Stop Press – I’ve managed to cook a delicious two course dinner with two kids in the house. Okay. I admit that that there was another adult and The Little Lady did get involved too so really the feat isn’t that huge but the outcome was absolutely delicious – even if I do say so myself. We were invited by Aldi to take on their Winter Warmer Challenge and cook a two course dinner that would feed four. I was a bit sceptical at first partly because my dinners usually only feed two adults and a mini human but also because I have never before attempted a pie with real pastry but I should not have been worried. This was really quite easy and it had the definite thumbs up from everyone around the table including Littlest View From a Daddy who it seems has a taste for cream!
Shopping for food with two tiny people in tow can be like taking on an extreme sport but I decided that if the Little Lady was to be involved this would at least occupy her from whanging the bag around the aisles which is one of her usual pass-times when we are out to grab the bananas or four pints of milk. We wrote out an ingredients list in advance and I gave her enough funds to cover the bill then we set about filling our trolley; I pushed it and she loaded it. We took the opportunity to talk about the different vegetables that we needed and compared varieties of ingredients like onions and cabbage. We did have somewhat of stand off over the mushrooms but I soon convinced her that we needed to stick to the recipe and managed to distract her from her conviction when I started talking about the chocolate for the dessert. If you happen to have been following us around Aldi, you will have heard the odd ‘be careful’ ‘no don’t throw them in’ ‘gently – the eggs will break if you just drop them in’ but we got to the till without too much hassle and without any breakages. After we’d paid and packed our bags, we went home to cook dinner.
In all the excitement I may have got my 100grams of Calendonian Blue Cheese mixed up with my 400grams of Cream Cheese but I’m quite partial to cheese and crackers so we’ll be set for any dinner parties over the coming weeks (by the way – we never have dinner parties). Never mind, I rectified the error and then we were set to prepare the dishes. I do like cooking but my patience is limited and I often get overwhelmed with hunger before the meal is ready but the cooking time for the pie was only 25 minutes so there was no excuse for turning to the half pack of digestives that remained from the cheesecake prep. Before you’ve had time to wash up and get your veg. ready, the pie is set to come out of the oven making this a great option for a midweek meal or for something delicious at the weekend.
This dish was super easy to prepare and cook. I’ve never used ready prepared pastry before (don’t be too impressed, I’ve never cooked with make your own pastry either) but it was really easy and I will definitely grab another roll to use for other meals too. That impressed was I with the stuff that I let the Little Lady get creative with her shape cutters and we did a bit of spelling too. Cooking together is great fun and as well as talking about amounts and measures, which ties in with what she’s learning at nursery, we had great fun deciding what steps came next and using different verbs as we chopped, mixed and smashed (eat your heart out Jamie Oliver). After the initial cooking in the pan, it was a case of load it all into the baking dish, cover that with the pastry and pop it in the oven – hey presto you have a pretty tasty pie. I served it up with cabbage and broccoli and the sauce from the pie made for a tasty accompaniment.
Equally delicious was the outcome of the second part of the challenge. Again, my scepticism set in when I thought about the production of a cheesecake especially given my specific taste for chocolate but this was scrumptious. This recipe is designed to feed six to eight and so I have managed to stretch it over two dinners now and there may be a little left (but I’m not sharing that with anyone else in the house). At this point, I have to admit another cooking novice error: I set about making the pie before the cheesecake. In hindsight, I would have done this the other way around. This would have meant that the cheesecake would have had longer to cool before I so impatiently wanted to spread the melted chocolate on top. It may however, have also meant that I would have eaten it before the pie so tempting did it look.
I hadn’t the foggiest idea about how a cheesecake was made before I set about this challenge. To my delight this recipe was just as simple to follow as that of the pie (if we discount my error with the amount of cream cheese, the finished product was achieved relatively easily). We don’t have a food processor – it was assigned to the skip a long time ago but a plastic food bag and rolling pin did the trick when smashing the digestives. It will be of no surprise to you that the Little Lady enjoyed this step the most – that and licking the spoon of cream cheese, creme fraiche and of course chocolate spread. You do need to allow time for the cheesecake to cool before adding the melted chocolate at the final stage but it’s well worth it so do plan ahead and exercise patience even when you are desperate to dig in like I was.
I must say that after completing the challenge I was pretty pleased with myself. I anticipated hours in the kitchen, fancy cookery actions and disappointment in my results but this was not to be. The Aldi Winter Warmer Challenge instead reassured me that I can cook when I put my mind to it. It appears that it’s all in the preparation and the planning but within probably 90 minutes you can have a smashing two course dinner for four adults ready and served. I’ll definitely be trying this menu out again. Move over Hugh Fernly Whathisname.
Here are the recipes:
MAIN: Roasted Turkey, Braised Leek and Caledonian Blue Cheese Pie
Paired with The Exquisite Collection Hawkes Bay Bordeaux Blend
Hawkes Bay in New Zealand has become a modern classic region for Cabernet Sauvignon. This Bordeaux-style blend is full of elegant black fruit flavours and herbal notes which merge attractively with the savoury blue cheese notes of the pie, combining to produce a fruity finish.
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
3 large leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 tbsp. plain flour
200ml double cream
200ml chicken stock
500g cooked turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
100g chestnut mushrooms, halved
3 sprigs thyme
100g Caledonian blue cheese, crumbled
Salt & pepper
375g ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes, until starting to soften.
Add the carrots and leeks and cook for 4-5 minutes.
Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute before stirring in the cream and stock and bringing to a simmer, cooking for 3-4 minutes until starting to thicken.
Add the turkey, mushrooms, thyme, blue cheese and seasoning.
Spoon into a pie dish.
Cut a strip of pastry to cover the rim of the dish, then moisten the rim and cover with the remaining pastry to make a lid. Trim the edges.
Make a small slit in the centre to allow steam to escape then brush with the beaten egg.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden.
Serve with steamed green vegetables.
DESSERT: Ultimate Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake with Irish Cream
Paired with 10 YO Tawny Port
The hazelnut and chocolate notes are complemented by the Port’s smooth, rich flavours of walnuts, chocolate, caramel and coffee. Some background notes of rich berries intensify the match further.
230g digestive biscuits
75g unsalted butter
400g cream cheese
125g caster sugar
3 eggs and 2 egg yolks
50g white chocolate
50G Dark Chocolate
200g crème fraiche
½ tbsp. icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. Irish Cream Liqueur
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4 and grease and base line a 20cm spring-form tin.
Place the biscuits into a food processor and process until broken down to crumbs.
Melt the butter in a pan and then stir in the digestive crumbs. Spread the mixture over the base of the tin.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, Nutoka, eggs and egg yolks until smooth.
Pour the cream cheese mixture into the tin. Bake for 1 hour, until the middle of the cheese stops wobbling – you may need to cover the top with foil if it starts to brown too much.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and swirl the chocolate over the cheesecake to decorate. Sprinkle with dark chocolate shavings.
Whisk together the crème fraiche, icing sugar and Irish Cream liqueur and serve with slices of the cheesecake.