October 18th, 2013 by Pie

Jerk chicken with kohlrabi and fennel remoulade

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There are a handful of restaurants, pubs and cafes which I go to frequently. You might even say I was a valued regular if you forget for a moment that we live in London where all you would get if you were recognised by the staff would be a knowing smirk. One of my ‘regular’ places until earlier this year was a Caribbean restaurant in Crouch End called Rhythm. It wasn’t the most happening place it’s fair to say. In fact most of Crouch End steered away in droves and went to the lively restaurant next door. Ha, I thought, more fool them, queuing for hours, eating their free popcorn. I can just turn up here at the drop of a hat, I never have to book and the food is ten times better. I was very smug about the whole thing. Until Rhythm closed as no one went there except me.

Rhythm had a limited but faultless menu. I should know, I tried everything on there, dozens of times. But the one dish that truly had me in their thrall was their jerk chicken. It gave a wonderful amount of heat but it was also packed with a truckload of flavour. The heavy blackened skin was the highlight, hot with sweet aromatic spice. Underneath, the leg meat, so juicy from hours of marinating and slow cooking, would fall off the bone, only for you to gather it up with the thick sauce pooling on your plate ready to knock your socks off again.

When Rhythm closed I was bereft, where would I get my jerk chicken fix now?  I mournfully tried other local places but their jerk marinades were either not spicy enough or too spicy with no flavour coming through.  Then under a beam of heavenly light I remembered something.  I had a kitchen.  And a tonne of cookbooks.  And the internet.  So I toiled mercilessly for days, weeks, months until I had tweaked the recipe into perfection – well, one lazy Sunday- and produced actual jerk chicken myself.  In my own kitchen.  It was a revelation.  I wonder how many other restaurants I don’t need to go to now I know I can cook these things myself.  I may never need to go out again.  Except for tonight.  It’s Friday – treat night!

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The only way to have jerk chicken is with a bucketful of cooling slaw to temper the firework of spices exploding in your mouth.  I love this kohlrabi and fennel remoulade as it doesn’t try to compete with the jerk, it is just happy to sit back and do backing vocals.  The kohlrabi also gives it a wonderful creamy texture instead of the sometimes too crunchy results that you can get with homemade coleslaw.  Also, kohlrabi is such a gorgeous colour, see it below getting chummy with the purple cauliflower.

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Jerk Chicken with Kohlrabi and fennel remoulade

Serves 4

Jerk Chicken

8 chicken thighs
Small handful of parsley, including stalks
Small handful of coriander, including stalks
1 scotch bonnet chilli
1 onion
2 tbsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp crushed chillies
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp agave nectar/ honey / molasses
2 tbsp muscavado sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
100ml dark rum
Good glug of olive oil

  1. Blitz all ingredients for the jerk marinade in the food processor then rub the marinade all over the chicken thighs.
  2. Place in an ovenproof dish and leave to marinate for at least an hour or overnight in the fridge if you can.
  3. Place the dish in oven preheated to 180°C and cook for 50 mins until chicken is cooked.

Kohlrabi remoulade

1 kohlrabi, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 fennel bulb, core removed, sliced into matchsticks
1 garlic clove
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cider vinegar
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 egg yolk
75ml olive oil
75ml sunflower oil
Squeeze of fresh lemon

  1. Crush the garlic clove with a large pinch of salt and bash up.
  2. Put the crushed garlic in a bowl with the mustard, vinegar, sugar salt and egg yolk and whisk together.
  3. Mix the oils together in a jug then trickle in a steady steam into the egg mixture, mixing constantly to emulsify.
  4. Once all the oil has been added and the mixture is thick and glossy squeeze in some lemon juice and add more salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Mix in the kohlrabi and the fennel to coat thoroughly.
October 17th, 2013 by Pie

Pickled Golden Beetroot

Pickled Golden Beetroot

Beetroot

‘Tis the season to be pickling, jarring, canning, jamming. A wonderfully therapeutic pastime, certainly not made more challenging with a bouncing eight-week-old puppy swirling around your feet as you are carrying searing hot jars out of the scalding water of their water bath. No siree, easy peasy pudding and… holy mother of hot water. Don’t worry only the cook was harmed in the canning of this beetroot. Turns out puppies don’t make good sous chefs, this one will have to be trained by Alarm Clock 2 who was very helpful in preparing the beetroot.

