Potato Cobbler

I found this cobbler being used in a Hairy Bikers’ recipe for chicken casserole. I used it with mutton myself, but the choice is yours. Just remember that you need to have seasoned and thickened your casserole to your satisfaction before adding the cobbler topping – it doesn’t leave enough of a gap for any adjustment afterwards. When I know I want to make this cobbler I cook too many potatoes for another meal, which allows me to weigh out the exact amount of mash I need without causing unnecessary waste. You will need:-

250g mashed potatoes  (not creamed, just mashed)
250g self raising flour, plus extra for rolling
pinch of salt
100g butter, cold, cut into small cubes
125ml milk

  • Cook your casserole as you normally would then, about 40 minutes before you intend to serve your meal, raise the oven temperature to Gas 6/200C/400F
  • Put the flour, salt and butter into a large bowl and use your fingertips to rub the mixture together until it resembles rough breadcrumbs
  • Add the mashed potato and mix it in thoroughly
  • Stir in the milk and mix everything together until you have a smooth dough
  • Flour your pastryboard/worktop generously and turn the dough onto it. Roll it into a sausage shape about 24cm long then divide it into 12 equal pieces
  • Take your casserole out of the oven and lay the pieces of dough on the top of it. Overlap the pieces slightly so that they more or less cover the contents
  • Brush the pieces with a little milk, season them with salt and pepper and return the casserole to the oven without its lid
  • The topping should take about 30 minutes to cook and when done should be well risen and golden brown


Sweetcorn & Chorizo

I saw somebody on a TV show making this yesterday and couldn’t help wondering why I hadn’t thought of it myself. It’s so simple, but it sounds so tasty. He just took a piece of cooking chorizo, skinned it, chopped it into small pieces and fried it in a small amount of oil. He added some prepared sweetcorn and stirred it together with the chorizo so that all the juices released by the meat mixed into the corn. How easy is that? I’ll be trying it very soon.

Oxtail, anyone?

I remember when oxtail made a cheap meal; it doesn’t any more. However, it is worth seeking out. With long, slow cooking it makes beautifully gelatinous stock and it works really well with the root vegetables which are readily available at this time of year. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find oxtail in the supermarket but if, like me, you are lucky enough to still have a proper local butcher or a farm shop, it’s well worth asking for it. The trick with oxtail is, I’ve found, to make sure you start cooking it the day before you plan to eat it so, on day one:-

  • Heat your oven to Gas 4
  • Take a flameproof casserole pot and brown your oxtail pieces in a little fat or oil
  • While that’s happening take two beef stock cubes and dissolve them in hot water
  • When the oxtail pieces have finished browning, add enough stock to just cover them, put the lid onto your casserole pot and put it into the oven
  • Cook for half an hour at Gas 4 then turn the oven down to 3 and let the oxtail cook for a further two and a half hours

When that’s done, leave the oxtail pieces in the casserole with the stock and let them go completely cold then put the whole lot into the fridge and forget about it until the next day. On day two:-

  • Heat your oven to Gas 5
  • Take the casserole out of the fridge and open it. You will find a layer of set fat on top. Remove this and discard it. If you leave it in the pot your dish will be spoiled by being too greasy
  • Put the casserole into the oven to allow the stock to melt and, while that’s happening, prepare your vegetables
  • When they’re ready, add them to the casserole and let the meat heat through while they cook. How long this takes will depend on your choice of vegetables and how big or small you’ve chopped them

Thus, with a bit of forward planning, you’ll have a beautiful one-pot wonder with meat falling off the bones and just right to serve in a comforting bowl. Enjoy!

A Great Combination

I have discovered – owing to a happy accident – that the combination of Honey Glazed Roast Parsnips, Bombay Potatoes and more or less any piece of plain cooked meat or poultry you like works beautifully. Prepare your own veggies or – as I do – buy them ready to cook. Chuck a lamb chop or a duck breast into the oven along with the veggies and very soon your kitchen will be full of wonderful aromas and your mouth will be watering. Bon appetit!

