Welcome to the Blend blog! We're a small communtiy food organisation based in Sheffield, England. On our blog we'll try and keep you upto date with the stuff we're doing, share recipes and talk about anything to do with food. Please write on the blog, tell us what you think and what you eat.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas part 3 - Pork pie and chocolate terrine.

Now we’re only a couple of days off Christmas day, today has been an active day in the Hanson kitchen. My mine responsibilities this year are the Christmas day deserts and also a contribution to the Boxing Day get together at my mum and dads.

After minutes flicking through some of my numerous cook books I opted for a delicious sounding chocolate terrine recipe from ‘Bouchon’ by the legendary chef Thomas Keller and for my mums on boxing day I opted to have a go at making my own pork pie, using a Gary Rhodes recipe from his book ‘New British Classics’. This book was the first ever cook book I bought and although the recipes aren’t that new anymore, they are all of the highest quality.

Pork Pie

For me, a well-made pork pie is one of the finest things to eat and will be ideal for Boxing Day. I did tweak the recipe slightly from Gary Rhodes, using slightly different seasonings to flavour the pie and make it unique to me, however the quantity of meat and the pastry recipe used the recipe from the book. I also decided against including a traditional jelly on my wife’s request.


You need the following ingredients for the filling -

1kg of pork, chopped into ½ cm pieces – my preference is for pork shoulder. If my family were slightly more adventurous I would have included 200g of diced black pudding or chorizo and just used 800g of pork.

200g smoked streaky bacon – the saltiness and fat content in the  bacon will help ensure a moist pie.
Rosemary – a few sprigs, finely chopped.  You could use thyme and sage if you wanted too.
2 onions, diced.
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp mixed spice
A few gratings of Nutmeg
Salt and pepper
25g butter

1.       Start by melting the butter in a pan, add the onion and soften without colouring for 5 minutes. Add the rosemary and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.

2.       Mix the onion with the pork, followed by the remaining ingredients. But the filling in the fridge while you make the pastry.

3.       At this point turn your oven onto gas 7 / 220c and grease a deep pie or cake tin with either butter or lard.


Pork pies are traditionally made with a hot water pastry, which I love. This is how you make it.  

You’ll need-
675g plain flour
150ml milk
150 ml water
175g lard
Pinch of salt
1 beaten egg.


1.       Boil the water, milk and lard in a pan.

2.       Put your flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir in the liquid till you have a smooth dough.

3.       Roll out ¾ of the dough for the base of the pie and place the pastry into your tin.

4.       Once the pastry is lining the tin, place your pork mixture in and press down well.

5.       Roll out the remaining pastry for your pie lid, stick to the bottom with the beaten egg. Crimp round the side, cut a hole in the top and brush with more beaten egg.

6.       Cook the pie for 30 minutes at gas 7 / 220c before turning the oven down to gas 5 / 190c for another hour.

7.       The pie is cooked when the pastry is golden brown and a skewer comes out of the pie clean and is hot when you put it on your lip.

8.       Leave the pie to cool and give it a couple of days in the fridge to mature before eating. I like my pork pie with either brown sauce or a nice chutney.


Chocolate terrine.

A lot of my family like there chocolate, so I thought I’d do something chocolaty for Christmas day instead of the traditional pudding. I’ve decided that I’m going to use the classic chocolate and cherry combo and serve the chocolate terrine with some stewed cherries.


To make the terrine you’ll need;-

12oz of dark chocolate
8 ½ oz butter
4 eggs separated + 4 additional egg yolks.
Caster sugar, 1 ½ cups
Cocoa powder ½ cup
Double cream ½ cup
Granulated sugar 2 tbsp.



1.       Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set above a pan of simmering water. When melted and cooled slightly, stir in the egg yolks.

2.       Whisk the cream till it stands up when you take the whisk out.

3.       Whisk the egg whites, when stiff whisk in the granulated sugar.

4.       Mix the caster sugar and the cocoa powder into the chocolate mixture. Next fold in the egg whites and then fold in the whipped cream.

5.       Pour the chocolate mixture into a loaf tin lined with cling film and put into the fridge to set for a minimum of 12 hours.

