserved. If using fresh large then two will suffice
Brush chops with a little oil & grill both sides till cooked. I have an electric grill I use. Aprox 10 - 15 mins
Meanwhile. Blend the stock with the cornflower. Add jam, vinegar & allspice & season to your taste. Heat sauce slowly stirring all the time till it bubbles & thickens. Add the plums to the sauce (if using fresh then slice them before adding). Continue cooking for a couple of minuets. Spoon sauce over the chops.
Serve with creamy mash potato & veg of your choice or fancy it up for guests. The flavour is really nice, not too sweet & makes a great winter dish.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Spicy Fruity Chutney (no onion)

I can't eat onion, well I can, but I suffer big time for it! I love onions but they have decided after 40 odd years of being my friend they would start to attack me. It's difficult, you don't realise how much they play a part in cooking till you have this problem. I now use lots of garlic in everything I cook as, thank goodness, they are still ok. Finding chutney with no onions is impossible, but why???? I promise you will not notice the difference if you pack it full of flavours & I am not just talking about spiciness, as in this one. All my chutneys are without onion but a couple of heads of crushed garlic does the trick just as well, try them, then let me know :-)
I'm looking forward to having this at Christmas.
You can off course exchange the garlic for onion if you so wish.
2 Garlic heads
2-3lb Marrow, de seeded & peel & chop small
2-3lb Pears, pealed seeded & chopped sml
2-3lb Apples, peeled seeded & chopped sml
1-1.5 Pints Vinegar, dark
1lb Sugar
2tsp Allspice
1tsp Pepper
1tsp Cayenne pepper
2tsp Cinnamon
Peel core & chop the fruit & vegetables very small. Crush & chop the garlic. Put everything in a large pan with the vinegar & spices but NOT the sugar.
Bring to the boil & then simmer till everything is soft & press on the sides of the pan with a spoon to make a softer chutney. Add the sugar, salt & pepper now & stir in till it has all dissolved. Continue to simmer but stirring very frequently, as now is when it can stick & burn. Keep a close eye on it now.
The chutney is ready when a channel remains after drawing a wooden spoon through it.
Pour into clean & sterile jars, seal & leave to mature for at least 6-8 weeks but 3 -4 months is better as not only will the vinegar taste die down but all the spices & flavours will meld together more.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sweet Pickled Beetroot

A nice twist on just plain pickled beetroot.
Still time to make some for Christmas if you can get some nice smallish beets. I much prefer fresh cooked beetroot but as we grow lots they will go off so pickling is the next best thing, cold from the fridge Mmmm.
This recipe is a little different & quite Christmassy.
Quantities of beetroot are rough , enough to fill your jars. I made 3 with the vinegar adjust accordingly but don't over do the spices.
Leave the flavours to develop for min 2 weeks but a couple of months or more will be better :-) Store in a cool dark place if in doubt put in your fridge.

1 kg Beetroots cooked & peeled.
1 ltr vinegar, dark
6 tbls Sugar
1 tsp Allspice
6 peppercorns
1 tsp cinnamon
2 or 3 Bay leaves
Cook the beetroot till they are tender this depends on the size of the beetroots. Best way is to keep the root & leaves attached while you cook them. Cool, & then rub between your thumb & fingers to remove the skin. Then cut off root & leaf stems. Can jar whole or in slices.
Meanwhile, Stir sugar into the vinegar, add the spices & heat gently. Leave to infuse for a couple of hours (or more).
Slice or place the beetroots into clean & sterilised jars fill with the spiced vinegar, making sure you share out the peppercorns & cloves & stirring to get the spices shared too. Store for a minimum of 2 weeks, the longer the better.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Traditional Bulgarian Meatball Soupa