Jamaican Curry Goat

I bought some Goat meat from my newly found online meat supplier, Alternative Meats, because I’ve heard a number of people raving about “Curry Goat” but never been able to try it for myself before. I understand that sometimes it is made with mutton, but it seemed a shame to miss the opportunity of trying out a new meat as well as a new recipe. I’m setting out the original ingredients list below but I will make a note of a couple of adjustments I made – I don’t like my curry too hot and I’m not too fond of kidney beans other than in a Chilli! You will need:-

700g goat shoulder, cut into large dice
1 large onion, roughly chopped
10 garlic cloves*
100g ginger, chopped*
2 scotch bonnet chillies, chopped*
A small handful of curry leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
4tbsp mild curry powder*
2tsp salt
400g can chopped tomatoes
300ml stock
410g can kidney beans*
Juice of half a lemon
2tbsp coriander, chopped
Roti or other bread of your choice to serve

  • Blend the onion, garlic and ginger to a puree
  • Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole and gently fry the puree for about 5 minutes, until soft
  • Add the chillies, curry leaves, thyme, curry powder and salt and cook for a few more minutes until fragrant
  • Add the meat, turn up the heat and brown the cubes on all sides
  • Add the tomatoes and stock then bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes
  • Turn down the heat, put a lid on the pot and leave the curry to simmer very gently for about 3 hours until the meat is at “falling apart” stage. Check every now and then and if towards the end of the cooking time your curry looks too wet take the lid off for a while. Alternatively cook in the oven on a low heat, as I did
  • Add the kidney beans and when they are warmed through stir in the lemon juice and chopped coriander (If you are using potatoes you will need to put them in sooner, of course, to give them time to cook through)
  • Warm your bread and dish up

*: I used 6 garlic cloves and 70g ginger, and I substituted the scotch bonnets with 2 milder chillies. I had medium curry powder in my store cupboard, so I used 2tbsp instead of 4. I popped in a couple of potatoes instead of the kidney beans (other recipes I found included potatoes, so I figure this is perfectly reasonable). After a long, slow cook this produced the kind of curry I like, which is warm and spicy but doesn’t require the attendance of the Fire Brigade!

Beef Olives

This is a great comfort food recipe for the winter months. It might sound a bit fiddly but really it’s quick to prepare and you can leave it in the oven for a long, slow cook while you go and do something more interesting. It’s also a good stress reliever as it involves some bashing with a heavy object! To make 4 parcels you will need:-

4 slices of decent quality steak
300ml beef stock
300ml red wine
150g smoked bacon lardons or pancetta cubes
150g pork mince
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
50g fresh breadcrumbs
1 onion, roughly chopped
Baby carrots (as many as you like)
A little oil, or beef dripping, for shallow frying

You will also need some string, or wooden skewers, to hold the parcels together while they are cooking

  • Pre-heat your oven to 170C/Gas 3
  • You need the steaks to be about 1cm thick and big enough to roll into parcels around the filling, so put them between sheets of clingfilm and bash them with a meat tenderiser or whatever alternative heavy object is available (my cast-iron pans, for example, do the job well!)
  • Mix the lardons, mince, shallots, garlic, basil and breadcrumbs together in a large bowl
  • Shape the mixture into 4 sausages
  • Place 1 of the sausages onto each piece of steak and roll up into parcels
  • Secure the parcels with string (I recommend both lengthways and widthways) or use wooden skewers to hold them together
  • Heat the oil or dripping in an ovenproof pot and brown the parcels on all sides
  • Add the roughly chopped onion and the carrots to the pot and fry until coloured
  • Add the beef stock and red wine to the pot then place in the oven to cook for 2½ to 3 hours, until really tender
  • Remove the string or skewers before serving

I like to serve these with mash, but of course it’s up to you.


