Destination Kefalonia for Pastitsio and Horiatiki Salad

It is the last in my Around the World in Six Suppers, and for the final mystery destination we leap from the virtual to the real world. Yes indeed! We said – hang the staycation! We need a proper holiday!

Overlooking Myrtos Beach, made famous by Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

I know. So much for our good intentions to stay at home this summer and save some money. Our resolve seemed to weaken as the British weather deteriorated. And when our good friend Mikey suggested we come see him and his family on the Greek island of Kefalonia it was too hard to resist, particularly since he is a winemaker and promised us lots of good wine too.

For the last week of the school holidays, we therefore found ourselves on this beautiful Ionian island, most commonly known as the setting for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and home to a wonderful tradition of fine food that’s simple and unfussy.

Mikey first came to Kefalonia around five years ago to make wine for Gentilini, one of the largest vineyards on the island. He now lives here with his lovely wife Yvonne and their two gorgeous daughters.

Although we couldn’t really justify a trip abroad, I have to admit it is just what I needed. There’s something about soaking up properly hot sunshine and swimming in warm seas that allows me to truly relax and switch off. Kefalonia was absolutely perfect for this: never a cloud in sight, crystal-clear turquoise seas and temperatures rarely dipping below the mid-thirties. Every view was a picture postcard and as soon as we stepped off the plane, my family was grinning from ear to ear.

As we were only there a week, we weren’t tempted to try and do too much either. Mikey acted as the perfect guide to the island. Despite being insanely busy with the grape harvest and starting work at 6am each day, he succeeded in helping us find the best places to eat and drink.

From drinking mojitos on the beach at Megali Amos…

Drinking cocktails in the sea – life doesn’t get better than this

… and organising a fantastic Greek barbecue at the winery…

Petros, the barbecue king
No barbecue is complete without a sausage or two

… to a marvellous traditional meze overlooking the harbour at Kiani Atki…

The perfect spot to enjoy meze and watch the sunset with good friends at Kiani Atki in Argostoli
The octopus was simply sensational

… and devouring gyros at Ladokoola, Mikey’s favourite ‘chuck it all on the table’ restaurant.

They really do ‘chuck it on the table’ as Mikey described it

No surprise I came home a few pounds heavier!

But my favourite meal of the holiday was the one Mikey and Yvonne cooked us one evening at their home.

They invited us over for a very traditional meal of pastitsio, often talked of as Greece’s version of lasagne, served with horiatiki, the ubiquitous Greek salad. And of course, lots of good Greek wine, robola and rosé.

Mikey’s pastitsio and horiatiki salad

I’ve never eaten pastitsio before but it’s certainly a recipe I know I’ll be cooking again and again back at home. Our two girls gobbled theirs up without a peep while the grownups reminisced about the old days in Bristol.

The pastitsio recipe in the Kefalonian cookbook Mikey and Yvonne gave me as a gift calls for tagliatelle pasta but Mikey prefers to make his with penne, while Yvonne says she uses little macaroni. So it seems anything goes really; make use of whatever you happen to have in the cupboard. For an authentic pastitsio, you should use the local kefalotiri cheese but any hard sheep’s milk cheese should be fine, such as manchego.

According to Mikey, a proper horiatiki or Greek salad should be served at room temperature – not cold from the fridge – and made well in advance so that the salt has plenty of time to work its magic on the tomato and cucumber, extracting some of the water content and intensifying the flavours. It is served simply with good olive oil but no vinegar. And of course, you need plenty of really good black olives. Yvonne had made her own and they were like nothing I’d tasted before.

Yvonne’s homemade olives

Mikey prepared his horiatiki before taking us all down to the local beach for a wonderful evening swim as the sun began to set. If only we could always swim in the sea before supper…

Tossing up the horiatiki with plenty of salt and good olive oil

Horiatiki Salad

2 large beef tomatoes
½ cucumber
1 red onion
1 green pepper
large pinch of salt
handful of black olives
150g Feta cheese, cubed
large pinch of dried oregano
large glug of quality olive oil

Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into large chunks and throw into a large serving bowl. Slice the red onion and cut the pepper into thin strips, and add to the bowl. Sprinkle with a decent pinch of salt and mix it all really well. Add the olives, Feta and oregano and smother with a good peppery olive oil. Toss gently to make sure the oil covers everything well and leave for half an hour or so before serving.

Pastitsio. Note the large squeezy Marmite in the background, which we were under strict orders to bring over from Blighty.

Pastitsio

2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
600g minced beef
100ml white wine
500ml tomato passata
1 tbsp tomato puree, dissolved in a little hot water
salt and pepper
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
600g penne or other small pasta
handful of kefalotiri or other hard sheep’s milk cheese, grated

For the Béchamel Sauce

1 litre milk
6tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper
nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 190°C/gas mark 5.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until soft. Add the minced beef and cook until browned. Pour in the wine and cook off until the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the passata and puree and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste and add more if required. Bring the sauce to the boil and gently simmer on a low heat until the sauce has thickened.