6.       Heat some frozen cherries with some caster sugar till they are nice and syrupy and leave to cool before serving with slices of the terrine.





Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas part 2 - The vegetarian

For most, the Christmas dinner menu is based around a giant piece of meat large enough to sink the titanic. However, I feel the need to spend some time writing on behalf of vegetarians as they so often miss out ending up with some crap after thought from the host. For me, December is still an exciting time when it comes to interesting, seasonal vegetables that can be used for either a main course or to accompany the traditional roast.

I’m going to give you a couple of simple, tasty vegetarian alternatives we’ve cooked at some Blend events this year that fit the bill. The first one is a great burger, made with mushroom, spinach, walnut and some cheese.

Mushroom, spinach and walnut burger

These burgers are really tasty and will put a smile on the face of most vegetarians. You can make them the day before and take no more than 15 minutes to prep and cook.

Ingredients – 200g mixed mushrooms, handful of spinach, clove of garlic, 2 sage leaves (chopped), 1 sprig of rosemary, handful of walnuts, 1 cup of polenta, 1 cup vegetable stock and about 100g of parmesan cheese.

Method –Fry the mushrooms, herbs and garlic in a little oil till they soften. Chop the nuts and add along with the spinach. Cook till the spinach is wilted, season generously with salt and pepper and leave to cool.

Make the polenta by boiling 1 cup of vegetable stock, adding the polenta and mixing well till you have a smooth paste. Cook the polenta for 5 minutes over a low heat, grating in the parmesan and adding salt, pepper and an optional knob of butter. Mix the cooked mushroom mix and polenta together, taste and season really well again and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Shape the cooled polenta mixture into burgers, pan fry for 3 minutes on each side or till they are golden brown and heated all the way through. I like to serve them with a nice tomato sauce with some chilli through it.

Beetroot tarte tatin

Tarte tatin doesn’t always need to be a dessert. This dish is another one you can prepare ahead of time and is something a bit different for the vegetarians in our lives. The finished dish is pretty stunning when you turn it out too.

Ingredients – puff pastry, sugar, vinegar (balsamic or red wine are good options here), cooked beetroot, beaten egg, knob of butter.

Method – roll out the pastry to the size of a frying pan and put to one side. Heat the sugar with a splash of water in a pan till you have a light caramel, then add a good splash of the vinegar and the butter. Make sure you don’t stir the caramel or it will go grainy. Arrange the beetroot in the caramel and place the pastry over the top. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and bake in the oven at gas 6 / 190c for about 20 mins till the pastry is cooked through. Flip the tart out and you can crumble some nice cheese over at this stage if you want too.

Please think about vegetarians this Christmas, we carnivores often disregard them serving them some pretty awful food.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Christmas is coming! (part 1)

If you reading this and want a blog about how to roast the perfect turkey, something interesting to do with your sprouts or tips on using up your left over Christmas pudding please leave the site now.!There will be (I'd imagine) Christmas programmes from Gordon, Jamie, Nigella et al telling you all that traditional stuff that you can either use or (as I prefer) ignore. What we're going to do on here between now and December time is look at an alternative to the normal Christmas.

Alot of people stress about doing Christmas dinner, so what I’ll try and do is give you a few recipes and tips that can make the 25th slightly more bearable than it sometimes can be. I can’t guarantee to remove any stress as that isn’t possible when it comes to cooking food for a group of people in a domestic kitchen. But i urge you to chill out, keep it simple and enjoy spending time with your friends and family.

Also, I’ll try not to be patronising and as Christmas is known for not being the cheapest time of year, I promise to make sure that all the stuff I post is affordable for every budget. I think what I’ll do is cover one meal or course at a time, and just give you a few different ideas for each bit.

So, first things first, let’s look at what we’re going to knock up for the ‘big day’. There’s more food consumed than your average day, so for me breakfast wants to be something indulgent, yet not too heavy that you’re not going to eat your dinner.   

For me it’s got to be some form of smoked fish, haddock, salmon and mackerel are probably the most widely available round these parts. There are a few classic breakfast dishes you’ve could have a go at like kedgeree, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or a personal favourite the kipper with brown toast.

