Mary’s Casseroled Breasts

I just love the name of this dish. The first of many of Mary’s recipes copied in to Granny’s recipe book that I decided to try. It’s such a grey rainy day that I thought this would be a good comfort food recipe to post today, with the combination of a creamy chicken sauce and pimento red peppers really appealing to me just now.

 The recipe starts with the poaching of the chicken breasts. A method that’s not so popular today – every recipe I normally go to focuses on frying, grilling or roasting chicken – so I was eager to find out how the chicken would taste! As well as being very healthy, without the use of oil or fat in the base of the pan, the heat from the poaching liquid carries the heat in to the meat and sets the stage for a very tender cooking process – it’s gradual and gentle and draws liquid in to the meat, rather than away from it.

The recipe is also interesting as it uses egg yolks, rather than the more common corn flour or plain white flour to thicken the poaching liquid and cream in to a sauce. I’m not sure of the science, but I felt as though the use of the egg yolks added glossiness to the sauce that would be typically flattened or dulled with the use of a flour thickener.

I found the tarragon flavour a bit overwhelming and also preferred the taste of the fresh tarragon, which added some nice colour to the sauce too. I have adapted the recipe to reduce the amount. Start with a little and you can always add more.

I wasn’t quite sure just how this would turn out but was really surprised at just how soft the chicken once and just how warming and cosy the dish was. Plus, just one pan to wash up afterwards!

Granny would eat this casserole with rice and a green salad, but it would be equally as good with a jacket potato or some mashed potato. In the process of testing the recipe I also turned some of the casserole in to a pie filling – just halve the volumes of liquid and be extra sure to thicken the sauce well.  

 

My tummy is actually grumbling writing this and I’m wishing I had the ingredients to make it again for dinner tonight …I’m off to the fridge to see what I can find to satisfy me for dinner!

Recipe

¾ pint chicken stock

¼ pint white wine

6 chicken breasts cut in to large pieces

1 can pimento peppers or roasted red peppers

1 handful of fresh chopped tarragon

2 egg yolks

5 fl oz double cream

Salt and pepper to season
1. Combine the stock and wine in a large saucepan and add the chicken pieces.

2. Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer and poach chicken for 10-15 minutes.

3. Remove the chicken pieces. Add the tarragon to the poaching liquid and boil to reduce by half. Reduce the heat to low.

4. Beat the egg yolks with the cream and add slowly to the poaching liquid, stirring all the time. Stir until the sauce thickens.

5. Add the sliced peppers to the sauce and then pour the liquid over the chicken.

Retro Pink Grapefruit Recipes

There are few more satisfying combinations than the sharpness of a cold tangy pink grapefruit with crunchy caramel-rich Demerara sugar. Granny’s recipe notes had two simple sweet grapefruit recipes that definitely deserved a try, both with a slightly more adventurous twist on my standard grapefruit fare.

I can remember Granny’s cutlery draw being full of serrated-edge grapefruit spoons, a whole section of the drawer dedicated to them, so she was clearly a fan of these tangy beauties. I wonder if she was unknowingly a pioneer of the ‘grapefruit diet’.

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Iris’s Grapefruit and Pineapple

The recipe for this one is simple. ‘Small pieces of each in a sundae dish and squeeze lime juice over’.

This recipe could also be amazing as a blended cocktail too. Imagine the sweet pineapple and bitter citrus flavours blended with a bit of ice and a good slosh of vodka or white rum too…

Grilled Brandied Grapefruit

And the brandy strikes again. It seems as though this may have been one of Granny’s favourite tipples! I imagine this would have been served as a healthy dinner party desert, with the amount of booze totally up to you.

  • Cut the grapefruit in half and cut along the segments with a grapefruit knife. Fill the half grapefruit with brandy (as much as you dare) and let the grapefruit sit for 10 minutes to absorb the brandy.
  • Sprinkle with brown sugar and place under a pre-heated grill for 5 minutes until the sugar starts to bubble – you’re looking for a brulee effect.
  • Let the grapefruit cool a little before tucking in.

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If you prefer the whole grapefruit to be softer, you can bake in the oven for 15 minutes before putting the fruit under the grill. Just add a little more sugar after you take it out of the oven, before grilling.

In researching the history of the grilled grapefruit, I’ve found that even Yotam Ottolenghi is partial to the odd grilled grapefruit for breakfast too. He likes his grilled with crushed star anise and Demerara sugar, topped with cool Greek yogurt. Sounds delicious.

For a slightly more whiz-bang grilling experience, try grilled grapefruit with toppings of banana and honey for breakfast or with a ginger and cinnamon spicy brown sugar for desert. Some grapefruit recipes even suggest topping the halves with chilli powder of cilantro to offset the sharp flavour. But that might just be one step too far for me..!

Simple Cheddar Cheese Scones

I can imagine that these cheese scones would have been a favourite of Granny’s. They would have been simple to make from ingredients she would have kept in her larder and, although she was an accomplished cook and didn’t need a recipe to be easy, this one is certainly very simple and I am sure she would have been able to make them without even looking at a recipe.

There was quite a hefty amount of baking powder asked for in her original recipe (4 teaspoons) and I decided to cut this down to 3 and the scones seemed to rise well. You could of course use self-raising flour instead, which is made with a ratio of approximately 1 teaspoon of baking powder for every 4 oz of plain flour. Self-raising flour wasn’t available as widely as it is now, and plain flour was used more frequently with baking power as the raising agent. So although I fiddled with the ratio, I did still use plain flour and a raising agent.

