Tag Archives: homemade

Friday Night Fake-away

Friday Night Cheat’s Build your Own Pizza…

If you are missing going out for a pizza whilst we are all house-bound, why not try and make your own using this very simple but delicious cheat’s version. Serving 4 good portions with ingredients you may already have in the cupboard or lurking at the bottom of the fridge – and saving a small fortune.

Rub together 225g of self raising flour, a generous pinch of salt with 60g of butter or margarine. Just like making short crust pastry. Add 150ml milk (any type will do) and bring together with your fingers to make a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth.
(I actually find this part very therapeutic!)
Roll out about 1cm thick and place onto a large rectangle greased baking tray, or cut into 2 large or 4 small circles.

Now, fry a large chopped onion and whatever else you fancy – perhaps the fridge is hiding half a pepper or courgette leftover from the other day, some bacon, fresh tomatoes a little past their best or a few random mushrooms.

Spread some passata or good old ketchup will do perfectly well onto the dough base. And if you like, sprinkle on some dried herbs or garlic granules – better still if you have the fresh stuff available.

Then top with the cooked vegetables. Depending on how grand you want the pizza add whatever else you fancy or have to hand or alternate – grated cheese, peppers from a jar, anchovies in a tin you don’t know what else to do with, or even pieces of cooked ham, prawns or cooked chicken left over from last night’s supper.

Another idea is to place different fillings onto each quarter of the pizza – suiting everyone’s taste – ‘No anchovies on my quarter please, splash of chilli sauce on daughters piece, stilton on son’s portion and extra prawns on Dad’s share’. Keeping everyone happy.

Bake in a very hot oven (220’c/mark 7) for about 20 minutes.


Merrow Savouries


Waste not, Want not…

Waste not want not …

Watching the news lately and seeing all this food being wasted by those who decided to stockpile what they could never manage to consume has got us thinking…. so from now on I will write with some ideas what to do with ‘left -overs’ or ‘what you have in the cupboard’ or ‘what you have that may not be at its prime best’…

If you have bread going stale then simply blitz it in a food processor- brown bread, granary or seeded is particularly good
(or tear into little pieces or grate -if you have time on your hands!)
Either just season the crumbs, or if you like, add a little pesto if you have a jar lurking in the larder or even some mustard or a splash of worcester sauce or chopped herbs even if they are not at their very best or use dried ones – just see what you have – then add a splash of oil so it becomes a little sticky.
Put on top of fish or chicken pieces before cooking for a super tasty topping, or top onto a pasta bake to make it more wholesome and bulky and to feed more people. Or saute some leeks, onions or courgettes or any vegetable you have and add to a cheese sauce and then top with the breadcrumbs for a tasty supper with a salad – or as accompaniment to the main meal.

For a sweet treat add some granulated or demerara sugar to the unseasoned crumbs, and fry in butter, or any fat – then layer onto stewed fruit, pop in the oven for 25 minutes for a yummy cheat’s

Enjoy !



A perfect bonfire supper…

Bonfire night will soon be upon us and the skies full of wonder and colour – and noise!!!

I remember when I was young we always had our own bonfire and fireworks in the garden – perhaps there were not so many of the well organised large events there are now.

Health and safety was probably a tad different back in the 60s and 70s!!! with us kids being told to stand back whilst Dad stoked the huge fire he had been building for weeks and setting off numerous fireworks at the same time.

In those days we drank from mugs of homemade soup or hot chocolate and hotdogs whilst standing around the fire but nowadays with many folk attending large supervised events – often without a fire at all – they are either eating before they venture out with the wellies, gloves and scarves or once back home.

So, a hot nourishing wholesome meal is probably what is needed – one that needs no last minute preparation and can either cook itself in the oven and be served before leaving or left bubbling away in the oven ready for the return of the frozen brood.

There is a dish that I learnt from my dear late mother in law, that ticks all the boxes and which I have served to both my own family and to my Merrow Savouries’ Halloween night or Bonfire night guests many times. It is pretty old fashioned and even ‘retro’ – but it is still very good and just right for a cold winter’s night.