Yum this is very nice & pretty filling. I was a bit concerned as to whether it would be enough as a main meal, you can't very well serve it with veg or pasta! So we had bread to mop up the soup & were very full.
I would suggest it would also be a good starter but only two balls per person. Personally I can't wait to have it again & think it will be a regular for us during the winter.
The Bulgarian's use a lot of oil in their cooking but I prefer to cook lower fat meals. All my recipes are a healthier versions & none of the taste is compromised. There is enough natural fat in the pork or beef to give it plenty of taste.
1lb Minced beef or pork (the soup above is made with pork)
6tbsp Rice
1 tsp Paprika
1tsp Chubritsa/savory or oregano
3 pints of water
2 Beef stock cubes
1/2 bunch spring onions sliced or 4 cloves garlic crushed & chopped
1 Bell pepper chopped
2 carrots thinly sliced, julienne style
3 tomatoes chopped1 sml chilli sliced & de seeded
1 egg lightly beaten
Juice of 1 lemon
1tsp Parsley
Mix the meat rice paprika & chubritsa & season. Mix thoroughly & squeeze into smallish balls & roll in flour.
Mix water, stock cubes, salt, pepper, onions, carrots & tomatoes in a large pan, cover & bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minuets. Add meatballs cover & boil again, then simmer for 60 minuets. Add chilli after first 20 mins.
Add parsley for the last 5 minuets.
Beat egg with lemon juice, stir 2 tbsp of soup into the mixture then stir egg mix into the rest of the soup. Stir till soup is thickened slightly. DO NOT BOIL.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Monastery Gyuvech

Gyuvech is traditionally made in a clay pot and was made by the Rila Monastery kitchens, hence the name of this dish. You can use beef or chicken  too, even fish, though I can assure you I will not be posting a fish one on here, ugh. There are many different Gyuvech dishes in Bulgaria, this is but one. This is one of my favourites, very tasty and easy as putting a salad together. The wine gives it body, therefore lending itself to both an evening meal as well as a dinner party meal. In fact I would recommend it for serving when guests are coming as you can cook the first half then put it aside till the last hour giving you time to make all the rest.  No rushing around :-)

600g Pork or other meat
a little Oil or frylight
1 Onion sliced or diced
2 lg Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 pint chicken stock
Large splash of white wine :-) keep refilling if necessary
300g Mushrooms
150g Red Pepper cut into strips
100g Olives
100g Rice
Parsley optional
Cut meat into cubes, remove all visible fat. Fry in little oil or spray pan with frylight or a little oil and seal meat. Add onion, cook till onion is soft. Add 1 tomato chopped, stock, wine, season to taste. Simmer for 10 mins then add sliced mushrooms and pepper.
Cover and continue to cook till tender. Add extra wine and water as necessary.
Pour into clay pot, add rice and olives, cover, bake in oven 200c (180c fan) for 15 mins.
 Then arrange sliced tomato on top. Cover, cook on a low shelf at 160c for between 45 - 60 mins.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Mixed Pepper Loaf

I love this loaf, Mmmmmm
I am not a big bread eater, mainly through an intolerance of wheat, but the occasional loaf of rustic homemade specialty breads is my thing :-)
Loving the breads made incorporating the crops we grow, that makes them so much more special.
This is one of my favourites. It has a lovely taste & can be eaten alone with no butter, but is best used alongside a meal.
Its fantastic with mince, soups or casserole style meals that it can be dipped in Anything with an Italian flavour. 
Freezes well too. Slice it first so you can take out just what is needed
7 fl oz Milk
4 fl oz Water
500g Bread flower
2 tsp Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Dried Yeast
1/2 Red pepper
1/2 Green pepper
1sml Orange pepper
1sml Yellow pepper
De seed peppers & chop into small pieces, set aside.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Stir in milk & water. Sift sugar, salt & flour into bowl & bring together to form a stiff dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead, push, fold & slap dough until smooth and elastic, about 4-5 minutes. Place on a prepared baking tray. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down, knock out the air for 30 seconds to 1 minute, by bashing & squashing it. Add mixed peppers & fold into the dough until incorporated. Shape into a round loaf. Place on a greased baking sheet. Cover, place somewhere warm and leave it to rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.
Bake at 200c for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Knock on the bottom, it should sound hollow.

Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Pizza Bulgaria

If there is such a thing. We don't have take a ways here, we have the ability to take home food from VT but only when we are there shopping as its a 45 min drive. So no fast food deliveries to our house, which is great as it stops us being lazy & means when we eat out it is out & a treat. Even so sometimes the equivalent cooked at home is a treat too. Hence Pizza.
We love this thin crust pizza & I made two for a friends BBQ party & it all went before we had a chance to grab a slice. It generated lots of compliments too. Obviously this is pizza so use whatever you fancy.
Pizza Dough   I use a bread machine to make my dough.
To make A medium size pizza
5fl oz Water
1 tbsp Extra virgin Olive oil
8 oz Bread Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Granulated sugar
1/2 tsp Dry yeast
Place the ingredients in the machine in list order, put the sugar & salt in seperate corners & the yeast in a well in the centre. Set machine to dough only.Topping

Tomato passatta, puree, paste etc. I use passatta as I don't like it too strong!
Garlic crushed & chopped or/& onion sliced 
Mozzarella cheese
Spicy sausage or salami, sliced
Cirene/feta cheese, crumbled
Red & Green Peppers, sliced or diced
Yellow or Cheddar cheese, grated
Tomato slices
Olive oil
Dried Basil
Can add sliced mushroom
When the dough is ready knock it back gently on a floured surface. Roll out the dough & putting your hand in the center hang the dough over it & stretch it. As you can see from the photos it doesnt have to be a nice shape, round or square lol.
Place on an oiled oven pan. Spread a thin layer of tomato paste over the dough.
Sprinkle over garlic/onion. Crumble over cirene/feta cheese, peppers, then meat, mozzarella, tomato & cheddar. Sprinkle over basil & drizzle with olive oil.
 Bake in pre heated oven 220c (200c fan) for 15 - 20 mins till cheese has melted & dough is cooked.

Edam or Elemental cheese

Boiled eggs with salami

Cirene Po Shopski

A traditional Bulgarian earthenware pot, dish.
This is the first time I have made this dish & it was really lovely, I will definitely be cooking it a lot more to have with all sorts of things
Can be served with chips to dip into it, which will make it a Bulgarian version of egg & chips, or as a side to meat, sausage, kufte & kebabche.
I served this with chicken drumsticks but next time I think I will cook the chicken & add it to the pot under the top layer of cheese, Mmmmm reminds me of a dish I used to cook years ago with chicken & cheese, very scrummy.
Ingredients are approximate; Serves 4.  Halve for two servings
400g Cirene or Feta cheese, chopped small.
150g Cheddar or yellow cheese, grated.
4 eggs.
2 Chilli, chopped sml or a little sprinkle of dried in each pot, optional.
2-4 Tomatoes sliced.
2-4 Roasted Peppers.
Chubritza or Oregano
4 Gyuveche pots with lids
Put a layer of crumbled or chopped cirene cheese in the bottom of the pots, then add peppers, sliced tomato, chubritsa & chilli, if you choose. Finally add the grated cheddar cheese on the top, place lids on the pots & bake in pre heated oven 180c (160c fan) for 20 minuets till the cheese has melted.
Break an egg on the top, replace the lid & cook till the egg is cooked to your liking.
We have ours hard

Friday, 4 November 2011

Autumn Chicken

A lovely light dinner & taste bud tasty.
Its pear harvesting time here & all the villagers seem to do with them is preserve them in jars or make Rakia out of them. Both of which are very nice & well worth doing but I would used the fallen pears for Rakia, preserve some jars & cook with the rest. There are only so many upside down pear cakes & frangipane's that can be frozen & so apart from the normal desserts I tried this. Yep, sounds a bit unusual but its very nice & different. I would serve it to guests.

Little oil or frylight
4 Chicken joints, skinned
4 Rashers of Bacon, chopped
1 Onion diced
4 x Cloves Garlic, crushed & chopped. **** If using onion just use 2 cloves.
2 x Ripe firm Pears, pealed cored & quartered
20 fl oz White Wine
Salt & Pepper, freshly ground.
Brown the chicken in a little oil or frylight. Cook on both side for a few minuets. In another pan fry the garlic, onion & bacon till onions are soft. Pour in wine, with a little thyme & seasoning. Add the chicken joints & cook covered for a few minuets then add the pears & cook uncovered till the chicken is tender. The wine will reduce to make the sauce. If it reduces too much add more wine.
Serve with; Crushed Minted new potatoes in their skins or buttered mash potato (add an egg while mashing) & fresh seasonal vegetables.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Aubergine, Leek & Bacon Tart

Its the end of our season for peppers & aubergines, although there are still some in the markets. It's time to find something new to do with them other than preserving them or making ratatouille! Its also leek season & boy are they stunners, almost as tall as me & very fragrant. I'm trying to hone my pastry making skills so I decided to make a tart using the leeks & the end of season veg. This tart was a very tasty success, after a very strange looking first effort.
Add whatever vegetables are in season at the time, I have added bacon & ham but it makes a stunning vegetarian pie & suits either lunch or dinner. Experiment with tastes &  enjoy.

