Vanilla Pork Tenderloin

Here we love a good roast dinner. At least two Sundays a month are finished with roast meat and the trimmings. I find it a great way to wind down the week and the leftover meat is then used for meals the following days. All in all it can make quite frugal cooking.

Nielsen-Massey sent me a hamper of their vanilla and flavourings and asked me to make something that would be a bit different with their flavourings. I’m a huge fan of their products, especially their vanilla paste. I use their products in by business recommend their vanilla to my pupils in classes. While I use vanilla is most of my sweet baking I have never thought about using it in savoury dishes.

While searching through their website for recipes I came across this recipe for Savoury Pork Tenderlion. It used some of the vanilla I had been sent and would be perfect for Sunday dinner. Just note all of the recipes on the site are in american measurements and feature the odd ingredient hard to find in the UK or at least hard to find in Derbyshire.

Usually if we have pork for roast dinner I slow roast it using a Jamie O recipe. This recipe uses tenderloin and if you’re wondering why you can’t find it on the shelves the cut is sometimes called pork fillet. It is lean, tender and doesn’t have as much flavour as a shoulder of pork so marinating it really helps give depth to flavour. I roasted rather than grilled the meat, as the recipe suggested, so added some stock to the baking pan half the way through to stop the tenderloin drying out. This has the added benefit of making a sauce for the meat. We had it with Big Spud’s Pinot Grigio potatoes.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well this recipe worked. I admit I was a bit dubious adding the vanilla to the marinade, but it gave lovely flavour to the meat and I will certainly cook meat again this way. The leftovers made rather delicious sandwiches the next day. Now what shall I use the rose, orange, peppermint & chocolate extract in the hamper for?

Vanilla Pork Tenderloin
Serves 4
Based on Nielson-Massey Savoury Pork Tenderloin

80ml soy sauce
60ml cider vinegar (I’d ran out of rice vinegar used in original recipe so used cider vinegar)
2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 pork tenderloin/fillet, trimmed (usually around 500g)
400ml chicken or pork stock

1) Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, vanilla extract, garlic, pepper and brown sugar in a sealable plastic bag and mix well.

2) Add the tenderloin and seal.

3) Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally. Drain, discarding the marinade.

4) Place the tenderloin in a baking pan and bake for 180°c for 40 min. Pour the hot stock in to the pan then return to oven for 20 minutes. Once cooked remove from the pan, wrap in foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Big thanks to Nielsen-Massey for the hamper of goodies. 

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Gingerbread Advent Calendar


Here for the festive season we’re in a bit of limbo. Not sure where we’ll be this year means shockingly I’ve not made of my traditional Christmas cakes or puddings as I may have nowhere to store them. However I wasn’t going to let Christmas go by without one special bake.

Thanks to a certain episode of Great British Bake Off we did begin to hatch a plan to make a gingerbread house to end all gingerbread houses with Design Engineer Hubs using Solidworks to design the template but various things threw a spanner in that works. Then Hubs decided he HAD to have the Star Wars Lego advent calendar and I had to have my own. As much as I lusted over the idea of a Paul A Young advent calendar I just couldn’t justify the £65 . During a trip to the wondrous Swedish warehouse of Ikea I spotted the set of Drömmar biscuit cutters. Yes I could have had their Christmas set, but frankly there isn’t enough squirrel and snail shaped baked goods in this world. I decided I would bake my own advent calendar as it would also be a perfect excuse to eat a daily biscuit and chance to practice my royal icing skills.

I initially planned to pipe the numbers on to the biscuits but after seeing the cakes The Vanilla Pod made for our Bonfire Party I decided to break with my fancy cutter ban and use my Tappit alphabet cutters. I usually don’t like the over-use of cutters on cakes and biscuits preferring to model or pipe by hand but I like the cleanness of the font. Don’t worry, you’ll never catch me using the Curlz font tappit cutters on my baking.

I was going to use lots of different colours, but ended up sticking to just red and white. I’m glad I did because sometimes the simplest colours scheme looks the best, plus it gives it a bit of the Scandi look to it.

