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Root Vegetable Tian

Root Vegetable Tian

One thing I love most about this time of year and the holidays is the abundance of root vegetables, which are at their freshest and finest.  Potatoes, sweet potatoes, celeriac, parsnips, rutabaga, etc. I am a root vegetable lover.

This simple and easy bake makes good use of a variety of root vegetables.  It makes a wonderful holiday side dish as well.  It is colourful and delicious!

You simply peel and thinly slice your vegetables and then blanch them for a few minutes in some lightly salted boiling water.  I like to slice my vegetables by hand, but you can use a food processor or a mandoline if you want to.

I really don't mind slicing them by hand.  It is the type of mindless chore that I enjoy.  I just peel and then slice them thinly, practicing mindfulness . . .  I am usually in another world entirely. I find it quite relaxing.

Once you have sliced and blanched them, they are simply layered in a shallow baking dish (s) with some good olive oil, seasoning and chopped parsley.  Make sure you save some of the blanching water to pour over them in the dish . . .  just enough to cover the bottom layer.  If you forget to do that you could use a good vegetable stock.

Once they are layered in the dish(s) you simply cover the dish loosely with two layers of buttered baking parchment and pop them into the oven and bake.  One half hour covered, and one half hour uncovered.

At the end of that time they will be tender and golden and soooooo tasty!  Perfect for enjoying as a delicious side dish for all of your holiday meals, be it turkey, or ham, or beef, or pork . . .  I dare say that this goes well with anything, even fish.

Its simple, and healthy and very adaptable also.  I have used sweet and white potatoes today, along with some celeriac (celery root) and parsnips, but you can use carrots, swede (rutabaga), onions, or any other root vegetable which you enjoy, in any combination.  This is delicious!

*Root Vegetable Tian*
Serves 12
This is a delicious side dish for the holidays.  It tastes beautiful with all types of roasted meat.  Turkey, gammon, beef, chicken, pork. All go very well. You can vary the vegetables if you find some difficult to find.  Carrots, rutabaga/swede, turnips, etc.  All work perfectly.  This can also be very successfully halved. 

2 small sweet potatoes
2 medium white potatoes
1 small celeriac (abut 3/4 pound, celery root)
2 small parsnips
4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 TBS chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish 

 Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Butter several large shallow baking dishes. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. 

Peel all of your vegetables and thinly slice using a mandoline, food processor or by hand. (I like to do it by hand. I find it very soothing to just stand and slice.)  Pop all of your vegetables into the pan of boiling salted water.  Boil for 2 to 3 minutes and NO longer.  Drain well (reserving about a cup and a half of the cooking water). Rinse well under cold water to halt the cooking process and drain again.

Begin layering the vegetables in the baking dishes. Making about 3 layers and sprinkling each layer with some salt and black pepper, some parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.  Pour enough of the cooking liqeuer into the bottom of each baking dish, just to cover the bottom layer of vegetables.  Cut out two pieces of baking parchment large enough to cover each casserole. (4 pieces of paper) Oil them lightly and then place two on top of each baking dish loosely.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the baking parchmet and bake for a further 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and golden.  Garnish with more parsley to serve

Colourful, healthy, easy to make and delicious!  What more could a person ask for?  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Scalloped Macaroni

Scalloped Macaroni


Today I tortured my pasta hating husband with some comfort food from my childhood, which rang all my bells, but left him feeling rather off key! haha He says he hates pasta, but he always eats it when I make it. I think it's because he knows it's cheap . . . and that part of him that grew up during the War and during rationing, likes a good bargain!

This might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is mine. I love macaroni. I love tomatoes. I love cheese. Put the three together and you have my idea of heavnly bliss. I could eat this until it comes out my ears.

This is a great meal to throw together to feed your hungry family on a weeknight when you know you aren't going to have a lot of time . . . and for when it's getting close to payday and you are wanting those hard earned pesos to stretch that little bit further.

I always pick up blocks of cheese when it's on special at the shops and keep it in my freezer until I need it. It is perfectly find for cooking with and to be honest that's how most of the cheese in this house gets used. Oh we will have the odd piece, every now and then, just with some crackers, and maybe some fruit.  But, truth be told, most of the time  . . . it's used in cooking.

I always pick up tins of tomatoes when they are on special as well. We love our tinned tomatoes in this house. If you've got a tin of tomatoes in the cupboard, you've got the makings of a tasty meal. That's my opinion at any rate!