It is ‘Pauline’s Sausage and Apple Bake’…

Fry lots of onions and tip them into the bottom of a deep casserole dish.
Then slice some eating apples – keep the skin on if you like – and place the slices on top of the onions.
Now on top of this place some good quality sausage meat – don’t buy the cheap stuff or you will have cup loads of horrid fat running out of the dish onto your oven floor or worst still coagulating into your family’s tummies. Or you could slice some of your favourite sausages lengthways and place onto the apples. Now what do you like with sausages? It may be tomato ketchup? Or English mustard or some sweet chilli sauce or dill mustard? Whatever it is – spread some over the meat.

Then you need a topping – and it is potatoes. Pauline used to pipe mash potatoes on top – like a shepherd’s pie, but I have also par-boiled sliced potatoes and placed on top with a good sprinkling of strong cheddar. Or mix n match with half sliced potatoes and half sliced sweet potatoes. Or top with colcannon where you mix spring onions and cabbage into the mash – delish. Or how about slices of par boiled potatoes and parsnips or a butternut squash?

That is it – or build it higher and add some sautéed carrots or leeks(mmm) to the pile.

Now place the dish in the oven and leave it there for a good hour or so bubbling away – making sure the meat is well cooked. I like to serve Pauline’s bake in just a bowl with a fork as it does not really need more vegetables or a plate and knife and fork.

A perfect tasty winter supper to welcome you home.


You say tomato. . . .

We are lucky enough to have some of Tim’s cherry and plum tomatoes still ripening on the vines – this late in the year. If they don’t ripen before they start to rot then I shall make curried green tomato, and green tomato and ale chutney to accompany our Autumn honey and mustard baked hams.

But if they do ripen – yippee – I have lots of ideas as to what to do with one of my favourite vegetables or should I say, fruits.

I have always wondered why sunblush tomatoes from the deli are so expensive when they are so easy to prepare at home with what is often a bountiful crop of end of season leftover tomatoes, or, of course, fresh tomatoes are very reasonable to buy.

All you have to do is halve cherry tomatoes or thickly slice the plum ones. Place them on a baking tray and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and freshly grated garlic. Then a sprinkling of caster sugar and light seasoning and even some fresh chilli pieces if you like. Place into a medium oven 140’c for about half an hour and then turn it right down to about 100’c, leaving them wallowing in the warmth for as long as 5 hours– removing them when they are looking rather shrivelled but still moist inside. But put a timer on or else you may well forget them. Delish with cold meats or a cheeseboard.

Alternatively do the same thing but in a hotter oven, say about 170’c and for only an hour or so until soft and pulpy even a little charred around the edges. Use a fork to crush them or use a hand blender and really mush them if you prefer. Then stir the fresh tomato sauce into some cooked pasta with thinly sliced mozzarella which will melt deliciously in the heat. Or use them as a base for a spag bol or shepherd’s pie.

But my favourite way of eating the tomatoes is to make Tom’s salsa (which I hope he does not mind me sharing his recipe!). Using the best tastiest tomatoes you have- or can buy – halve them and scoop out all the seeds. Now finely chop the skin and pulp into scant 1/2cm pieces. Season. Add a little finely chopped fresh garlic and a splash of good virgin olive oil. Add a couple of freshly torn basil leaves and leave in a covered bowl overnight in the fridge to infuse. Adjust the garlic to your taste and how many tomatoes. Use the seeds and juice in a ratatouille.

Now what to do with these delicious tomato pieces– one of Merrow Savouries’ most popular canapés this year was to brush a crispy bruschetta or crostini with a little fresh garlic oil, then a topping of Tom’s tomato salsa plus a slice of goats cheese and a good fresh black olive or fresh basil leaf. Looks and tastes great.

Or make more of a meal with the salsa and perhaps add some finely chopped spring onions and chopped coriander with a dash of fresh lime juice. Place on a slice of toasted sourdough or a granary bread and perhaps some slices of ripe avocado and/or a lightly poached egg. Very ‘ladies what brunch’ but very delish.