220g Plain Flour
55g Butter, cold
55g Lard, cold
pinch Salt
3tbsp COLD Water aprox
In a large bowl sift flour with salt, cut the butter & lard into knobs & rub in with tips of fingers until like soft breadcrumbs. Add enough COLD water to form pastry into a soft dough ball. Turn onto floured surface & form into a flat round, cover in foil or cling film & rest in fridge for 30 minuets or more. Roll out the pastry on the floured surface till it is bigger than the tart or pie pan. butter or grease the pan & drape the pastry in. Fit it to your pan & fork holes on the bottom. Put in the fridge to chill while you heat the oven to 230c (210c fan). When ready blind bake the pastry case I line the base with foil & if I have them fill with beans, but without beans has been fine. Bake for 10 minuets then remove foil & bake a further 5 mins. Reduce oven temp to 180c (160c fan)
2 Leeks Sliced
1 large or 2 small Aubergines de seeded & sliced
1 Onion sliced
3 cloves Garlic crushed & chopped
2 Roasted Peppers sliced. You can use un roasted 1 red 1 green or other colours
2/3 large Mushrooms pealed & sliced
4 rashers streaky Bacon chopped. Leave out to make a vegetarian tart.
3/4 slices Ham chopped. Optional
3 Eggs lightly beaten
12 fl oz Milk full or semi skimmed (not skimmed)
5 oz hard Cheese finely grated
Feta cheese to crumble over. Optional
1 tbsp Flour
Ground black Pepper
pinch Ground rock/sea Salt
Spray a large pan with oil or frylight, Brown leeks & aubergine then add onion, garlic, peppers & mushrooms, Spray with more oil if needed. Stir till softened & browned. Add the bacon & ham, stir well, but don't cook too much.
While this is cooking beat eggs & milk with some salt & pepper in large jug or bowl. Grate cheese on very fine & mix with the flour.
When everything is ready. Combine the cheese into the milk & add the vegetables. Tip into the pastry case & level. This is where you can crumble some Cirene/feta if you like.
Bake in center of oven for 35 - 40 mins
Stand for 5 mins or so to allow it to set before serving.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Spicy Chilli Beef

One of my favourite recipes for the winter & today I am grinding all this years chillie's to spice up winter food. Good recipe for those who can't stand kidney beans. Easy for those of us who enjoy good food but life too. Great for when you have been out or working all day & want to entertain friends but are too tired to put in a lot of cooking time!

1 x Onion finely sliced
1 x clove of garlic or if no onion half a head. Crushed & chopped
1 x Green pepper de seeded & chopped
1 x tbsp Sunflower oil or Frylight
250g Minced beef
2tsp Coriander
2tsp Ground Cumin
1tsp dried Chillie's ground
1/2tsp Oregano
Lg Jar or can chopped Tomatoes
1 Beef stock cube
7g Fresh Coriander
Freshly ground Blk pepper & rock/sea salt (if you grind rock/sea salt you get more flavour & use less)
Heat oil & add garlic & onion, if using, & fry for aprox 5 mins. Stir in mince brown then add spices & oregano. Mix well, add tomatoes, peppers & stock cube. Sir then season &cover simmer for 20 mins. While simmering chop coriander & add to mince.
Serve with rice.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Cauliflower Cheese

The cauliflowers here are enormous, far too much for just one meal. I bought a huge one, which sat in my fridge for two weeks. We had it with some lovely pork chops & mash potato but there was a huge amount left. It rare that we eat meat & veg so I was getting concerned when I remembered the good old cauliflower cheese I used to have at mums or in more recent years at the local Worcester carvery, Mmmmm. So I made two this week. I think I will get another & experiment with sauces while they are huge & cheap. This one cost me 2 leva, less than one English pound & would feed 12 people!!!!!