This isn’t the quickest project and I did it in stages. Baked one day, iced the next then added the numbers the day after. I wanted the royal icing to set hard before sticking the numbers on. I now have big respect for Quirky Cookies & Biscuiteers as piping biscuits takes a great deal longer that I anticipated.

You must use Royal Icing to decorate biscuits as it needs to dry hard. I cheat and use the Silver Spoon Royal Icing mix as I find it works perfectly for me and it saves using egg whites. For the numbers I use a mixture of sugarpaste and floral (gum) paste. This works best in the Tappit cutters and dries quickly.

I am now addicted to piping royal icing. If it sits still for long enough it’ll get something piped on to it. Watch out business clients, friends and family. Guess what you’ll all be getting for Christmas?

Gingerbread Advent Calendar
Depending on the size of cutters you use this could make up to 40 biscuits. The leftover dough can be frozen either as a ball or in shapes ready to be baked straight from the freezer.

350g Plain Flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1-2 tsp of ground ginger

115g unsalted butter, cubed

170g soft dark brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp (40g) of golden syrup

milk (may not be needed, see recipe)

250g royal icing sugar

food dye

1) Preheat the oven to 180°c and cover 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

2) Rub together the flour, butter, ginger and bicarbonate of soda until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.

3) In a smaller bowl mix together the sugar, egg and golden syrup. Pour this in to the dry ingredients. To start with mix the dough with a spoon then once it is well combined use your hands to knead the dough. At first the mixture can seem quite dry but keep kneading. It will become soft and pliable. If required add a splash of milk to help the dough to come together. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 min.

4) Roll the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Cut out the shapes and place on baking sheet. Put the baking trays back in the fridge for another 30 min. This chilling stage is essential to stop the biscuits spreading.

baked gingerbread

5) Bake this gingerbread straight from the fridge for 15 min until slightly risen, beginning to colour and harden. If you are unsure, it is better to slightly over-bake (Don’t read that as burn!) than under-bake as you want quite hard, dry biscuits. They need to last for a month. Leave for 5 min then continue to cool completely on a wire rack. As they cool down they will continue to harden.

6) Make up your royal icing following instructions on packet, colour the icing as required and fill icing bags with size 0 piping tips.

7) First pipe the outline of the shapes. Allow to dry for 10-30 min.

8) Take the icing you have used for piping the outlines, squeeze into a bowl and add a small amount of water to make the icing thinner. This will be used to flood the gingerbread. It almost acts like self-levelling concrete. You want it thin enough to flood the spaces, but not too thin that it dribbles off the biscuit.

9) Flood the biscuits with the icing. If need be use a cocktail stick to help guide the icing in to corners. Allow to dry until hard. I usually give them a minimum of 12 hours to dry.

10) Decorate with the numbers. Store in a tin or airtight box and they should last until Christmas eve.


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Cherry & Chocolate Profiteroles

Last weekend I made profiteroles for the first time in ages. I’d forgotten how quick they are to make. Eclairs, that are also made from choux pastry, mean ‘flash of lightning’ in French. Of course they are not lightning fast to make, but are a great deal quicker and easier than some other pastries.

Anyone who has every made choux pastry will be surprised to know that profiteroles often appear in cookbooks aimed at children. Yes I suppose they are quick easy to shape, but the elbow grease that goes in to them is anything but child’s play. It involves a lot of beating to get the pastry to the right consistency. You can apparently make choux pastry in a food processor but it is not something I’ve tried.

The wonderful thing about choux pastry is that can be piped in to may shapes; be it hearts, swans and even bikes if that’s your thing. If it can be piped, it can be baked but just remember the dough puffs up in the oven.

Judging by the last few blogposts you’d think I have a weakness for chocolate. I don’t, I just like playing around with it. The first batch of these were topped with a sweet chocolate sauce, but I’ve come to the conclusion that they are best with just pure, molten chocolate drizzled over them. Even better if the chocolate is allowed to set giving the profiteroles a bit of bite.

