Sausage, cranberry and apple plait

Here is another entry for Action for Children’s Festive Food for a Fiver contest – my very easy sausage, cranberry and apple plait. Costing around £5.70 to make and feeding a family of six, this tasty dish works out at only 95p a head; even less if you were to make your own pastry from scratch.

The charity Action for Children is asking people to support their emergency appeal: No child should wish for food this Christmas.

As more families are finding it increasingly difficult to put regular meals on the table, they’d like people to put their creativity to work for a good cause and learn new cooking and money management skills from others, by sharing frugal recipes ideas (less than £1.25 a head) on Facebook and Twitter. The two best recipes will be rewarded with a lovely family cookbook, full of many useful tips, kindly provided by Giraffe Restaurant.

Visit the Action for Children website for more details on how you can get involved.

Sausage, cranberry and apple plait

Filled with sausage meat, this plait is essentially a big, posh sausage roll but much yummier. The cranberries and apple provide those lovely festive flavours. You can also do a sweet version by switching the sausage for marzipan or maybe mincemeat.

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
knob of butter
50g dried cranberries
320g ready rolled puff pastry
6 pork sausages
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

Put the apples in a saucepan with the knob of butter and cook gently until they begin to soften. Stir in the cranberries and cook for a few minutes. Then leave to cool.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and lay the puff pastry on top.

Slice open the sausage skins and squeeze out the sausage meat down the centre of the puff pastry. Top with the cooled apple and cranberry mixture. With a sharp knife, cut stripes almost from the filling out to the edge.

Brush some beaten egg onto the pastry and then carefully fold in alternate sides of the pastry to overlap on top of the filling.

Keep going until the filling is covered. Fold over the pastry at the top and the bottom. You may need to trim of some excess pastry if it looks a little too bulky.

Brush the pastry with more egg. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.

Carefully slice the sausage plait and serve with a simple salad. Delicious!

Birthday bangers

This time last year I had absolutely no idea what I was about to launch myself head first into.

Yes, it’s a year ago to the very day that I summoned the courage to hit the Publish button for the first time and with it created Bangers & Mash, complete with hand drawn pictures and dubious photography. (I do cringe a little when I look back at those early food shots.)

So I would like to take this opportunity to wish Bangers & Mash a very happy first birthday! I hope you like my little cake in honour of the occasion.

In my first post, I attempted to justify why we need another food blog? If you’re interested, and I haven’t already bored you senseless on the subject, you’ll find this post lays out my ethos of cooking wholesome, family food using good quality, seasonal ingredients, without it costing you a fortune. I also talk at length, as I am prone to do in a verging on obsessive way about meal planning, particularly how it has helped dramatically reduce our shopping bills and food waste and encouraged us to eat a much more varied, healthy and adventurous diet.

The first recipe I posted on Bangers & Mash wasn’t actually one of mine. It was my husband’s fabulous carrot cake. But in a way, that’s very appropriate, as I hadn’t a clue about cooking until I moved in with my other half. It’s funny to think back to my early 20s when I had no idea how to cook anything really and no inclination to really bother. How things change!

While I would by no stretch of the imagination consider myself a fully fledged food blogger quite yet, I do believe I have come a long way over the last 12 months.

My recipes and photography are improving all the time. The main reason for that is the feedback and support I get from friends and family, but perhaps most importantly other bloggers. That’s what has surprised and impressed me most – the support network provided by the enormous blogging community out there, through both our blogs and Twitter (a platform I avoided like the plague for quite a long time).

When I started out, I pictured blogging as a rather solitary pastime, sitting alone at a PC and broadcasting thoughts and ideas to an invisible audience. But what I’ve discovered I enjoy most about blogging is the interaction and conversation. I didn’t realise just how much I would learn from others as a result of writing a blog.

But that’s enough of that. The children will be getting up soon – as usual, I’m writing this in the early hours of the morning when the house is still and quiet – and my day must start properly. I’ll be back soon with my latest concoction. And I look forward to hearing about yours!

Stilton, ham and brussel sprout tart

Brussel sprouts tend to have the Marmite effect on people. You either love them or hate them. In the Bangers & Mash house we fall firmly on the ‘love them’ side of the fence. Even the children. Miss Bangers was asking me to buy some in the greengrocer just the other day. Strange I know…

So while most people only dish up sprouts as part of Christmas lunch in a dutiful nod to tradition, we tend to eat them all through the winter months. It’s their crunchy nuttiness I love, which I think works particularly well in this tart, teamed with strong, salty Stilton and some lovely smoked ham. And as these ingredients are the kind of foods you find hanging around in the fridge at Christmas time, it also offers an ideal way to use up some of the festive leftovers.

If you make your own shortcrust pastry, this tart costs just £4.80 to make from scratch. Serving at least six people, that works out at around 80p a head. So it’s as cheap as it is tasty. And it’s very, very easy to make too.

That’s why I’m entering the recipe into Action for Children’s Festive Food for a Fiver recipe competition.

