Your Last Mouthful

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Pie: A Social Meal By Design- Guest post by Michael Partridge

It’s British Pie Week and it’s Friday so I thought you might like some light entertainment in the form of a guest post by pie lover Michael Partridge. You can follow Michael on Twitter if you want to discuss your love for pies.


Hello there, my name is Michael and I’ve decided to write about pies!  Some people, when given an opportunity to write about any food stuff would automatically go to a favourite recipe, a great place to eat…but I was asked to write about pies.  There is no escaping it, pie’s are a social meal in my life. There is some sense to this statement, but it requires a little back story…


Some years back, I was living in a shared house that was very close to a large supermarket on Cryws Road.  This nameless large supermarket was notorious for good deals on all sorts of “EAT ME TODAY” produce.  There was some debate about the best time to get the best deals, go in around 8ish, smaller savings, larger choice or take the risk and head in after 9 for massive savings and a real lucky dip approach to your shopping.  It wasn’t uncommon for my housemates or me to return with an eclectic bag full.  My personal favourite remains:


Jam doughnuts (10p for 5)

2 pints of milk (20p)

Big bag of carrots (15p)

Cat food (£1.50 instead of £4).


Bakery produce was always reduced, there was always something worth getting and sharing that would normally come in under 50p.  On one occasion, my housemate returned home with his shopping and an apple pie. “Apple pie anyone? It was only 20p.” A debate was had about the perfect way to eat apple pie, we agreed on piping hot with ice cream. However, we didn’t have any ice cream, “There’s choc ice’s?” and thus the institution was born. Pie with a choc ice. Seriously, its incredible.  If you doubt me, oh how I pity you! You are missing out.


If any of us went to the supermarket and saw pies going cheap, one was bought, taken home and everyone in the house (often more than the 3 residents) would come together in the living room for pie and choc ice.  The supermarket pies were big enough for 8 people (or 4 greedy buggers), spending under £1 cheap pie and value choc ice’s was outweighed by the bonding over pie eating.


A few houses later, I had really taken to the kitchen and started to feel braver, so started to experiment making my own pies. I had never made pastry from scratch before, but I quickly discovered that the recipes I found were more of a guide than a precision formula, and the amount of effort required to make enough pastry for a 2 person pie isn’t a great deal different to a 4 person pie. It’s exactly the same with fillings!


After my first attempt, I realised that it made sense to invite people round for dinner to enjoy the fresh out of the oven pie, because it just isn’t as nice warmed up.  It is also amazing the effect this statement has on people…


“Do you want to come round for dinner tonight?”


Pause, whilst they think….


“I’m making pie…”


“Can I bring my girlfriend as well?”


My original plan of dinner for 2-3 often became 3-5…and the social eating continues.  People are drawn to quality home cooked food like moths to a flame and the offer of a tasty hand made pie with a hearty helping of mash, peas and gravy will have your friends beating your door down.


I am grateful that I now have a reputation as a man who makes good pies. If I need a favour, I use the line, “If you help me…there could be pie in your future.” It very rarely fails.  It still comes back to a group of people eating pies!  However you look at it, if I’m making pie, I’m cooking for at least 4, so you might as well make the most of it!


Favourite fillings:


Steak and chorizo. Add some onion and finely chopped spinach to the mix and you are in heaven!


Lamb and mint.  Fresh mint is the key, and don’t be afraid to use plenty.


Sun-dried tomato, olive and feta. Again some friend onion and spinach really make this something special.


Chicken, sun-dried tomato and extra mature cheese. Fried onion is a must, add the other elements with some grated cheese and big chunks as well!


Useful advice.




Pastry first. Work to a recipe the first few times, then start winging it.  I always get my dough to the right consistency and then cling film it and put it in the fridge whilst I concentrate on fillings.


Filling. Don’t be afraid to do the majority of the cooking outside the pie! I prefer it as I feel I can control everything more closely.


A cake/pie tin that has a clasp/release so you can get it out easily. Trust me, it’s far more satisfy to see a finished article and cut into it.




I am all about adding to the basics. If we are having pie, mash and gravy, I will always add a little something extra!

Mash with spring onions, blue cheese and milk instead of butter is incredible. I cheat with gravy and use instant all the time, but adding some extra love, makes a world of difference. Fry up some red onion, as soon as it goes soft add a few spoons of brown sugar, once the sugar has caramelised pour on some boiling water, then add some instant gravy. World of difference.


