Thursday, 30 January 2014

Tea brack - a random recipe

Tea brack is a dense fruit cake that is traditionally served sliced thinly and spread with butter. This recipe doesn't really need any additional butter to be fair, as it was a very moist cake. The recipe for this tea brack came form Rory O'Connell's book called 'Master It - how to cook today'. Its one of the latest additions to my ever growing cook or recipe book collection and the theme of Belleau Kitchens 'random recipe' challenge for this month is to make something from a recent addition. By chance I opened the book towards the end and came across this recipe, was a chance opening as there are not many cake recipes in this book...and this book is over 500 pages long!

I have been quite interested in this particular book recently as my friend Charlotte is studying under Rory O'Connell, Darina Allen and Rachel Allen's tuition over in Ireland for 3 months. You can follow Charlottes adventures on her blog, its a fascinating read of what she is getting up to at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Some of the dishes she has been making look so fabulous and her journey to improve her cookery skills is really interesting. Rory O'Connell founded the school with his sister Darina Allen, he has been cooking and teaching for over 30 years.

This tea brack is a huge heavy brick of a cake laiden with fruits that have been soaked in tea overnight; this recipe is a great way to use up left over dried fruits after you have made your Christmas cakes. I always seem to have half a packet of this and a quarter of a tub of that left over, all those bits and bobs can go into this cake. The soaking of dried fruits in tea plumps up the fruits and makes them so delicious, especially if you use a flavoured tea as I did. I used Betty's Christmas loose leaf tea, which added an extra spicy flavour to my brack.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The tastiest fish pie ever! - recipe

Fish pie is one of those traditional comfort food recipes that just ticks all the boxes all the time. It's a dish I never get tired of and when I make this and serve it for supper, or even for big family gatherings, everyone seems to enjoy and love a good fish pie. Even those people who say they don't like fish seem to like it.

If like me one of the household has a sea food allergy you can make this without the addition of prawns or scallops or whatever...if you don't have that issue to tackle the worlds your oyster. I like to use a smoked haddock in all my fish pies as it really adds to the flavour, use an undyed smoked haddock if you can.

I give my fish pies an added flavour by adding mustard to the mashed potato topping, and this along with a sprinkle of grated parmesan really gives it something extra. On this occasion I used a Maille (french) grain mustard.

1 fillet cod
1 fillet smoked haddock (undyed)
1 fillet salmon
1 fillet coley
A pint of cheese sauce
Mashed potatoes seasoned with salt pepper
2 tsp Maille grain mustard
Grated parmesan cheese
1. Make a pan of creamy mashed potatoes to start, I love the Nigel Slater quote from one of his books when he is talking about mashed potato and says to 'add butter until it can take no more'. Once the mash is done add a couple of teaspoons of Maille grain mustard. You can add more to suit your taste if you like more of a mustard flavour.
2. I always cook my fish beforehand in the microwave, by putting the washed fish fillets on a plate and covering with cling film. I cook two fillets at once and they need about 1.30 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets and how powerful your microwave oven is. While the fillets are cooling on some kitchen paper get on with the cheese sauce.
3. Flake the fillets of fish into the bottom of an over proof dish, keep the pieces of fish big. Cover with the cheese sauce and fold the fish and sauce together with a spoon, be careful not to break up the fish any more.
4. Add the mashed potato and top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
5. Bake in a pre heated oven 180C fan for about 20 minutes.
6. Serve with seasonal vegetables; this fish pie will serve 4 hungry adults.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

January 2014 - an update

Unbelievably its been a whole month since I wrote anything on my is a bit of an update...

Christmas was both a relaxed and a busy time that seemed like an endless round of cooking and clearing away them more cooking and clearing away...and in between work, as I didn't take much time off this year.

The time goes so quickly and it really feels like a lifetime ago now, but we had a relaxing Christmas morning and a very quiet low key (just the two of us) lunch. The rest of the day was spent preparing for Boxing Day where we had an American themed lunch of pulled pork, roast ham, mac and cheese, homemade slaw, sweet potatoes and marshmallows etc. To ensure we had a British twist we had the obligatory family trifle, or spiced apple pie for dessert...or both if you were brave enough (some were!)I thought the American theme it would make a change from the usual Christmas fayre and true to form it went down really well with all the guests...we were all too busy eating and drinking to take any pictures of the food.