Monday, January 25, 2010

Robbie Burns night at The Braddylls Arms

The Americans decide to meet for Robbie Burns night at one of our favorite local pubs - The Braddylls Arms. None of us were up for reciting any of his poetry but it was a good excuse to get together.

The special menu for the night:

Deep Fried Haggis
Scotland's famous haggis deep fried in our bomemade beer batter and served on a bed of creamed potato and covered in a wholegrain mustard sauce. £4.75

Cullen Skink
A hearty Scottish soup with smoked haddock, potatoes, cream and onions. £4.95

Haggis, Tatties & Neeps
Traditional haggis with a classic Highland Park malt whisky jus. Served with fluffy mashed potato and swede. Price includes a "wee dram" of Glenmorangie malt whisky. £10.95

We talked with owner June Gibbons before our meal and she assured us that the haggis was delicious.
a kind word to anybody who is scared of trying haggis, it's delicious, not like the old animal that was manufactured years ago!!!!!!
 it's made of good minced lamb, herbs, barley and non animal outer coating, served with mashed potatoes and swede, known as haggis tatties & neeps. vegetarian haggis also available which is very tasty. trust me, it's nicer than goats cheese!!!!!!!
She convinced us to try it. Well, I'd wanted to anyway but I was glad to have a bit of encouragement. So for dinner Dave and I both had a tomato soup starter and the haggis, tatties and neeps for our main course. The haggis was like a fried hamburger with a very strong lamb flavor - not bad at all. The tatties (mashed potatoes) were delicious and the neeps (mashed swede - what we call turnips) - well let's just say that I might consider cooking swede - it was very sweet and creamy. The photo here is very similar to what our dishes looked like (except we didn't have the cookie looking things but we did have lots of nice dark brown gravy.

During the meal, we were serenaded by a Scottish bagpipe player - a jolly guy in a kilt (of course) producing quite a loud sound from a fairly small instrument. That experience was also a first for me.

Now the whisky - just a "wee dram" - that cleared out my sinuses! Whoa!

Finally we topped it all off with some sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Great fun!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Burger King in Bamber Bridge

My dreams have all come true.

We gave up fast food 4 or 5 years ago when I realized that most of my salary was handed over to Burger King, Wendy's, or McDonald's just about every day of the week. We went cold turkey and now our only temptation to the dark side is when we're on a road trip.

Since we moved to the UK, the temptation is far less, shall we say, tempting. First of all, there just aren't many fast food places. One McDonald's and one KFC in Barrow (10 miles from our house). That's it. Okay, I'm not counting the chippy bank in Ulverston. I suppose you could call that fast food. But their fish and chips are not tempting in the way a whopper is tempting. Once, we went to a McDonald's close to the airport in Manchester ("road trip"). The diet coke was terrible (not like real diet coke). I'm a diet coke freak so I should know. It was bad. And the chicken sandwich -- it looked like chicken but tasted like fish - it wasn't til later that I realized they put tartar sauce on the chicken. Awful. Simply awful. We've been to the McDonald's in Barrow once. Never again. And even I won't touch KFC.

Well, all that background aside, we drove to Preston today for a road race. We passed a Burger King along the way and that was a nice surprise. I *love* Burger King. Both of us are still coughing and sniffling from head colds so that could be an excuse for fast food. And it was a 90 minute drive so that almost qualifies as a "road trip." And I'm a big believer in rewarding myself for doing something I don't really want to do so the plan was to run the 10k (not fun) and then head to Burger King for lunch.

I was prepared for disappointment but it was delicious: a chicken sandwich exactly how it tastes in the states; French fries exactly like they would be in the states (if you ignore the little packet of malt vinegar); and a chocolate milk shake that not only reminded me of home but soothed my sore throat. Well worth running the 10k race.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Oddfellows Arms, Keswick

I've been out of action for quite some time - Dave was home from work the entire week, coughing up a lung - and I wasn't feeling too well either. I have no recollection of what we ate all week. Cereal and leftovers I guess.

Today, we needed to get out of the house so off we went to Keswick. It's about a 90 minute drive but the ice and snow have gone and besides, Keswick is one of my favorite towns. There's a beautiful park, walking trails, plenty of parking, nice shops, a huge outdoor market, and fantastic pubs.

We had lunch at The Oddfellows Arms - the board outside advertised a yorkshire pudding with sausage for just over £4. It turned out to be a huge yorkshire pudding filled with peas, carrots, chips, sausage, and gravy.

The pub itself was pleasantly crowded with couples and families enjoying the weekend. Decorations seemed to be related to hunting/horse racing and the place had a nice cozy feel. I couldn't resist taking a photo of this item on the windowsill next to our table. Not politically correct by any measure - and we're never sure about British humor.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Carl's Parsnips

Parsnips are best if cut up in chunks. Put in dish and dribble with olive olive, balsamic vinegar, some rosemary cuttings and salt and pepper. Mix and put on cookie sheet and roast until tender. And then place in the bin under your kitchen sink!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Yesterday we had a nice roast chicken (delicious) and this morning I finished simmering the carcass to make chicken stock. A nice butternut squash soup, made with the stock, would be just the thing to top off another cold day.