In conclusion…


Make it all yourself, fill  your house with the smell of great meals being cooked, fill your house with friends and be happy (and full) together.

Slow Cooker recipes for the 12 days of Christmas

My blog revolves around eating out in Cardiff and the surrounding area but I also love to cook so when Susan Colburn asked me if I would like to publish her guest post, it seemed like a nice change.

Over to Susan…

Slow-Cooker Recipes for the 12 Days of Christmas

It’s that wonderful time of year, when hearts are merry and homes are filled with the spirit of Christmas. But with tight budgets, longer work hours and wound-up children anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Take a deep breath, pull out your Crock-Pot, and try these delicious slow cooker recipes that will save time and money (think leftovers!).

Whether you’re looking for hearty soups, mouth-watering desserts or slow-cooker chicken recipes for dinner, your slow cooker will soon become your best friend this holiday season. And, there’s no need to get creative—these tasty slow-cooker recipes provide exactly what you need to feed the family and keep everyone happy (including you).

Super easy and full of flavor, the following easy recipes provide 12 days of Christmas recipes… and a lot more time to relax!

Day 1: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast

Servings: 8

What You Need

1/2 cup A.1.  Steak Sauce

1/2 cup water

1 pkg. (0.9 oz.) onion-mushroom soup mix

1 boneless beef chuck eye roast (2-1/2 lb.)

1 lb. baby red potatoes

1 pkg. (1 lb.) baby carrots

1 onion, thickly sliced

Make It

MIX first 3 ingredients.

PLACE meat in slow cooker. Top with vegetables and sauce; cover.

COOK on LOW 8 to 9 hours (or on HIGH 6 to 7 hours).

Slow-Cooker Tip!

If one of the slow-cooker recipes you are trying out does not yield enough servings and you need to double it, keep in mind that your Crock-Pot or slow cooker should be no more than two-thirds’ full. Many people own two (or more) slow-cooker appliances for this very reason.

Day 2: Slow-Cooker Cheesy Chicken & Potatoes

Servings: 4

What You Need

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 lb. red potatoes (about 3), very thinly sliced

1 tsp. paprika

8 small bone-in chicken thighs (2 lb.), skin removed

1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup

1/4 lb. (4 oz.) ,cheddar cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Make It

PLACE peppers in slow cooker sprayed with cooking spray; top with potatoes. Sprinkle paprika over chicken. Place 4 thighs in slow cooker; cover with soup and remaining thighs. Cover with lid.

COOK on LOW 6 to 8 hours (or on HIGH 3 to 4 hours).

USE slotted spoon to transfer chicken and vegetables to platter; cover to keep warm. Set slow cooker on HIGH heat. Add cheese and Worcestershire sauce to reserved liquid in slow cooker; stir. Cover with lid; cook 5 minutes. Stir until cheese is completely melted and sauce is well blended. Spoon over chicken and vegetables; top with parsley.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

Ever notice how dairy products are generally added to slow-cooker recipes toward the end of the cooking cycle? Foods with milk contents—including sour cream, yogurt or cheese—have a tendency to break down in the slow cooker, which is why they are added last minute.

Day 3: Slow-Cooker Ginger-Nut Apple Betty with Warm Eggnog Custard

Servings: 8

What You Need

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

8 medium apples (about 2 lb.), peeled, cored and sliced

12 Ginger Snaps

2/3 cup quick-cooking oats

1/3 cup Chopped Pecans

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted

1 pkg. (4-serving size)  Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding

2 cups milk

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Make It

MIX sugar, flour and cinnamon in large bowl until well blended. Add apples; toss to evenly coat. Place in bottom of slow cooker. Place cookies in food processor or blender container; cover. Process until finely crushed. Pour into medium bowl. Add oats, pecans and butter; mix well. Sprinkle over apples; cover with lid.

COOK on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours or until heated through. Serve warm or transfer to large bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

EMPTY dry pudding mix into medium heatproof bowl; set aside. Bring milk just to boil on medium-high heat. Gradually add to pudding mix, beating with wire whisk until well blended. Stir in nutmeg. Spoon over individual servings of dessert. Cover and refrigerate any leftover sauce and/or dessert.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

When delicious slow-cooker recipes are finished cooking, the insert of the Crock-Pot or slow cooker should never be placed directly onto a cold surface. Otherwise, you run the risk of cracking the ceramic pot.