You can fill them with whipped cream or crème patisserie. I’ll happily eat them with either. If using whipped cream you can flavour it. In this recipe you could add a couple of teaspoons of cherry jam to the cream while it is being whipped. Here I have filled them with cherry compote then cream. I like the two different textures and tastes.

The key to nice dry choux pastry is to pierce or cut the pastry as soon as it comes out of the oven to release the steam, this stops it going soggy. When making profiteroles I prefer to piece them on the base partially for aesthetics but also because they then retain their shape better once filled. Try not to fill them too far in advance as they can go soggy. The unfilled choux pastry can be frozen and defrosted when needed.

This tower of profiteroles ended up in a school staffroom, I’m getting a bit of a reputation there as a teacher feeder. Never before have I seen a group of teachers fight over the last profiterole and I’m sure I saw the caretaker lick the plate clean.

Cherry & Chocolate Profiteroles
Makes about 20

75g butter

200ml water

A pinch of salt

100g strong white flour or plain flour

3 large eggs

Jar of morello cherries

300g whipping ( or double) cream, whipped

50g dark chocolate

1) Preheat the oven to 200°c. In a large pan melt the butter in the water.

2) Once it has started boiling turn off the heat then add in the flour and start to beat with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture comes together in a lump and comes away from the sides of the saucepan. When it reaches this stage take off the heat and allow to cool for 3 minutes.

3) In a jug whisk together the 3 eggs. Gradually add the egg to the dough a small amount at a time, beating the mixture well before adding the next amount. You want the dough to become thick and glossy but still hold its shape. Depending on the size of your eggs you may not use all of the eggs.

4) Line a baking tray with parchment. Put your pastry in a piping bag and pipe blobs of the mixture about 10cm apart on the baking tray. You need to leave a good gap to stop them joining up to make one giant choux bun.

5) Bake for 20-25 min until puffed and golden. As soon has they have baked transfer to a wire rack and puncture the bottom of each profiterole to allow steam to escape and to stop them going soggy. Allow to cool completely.

6) Pour the cherries and syrup from jar in a saucepan. Simmer until cherries have begun to break down.

7) Once the profiteroles have cooled, pipe a small amount of the cherries in to a profiterole followed by the whipped cream.

8) Melt the dark chocolate then drizzle over the profiteroles.

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A day at Cake International

I first found out about Cake International a few years ago and have wanted to visit ever since. The Birmingham show is the longest running and features entrants from all over the world in the cake decorating categories. This is a show all about hard-core cake decorating and sugarcraft. Not for the faint hearted who don’t like crowds.

I had been pre-warned that the Saturday was due to be busy so I was one of those keen few who were at the NEC half an hour before the show was due to open. It was great to have the first hour to walk around the stalls and exhibitions without having to sharpen your elbows. By 11pm it’s fair to say it had got a bit manic. I went with a shopping list and managed to get everything on my list cheaper than I could have online. That meant I also blew all my spending money for the day.

One of the best things I found was the new 100% edible glitters by Doric. Most stalls were selling them, but the lovely ladies on the Icing Works stand had a very good deal on with them so much so I came away with 6 pots of the stuff. Look I can’t resist a bit of sparkle on my cakes. I also got some Tappit alphabet cutters and some sugarflair grape colour paste because I’m beginning to realise purple is one of the colours that can be hard to mix by hand unless you want murky grey icing.

There was some serious cake decorating talent on show. This wasn’t about people using cutters or moulds to decorate cakes. This was all about carving, shaping, manipulating icing and cake to produce a piece of edible art. I was in awe and aspire to be able to decorate like many of the professionals and amateurs who exhibited at the show. Ruth from The Pink Whisk was there doing a demonstration and it was fabulous to finally meet her. I really enjoyed it and will certainly be visiting future shows. Who knows I may enter a cake in a few years time.

There are two other Cake International shows in the new year at ExCel centre, London and EventCity, Manchester. If cake baking and decorating is your thing I wholeheartedly recommend a visit.

