675g (1½ lb) potatoes, cut into even sized pieces (about 5 medium)
115g (4 oz) cooked ham, diced
340g (12 oz) baby spinach leaves, chopped
28g (1 oz) butter (2 tbsp, or ¼ stick)
28g (1 oz) flour (3 tbsp)
150ml (5 fl oz) milk (⅔ cup)
150ml (5 fl oz) hot chicken stock (⅔ cup)
salt and ground black pepper
150ml (5 fl oz) single/table cream (⅔ cup)
85g (3 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (¾ cup)
1.5 litre/2½ pint (6 cup) ovenproof dish
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6).
Put the chicken, onion, carrot and bay leaf into a pan and cover with water. Bring the water to the boil, then cover the pan and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and discard the water and vegetables.
Blanch the potatoes in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, dice into 1cm (½ inch) cubes.
Dice the chicken and put into a large bowl along with the ham and spinach. Toss to mix, then spread over the base of the ovenproof dish.
Melt the butter over a medium heat. Turn the heat down and quickly stir in the flour and mix to a smooth paste. Gradually add the milk and stock, stirring continuously until there is a smooth sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a further 2–3 minutes, stirring continuously, until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from the heat. Add the seasoning, cream and cheese and beat well.
Pour half the sauce over the chicken mixture. Spread the cubed potato over the top, then spoon the rest of the sauce over.
Bake above the centre of the oven for 40 minutes until the potato is tender and has started to brown.
These tasty little shepherd’s pies are made in a small gratin dish and are quick to prepare. The lamb is mixed with beans and a minted tomato sauce, and then covered with a creamy mash potato and topped with cheese and cherry tomatoes.
A tasty way of serving fish that is quick to prepare and just right for a summer supper. A thick fillet of sole is grilled/broiled smothered in tiny broccoli florets and a cheesy sauce until the sauce is bubbling and golden.
170g (6 oz) broccoli florets (a medium head of broccoli)
40g (1½ oz) butter (3 tbsp or ⅜ stick)
40g (1½ oz) flour (¼ cup + 1 tbsp)
300ml (10 fl oz) milk (1¼ cups)
115g (4 oz) cheese, grated (1 cup)
4 large sole fillets (each weighing about 170g (6 oz)
salt and pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
butter for greasing
28g (1 oz) Parmesan, grated
Baby new potatoes
A vegetable steamer
A large baking tray/sheet
Preheat the grill/broiler to high.
Cut the broccoli florets from the head of the broccoli and then trim and discard the stems. Separate into 1cm (½ inch) chunks and then steam for about 2 minutes until just tender. Remove the steamer from the pan and set to one side.
Heat the milk in the microwave for 1 minute to warm it through. Melt the butter in a small pan then add the flour and stir until smooth. Let this cook gently at a low heat for about 2 minutes until it starts to bubble. Then remove from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring continuously until there is a smooth sauce. Return to the heat and bring the sauce to the boil, stirring continuously, until it has thickened. Now remove from the heat and stir the cheese into the sauce to melt it. (Just use the heat of the sauce to melt the cheese. Don’t put the pan over heat on the stove as this will make the cheese go oily.) Set to one side.
Season the fish with the salt and pepper and then sprinkle over the lemon juice.
Grease the baking tray/sheet and place under the grill/broiler for 1 minute to heat up.
Now lay the fish on the tray/sheet in a single layer. They will sizzle as they touch the hot baking tray/sheet.
With the grill/broiler rack 7.5cm (3 inches) from the heat, cook the fish for just 3 minutes and then remove.
Spoon the broccoli evenly over the fish and then, using a large palette knife, spread the cheese sauce over the broccoli. Finally sprinkle over the grated Parmesan. Then return the baking tray/sheet to the grill/broiler and cook for a further 4 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and beginning to turn golden.
Sprinkle a pinch of cayenne pepper over each piece of fish and serve immediately.
2 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), hard-boiled
French fries and peas
A large lidded frying pan/skillet and a shallow flameproof dish.
Slice half the lemon and juice the other half.
Lay the haddock in a single layer in a lidded pan. Add milk, lemon slices and juice, parsley sprigs and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, turn off the heat, cover and leave for 15 minutes until the haddock can be flaked. Strain, reserving the milk. Then flake the fish and place in the flameproof dish.
Preheat the grill/broiler to high.
Next, melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour. Cook over a low heat for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the reserved milk until there is a smooth sauce, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, season and stir in the chopped parsley. Pour the sauce over the fish and then sprinkle with cheese.
Place the haddock under the grill/broiler and cook for about 5 minutes until bubbling and the cheese is golden brown.
While the fish is under the grill/broiler, shell the eggs and chop.
Once the fish is ready, garnish with the chopped egg.