Day 4: Slow-Cooker Old-Fashioned Beef Stew

Servings: 8

What You Need

2 lb. boneless beef round steak, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/4 cup light Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard

2 carrots, peeled, sliced

1 large red potato, cut into 1-inch cubes

8 fresh mushrooms, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (14.5 oz.) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup water

1 pkg. (12 oz.) whole wheat egg noodles, uncooked

Make It

HEAT nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add meat, in batches; cook 4 to 5 minutes or until evenly browned, stirring frequently. Place in slow cooker.

MIX dressing and mustard; pour over meat. Top with next 5 ingredients; cover with lid.

COOK on LOW 8 hours (or on HIGH 4 hours), cooking noodles as directed on package for the last 15 minutes.

MIX flour and water; stir into meat mixture. Cook, covered, 5 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened; stir before serving. Serve over drained noodles.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

If you want an even heartier stew, dipping meat into flour prior to browning helps thicken the sauce. While most slow-cooker recipes will include this step in the directions, you can determine how much flour to use depending on your personal preference.

Day 5: Slow-Cooker Apple Crisp

Servings: 12

What You Need

1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding

1/2 cup sugar, divided

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

10 Granny Smith apples (3 lb.), peeled, sliced

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

6 Tbsp. butter, melted, divided

12 Wafers, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup Sliced Almonds

Make It

MIX dry pudding mix, 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Toss fruit with 1/4 cup butter in large bowl. Add pudding mixture; mix lightly. Spoon into slow cooker; cover with lid. Cook on LOW 4 to 6 hours (or HIGH 2 to 3 hours).

MEANWHILE, combine chopped wafers, nuts, remaining butter and sugar in shallow microwaveable dish. Microwave on HIGH 1 minute; stir. Microwave 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until golden brown, stirring every 30 seconds. Cool.

SPRINKLE with nut mixture just before serving.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

For whatever reason, many people like to sneak a peek at their slow-cooker meal while it’s cooking; nevertheless, resist the urge to open the lid (or stir the stew when making soup). Why? It takes awhile to replenish any moisture that escapes the pot. Remember, slow-cooker recipes include exact cooking directions—follow them carefully.


Day 6: Slow-Cooker Chicken & Dumplings

Servings: 6

What You Need

1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs

2-1/2 cups fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth

1-1/2 cups each chopped onions, celery and carrots

2 cups frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup (1/2 of 8-oz. tub)  Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread

1 pkg. (6 oz.)  Stuffing Mix for Chicken

3/4 cup hot water

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Make It

COMBINE chicken, broth, onions, celery and carrots in slow cooker; cover with lid.

COOK on LOW for 8 to 10 hours (or on HIGH for 3-1/2 hours).

ADD peas and cream cheese spread; stir until well blended. Mix stuffing mix, water and eggs until well blended. Drop stuffing mixture, 2 heaping tablespoonfuls at a time, onto chicken mixture in slow cooker. Cook, covered, on HIGH 30 minutes. Gently turn over dumplings. Cook, covered, an additional 15 minutes.


Slow Cooker Tip!

If you prefer a thicker soup to soothe the soul, keep in mind that liquid does not evaporate in a slow cooker. Most slow-cooker chicken recipes and soups will reduce the amount of liquids by roughly 20 percent.


Day  7: Slow-Cooker Saucy Swiss Steak

Servings: 4

What You Need

1/4 cup Italian dressing

1 boneless chuck blade or shoulder steak (1 lb.), cut into 4 pieces

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup beef broth

1 green pepper, chopped

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Make It

HEAT dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Meanwhile, coat steaks with flour; gently shake off excess flour. Add to skillet; cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until steaks are browned on both sides. Remove from heat.

COMBINE tomatoes, broth and tomato paste in slow cooker. Add steaks and peppers; cover with lid. Cook on HIGH 3 to 4 hours (or on LOW 8 to 10 hours).

SPRINKLE with cheese just before serving.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

With slow-cooker recipes, it’s better to brown meat in a skillet before adding it to the Crock-Pot or slow cooker. While you can add the meat without following this prep step, it enhances the flavor of the meal.

Day 8: Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

Servings: 8

What You Need

1/4 cup Italian dressing

3 lb. mixed chicken thighs and drumsticks

1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup each red and green pepper strips

1 clove garlic, minced

1 can (14.5 oz.) crushed tomatoes

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

4 cups hot cooked long-grain white rice

Make It

HEAT dressing in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken, in batches; cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until evenly browned on all sides.

PLACE mushrooms, onions, peppers and garlic in slow cooker; top with chicken. Combine tomatoes and thyme; pour over ingredients in slow cooker. Cover with lid. Cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours (or on HIGH 5 hours).