Cat with beetroot

My shelves are laden with goodies for the coming winter, for if the apocalypse should rain down upon us I am safe in the knowledge that I can feed two cats, a puppy and a husband with chutneys, jellies and marmalades for a good few months.  A rainbow of colours has been cast on my cheap thrown together bookshelves which certainly doesn’t get me in trouble every time I balance a further few kilos of canned goods amongst the books.  The study is slowly morphing into the pantry and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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I found these gleaming chaps buried under an inch of soil at the farmers market, their inner beauty only truly shining through after they had been boiled and peeled.  They truly are a beautiful vegetable.  They lost a little bit of their individual colours during the canning process but they still make a wonderful addition to the bookshelves.  I can’t wait until Christmas when they will be adorning buffet tables and being included in late night cheddar cheese sandwiches with crusty bread.

It was only afterwards that comments were made upon my decision to quarter the beetroot rather than slice it as apparently it makes for rather awkward cheese and beetroot sandwiches. Ah, screw ‘em.

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Just a word to the wise, although I won’t hammer home the point like some of the recipes I read which made canning beetroot sound terribly frightening but the acidity in this particular vegetable is very low so vinegar quantities cannot be messed with unless you want to kill off your whole family on Boxing Day with botulism.  For my water bath I use a huge saucepan that I bought for a few pounds from Ikea many years ago and it has been of invaluable use, being sufficiently deep and wide for this purpose. I would recommend though, that if you haven’t used a water bath for canning before, then do read up on it thoroughly before you go so you have all the right information.

Jars

Pickled Golden Beetroot
Adapted from Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff

1 kilo beetroot
720ml cider vinegar
50g honey
1½ tsp salt
1½ cinnamon sticks
¼ tsp black peppercorns
270ml water

  1. Wash the beetroot thoroughly then cook it whole submerged in boiling water for about half an hour.
  2. Drain them and dunk them in a bowl of icy water, then remove and rub off their skins.
  3. Slice thickly.
  4. Meanwhile prepare the water bath. Place a couple of tea towels or a trivet in the bottom of your pan and fill with water. Bring to the boil, it should be at a rolling boil for a good 15 mins before you add your jars. This is also a good time to sterilise your jars and lids.
  5. In a saucepan add the vinegar, honey, salt, cinnamon, peppercorns and water and bring to a boil. As soon as it is boiling add your beetroot then bring it back up to a boil. When it reaches a simmer then turn off.
  6. Quickly divide the beetroot and liquid between your jars leaving a bit of headspace in the neck of the jar. Remove the air bubbles with a chopstick and place the lids on, adjusting so that it is just finger tight.
  7. Submerge your jars into the water bath so that they are covered by an inch of water and sitting upright on the tea towels or trivet. Pop the lid on and boil full blast for 30 mins.
  8. Remove the jars with a jar lifter and leave them undisturbed in a safe place until they have cooled down completely. Test the lids to make sure they have been sealed and don’t pop up when pressed.
  9. These can be stored for about a year and eaten whenever you want in between.
October 16th, 2013 by Pie

Crack Pie

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I can’t deny that even before I knew what Crack Pie was, it something that was going to happen in my life.  Who names their recipe Crack Pie if it isn’t going to live up to the potential of a highly addictive substance that starts off as a bit of fun, then develops into a regular habit which you sometimes do during the week not just at the weekend, until it takes such a hold over your life that you can barely function without it.  You lose your money trying to get hold of your next fix, beg borrowing then stealing from any given source, prompting your family to hold an intervention and ship you off to rehab.  I mean, if that wasn’t the natural cause of events after eating Crack Pie then someone misnamed this sucker.   It’s just as well then that I’m happy to report that I’ve reserved my place in rehab and am merrily beginning the slow descent into substance abuse.  The substance being pie, not crack.  Let’s just get that straight.

