avert any serious cookie crisis in 15 minutes flat…
How the hell I’m suddenly into week 34 of my pregnancy, I have no idea. It only feels like a few weeks ago that I hugged my husband in the car park of our local hospital on a very bright and sunny May afternoon and showed him pictures of the 12 week scan he wasn’t allowed to attend. Now the trees are suddenly shedding their leaves, we’re heading deeper into Autumn (and into another Lockdown – yeesh) and things are starting to feel very, very real. We’ve decorated a nursery, we’ve filled a drawer with baby clothes (and had several arguments over just how many cute polka dot onesies one baby actually needs – if you know the answer to that one, let me know), and – as of last weekend – we’ve reached the end of our Covid-proof Zoom NCT Classes.
Noticing how the weeks seem to be flying by, I’ve started thinking about everything I want to get done before I head into that – ohmygawd, baby could show up any second – end zone, and high up on my list is a heavy dose of batch cooking. Whilst I love cooking, and I’m sure there’ll be the odd day where I’m desperate to get back into the kitchen, I just can’t see it happening for at least the first couple of weeks. So I’ve started sifting through my favourite recipes, pulling out a few that’ll do well in the freezer. But what about deserts? I mean, frozen veggie chilli that’s just as good nuked in the ol’ microwave as it is fresh out of the pot is good, but something sweet to enjoy when the baby’s sleeping and you get to steal back a moment for yourself is even better, right?
One of the NCT girls had a great idea for any pre-baby batch cooking list, and you bet I’m adding it to mine. A foolproof 4am cookie dough that’ll go from frozen blob to crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle cookie in 15 minutes – perfect for perking up those early morning feeds. I’ve been working on an ultimate cookie dough recipe for a while – one that’s easy and adaptable in terms of fillings – and I’ve finally settled on this one, which just so happens to work best when the dough’s frozen. Now I just need to work out how many batches I’m going to need to get me through those sleepless newborn nights…
Emergency 4am Cookie Dough
125g softened butter
110g dark muscovado sugar
50g caster sugar
195g plain flour
1/2 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
200g chocolate chips (or whatever filling you fancy)
Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, then crack in the egg. Stir until combined.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cornflour and salt. Pour into the butter, sugar and egg mix, then stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Line a tray with grease-proof paper, then scoop out equal, rounded dollops of cookie dough onto it (I like to use an ice cream scoop). Transfer the dough to the fridge for an hour to firm up, then pop the blobs of cookie dough into a freezer bag to freeze and lie in wait for cookie emergencies.
When you’re ready to cook, set the oven to 200°C (fan), then bake the cookies on a foil-lined baking tray for 15 minutes – or until crispy on the outside and soft and puffy in the middle.
Leave the cookies to cool slightly and settle (resist attempting to move them until they have!), then enjoy!
Have a great week everyone! Let me know what your favourite cookie filling is in the comments – I’m going to need a little inspo ready for batch cooking week! 🍪🍪🍪
And you should absolutely take that warning seriously because the biggest mistake I made with this pie was to make it on a Wednesday morning just in time for lunch. After our first wet dog walk of Autumn, followed by a very gloomy morning catching up with chores and work, it seemed a pretty good idea to polish that all off with a piping hot fish pie. Oh and it was. It was warm, it was creamy, it was buttery… but it was so comforting that I could have very happily curled up on the sofa under a blanket and slept for the rest of the day after shoving in that final mouthful. It’s not that it was really that filling, it was just an incredibly cosy pie – something that would be absolutely perfect on a gloomy, snoozy Saturday or Sunday afternoon, not on a Wednesday afternoon when you’ve got back to back Zoom calls for the rest of the day.
Packed with everything you’d expect in a traditional fish pie (except the mash topping), this one gets a subtle glow up with the addition of a little fish sauce and lager, giving it a richer and slightly saltier flavour (but strangely, without making it taste too fishy). The sliced leeks and shallots balance by bringing a little sweetness to the creamy sauce, while the golden puff pastry lid adds the flaky, crunchy texture you’ll miss with the traditional mash topping. Do yourself a favour and serve it up with some tender stem broccoli – you’re not going to want to miss out on dunking them into the sauce!