SERVE chicken mixture over rice.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

Meat tends to cook faster than vegetables in the slow cooker. For slow-cooker chicken recipes that include veggies, place them at the bottom of the pot so they will be closer to the heat source.

Day 9: Slow-Cooker Green Beans, Tomatoes and Bacon

Servings: 8

What You Need

2 slices Bacon, finely chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 lb. green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths

1/2 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/4 tsp. pepper

4 plum tomatoes (about 1/2 lb.), chopped

Make It

COOK and stir bacon in large skillet on medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon, reserving drippings in skillet. Drain bacon. Add onions to drippings; cook and stir until crisp-tender.

ADD beans, broth and pepper; stir. Bring to boil; cover. Simmer on medium-low heat 40 minutes.

STIR in tomatoes; cook on medium-high heat 3 minutes or until heated through. Top with bacon.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

Never reheat leftovers in the slow cooker. (It’s deemed a slow cooker for a reason!) Instead, use a conventional oven, stovetop or microwave to warm up what’s left over from slow-cooker recipes.

Day 10: Slow-Cooker Lasagna

Servings: 8

What You Need

1 lb. ground beef

1 jar (24 oz.) spaghetti sauce

1 cup water

1 container (15 oz.) Ricotta Cheese

1 pkg. (7 oz.) 2% milk shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 egg

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

6 lasagna noodles, uncooked

Make It

BROWN meat in large skillet; drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce and water. Mix ricotta, 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, 2 Tbsp. Parmesan, egg and parsley.

SPOON 1 cup meat sauce into slow cooker; top with layers of half each of the noodles (broken to fit) and cheese mixture. Cover with 2 cups meat sauce. Top with remaining noodles (broken to fit), cheese mixture and meat sauce. Cover with lid.

COOK on LOW 4 to 6 hours or until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses; let stand, covered, 10 minutes or until melted.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

Slow-cooker recipes work wonders if your slow cooker is the right size. If you’re not sure which size is best for your household, see below:

1 person = 1-1/2 qt

2 people = 2–3-1/2 qt

3–4 people = 3-1/2–4-1/2 qt

4–5 people = 4-1/2–5 qt

6 or more people = 5-7 qt

Day 11: Slow-Cooker Chunky Chicken Chili

Servings: 8

What You Need

1 can (15 oz.) dark red kidney beans, rinsed

1 can (15 oz.) light red kidney beans, rinsed

1-1/2 cups Mild Salsa

1 can (16 oz.) no-salt-added tomato sauce

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

1 onion, chopped

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup Mexican-style finely shredded four cheese

Make It

COMBINE beans, salsa, tomato sauce and chili powder in slow cooker. Top with chicken, onions and corn. (Do not stir.) Cover with lid.

COOK on LOW 6 to 8 hours (or on HIGH 4 to 5 hours).

STIR before serving. Ladle into bowls. Top with cheese.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

Be conscious of how much time is left before mealtime. It typically takes twice as long to cook slow-cooker recipes on the low-heat setting (around 200 degrees) than the high-heat setting (around 300 degrees).

Day 12:  Slow-Cooker Saucy Meatballs

Servings: 8

What You Need

1 pkg. (6 oz.) Stuffing Mix for Turkey

1-1/2 lb. lean ground beef

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup water

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

2   green peppers, cut into strips

4 cups spaghetti sauce

1 pkg. (1 lb.) spaghetti

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Make It

COMBINE stuffing mix, meat, egg and water. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place in slow cooker; top with vegetables and sauce. Cover with lid.

COOK on LOW 6 to 8 hours (or on HIGH 3 to 4 hours).

COOK spaghetti as directed on package. Serve meatballs with sauce over spaghetti. Sprinkle with cheese.

Slow-Cooker Tip!

When trying out slow-cooker recipes, make a little extra for dinner or snacking the following day. For example, the extra sauce and meatballs in this recipe could be used for an easy meatball sub sandwich or hot appetizer, or simply make more noodles and add the meatballs to a delicious baked pasta dish.

About the Author:

Sue Colburn believes in new beginnings… For her “retirement” from teaching 7th grade Social Studies she set her sights on breaking into the Food Media industry. Just like she taught her students: “ain’t nothin to it, but to DO IT.” If you’d like a food article for your site please email her: When not writing or cooking, Sue spends time with her 2 granddaughters, 3 children, 8 cats and her high-school sweetheart, who by the grace of God she also married.