Serves 4
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 60 minutes

1 butternut squash
1 potato

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh chicken stock

1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup double cream

crème fraîche
 (if desired)

1. Prep
Peel the squash, remove seeds, and cube.
Peel the potato and cube.
Peel and chop the onion and garlic and set aside.

2. Stovetop
Boil the squash and potato in a large saucepan of water for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.

Drain well.

3. Stovetop
When the squash is done, heat oil in a large saucepan until hot.
Add the onion and garlic and cook until golden.

Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Prep
Purée the squash and potato.

5. Stovetop
Add the squash/potato purée, honey, and double cream to the chicken stock, stir well, and simmer for 5 more minutes to heat through. Season to taste.

6. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and enjoy!

[Adapted from BBC recipes]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Grape-Nuts Bread

I use pearl barley for the mushroom soup and so, seeing it in the cupboard and craving some good homemade bread, I wondered if I could use it to make a loaf. Looking (unsuccessfully) for a barley bread recipe led me to something similar; it calls for Grape-Nuts cereal instead.

Now Grape-Nuts is a staple in our house. For the past several years (at least) I've had a sliced banana with grape-nuts and soy milk for breakfast. Every morning. So I'm sure to have plenty stockpiled and, in fact, brought some with me from the US just in case I couldn't find it here. But no worries. Both Booths and Morrisons stock it.

This bread is dense - almost like a brownie. Delicious! Next time I think I might add some chocolate chips to the batter.

Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 45 minutes
Yield: one 9x5 inch loaf
Note: I don't have a 9x5 inch bread pan so I used a 9 inch round tin instead. It looks like it should be used for sponge cake. The bottom detaches from the sides (so you can push it from the bottom and out, pushing the cake with it). I spooned the dough into the pan but didn't spread it flat.

1 container (250g or 1 cup) buttermilk
3/4 cup Grape-Nuts
1 egg
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c self-raising flour
2 tbsp butter, melted

1. Prep
In a bowl, stir the Grape-Nuts into the buttermilk. Let sit in the fridge (or anywhere cold) for one hour.

2. Prep (when the hour is over)
Preheat the oven to 175°C.
Grease and flour the loaf pan.
In a small plastic cup, melt the butter in the microwave.
Add the egg, sugar, and salt to the buttermilk mixture, stirring well.
With large spoon, fold in butter and flour.
Spoon batter into the loaf pan.

3. Bake for about 45 minutes.

4. Enjoy!

[Adapted from]

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mulled Wine

We had mulled wine at Christmas but I waited to post this because I'd heard that you could buy "mulled wine spice" at the supermarket.

This is the recipe that I followed:

3 tbsp demerara sugar (15 cubes)
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange, quartered
6 cloves
1 bottle of cheap red wine (with a salute to my sister Susan)

Stir it all together in a slow cooker and set to "low" for at least 2 hours. Delicious!

Strangely enough, it seems that mulled wine recipes are incredibly varied with red wine as the only common denominator.

I finally found a box of "Schwartz Mulled Wine Spice" and expected it to be a loose combination of spices. Instead, the box contained 6 sachets (like tea bags). Each sachet contained a mixture of coriander seed, allspice, and nutmeg [none of which I used in my recipe!]

The Schwartz recipe calls for:
2 sachets
red wine
orange juice
brown sugar
brandy (!)
sliced orange

And while that sounds pretty good, they offer this non-alcoholic alternative that I think I'll make this weekend: Warm cranberry juice (instead of wine) with one sachet. Serve with orange slices.
Doesn't that sound yummy?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cottage Pie

It's still cold. In fact, it's freezing. Schools are closed, ice covers the roads, and the dogs will go stir crazy if I don't bundle up and walk them soon.

Perfect day for another stomach-filling, hot out-of-the-oven pie!

Cottage Pie is, I'm given to understand, similar to Shepherd's Pie with the exception of using beef instead of lamb. [Think: Shepherd=Lamb]

A conundrum: What I know as "ground beef" is called "beef mince" so this dish may be called a "mince meat pie." This is *not* the same as the mincemeat pie (made with apples and raisins) that many Americans eat on Thanksgiving day. You won't find a recipe for mincemeat pie in this blog as it breaks Rule Number One: Don't cook anything you don't like.

Serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes stovetop + 45 minutes oven
Note: We had mushy peas left over from last night so they became the vegetable layer (sandwiched between the meat and mashed potatoes).

