New things for new people: Clair (October)

I could eat all of these right now. I hope you enjoy reading about my regular guest blogger Clair’s new cookery ventures. She is trying a new recipe (or technique etc) every week. 


Apple and gooseberry pie

1bWe went to Apple Day at RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden (which I definitely recommend). Among other things, such as apple bobbing, pressing, and juicing, there was a stall where someone was selling apples from their orchard. We bought some lovely-looking Worcester Pearmains, which are supposed to be good for stewing and slightly sweeter than Bramleys. I remembered that I had frozen some gooseberries a while ago and so thought of making an apple and gooseberry pie.

I came up with a recipe of my own because I couldn’t find an exact one that matched the quantities of ingredients I had. Most recipes I found seemed to have a ratio of half gooseberry to half apple and from around 75-150g sugar in the stew.


  • 300g cooking apples, chopped roughly into 3 cm sized cubes (3-4 large apples)
  • 300g frozen gooseberries, defrosted
  • 100g Fair Trade demerara sugar
  • 2 x rolls of 320g ready-made shortcrust pastry sheets (or you could buy the ready-made block that you have to roll out yourself, or make your own)
  • Cold water
  • Milk
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling


  • Line a shallow pie dish with one sheet of pastry, trim the edges around the dish, and chill in the fridge. (If you have gaps anywhere in your pastry then use cold water to bind some of the leftover pastry to the pastry lining or lid. It will look rustic).1d
  • Stew the gooseberries and apples with the sugar for about 5 minutes, until the fruit begins to break down.1c_kindlephoto-5039794
  • Leave the stewed fruit to cool.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200℃.
  • Put the cooled, stewed fruit into the pie dish, draining it through a slotted spoon so that the pie does not become too soggy.1f_kindlephoto-5012524
  • Brush the pastry edges with cold water.
  • Roll the second sheet of pastry over the pie dish, pressing it down against the pastry edges to seal them together, then trim the excess.
  • Put a hole in the top pastry layer so that steam can escape while the pie is baking.
  • I made some decorations for the pie out of the pastry leftovers which I fixed on using cold water.1g
  • Brush milk all over the surface of the pastry so that it browns nicely.
  • Sprinkle some demerara sugar over the top.
  • Bake for around 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

What’s new?

I have never made a fruit pie before, only crumbles.

Freezing gooseberries and cooking with them. I looked up how to freeze them on the Internet and found the following general method:

  • Wash the gooseberries and then dry them.
  • Top and tail them.
  • Spread them out on a metal tray and place in the freezer.
  • When they have frozen completely place them in a freezer bag or other container (and make a note of the quantity and date somewhere). This way they don’t stick together when freezing.1a_kindlephoto-5083725

How did it turn out?

The gooseberries defrosted well; they didn’t lose very much juice (unlike when you defrost rhubarb) and therefore retained their structure and weight.

I was very pleased with how the pie looked once it had baked. I’m not sure that the pastry decorations I had made resembled apple tree leaves or gooseberries as I had intended, but it looked pretty anyway!1h

I was worried I had used too much sugar but it was actually perfectly sharp and sweet.

I could perhaps have done with more filling. The lovely flavour came from the apples I think.

I could have made my own pastry as I’m not bad at it actually, but it is quite convenient to use the ready-made variety.

I’m quite proud of this recipe; it was very quick and easy, and also lovely for this time of year when it’s getting a bit colder and apples are in season.


Sicilian pork

I’ve had this recipe for some time now and thought I ought to give it a try. I don’t eat much pork and am getting a bit bored with chicken! The recipe is for 6 people so I halved the ingredients as we like our veg and it’s much easier than dividing by a third! My husband bought the (quite big!) pork fillets and prepared them for the recipe.

What’s new?

The recipe itself and I haven’t cooked with fennel seeds before.screenshot_2016-11-11-22-09-59_kindlephoto-3599655

How did it turn out?

It was really tasty! The quantities were also just right, but we added some boiled carrots on the side, and green beans would be nice with it too.2d

The smell of aniseed from the fennel and fennel seeds during cooking was lovely and is a classic flavour to accompany pork. We actually put the rub and olive oil on the pork while everything else was being prepared so I think it had a bit of time to penetrate the meat and gave a bit more flavour. We put more chilli flakes into the rub as we know we like them, and it did give it a nice kick.

The roasted vegetables really had lots of flavour, especially the garlic cloves and the lemon flesh. The pork was perfectly moist and tasty too. I would definitely cook this again.2g


One-pan chicken couscous

3bI love couscous and tagines so when I found this recipe it seemed tagine-like and was a new way of cooking couscous for me, in a frying pan.

What’s new?

The recipe itself, cooking a savoury dish with apricots in, and cooking with harissa for the first time.

How did it turn out?

It was very quick and easy. It felt really healthy as chicken isn’t fatty and the recipe includes pulses (chickpeas). I served it with peas but green beans would be good too. The chickpeas and apricots cooked through well. The harissa gave a good kick and gives off an amazing barbecue smell.

I was being restrained with the amount of harissa and ginger but it could definitely take more. It was a nice idea to drip some harissa over the dish while eating, to spice things up a bit.

I used fresh parsley instead of coriander as I didn’t want to buy coriander especially and I always have fresh parsley to hand.3d

One of the best things is that there’s not much washing up at the end.

I will definitely cook it again and be braver with the harissa and ginger!



Slow-roast chicken with lemon and chilli

We often cook a roast chicken at the weekend and this recipe looked like it would give a spicy and fresh element to it for a change.screenshot_2016-11-11-22-06-48_kindlephoto-6234149

What’s new?

Including chilli in the marinade, and putting deeper holes in the chicken to allow it to penetrate.4a

How did it turn out?

It was very tasty and certainly had a kick.

I used parsley instead of coriander; maybe I should invest in some coriander!

I used smoked paprika, as that’s what I have in the cupboard, and it really gives a deeper flavour.

I didn’t make the gravy. I am planning to do this for the first time for another recipe one month.

Basically, you can’t go wrong with the chicken, lemon, chilli and garlic combination and I will be making it again!

If you liked this, do read through Clair’s earlier blog posts. Happy cooking/drooling! 


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