Crack Pie originated from Momofuku Milk Bar in New York, an amazing bakery that I made a beeline for on my last trip to the Big Apple and it more than lived up to the hype.  Seriously, go there.  We can worship at the caramel alter of chef/co-owner Christina Tosi for dreaming up this intense injection of sugar.  On first glance it isn’t the prettiest member of the girl band, but it is certainly the cheeky naughty one who will break up the band and ride high on the successful solo career.  Diving beneath its unassuming exterior lies a fudgy caramel custard lounging seductively on a chewy oat cookie base.  A small first taste encourages you to sample a second, just to make sure you understood your first eye-popping reaction.  A second taste leads to shoving the whole slice in your mouth and launching full body into the rest of the pie.  If you are one of those people that can seriously handle your sugar then this will be IT for you.  I challenge you to make it and have only one piece, it just simply can’t be done.  Bad luck for you, good luck for rehab.

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Crack Pie
The Momofuku recipe, adapted from Bon Appétit

Oat Cookie Crust
85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
55g soft brown sugar
30g caster sugar
1 egg
100g whole rolled oats
60g plain flour
⅛ tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp sea salt
Plus an extra
40g unsalted butter
20g soft brown sugar

Filling
170g caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp milk powder
¼ tsp salt
115g butter, melted and cooled
100ml double cream
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
Icing sugar to dust over the finished pie

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12” x 9” baking tin with baking parchment.
  2. Beat the 85g butter with the 55g brown sugar and 30g caster sugar until pale light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg until combined.
  4. Add the oats, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and beat everything together for one minute.
  5. Pour the cookie dough into the prepared baking tin and spread it out in an even layer, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t quite reach the sides.
  6. Bake for 10-12 mins until the top has just turned golden.
  7. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for a few mins before turning out onto a cooling rack and leaving to cool completely.
  8. Grease a 9” round cake tin or glass pie dish.
  9. Bash the cooled cookie into crumbs, then rub together with the extra 40g unsalted butter and 20g brown sugar until the mixture can hold together.
  10. Press the crumbled cookie into the cake tin or pie dish and set aside.
  11. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  12. For the filling, whisk together the sugars, milk powder and salt to blend.
  13. Add the melted butter and whisk until just combined.
  14. Add the cream, egg yolks, vanilla and whisk until just combined.
  15. Pour into the cookie base and bake for 25-30 mins until the filling is brown in spots but the centre still wobbles.
  16. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for a couple of hours. Remove from the tin then store in the fridge overnight to fully set and prepare itself for the human onslaught.
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October 15th, 2013 by Pie

Madeira Braised Steak with Celeriac Mash

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It is definitely stew season.  The days are now noticeably shorter as we are getting up and coming home from work in a much dimmer light.  The chill to the air is prompting us to reach for the extra layer and I have even had the excitement of plucking my winter coat out of hibernation for a quick trip into town.  I went on the tube, was far too hot and regretted it instantly.  Still, the thought was there.

So if you haven’t yet succumbed to the lure of your winter coat then you are going to need something warm when you get home and a lovely rich stew with steak melting to the touch of the fork is ideal edible central heating.

This is a very simple braising recipe and I cook it in a wide bottomed saucepan rather than a casserole dish as the liquid is there only to help the meat to break down.  There is little gravy from braising the steak in this way but it is so intensely flavoured from the madeira and mustard that you only need a small portion.  What you will need is a mash to soak up all those wonderful juices.

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I am often substituting different kinds of vegetables for potato in a mash.  It lessens carb intake but also can add another dimension to the whole dish rather than being a way to fill out a meal.  I am certainly not one to shirk away from a good pommes puree but so many delicious vegetables can be used instead.  I use celeriac here as it produces a very light mash so is a perfect accompaniment to the robust flavours of your steak.  It is an ugly looking vegetable it is true but once you strim away all the hairy tubers, the clean colour of the flesh reflects its bright lively taste.  No mash is complete without lashings of salt and butter and how much butter you add is up to you, but to be honest you can probably never have enough.

