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Cranberry, Pecan & White Chocolate Flapjacks

Sorry for the background in these photos today.  I was fighting with waning light.  We have had one of those days.  We set off for the grocery shop fairly early, only to discover that there were roadworks on one of the major roundabouts to get to where we wanted to go.  Roadworks in the UK mean one thing  . . . a huge  traffic nightmare.

As a result a trip which should not have taken very long took twice as long and so I was very late getting these into the oven and back out again!  I had to take my photos quickly before it was too late.  I didn't have time to set up a plainer background.

Don't let that put you off of making these delicious flapjacks however!  They are easy to make and fabulously tasty!  In North America a flapjack is a pancake, over here it is a scrumptious buttery and sweet oaty slice/bake!

This one is filled with lovely toasted pecans, white chocolate bits, and dried cranberries . . .  aside from the usual things that is . . .

porridge oats (not quick oats not old fashioned), dessicated coconut . . .  an a scrummy mix of melted butter, brown sugar, and  . . . *gulp*  . . . moreish golden syrup.  Oh boy, but these are incredibly tasty.

Melted white chocolate is drizzled on top  . . .  I say that rather loosely, because I have NEVER been able to drizzle white melted chocolate.  If I don't manage to burn it first, I end up dobbing it on.  That's the best I have ever been able to manage.

Dobbing it . . .  and in as decorative a manner that I can.  Any tips to share anyone?  Anything that actually works will be great!  I have tried everything. Even mixing in a bit of shortening doesn't work for me.

Nevermind . . .  they taste great even if they aren't as pretty as they could be with beautifully drizzled chocolate. 

*Cranberry, Pecan and White Chocolate Flap Jacks*
Makes 12

Sweet and scrummy.  Just perfect for those times when you want a little something to give you some extra energy. 

140g butter, plus extra for greasing (1/2 cup plus 2 TBS)
200g of porridge oats (2 cups)
25g of dessicated coconut (1/4 cup)
50g light muscovado sugar ( 1/4 cup packed)
5 TBS golden syrup
170g toasted pecans, broken into chunks with your hands (1 1/4 cups)
60g dried cranberries (scant 1/2 cup)
100g bar of white chocolate (about 3 1/2 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a 7 by 11 inch baking tin and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Set aside. 

Melt the butter together with the sugar and golden syrup, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Set aside to cool.

Stir together the oats, coconut, pecans and cranberries.  Pour the cooled butter mixture over top.  Stir to combine well.  Break up 2/3 of the chocolate into bits and stir into the mix.  Press into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and mark into squares while still warm.  Allow to cool completely, then cut all the way through.  Melt the remaining white chocolate and drizzle it over top of the bars. (HAH!) Store in an airtight container.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of flapjacks when I first moved over here.  I are not like granola bars . . .  or even like cake bars . . . but they are very delicious no matter.  Crisp edged, buttery and chewy middled.  They always go down a real treat! One bite and you will be in flap jack heaven. Buttery, sweet, nutty and oh-so-very hard to leave alone. Resistance IS futile. Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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Breakfast Stollen Slice

One of the things I really enjoy during the holiday season is Stollen.  I adore marzipan and dried fruits, and a bread which combines the two of them is somewhat of a delight, that is more often than not done really badly.  More's the pity.

This delightful bake I am showing you today is a rif on the flavours and best bits of a traditional stollen without all of the faffing about of the original.

This is quick, simple and delicious! 

It begins with a scone type of dough, made with butter and buttermilk, that you pat out to a rectangle.  A mix of brandy/rum soaked dried fruits and nuts gets sprinkled over top of that . . .

This gets rolled around a long "sausage" of marzipan, almost like a cinnamon roll.  I use the golden marzipan because I like it.  You can use ready-made or homemade. Its your choice.

Once you have the roll,  you simply cut it into twelve even slices  . . .


Place the rounds on a baking paper lined baking tray . . .  slighly overlapping in a circle shape . . .

And bake until it is nicely puffed and golden brown! 

