Monday, 21 March 2011

Steak and Ale Pie

So I figure if I am going to live in this country for a few years, I should become familiar with foods and customs. We had such a delicious Pancake Day, I was excited to put my hand at the Steak and Ale pie for British Pie Week. The recipe came from the National Trust, so it was a fairly traditional and reliable source. How the British could not all have heart disease after eating a meal like this is beyond me. I am really glad we went to the gym BEFORE we ate the pie! The recipe starts with the filling. I found the recipe a bit unbalanced meat to veg, so I increased the amount of carrots and added some frozen peas to the mix as well.
Once the filling was finished, I started melting the LARD into the water to start the pastry. Once the lard melted, I added in the flour and then the EGG YOLKS... I had an enormous amount of pastry and ended up making the pie in a large casserole dish. The recipe says 4-6 people. I would say it is on the high side of that, unless it was the England Rugby Team coming for dinner, then maybe 1 pie per person!
In the end, it tasted very good. I might make a few minor changes in the future, but that was more my inexperience than flaws with the recipe. It fed us for 3 1/2 meals last week, a week we only made it to the gym once. Oh well, we will have plenty of time for the gym this week!

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Savory Pancake

While America celebrated pancake day 2 weeks ago, Fat Tuesday is pancake day here in the UK. It is also known as "Shrove Tuesday" and is thought of much in the same way that we think of Mardi Gras as a celebration and treat before the start of Lent. About 2 weeks before pancake day, my husband brought home his trusted Betty Crocker shake and mix pancake mix. When I say pancake here, I really mean crepe. I do not understand how some French words have stayed within the language where as others have not. He was not up for home made, he knew how these turned out and was quite happy with them. I figured, no problem, I haven't made crepes from scratch since French Club in high school, that gives me more time to concentrate on yummy fillings. As an American, I think of fruits and sweet things in a pancake. Not here, they are a savory dish. They may splurge with a little lemon juice and sugar for their sweet pancake. If I was going to make pancakes as a starter, main course, and desert, I had some research to do. At a bit of a loss, I trusted the Betty Crocker UK & Ireland facebook page for suggested fillings. They posted a recipe for "Mediterranean Pancakes" and I went with it. You spoon some pesto inside the pancake and then add your sauteed onion, peppers, and zucchini (courgette for all of my English followers, see what I mean about French words!). Fold the pancake in half and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Roast everything in the oven until the cheese melts. These became our starters. I filled pancakes as my husband masterfully flipped each one. 3 pancakes now assembled and in the oven. Mean time, we prepared the "Main Course" pancakes. My husband requested beef filling like a taco... Earlier that day I went to the butcher (yes, small village, we still have a butcher with local meat. They are just across the street from our house) and bought ground beef. I sauteed some garlic and onion, added the meat with some chili powder, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Once the meat was browned, I added some tomato sauce and Franks hot sauce. We put a few jalapeno peppers and some cheddar cheese on top, and voila, taco pancakes. We popped them in the oven to melt the cheddar cheese.
Finally, the pancakes I had been waiting for, dessert pancakes!!! We layered Nutella with fresh strawberries inside. We wrapped them up and added home made vanilla whipped cream on top of the pancakes. I will still say, this is my FAVORITE way to eat crepes. I was however, pleasantly surprised at how tasty the savory pancakes were. It is a good, thing that pancake day is only once a year (or twice if you celebrate the American and English days), I would need to go to the gym much more often to keep up with the calories otherwise!
Next up, the savory pie as it was also British Pie week in the UK last week. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Can anyone tell me how to get the spacing to stay in your blog from compose to publish? Each new paragraph is lost and it turns into a giant run on story. Thanks! The American Suburbanite in Rural England

"Character Property"

My husband and I live in a house that is 199 years old. Since moving into the house with him, I have wanted to put my "Stamp" on the house. We have been hesitant to do too much renovation as we know we want to move back to the States and will sell this house at some point in time. Sooner than later perhaps with the potential of his job moving him anywhere in the country with a weekends notice. Last week I decided enough was enough and it was time to change the 'purple room' to the 'Green room' The purple was quite dark and we would have to paint it neutral to sell anyway. I know, in many peoples minds green is not a neutral color, but it is the color of nature and blends in well to the view of the garden (yard, see previous posts). I can say, the green has lightened up the room tremendously and I am glad that I did it. However, it is a 'character propert' which is the salesmans term for a money pit. After prepping the walls and ceiling appropriately for painting with a quick cleaning, I started to apply 'magnolia emmulison' from top to bottom. I double checked with my husband that we were replacing the carpet and pulled that up as well. No I did not paint the floor, but it meant I did not have to worry about drips. One very sore shoulder and a load of paint later ceiling, walls, doors, window frame, skirting boards, the whole load had a nice cover of magnolia. The bright purple was hidden away aside from the drips left behind by the previous painer on the radiator. Very enthusiastically the next morning I opened the can of 'mellow sage' paint and put a rough coat on the walls. I attempted to do the edging free hand but remember, this is nearly a 200 year old house. The angle between the ceiling and the walls is neither sharp nor straight and my wobbly line only made it more obvious. Simple enough, I will mask off all the trim work and ceiling as they are sufficiently slathered in magnolia. Another day of painting, another sore shoulder at the end, but no pain no gain and the room was looking fab. I even taped off the trim in the door to paint a little green trim as there was a few drops of paint left in the can that would have only dried up and gone to waste. Again, the next morning, excitedly went into the room to get the tape down and look at my nice clean lines. My husband had the day off work so it should have been an easy day picking out flooring, go to the gym, nice meal afterwards... No stress right. Wrong! As we peeled away the masking tape, sheets of paint came down with it. Not only my magnolia paint, but the white paint and anything else under it. Bare plaster was exposed on the ceiling! As we took the tape off the door, whole sheets of magnolia and my neat line of green lifted away as well. We were a bit disheartened after the experience but we continued with our plans anyway. We went to 4 different stores looking to see if anyone carried the flooring we already had as we would only need one or two more boxes to finish the room. Ever the environmentalist I again tried to do it with materials we already had. No such luck. We did however find laminate flooring for £4 a box covering 2+ square meters per box. B&Q was discontinueing a number of laminate floors and we took all 6 boxes. Enough to cover our room, however not the exact color we wanted. So we raced to the B&Q store on the other side of town to see what they had. If they had more of the flooring we just purchased, we would have bought that for another room and looked for the darker flooring we had originally planned on for my little green room. We made it to the store 5 minutes before closing, great time to get in and check out the flooring. As you could expect the discontinued laminate we purchased in the other store was not here. They did however have flooring in a different color at a decent price as well. As we only drive a little Audi TT and it was already stuffed full, we would come back another day to purchase this flooring. I have scraped and sanded the ceiling and given it a fresh coat of paint, the door had to come off the hinges as sanding over my head or on a ladder was not working well. I guess it is ok, since the door was in the way for laying the floor anyway! I am trying to lay straight sheets of laminate flooring in a room that has no straight walls. I have made a few cuts and they have worked out pretty well so far. I'll let you know how the last row goes in! Until then, I am off to give my property some more 'character'!