The recipe I’m going to suggest is a smoked mackerel, spinach and cheddar omelette. For me, this dish is perfect as it’s a 1 panner, doesn’t take too long to make and it only takes a couple of minutes to put together. Make sure you get the best quality eggs and cheddar you can afford and wash the spinach in advance. There’s nowt wrong with a good omelette in my book and this combination is a good one. Please don’t try and imitate Saturday kitchen, a good omelette does take longer than 20 / 30 seconds to make.

Crack a couple of eggs, mix with a splash of whole milk and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat a little butter in a pan, add a handful of spinach followed by the eggs. Mix the omelette slightly and cook over a medium heat, flake in a bit of delicious smoked mackerel. Grate in a little cheddar, fold the omelette over and serve.

If you wanted something sweeter, toast some brioche, fry some bananas with some coffee, sugar and vanilla and serve on top with a bit of Greek yogurt if you want.

Get some decent coffee made, some bread in the toaster, some sliced pineapple with vanilla sugar and mint (my colleague Ruth’s combo) and enjoy one of these simple but slightly different breakfast ideas.



Wednesday, 10 October 2012


France is without doubt one of my favourite food destinations and in my opinion the creater of some of the best food to be found any where in the world. The main thing I love about french cooking (as many other great cuisines) is that its about using a handful of simple, quality ingredients well. Whether it be a simple coc-au-vin, soup de l'oignon (french onion soup to you and me), crepe suizette or tarte tatin the French really have a wonderful way of taking a few simple ingredients and transforming them into something amazingly tasty, fresh and healthy (ish). 

I've been fortunate to visit France 3 times in my life (Paris twice and a week bike riding through various regions the other time) and every time the food has always been amazing. Whether eating snails in Paris bistro or barbequing some meat in a camp site just south of Lyon, what you are able to buy from local shops and eat in your average french bistro is in my view truely outstanding.

We did a number of french dishes at our last cook along session so I thought i'd share them with you all so you can give them a go at home. The recipes do take a little time, but the rewards for that are well worth it. All the ingredients are easily available and cost very little to buy.

French onion soup

Ingredients (4 portions)
5 onions, sliced.
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
750ml stock (beef or chicken)
1 tsp Cornflour
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 slices of bread
280g Gruyere cheese, grated.

1.  Heat the oil in the pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook over a low heat for 15 to 20 minutes to caramelise the onions.
2.  Add the bayleaf, a pinch of salt and pepper and the stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
3.  Mix the cornflour with a drop of water to form a paste. Pour into the boiling soup to thicken it slightly.
4.  Toast the bread on both sides, then top with the grated cheese.
5.  Put the bread back under the grill to melt the cheese.
6.  Season the soup with salt and pepper and pour into serving bowls and top with the toasted bread.


Ingredients (4 portions)
4 chicken legs, skinned.
100g bacon or pancetta, chopped.
½  bottle of red wine
300ml Chicken stock
1 tbsp plain flour
20 button onions
20 button mushrooms
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil.

1.  Heat 1 tsp of oil in a deep pan and fry the chopped bacon till it goes crispy. Remove from the pan.
2.  Dust the chicken in the flour and brown off on all sides. Remove from the pan.
3.  Fry the onions and mushrooms off till they are coloured on all sides then add the chicken and bacon to the pan.
4.  Put the red wine, chicken stock, bay leaves and thyme into the pan and cook for about 45 minutes or the chicken is cooked.
5.  Season with salt and pepper, add the chopped parsley and serve.


1 aubergine
1 courgette
2 peppers
1 large onion
1 tin of tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
pinch of dried oregano
salt and pepper.

1. Dice the onion and fry in a little oil with the garlic. Chop the other vegetables into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the pan with the onion and garlic.
2. Add a pinch of oregano and salt and pepper and soften for 4 or 5 minutes over a medium heat.
3. Add a tin of tomatoes and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, season with salt and pepper and serve.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

We need your recipes!