60g Flour
60g Margarine or butter
50g Parmesan cheese
50g Cheddar or hard cheese can use low fat.
Salt & pepper
450 ml Milk

Break cauliflower into large size heads. Boil cauliflower but don't cook completely as it will continue to cook in the oven.
In a small saucepan melt margarine/butter on low heat & stir in flower with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring till fully incorporated & keep stirring for another minuet. Add the milk a little at a time & using a hand whisk, so you do not get any lumps, incorporate it all into a sauce. You want each addition to thicken then add more etc, keep stirring all the time.  Add the parmesan cheese & stir well till sauce thickens. Add more milk till you get the consistency you want, but not too runny!
Place the drained cauliflower in a oven dish & grind pepper over the top. Pour over the cheese sauce & top with the grated cheddar.

Bake in pre heated oven 220c for 35 mins till nicely browned on top.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Chicken Gumbo

For some reason I have stayed away from cooking gumbo for years but there are so many variety of spicy sausages & salami here that it seems like a good idea.
If you are a bit concerned about the spiciness of this dish its really under your control, you can make it as mild as you like but keep the flavour or blow your head off lol. The spiciness of the sausage is the first place to start, then controll the amount of chilli etc. I make it spicy but not too hot, as we like to enjoy the taste.
A great way to cook Chicken & a very quick meal
Frylight or olive oil
2 chicken joints or breasts, skinned
1 x Onion sliced
5 cloves Garlic, if using onion then just 1 clove garlic, crushed & chopped
150g Spicy sausage or salami
Green pepper chopped
2 tps Coriander
2 Bay leaves
1/2 - 1 tsp Turmeric
Chilli flakes or powder
Can chopped tomatoes
1/2 pint strong chicken stock ( I use 2 stock cubes)
Salt & Pepper
1 tbsp flour
In a large pan heat oil or frylight & brown chicken. Add the onion, if using, & garlic & fry till soft. Stir in sausage & pepper. Cook for a few mins. Stir in chilli, turmeric, coriander, bay & tomatoes.
Mix the flour with a little water to make a paste & stir into mixture with stock & seasoning.
Cover & cook on low heat for 20 minuets, till chicken is cooked through.
Serve with rice

Monday, 17 October 2011

Irish Soda Bread, Wheaten Bread.

Half my family on my mums side is Irish & my mum used to make the most gorgeous soda bread. I have been trying to re create this. So far I have almost got there with the white one but this is a good :-)
Great for when people pop round for dinner & you can break out a casserole or stew from the freezer. Fresh baked bread for dipping will go down a treat, & this is a healthy option too. Its made in a jiffy & your guests will be impressed with what they will think is a specialty bread (oh dear giving away all my secrets now).
140g Bread flour, white
350g Wholemeal flour
1 1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/4 tsp Bicarb of soda
2 tsp Sugar
60g Butter
450 ml Butter milk (I make mine with milk & lemon juice & sometimes a little vinegar)
4 tbsp Sunflower oil
Pre heat oven to 200c
In a bowl, sift together flour, salt, sugar & soda, stir to mix.
Rub in the butter then make a well in the middle. Pour in the butter milk & oil & mix to a soft constistency.
On a floured surface knead for one min. Place onto a floured sheet & flatten top. Cut a cross into or slash top.
Bake for 30 minuets then reduce oven to 180c, turn tin & bake a further 30 minuets. You may need to cover the top half way through to stop it catching.
Remove from oven & wrap in a clean cloth/tea towel to cool. This bread is not suitable for sandwiches!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Ratatouille Sauce for mince

Every year we grow lots of our own produce on our Bulgaria property. Then when its ready, this is one of the dishes I make for over winter, as it's a good use for the aubergines & goes a long way.  I make this sauce to freeze for the winter months, then I add it to mince or pork for a warming winter meal. It makes cooking quick & easy in the dark evenings when we have no energy.
Adjust amounts accordingly to your taste. I batch cook this to freeze mainly & have given two amounts for ingredients.
Onion, to your taste 1 - 3, sliced
2 cloves garlic, up to 1 head. Peeled crushed & chopped
1 Aubergine up tp 4, sliced
2 red/green peppers up to
4 lg Tomatoes up to 7lb's, chopped
3 Zucchini  up to 8, cut into 4 length wise, then sliced, Or can use Marrow, but de seed
Bunch of fresh basil or use dried 1 tsp or to your taste
1/2 tsp Oregano up to 2 tsp
1/4 tsp Thyme up to 1 tsp
1/2 tsp Parsley up to 2 tsp
Fresh ground black pepper
Ground sea salt
Slice the aubergine put in colander & salt leave in bowl for 30 mins or more, when ready to use rinse under cold water.
In a pan fry the garlic & onion in a little oil or frylight.  Frylight (spray oil) is best as it doesn't soak up into the vegetables. Add peppers & fry till softened, then add tomatoes then simmer. Add sweetener or sugar to taste. Add chopped basil, herbs & pepper, stir.
In a separate pan fry zucchini till lightly browned stirring so all the aubergine is cooked. Add to tomato mixture. Add the rinsed aubergine to separate pan Fry till browned. Add to tomato mixture. Stir to combine & check for seasoning & flavour. Add salt if needed.
Cool completely & split into 3 or 4 freezer tubs.
This can be served on its own with pasta fo a veggie meal or added to cooked mince or pork.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Chicken Warmer