If you’d like to write a guest post for me, please get in touch.

Guest blogger Rachel Ellis – Cupcakes, What’s not to love?


As part of my cupcake week feature, I thought it would be great to have a guest blog post from a cupcake enthusiast so please welcome… RACHEL ELLIS!

Rachel has been baking and decorating cakes for 2 years and although it’s just a hobby at the moment she has lots of plans and dreams to make it her job one day. Rachel is married and lives with her husband in Cwmbran, although she is originally from Cardiff. In her spare time she likes to see friends and family, go on long walks with her two dogs and the occasional run! She is currently training for the Cardiff half marathon to raise money for Free Cakes For Kids Wales

Over to Rachel…


What’s not to like?

I love baking, I love decorating cakes and I love sharing my cakes with anyone who’s happy to be called a taste tester. Cupcakes are perfect for all of these things and I often use them as my baking fix. When time is short but I need to bake, when I want to try new decorating ideas or when we have guests visiting they are just perfect. Cupcakes are a great place to start for anyone who is just joining the world of baking and ideas can be developed as your confidence grows.

Cupcake week seemed a great time to work on a recipe that I’ve been thinking about for some time, a light, delicate orange sponge with a smooth passionfruit buttercream.


Orange Cake Ingredients Makes 8-10

120g Unsalted butter (softened)

120g Caster sugar

1 large egg

150g Plain flour mixed with 1tsp baking powder

60ml milk

Zest &juice of 1 orange


Passionfruit Curd Ingredients Makes 1 jar

50g Unsalted butter (melted)

75g Caster sugar

1 large egg and 1 egg yolk

6 passionfruit (juice only)


Passionfruit Buttercream

80g Unsalted butter (softened)

250g Icing sugar

Passionfruit curd




Firstly make the curd and allow it to cool.

Whisk the sugar, egg and egg yolk together.

Add this mix to a pan with the melted butter and mix.

Then add the passionfruit juice and continue to stir over a low heat until thickened.


On to the cupcakes

Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

Beat in the egg, scraping down the sides of your bowl if needed.

Add half of the flour and beat (on slow speed if using an electric mixer)

Add the milk, beat well.

Add remaining flour and beat.

Lastly mix in by hand the juice and zest of an orange.

Fill cupcake cases 2/3 full and bake in preheated oven at 160C for 20 – 25 minutes

When baked allow to cool on a wire rack


For the buttercream

Beat the butter and icing sugar together until well mixed

Add passionfruit curd to taste, I add approx. 2 tablespoons.


When the cakes are cool, scoop out a piece of cake from the top of each cake. Fill hole with curd and place cake cut out back on top. Top with buttercream and add decorations as required.


The recipe above may seem to have many stages but there are shortcuts and on the days when you are in need of a cake fix there is nothing wrong with a cheeky shortcut! Curd can be shop bought, and although passionfruit is hard to find it can easily be substituted for another flavour. Check your local farm shop for the more interesting flavours or head to the supermarket for trusty lemon curd. You don’t need to add the scoop of curd into the cake as buttercream alone will be enough to finish it off. Or if you really are in a rush for a sweet treat these cakes are delicious still warm from the oven with no topping or decoration.

When it comes to decorating I am a huge fan of the simple buttercream swirl, I am also happy to scoop the buttercream on with a knife and sprinkle some shop bought decorations over the top. Having said that I love to decorate and there are many ways to make a cupcake look even more tempting. It can take time but for me it’s relaxing and rewarding to create those finishing touches. If you would like something with more detail but don’t want to make your own head to your local cake decorating shop, most stock decorations that are handmade and they offer more choice than the supermarkets.

For a special occasion or if you like to make your own, a few basic sugarcraft tools and cutters will get you started. Simple flowers can be made to suit your colour scheme and quickly add detail to your cupcake swirl.


A piece of icing can quickly be transformed by embossing using a cutter and this can be complimented with a matching handmade decoration. Butterflies are lovely for adding detail and all of this was achieved with a simple cutter.

So it’s cupcake week…what are you waiting for?

New to baking or an experienced baker, get to the kitchen, pop the oven on and have a go…simple or complicated, it really doesn’t matter. Cupcakes can be what you want them to be, but they will always work best and be enjoyed most when you are having fun and sharing them with taste testers. I’m sure everyone will easily find some of those!

You can follow Rachel on twitter or visit her brilliant blog for more cake related posts.

If you would like to write a guest post, please get in touch.

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