Short blog post this weekend and one that’s more about contributions from you, the Blend blog readers.  
This year I’m going to be involved in the production of a cook book as part of my work with Blend. The idea behind the book is to produce one that’s not a poncy cheffy one, unattainable to the mere mortal with unaffordable ingredients and has a ridiculous number of processes. We actually want to produce one that is made up of recipes that normal people make in normal houses without a team of chefs on hand to do the mis-en- place. I’m quite fed up of seeing endless celeb chef cook books on the shelves of book stores, when pretty much everyone has got a recipe they knock up that they could share and other people would like to give a bash.
If you’re reading this and have got a recipe that means something to you and want it to be considered for our book, either put it as a comment at the bottom or email it to and we’ll see what we can do. Also if you’ve got a picture of you and your food to go with your recipe, please send it in too. The book should be out early 2013 but I’ll keep you updated on our progress on here.  
Take care,

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Risotto, south indian beef curry and pineapple filo pie.

Hurray, a week where I get to do some cooking and have a few evenings free to write up the recipes on here.

Yesterday (tuesday 17th July 2012) cooking demo for the nhs in Chapeltown market just down the road from me yesterday. Did 3 dishes but the stand out one for me was beetroot and greenbean risotto with goats cheese. Simple delishious meal with an amazing colour. Also been getting into the idea of not having to rely on a piece of meat or fish to base a meal around. Beetroot is a great vegetable that we should eat more of (not the crap pickled stuff you get in a jar though!), its good roasted, turned into crisps, boiled or steamed.
 For this risotto you only need about 7 or 8 ingredients. They are onion, garlic, veg stock, white wine (optional), arborio rice (this is a shortgrain rice and costs about a quid for a pack in asda and morrisons et al), cooked beetroot, some blanched green beans and some decent cheese. 
Fry the 1/2 an onion and 2 or 3 garlicb cloves (you can add thyme and bayleaf if you want to) till softened then add the rice. Stir the rice (1/2 a pack) so its coated with the oil and garlic then pour in a glug of wine simmer till the wine has absorbed into the rice. Next, gradually add the stock a bit at a time adding more for about 10 mins. Chop the beetroot up and add along with the green beans. Add a little more stock and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. The rice should be cooked and vegetables hot, add a generous amount of good cheese, some salt and pepper, stirring through the risotto and serve. Risotto shouldn't be stodgy and is a great meal that takes very little time to prepare.  

Tonights tea was a take on a South Indian curry called Mamsa Ishtew, which basically means lamb stew with coconut and vegetables. I altered it and used some beef shin as it looked better than the lamb when I was in the shop. It benefits from a long slow cook and is truely delicious, aromatic curry very different from the ones you get from most curry houses in this country. I love asian food more than pretty much any other continent, it is so varied and tasty.
This is the recipe for 2 or 3 portions
350g beef shin, chopped
1 tin of Coconut milk plus a tin full of water.
1 Green Chilli’s, sliced (add a couple more at the end if you like it really spicey)
Ginger, 1 inch of fresh, sliced finely.
Cinnamon 1 stick
pinch of cumin
pinch of fenugreek
Cloves 2
Star Anise 2
Onions 1, sliced
Garlic, 4 cloves sliced
1 Aubergine
Coconut oil 1 tbsp
Salt and pepper

1. Fry the beef in a bit of oil till it starts to brown. Add the onion, chilli, garlic, ginger and all the other spices (don't worry if you've not got all of them, use what you've got!) and cook for another 5 minutes till the onions are starting to soften and the smell of spices fills your house. 
2. Add the coconut milk and some water to cover the meat, bring to a boil and simmer for at least 2 hours.  
Add the aubergine and cook for another 30 to 45 minutes.
3. By now the meat should be tender, the aubergine nicely softened and the sauce slightly thickened.
4. Boil a bit of rice and make some chapati, which is as easy as mixing chapati flour, water and a pinch of salt together, kneading, rolling out and cooking in a dry pan for 2 minutes.
5. Serve and have a glass of larger with it. 

Don't normally do puddings in the week but I had a pineapple that needed using up and a pack of filo pastry in the fridge as well. 