Cosy Fish and Lager Pie
1 tbsp olive oil
1 banana shallot, sliced
handful of spinach leaves, sliced and stalked
half a leek, sliced
handful of parsley, sliced and stalked
1 tbsp fish sauce
100ml cold water
150ml pale lager
25g plain flour
150ml double cream
250gfish pie mix (pick one with plenty of smoked haddock)
enough puff pastry to cover your chosen pie dish(es)
splash of milk
Set your oven to 180°C (fan)
Add your oil and chopped shallot to a deep frying pan and fry on a medium heat until translucent. Add the chopped leek and spinach and fry together for about 5 minutes.
Next, pour in a tablespoon of good quality fish sauce, 100ml of cold water and 150ml of pale lager. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and pop on the lid– leaving it to simmer while you make the roux.
To make the roux, melt the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat then whisk in the flour until combined. Add the cream, stirring until any lumps are gone. Pour the sauce base into the frying pan and then stir to combine with the other ingredients. Pour in the parsley and fish, then leave to bubble without the lid for about seven minuteswhile you get on with preparing the puff pastry lid.
Pour the fish pie mix into your chosen pie dish (I used two large ramekins), then seal with your puff pastry lid. Brush with a little milk, then cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
Serve hot with with tender stem broccoli (great for dunking!) or peas. (…Then prepare to fall asleep on the sofa for the rest of the day because – fair warning – this is the cosiest of all the cosy pies!)
September is finally here, although you wouldn’t know it. I dug out all my cosiest knits over the weekend and was reunited with my favourite fluffy grey jumper. I very proudly threw it on to head off to brunch with the dog and husband on Sunday only to end up throwing it in the wash when I got back because it was drenched in my sweat. Lovely. Why does September always do this to us? Just when you let yourself get excited for colder days, jumpers and boots chunky enough to crunch through fallen leaves, one of those trademark September scorchers suddenly arrives. Sadly my favourite fluffy jumper is going to have to wait for a while, but there is one Autumn tradition that’s well and truly under way in my house and that’s Autumn baking – especially with apples.
One of my lovely neighbours gave me a bag full of cooking apples the other day and I cannot wait to get stuck in making making Apple Fritters, Apple Cookies and of course, my favourite Apple Pie Cake. But the truth is that I got a head start on the Apple Bakes back in August when I whipped up this Apple Rag Pie. The original recipe comes from Nigella Lawson, who made a traditional Greek Rag Pie using feta, sesame seeds and plenty of honey. Problem is, I’m not a big fan of Feta, but the basic idea was definitely something I wanted to try and so I switched out the cheese for spiced apples and toasted flaked almonds. Crunchy and packed full of juicy spiced apple chunks, it’s not only a doddle to make but is banging served hot with a blob of ice cream and packs a little extra punch from some Calvados soaked sultanas. It also freezes well, so whip it up now and it’ll be there waiting for you when those cold nights really begin to draw in. 🙂
4 apples, skinned, cored, chunked (…is that a thing?)
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
100g caster sugar
100ml Calvados (or regular Brandy)
50g toasted, flaked almonds
Place the sultanas in a bowl, pour over the Calvados Brandy and leave to soak ideally overnight or until they’re plump and drunk. 🙂
Boil the apple chunks in water until they’re soft, but still hold shape. Drain, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon and then set aside.
To assemble the Rag Pie; line the base of a deep rectangular baking tray with one layer of filo pastry, then brush with a little melted butter. Next, separate the remaining filo sheets into three equal piles. Take the first pile; tear and scrunch the sheets of filo – loosely balling them and placing them into the tray (careful not to press down!). Scatter over half of your apple mix and sultanas, then pour over a little more melted butter. Repeat the process with your next pile of filo.
Scrunch and tear the last layer to top the pile, then pour over the last of the butter. Section the pie into equal slices with a sharp knife, being very careful not to squash down your layers of filo (otherwise you’ll get a soggy pie). Whisk together the eggs and milk, then pour over the pie. Top with the toasted, flaked almonds.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 180°C and serve hot with ice cream or whipped cream.
(You can also freeze it and cook it from frozen, just pop it in a cold oven, then heat it up at 180°C for 45 minutes. 🙂
I don’t know about you but I am officially done with the 30°C heat. In a country that rarely sees the mercury creep above 25, it’s been HELL; I mean, my house is made for drizzly Welsh winters, not stinking, sticky hot summers (emphasis on the ST-ICKY) – and neither am I. On a recent shopping trip I stumbled across an aisle full of thick woolly jumpers and winter coats and let me tell you, I am so ready to feel that cool September bite in the air. And while I’m not ready to say goodbye to the sunshine yet, the summer fatigue I get every year around this time has definitely started to set in.
