Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ham, Leek, and Pasta Bake and an Award

This is just going to be a quickie post today as I have an award to give out. Hurray!

Many thanks to Cheryl over at:

Cheryl cooks up some fabulous recipes, as well as giving us weekly money saving tips, and allowing us an insight into the life of her pampered pooch, Martha Anne. If you’ve never visited her, I suggest you get your arse over there right away, if not sooner.

The rules for this award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 (like Cheryl, I am doing 5) blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Pause for a drum roll, the lucky winners are:

Beth at I have been following Beth’s blog since she first started blogging. She’s a lovely lass and a great cook.

Jan at Jan loves Greek food, but also likes to put a new spin on many classic British dishes.

Sara at: Sara creates some wonderful dishes, and her presentation always looks so professional.

Lynda at: I have only just discovered Lynda’s blog, and it turns out we live quite close by each other. She has only been blogging for a few months, but she already has lots of tasty treats on her site.

Jo at This isn’t a cooking blog, which is perhaps as well as Jo is on a diet at the moment. But her blog isn’t all about dieting, Jo is one busy lady, and is lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful areas of England, the Lake District.

Check them all out, you’ll be glad you did.

Okay dokey, without further ado, I’ll get on with the recipe. The picture doesn’t do this dish justice as it was really rather yummy, and a great way to use up leftover ham.

Ham, Leek, and Pasta Bake


8 ounces penne pasta
2 - 3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups of leftover ham, diced.
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon ground mustard
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
½ cup Italian style breadcrumbs

Note. Leeks have a bit of a gritty texture, but if you prepare them this way that won’t happen. Top and tail your leeks - just use the white and pale green flesh - then slice them down the middle length ways, but don't cut them right through, then rinse them under running water for a minute or two and they'll be great.

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°F
  • Add pasta to a large pot of boiling water, reduce heat to medium high, boil gently for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, back at the ranch, sorry I couldn't resist. Put stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to simmer and add the leeks. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes until leeks are tender. Drain and reserve stock in a jug.
  • Mix leeks and ham together in a 9 x 11 inch baking dish and season with fresh cracked pepper.
  • In same pan, melt butter over a medium heat. Remove pan from heat, stir in flour and mix to a smooth paste. Return pan to heat, and gradually add stock, stirring continuously. Add mustard, cream, and half the cheese, stir until thickened.
  • Add pasta to the sauce. Pour mixture over ham and leeks, top with remaining cheese, and the breadcrumbs, and bake for 30 – 40 minutes.

P.S. For those of you following the ongoing saga of my dental dilemma, on Wednesday, I progressed from the liquid diet onto a soft foods diet. Yay! Incidentally, my first meal was poached eggs, with soft bread and butter. I’ve never been so pleased to see a poached egg in my life. But it’s back to the dentist on Tuesday for yet more tooth grinding. (Sigh)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Apple Crumble with Custard Sauce

I made this pudding (dessert) a few weeks ago, but as I am only eating soups at the mo, I thought I’d post it now. As you have all probably realized by now, I eat very little sweet stuff, which is perhaps as well considering my present dental predicament, but apple crumble (I also love this made with rhubarb) is one of my favorite puds, surpassed only by jam roly poly. In England, both these puddings would be called "nursery food," as only children, and adults who have never grown up, enjoy them. :-)

I have included a recipe for custard sauce, which I have made before, but on this occasion I cheated and used a pack of Bird’s instant custard. The homemade stuff is much better, although I do like Bird’s custard powder, if I can get hold of it. You can also serve it with fresh cream or vanilla ice cream if you prefer.

Apple Crumble


3-4 apples, I used Granny Smith’s
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of ½ a lemon
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar, I used ½ a cup as I don’t like it too sweet
¾ cup butter, softened

  • Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  • Grease a 9 x 11-inch baking dish with butter. Peel, halve, core apples and cut into wedges. As each apple is cut up, layer in baking dish and sprinkle with a little lemon juice to prevent browning. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over apples, you can also add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon at this stage, if you like the stuff.
  • In a large bowl, mix together flour and sugar, then rub in butter using tips of fingers until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Add crumble mixture to dish, and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Custard Sauce


2 cups milk
3 eggs
3 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • In a medium bowl, mix cornstarch with a little water to form a smooth paste. Add eggs, 4 tablespoon of the milk, and whisk together until smooth.
  • Put remaining milk in a medium saucepan and heat to just below boiling point. Pour hot milk into bowl with egg, cornstarch, milk mixture, and whisk together.
  • Return custard to pan and heat gently over a medium low heat, whisking constantly until thickened. Stir in vanilla extract.