This Christmas, the charity Action for Children is asking people to support their emergency appeal: No child should wish for food this Christmas.

As more and more families struggle to put regular meals on the table, they’d like people to put their creativity to work for a good cause and learn new cooking and money management skills from others, by sharing frugal recipes ideas on Facebook and Twitter.

The two best recipes will be rewarded with a lovely family cookbook, full of many useful tips, kindly provided by Giraffe Restaurant.

To enter the competition, you need to come up with a festive recipe that families can make on a budget:

  • The recipes should be festive themed and creatively presented
  • They need to be cheap (ideally £1.25 a head or £5 for a family of four), nutritious and reasonably simple to make
  • The ingredients should be very easily available at standard shops or supermarkets all around the country
  • They should be original (so no turkey curries, please!) and include elements that younger members of the family might be able to help with
  • They need to be family recipes – something the whole family will enjoy eating.

You can enter your recipe via Twitter or Facebook, or both. Visit the Action for Children website to find out how.

This is my entry – what dish will you submit?

Stilton, ham and brussel sprout tart

175g plain flour
salt
75g butter
350g brussel sprouts
3 eggs
150ml double cream
150ml milk
Salt and pepper
100g chopped ham
50g Stilton cheese

Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

To make the shortcrust pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt. Using your finger tips, rub in the butter until it resembles soft breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to make the mixture come together to form a firm dough. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the pastry to line 9 inch well-buttered flan dish. Pop back in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Break the eggs into a jug and lightly whisk with the cream and milk, and season with a little pepper.

If you’re not using left-over sprouts, steam or boil them until just tender. Rinse under cold water to stop them cooking any further and to retain their bright green colour. Drain well and then slice each sprout in half.

Arrange the sprouts across the pastry base and season with a little salt – not too much as the cheese can be quite salty.

Sprinkle over the chopped ham and then crumble over the Stilton. Finally pour over the egg and cream mixture.

Carefully place the tart in the oven for about 20 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling is set and slightly browned. Serve with a simple salad and enjoy!

I’m entering this tart into the No Waste Food Challenge, where the theme is Christmas Dinner leftovers. This challenge is the brainchild of Kate at Turquoise Lemons and this month is hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

no food waste challenge

Spicy duck broth with Savoy cabbage and noodles

While duck isn’t the cheapest meat around, I’d happily eat meat-free for a few days to justify including it on my weekly meal plan. A deliciously succulent meat, it works wonderfully with strong, spicy flavours.

This broth is inspired by a Riverford recipe and features star anise, Chinese five spice, ginger and garlic, as well as that favourite of the veg box at this time of year, the Savoy cabbage. It is the perfect winter warmer, especially when you serve it with a little chilli sauce on the side.

I think the spicy broth would go very well with a glass of Isla Negra Merlot, a soft, easy drinking red wine I was lucky enough to sample the other night during #BoothsCheers,a special festive wine and beer tasting on Twitter organised by the British supermarket Booths. There will be more tastings on Wednesday nights between now and Christmas – maybe you’d like to take part next time? But anyway, enough about the drink and back to the food…

Spicy duck broth with  Savoy cabbage and noodles

Serves 4

2 duck breasts
2 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
dash sesame oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
3cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
half a Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
2 litres hot chicken stock
2 star anise
150g dried egg noodles
chilli and soy sauces to serve

Preheat the oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6.

Score the duck skin and rub in the five spice. Place the duck breasts on a rack in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to rest somewhere warm.

In a large saucepan heat the vegetable and sesame oils and fry the garlic and ginger for a minute before adding the Savoy cabbage. Stir fry for a couple of minutes and then add the  hot stock and star anise.

Bring to a simmer and gently cook the cabbage for a couple of minutes. Then add the noodles and cook for around three more minutes until the noodles are just soft.

Pour the broth into bowls, using tongs to serve the noodles and cabbage. Slice the duck breast and place on top. Serve with some soy and chilli sauces on the side. And enjoy!

Black cherry frozen yoghurt

One day when I’m properly grown up I will buy myself an ice cream maker. Probably when I’m grown up enough to have a kitchen big enough to store an ice cream maker in.

But for now I feed my hunger for home-made ice creams with recipes like this, for semifreddos and frozen yoghurts, that don’t actually require a machine.

This is such an easy and delicious dessert; one you can rustle up with largely store cupboard ingredients. Although do bear in mind you’ll need to take it out the freezer every half an hour and whisk until it’s frozen, so don’t plan to go out anywhere until it’s done. Obviously we generally prefer our fruit fresh, but we always have some of the tinned variety (peaches, mandarins and in this case black cherries) lurking at the back of the cupboard for those ‘just in case’ pudding needs.

I like a little fruity texture to my frozen yoghurt so I puree the cherries in two batches. Feel free to puree all in one go if you prefer yours smooth.