Merrow Savouries


It’s February – It’s soup time

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‘Please Sue, may I have some more…’

When I ran the vegetarian restaurant, at this time of year there was always a thick wholesome and very tasty, often healthy home made soup on the menu. There were numerous varieties and we sold as much as we could make. Possibly because of the big chunks of home made bread that accompanied it, but also because the soups were so quick and cheap to make – we simply did not have to charge very much and were more than happy to top up the bowls of those guests who wanted some more. Customers also often had a ‘take away’ and brought their own empty jars or thermos flasks to take some home or back to the office to heat up for the next day’s lunch. I also made copious amounts for the Farmer’s Market.

One of the most popular and my own favourite was Lentil and Tomato.   It really is so easy I am almost embarrassed to tell all, but will be brave and share this.

Cook 500g of ‘no- need to-pre-soak’ dried red lentils with a couple of inches of cold water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil. Once boiled, turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes until really soft. Don’t undercook the lentils as you will get gritty soup but also watch they don’t catch the pan or dry up – burnt lentils truly stink, taste vile and destroy your pan. So, don’t worry if you feel you need to add more water. Skim off any white scum that usually appears. If you were cooking the lentils for say a cashew and lentil bake or curried lentil pie – delicious recipes for another day- then they need to be as dry as poss, but don’t worry if they are still pretty wet for soup.

Now add 2 litres of good quality tomato juice. Remember what Tom says ‘if you use economy ingredients you get an economy result’ so the better the tomatoes the richer and tastier the soup. You could also use tinned tomatoes or a litre of juice and a couple of tins of tomatoes.Ironically this is not a time to use fresh tomatoes – they just don’t have the same taste at this time of year. Gently heat through. As it is, this simple combination of lentils and tomatoes is frankly pretty bland but add a really generous couple of pinches of salt, white sugar and a good grind of pepper and just taste to see the difference it makes. You could serve the soup as it is which will be very tasty and pretty wholesome with the lentils still holding some of their shape or blitz with the trusty hand blender to smooth.

Now, for another idea…this quantity would serve a good 12 portions so why not split it into 3 lots of 4 or 6 lots of 2 and freeze.   Then each time you want a soup, simply defrost the lentil and tomato one and keep it veggie (actually it is vegan as it is but don’t tell everyone!) and either enjoy as it is or alter it every time. Top with some home made garlic croutons.Or sprinkle some mozzarella on top to melt gloriously. Add some chopped cooked gammon or crispy fried bacon. Another time add a good splash of Worcester sauce. Or tear some fresh basil or coriander leaves into it. Or for a spicy kick – a tablespoon of my cupboard standby, sweet chilli sauce. This soup is also a super basis for a fish soup – just add some cooked shell fish and white fish; or how about a yummy bean soup– just add some tinned mixed pulses and beans, chickpeas or butter beans.

Just delish.




Nutty Vegetable & Lentil Bake

A delicious healthy and wholesome meal to feed a hungry crowd

Nutty Lentil & Vegetable Bake.

In a large saucepan cook 175grams of red lentils as per the packet until thick and cooked through (taking about 30 minutes). Then using your favourite means of cooking vegetables; soften 2 large sliced carrots, 2 sliced peppers and 2 chopped celery sticks, and a large chopped onion. When both vegetables and lentils albeit in their separate pans are ready combine the two mixes with a tin of chopped tomatoes, a good teaspoon of mixed herbs, perhaps a swig of Worcester or Tabasco sauce (if you like your food with kick) and season to taste (at this stage try and keep some for supper!) and pour into an oven proof dish. If you think the mix is a little wet add a sprinkling of vegetarian gravy granules, not only to thicken the mix but to add a little extra taste as well. On top of this lovely healthy mixture sprinkle 4oz of breadcrumbs (granary or wholemeal are tastiest) mixed together with a good handful of chopped mixed nuts then pop in the oven for about half an hour to cook through and brown on top.

As usual with my recipes it can have many adaptations and variations so please use whatever vegetables you like, omit the pepper or add an extra one, add a chopped aubergine or courgette, perhaps some mushrooms, use a red onion instead of the normal for extra colour, use white breadcrumbs instead of granary, omit the nuts, or even add more, or add sunflower or sesame seeds on top or even sliced par boiled potatoes instead of the breadcrumbs with perhaps some grated cheese over the top for the last few minutes of cooking, but whatever do, it will surely prove a winner.