A simple glaze of warm sieved apricot jam and brandy/rum is brushed over the warm loaf which makes it glisten and shine  . . . like a fruit and almond filled jewel!

I also like to pretty it up with a dusting of icing sugar for serving.  You separate the rounds and serve to your most appreciative family and friends.  This is a delight to wake up to on Christmas morning!

*Breakfast Stollen Slice*
Makes 12 slices
A delicious adaptation of the ever popular Christmas Stollen bread. This is a lot easier, and very, very nice.  Perfect for a holiday brunch or breakfast! 

For the dough:
280ml  of buttermilk (2 1/4 cups)
420g plain flour (3 cups)
1 TBS caster sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
120g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits (1/2 cup) 

For the filling:
25g mixed candied peel (1/4 cup)
50g pistachio nuts, chopped (1/3 cup)
50g dried cranberries (1/3 cup)
50g raisins (1/3 cup)
1 TBS brandy or rum
225g marzipan (store bought or homemade) (1/2 pound) 

To glaze:
2 TBS apricot jam
1 TBS brandy or rum
Icing sugar to dust (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Line a large baking sheet with grease proof baking paper.  Set aside. 

To make the filling, combine all of the dried fruits and pistachios in a bowl with the brandy and then set aside. 

To make the dough, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt together in a large bowl.  Drop in the butter.   Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, or two round bladed knives, until the mixture resembles very coarse meal.  Some bits can be pea sized.   You don't want the butter to be too finely but in.   The larger bits are what help make these so flaky. 

Make a well in the middle of the dry/fat mixture.  Add the buttermilk all at once.  Stir together with a fork, just to combine.   Tip out onto a lightly floured board.  Knead a couple of times to help bring the dough together and then lightly pat it out about to a large rectangle about 1/2 inch in thickness.  Spread the fruit mixture over the dough to within about 1/2-inch of the edge.   

Take your marzipan and shake it into a long sausage, the length of the longest edge of the rectangle of dough. Lay this sausage down along the pastry's length about 1 inch in from the edge.  Begin from that edge and roll the dough up around the marzipan and continue until you have a long, fairly tight sausage of dough.  Trim off the ends.  Cut the sausage into 12 equal slices.   

Lay the slices in a ring on the prepared baking sheet, slightly overlapping the slices.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until well risen with a nicely golden brown crust.   

While the rolls are baking heat the apricot jam and brandy in a small pan, letting it bubble up a bit for about a minute. Push through a seive.  Brush this glaze while the rolls are still warm. Dust lightly with icing sugar, if using. Cut or break the rolls apart to serve.  Best served on the day.

These sweet slices are so delicious and would make a fabulous Christmas morning goodie to enjoy with a hot drink. If you wanted to you could do all the prep of the filling the night before and mix together all the dry ingredients for the dough, only adding the wet first thing in the morning and proceeding. They go together really quickly after that!  Happy Holidays! 

Marie Rayner
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Steak & Stilton Hot Pot

We don't eat a lot of red meat in our home, but we do enjoy it once in a while.  I tend to gravitate more to the cheaper cuts, and I do this for several reasons. One is price (no surprise there) and the other is that they tend to come from the parts of the animal that have gotten the most use and which have developed the most favour!  And if you know me, you will know I am all about flavour!

Red meat tends to be a bit on the expensive side over here and I think it has probably always been so.  I can remember when I lived in Suffield, Alberta, which was a British Army Training Unit Services base.   We were friends with quite a few Brits and were invited to a home for a dinner party one night.  They loved to entertain, and were quite entertaining people! We loved them to bits!

On this particular occasion the hostess served some lovely trout as a first course, and then she cooked a whole round steak for each person.  Apparently meat was very cheap in comparison to the UK and she wanted to treat everyone to a nice piece of meat.  The servings were huge to say the least and tougher than blazes!  Round steak begs to be simmered long and slow and is what they would call braising steak over here in the UK!

This hot pot here today is gorgeous . . .  with a tender beef filling made with flavourful braising steak, braised with mushrooms and shallots until it is meltingly tender . . .

