Since we moved I’ve only baked three times as we’ve had stuff everywhere. Now we’re able to move things about a little I have the room in the kitchen to cook and bake.
It was my son’s birthday on Wednesday. He lives over 200 miles away. For those of you in the U.K you’ll understand it’s a bit of a drive – up to 4- 4 1/2 hours on a good day. For those of you in the U.S 209 miles probably sounds like something which you may drive regularly.
As we don’t get to see him on his birthday every year now, we travel down to the South to visit him. This year we’re going a day later than we’d usually travel as the dog kennel owner we use has been on her own holiday and doesn’t re-open until tomorrow (Saturday) morning.
Last year I baked a HUGE chocolate cake for him,
but this year when I asked him he said he didn’t want a birthday cake so I said I’d make some muffins or buns/cupcakes instead. He said some chocolate chip cakes would be nice so I thought I’d do choc chip muffins and also some lemon drizzle muffins, just for a change, as I don’t like tons of chocolate. As it was I forgot to pick up cocoa at the supermarket so he’s now got vanilla sponge with the choc chips instead of double choc. The recipes I used for both were new to me – my usual lemon drizzle cake is one from an old copy of Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book and it’s my cake bible! Over the years I’ve tweaked ingredients, increased, decreased, etc That book is still somewhere in a box so I looked up some recipes online and thought I’d do something new.
The recipe I decided on was Bakery Style Choc Chip Muffins. You can find the recipe here at Little Sweet Baker’s site. As I was doing these in smaller muffin cases I actually got 24 so the quantity is true to the recipe. The Lemon Muffin recipe I got over at thekitchn – recipe here. Despite using actual muffin cases I got 18 muffins from this recipe. It is likely I made a mistake when converting from American Cups to UK pounds and ounces, despite using a conversion table. ^^I’ve not yet tasted either muffin so cannot let you know how they turned out. The batter mix for both was tasty though so I’m hoping for a positive reaction from my son, his girlfriend and hubby. I’ll update when I can. I always use the juice of fresh lemon to mix with the icing sugar for the drizzle for the lemon cake/s. I first make a simple sugar syrup to pour over the top of the cake/s as soon as they come out of the oven. They look a bit wet and soggy to start with but as the cake/s cool it turns into a crispy, lemony and sugary topping. I then make the drizzle. I save some of the lemon zest I added to the cake batter to either mix in or place on top of the drizzle. It looks pretty as well as tasting mmm! For the choc chip muffins today I made up a thrown together icing to plop on the top! (Classy eh?!) I used a heaped tablespoon of nutella, 2 tablespoons milk and 6 tablespoons icing/powdered sugar. You may need to adjust the quantity of the sugar to get the icing to the right consistency. I then ‘plopped’ it on and used some shop bought triple chocolate curls to decorate. See the pictures below. They’re not my best work due to my current physical constraints – both my hips are being b*tches right now and I’d rather not be spending anytime on my pins, plus my fibro/arthritis is causing manual dexterity issues but this effort was worth it for my son. It takes me a lot longer than it used to do to make all this.
As we’re down South for 3 evening meals, we agreed between us that we’d provide one meal each and then we’re out for a birthday meal, which we’re doing on Sunday evening – it’s likely to be less busy. So, I offered to make a steak pie. This is a family and friends favourite. Mr NN threatens divorce anytime we’re in a supermarket and I approach the pie section in the chiller cabinets (for me it’s nice to sometimes eat different pie). I don’t have a written down recipe, it’s just something I make that turns out exactly the same every time (luckily). I use puff pastry as hubby prefers it to shortcrust (another reason I like to have other pies every now and again – variety being the spice of life and all that…!) I’ll share my ‘recipe’ here. This serves 4-6 people, depending how big a meal your family will eat. To give an idea a standard glass pie dish or a sandwich tin will make the perfect sized pie for 3-4. Today I used a flat, square pyrex – only because I think (rightly or wrongly) a square container will travel better than a round pie dish.
Nat’s Steak Pie
- 700g-750g Braising Steak or Stewing Steak (Chuck)
- 2 Beef Stock Cubes (I use OXO)
- 1 litre boiling water
- 1 large Brown onion
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 tsp Mixed Herbs
- 1 tbsp Tomato Puree
- 10 ml oil (I use light olive oil)
Slice or chop onion, put into a medium-sized pan with the bay leaves and fry gently in oil until the onions have softened. Add the meat and keep stirring until it’s all browned.
Crumble stock cubes into a 1 litre jug and add herbs and tomato puree. Stir it well and then add to the browned meat.
Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. The time is dependant on the quality of the beef you buy – the higher the quality the less time the meat needs to tenderise.
Leave to cool for about half an hour before making up your pie.
I use pre-bought puff pastry as it takes so long to make it at home, especially handy on days like today when I’m baking too or for busy Mum’s or people working. I used to use a well-known brand but recently the pastry has a sour smell and I’ve not enjoyed the taste so I’ve trialled supermarket own brand pastry. I like Tesco Puff Pastry in either the blocks or the ready-rolled but I do prefer Morrison’s – it is so much more tasty (sorry Tesco). You’ll need 1 small block or 1 ready rolled for a pie for 4 but you’ll need 2 for a pie for 6+
*Note – I do not add flour to my meat when browning in order to thicken the mix as by simmering this mix properly you’ll have a rich thick gravy without the need for it.
I hope if you try it and enjoy it that you’ll let me know. I know it’s a pretty basic recipe but it’s my go-to for family and friend get togethers as everyone loves it so much. You can add other ingredients if you like. I know some people still like **Steak and Kidney Pie or Pudding, or you can add chopped or sliced mushrooms – I’ve done this a few times (variety!) **If you’re going to use kidney then reduce the quantity of beef steak by the weight of the kidney you’re going to use. ^^Just had a taste of both muffins. They taste great!