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Chorizo Pork Pies

Hubs has a hidden talent for Pork Pie making, though the talent wasn’t discovered until he was working with Seasoned to help them trial a pie course. Not a bad talent to have. He may have shouted at Paul Hollywood (on the TV) during the hand raised pie Great British Bake Off episode regarding his pie pastry advice. I suppose it is in his blood. He’s Derbyshire born and bred and pork pies are traditionally a East Midlands delicacy from Melton Mowbray.

Some pork pies are baked in a tin, but the traditional way is to hand raise them. By this you are slowly working a piece of dough up a piece of equipment called a wooden dolly. As the pie is baked it is essentially unsupported. You can use a wooden dolly to make a hand raised pie, but Hubs prefers to use a plain and simple pint glass. On GBBO Mary Berry mentioned how she uses milk bottles then fills the bottle with warm water when she wants to release the pastry.

Pork pies use a pastry called hot water crust pastry. It is a bit different from traditional pastry and when warm is pliable. If the pastry cools and gets difficult to use Hubs just blasts it for a few seconds in the microwave to warm it back through. To get the right texture inside the pie Hubs uses a mixture of pork mince and diced pork shoulder. You will also need to season more than you think you do. To check the mixture, season it then fry a small amount of the mixture off. Then taste it to see if it is seasoned to your preference.

I don’t like the jelly in pork pies, even before I knew it involved boiling pigs trotters, but do make the exception for these pies. I have eaten a deliberately warm pork pie before that was really nice. It wasn’t the type of warm pork pie that has been slowly heating up on the dodgy looking buffet spread that is increasingly likely to give you food poisoning. Come on, you know the type of buffets I’m talking about: the vol au vents, chicken legs, cheesecake, vol au vents, chicken legs, cheesecake affairs. Avoid like the plague and have more respect for the humble pork pie.

Once you have mastered the pastry you can really play around with the fillings. You can layer up different fillings or add the odd boiled egg to turn it into a gala pie. The cooked pies can be wrapped in greaseproof paper and foil then frozen for up to 6 months. When ready to eat, thaw for 48 hours in the fridge.


Hot Water Crust Pastry
Makes 6 pies

170g lard
125ml water
500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg

1) Put the lard and water in to a saucepan and slowly heat until the mixture turns clear. When it reaches this point turn up the mixture until it is at a rapid boil.

2) In a large bowl sift together the flour and salt then pour in the watery lard. Mix until you have a rough dough, then turn out onto a floured surface knead until the dough is smooth.

3) Divide this mixture into 6 balls, then divide each ball into 1/3 and 2/3 (a bit like if you were making a pastry snowman). The 1/3 will be the lid and the 2/3 will be base.

Pork & Chorizo filling

300g lean pork shoulder, diced
300g pork mince
150g chorizo, diced
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 egg, beaten

4) Mix all the filling ingredients together. Fry a small amount of the mixture off and check the seasoning. It requires more seasoning than you think. Once you are happy with the seasoning, chill in the fridge (uncooked) until you are ready to use it.

5) Take the largest ball of dough and press flat. Lightly oil the dolly then place the dolly in the centre of the dough circle and slowly work up the sides until it is about 10cm high.

6) Using a sharp knife ease the dough off the dolly.

7) Take a 1/6 of your filling and roll it in to a ball. Firmly throw it in to the centre of the dough cup you’ve made (without destroying the shape!) This bit sounds mad, but it’s essential to do this to get all the filling in to the spaces and help knock out any air spaces.

8) Roll out the remaining smaller piece of dough until it is a few cm larger than the pie diameter. If you are cutting a shape out of the lid do it now. Brush the inside lip of the pie with beaten egg then place lid on top. Crimp the edges to secure it.

9) Cut a hole in the lid (if you haven’t cut a shape) to allow steam to escape and brush with egg.

10) Bake at 200°c for 10 minutes and then turn down the oven to 180°c and bake for a further 45 minutes. The pie is ready once it is golden. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. and store in the fridge while you finish making the jelly.

Pork pie jelly

900g pork bones
2 pigs trotters
1 white onion
2 carrots
2 bay leaves
5 cloves
2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp salt

11) Place all the ingredients in a pan with just enough water to cover them. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 hours.