We also always have milk.  I keep a large jug of fresh milk in the refrigerator, and I have several cartons of long life milk in the cupboard. Of course you could make this really decadent and use half cream and half milk. And I have done that from time to time and it is rather good, if I don't say so myself . . . but normally I just use plain old ordinary milk.

This is the kind of comfort food that your mom or gran might have cooked. You could brown off some lean minced beef and add it along with some onions, but it's not really necessary because . . . this tastes pretty fabulous just the way it is. Who says simple has to be boring??

*Scalloped Macaroni*
Serves 4

This may be simple and plain, but don't let that fool you.  Sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious of all. 

225g uncooked macaroni (1/2 pound, 2 cups)
240g grated strong cheddar cheese (2 cups)
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice (2 cups)
160ml scalded milk (2/3 cup approx.  To scald milk, put into a beaker and
heat on high in the microwave for 1 minute, or heat in a small saucepan until bubbles appear
around the edges.  Don't let it boil.)
a handful of  coarse breadcrumbs or crackercrumbs
1 TBS melted butter
salt and black pepper to taste 

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/gas mark 4.  Butter a 1 litre casserole dish and set aside. 

Cook the macaroni according to the package directions in lightly salted water, just to al dente.  Drain well, rinse with cold water and drain again. 

Layer the macaroni, cheese and tomatoes in the prepared casserole dish, as follows:  a third of the macaroni, a layer of cheese, half of the tomatoes, a third of the macaroni, a third of the cheese,the remaining tomatoes, the remaining macaroni and ending with the remaining cheese.  You will want to lightly season each layer of macaroni, remembering that the cheese will be salty so heavy on the pepper, and salting judiciously!  (Love that word, don't you?)   Pour the scaled milk over top of the casserole, running a knife down through it here and there so that you make sure it goes well to the bottom.   Mix the bread or cracker crumbs with the melted butter and sprinkle over the top. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the milk is bubbling up and the top is nicely browned.  Serve hot. 

Note:  you can add some finely chopped raw onion with the tomatoes if you wish.  I sometimes do

These old fashioned comfort meals are the best of all I think.  They come in especially handy on busy days when you are lacking in time and inspiration.  Those old gals sure knew what they were doing! Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Cranberry, Pecan & White Chocolate Flapjacks

Cranberry, Pecan & White Chocolate Flapjacks

Sorry for the background in these photos today.  I was fighting with waning light.  We have had one of those days.  We set off for the grocery shop fairly early, only to discover that there were roadworks on one of the major roundabouts to get to where we wanted to go.  Roadworks in the UK mean one thing  . . . a huge  traffic nightmare.

As a result a trip which should not have taken very long took twice as long and so I was very late getting these into the oven and back out again!  I had to take my photos quickly before it was too late.  I didn't have time to set up a plainer background.

Don't let that put you off of making these delicious flapjacks however!  They are easy to make and fabulously tasty!  In North America a flapjack is a pancake, over here it is a scrumptious buttery and sweet oaty slice/bake!

This one is filled with lovely toasted pecans, white chocolate bits, and dried cranberries . . .  aside from the usual things that is . . .

porridge oats (not quick oats not old fashioned), dessicated coconut . . .  an a scrummy mix of melted butter, brown sugar, and  . . . *gulp*  . . . moreish golden syrup.  Oh boy, but these are incredibly tasty.

Melted white chocolate is drizzled on top  . . .  I say that rather loosely, because I have NEVER been able to drizzle white melted chocolate.  If I don't manage to burn it first, I end up dobbing it on.  That's the best I have ever been able to manage.

Dobbing it . . .  and in as decorative a manner that I can.  Any tips to share anyone?  Anything that actually works will be great!  I have tried everything. Even mixing in a bit of shortening doesn't work for me.

Nevermind . . .  they taste great even if they aren't as pretty as they could be with beautifully drizzled chocolate. 

*Cranberry, Pecan and White Chocolate Flap Jacks*
Makes 12

Sweet and scrummy.  Just perfect for those times when you want a little something to give you some extra energy. 

