Monday, February 16, 2009

Venison Pie & Sauteed Potatoes

Our house is in order, but truthfully only because we had visitors at the weekend. I'm amazed how a cold can throw out a whole routine and create chaos. It took me ages to clean the house on Saturday purely because I haven't been keeping on top of it when I was ill. And even though all is back in order, I feel guilty to preach bout housework when I've not been doing that much practicing. So while I get my 'housework mind' back in order, I thought I'd share with you a lovely recipe from the weekend.

Mr L and I decided to stay put for Valentines evening (partly because the rugby was on - clearly a woman was not involved in the decision behind having the 6 nations rugby on Valentines day). We decided to cook for each other - I made a venison pie with sauteed potatoes on the side, and Mr L made us some chocolate souffles for desert, it was his first desert ever! Unfortunately it was so good that we ate it before I managed to take a photo. But the Venison pie was also a treat - warm and comforting the way only a pie can be. So here is the recipe for you to try too.

Venison Pie
I didn't have enough meat for the original recipe, so I had to improvise with some veg, and actually it turned out wonderful!

Serves 3 - 4 people
300- 500g Venison cut into 1 inch cubes
Pinch of Nutmeg
Pinch of All spice
Salt and Pepper
80 ml red wine
40 ml red wine vinegar
150ml venison or beef stock (or more depending if it is enough to cover all the meat and veg)
1 onion peeled
2 medium carrots roughly chopped
1 leek sliced
Half a teaspoon chopped Parsley
1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly
Puff pastry - enough to cover your pie dish & decorate

1 egg beaten for brushing the pastry top.

  • Wash and clean the meat, remove any fat and gristle, and tenderise with a mallet or rolling pin
  • Mix the flour with the nutmeg, salt & pepper. Pat the meat in the flour until all pieces are covered.
  • Pour the wine, vinegar and enough stock to cover the meat into a pan. Add the meat, bring to the boil and simmer gently for one hour.
  • Remove from the heat, add the onion, carrots, leek and parsley (and extra stock if needed) to the broth and return to the heat to simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  • Remove from the heat again, and allow to cool. Skim off any excess fat and scoop the broth into the pie dish. Add the redcurrant jelly on top, or mix it in.
  • Roll out the pastry so that it will be big enough cover the pie dish, as well as have extra sides to make decorations with. Don't forget to put your pie bird in now if you have one.
  • Brush a bit of water on the rim of the pie dish, then cover the dish with the pastry, pinching the sides and trimming the excess.
  • Make a whole in the centre allowing for steam to escape, and decorate your pie, finishing it by brushing the top with beaten egg.
  • Place in the oven and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 20-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

Sauteed Potatoes

These are easier to make than deep fried chips, a tad oily, but just lovely!

100g-150g waxy potatoes per person
1 tablespoon of olive oil
15g unsalted butter

Chopped or dried Rosemary

  • Peel and cut the potatoes into cubes. Place in slightly salted water and bring to the boil.
  • Simmer for 3 - 4 minutes.

  • Drain the water away in a colander, then heat up the oil in a non-stick frying pan.
  • Next is to fry the potatoes in batches. Place some of the potatoes (they should all be touching the surface of the pan) and some rosemary into the pan, only turning them once they are brown underneath until they are all golden and browned on all sides.

  • Turn the done potatoes onto a cloth or some kitchen paper to absorb some of the oil, and keep them warm in a low oven. Continue frying the rest of the potatoes as before.

And there you have it - a lovely wintry meal! Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Workable Kitchen

I'm back after the nasty cold got me down for a week. So I do apologise for not stopping by your blogs very often! I am feeling much better now, and I'm almost back to my cooking routine. Which brings me to the kitchen.

Kitchen's are often described as the heart of the home, and a nice sized kitchen is something most of us aspire to when looking for a new home. I am very much a 'visual person', so I like nothing more than a 'pretty' kitchen. But getting more into cooking I have realised how important it is that a kitchen functions well.

Style in a kitchen in a kitchen is great, and can actually become part of how the kitchen functions. The great thing about a rustic looking kitchen is you can have everything to hand on open shelves and racks. But even minimalist kitchens work really well if all the equipment is well organised. In some regards, I think minimalist kitchens work well too because there's a distinct lack of unnecessary items. But the basics of any kitchen should be a space in which you can move around systematically. I'd like to share some tips that I have picked up along the way (one of my favourite sources being my Jamie Oliver cookbooks) and some photos of how we got our small and modest kitchen to work hard for us.

Most of us are stuck with the kitchen layouts we inherit from the previous home owners, but if ever you are lucky enough to start from scratch, remember the 'work triangle' system. It's not an absolute must, but basically it boils down to the most used items (IE cooker, fridge and sink) should be grouped together so that you can easily move from one area to the next. Examples of how this works are shown below.

The majority of us do not have enough cupboard space in a kitchen. But think logically, and put things you don't use often higher up out of the way and those that you do use often, put them closest to the area you use them in. You're only making things hard for yourself if you have the cups and mugs stacked in a cupboard on the opposite side to where the kettle is.

If you have a small kitchen, or just too many kitchen utensils, here are some space saving techniques:
  • Buy stack able mugs and glasses. We have only one narrow shelf for glasses, but because they are stack able IKEA ones, space isn't an issue.