A goodly bit of stilton cheese gets stirred into the juices and then it gets spooned into either individual casseroles or one large one and then covered with a thatch of mashed potatoes prior to baking until it is golden brown and bubbly. 

*Steak & Stilton Hot Pot*
Serves 6
Tender delicious stewed beef beneath a thatch of potato.  This is a real family pleaser. Plan ahead as you need to marinate the meat overnight. 

For the mash:
1 1/4 pound of mashing potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 TBS butter
60ml whole milk, warmed (1/4 cup)
salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg 

For the steak filling:
1 KG stewing steak (2.2 pounds)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
400ml of pale ale  (1 3/4 cup)
2 TBS plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS butter
100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced (1 1/2 cups)
8 shallots, peeled and sliced
500ml beef stock (2 1/4 cups)
75g crumbled stilton (2/3 cup)
You will also need a few TBS of grated cheese to top the potatoes (optional)  

Cut the beef into cubes and place into a non-reactive bowl along with the garlic, thyme leaves, and black pepper. Pour the ale over top and toss to mix. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator over night to marinate.

The next day remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry.  Dredge with the seasoned flour.  Strain the marinade and reserve.

Heat the oil and butter in a large flameproof casserole.  Brown the beef in batches, removing it with a slotted spoon to a bowl, as it browns.  Repeat until all the beef has browned.  Add the shalots and mushrooms to the pan and  saute for 5 minutes or so until beginning to soften. Return the beef to the pan along with the reserved marinade and the stock.  Bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

About 45 minutes before the meat is done make the mash for the topping. Place the potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water to cover.  Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until tender.  Drain and mash well.  Stir in the butter and warm milk.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. 

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F gas mark 5.   

Divide the meat between six individual casserole dishes, or place into one large shallow casserole dish.  Strain off and discard half of the liquid in the pan.  Crumble the stilton into the remaining pan juices and then divide them equally amongst the casserole dishe(s), spooning  them over the meat.  

Pipe the mashed potato on top decoratively or spread it over top and rough with the tines of a fork.  If you are doing individual casseroles, place them on a baking tray.  Pop into the preheated oven in any case and bake for 35 minutes until the potatoes are starting to turn golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Sprinkle a few TBS of cheese over top if desired and return to the oven to melt.

Let stand a few minutes before serving.

I served this with some steamed broccoli and sweet corn, but a salad would also go very nice!  I don't mind me saying this is supremely delicious.  Note, the stilton I used was not blue stilton, but regular stilton!  Bon appetit!

Marie Rayner
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Ham, Leek & Potato Gratin

This is a really simple and yet  delicious bake which makes great use of any leftover ham and potatoes you might have that you want to use up. I don't always have leftover ham, and in that case I simply buy some slice ham, or a chunk of ham that I will shred and use in its place

I always have leftover potatoes however. They are a favourite vegetable in this house and so when I am cooking them, I will usually cook extra as they come in very handy for dishes like this, or simply for fried potatoes.

If you can make a cream sauce (or bechamel) or cheese sauce, then you can make this sauce.  It is made from sliced leek and some garlic . . . cooked until meltingly soft in some butter  . . .

A bit of flour gets mixed into them to make a roux, and then you simply wisk in warm milk . . . and keep whisking until you get a smooth velvety thick sauce.

I add a bit of mustard for flavour and some seasonings.  You don't need a lot of salt really as ham can be fairly salty, but you will want a bit to counter act the blandness of the potatoes . . .

You layer the shredded ham in the casserole dish and top with sliced cooked potato.  Simple . . .

The sauce gets poured over the whole top.  I like to use a fork to gently lift the potatoes here and there, which enables some of the sauce to leak down into the bottom. You don't have to do this, some will make its way down there anyways,  but I always do

Finally you scatter some buttered bread crumbs on top, not a lot, just one slice.  You can remove the crusts or not as you wish.

A smattering of cheese gets sprinkled on top of them . . . I like a combination of strong cheddar and gruyere (Swiss).  Its a great combination.  After that you bake in the oven until the sauce is bubbling up and the whole thing is golden brown and a bit crispy on top.  Comfort food indeed.