12) Strain the mixture to rid of all solids, then pass through a muslin to clarify the mixture.

13) Return to simmer until mixture has reduced by 1/3. The jelly is ready when a small amount of mixture put on a plate and chilled in the fridge, sets.

14) Once the mixture is ready, take off the heat.

15) One of the best ways to fill a pie with jelly is with a food grade syringe. A funnel can also be used. Fill the pies until you can see the jelly at the top. Refrigerate the pies for 20 min.

16) After 20 min, if needed, top up the jelly in the pies. The jelly needs to completely fill the pies. The jelly is there to help preserve the pies by making them air tight. Keep the pies in the fridge until you are ready to eat them and eat within 5 days of baking.

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Chocolate Mousse Cake by William Drabble

There is something about chocolate and raspberries paired that I love. The tartness of the raspberries cuts through the rich chocolate far better than strawberries do, or at least that is my opinion. I always like doing things that will push my skills in the kitchen. After making the mille feuille last month, Great British Chefs set me the next challenge: To attempt William Drabble’s Chocolate Mousse Cake. I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to try this stunning dessert.

William Drabble is the head chef at Michelin starred Seven Park Place Piccadilly, London and uses local ingredients with French techniques. When I made this decadent dessert I was able to get Scottish raspberries.

I’d by lying if I didn’t say this is a time-consuming recipe, but it can easily be broken up and made in advance. It makes 16 portions and even the more ardent chocoholic with struggle to eat all 16 portions as it is so rich and decadent but it is very much worth making for a special event or dinner party. This isn’t the easiest recipe to pare down, and I don’t recommend you do, but the mousse cake can be frozen until you are ready to eat it.

The sponge featured in this recipe is beautifully soft and delicate and is essentially a baked chocolate foam. The only fat in this sponge comes from the egg yolks. Then the mousse is thick, rich, silky and frankly delicious. You can understand why I didn’t quibble when the cake had to be trimmed to make the edges straight.  Oh the cook’s perk. This cake contains raw eggs, a serious amount of raw eggs, so the usual precautions apply with dishes like this.

I need to get a bit better at cutting the cake as some were a bit wobbly, ok very wobbly. I call it artistic licence. Maybe next time (and trust me I will be making  it again!) I’ll cut them as cubes so they are more stable. Glazing the cake was trickier than I was expecting, but briefly chilling the glaze made it more viscous and provided a better coating. I really enjoyed making this cake from the techniques, complexity and final eating. I now have a queue of impatient friends wondering when the remaining 8 pieces of this cake are going to be defrosted and glazed.

This post has been sponsored by Great British Chefs but in true Butcher Baker fashion all words, opinions, ramblings and messy kitchen are our own. 

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A bonfire weekend


Modern life can be fast paced. Sometimes you need 24-48 hours disconnected from it to appreciate the simple things in life. Twice a year we go away with Hub’s family to a house in the darkest Warwickshire countryside with space, big kitchen, a dining table big enough for 14, a dodgy mobile phone signal (2G if you’re lucky) and most importantly no TV or internet.

One of the weekends we go away is always the weekend closest to bonfire night. We arrived on the Friday night to be greeted by the smell of a huge rib of beef slowly cooking in the oven. A roast dinner with all the trimmings was followed by some beautiful cupcakes brought by a guest. And for me to say that about cupcakes is saying something.

During the Saturday day the children carved pumpkins, made scones and stuffed guys while the men built a bonfire on the paddock. My job, like it is every year, was to make the mulled drinks. I made mulled cider and warm BottleGreen spiced berry cordial (a bit like spicy ribena) for the non drinkers. The rest of the time was spent talking, reading, drawing and drinking lots of tea & coffee.

Oh and wondering what member of next door’s small-holding was being plumped for Christmas.

We also fired up the BBQ on what was possibly the coldest bonfire night we’ve had in years. I admit I didn’t last the whole time out there in the cold and soon dashed back inside to warm up in front of the range and keep the dog company. Not once in the weekend did I hear someone grumble they were bored, missing a reality show, or feeling lost without instant access to the modern world.

Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest. 

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