Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they were fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Recipes You Should Know by Heart Part Two

(The kitchen in my doll house)

Moving onto the second part of my collection of  recipes which you should know by heart.  I know that a lot of us already know these things off by heart and indeed have our own ways of doing most things, but the beginning cook might not know these things and I felt this could be an invaluable resource for them.   Whilst may of us older guys and gals probably learned these things from our mum's and grandmum's  . . .  the art of cooking from scratch seems to be disappearing these days.   People do rely a lot on convenience foods.  Heck you can even buy frozen mashed potatoes today, which is surely a lot better tasting than dried potato flakes . . .  but when mashed potatoes are so easy to make . . .  why not make your own.   I know . . . for the working mum, frozen might be more convenient and I can't say that I blame them for using them . . .  but if you are so inclined and have the time to want to do things from scratch, these are the recipes you should know by heart.  You can find Part one  here.

There is nothing nicer on a plate then a perfect pile of soft, creamy and fluffy mashed potatoes. They go so well with many dishes and are the perfect holder to cradle lashings of delicious gravy.

They are not as hard to make as some people would suppose. Simple and straightforward, as long as you follow a few simple rules.

  • use the proper potato. You want a floury type of potato, that is to say one that breaks down well once cooked. You do not want a waxy type of potato, or one that holds it's shape well when cooked. Some great examples of floury potatoes are Maris Piper, Estima, King Edward or Desiree (In North America use a Russet, Idaho or baking potato)
  • Do not make the mistake of not cooking the potatoes long enough. Better to err on the side of overcooking than undercooking. You cannot mash a hard lump no matter how hard you try!
  • Never add cold butter or milk to cooked potatoes. Always use room temperature or melted butter and gently warmed milk or cream
  • Add any liquid to the cooked potatoes slowly. Some days you may need more, some days you may need less. How much can only be determined by adding it slowly.  

*Perfect Mashed Potatoes*
Serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

Simple and perfect!

2 pounds of large floury potatoes (In the UK a Maris Piper is ideal, in North America
I would use a russet or idaho)
4 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 cup, or one stick)
4 fluid ounces of single cream or full fat milk (1/2 cup) gently warmed
fine seasalt, freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg

Peel and quarter the potatoes then place the potatoes into a pot of lightly salted water to cover.  Bring to the boil and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until fork tender.  Drain well in a colander and then return them to the hot pot.  Cover with the lid and give them a good shake, which will help to break them up.  Add the butter and warmed cream or milk, adding the latter a little at a time, whilst mashing the potatoes, only adding as much as is needed to give you the correct consistency.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  The potatoes should be light, fluffy, creamy and  ready to eat.

Note - I often use my electric handwhisk to mash the potatoes.  This helps to insure a smooth mixture without lumps.  I also have a potato ricer, which does a fabulous lump free job. 

Cream Sauce, or  Bechamel (which is the French name for basically the same thing) is the most basic of sauces and the basis for many other sauces such as  cheese sauce, mornay sauce, lemon sauce etc.   Once you have mastered a good cream sauce you are free to explore the many other options available.  I often make it and add cooked baby peas to it and serve it ladled over cooked fish.   It's the basis for macaroni and cheese, and many other delicious dishes, and very easy to make.  These are the quantities for one cup of sauce, to make more just multiply the ingedients.  I normally would not more than double it.

 photo bechemel_zps85bcf40d.jpg

*White Sauce or Bechamel Sauce*
Makes 225ml or one cup

I think this was one of the first things I learned how to make in home economics at school.   When well made, this simple sauce has a proper place in homey, creamed dishes, often making leftover stretch or giving cooked foods a new life.  A good bechamal is the basis for many dishes such as souffles, or macaroni and cheese.  The foolproof way to achieve a perfectly smooth sauce is to have the milk hot when you add it to the butter and flour.  It uses an extra pot, but perfection is perfection.   