140g butter, plus extra for greasing (1/2 cup plus 2 TBS)
200g of porridge oats (2 cups)
25g of dessicated coconut (1/4 cup)
50g light muscovado sugar ( 1/4 cup packed)
5 TBS golden syrup
170g toasted pecans, broken into chunks with your hands (1 1/4 cups)
60g dried cranberries (scant 1/2 cup)
100g bar of white chocolate (about 3 1/2 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a 7 by 11 inch baking tin and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Set aside. 

Melt the butter together with the sugar and golden syrup, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Set aside to cool.

Stir together the oats, coconut, pecans and cranberries.  Pour the cooled butter mixture over top.  Stir to combine well.  Break up 2/3 of the chocolate into bits and stir into the mix.  Press into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and mark into squares while still warm.  Allow to cool completely, then cut all the way through.  Melt the remaining white chocolate and drizzle it over top of the bars. (HAH!) Store in an airtight container.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of flapjacks when I first moved over here.  I are not like granola bars . . .  or even like cake bars . . . but they are very delicious no matter.  Crisp edged, buttery and chewy middled.  They always go down a real treat! One bite and you will be in flap jack heaven. Buttery, sweet, nutty and oh-so-very hard to leave alone. Resistance IS futile. Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Breakfast Stollen Slice

Breakfast Stollen Slice

One of the things I really enjoy during the holiday season is Stollen.  I adore marzipan and dried fruits, and a bread which combines the two of them is somewhat of a delight, that is more often than not done really badly.  More's the pity.

This delightful bake I am showing you today is a rif on the flavours and best bits of a traditional stollen without all of the faffing about of the original.

This is quick, simple and delicious! 

It begins with a scone type of dough, made with butter and buttermilk, that you pat out to a rectangle.  A mix of brandy/rum soaked dried fruits and nuts gets sprinkled over top of that . . .

This gets rolled around a long "sausage" of marzipan, almost like a cinnamon roll.  I use the golden marzipan because I like it.  You can use ready-made or homemade. Its your choice.

Once you have the roll,  you simply cut it into twelve even slices  . . .


Place the rounds on a baking paper lined baking tray . . .  slighly overlapping in a circle shape . . .

And bake until it is nicely puffed and golden brown! 

A simple glaze of warm sieved apricot jam and brandy/rum is brushed over the warm loaf which makes it glisten and shine  . . . like a fruit and almond filled jewel!

I also like to pretty it up with a dusting of icing sugar for serving.  You separate the rounds and serve to your most appreciative family and friends.  This is a delight to wake up to on Christmas morning!

*Breakfast Stollen Slice*
Makes 12 slices
A delicious adaptation of the ever popular Christmas Stollen bread. This is a lot easier, and very, very nice.  Perfect for a holiday brunch or breakfast! 

For the dough:
280ml  of buttermilk (2 1/4 cups)
420g plain flour (3 cups)
1 TBS caster sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
120g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits (1/2 cup) 

For the filling:
25g mixed candied peel (1/4 cup)
50g pistachio nuts, chopped (1/3 cup)
50g dried cranberries (1/3 cup)
50g raisins (1/3 cup)
1 TBS brandy or rum
225g marzipan (store bought or homemade) (1/2 pound) 

To glaze:
2 TBS apricot jam
1 TBS brandy or rum
Icing sugar to dust (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Line a large baking sheet with grease proof baking paper.  Set aside. 

To make the filling, combine all of the dried fruits and pistachios in a bowl with the brandy and then set aside. 

To make the dough, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt together in a large bowl.  Drop in the butter.   Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, or two round bladed knives, until the mixture resembles very coarse meal.  Some bits can be pea sized.   You don't want the butter to be too finely but in.   The larger bits are what help make these so flaky. 

Make a well in the middle of the dry/fat mixture.  Add the buttermilk all at once.  Stir together with a fork, just to combine.   Tip out onto a lightly floured board.  Knead a couple of times to help bring the dough together and then lightly pat it out about to a large rectangle about 1/2 inch in thickness.  Spread the fruit mixture over the dough to within about 1/2-inch of the edge.   

Take your marzipan and shake it into a long sausage, the length of the longest edge of the rectangle of dough. Lay this sausage down along the pastry's length about 1 inch in from the edge.  Begin from that edge and roll the dough up around the marzipan and continue until you have a long, fairly tight sausage of dough.  Trim off the ends.  Cut the sausage into 12 equal slices.   

Lay the slices in a ring on the prepared baking sheet, slightly overlapping the slices.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until well risen with a nicely golden brown crust.   