The full recipe I ended up using was:

8 oz plain four, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, 4 oz of grated cheddar cheese, 2 oz margarine, 8 tablespoons of milk, and 1/4 teaspoon of mustard.

The method involves rubbing the margarine in to the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and then adding the milk, mustard and grated cheese. The dough is mixed until it is just combined and then lightly rolled or pressed in to a 1/2 inch think round. It gets a bit messy, but that’s definitely the fun of this recipe.

You can brush the scones with an egg wash to give them a glossy top if you like too – you can do this just before they go in the oven. They don’t take long, so don’t go far once they have started cooking!

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Cheddar Cheese Scones

Sticky Finger Iced Buns

Delicious, warm, sweet and gooey. The perfect iced bun.

These sweet tea-time treats have long been popular with adults and children and have a great feel of nostalgia to them. I was excited to make them as I don’t often do bread baking, except when I cheat and use our bread maker for small mid-week loaves, which doesn’t really count as baking to me anyway.

As with all yeasty dough recipes, this one requires a little patience, but the end result is well worth the wait. I’m not sure mine were as light and fluffy as they could have been (or as Paul Hollywood might insist they should be) but some more practice on my kneading technique would improve them I’m sure. They didn’t stay fresh for more than 24 hours though, so it’s best to make them on the day you want to eat them.

Iced Buns

Sticky Finger Iced Buns

 

These iced buns have been shaped as finger buns (at least a rather lumpy and egg-shaped attempt at finger shapes!), but there are lots of other variations and no right or wrong. They can also be made round, with or without the raisins, topped with desiccated coconut or hundreds and thousands, piped full of fresh cream, or you could try adding other types of dried fruit (I recently made a second batch with dried mango in the dough and raspberry flavoured icing).

I ate quite a few of mine with my Dad’s homemade damson jam… yummy!

Granny’s recipe used the following ingredients:

For the bun: 525g plain flour; 50g caster sugar; 1/2 teaspoon of salt; 14g fast action dried yeast; 40g of butter; 160ml of milk; 140ml of water; 2 large eggs

For the icing: 250g sifted icing sugar; 3 tablespoons of warm water

There was no method, so I referred to BBC Food and followed theirs:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
  2. To make the dough, place all the ingredients into a large bowl, holding back a quarter of the water. Stir the mixture with your hands, then slowly add the remaining water to form a dough and knead in the bowl for four minutes.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for one hour.
  4. Divide the dough into 12 pieces, each about 70g/2½oz, then roll into balls and shape into fingers about 13cm/5in long.
  5. Place the dough fingers onto a greased baking tray, leaving space for them to double in size, then set aside in a warm place for 40 minutes. They should just touch each other when they’ve risen. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes then set them aside to cool.
  6. For the icing, sift the icing sugar in a wide bowl and gradually stir in the cold water to form a thick paste.

Enjoy!!!

Avocado Crab

The avocado pear, first introduced to UK supermarkets in the 1960s, has come a long way since pioneer supermarket customers first mistook it for a dessert fruit and served it with custard. The ‘pear’ was quickly dropped to avoid further confusion (!).

Whilst the fruit has now become one of the holy grails of super foods, with endless recipes and iterations on restaurant menus and online, this avocado crab recipe is convincingly retro and I imagine that at the time, eating avocados would have felt very exotic. As British crab is in season at the moment, I thought I would give it a try.

It’s an easy no cook recipe that involves simply mixing the crab meat (white and dark, if possible) with a few drops of Tabasco, some crème fraiche, a teaspoon of tomato ketchup and seasoning. Spoon in to halved avocados and squeeze some fresh lemon over the top. Serve the avocado in its skin if you can’t be fussed to scoop it out.

 

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Avocado Crab

It’s an easy fresh spring starter or a light lunch that can be prepared ahead of time.

There are lots of ways to make this recipe more exciting or make the crab meat go further if needed. Adding finely chopped tomatoes or peppers to the crab meat is an option and a sprinkle of chilli flakes would be a great addition too.

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Avocado Crab

Onion Tart

I thought starting with something like mayonnaise – the first of Granny’s recipes in my file – would be sensible for several reasons. 12 eggs and two litres of oil later and I wasn’t feeling quite so confident. I had naively thought that a bit of common sense and some careful whisking would be all that was needed (perhaps I need to work on both…). So no post on mayonnaise yet. 

Instead, a recipe for Onion Tart. A rather bland sounding recipe, but it exceeded expectations and was quick to make too (especially when cheating with ready made shortcrust pastry).

Whilst blind baking the pastry whip out your onion goggles and start finely slicing white onions. Fry gently and layer on the base of the pastry case once cooked. Mix together everything else – cheese, thyme, mustard powder, double cream and seasoning and pour over the onions. I deviated from the original and added spinach for a bit of colour and a sprinkle of oregano too. 

Onion Tart

 
Buying the mustard power felt like a rite of passage, but by no means necessary. Any English mustard would work just the same.

The smell was amazing. Imagine Tintagel cornish pasties with a packet of cheese and onion crisps. Yum yum.

The beginning

The idea of this recipe blog is to record the trials (and errors) of recreating my Granny’s recipes and making them in to a cookery book. The recipes span such a transitional time in British cooking, from the 1950s, when many essential ingredients were still rationed, to the turn of the millennium. The journey and exploration through the past decades of food history as I cook my way through Granny’s recipes will be a part of this project too.

I’m learning everything along the way, so please bear with me! Brace yourself for some genuine vintage recipes, culinary fiascoes and a bit of Granny chic.

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