Summer is in full swing now. Lots of very hot, sunny days and being a summer person this is definitely my time of year. However, Shandy, our labrador, does not agree with me – he finds it just too hot. Even choosing the woods to take him for a walk, where the umbrella of the trees definitely cuts out the blazing heat of the sun, only gives a little respite. For him its indoors lying in a cool spot with the air conditioner turned on!
There is invariably something to see on our walks and we were surprised by a young deer with its mother wandering through the trees. They are so elegant and much larger than the muntjac deer we were used to seeing in Oxfordshire.
All that aside, the time I choose to be in the kitchen is less during the summer months and the following recipe is one from my summer collection. There was some lovely wild cod at the fish counter which is very rarely available, so I just had to buy some. It was thick and the flesh was, oh so white. I used it for this recipe. We really enjoyed it and hope you will want to try it too.
A very tasty way to serve cod that is super quick to prepare and cook.
Sun-dried tomato and butter are spread on the cod before topping with the cheese and plum tomato slices. It is then simply grilled/broiled and served with the buttery sauce, peas, green salad and crusty bread. A complete meal in no time.
A heat resistant dish that is large enough to lay the 4 pieces of cod in a single layer.
If it is possible, set the grill/broiler to medium. If you only have a high or low setting, option, turn it to low.
Lay the fish in the dish. Spread the tomato paste over the fish and then dot with the butter. Place two pieces of cheese on each piece of fish and top with the sliced tomatoes.
Grill/broil until the fish is cooked through. This should take about 10 minutes under a medium heat and 15 under a low heat. Increase the heat to high for a further two minutes until the tomatoes are just starting to brown.
Meanwhile, cook the peas. This will take just 2 minutes in a microwave.
Serve the fish with all the buttery juices and the peas spooned round the fish. Season.
A 15cm (6 inch soufflé dish) or 3 × 10cm (4 inch) individual soufflé dishes
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (gas mark 4)
Grease the soufflé dish or dishes. Prepare a collar with baking parchment to go round the outside of the dish or dishes to support the mixture as it rises in the oven.
Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a large pan.* Reduce the heat and blend in the flour to make a roux. Let it cook over a low heat for 2–3 minutes. Warm the milk, then gradually stir into the roux until well blended (warming the milk first makes this easier). Bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and beat in the cheese, then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition. Season.
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then very gently fold into the mixture until they are thoroughly incorporated.
Pour into the soufflé dish or divide between the individual dishes and bake in the oven for 30 minutes for the large soufflé or for 20 minutes for the individual ones. Do not open the oven door while they are cooking.
*Using a large pan will make it easier to fold in the egg whites.
When making a soufflé, the ratio between the ingredients is very important, so keep to the amounts above. Increasing the number of eggs to make a larger soufflé would affect its ability to be light and well risen.
Haddock and Prawn Fish Pie with a Chive and Cheesy Mash
Prepares: 4 servings
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
For the fish pie
300ml (10 fl oz) full fat/whole milk (1¼ cups)
450g (1 lb) haddock, skinned (cod will work too)
40g (1½ oz) butter (3 tbsp)
40g (1½ oz) flour (¼ cup)
150 ml soured cream (⅔ cup)
200g (7 oz) frozen peeled king prawns/jumbo shrimp, thawed
115g (4 oz) frozen peas, thawed (¾ cup)
For the chive and cheesy mash
900g (2 lb) floury potatoes, peeled and cut into even sized pieces (6 medium)
50g (2 oz) Cheddar cheese, grated (½ cup)
90ml (3 fl oz) full fat/whole milk (⅜ cup)
8g (¼ oz) fresh chives, chopped (2 tbsp)
a green leafy vegetable
large sauté pan
2 litre ovenproof dish
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
Put the potatoes in a pan of cold water, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain.
Meanwhile, pour the milk into the sauté pan and add the haddock. Bring slowly to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and, using a slotted spoon or spatula, carefully transfer the fish to a plate and set aside. Reserve the milk.
Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a separate pan. Stir in the flour to form a paste and gently cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk the reserved milk into the flour until there is a smooth sauce. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2–3 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.
Stir in the soured cream, prawns and peas and gently heat for a further 2 minutes.
Break the haddock into small cubes, about 2.5cm (1 inch) and add to the sauce. Spoon the mixture into the ovenproof dish.
Mash the cooked potatoes and, when smooth, beat in the grated cheese and milk, then fold through the chopped chives. Spoon over the fish and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
I’m indebted to Paul Hollywood, the English baker and celebrity chef, for this recipe. These bacon and cheddar loaves make a great lunch or snack and are enjoyed by all the family.
I have played about with his quantities of ingredients, though. The recipe in his book “How to Bake” recommends that 500g, or just over a pound, of flour will provide 4 servings. Perhaps he has a bigger appetite than I do, but that’s equivalent to a quarter of a large loaf in each serving. And I feel that the bacon and cheddar gets a bit lost in all the bread.
My adapted recipe below halves the quantity of bread and increases the proportion of bacon and cheese. Perhaps you’d like to try different amounts and let me know how you get on?