1 roll of shortcrust (Jus-rol pastry)
1 tbsp oil 

1 large onion, chopped 

500 g beef mince 

1 tbsp plain flour
400 g can diced tomatoes 

2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp oregano
4 potatoes, peeled and chopped 

3 cloves garlic, peeled 

1 tbsp creamed horseradish 

handful of chives, chopped
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup double cream
leftover mushy peas (or any other cooked vegetable you might have on hand)

1. Prep
Let the pastry sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

2. Warm the kitchen
Preheat the oven to 180°C.

3. Prep
Peel and chop the potatoes.
Peel the garlic.
Peel and chop the onion.
Chop the chives.

4. Stovetop (potatoes)
Put the potatoes and garlic into boiling water and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. Stovetop (meat)
Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
Add the onion and beef mince and cook over medium heat, stirring, until browned.
If necessary, drain the beef [usually not necessary in the UK but almost always necessary in the US]. Stir in the flour just to thicken it a bit.
Add the tomatoes, purée, and oregano. 
 Simmer until the potatoes are done.

6. Mash
Drain the potatoes and mash with horseradish, chives, butter, and cream.

7. Layer the pie
Lie a deep glass pie plate with the shortcrust.
Dump the beef mixture into the plate and level. [Depending on how deep the plate is, you might not be able to use all of the meat.]
Spoon the mushy peas evenly over the top.
Spoon the mashed potatoes evenly onto the peas.

8. Oven
Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

9. Enjoy!

[Adapted from BBC Recipes]

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bangers and Mash - with Mushy Peas and Gravy

This is another great cold weather recipe and it's fun because we have 4 pots cooking on the "hob" (stove) at the same time.

Bangers can be any sort of sausage I suppose and Morrisons has quite a variety of flavors. I picked up a package of six "venison and pork sausages" and they turned out to be excellent.

Now the mushy peas are simply marrowfats that I cooked according to the box instructions ("Batchelors Bigga Dried Peas - Selected Marrowfats"]. They need to soak overnight.

Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Note: The dried peas need to soak overnight!


for the mash:
3 potatoes, cubed
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup double cream

for the bangers:
6 pork sausages
1 tbsp vegetable oil

for the peas:
250 g box of marrowfats (dried peas)
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp double cream

for the gravy:
1 large onion, minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 cup of chicken stock
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp double cream

1. Prep
Stir bicarbonate of soda into 1 quart of water. Add the dried peas, cover, and allow to soak overnight.

2. Prep
Cube the potatoes.
Peel the garlic.
Mince the onion.

We'll have 4 pans going at the same time:

3a. Potatoes
Add potatoes and garlic to boiling water and let simmer for 25 minutes.

3b. Sausage
In a frying pan, add sausages to vegetable oil, cover, and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes, turning occasionally.

3c. Peas
Rinse the peas. Add the peas to 1 pint of boiling water. Add sugar and simmer for 25 minutes.

3d. Gravy
Combine minced onion and oil in a small frying pan and cook until onion is just golden. Stir in the mustard, stock, and worcestershire sauce and simmer.

4a. Potatoes
Drain the potatoes, add butter and cream. Mash.

4b. Sausage
Remove sausages from the pan and set aside. Keep the pan on the stove as you'll use it for the gravy.

4c. Peas
Drain the peas, add butter and cream. Mash.

4d. Gravy
Add the butter and flour to the drippings from the sausage and stir well. Add the onion/stock mixture and stir well. Polish it off with the double cream and let it thicken.

5. Serve hot and enjoy!

[Adapted from BBC Recipes]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chicken and Ham Pie

Thank goodness the holidays are over!

I've been feeling sorry for myself, stranded in the UK without my family, and lost the will to cook. My Dave is a sweetie but I was really down and out. Consequently, Christmas dinner (pork loin roast) was a disaster. Well, to be honest, the pork was great but the roasted veggies were awful. They included parsnips, which I'd never had before --- and will never have again.

It's a new year and as Dr. Phil would say: "Happiness is a choice."

Tonight's dinner was inspired by a Food Network show about a hot Chicken and Ham Pie. It looked delicious but, of course, I couldn't remember the ingredients and couldn't find the recipe on So what follows is really just what made sense to me.

On a side note, as I was searching for the hot meat pie, I found a recipe for an English Pork Pie. It's interesting reading for Americans ~ or anyone who cannot imagine eating a cold meat pie.

Now, on to today's recipe.

Serves 4
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

500 g chicken fillets
250 g gammon (ham)
2 shallots, minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 potatoes
1 carrot
1 roll of shortcrust (Jus-rol pastry)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 tbsp oregano

1. Prep
Let the pastry sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

2. Prep
Chop the potatoes and carrots into chunks and simmer in hot water for 15 minutes.
Chop the chicken and gammon into bite-sized chunks.
Mince the shallots.

3. Prep
When the pastry is ready, preheat the oven to 180°C.
Butter the sides and bottom of a deep pie plate (I used an aluminum cake pan with a removable bottom.) Line the bottom and sides with the shortcrust and bake for 10 minutes.

4. Prep
While the shortcrust is baking, cook the chicken over a medium heat in a large frying pan with the minced shallots and vegetable oil. After 10 minutes,
take the shortcrust out of the oven and set aside. Add the gammon to the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the soup and oregano and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes and carrots and stir these into the chicken/gammon mixture. Season with pepper.

5. Spoon the chicken/gammon mixture into the pre-baked pastry. Cover with any leftover strips of pastry.

6. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve with a nice glass of cold beer and enjoy!