Peel and chop up a small pineapple, roast in the oven with a sprinkling of brown sugar, some rum, a pinch of cinnamon and a little grate of nutmeg for 15 minutes.
Melt some butter and brush the 6 sheets of filo pastry with it. After this sprinkle with a little more brown sugar, some cinnamon and grated nutmeg too.

Put the pastry on top of the cooked pineapple but not neatly at all, it should be a bit all over the place. Put the pie into the oven (gas 6 / 190c ish) for about 20 minutes or the pastry is crispy and golden brown.
Eat it with a good dollop of icecream.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Angram bank school

So getting back to food after that slightly soppy last blog entry.

We've been doing some cook along sessions at my old junior school (Angram Bank in High Green, Sheffield), for the past couple of months. Its been slightly odd going back after nearly 20 years and seeing some of the same teachers still working there (Mr Jacklin and Mrs Fisher to name, names!) and also people who were there  when i was there and now have their own children at the school. We've been getting between 6 and 10 families along to the sessions and have made everything from pizza and kebabs to traditional pastys and it has been brilliant.

Today was this young man's birthday, so we decided to make our own chocolate brownies to celebrate him turning 7.

 This was the recipe we used, get ready for the sugar hit.  

Chocolate brownies
140g/5oz dark chocolate
225g/8oz butter
5 eggs
450g/1lb caster sugar
110g/4oz plain flour
55g/2oz cocoa powder

1.   Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Line a 20x30cm/8x12in roasting tin with baking parchment.
2.   Gently melt the butter and the sugar together in a large pan.
3.   Take off the heat and beat in the rest of the ingredients.
4.   Turn into the roasting tin and bake for 30-40 minutes until the top of the brownie is firm but the inside still feels soft.
5.   Take out of the oven and cool in the tin. Cut into 5cm/2in squares when cool.

Sad times

So last week saw the end of an era at Blend as Mr Tim Balhatchet was involved in his last ever (possibly) cook along as he's getting hitched and buggering off to Preston to live with the lovely Ruth. Tim has been involved in firstly the Shipshape healthy eating work, which resulted in the evolution to Blend!

To some it up, Tim is awesome and deserves alot of credit for the work we have been able to do over the past 3 years. This has ranged from the early days where me (Chris) and Tim were running cookery classes in a tiny kitchen at Lowfield School for local families, our chef of the year event that we ran nearly 2 years ago now (Tim is in the ridiculously coloured t shirt on the left in pic 1) and being a fouding member of the cook alongs and Blend.

Not only has Tim been key part of the Blend team, he's also a top bloke who will be sadly missed by all involved. All the best for the future pal and a big thank you from all of us

Chris x

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Mexican cook along recipes

So we did mexican food at our last cook along last week and it was pretty decent in my opinion. The food we make at our cook along classes is dead easy to make and affordable. Below are the recipes for chilli, refried beans and ceviche. The recipes have been simplified slightly and if we had a few more hours, i'd cook the chilli alot longer and use chuck steak rather than mince.

Chilli Con Carne

Ingredients (4 portions)
Minced Beef 500g
2 onions, diced
2 / 3 garlic cloves, chopped.
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced.
2 peppers, diced
1 or 2 tsp chilli powder
1 or 2 tsp cumin powder
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tin of kidney beans
2 tins of chopped tomatoes.
Fresh coriander
Sour cream.
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil.

1.   Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep based frying pan and brown the mince off. When the meat is brown, take it out of the pan and put to one side.

2.   Fry all of the diced vegetable in the pan for about 5 minutes or till they have started to soften. Add the spices and the mince into the pan.

3.   Add the kidney beans and the tins of tomatoes, bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes to an hour. If the chilli reduces too much add some water to the pan.

4.   Season the chilli with salt and pepper, then add the chopped fresh coriander and serve with some sour cream.

Re-fried beans

Ingredients (2 to 4 portions)
1 tin of kidney or pinto beans
1 onion, diced.
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Fresh coriander, chopped.
½ chilli, diced.
Vegetable oil
Water 1 tbsp
Salt and pepper

1.   Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and fry off the onion, garlic and chilli for a couple of minutes.