To make the béchamel sauce, pour the milk into a pan and heat gently. When the milk is warm, slowly add the flour, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Season with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg. Once the sauce has thickened, stir in the egg and then the butter. Check the seasoning again and remove from the heat.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the penne according to the packet instructions. Drain and rinse with warm water to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

Butter the bottom of a large ovenproof dish. Put half the pasta along the bottom of the dish and press down firmly. Pour the meat sauce over the pasta and smooth over. Cover with the rest of the pasta and again press down well. Pour the béchamel sauce over the top and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake in the oven for around 40 minutes, until the top is golden and the cheese is bubbling. Leave to stand for quarter of an hour to let the béchamel sauce set slightly before serving with the horiatiki salad.

Kali orexi!

Herbs on Saturday – July Round Up

Well, I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed my first experience hosting a blog challenge. What a wonderful opportunity to get to know new food bloggers and share in such a diverse and exciting collection of recipes. Before I go any further I must say a massive thank you to Karen at Lavender & Lovage for entrusting her Herbs on Saturday challenge to me for the month of July!

I have to admit I was a little worried I wouldn’t receive any entries during my ‘term in office’ but can you believe there were actually 30 entries to Herbs on Saturday this month. Thank you each and every one of you for your entries, each dish a glorious celebration of cooking with herbs. So let’s take a look at each of those dishes…

First up is this tasty sausage plait from Mamacook, which I can’t wait to try out on my own family – we love both puff pastry and sausages in our house! And I love the fact there are sneaky hidden vegetables in there too.

Sausage plait from Mamacook

Doesn’t this Pan Bagnat from Lavender & Lovage look incredible? A gorgeous French picnic sandwich that just cries out for a day spent lazing on a rug in a summer meadow with some good friends, a bottle of cold white wine or perhaps some Pimms, and maybe a game or two of French cricket or Pooh sticks…

Pan bagnat from Lavender & Lovage

I love the fact that Cooking Around the World’s Mediterranean Feta and Tomato Bake comes complete with its own fairy story! It looks such a fresh and simple dish, perfect for mopping up with a great hunk of crusty bread. Definitely my kind of food!

Mediterranean Feta and Tomato Bake from Cooking Around the World

Try it, like it, love it are the instructions accompanying this simply delicious spaghettis aux herbes et ail from Simple Quiet Modern, and I have no doubt that anyone who tastes it will instantly fall in love with it. I adore simple pasta dishes, with a glug of good olive oil and some lovely fresh herbs, and this bowl of spaghetti looks incredible.

Les spaghettis aux herbes et ail from Simple Quiet Modern

Next up is my chicken and noodle salad with coriander and mint, a fresh, zingy summer salad. My family weren’t quite sure what to make of it when I first served it. Cold noodles! Are you mad?! But after a couple of bites, they were persuaded…

Chicken and noodle salad with coriander and mint from Bangers & Mash

Another simple pasta dish now; this time a quick and satisfying Pepper and Mushroom Pappardelle  from Tinned Tomatoes, who knows a thing or two about good vegetarian family food. I do love a creamy pasta sauce and was interested to see this recipe features goat’s yoghurt as well as cream. I must give it a try!

Pepper and Mushroom Pappardelle from Tinned Tomatoes

If you happen to have a glut of gooseberries or have over-indulged at a pick-your-own farm, then this Devilled Gooseberry Sauce and Tarragon Vinegar from As Strong As Soup should have you pricking up your ears. It sounds absolutely delicious and easy to make, and apparently is good with oily fish like mackerel, as well as chicken, duck and pork.

Devilled Gooseberry Sauce and Tarragon Vinegar from As Strong As Soup

I think cheese scones with salad are perfect for a light lunch, providing a tasty alternative to bread, and it would seem Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen agrees. Take a look at her scrummy Cheese and Herb Scone, featuring chives, rosemary and thyme.

Cheese and Herb Scone from Farmersgirl Kitchen

These Turkish Zucchini Fritters from Tinned Tomatoes look incredibly tasty and very, very versatile. I know my two girls are going to love trying these with their favourite hummus and soured cream dips, and I think they’ll work well in their lunch boxes when school starts again.

Turkish Zucchini Fritters from Tinned Tomatoes

I have never tried Involtini di melanzane before but after seeing this beautiful entry from Leeks & Limoni I really must put that right and make it soon. Aubergine is a favourite ingredient of mine and I do like the sound of these rolls with cheese, pinenuts, passata, mint and oregano.

Involtini di melanzane from Leeks & Limoni

Food and childhood are inextricably linked and in her beautiful entry white asparagus tips with tarragon sauce, Helene at French Foodie Baby recalls memories of Sunday lunches eating white asparagus as a child in her mother’s apartment. Here she adapts her mother’s recipe for her own son Pablo.