These quantities serve about 4 people but the dish works very well doubling or even tripling the quantities and if you use the breadcrumbs on top it freezes very well, but if you like the idea of sliced par boiled potatoes on top just freeze the lentil mix then having defrosted add the potatoes just before cooking as frozen thinly sliced potatoes are not always very successful.

Another tip is if you are making breadcrumbs do if possible use a food processor, perhaps whiz up a whole loaf, pack in freezer bags, freeze and use straight from the freezer weeks later. Another tip which I may I have mentioned before but so useful it is worth a reminder is cooking lentils can be notorious for ruining the pan –they can burn so easily and quickly!! If this happens the solution is simple. Sprinkle the burnt pan with a heaped tablespoon of biological washing powder and a covering of hot water, leave overnight and hey presto the next morning the burnt offerings just lift off the bottom of the pan! And I should know…


Some of our most popular old fashioned sweet treats…

Many restaurants and caterers will not divulge their recipes for a plethora of reasons. However, whilst there are a few Merrow Savouries’ dishes that we would not want to reveal their secret (coronation chicken is one and the other is our chocolate and amaretti cheesecake!) both Tom and I are quite happy to share our recipes and ideas. We take it as a compliment when someone asks. It means they must have enjoyed it. So, here are a couple of sweet treat ideas we would like to share.

One of the most frequently requested recipes is for date slices. Actually given to me by mother in law over 35 years ago (as are so many of my recipes) and still as popular as it was then.

Using your finger tips rub together equal quantities (say 250g of each) of plain white flour, soft margarine, demerara sugar, porridge oats and a good pinch of salt. It does not have to be too fine. More a breadcrumb consistency.
Meanwhile soak about 250g of dried stoneless dates in boiling water or better still fresh orange juice for a good hour until they are soft.
Press half the crumble mixture into a greased swiss roll tin.
Drain the dates and squash them up a little. Press them into the crumble.
Then tip the rest of the crumble on top, sandwiching the dates. Press the top layer of crumble down.
Bake at 170’C/300F/Gas 4 for about 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Cut them into squares, as big or as little as you like. We like to serve them ‘bite size’ for afternoon teas or bigger pieces with morning coffee and elevenses.
You could substitute the dates for apricots or mixed dried fruit (soaked in orange juice to soften them). Or at Christmas we use mincemeat inside and sprinkle with nuts on the top layer, dust with icing sugar once cooked and offer as a delicious alternative to mince pies.
The crumble mix itself is also great on top of apples, rhubarb or plums with a tad more sprinkling of Demerara on top to brown it up and add a crunch.

Another much requested sweet treat recipe of ours is for rock cakes which are always thoroughly enjoyed again for elevenses. But the traditional size can be a little too big if you want to try several of the sweet treats on our glass cake stands – so the answer was to make them much smaller and call them pebble cakes.
Remembering the term ‘rock’ and ‘pebble’ refers to their shape and appearance – not their texture!
Whilst so very quick and easy to make, very few recipe books seem to mention them. Although incredibly simple -it seems that the more often you make them, the better they get. Perhaps they are a bit 1970s? but who cares, they are always devoured.
As before use your finger tips to rub together ‘half everything to flour’ ie 200g self raising flour with 100g margarine and 100g Demerara sugar. Then add about 100g of dried mixed fruit and a teaspoon of mixed spice and a good pinch of salt. Now using a fork, combine the dried ingredients with one large beaten egg. It may look quite dry but do not be tempted to add more eggs (ok a tad of milk if you must) otherwise you will have rock flats rather than rock cakes or buns! Using a spoon and fork or your hands dusted in flour, divide the dough into about 12 rocky lumps (don’t be precious about smoothing them into rounds) or make much smaller walnut size lumps for more of a bite size treat – a pebble cake!
Place on a greased baking tray. Bake for about 15 minutes at 190’c/375F/Gas 5. Serve slightly warm straight from the oven or if you can bear the wait – cool on a rack, but best eaten on the same day, just like scones.