2.   Add the beans to the pan along with the water. Cook for about 5 minutes.

3.   Mash the beans with either a potato masher or in a food processor along with the coriander and a pinch of salt and pepper. 

Mackerel Ceviche

Ingredients (4 portions)
4 fresh mackerel fillets, skinned and boned - make sure these are as fresh as possible!
2 limes
Handful of chopped coriander
1 chilli, finely diced.
3 spring onions, finely chopped.
Caster sugar, a pinch.
Vegetable oil, 2 tsp.
Salt and Pepper.

1.   Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the mackerel fillets and lay on a serving plate.

2.   Take the zest off the limes, juice them and mix with the vegetable oil, chilli, sugar, spring onions and some salt and pepper.

3.   Pour the lime mixture over the sliced fish and leave to stand in a cool place for between 10 and 15 minutes.

4.   Sprinkle the chopped coriander over the fish and serve straight away.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Fathers day

So last weekened was fathers day and rather than going out for a meal i thought i'd knock a decent meal up for my dad. I went to town and did a 6 course meal and spent most of saturday in the kitchen making a few tasty treats. With a bit of planning, its pretty easy to put together and worked out cheaper than us going to the pub for sunday lunch. The meal is a mixture of stuff you have to do last minute and stuff that can be prepared well in advance.

The menu was:-
1. Pea and ham soup
Easy to make and can be done well in advance. Sweat of half an onion, garlic, thyme and bay, add 1 small potato finely diced then cover with ham stock. Bring to a boil, simmer till the potato is cooked then add half a bag of frozen peas. Take off the heat after 30 seconds and blend. Serve the soup with some diced boiled ham.

2. Prawns with wilted lettuce and radish

My mum loves prawn cocktail, so this is my take on all the classic flavours you'd assotiate with prawn cocktail. The lettuce is braised with a little lemon, some white wine and a bit of water with some radish thrown in as well. The dressing is natural yogurt, lemon, hendersons relish, paprika, ketchup and the big prawns are simply pan fried.

3. Tomato salad, goats cheese and red pepper sauce.

Dead easy salad with classic meditaranian flavours. I got some interesting tomatoes made a goats cheese moose by blending goats cheese, some cream, basil, some olives and salt and pepper. The red pepper sauce is made by roasting a pepper till its charred on the outside. You then peel it and add it to some sweated onion, garlic, smoked paprika, a little tomato puree and a splash of water and blend it till you have a smooth puree.

4. Pollock with pak choi and a soy, ginger and chilli dressing.

Dead easy, fry some pollock, stir fry some pak choi and mix some soy sauce, water, chilli, ginger, garlic, coriander, lime juice together for the dressing.

5. Duck, beetroot, chard, and a rhubarb sauce

I love duck and this is my take on the whole duck and fruit combo but using some of that bloody rhubarb thats taking over my boarder at the minute.
For the sauce, cook a couple of stalks of rhubarb, a few strips of orange zest, half an onion, a star anise a pinch of sugar. Add some red wine and chicken stock then simmer for an hour or so, then pass through a fine sieve to get out any lumps. This can be done well in advance and does benefit from a night in the fridge.
Boil some fresh beetroot till its cooked, refresh and peel and leave to one side. This can then be heated up when you're ready to serve.
Seal the duck skin side down in a hot pan till you get some good colour. Cook the duck for 6 or 7 minutes (if you like it medium rare like me) in a hot oven (gas 7 / 220c ish) then take out and rest.Now the sauce and beetroot can warmed up, the chard can be wilted in a little butter and the dish can be put together and served. I did a few roasties to go with it too.

6. Mixed berry and cider jelly

Easy desert that is made well ahead and looks stunning.
Boil 160ml of cider with 125g caster sugar, a star anise then leave to cool slightly. Soak 2 gelatine sheets in cold water and add to the cider (take out the star anise). Get some berries and put them into 4 ramekins and pour the cider over the berries. Put into the fridge for at least 2 hours to set. Dip the ramekins into hot water, turn out onto a plate with some more berries and a few sprigs of fresh mint and eat.