There's nothing quite as warming as a good old Chicken stew in the winter. Serve with dumplings & were rocking :-)
This is a very easy stock cupboard stew, using in season veggies. I have listed what is in this one but please use other veggies that are available to you. Carrots are a staple though! Add some peas for colour or corn, you get the idea. Green beans too will give a lovely colour to this.
If you read my blog you will know that I don't add onion, due to an intolerance, but please do add if you can.
1 Garlic head, crushed & chopped
Chicken bones
Cooked chicken meat
Chicken stock, from bones &/or 2 x stock cubes
3 x Carrots peeled & sliced chunky
1/2-1 Marrow, peeled & chopped chunky
1 x Courgette, cut into 4 length wise & sliced chunky
1tbsp Lemon juice
1tsp Oregano
1tsp Parsley
1tsp Thyme
Salt & pepper fresh ground
Potatoes peeled & cut to size

Boil the bones to give a stock.
Crush & chop the garlic & fry in a little oil or frylight till browning. Add onion if using. Discard bones, sieve if necessary. Add stock &/or cubes to garlic & boil (use plenty of water). Boil for about 10 mins covered. Add chicken, carrots, courgette & marrow. Stir in lemon juice & herbs, cover & cook very slowly for two hours minimum, can be  longer especially if using uncooked chicken. Keep watching liquid levels.
Add potatoes 1 hour before use as you want them to keep their form. I don't thicken mine as I keep it as healthy as poss but you can thicken it at the end with a little cornflower in water or make it creamy by adding cooking cream at the end.
If using uncooked chicken, peel away skin & brown in a frying pan using frylight or a little oil. cook as you would in any chicken dish (you don't want blood to be running) then add the chicken to the hot stock.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Carrot, Apple & Walnut Salad

Mmmm this is a really lovely salad, goes well at a BBQ with coleslaw, potato salads etc but also if you live here in Bulgaria its a good winter salad to go with the Rakia.
Make this one day in advance, so that the flavours have a chance to meld.
4 x Carrots
1 Apple
1 tbsp Lemon juice
2 tbsp Honey
Walnuts chopped to your liking
Mayonnaise to your liking
Salt & pepper
Peel & shread the carrots & apple then mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover & refrigerate over night.
I like lots of walnuts & mayonnaise. I leave these quantities to you but add little at a time so you can check your preference

Harlequin Chicken

I love this recipe as it can be made with pre cooked chicken or raw. I had to cook a chicken as the sell by date had only a day left, so I roasted it & used it the following day in this recipe.
I call it Harlequin as it is very colourful.
Feel free to leave the olives out if you are not a fan & add onions if you are tolerant.
4-6 cloves of Garlic
1 pint Chicken stock
Zest & juice of 1 lg lemon
4 Chicken breasts or breasts & legs
4 rashers Bacon
4 ripe Tomatoes or jar of home preserved tomatoes
3 tsp Tarragon
1 Bay leaf
4 Red & green Peppers or jar home preserved peppers
Salt & pepper for seasoning
Spray a deep pan with oil or use a little olive oil. Cook the garlic for 5 mins, add Peppers cook for further 5 mins add stock & boil for further 5 mins then add lemon cover & simmer for 15 mins. Wrap the bacon around the chicken & secure with a cocktail stick.
Add the cooked chicken with bacon to the pan with the tomatoes, tarragon & bay leaf. Cover & simmer 15 - 20 mins, reducing the sauce. Add olives if using & cook a further 5 mins. Serve with pasta, a salad or minted new potatoes.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Individual Victoria Sponge Cakes