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Madeira Braised Steak with Celeriac Mash

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
800g stewing steak, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 litre good fresh stock
2 celery sticks, diced
1 onion, diced
½ bulb fennel diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp rosemary leaves
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
50ml madeira
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 x Celeriac
Plenty of salted butter
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a casserole dish on the hob and then when smoking, add the cubed steak and plenty of pepper.
  2. Once browned, remove the steak with a slotted spoon and if there is excess water in your casserole, raise the heat to reduce.
  3. After all the water is reduced, all that should be left are the beef bits. Add the second tbsp of olive oil then the diced celery, onion and fennel. Keep on a low heat and cook gently until the veg is soft.
  4. Pour in the madeira and stir in for 1 minute until the alcohol is burnt off.
  5. Add the garlic, herbs, Dijon mustard and season well.
  6. Put the beef back in and add the stock.
  7. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 3 hours until the beef is tender.
  8. For the celeriac mash, peel and chop the celeriac into large chunks.  Boil in a large saucepan of salted water for around 30 mins.  Drain, then mash with plenty of salted butter and season to taste.
  9. Serve the braised steak with the celeriac mash, sprinkling with parsley.
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October 14th, 2013 by Pie

Roast Chicken with all the Sunday Trimmings

Roast Chicken with Sunday Trimmings

I read a very worrying headline in the Daily Mail yesterday, ‘A family dinner? We’d rather eat in front of the telly: How just one in 50 families enjoy once-traditional weekend meal.’ Foregoing my usual scoff at the insular sensationalism typically offered by the Daily Mail, this time I felt a pang of recognition at the topic at hand. Last minute conversations before the working day in our house are often desperately trying to organise how we’ll be able to eat dinner together. Work events, long hours and the occasional quick drink with friends can severely compromise the two of us sitting down at a table at a reasonable hour for dinner. Supper on the sofa happens all too frequently.

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The one meal we can always rely upon as a family to both cook together and eat together is our Sunday Lunch. It is absolutely sacrosanct. If we don’t have it at home then we will have it out and we are constantly grading our pubs and nearby eateries with whether they do a decent Sunday Lunch. The conversation always ends the same way though as they might do an okay one, but it is never as good as at home. Roast potatoes can be hard, gravy can be too thin and Yorkshire puddings merely crisp clouds, nice to look at but lacking the necessary pudding.

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This Sunday we had something extra special to celebrate as we have a new furry sidekick in our midst. A little bundle of trouble whom after only a few hours of being in our family had already joined in, nestling down between our feet as we ate at the dining table. At least he didn’t jump onto the table and insist on sleeping between the cabbage and potatoes like Alarm Clock 2.

 

Unlike the meals we have in the working week, we take pleasure in making lunch on a Sunday centre stage. Today it was the turn of the chicken which I think of as the easiest roast. There are only two things to remember when cooking a chicken; if it’s a small bird it takes 1 hour 15 mins, if it’s a large one it takes 1 hour 30 mins. Any further information is just fancy talk. But I do like to talk fancy. For our classic roast chicken we stuff the cavity with half a lemon, a handful of parsley stalks, a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary and a couple of garlic cloves still in their skins. We rain down salt and pepper like a heavy thunderstorm and finally drench it in olive oil.

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A roast dinner in our house is not complete without carrot and swede mash. I grew up with my grandmother insisting on calling it carrot and turnip probably to annoy my father who was constantly correcting her but I knew what I was getting and now I would never think to let the week end without it. It is one of my top five foods of all time. I give you a few weeks before you discover the rest of that list. It won’t be difficult, the things I like, I tend to have immoderately. Carrot and Swede mash just requires you to peel, then chop the swede into large cubes, chuck it in a large saucepan with the same volume of carrots, peeled and chopped into large circles. The veg is brought to a boil then turned down to a simmer for at least 45 mins. Any less and it just doesn’t mash the same. This is no time for al dente, save that for your baby veg. As soon as a knife can fall through a cube of swede like butter then you can add copious amounts of… butter… and nutmeg and salt and pepper. Jazz it up. The time will come soon when I will beckon you to add crème fraiche but not today, today the butter will be all the dairy you need.

Carrot and Swede Mash

Roast Potatoes! Peel, chop in half, par-boil for 10 mins, drain, bash around in the colander, then throw into a baking tray with hot olive oil, garlic cloves and rosemary and roast in the oven for 45 mins at 180°C. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.

The gravy, though. Oh, the gravy. Please please tell me you don’t use Bisto? This is the one part that I’m afraid I can’t take any shortcuts on. I think of the gravy for my next roast the moment I am clearing away the one before. The essential ingredient is fresh stock and the sticky bits from today. Since I like all the components of my roast to be ready at the same time, I save the sticky bits from the bottom of the meat, put it in Tupperware and save for the next roast. The same goes for my stock, which is always simmering away on a Sunday night during Downton Abbey whilst we are gorging on pud.  This means today all I had to do was remove my sticky bits from the freezer, heat in a saucepan, add flour, a glug of Marsala, then the stock, a bay leaf and some thyme. If I start cooking this halfway through my chicken time then the gravy is rich and flavoursome by the time the chicken is taken out of the oven. This is never something I regard as a faff because as I said, in my household the Sunday Lunch is absolutely sacrosanct.