*Ham, Leek and Potato Gratin*
Serves 4
A tasty gratin that makes great use of leftover baked ham, boiled ham, or cooked ham hocks..  Its delicious! 

340g cooked ham, shredded (Can use leftover roast ham,
boiled ham, cooked ham hocks, etc.) (2 cups)
4 large potatoes, boiled until tender, cooled, peeled and then sliced
1 large leek, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced
1 small clove, garlic peeled and minced
2 TBS plain flour
480ml whole milk (2 cups), gently heated
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and black pepper to taste
1 slice of buttered bread made into crumbs
4 TBS grated cheese (I like a mix of cheddar and gruyere)

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the leek and cook, stirring frequently over medium heat, until totally softened.  Whisk in the flour to make a roux.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk, whisking contantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens.  Whisk in the mustard and cook for a few minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, remembering that the ham will be salty. 

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Butter a shallow gratin dish.  Spread the ham out in the bottom of the dish. Top with the sliced potatoes and pour the  sauce over the potatoes, Take a fork and kind of lift the potatoes a bit here and there to let the sauce run down into the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle with the buttered bread crumbs and the cheese. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.  Serve hot. 

This is a great way of using up any leftover bits of ham you might have after the holidays, and truth be told I sometimes buy a small chunks of ham just to make it.  I like to serve it with steamed green beans and a salad on the side, and for Todd some crusty bread. It always goes down a real treat!  Bon Appetit! 

Marie Rayner
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The Heart and Soul of My English Kitchen!

Can you see it in this picture?  This was me, a budding writer, on Easter Sunday, back in 1960.  I was wearing my Sunday best and holding the little white bible my father had given me,as I stood outside of my Grandparent's home in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia.  I think I was a somewhat peculiar child in a lot of ways.  I loved books, and reading.  I loved food and recipes, and I could be found most days creating mud pies or grass and weed salads  sat on the laundry stoop in our back yard.

As a child I dreamt of visiting faraway places, cooking for the Queen, marrying one of the Beatles and becoming a writer and writing a book.  I even remember borrowing a friend's typewriter, much like this one, and penning a few stories on it before tiring of the laborious, one letter at a time, procedure. 

As an adult I have travelled to faraway places, married an Englishman, worked as a personal Chef in a Manor house, gotten to stand in the Cavern in Liverpool where the Beatles got their start, and I have been penning my writings to my loyal readers on not one, but two,  daily blogs . . .  in one form or another over the past 13 years or so.  

I have written many self published cookbooklets and even a full self-published book (Recipes From the Big Blue Binder) over the years but the opportunity to write an officially published book eluded me until last year when the publishing company Passageway Press contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in writing a Cookery Book for them.  They did not have to ask me twice . . . another of my childhood dreams coming true.

A year later and many hours of work on both my part and
the part of my Editor and his team, this is the result!

I proudly present!

 Writing this book has been a real labor of love for me. It is the culmination of all of my years experience as a capable home cook, and as a professional chef, and is based around my love for the UK and all that it has to offer you in the way of good food and tradition.   I have a deep love for my adopted home, its people and its cuisine.  There are over 500 recipes in the book, taking you from breakfast to spur of the moment  midnight snacks! 

There are bakes and cakes, and soups and grills and a few surprises as well.  I have celebrated some of our more popular holidays with some tasty offerings, and honored the great British takeaway as well as firm favourites gleaned from a childhood of drooling over feastworthy Enid Blytonesque treats! 

I also share a compendium of my years of knowledge and experience in both my home kitchen and and as a working Chef, and I embroidered all of it with a huge chunk of my anglo-loving heart.  I like to think that it reads like a good friend sitting down with you, and sharing a nice hot cuppa  across te table along with a good recipe, or two or three! 

It is available now via Amazon world wide in both the hard copy and kindle versions.  For links please see my upper side bar.