White asparagus tips with tarragon sauce from French Foodie Baby

Pablo is one very lucky boy! Helene at French Foodie Baby created this heavenly Nectarine Shiso Ice Cream for him as his first ever taste of ice cream. I have never tried the herb shiso before but I really must track some down now!

Nectarine Shiso Ice Cream from French Foodie Baby

Next French Foodie Baby brings us her take on a French classic, Salmon with sorrel. This is an incredibly simple and delicious dish, which she’s created as a puree for her young son and is ideal for anyone looking for new ideas for little ones moving onto solids.

Salmon with sorrel from French Foodie Baby

Back to me again for penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli, a very quick and easy pasta dish using lots of one of my favourite herbs, fresh tarragon, as well as purple sprouting broccoli which I just can’t get enough of!

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli from Bangers & Mash

Mich from Piece of Cake brings us this tempting Rosemary Foccacia next. I just wanted to reach into my computer screen and grab a slice when I saw it! I’m rather partial to a good foccacia and this looks very, very good.

Rosemary Foccacia from Piece of Cake

These blackberry lavender popsicles from girlichef look so enticingly juicy and refreshing. As Heather herself describes them – berrylicious! The pairing of blackberry with lavender really appeals to me. We have lots of lavender in the garden so I can’t wait for the blackberries to ripen so I can make my own…

Blackberry Lavender Popsicles from girlichef

Heather from girlichef brings us another refreshing recipe for hot sunny days with her sensational Herbal Lemonade – inspired by the novel Thank You for Flying Air Zoe via a band called The Flip-Flops which made her think of summertime. Love it!

Herbal Lemonade from girlichef

I defy anyone to be able to look at this piece of toast and not instantly crave strawberry jam! Sarah from The Garden Deli brings us this gorgeous strawberry and basil jam, which she describes as not so sweet as your usual strawberry jam, but still with that fresh taste a good strawberry jam should have. I want some now!

Strawberry and basil jam from The Garden Deli

For me, this Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta from Chez Foti is summertime on a plate. I always enjoy reading about Lou’s adventures in her veggie patch, or rather potager, over in France. This summer she has a large glut of courgettes and therefore a steady stream of clever and creative courgette recipes on her blog. This bruschetta looks so tasty and I look forward to recreating, along with her yummy courgette cake…

Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta from Chez Foti

I’ve developed a bit of a passion for beetroot in the last year, probably as a result of our weekly veg box, and so this Beetroot with Chorizo, Feta and Mint from Farmersgirl Kitchen is right up my street. The combination of sweet beetroot with the spicy, smokey chorizo, salty cheese and punchy mint definitely appeals.

Beetroot with Chorizo, Feta and Mint from Farmersgirl Kitchen

Next up is A Gratin of Tomatoes from how to cook good food and as soon as Laura mentioned she made this dish in minutes, she’d got my full attention. It’s the school holidays and with two young daughters I’m constantly on the look-out for quick and easy food to make the family, and this tasty gratin looks just the ticket.

A Gratin of Tomatoes from how to cook good food

Karen from Lavender & Lovage offers us a second dish with her glorious Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats. I really like the idea of using oats to make the meat go further, which means it’s both a frugal and tasty family dish.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats from Lavender & Lovage

French Foodie Baby offers us more stunning photography and another incredible yet simple dish with her Artichoke bottoms with green sauce. You could serve just about anything alongside a soft-boiled egg and I’m there, but this dish really does beg to be made. I’ve said it before, but little Pablo really is a very lucky boy!

Artichoke bottoms with green sauce from French Foodie Baby

Herby Roast Chicken from A Trifle Rushed is our next entry – now doesn’t that look so good? You can almost smell the roast chicken from here – yum! Another dish which shows that good food doesn’t need to be complicated; it’s all down to seasonal, local ingredients cooked simply and well.

Herby Roast Chicken from A Trifle Rushed

This Pesto Linguine is a favourite dish of Jacqueline over at How to be a Gourmand – a quick mid-week meal when she needs an easy, fuss-free dinner. It’s a classic dish elevated to a whole new level through Jacqueline’s beautiful photography.

Pesto Linguine from How to be a Gourmand

Raspberry, lemon and mint semifreddo is my final entry into this month’s challenge. I don’t own an ice-cream maker so semifreddo is my homemade ice-cream of choice. This version is even easier as it uses condensed milk instead of eggs. Don’t you think it looks pretty?

Raspberry, lemon and mint semifreddo from Bangers & Mash

Linzi at Lancashire Food says her Grilled halloumi and herb salad will transport you to the Mediterranean in moments and I absolutely believe her. I love using heaps of fresh herbs in salads, as an ingredient in their own right, rather than just a flavouring, and Linzi’s salad looks the perfect accompaniment to her paprika-dusted grilled halloumi. I’m beginning to drool a little thinking about it…

Grilled halloumi and herb salad by Lancashire Food

Tomato and basil are a match made in heaven, and they certainly look good together in this Tomato and basil tart by Blue Kitchen Bakes. As I’m not a natural-born pastry chef myself, I particularly enjoyed Jen’s descriptions of her escapades while making the pastry for this tart!

