Saturday, 10 November 2012

Easy meals with Aunt Bessie's

If your family is anything like ours, then holidays and half term breaks are always turning our normal routines upside down. Weather permitting, we have long walks or play in the garden, and when it comes to cooking, I am all in favour of shortcuts that would save me time in the kitchen and allow me more time with my children. What Delia calls smart cheats, I call clever time-savers.

Cutting corners by using ready-made ingredients might not earn you favours in Come and Dine with Me, but when life is hectic, don't hesitate to use what you can to make your life easier and deliver a tasty selection of meals for your family.
Aunt Bessie's range of frozen foods is well-known for its traditional taste. I would like to show you how you can make a delicious menu, using a mix of ready-made ingredients and adding a twist to the family favourites.
For my menu I tried to recreate some of my childhood favourites like the seafood salad and the mashed potato bake.

Aunt Bessie's is probably synonymous with the roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. You don't have to serve Yorkies with the roast only, they are a versatile vessel for any salad and can be a perfect starter. For Yorkshire puddings with the seafood salad you will need:

6-8 Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire puddings
6 seafood sticks
2 eggs
2 tbsp light cream cheese
a squeeze of lemon
a pinch of salt + black pepper (optional)

Prepare the Yorkies according to the instructions given on the packet, i.e. place them in the preheated oven and bake until they are golden. In the meantime, make the quick salad: chop the seafood sticks and hard boiled eggs, mix well in a bowl, add a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper, plus the light cream cheese, mix well. Fill in the Yorkies, and hey presto, your starter is ready in no time at all.

Potato and minced beef tray bake

Aunt Bessie's Mashed Carrot and Swede
350g minced beef
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
salt, pepper, herbs
olive oil
a squeeze of tomato ketchup
2 big potatoes (or a pack of Aunt Bessie's Homestyle Mash)
1 tbsp butter
hot milk
3 tbsp Cheddar cheese, grated

Do you think of tray bakes as sweet things only, like blondies, brownies or flapjacks? What about the savoury tray bakes made with polenta, mashed potatoes, rice or noodles? One of my favourite childhood dishes was the tray bake made with the mashed potato, and for this menu I wanted to recreate that comfort food of my early days. The traditional potato tray bake is made with the mashed potato, but I wanted to add a twist to my dish and one of the layers was prepared with Aunt Bessie's Mashed Carrot and Swede. You have to defrost the packet in advance obviously.

In a deep frying pan cook the minced beef with the olive oil, chopped half of the red onion, salt, pepper, herbs and a squeeze of the tomato ketchup. Fry it for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking the mince into smaller pieces. It has to be nicely browned.

Take a deep ceramic dish or tray, add some oiled foil. Spread the first layer: mashed carrot and swede. Using a spoon, add the fried minced beef on top of the first layer.
Cook potatoes in the salted water, once cooked, mash them well with the butter and hot milk. It should not be too runny. This will be your third layer. If you don't have time to cook the mashed potatoes, use Aunt Bessie's Homestyle Mash. Place the tray in the oven preheated to 180C and bake for about 30-40 minutes. Add some grated Cheddar cheese on top five minutes before the end of the baking session.
To serve, cut it into slices. You might also like to add a big spoonful of the soured cream or Greek yogurt on top of the slices.

I don't often eat the red cabbage, though I love it. I thought that Aunt Bessie's Red Cabbage with tangy Bramley apple would be a nice side dish for my potato & minced beef tray bake. I defrosted it in advance. I chopped a small crisp apple and pan fried it in butter, adding a dash of the balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of muscovado sugar. Once the apple pieces were slightly caramelised, I added the red cabbage and cooked it for about 15 minutes on low, stirring occasionally. You don't have to add the apple to this side dish, but I wanted to add more texture to it.

What could be nicer on a cold day than a slice of the piping hot apple pie? I've bought Aunt Bessie's Bramley Apple and Blackberry pie for a pound in Sainsbury's, what a bargain. Pie and custard, a marriage made in heaven.

If you don't have time to make your own custard, then Aunt Bessie's will come to the rescue. You can buy Aunt Bessie's Instant Custard. Just for the purposes of this challenge I was scouring our local supermarkets for it, but couldn't find it anywhere. So, we had our pie with a generous helping of the homemade custard. The combination of the flaky pastry, tart apples and sweet silky custard is always a winning one. Did my guys enjoy my meals? You bet!

BritMums and Aunt Bessie's invited busy Mums to take part in the HalfTermFood challenge and create a menu which would feature Aunt Bessie's products. What you see above is my entry to the challenge. So, if you are a busy parent, do a Delia and use the shortcuts in your kitchen.


  1. Interesting to see Yorkshire puddings used with seafood. That is new to me but well worth a try. Comfort food for a such good value from Aunt Bessies. Great.

  2. Some great ideas! Love her products - the Yorkshire puds (batter in foil) and sage and onion stuffing balls are my favourites!