  • Use a turntable in an awkwardly shaped or deep cupboard
  • Do the Jamie thing of using a pan rack (or laundry rack) on your kitchen ceiling to hang your pots and pans from.
  • Store equipment that you don't use often (blenders etc) out of the way.
  • Make use of wall space for utensils, spice racks and recipe book storage. Most recipe books are beautiful and deserve to be on display.
I'll share with you what makes our kitchen work, I always enjoy seeing what others do with their kitchen spaces, and I hope you find something new here too.

This is our kitchen when we first moved into our house.

And this is it now... as you can see, we are not minimalists (probably because I have a hoarding habit).

Our kitchen is not big, but we have made the most of the space with the following:
As you can see, we replaced low wall cupboards with ones that reach all the way to the ceiling for more storage space (and it means I don't have to dust the top of the cupboards!).
We added extra shelves alongside the window for displaying and using. We installed a shelf above the cooker from which to hang pans we use regularly, and a wall rail for utensils. All of this has made cooking such a joy!

A few other things I can't go without in my kitchen...

Plates stacked in the corner cupboard near the cooker & toaster. Essential that they are close to the action.

My coffee, tea and sugar tins (they are from a Laura Ashley sale).
These little pots are from those ready-made deserts that we have bought from the supermarket over the years (a bit naughty having so many!). They are so useful for cracking eggs in, mixing spices or herb, and a quick melt of butter in the microwave. They are the things I use most often.
Below you can see my little shelves. They are now in what was once a hatch that went through to the lounge. Instead of closing it up, Mr L put up a little shelf for me. This houses my other favourite items... my sugar shakers. These beautiful glass shakers are from Debbie English Treasures' shop. They are SO handy, and I was lucky enough that Debbie sent me an EXTRA one in our kitchen swap. I have one for icing sugar, one for flour (as you can see I dust flour directly onto my work surface for rolling out dough), and the other one I am going to use for cocoa powder (great for sprinkling on hot chocolates), and my new fourth one is going to be a cinnamon-sugar one for pancakes! I keep them covered with a round piece of cellophane and an elastic band.

Another idea that I came up with after seeing it in an expensive kitchen catalogue, was for Mr L to make us an organiser for our knife drawer. It use to drive me bonkers that the knives were sliding all over the place in the drawer and you could never see the actual knife you wanted. Mr L used 2 pieces of wood cut to sit inside the drawer on a thin piece of board, and made slits to fit the knives in. Oh, and a bit of leftover wallpaper for the base. Perfect!

Lastly, I love Jamie's idea that you draw an aerial view of your kitchen and where the main things are that you use (spices, plates, fridge etc). You then imagine yourself cooking a meal... now draw the route you would take to and from areas to cook the meal. If there are many lines all over the place, you'll be exhausted by the time your meal is cooked, and you should look into re-organising things. I hope this has inspired you.

How do you use your kitchen? Have you got anything you can't do without? And have you got any more ideas for us all to streamline our kitchens?

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A swap, some snow and a nasty cold...

Good morning,
This is just going to be a quick post because I'm sick in bed this morning with a really nasty cold and I feel as though my throat is on fire. But I also know that if I don't do this now, the Lemsip medication will wear off and I might not have time to post until the weekend again.

We've not had as much snow here in Oxfordshire as the lucky Londoners, but we did have a nice dusting covering the village where we live. It was a bit scary driving!

Banjo enjoyed the snow, and even ate a little snowman that next door made. We thought he was just sniffing the little snowman, but before we knew it he was eating it like an ice cream. Naughty Banjo!

My cold started comming along yesterday, but then I also got a lovely surprise yesterday. Debbie and I decided to do a little kitchen swap. As anyone who has done a swap, or bought anything from Debbie's lovely shop knows, she wraps everything beautifully with ribbons and beautiful handmade tags. I didn't get a chance to take photos of the gifts before they were opened because I was too nosey!
But here you can see the beautiful tags that Debbie makes.

This is what I got for my kitchen...

A Cake Decorating book, perfect for those special occasions!

A beautiful red mug with some hand creams tucked inside, yum, they smell nice!

A gorgeous tin with a cute baking ornament on top! So lovely.

A glass sugar/flour shaker (oops, I didn't add it to my photo because I've already added it to the rest of my collection of shakers, which I love!!!!).
The most beautiful 'tea for me' teapot cup and saucer... I LOVE teapots! And this one is soooo pretty.

And my favourite has to be the beautiful cross-stitch cupcake picture which I assume Debbie made (she is talented that Debbie). It's just so sweet, and even has some lavender tucked inside the frame.

How lucky am I?

Thanks you so much Debbie! It's even made my cold feel better. I promise to take a picture of my glass sugar shaker collection soon and post it on here! I really love my new vintage treasures!

I hope you are all well! I'm off to bed now.

A note on perfection

Many of the posts featured on this blog are about doing household chores the correct, or so to say perfect way. My intention is not to make readers feel that the way they are running their households are wrong. So if making the bed, or ironing shirts in a certain way doesn't fit your lifestyle, do not feel guilty about it. But by learning the correct way of doing things it might just come in handy for those times when special guests are staying, or when you need to iron that shirt perfectly for a job interview. So enjoy the learning, but skip the guilt and LOVE your homes. x

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