Tomato and basil tart by Blue Kitchen Bakes

Lou at Chez Foti continues her love affair with courgettes with her 70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow – an overgrown courgette in other words. This looks so much better than the flabby stuffed marrows I remember from my childhood and I love the combination of pork in the stuffing with sage and apple. If the courgettes in my veg patch ever get going, I’ll be leaving one of them to grow and grow just so I can make this dish.

70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow by Chez Foti

And finally we have a Tomato and Herb Foccacia from Working London Mummy, who uses slow roasted tomatoes and fresh oregano to top her sumptuous olive oil rich bread. Regular readers of my blog will know how much I adore slow roasted tomatoes, so this recipe’s going straight to the top of my ‘to do’ list!

Tomato and Herb Foccacia from Working London Mummy

So there you have it – all 30 entries for July’s Herbs on Saturday challenge. I’m sure you’ll agree, they make a very fine recipe collection.

But of course there can only be one winner. And this month the winner receives a copy of The Best-Ever Easy-to-Use Herb Cookbook, edited by Joanna Farrow. Helen from Fuss Free Flavours is July’s mystery judge and she has chosen as the winning post… drum roll please!… Nectarine Shiso Ice Cream from French Foodie Baby.

Helen said of the winning post:

Lovely recipe.  Really like the use of herbs in a sweet dish, and the flavour pairing intrigues me. I imagine the slight sharpness of the shiso combined with the concentrated sweetness of the roasted nectarines is quite amazing and adds so much to the ice cream.

So huge congratulations go to Helene at French Foodie Baby – the cookbook will be in the post to you very soon.

And congratulations also to girlichef as Helen at Fuss Free Flavours was keen to single out your Blackberry Lavender Popsicles for a special mention.

Thank you so much to everyone for sharing their fabulous food and for making Herbs on Saturday such a pleasure to host this month.

Destination New York for Burgers and Pickles

The six-week school holidays have started, and so has my family’s Around the World In Six Suppers adventure. Because this summer it looks like we’re not going to get away for a proper holiday, I’ve decided that the world will instead come to us in the form of six dishes from some of my favourite holiday destinations from bygone years. You’ll find the full itinerary for our culinary world tour here.

So our first stop is the Big Apple – New York!

I have only been to New York once and that was back when I was just 12-years-old. I’ve just realised that’s a quarter of a century ago. I really don’t feel old enough to be able to say that! The city made a big impression on me – I guess it probably does to everyone that visits – and I long to return one day. As a youngster discovering the thrills of the cinema, arriving in New York felt to me like walking onto a colossal movie set. I loved the size, the pace, the colour, the noise, the energy. I walked through the streets, trailing behind my mum, with eyes to the sky and jaw to the sidewalk.

As well as the sights, the shops, the people, the music, the galleries, the parks, the subway, the taxis – the other thing that left a big impression was the food. I can’t say it was the finest culinary experience of my life but as a child-almost-teen I was like a pig in muck. Fast food and soda and candies everywhere; everything bright and garish and so, so tempting. And yes, it’s probably a bit of a cliché, but the food I’ve picked to transport me back to New York is the ubiquitous and oh so American hamburger and fries.

Throughout my subsequent teens I enjoyed a love affair with all things Americana. I adored hanging out in Ed’s Diner in Leicester Square with my friends, where we’d sit for hours at the counter savouring our malted milkshakes and using up all our pocket-money in the mini jukeboxes. I listened to the soundtrack to American Graffiti endlessly. My favourite movies were Grease, Cry Baby, The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing and Back to the Future. And so, consequently, I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in my time.

I can’t lay any claim to these particular burgers being an authentic American recipe. In fact it’s hardly a recipe at all. It’s essentially meat shaped into a patty and fried. I like my burgers simple – good meat, cooked rare. I’m more than happy to dress them up with pickles and cheese, sauces and salad. But I don’t like to do too much to the burger itself.

Before we get to the burger though, here’s a very simple recipe for quick pickled cucumbers. In my eyes, a burger has to be served with pickles and these are perfect – not slimy like the ones you might get slopped onto your burger in a high street joint. Even my husband, who doesn’t normally eat pickles, admitted to liking these.

Quick pickled cucumbers

150ml cider vinegar
75ml water
1½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp white mustard seed
½ tsp black mustard seed
½ tsp dill seed
1 tsp peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ cucumber, sliced

In a saucepan, mix the cider vinegar with the water, salt, mustard seed, dill seed, peppercorns and garlic and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Put the cucumber slices into a sterilised glass jar and pour over the boiling vinegar mixture, making sure the cucumber is completely covered. If not, add some more water. Screw on the lid and place in the fridge for at least an hour. Job done. The pickles will keep for a couple of weeks.

