Gosh time flies… we are nearly at the end of summer, I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, catching up with good friends, work and unfortunately a family bereavement but I have a few posts lined up so my blog will become lively once more.
The madness is about to start. Note this section will be library related, scroll down to get to the tasty recipe!
I work in an FE College, the teaching staff have just returned from their summer break, my to do list has grown rapidly and the students are set to return on the 1st of September. It will be chaos and madness and I will be working 42 hour weeks until Mid-October, but the truth is that this part of the academic year is actually my favourite time. I love getting to meet the new students; I remember the feelings of optimism, enthusiasm and nerves of my first few weeks of post-school student life. I also get to ‘teach’ the students about the library and some basics that will help them as they begin their studies. As a former EFL teacher I actually love the induction sessions where my teacher and librarian skills fuse together. I get to meet the students in small groups and my ultimate aim is that they leave the session feeling that they can come to us in the library for support and help… actually remembering how to use the catalogue can wait as long as they feel that they come and ask. Often students are nervous to ask their tutors as they think they will be judged for not already knowing, they don’t want to ask classmates for fear of looking stupid but here in the library we do not judge we just help. Often that is reassuring them that the tutors 100% will not mind being asked. I think as a student especially at the beginning you are so nervous and really lack in confidence, here in the library we aim to be the friendly people who quietly support you and encourage. Often in life we assume people are really confident and capable but underneath we all have the same worries about whether we are doing as well as we can or doubting our abilities. So trying to be friendly and no-judgemental and making assumptions is something I actively try to avoid and when I do I try to remind myself that we never really know what is whizzing through another persons head.
Now I am getting onto the Foodie stuff…. I am soon going to working very long days 2 days a week so I will need to cook a bit more at weekends and feed my freezer with nice meals that are easy to warm up as I know fine well that I won’t be wanting to cook late in the evening and when you are tired it is easy to start relying on potato waffles and chicken nuggets! My recipe this week can be frozen and warmed up. I have made pies but the filling could be a nice casserole dish served with cous cous or salad (if I ate salad) or even nice on it’s own with some crusty bread. However the pies are super tasty and very filling.
So I present to you…
Sweet Potato and Gammon Pies
For a veggie version try swapping the chicken stock for a vegetable stock and adding peppers instead of the gammon.
You will need 4 individual pie dishes or 1 large pie dish, a large pot, a masher and a couple of other bits and bobs which are stated later in the recipe. I bought Individual oval pie dishes from Amazon recently which I plan to use for pies, pasta bakes and other things. Good way of some portion control!
4 x large(ish) Sweet Potatoes – cut into small chunks. Sweet potatoes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, you want to allow for a portion per person, so if you have monster ones then perhaps you will only need 2-3.
½ Onion – Chopped finely
Black Pepper & Salt for seasoning
Dried Thyme – around a teaspoon
Mustard – 1 teaspoon. I had a hot and smooth mustard but I was planning on using a wholegrain one, so whatever you have available will work fine.
2 large gammon Steaks
Seasoning for the gammon – I used smoked paprika as I had unsmoked gammon steak and felt a bit of smoky flavour would work well with sweetness of the potatoes. I also used a pinch of brown sugar and a teaspoon of a garlic and pepper mix. I love the Organic Blending Company, I always have the Garlic Pepper in my cupboard.
100g Grated Mature Cheddar Cheese
½ block of Shortcrust Pastry
1 egg lightly beaten.
- Boil the kettle and pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Prepare the Sweet potatoes and onion, and then place them in a pot. Add the stock cube and flavour pot, thyme and seasoning. Remember the stock cube will have salt so very little salt is needed. Add the hot water so it just about covers the mixture, you don’t want to add too much water at the beginning as the water will be absorbed by the mixture to become the ‘juice’ for the pie, so if you add too much you will have a watery pie. Cover with a lid and simmer the mixture on a low heat until the water has been absorbed and the potatoes are soft and cooked through.
- Once the potatoes have cooked use a masher to lightly mash up the mixture. You don’t want it to be smooth but rather a thick consistency with no large chunks of potatoes. Leave the lid on to allow the mixture to absorb more liquid whilst you prepare the gammon.
- Place the Gammon steaks into a deep oven dish – during cooking the gammon with create a tasty ‘juice’ some of which will be added to your pie for extra flavour later. Season the gammon with the herbs/spices you have chosen and the little sugar. If you aren’t sure what herbs you would like, have a look at the ingredients of the flavour pot and use that as inspiration. I wanted some seasoning to add a smoky, savoury flavour to balance out the sweetness of the potatoes, hence smoked paprika and my garlic and pepper mix. Cover in tinfoil and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes (depending on the thickness of the meet) until just cooked. We want the meat to be as juicy as possible so watch not to over-cook.
- Once cooked cut up the gammon (I find using scissors I keep for the kitchen easiest) and add to the sweet potato mixture. Add a spoonful of the ‘juice’ from the oven dish to the mixture for extra flavour as well. Give it a good stir, add the cheese, then stir again. Taste and add more seasoning if required.
- Now you have a choice. You can use this tasty mixture as meal on it’s own, freeze for later or use as pie filling. I’m going to turn it into pie so for this fill your pie dish or dishes with the mixture until nearly at the top and then prepare the pastry. .
- Get your pastry and roll out onto a lightly floured surface. Add a pinch of thyme (and cheese for extra flavour if you wish). Fold over the pastry and roll out again. You want the pastry to be ½ cm thick.
- Cut a 1 cm wide strip and use that to cover the edge or you pie dish or dishes. This will give your lid something to grip onto. Using a brush lightly cover this pastry edge with a little beaten egg. Then get a large piece of pastry, cover the dish, cut away the excess and use a fork to press the edge and lid together. Brush the top of the pie with egg to give the pie a nice finish (I have a friend who is allergic to egg when she is visiting I would use just a little milk for this part instead of egg). If you have excess pastry then use it to decorate the top, and brush it with egg. Using the point of a sharp knife make 2 small piercings into the top of each pie to let steam out whilst it is cooking.
- I advise placing the pie dish on a baking try to make getting it out the oven easier, cook at 180 for around 30 minutes until the Pie is golden and delicious looking. If you are worried about the pastry browning too quickly, lower the temperature.
- Eat the tasty pie. You will be very full afterwards.