October 11th, 2013 by Pie

Campfire Cupcakes

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There is a little tradition around these parts which I think is vital to the backbone of any nation.  It allows the common man to unite, upholding this great institution which they hold so dear.  For Cake Friday can always be relied upon at the end of any working week and in this we trust.  Friday, without doubt is the most celebrated day of the week and everyone knows that no celebration is complete without an obscene amount of sugar, butter and today, chocolate.

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I will often make a variation of this cupcake at this time of year as it brings together the two most delicious things about the great outdoors, toasted marshmallows and malted hot chocolate.  Surely that’s the only reason any self respecting adult will pitch up a tent and rub two sticks together.  Otherwise, the world is going mad.  This year I have dusted off this recipe extra specially as I’m trying out my new blowtorch.  So you can expect most of the posts from now on to include some sort of singeing, toasting or bruleeing.

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For these cupcakes I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe which I whip out at any given opportunity, bake sales, birthdays, Tuesdays.  It’s rather special and hails from the wonderful Dorie Greenspan.  There are very intelligent people out on the blogosphere who only cook Ms Greenspan’s recipes and they are they ones that truly have their lives in order.  The second element of this Friday treat is the inner malted chocolate filling which just happens to be the most divine chocolate heaven you will ever experience.  So, there’s that.  Then the whole extravaganza is topped with pillowy marshmallow, rising regally to the sky then torched to within an inch of its life.  But that’s just me as I’m new to the blowtorch scene and it might have got away with me a little.

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Campfire Cupcakes
Makes around 12-16

Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

165g plain flour
60g cocoa powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
120g butter
100g light brown sugar
112g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
120ml whole milk
120ml boiling water, with ½ tsp instant coffee mixed in

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the butter and the sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. At this point the mixture usually looks curdled but don’t worry it will come back together.
  5. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk together until completely combined.
  6. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, adding the flour in three additions and the milk in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed.
  7. Finally pour in the boiling water and mix until just combined.
  8. Pour into your prepared cupcake cases and bake for 15-18 mins.
  9. Leave to cool on a wire rack completely before inserting the filling and frosting.

Malted Chocolate Filling
Adapted from Sweetapolita’s recipe for Belgium Malted Chocolate Frosting

113.5g unsalted butter
125g icing sugar
20g Ovaltine
¼ tsp vanilla extract
60g milk chocolate, melted and cooled
30ml whipping cream

  1. Whip together the icing sugar and butter until pale, light and fluffy
  2. Add the Ovaltine, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Whisk until combined.
  3. Add the melted chocolate and whisk together for a minute.
  4. Finally pour in the whipped cream and whisk for a couple of minutes until the filling has firmed up a little.
  5. To insert the frosting, scoop out a little circle of cake from the top of the cupcake and pipe in the filling. You can place the little circle of cake back on top.

Marshmallow Frosting
Adapted from Bakers Royale’s Marshmallow Frosting

300g egg whites
250g caster sugar

  1. Place the egg whites and the caster sugar in a bowl over boiling water.
  2. Whisk constantly for about 10-15 mins until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature reaches 71°C.
  3. Pour into a stand mixer and whisk on a high speed for about 10-12 mins until the marshmallow frosting has stiffened.
  4. Using a Wilton 2D piping tip, pipe the marshmallow as high as you like then go crazy with the blowtorch.
October 10th, 2013 by Pie

Tex Mex Salad

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I have a confession to make. I might be slightly addicted to this salad. I have had it three lunchtimes in a row. So I think it is only fair that I get you addicted too.

This has always been one of my favourite quick bites in town and I can often be seen lurking around Freebird Burrito, who have stalls throughout London. Their burritos are the best in the city I think and I have given it a jolly good go to try most of them. However, the salad is the buzz as the greenery makes you feel like you are doing your body a favour even though it’s disguised under a mass of creamy avocado and cheese. Their salad comes loaded with rice and beans as well which although scrummy I didn’t feel was necessary here as there’s so much going on already.