And moving on to the main event…

Simple hamburgers

Makes four burgers

450g minced beef – not too lean and the best quality you can afford
salt and pepper
large knob of butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 slices of mature Cheddar cheese
4 ciabatta rolls
2 tomatoes, sliced
quick pickled cucumbers
tomato sauce
mustard
skinny oven chips – cooked according to packet instructions

In a large bowl, grind salt and pepper into the minced beef and mix well. Using your hands shape the meat into four large patties.

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan until the butter starts to foam a little. Add the burgers and fry until browned on the outside but still a little pink on the inside. For me this took around four minutes on each side, but it all depends on how fat you make your burgers. If in doubt, cut one open to check whether it’s cooked to your liking. When you’ve flipped your burgers the first time, lay a slice of cheese on each one so that it melts while the other side is cooking.

While the burgers are frying, slice open your ciabatta rolls and toast. Serve your burgers in the toasted rolls with slices of tomato, pickled cucumber and a squeeze of tomato sauce and that bright yellow mustard they love in the States, with a pile of skinny fries on the side.

Enjoy. Preferably with Green Onions playing in the background.

My family loved their hamburgers and we topped off our New York diner experience with a big fat slice of American-style baked cheesecake. Gorgeous.

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

Tarragon is one of my favourite herbs, especially when paired with chicken. Its unique flavour lifts simple dishes to new heights.

I first got excited about tarragon many years ago when my father-in-law cooked us Elizabeth David’s sumptuous poulet et l’estragon one summer holiday in France. It was incredible and my husband and I have recreated it many times since and it always takes us back to those long hot days in the Dordogne.

But that is really one to save for special occasions (my husband last cooked it for me on my birthday), while this pasta dish is much more of a quick, every day family favourite. Nonetheless it tastes fantastic and all because of that lovely fresh tarragon.

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

400g dried penne pasta
250g purple sprouting broccoli, cut into manageable chunks
1 large leek, washed and finely sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bitesize pieces
2 tbsp vegetable oil
70ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
100g cream cheese
salt and pepper

Cook the penne in a large pan of salted water following the packet timings. About five minutes from the end of the cooking time, add the broccoli to the pasta water and cook until both pasta and broccoli are tender. Drain.

While the pasta (and broccoli) are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and sweat gently for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about five minutes until there is no sign of any pink inside.

Pour the stock into the pan, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the tarragon and cream cheese. Season to taste. Mix in the pasta and broccoli and serve.

I’m entering this dish into July’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, set up by Lavender & Lovage and hosted this month by me! If you have a herby recipe you’d like to enter, you can find out all the details here.

The Care to Cook Recipe Challenge, plus Bernadette’s Caribbean Pot Roast Chicken

What dish would you cook to welcome someone into your family home? Share your favourite recipes and you could win a copy of TACT’s cookery book, signed by the charity’s patron Lorraine Pascale, who has personal experience of both the care system and adoption.

For the last few years I’ve been working with a wonderful charity called TACT, which provides fostering and adoption services to help some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the UK. Their aim is to help these youngsters find loving homes and a fresh new start in life.

In this time I’ve had the privilege to meet many amazing carers, adopters and staff who are making an incredible difference to the lives of the young people they work with.

The concept of family is very important to TACT; providing a safe, stable and caring home environment is so crucial and it makes a massive difference in supporting children and young people who find themselves in the care system for all kinds of reasons. Young people need to feel valued, made to feel special and loved, and need to be listened to when they are ready to share. That is what family is there for.

One of the simplest ways to bring family together and welcome new people into our home is through food. Family meals all too often are something children in care have missed out on. Because the family meal is so important, TACT has launched its very own cook book called Care to Cook, packed full of delicious starters, mains and desserts kindly donated by TACT’s adopters, supporters and staff.

The cost of the book is £3 and all proceeds directly benefit adopted children and their new families.

To help raise awareness of Care to Cook, Bangers & Mash is calling on food bloggers and food lovers to submit their own favourite family recipes, and one lucky person will receive a copy of the cook book signed by TACT’s new celebrity patron, TV chef and best selling cookery writer Lorraine Pascale.

Lorraine Pascale, patron of TACT, TV chef and cookery writer

How to submit your recipe

  • If you are a blogger and would like to enter the Care to Cook Challenge, simply post a recipe on your blog with links to both this page and the Care to Cook page on the TACT website and include the Care to Cook Challenge logo somewhere in your post.
  • The recipe can either be one of your own or somebody else’s but do remember to clearly credit your sources. You can republish an old blog post but please include information about the Care to Cook Challenge.
  • Your post can also be entered into other blogging challenges, so long as this complies with their rules.
  • If you mention your post on Twitter please mention @BangerMashChat and @TACTCare and use the #CareToCook hashtag. We will retweet all we see.
  • Please also email a link to your entry to vanesther@reescommunications.co.uk.
  • If you aren’t a blogger, don’t worry – you are still welcome to enter. Simply email your recipe (and a photo if you have one) to the above address and I’ll upload it to the Bangers & Mash blog for others to see.
  • The closing date for entries is Sunday 12 August 2012, and a round-up of all recipes submitted will feature here on Bangers & Mash and on TACT’s website the following week.
  • The winning entry will be chosen by one of TACT’s looked after children in the Bristol and South West region.