Serve hot over apple crumble.

Look what my Sweetie Pie got me for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dental Dilemma

Well folks, it’s been fun and games around here these past few weeks. To say I’ve been having a few problems with my teeth would be putting it mildly. Although it’s not so much the teeth that are the problem as the gums. Apparently, when you get to my age it’s not tooth decay you need to worry about, but rotting gums.

It’s my own fault, since moving to the US I’ve been very erratic about dental visits, back in England, I used to go religiously every six months. But here it’s just so bloody expensive, even when you have insurance. Hell, you need to re-mortgage the house just to get your teeth cleaned. Mind you, sad to say, I hear things have gone much the same way in England. What’s the National health Service coming to, I wonder?

Anyway, when I began experiencing some discomfort in an area of my gums, I thought, uh oh this feels expensive. But I did go and get it checked out – even though I did have to wait five weeks for an appointment. They took a whole bunch of x-rays, and scared me to death by telling me I definitely had something going on back there, but they didn’t know what. Of course, in my mind it had to be cancer of the jaw, at the very least. They also said I had lost quite a bit of bone around my teeth, so they were referring me to a periodontist. Needless to say, the nearest one was 50 miles away in Joplin, Missouri. (Sigh!)

To cut a long story short, it turns out my bite was out of line and needed correcting, and I had gum disease which was causing the bone loss. This resulted in spending four (yes, 4 hours!) in the chair on Tuesday, having my teeth sandblasted, sorry, deep cleaned and ground back into place. By the time I staggered from the office, my jaw felt like I had gone ten rounds with Mohammed Ali.

But it gets worse, she put all this packing around my gums, and put me on a liquid diet for a week, and soft foods for a week after that. "What about my blog?" I wailed, "my readers don’t want to look at a can of Ensure." It was to no avail, so I told Mick to get extra wine in, and resigned myself to my predicament. ;-)

Fortunately for me I have lots of tomato and basil soup in the freezer, thanks to Cheryl’s lovely recipe, and you can find more yummies here It’s also a good thing that it’s winter, and I can still make soups, and pop them in the blender.

But if any of you have any recipes that require zero chewing for this week, and little chewing for next week, I’d be much obliged if you’d pass them along.

I’ll be back later with something I prepared earlier, in those halcyon P.D. – Pre-dentist days.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cheese Board and Onion Tart

This was another recipe from good old Auntie Beeb. It’s supposed to be a way to use up left over cheeses from the festive season, but I ask you, who ever has any left over cheese? I know we don’t. And while we’re on the subject of cheese, I must tell you about some delicious English cheese I got from Sam’s Club, in Joplin, Missouri. It was Wensleydale cheese, layered with Stilton, and what a fantastic combination it was. I have to say, this was the best cheese I’ve tasted since the last time I went back to England.

Anyway, on with the recipe. I have dispensed with the pastry making instructions, because as you all know, pastry and me don’t get along, but by all means make your own if you’re that way inclined.

I also made a few other changes, I thought two eggs was a bit on the stingey side, so I used four. I also chucked in a few chives for good measure. The recipe also called for the pastry to be cooked before adding the eggs, but whenever I make quiche I just bung everything in the pie, and stick it in the oven, so that’s what I did here. The oven temp also seemed a bit low at 320F, so I upped it to 375F, the edges of the crust did get a bit well done, but what the hell, it still tasted great. Hubby said he’d let me make this again. He’s just too kind. :-)

Cheese Board and Onion Tart


1 Pillsbury dough pie crust
2 onions, sliced into rings
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces each, Stilton, Brie, Sharp Cheddar
Black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chives, chopped

  • Roll out crust and place in a pie dish, trim any excess pastry from edges.
  • Pre-heat oven to 375F
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over a medium heat, add onions and cook until golden, approx. 10 minutes.
  • In a large bowl beat eggs and cream, season with black pepper, and stir in the chives.
  • Chop the soft cheeses into small pieces, and shred the cheddar.
  • Scatter the cheeses in the pastry case, top with the onions, and pour in the egg mix. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until set and golden brown.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.