Here are the links to some of the reviews on the book if you care to take a look at them:

"I received my book yesterday and I am so impressed!! There are pages upon pages of beautifully illustrated recipes with easy to find ingredients and easy to follow instructions. I know Marie's recipes and they are always a winner. It is clear she has put her heart and her multiple talents into this book. I look forward to purchasing more of these beautiful books to give as Christmas gifts this year! Well Done, Marie!!"  ~Bev

Also, if you buy the book and would like a signed book plate, I am happy to send you one.  Just message me your mailing address! Many thanks for reading!  I promise not to talk about it again! 
 Many thanks to Glyn and the people at Passageway Press for affording me this wonderful opportunity!
Marie Rayner
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Custard Filled Corn Bread

I have a long standing love affair with corn bread of any kind.  As a bread, as a muffin, as a cake, as stuffing  . . .  corn bread and I have had a very long relationship with each other.  This particular recipe I am sharing with you today is one of my long time favourites!


It is a basic corn bread batter, filled with sour milk (for moistness), butter, some corn for added texture, and of course the usual flour, cornmeal, etc. But it goes beyond that because, it also has all of the appeal of a corn pudding!

You generously butter the baking tin and pop it into the oven while you stir together the bread batter.  Take the hot pan out, pour in the batter, and then you pour a whole cup of delicious heavy cream right into the middle of it . . . no mixing, no stirring . . .  just leave it be . . .  a puddle of cream in the middle.

I'm not sure how it works or why it works, but . . .  that cream somehow forms a delicious rich custard layer in the bread  as it bakes . . . .

This has to be my favourite of all the cornbreads I make and it makes a beautiful holiday breakfast when you serve it warm, cut into squares with Maple syrup for pouring over the top.

You get the crunch of the cornmeal . . . the moist cake batter, the chewiness of the corn niblets and that rich custard . . .  and then the smoky sweetness of the maple syrup gilding that most delicious lily.

It reminds me of one time when we were driving through Vermont, and we were up very close to the Quebec border.  We were starving because we had been out and about very early that  morning and so we stopped at a little cafe near the road . . .  there was a lake across the road . . .

We had beautiful crisp edged pancakes . . .  with a slight crunch of cornmeal in the batter  . . .  with lots of butter and warm Vermont Maple Syrup.  They were so delicious. So much so that I still think about them today.

Nothing has ever quite come close to that memory, but then taste memories are like that aren't they?  We look at them through the rose coloured glasses of bygone days and romanticise them a bit I think.

Everytime I make this I think about those pancakes . . . . so this must be tweaking my Vermont Pancake tastebuds in a good way.  In any case, this is very, very, VERY good!!

*Custard Filled Cornbread*
Makes 1 8-inch square pan

This is the most delicious and moist cornbread you will ever eat.  It goes wonderfully with stews and soups, and to be perfectly honest . . . a piece of this all warm and covered with Maple Syrup is a wonderful, wonderful breakfast . . . one bite and you will be totally smitten.  I kid you not. 

2 large free range eggs
3 TBS sweet butter, melted
(plus extra to butter the pan)
3 TBS sugar
3/4 tsp salt
480ml whole milk (2 cups)
1 1/2 TBS white vinegar
140g plain flour (1 cup)
130g yellow cornmeal, or polenta (3/4 cup)
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
 225g tinned sweet corn, well drained (about 1 cup)
 240ml  heavy cream (double cream) (1 cup) 

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. gas mark 4.  Butter an 8 inch square pan really well with some butter, and then put the pan into the oven to get it hot while you mix up the batter. 

Beat the eggs together in a mixing bowl.  Beat in the butter and the sugar until well blended.  Stir in the milk, salt and vinegar.  Beat well. 

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda.  Mix well.  Pour this mixture all at once onto the wet mixture.  Mix together just until the batter is uniformly moist, fairly smooth with no lumps.   Stir in the corn kernels.  Pour into the hot dish.  Immediately pour the cream right into the middle of the dish.  Don't stir it at all.  Just pour it in and leave it. 

Bake in the heated oven for 50 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.  Serve warm. 

   Mmmm . . .  this is so very good.  I hope you will try it at some point in the coming months.  I think you'll agree with me!  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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