A great way to serve a classic cake for dessert, afternoon tea or freeze them for an occassional treat, lovely :-)
Makes 12 individual cakes
6 oz butter or margarine, softened
6 oz Caster sugar
3 Eggs, beaten
6 oz SR flour, sifted
1 tsp jam
Whipped cream
Pre heat oven to 180c & place muffin cases in baking pan.
Beat butter & sugar till creamy. Beat in eggs a little at a time. Add the flour, also a little at a time, fold it in, don't over mix it.
Spoon into the muffin cases & bake for 20 minuets till the top springs back.
I bake these 1 day ahead. Just before serving, remove from the cases & cut in half. Spread with jam & top with cream.

Pickled Garlic

Its that time of year, lots of home grown garlic
This is fabulous. If you love garlic you will love this. Its easy to do & lasts forever. Tastes delicious & is a great accompniant to drinks or pre dinner nibbles along with olives & peppers specialty breads etc. We had them the other night with all the above instead of salad & we all enjoyed them very much.
Whole peeled garlic
Red wine vinegar
Whole chilli
Sliced red pepper
Place the garlic, chilli & pepper slices in the jars, cover with vinegar & add the salt. Secure the lid & gently shake to dissolve the salt. Store in the fridge for a minimum of two weeks to cure. Will keep almost indefinitely if covered & refrigerated.

Pickled Garlic #2
5 Sterilised jars
12 large heads garlic peeled
625 ml White wine vinegar
250 ml Dry white wine
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Dried oregano
5 Dried chilli peppers (1 for each jar)
In a large pan combine vinegar, wine, salt, sugar & oregano. Bring to the boil,  & boil gently for 1 minuet.
Remove from heat, add garlic & stir for 1 minuet
Pack garlic & 1 chilli into a jar leaving 3/4 inch room. Add hot liquid to cover the garlic. Remove the air bubbles & wipe the rim of the jar. Secure the lid.
Line a deep pan with an old cloth & place the jars on top. Add water to cover & bring to the boil. Rapid boil for ten minuets, then remove from the pan & cool for 24 hours
Store in a cool dark place.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Pear Frangipane

Pears are in season here now, falling off the tree's in droves & bringing the wasps out, but I won't hold that against them!
Our pears are quite hard so I tend to cook with them. Frangipane is one of my fave desserts, the Apricot one is to die for , so I thought I would try it with pears & found this interesting recipe. I am serving it to guests tonight & will post their response :-)
Sweet pastry
500g Plain flour
250g Butter
125g Caster sugar
1 Large egg
Beat butter & sugar together till light & fluffy. Add the egg & combine. Add the flour a little at a time. Put the dough in the fridge for 30 mins to rest. Take the pastry & leave for 10 mins. Grease the bottom of flan tin Roll out to fit a 20-30c flan tin. It may fall apart so patch it together, when the tin is ready put it in freezer for 15 mins or in fridge for 30.
Blind bake it 200c for 10 mins then set aside to cool. Reduce oven temp to 180c
Almond Cream
150g Butter/margarine
150g Caster sugar
150g Ground almonds
3 Eggs
50g Plain flour
1/2 tsp Vanilla essence
Pears peeled cored & sliced in half or quarters
Beat together sugar & butter/margarine. Add eggs one at a time till combined. Add vanilla essence & stir in. Sift together almonds & flour & slowly add to mixture. mix till creamy.
Spread the cream evenly in pastry case & place pears cut side down. Bake for 30 - 40 mins till risen & golden brown. It will be firm to touch.
Heat  2 tsp jam, I used white plum jam, & brush this over the pears & tart to glaze. Refrigerate. Can be made a day before needed.
Serve warm or at room temp with cream or ice cream.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Fresh Tomato & Basil Bread

This is a gorgeous loaf, well worth the faffing & very moorish Great for eating with or dipping in Bolognaise, Lasagna & tomato soupa. I am sure you can find other great accompanying dishes for it.
Here is two ways to make it, by hand or half machine half hand
Enjoy x