Black cherry frozen yoghurt

2 x 400g tins of black cherries (pitted)
500g low fat Greek yoghurt
3tbsp caster sugar
juice and zest of half a lemon

Put two-thirds of the cherries in the food processor, along with the yoghurt, sugar, lemon juice and zest and puree until fairly smooth. Add the remaining cherries and whiz a smidge longer, just long enough to slightly break up the last lot of cherries.

Pour the mixture into a plastic container, cover and place in the freezer. Whisk the mixture well every half an hour until it is just frozen. This will take about two to three hours.

The frozen yoghurt is ready to eat when you can’t whisk it any more, and is best consumed within two to three weeks.

If you like this, you might also like…

Raspberry, lemon and mint semifreddo

Christmas pudding ice cream

Parsnip and carrot cakes

While it might be unlikely you’ve arrived at this page if you dislike parsnips, these cakes actually happen to be perfect for anyone who isn’t a member of the parsnip fan club as you would never guess they contained any if you hadn’t been told first.

Beautifully moist and incredibly moreish, they’re a great way to use up unwanted parsnips, particularly when they become a slightly too frequent inclusion in the veg box this time of year.

Personally, I rather like parsnips. They’re delicious roasted, when they take on that sweet caramelised flavour, with a slightly crunchy, slightly chewy texture. My other half however strongly disagrees and groans if he sees them in the fridge. Despite that he gobbled up these parsnip cakes more than happily.

Without the cream cheese topping, they are very tasty and ideal for the children’s packed lunch boxes or an after school treat. But with the topping, they are elevated to a decadent and indulgent level of scrumminess you’d simply never believe a root vegetable could reach.

Parsnip and carrot cakes

Makes 12 muffin-sized cakes

180g butter
250g demerara sugar
100ml honey
3 eggs
250g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
250g parsnips, peeled and grated
150g carrots, peeled and grated
50g sultanas

For the topping (optional)

400g icing sugar
100g cream cheese
50g soft butter

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Put the butter, sugar and honey in a large pan and melt over a gentle heat, and allow to cool slightly. Mix in the eggs, and then the flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Then stir in the parsnip, carrot and sultanas.

Spoon the mixture into paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and the top is springy to the touch.

Cool the cakes for five minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the topping, cut up the butter and then cream together with the cheese. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat in until there are no lumps. Smear generously and lovingly over your cakes.

Best eaten with a fork in polite company. But if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself devouring these late at night, straight from the tin and with such gusto you end up with topping all over your face. Bliss!

Star Wars sausage stew

Somehow I completely failed to spot that this week is National Sausage Week here in the UK. Now if anyone should be celebrating the humble sausage, it clearly should be Bangers & Mash. The amount we consume in our house contributes significantly to supporting the British sausage industry, I’m sure.

Thankfully, I had this very tasty sausage dish waiting in the wings to appear on the blog – a perfect winter warmer for all the family on these darker, colder days.

So bumped up the running order a little, I bring you the ‘Star Wars’ sausage stew, a recipe my children (and us grown ups too) adore, which I discovered in my old Blue Peter Book of Gorgeous Grub, circa 1980. The topping of crushed up plain crisps and grated cheese takes me back to my childhood when crisps seemed to appear in hot dishes all the time.

As a child I was a committed fan of the BBC children’s programme Blue Peter, winning a total of four badges over the years in various competitions. I was forever pestering my mum for old boxes, loo roll holders and sticky backed plastic so that I could make the latest Blue Peter creation.

But for some reason I never tried to recreate any of their recipes. It was my dad who recently dug out this cookbook, which, to be totally honest, I can’t remember having as a child as I wasn’t really all that interested in food back then. Oh how things change! So I’m rather enjoying working my way through all the recipes that were submitted by Blue Peter viewers, answering the call from presenters Simon Groom, Chris Wenner and Tina Heath.

According to eight-year-old Elspeth Bruford from Edinburgh who sent in this recipe…

We called it this because it was invented when we wanted a hot meal waiting for us when we came home from seeing the film ‘Star Wars’.

I wonder where Elspeth is now and whether she still makes her Star Wars sausage stew?

Star Wars sausage stew

Serves 4 to 5

1 tbsp vegetable oil
450g sausages (Elspeth cut hers into slices; I left mine whole)
2 onions, chopped
175g bacon, chopped
1 small tin baked beans
1 small tin sweetcorn (I used frozen)
1 large tin chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
2 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 packet of plain crisps, crushed
50g Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 150ºC / gas mark 2.

Heat the oil in a large casserole and brown the sausages, then remove to one side. Add the onion and bacon to the casserole and gently brown. Throw the sausages back in, as well as the beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Add the bay leaf, season well with salt and pepper and give it all a good mix.

Top with the sliced potatoes and season again. Cover with a lid or foil and cook in the oven for around two and a half hours.

Remove the lid or foil and turn up the heat to 190ºC / gas mark 5 and cook for another half an hour to brown the potatoes.

Finally top with the crushed crisps and cheese and return to the oven until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.