2 TBS butter
2 TBS plain flour
285ml of hot milk (1 1/4 cups)
freshly ground black pepper  

Melt the butter in a heavey bottomed saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly until the flour is cooked out and bubbles a bit.  Do NOT let it brown.   This will take about 2 minutes.   Whisk in the hot milk, slowly, whisking constantly until the milk is all whisked in and the sauce thickens.   Bring to the boil.  Stir in the salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to very low and continue to cook, whisking, for an additional 2 to 3 minutes longer.   Remove from the heat.  If you are using the sauce later, cover the top with a round of baking parchment to prevent a skin from forming.  (You can also pour a very thin layer of milk over top which works in much the same way.)

Thick Cream Sauce - Use 3 TBS of flour to 225ml/1 cup of milk.  This is the consistency needed for soufffles and meat, poultry or fish crouquettes. 

Lemon Cream Sauce - Just before serving, beat in 2 large egg yolks, 6 TBS of butter (1 TBS at a time) and 1 TBS fresh lemon juice 

Cheese Sauce - Stir in 60g/1/2 cup of grated Cheddar cheese during the last 2 minutes of cooking, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper. 

Mornay Sauce - Add 2 TBS of grated Parmesan Cheese and 2 TBS of grated Swiss cheese during the last two minutes of cooking.  Stur until blended.  Just before removing from the heat, beat 2 TBS of the sauce into 1 lightly beaten egg yolk.  Stir the yolk/sauce mixture back into the sauce and add 2 TBS butter.    Continue to cook, stirring, for one minute longer.

There is nothing nicer than a nice plate of warm biscuits,  North American Style (similar to scones) resh from the oven and just waiting for you to spread them with a pat of cold butter and a drizzle of honey.   These are one of the most basic of the quick breads and I have never known anyone to turn a well made biscuit down.   The important thing to remember about biscuits is to use a light touch with them.   Over working them toughens them.   Pat them out gently and cut them out with a sharp cutter, using a very sharp quick straight up and down motion and your biscuits will always be perfect!

*Baking Powder Biscuits*
Makes 16
Printable Recipe

Golden brown and crusty outside, meltingly tender inside.

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 TBS sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup of  milk

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 6.  Grease two 8 inch cake tins. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar together in a bowl.  Drop in the shortening and cut it into the flour mixture with two knives or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the milk all at once and stur just until the dough forms a ball around the fork.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead about 14 times.  Pat out to 1/2 inch thickness.  Stamp out rounds with a 2 inch biscuit cutter, giving it a sharp tap straight down and up again.  Do not twist.  Place touching each other in the cake pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

If you like biscuits with crusty edges all around, place them 1 inch apart on a baking sheet to bake instead.

 photo pancakes_zps787299cb.jpg

*Basic Scotch Pancakes*
Makes about 16
Printable Recipe 

The amount of milk you use will determine how thick these pancakes will be.  Start off with the smaller amount which is suggested and add more only if the batter seems too thick.  I try to have all of my ingredients at room temperature before starting and as with most quick breads, take care not to over beat.   A few lumps are quite acceptable.  You can make lighter, fluffier pancakes by separating the egg yolk and white, adding the yolk with the milk, and then beating the white until stiff and folding it in last of all.  Serve with maple syrup or honey.

120 to 150ml of milk (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
2 TBS butter, melted
1 large free range egg
140g of plain flour (1 cup)
2 tsp baking powder
2 TBS white sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Beat the milk, butter and egg lightly in a mixing bowl.  Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and add them all at once to the wet ingredients, stirring just enough to moisten the flour.   Lightly butter or grease a griddle pan or non stick skillet.  Set over moderate heat and heat until a few drops of water sprinkled on the pan sputter lightly.  Drop the pancakes  using 2 TBS of the batter for smaller cakes, or 1/4 cup of batter for larger ones, onto the hot pan.  Bake on the pan until the cakes are full of little bubbles all over the top and golden brown on the underside.  Turn with a spatula and brown the other side.  Keep warm in a slow oven (100*C/200*F) until you have cooked them all.


Buttermilk pancakes - use buttermilk, sour milk or yogurt in place of the milk and substitute 1/2 tsp baking soda for the baking powder.

Whole wheat  pancakes - substitute one third of the flour with an equal amount of whole wheat flour.   If you wish you may sweeten the batter with 2 TBS of molasses or honey instead of sugar.