Corned Beef Pie

I was unsure whether to serve this hot or cold. In the end, I did both. We ate it warm with buttered greens for dinner then polished off the remains for lunch, cold, the following day. You will need:-

Shortcrust pastry to line and top a 20cm round pie tin, or similar
3 large old potatoes
1 onion
50g butter
225g corned beef
1 egg, beaten

  • Peel the potatoes, cut them into thick slices and boil them until just tender. Drain them and leave them aside to go cold
  • Peel and slice the onion and fry it in the butter until it is soft but not coloured. Drain it and leave it aside to go cold
  • Cut the corned beef into thick slices
  • Line your pie tin with pastry (if you want to be sure of not having a soggy bottom to your pie blind bake this layer of pastry now and leave it to go cold before continuing with the recipe)
  • Layer the potatoes, onions and corned beef into the lined pie tin
  • Add the pastry top to the pie and brush it with the beaten egg
  • Cook in the centre of the oven at Gas4 for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and warmed through

I’m thinking that this would make a change to our usual cornish pasties for a picnic, but not until much later in the year!

Bara Brith

There are many recipes for Bara Brith (for the uninitiated, a traditional Welsh fruit loaf) – this is the one my mother-in-law gave me some years ago. I’ve converted the measurements from imperial to the closest metric equivalents, not because I think my readers are incapable, just because that’s what you see on the packets. You will need:-

250g sultanas
250g currants
250g brown sugar
the zest of half an orange
500g self-raising flour
1tsp mixed spice
1 egg, beaten, and possibly a little milk
1tbsp chunky marmalade (optional – don’t buy a jar just for this)
1 cup of cold tea, no milk
2 loaf tins

  • Put the sultanas, currants, brown sugar and orange zest into a large bowl
  • Pour the cup of tea over them and leave to soak overnight
  • Next day, gradually mix in the flour, spice, egg and marmalade
  • If it’s difficult to get all the flour mixed in add a little milk to loosen the mixture
  • Grease the loaf tins and divide the mixture between them
  • Bake in the centre of a moderate oven for 1 hour

You could, of course, cut down the quantities rather than making two loaves, but once cooked these take very well to freezing. To serve, spread with plenty of butter or if you’re feeling a bit sorry for yourself put a slice in a bowl and drown it in double cream!

Asian-style Braised Beef

Here is a great winter warmer, which is a Nigella Lawson recipe I first came across a couple of years ago and cooked for guests one Christmas Eve (it’s our tradition to have something as far removed from the English winter as we can think of for dinner on Christmas Eve). To serve 4 hungry people you will need:

1kg shin of beef, cut into large chunks
2 onions, peeled and quartered
5cm root ginger, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2tsp ground coriander
3tbsp vegetable oil
250ml Chinese cooking wine or sherry
4tbsp soy sauce
4tbsp dark brown sugar
2ltrs beef stock
2tbsp oyster sauce
4tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise

  • Heat your oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2
  • Blend the onions, ginger, garlic and coriander until finely chopped and fully combined
  • Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole and fry the mixture, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes
  • Pour in the Chinese cooking wine or sherry and let it bubble up, then add the soy sauce, sugar, stock, oyster sauce and rice wine vinegar. Bring the mixture to the boil then add the cinnamon and star anise
  • Add the chunks of beef to the pot. Put the lid on the pot and put it in the oven to cook for at least 2 hours until the meat is very tender
  • Take the meat out of the pot and keep it warm while you boil the sauce vigorously on the hob to thicken and reduce

And there you are – a delicious one-pot wonder with a subtle oriental flavour.

Bacon Dumplings

Here’s a recipe for some dumplings I served yesterday with a chicken casserole. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about them, just the addition of some bacon, but they made a tasty change. You will need:-

150g self-raising flour
75g shredded suet
130g pancetta cubes, or lardons (that’s the weight of the pack I buy – you don’t have to be exact)
Cold water
Extra flour

  • Fry your pancetta cubes or lardons until they are as crispy as you like them then drain them on kitchen paper and leave them to go completely cold
  • Mix the self-raising flour, suet and bacon together and add enough cold water to bring the mixture together as a dough
  • Use the extra flour to lightly dust a board (and your fingers!). Knead the dough on the board then roll it into a sausage shape and divide it into 6 pieces
  • Roll the pieces in your hands to shape them into balls

I was, as I said, cooking a chicken casserole so 40 minutes before the end of cooking time I dropped the dumplings into the pot and returned it to the oven (Gas 5) to finish cooking with the lid off. The result was happily received Chez Wizzud and has been added, by request, to our list of favourites.