We can’t wait to see your family favourite recipes and please feel free to enter the challenge as many times as you like. Thanks for your support!

To get things started, here’s a fantastic recipe for Caribbean-style Pot Roast Chicken taken from Care to Cook. I tried it out on my own family last weekend and it is extremely yummy and very, very moreish. My daughters loved it – they asked for seconds and then thirds!

As my husband was tucking in to his, he asked where I got the recipe and I explained it had been donated by a TACT adopter for their cookery book. In between mouthfuls, Jason nodded and said: “Whoever Bernadette has adopted is very, very lucky. Her food is great!”

Pot Roast Chicken – Caribbean Style
By Bernadette Biscette, TACT Adopter

Serves 6

1 whole medium free range chicken, cut in half
½ medium onion, peeled and chopped
1½ tbsp all purpose seasoning
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp mild bajan or jerk seasoning
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar

For the gravy

Cup of hot water
1 tsp cassareep or molasses
1 tbsp tomato puree
½ medium onion, peeled and chopped
½ tsp all purpose seasoning

Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2.

Place the two halves of chicken in a large bowl and add the onion, all purpose seasoning, mixed herbs, paprika and bajan or jerk seasoning. Rub the seasoning into the chicken with your hands making sure it is well covered.

Pour the olive oil and brown sugar into a large iron or Dutch pot and heat until the sugar starts to brown. Place the two halves of chicken in the pot and slowly brown the surface by turning in the oil for around 15-20 minutes. (I had to do the two halves separately as I don’t have a pan large enough.)

When the chicken is well glazed, let them simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot and place in a deep roasting pan and set aside.

Add a cup of hot water to the juices in the pot and all the ingredients for the gravy. Stir over a medium heat for 5 minutes and then pour over the chicken, cover with foil and cook for 2 hours in the oven, removing the foil for the last half hour. The chicken should be tender and well cooked.

Serve with salad and boiled rice for a hearty meal.

And now it’s your turn – what would you cook?

The Entries

  1. Homemade Fillet O’ Fish and “Chips” from Under The Blue Gum Tree
  2. French Madeleines from Crêpes Suzettes
  3. Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake from Reluctant Housedad
  4. Penang Hokkien Mee from Cheryl Leembruggen
  5. Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats from Lavender & Lovage
  6. Nonya Chicken Curry from Elly Rowe
  7. Pasta and Pesto Sauce from A Trifle Rushed
  8. Boeuf en Daube from Chez Foti
  9. Yorkshire Season Pudding with Herbs from Lavender & Lovage
  10. Spinach and Bacon Macaroni Cheese from Fishfingers for Tea
  11. Courgette Bake followed by Vanilla Cream Terrine from Barbara Hamer
  12. Chicken Basquaise from French Foodie Baby
  13. Strawberries and Cream Birthday Cake from Sue Hamer
  14. Hainanese Chicken Rice from Bangers & Mash

American-style baked cheesecake

Happy Fourth of July! Yes, it’s American Independence Day and so in honour of our cousins over the pond, here is my recipe for a baked American-style cheesecake.

I adore baked cheesecakes – the way the top is all cakey, soft and crumbly while the inside is sumptuously creamy and quite decadent. Matched with the crunchy biscuit base and sweet fruit on the side, what more could you ask for in a pud?

American-style baked cheesecake

Serves 6-8

For the biscuit base

75g digestive biscuits, crushed
40g butter, melted
35g Demerara sugar

For the cheesecake

45g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
400g cream cheese
20g corn flour
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
130ml double cream, lightly whipped

Fresh berries to serve

Preheat oven to 160°C/gas mark 3.

Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.

Put the crushed biscuits, butter and Demerara sugar into a bowl and mix well. Spread over the base of the tin and press down well. Place in the fridge for half an hour to set.

Into a large bowl measure the butter, caster sugar, cream cheese, corn flour, salt, lemon zest, vanilla extract and egg yolks and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Then fold in the lightly whipped cream.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then carefully fold into the cheesy mixture using a large metal spoon.

Pour the cheese mixture onto the chilled biscuit base.

Bake in the oven for about an hour until set. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in there for another hour to cool.

If like me you have an Aga, then bake in the roasting oven on the shelf on the floor with the cold plain shelf on the second set of runners. Bake for 20 minutes until the top is pale golden. Transfer the cold plain shelf to the middle of the simmering oven and place the cheesecake on this. Bake for another 20-30 minutes. Thanks to Mary Berry for the Aga baking advice!

Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool in the tin. Carefully run a knife around the edge, lift out from the tin and remove the greaseproof paper.

Serve with your favourite berries – I went for strawberries – I am eating it in Britain after all!