500g strong white flour , plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
7g sachet fast-action yeast
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
300ml water
2 tsp granulated sugar
7 oz juicy tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic crushed & chopped
1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
Crush & chop garlic. Chop tomatoes. Fry garlic in a little oil or fry light, when ready add tomatoes & cook for a couple of minutes till slightly softened & juices are running nicely. Drain mix through a sieve over a measuring jug & press out all the juices. Put mix to one side & top up the juice to 300 ml with water.In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Stir in  sugar, oil, salt & enough flour to form a stiff dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead, push, fold & slap that dough until smooth and elastic, about 4-5 minutes. Place in a greased pan, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.  Punch dough down, knock out the air for 30 seconds  to 1 minute, by bashing & squashing it. Add tomato & basil mix & fold into the dough until incorporated. Shape into a round loaf. Place on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Bake at 225c for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.

Machine & hand
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
500gr white bread flour (Sofia flour in Bulgaria)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp dry yeast
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
7 oz juicy tomatoes chopped
3 -4 cloves garlic crushed & chopped
1 tbsp fresh basil chopped
Crush & chop garlic, chop tomatoes. Fry the garlic in a little oil or frylight, when ready add tomatoes & fry for a couple of minutes till slightly soft & juices are running. Sieve out the juice into a measuring jug by pressing out with the back of a spoon. Put tomato mix aside & make juice up to 280 ml ( 10 fl oz) with water.
Pour into bread pan, sprinkle over flour, add black pepper & place the salt & sugar into separate corners of the pan. Make an indent in the center & add yeast. Set bread machine to basic dough or dough only setting.
When the machine has finished place dough on a lightly floured surface, knock it out gently. flatten it a bit & add the tomato mix & chopped basil on top. Fold dough over & knead fold push till it is incorporated. Be as basic as you like for a nice rustic loaf. Place in an oiled pan & cover it with oiled cling film, leave in a warm place for 30 - 60 mins till it has risen nicely.
Bake in a pre heated oven 200c.

Check bread is cooked by knocking on bottom, it will sound hollow :-)

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Easy Ratatouille

Easy peasy lemon squeezy, well easy peasy ratatouille.
We have all the eggplants & peppers coming in now along with the last of the tomatoes. I had to but zucchini from the market, as mine turned out to be just marrow! So what better to make for the winter. Ratatouille is a winter warmer & goes just as well as a pasta sauce, added to meat or as a vegetable side dish. This is an easy tasty recipe you can make it as a batch to freeze or as a single meal. I have given different measurements here.  Also add to your taste, so check for flavours as you go. For instance I do not add salt, I use liquid sweetener & sweetness is different for us all. I also can't eat onion so I use more garlic instead. This is a great recipe which can be melded to your own taste not mine.

Onion x 1 up to 3 peeled & sliced
Garlic x 2 cloves up to 2 heads peeled crushed & chopped
Eggplant x 1 up to 4
Zucchini x 3 med up to 8 sliced & cut into 1/4's
Peppers x 2 up to 8 deseeded & chopped large
Tomatoes large x 4 up to 7lb skinned & deseeded chopped or you can use cans/jars
Bunch fresh Basil or dried to taste
Oregano x 1/2 tsp up to 2 tsp
Thyme x 1/4 tsp up to 1 tsp
Parsley x 1/2 tsp up to 2 tsp
Blk Pepper
Salt to taste
Chop ends off eggplant, chop or slice put in a colander stand in bowl & sprinkle with salt. Make sure all the eggplant is covered & leave to stand for an hour or so. tip away the bitter liquid & rinse out the salt with cold water.
In a large fry pan heat either a spray oil like frylight or a little olive oil fry garlic, onion & pepper until softened. Add the tomatoes & stir through. Cook for a few mins then add liquid sweetener or sugar to taste. If you are batch cooking you can always add more later when you reheat it. Check for sweetness. Turn cooker to a low heat cover & simmer. Meanwhile in another pan heat spray or olive oil & fry Zucchini till softened & browned then add this to the tomato mixture, stir through. Fry eggplant in a little olive oil 1 to 2 tablespoons The less you use the healthier it will be, don't overpower the taste with oil!
Stir the eggplant so all sides are browned nicely & when it is cooked turn this into the tomato mixture & combine. Season to taste add herbs & lastly the basil. Cover & cook on low for 10 - 15 mins.
Freezes well.
Serve on its own with pasta, add to meat or serve as a vegetable side dish.