Hopefully we’re done with the sweat and the humidity for now, but just in case we’re not – here’s the perfect antidote. I absolutely love fresh lemonade – and if you’ve never made it yourself before then why not? It’s an absolute doddle; there’s a reason why kids out in the states set up lemonade stands in the summer (American readers, do they really do that? Or is that just “Disney America?”). But limeade somehow, tastes even better – maybe because it feels just a little bit more grown up, especially with plenty of fresh mint. If you’re planning a late summer BBQ or picnic then you can’t go wrong with a ready made iced pitcher of the stuff – and you’ll be pleased to know it takes less than twenty minutes to make up. Shake some up ahead of the weekend and keep it chilling in the fridge and ready to pour for up to five days.
makes enough for 1 pitcher
200ml fresh lime juice (from approx 5 limes)
150g caster sugar
zest of one lime
mint leaves to garnish
Squeeze as much juice out of your limes as possible into a saucepan (don’t worry if you get some pulp in there; you’re going to strain all that out later). Add the lime zest, cold water and caster sugar, then gently bring it all to the boil – by which time the sugar should have completely dissolved.
Strain the liquid into a clean bottle/pitcher and then leave to cool.Before serving, give it a taste test and add a little more water if you find that it’s too strong.
Serve over ice with a slice of lime and fresh mint. (…and maybe a shot of Tequila? *shrugs* I don’t know…) 😉
time to level up your bog standard chicken salad sandwich…
I’m currently writing up this post at 4am with bat hair and Bungle snoring soundly at my feet (git). Turns out that one of the many charming side effects of pregnancy is a total inability to catch some Zs at night. AND THE BABY ISN’T EVEN HERE YET. From 2am until 5am I can currently be found either wrestling with the massive doughnut pillow I bought off of Amazon (you know, the one that’s supposed to HELP me sleep), or scoffing biscuits in front of back to back episodes of Escape to the Chateau in the dark. I’m knackered. And I’d quite like to move to France – apparently derelict chateaus go for pretty cheap.
Thankfully, when it comes to a lot of the other pregnancy symptoms – I’ve got off likely so far. I haven’t had any morning sickness (other than a weird one off the other week that could just as easily be put down to polishing off a large chips from the local chippy…), and I’ve been able to carry on eating pretty much all of my favourite meals and foods bar the few that I’m not allowed – like sushi. But I’ve even got that covered now; as soon as I saw these Katsu Onigiri over on Pinterest, I knew I had to give them a go myself and come up with my own recipe, and here it is. Crunchy chicken katsu fillets, lots of fresh greens and pickles coated in sushi rice and wrapped in nori – polished off with a drizzle of sweet and smoky Tonkatsu Sauce. Yum!
Chicken Katsu Sushi Sandwiches
4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper to season
1 large egg, whisked
50g plain flour
100g panko bread crumbs
150ml vegetable oil
300g sushi rice
1 tbsp mirin
1 avocado, sliced
4 spring onions, sliced
pickled purple cabbage
sesame seeds, to garnish
For the Tonkatsu Sauce:
4 tbsp ketchup
4 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp runny honey
2 tsp soy sauce
First, cook your sushi rice according to the pack’s instructions, stir in the mirin with a wooden spoon and then set aside and leave to cool.
To make the Katsu Chicken, first wrap the fillets in clingfilm and tenderise with a rolling pin until slightly flattened. Next, unwrap and season then with salt and pepper. Set up a production line of bowls, each filled separately with the flour, whisked egg and panko bread crumbs. Coat the fillets in flour first, then dunk them into the whisked egg, following up with an even coating of panko breadcrumbs.
Add the vegetable oil to a shallow frying pan and cook the katsu fillets over a medium heat, ensuring they’re golden brown and fully cooked on both sides.
Next, make up your Tonkatsu Sauce; add all the ingredients to a bowl and stir until completely blended.
Now you can make up your sushi sandwiches! First, lay out a sheet of nori and add a thin layer of sushi rice in the middle. Next layer up with your sliced avocado, spring onions and pickled cabbage, followed by a katsu fillet. Give it a good drizzle of Tonkatsu Sauce, then mirror a layer of avocado, spring onion and pickled cabbage on top – finishing with a bit more sushi rice. Sprinkle cold water around the edges of your sheet of nori, then fold the corners inwards – parcelling up your sandwich. Slice in half and then garnish with some more Tonkatsu Sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Repeat step five with the other three fillets. 🙂
Have a lovely week (and pleeeeeeeeease send sleepy thoughts my way 💤 )!