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The best salads are quick to throw together, involve fridge staples so you don’t have to make a special trip to the shop and have lots of different flavours to keep you interested. You can say what you like but this salad is never boring. I used leftover pork from the roast I made a couple of days ago and tossed together with new spices it was completely rejuvenated. However, this is so delicious that I would happily fry off a bit of chicken especially to make it as well. Whatever gets you that tex mex fix.

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chipotle

 

I love this chipotles in adobo which is from the Cool Chile Co., it really adds a bit of smoky Mexican authenticity to the dish. I use it all the time, it keeps for ages in the fridge and can be added to absolutely anything. It peps up tomato sauces, is an absolute staple when you are making chilli and features heavily in the bacon jam recipe which will be making an appearance on my blog very soon.

 

Tex Mex Salad
Serves 2

Leftover Pork / Chicken / Beef / Whatever
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
½ red pepper, sliced thinly
½ green pepper, sliced thinly
1 tsp chipotle in adobo
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 avocado
1 tbsp sour cream
Grated cheese
Coriander, chopped roughly
½ head romaine lettuce, chopped
Juice of ½ lime
Olive oil to dress

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the onion and peppers and stir fry for about 5-10 mins until they start to soften.
  2. Add your leftover meat, the chipotle, garlic powder, cumin, paprika and seasoning and stir together until the meat is completely heated through. Remove from the heat and set aside whilst you assemble the salad.
  3. Peel and de-stone your avocado. Mash the flesh through with a fork and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir in the sour cream.
  4. Now you just need to assemble. Start with the bed of romaine lettuce, then the meat, then a large dollop of avocado and then the cheese. Finish off with a squeeze of lime and olive oil.
October 9th, 2013 by Pie

Pear, Sour Cherry and Chocolate Crumble

Pear and Sour Cherry Crumble
We have a pear thief in our midst.  He sneaks past the fruit bowl in the dead of night, ensnares a juicy pear and steals it away to his lair.  He is bold, brash and unafraid of the consequences.  He seeks the thrill of the chase, the lure of a ripe pear between his teeth, its dimpled skin taunting him from across the kitchen as he succumbs to a life of crime.

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So, I was fed up of seeing my carefully grown pears scattered across my house, punctured to pieces by tiny teeth and claw marks.  It’s the only bit of produce our small garden bothers with and one by one my treasured ration was being depleted.  I really had no choice but to make a crumble.

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I laugh in the face of apple crumble.  Pears are where it’s at and the great thing about a crumble is that you can easily adapt it to a gluten free recipe and lose none of the flavour, texture and joy of the classic dish.

I had some sour cherries and chocolate chips winking at me from the cupboard so I wantonly threw them in as well.  But hey, it’s gluten free so it’s healthy, right?

Pear, Sour Cherry and Chocolate Crumble

Serves 4

600g pears
50g sour cherries
75g chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g gluten free flour
100g hazelnuts
200g soft brown sugar
100g butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Take the butter, wrap in foil and place in the freezer for around 30 mins.
  3. Peel and core the pears and toss them together with the sour cherries, chocolate chips, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla.  Place in a baking dish.
  4. Pour the hazelnuts into a baking tray and bake for 10 mins.  Leave to cool for a couple of minutes then push them out of their skins.  Blitz them in a food processor until fine.
  5. Mix the hazelnuts, flour and the sugar together in a bowl.
  6. Remove the butter from the freezer and grate into the nuts, flour and sugar.  Rub together between your fingers until it reaches the consistency of breadcrumbs.
  7. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the pear mixture, making sure all the fruit is covered.
  8. Bake in the oven for between 30-40 mins.
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October 8th, 2013 by Pie

Autumn Stuffed Pork Loin with Roasted Squash and Hazelnuts

Autumn Stuffed Pork

This week I am so excited by autumn cooking having been inspired by a visit to the farmers’ market at the weekend. The stalls were laden with rainbows of differently coloured squash. This is when the farmers market makes food shopping so much fun as the big supermarkets rarely stray far from butternuts, marrows or pumpkins. At Alexandra Palace on a Sunday morning ugly brutes are piled hugger mugger with smaller flowery varieties, all of them glistening tantalisingly in the bright sunshine.