Strawberry, rhubarb and lemon tart

Lots of people have been talking about strawberries and rhubarb making a winning combination, so when my lovely friend Sarah gave me a big bunch of rhubarb from her garden the other week, I thought it was about time I found out what all the fuss is about.

They weren’t wrong. Sweet strawberries are the perfect foil for the tartness of rhubarb. And for me the creamy tanginess of a lemon tart provides a perfect base for this fruit frenzy.

Alright, I have to admit though my strawberry, rhubarb and lemon tart isn’t the prettiest pudding around. Presentation, particularly when it comes to sweet things, isn’t always my strong point. And I did slightly over-colour the pastry. But then, I am a home cook after all. As long as it tastes good, then I’m happy. Very happy in fact.

Strawberry, rhubarb and lemon tart

Serves 8

For the pastry case

125g soft butter
100g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
250g plain flour
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp milk

600g rhubarb, chopped into inch-long chunks
6 tbsp granulated sugar
Splash orange juice
400g strawberries, hulled and quartered
170g caster sugar
4 eggs
170ml double cream
Juice and grated zest of 3 lemons

Start by making the pastry. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, icing sugar and salt. Then add the flour and egg yolks and rub in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the milk and work together to form a dough.

Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4.

Grease a 30cm tart dish. Roll out the pastry into a large circle and carefully line the dish, pressing the pastry into the edges and making sure it comes fully up the sides. You may need to do some patching up here and there – I always do.

Blind bake the empty tart for 15 minutes until the pastry is coloured ever so slightly. Then leave to one side while you prepare the filling.

Place the chopped rhubarb in a saucepan with 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar and a splash of orange juice and heat gently. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the rhubarb is tender but still has a little bite in it.

In a bowl, scatter 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar over the chopped strawberries and gently mix together.

Whisk together the caster sugar and eggs in a large bowl and then stir in the cream, lemon juice and zest.

Spoon the strawberries into the middle of your pastry tart and arrange the cooked rhubarb around this. Then pour over the creamy lemon mixture and carefully transfer this to your oven. You should do here as proper chefs suggest and pour in the mixture when the tart is already in the oven to reduce spillage, but I invariably forget this bit and have to mop the floor afterwards.

Bake for around 45 minutes until the filling is firm but still has a little wobble to it, and if you can (unlike me) catch it before the pastry turns too dark around the edges. But hey, don’t worry if it does. My dad always told me the burned bits were good for your insides.

Leave to cool for an hour or so while the filling sets some more. Serve with some vanilla ice cream or a dollop of creme fraiche.

I’m entering this tart into the Tea Time Treats blog challenge hosted by What Kate Baked and Lavender & Lovage, as the theme this month is Summer Fruits. As Wimbledon approaches, what fruit could better represent the British idea of summer than the ubiquitious strawberry?

Bangers and mash bake for Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day in the UK this Sunday. Normally when I’m planning what to cook on Father’s Day, my thoughts turn to light, summery meals we can eat outside in the garden. Perhaps a barbecue? But the weather forecast for this weekend doesn’t look good. I heard on the radio that they’re expecting three months’ worth of rain to fall over the next three days. Splendid.

So my offering for a Father’s Day meal this Sunday might not be what you’d typically expect to be serving up in June, but it’s perfect comfort food guaranteed to put a smile on Dad’s face on a soggy, grey afternoon; followed perhaps by the chance to doze on the sofa in front of James Bond. Perfect.

This bangers and mash bake is simply a sausage casserole baked in the oven with buttery mashed potato on top, rather like a cottage pie. It’s very satisfying and, of course, very popular in our house. For this recipe, I’ve gone with peppers and green cabbage in the casserole but use whichever vegetables you fancy really; courgettes, carrots, swede and beans all work well.

It’s also a great dish to prepare in advance. Simply pop in the oven half an hour or so before you’re ready to eat. And the leftovers freeze really well too.

To cool dads the world over – Happy Father’s Day!

Bangers and mash bake

Serves 4 (two big, two small)

3 tbsp vegetable oil
6 good quality pork sausages
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 tbsp corn flour
750ml beef stock
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Good squeeze of tomato puree
Half green cabbage, shredded
Salt and pepper
1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
50g butter
Splash of milk
50g Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6.

Heat one tablespoonful of oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over a moderate heat and brown the sausages. Remove to a warm dish.

Add the rest of the oil to the same pan and fry the onion until soft and golden. Throw in the red and green pepper and fry for a couple more minutes.

Return the sausages to the pan and stir in the corn flour. Cover with the beef stock, balsamic vinegar and a good dollop of puree and stir well.

Add the shredded cabbage and stir in. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for about 25 minutes to let the casserole thicken. Season to taste.

Meanwhile boil the potatoes in a large pan of salted water until tender. Drain and return to the pan. Add the butter, a splash of milk and salt and pepper to taste, and mash well.