Baking bread is not difficult if you follow this 3-step process. Each step involves a ‘wait period’ during which you can get on with something else. For more information about the technique I use, here’s a link to my page on Breadmaking.
Pour the flours into a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Add most of the water and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or a plastic dough scraper. If some flour is left in the bottom, add the remainder of the water. It may not need it all. Just make sure that all the flour has been taken up.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it to stand for 20–30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare for the next step by weighing out the salt, yeast, and butter.
At the end of the 20–30 minutes, melt the butter and add it with the salt and yeast to the mixture, making sure that the yeast doesn’t come into contact with a wodge of salt, and mix well.
Cover the bowl with the tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
Lightly oil your hands and the work surface, and tip the dough out. Take the edge of the dough that’s furthest away from you and fold it towards you to meet the near edge. Push it into the dough with your fingers or the heel of your hand, stretching it gently away from you. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Do this 8 to 10 times, then rotate the dough into a ball and put it back in the bowl.
Cover with the tea towel again, leave for 10 minutes, and repeat the fold and stretch.
Cover again and leave for 10 minutes. While waiting, lightly oil another large bowl for the dough to rise in. Then fold and stretch the dough for a third time.
The dough should now be smooth and silky. Tip it out and shape it into a ball. Put it into the lightly-oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film.
Leave it to rise until it's at least doubled in size.* At room temperature, this should take a minimum of an hour but it's fine to leave it for 2–3 hours. The longer the better – it improves the flavour.
While waiting, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and add the bacon, cooking gently on both sides until just cooked. Set aside to cool and then chop into small squares.
Then prepare a couple of baking trays. Line them with baking parchment.
Tip out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air out by folding it in on itself a few times. It should feel smooth. Add the bacon pieces and grated cheese to it, and knead until well mixed. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll each portion into a smooth oval, tapering the ends into points. Place 2 loaves on each tray, dust with flour and slash the tops along their lengths.
Cover with tea towels, or place each tray inside a clean plastic bag, and leave to prove for about an hour. You can tell when they're ready when they've doubled in size again and the dough springs back readily if you poke it gently with your finger.
Before the end of the hour, heat your oven to 220°C/425°F (gas mark 7).
Sprinkle with a little olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Eat warm.
Many recipes recommend using warm water to make the yeast work more quickly. However, the flavour is improved if the process takes place more slowly. I use water at room temperature or even a little cooler.
* Doubled in size means doubled in volume. This means that if the dough is in the shape of a ball, the diameter increases by about 25%.
This chicken and mixed cheese bake is made with bite-sized pieces of chicken, strips of bacon and mushrooms, sautéed and then baked in a mixed cheese sauce with a grated Parmesan and breadcrumb topping. A very simple dish that tastes really good.
Cut the bacon into thin strips. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the bacon. Cook over a medium heat until the bacon starts to crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and put in the pan in a single layer. Brown all over adding a little extra olive oil if needed. This may need to be done in 2 batches. Remove from the pan and set aside with the bacon.
Put the mushrooms in the pan and sauté over a low heat for 2 minutes, turning occasionally.
Pour the sauce into the pan and heat through, then return the chicken and bacon to the pan and stir through. Season.
Transfer to a gratin dish. Mix together the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and scatter over the chicken mixture.
Bake near the top of the oven for 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden and the sauce is bubbling.
Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute less than recommended on the packet of the brand you are using. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, pour the milk into a pan and add the bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat.
In a separate pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until there is a smooth paste (a roux).
Remove the bay leaves from the milk, then gradually add the milk to the roux, stirring constantly, until blended and smooth. Simmer to thicken to a double/whipping cream consistency. Remove from the heat.
Grill the bacon until just crispy. Let it cool a little then cut into small pieces.
Stir the pasta, bacon, cheddar and mustard into the sauce and add the pepper.
Spoon into the ovenproof dish. No need to smooth the top.
Toss the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together. Scatter over the top, completely covering the macaroni cheese mixture. Bake for 40 minutes until the top starts to brown.
This cheesy chicken cobbler is a great way to use up any leftover chicken from a roast. Pieces of chicken are stirred into frozen mixed vegetables and cream of tomato soup, then topped with a cheesy cobbler. Just pop in the oven for a quick supper.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Then in a medium bowl, stir together the chicken, frozen vegetables, soup and some seasoning. Spoon the mixture into the ovenproof dish and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add 40g/1½ oz of the cheese and set aside.
In a separate bowl whisk together the milk, egg and oil. Then pour onto the flour mixture. Using a palette knife, bring the two mixtures together until a dough is formed. It should come together in clumps. Add a little more milk if it seems too dry.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat into a rectangle, roughly 9cm x 15cm/3½ in x 6 in. Cut the rectangle into 8 equal squares and arrange the scones on top of the chicken mixture.
Brush each scone with a little milk and then sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the scones have risen and are golden, and the filling is bubbling around the edges.