While the rolls are baking heat the apricot jam and brandy in a small pan, letting it bubble up a bit for about a minute. Push through a seive.  Brush this glaze while the rolls are still warm. Dust lightly with icing sugar, if using. Cut or break the rolls apart to serve.  Best served on the day.

These sweet slices are so delicious and would make a fabulous Christmas morning goodie to enjoy with a hot drink. If you wanted to you could do all the prep of the filling the night before and mix together all the dry ingredients for the dough, only adding the wet first thing in the morning and proceeding. They go together really quickly after that!  Happy Holidays! 

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Marie Rayner
Steak & Stilton Hot Pot

Steak & Stilton Hot Pot

We don't eat a lot of red meat in our home, but we do enjoy it once in a while.  I tend to gravitate more to the cheaper cuts, and I do this for several reasons. One is price (no surprise there) and the other is that they tend to come from the parts of the animal that have gotten the most use and which have developed the most favour!  And if you know me, you will know I am all about flavour!

Red meat tends to be a bit on the expensive side over here and I think it has probably always been so.  I can remember when I lived in Suffield, Alberta, which was a British Army Training Unit Services base.   We were friends with quite a few Brits and were invited to a home for a dinner party one night.  They loved to entertain, and were quite entertaining people! We loved them to bits!

On this particular occasion the hostess served some lovely trout as a first course, and then she cooked a whole round steak for each person.  Apparently meat was very cheap in comparison to the UK and she wanted to treat everyone to a nice piece of meat.  The servings were huge to say the least and tougher than blazes!  Round steak begs to be simmered long and slow and is what they would call braising steak over here in the UK!

This hot pot here today is gorgeous . . .  with a tender beef filling made with flavourful braising steak, braised with mushrooms and shallots until it is meltingly tender . . .

A goodly bit of stilton cheese gets stirred into the juices and then it gets spooned into either individual casseroles or one large one and then covered with a thatch of mashed potatoes prior to baking until it is golden brown and bubbly. 

*Steak & Stilton Hot Pot*
Serves 6
Tender delicious stewed beef beneath a thatch of potato.  This is a real family pleaser. Plan ahead as you need to marinate the meat overnight. 

For the mash:
1 1/4 pound of mashing potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 TBS butter
60ml whole milk, warmed (1/4 cup)
salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg 

For the steak filling:
1 KG stewing steak (2.2 pounds)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
400ml of pale ale  (1 3/4 cup)
2 TBS plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS butter
100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced (1 1/2 cups)
8 shallots, peeled and sliced
500ml beef stock (2 1/4 cups)
75g crumbled stilton (2/3 cup)
You will also need a few TBS of grated cheese to top the potatoes (optional)  

Cut the beef into cubes and place into a non-reactive bowl along with the garlic, thyme leaves, and black pepper. Pour the ale over top and toss to mix. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator over night to marinate.

The next day remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry.  Dredge with the seasoned flour.  Strain the marinade and reserve.

Heat the oil and butter in a large flameproof casserole.  Brown the beef in batches, removing it with a slotted spoon to a bowl, as it browns.  Repeat until all the beef has browned.  Add the shalots and mushrooms to the pan and  saute for 5 minutes or so until beginning to soften. Return the beef to the pan along with the reserved marinade and the stock.  Bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

About 45 minutes before the meat is done make the mash for the topping. Place the potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water to cover.  Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until tender.  Drain and mash well.  Stir in the butter and warm milk.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. 

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F gas mark 5.   

Divide the meat between six individual casserole dishes, or place into one large shallow casserole dish.  Strain off and discard half of the liquid in the pan.  Crumble the stilton into the remaining pan juices and then divide them equally amongst the casserole dishe(s), spooning  them over the meat.  

Pipe the mashed potato on top decoratively or spread it over top and rough with the tines of a fork.  If you are doing individual casseroles, place them on a baking tray.  Pop into the preheated oven in any case and bake for 35 minutes until the potatoes are starting to turn golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Sprinkle a few TBS of cheese over top if desired and return to the oven to melt.

Let stand a few minutes before serving.

I served this with some steamed broccoli and sweet corn, but a salad would also go very nice!  I don't mind me saying this is supremely delicious.  Note, the stilton I used was not blue stilton, but regular stilton!  Bon appetit!

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Marie Rayner

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