Oatmeal pancakes - Heat the smaller amount of milk and stir in 40g/1/2 cup of quick cooking oats.  Let stand for 10 minutes then proceed as above, reducing the flour to 2 TBS.

Blueberry pancakes - Add a handful of fresh berries to the batter.

There is no more welcome or finer dessert cake than the traditional sponge cake, or Victoria Sponge as it is lovingly called over here in the UK.  It needs no more adornment than a dusting over the top with some confectioner's/Icing sugar and a filling of butter cream and jam.  Using equal amounts of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, it is the simplest of cakes, and yet also the tastiest.


*Traditional Victoria Sandwich Cake*
 Makes one 7 inch cake
Printable Recipe  

Popular during the reign of Queen Victoria, this cake remains popular to this day, which is a huge testament to it's taste and ease of baking!  Don't be tempted to use all butter.  This is one recipe that is better for the use of a mixture of butter and margarine.

3 ounces of butter, softened (6 TBS)
3 ounces soft margarine (6 TBS)
6 ounces caster sugar (1 cup)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, beaten
6 ounces self raising flour (a scant 1 1/2 cups)

To finish:
3 TBS raspberry jam
buttercream to fill (optional)
icing sugar or caster sugar to dust the top

Butter and base line two 7 inch sandwich tins.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

Cream the butter, margarine, sugar and vanilla together until light in colour and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition.  If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour.

Fold in the flour with a metal spoon, taking care to use a cutting motion so as not to knock out too much of the air that you have beaten into the batter.  Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins, leveling off the surface.  Make a slight dip in the centre of each.

Bake on a centre rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponges have risen well, are golden brown, and spring back when lightly touched.  Allow to cool in the pan for five minutes before running a knife carefully around the edges and turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, place one layer on a cake plate. Spread with raspberry jam and buttercream (if using).  Place the other cake on top, pressing down lightly.  Dust with icing or caster sugar and serve.

I will be back tomorrow with a new and fresh recipe.  I hope you have enjoyed these tried and true recipes and that you have found them useful.  It's a start at any rate!


  1. You got me on the cake recipe! The rest I know. My mom and I just took a biscuit making class last month!

  2. I love that you are posting these recipes. I didn't know that cold butter in the potatoes were a no, no. Thanks for mentioning that. It will never happen again. LOVE the Victorian Sponge. I must make that. I seriously want to make everything you post. They really speak to me and no, I'm not just saying it to make you feel good. I love your recipes!

  3. Sounds like fun Traci! I would have loved to do something like that with my mom! My mom didn't mind us watching her cook, but we were not allowed to participate! xx

    I am glad that you are enjoying this series Valerie! I took a gamble here because I know most competent cooks will know how to do these things, but I thought to myself, it's not always competent cooks that come to my blog and maybe there would be an interest in the basics! I know you are competent, but I also know that like me, you are always open to learning something new! I learn something new each day! Love you to bits! xxoo

  4. I am terrible at pancakes..!
    And I would love one of your biscuits now...ok and a sliver of for the bechamel..I always eye it..Now I know..
    It's not just for novices your post!:)

  5. Monique, you are too kind. I am sure you are very adept at all that you cook! I know I am always incredibly impressed when I see what you have done. You are the Mistress of Presentation! xxoo

  6. I love your recipes Marie. They are just the ones I'd like to try at home

  7. LOL!!! You got me this time.....when it comes to any kind of baking I am back to a recipe - even pancakes. :-)

  8. Thank you Kate! You are so kind!

    If you make them enough times Sharon, you will know them off by heart. Just remember for the cake equal weights of butter, flour, sugar and eggs. You can up it for larger cakes. Xx

  9. What a great idea, Marie!

    I am happy to say that all your "need to know" recipes are mine as well. I am now teaching my grandchildren how to make the basics...this weekend we doing biscuits again.

    Everyone needs to know how to prepare comfort food that warms the heart.

  10. Practice makes perfect Darlene! I am so happy to read you are doing this with your grandchildren! How very wonderful! xx

  11. Hi Marie, the correct name for the sponge in England is Victoria not Victorian

  12. Thanks Keith. I take your point.


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