In a large oven-proof dish, firstly arrange the sausages to make sure everyone gets a fair share in their helping.

Then add the rest of the casserole. Spoon over the mashed potato (it does help if the casserole has had a little time to cool first), and tidy up with a fork. Go wild and create fancy patterns with your fork while you’re at it. Lastly sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the mashed potato and cheese are beginning to brown on top and go crispy. Serve and enjoy!

Floral honey party sandwiches

Sometimes I am unashamedly girly and I make the most of the fact I have two young daughters as a good excuse to play with pink, fluffy, sparkly, flowery things.

When I happened upon Le Frufru’s beautiful blog recently, as I traced the source of some pretty pictures I’d come across on Pinterest, I fell in love with her sugary sweet sandwiches for children’s parties. I had to give them a go myself. My photographs are nowhere near as beautiful as the originals but you get the general idea.

I haven’t had the opportunity yet to actually make them for a party. I simply made them to give to the girls at tea time. And you can imagine how much they enjoyed them. Especially the way the hundreds and thousands clung to their lips as they took a bite.

Le Frufru’s blog is written in Italian and so I’m not entirely sure how she made her sandwiches but it doesn’t look complicated, does it?

I made mine by firstly trimming the crusts off white bread. Next the slices were cut into small squares and spread with butter. Using a flower-shaped pastry cutter, I cut out floral holes in half the squares and spread the remaining squares with runny honey. Finally I topped the honey slices with the floral slices and sprinkled into the hole a generous amount of hundreds and thousands.

Despite there being no baking involved, I’m entering these dainty little sandwiches into the Tea Time Treats blog challenge organised each month by Lavender & Lovage and What Kate Baked. This month Karen at Lavender & Lovage is hosting and the theme for May is Floral Flavours & Flowers. I thought my girly nibbles might (just) fit the bill.

Whether you make them for a girlie birthday party, a Jubilee street party, a dolls’ tea party or just a plain old back-from-school treat, I hope you enjoy! And of course you can use any shaped cutter you fancy, and use chocolate sprinkles instead of the classic hundreds and thousands.

Gingerbread men and the ‘joys’ of baking with kids

I really have to be in just the right mood to cook with my children.

Cooking with children is supposed to be a joyful, carefree time; one of those warm, fuzzy memories you hope your kids will hold dear when they’re all grown up. If you google cooking with children, practically every result features the word fun. But unless I’m in just the right mood, cooking with children is anything but.

When my daughters were younger I would force myself to involve the children in kitchen activities, because that’s what good, wholesome mothers do. But just minutes into our chosen cookery adventure, I’d feel my temper rapidly rising as the kitchen grew messier, as egg shell started flying everywhere, as more chocolate chips ended up in mouths than in the bowl, and as the arguments started about whose turn it was to stir.

I know it’s important to get children active in the kitchen from an early age. But I’ve learned to choose my moments carefully, particularly with pre-schoolers. Children are going to make a god awful mess in the kitchen and there’s no getting around that.

And if they’re not making a mess, it’s questionable as to whether they’re actually having any fun. So I only cook with the kids if I’m in the mood to let go and embrace the ensuing chaos; prepared to accept the fact that I’ll be finding hundreds and thousands strewn across the house, to be discovered in every available nook and cranny for weeks afterwards.

But on those days when I am in the mood to just go with it, cooking with the children can be wonderful. Especially of course if there is any kind of decorating required, as with these gingerbread men I made with Jessie and Mia recently. It was a rainy Sunday and we didn’t get out of our pyjamas all day long. Baking gingerbread men just presented itself as the perfect lazy Sunday activity.

I love the look of concentration on Mia’s face in this picture. She’s not generally known for her focus or attention span, so I was rather impressed with her dedication in ensuring each of her gingerbread men was carefully covered from head to toe in stars and sprinkles.

Jessie’s gingerbread men on the other hand were decorated as the cast of Harry Potter. Can you spot Harry?

And yes, that is of course, a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. Not 100% sure though about the sheriff badges. Or are they nipple piercings, as someone suggested when I put a photo on Twitter?!

So if you do find yourself in just the right mood for some fun in the kitchen with the kids, here’s just the right biscuit recipe…

Gingerbread men

350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g soft butter
175g demerara sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp treacle
2 tbsp golden syrup
writing icing in a variety of colours
decorations – hundreds and thousands, edible stars and shapes, Smarties etc

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor. Then add the butter and blend until you have a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. Mix in the demerara sugar.

Lightly beat the egg and add to the food processor along with the treacle and syrup. Blend until the mixture comes together as a dough.

Tip out the gingerbread dough and knead gently until smooth. Wrap in clingfim and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Lightly flour your surface and roll out the dough until it’s about half a centimetre thick. Using your gingerbread men (and women) cutters, cut out your shapes and place on the baking tray.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden-brown, swapping the trays around half way through to make sure they bake evenly. Leave to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack. When completely cooled go wild decorating them with the writing icing and decorations.