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I never know exactly what I’m buying and instead rely on my eyes to be drawn to the most unusual but all squash can be prepared in similar ways. The firmer sweeter varieties can be leant out to soups but the reliable roast is an excellent way to experiment on the stranger looking ones. Every variety tastes slightly different so it’s always a delightful surprise when you take your first bite.

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I had to team my squash with a roast loin of pork which I have been craving for weeks and stuffed it to bursting with autumnal apples and spices. I can practically sense the evenings drawing in and the hot toddies beckoning just by taking an indulgent whiff of cinnamon. If you can get hold of unsweetened apple sauce then it is preferred as the tang of the apples complement really well with the earthy spices. The sweetened variety makes it all…well…sweeter.

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Autumn Stuffed Pork Loin with Roasted Squash and Hazelnuts

Serves 4

1.5kg pork loin
4 tbsp apple sauce (unsweetened if you can get it)
¼ tsp crushed chilies
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp fennel seeds, bashed
1 garlic clove, crushed
250ml apple cider
2 squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into fat chunks
Handful of hazelnuts, chopped roughly

  1. Remove the pork loin from its packaging and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Place in the fridge for at least an hour without anything covering it so the skin can dry out.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  3. Mix together the ingredients for the stuffing, the apple sauce, all the spices and garlic and set aside.
  4. Toss your squash together with olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper in a large baking tray and set aside.
  5. Remove the pork from the fridge and if tied together with string, remove the string and unroll the loin. Score the pork skin with a sharp knife. Turn the pork over and spread the stuffing onto the flesh side of the pork and then re-roll, making sure not too much of the stuffing oozes out. Tie up with more string and season the skin liberally with salt. Place in the oven.
  6. After 20 mins take the pork out and pour the cider into the pan, don’t pour over the pork though or it will affect the crackle of the skin later on. Turn the heat down to 160°C.
  7. Place the squash in the oven along with the pork.
  8. After 1 hour and 20mins, remove the pork from the oven to rest.  Turn the oven up to 180°C.  Add the chopped hazelnuts to the squash and roast for a further 15mins or until the squash is tender.
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October 7th, 2013 by Pie

Cheese and Peach Pasties

Cheese custard pies
No, my obsession with cheese and peach jam has not gone too far.  In fact, this creation is the ultimate symbiosis and uses a savoury cheese custard and the vanilla bourbon peach jam I made a couple of weeks ago.  Only after you have made this and eaten it and agreed with me then can we all put it to bed.  I’m not sure if you have looked out of the window but autumn has arrived so a little warm pasty with a sunny peach filling will allow you to say farewell to a successful summer.

These pasties bear a resemblance to what Americans helpfully call hand pies which denotes exactly how they should be eaten, on the go or standing in the kitchen a hot pie nestled in your hand.  I’m not sure if any of these made it past my kitchen door if I’m honest, but if you are more restrained than I then stash one in your pocket for when hunger strikes on a leafy October walk or arrange with a few salad leaves for a light lunch.

The custard can keep for a few days in the fridge so you can whip up a batch and it will last you the week.  Feel free to repurpose to a welsh rarebit if the mood takes.  Just add a splash of stout, spread it thickly on toast and pop under the grill for a few minutes under the cheese starts to bubble and brown.

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Also, if you can’t be bothered to make your own pastry then shop bought puff pastry also works wonderfully with this filling.  I used Delia’s flaky pastry here from her Complete Cookery Course that to my mind is very difficult to better.

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Cheese and Peach Pasties
Makes about 24

For the filling
30g butter
50g plain flour
400ml whole milk
150g double Gloucester cheese, grated
50g red Leicester cheese, grated
½ tsp Dijon mustard
3 egg yolks
150g peach jam

For the pastry
220g unsalted butter
350g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg, whisked for the egg wash

Cheese Custard

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat.  Once melted add the flour and stir in to make a thick paste.
  2. In a steady stream pour in the whole milk whisking all the while to disperse any lumps.  Once all the milk is in, bring to a boil but don’t stop whisking.
  3. Add the grated cheese.  Then once melted into the sauce stir in the Dijon mustard and season well.  Turn off the heat.
  4. Put the egg yolks into a large bowl and whisk them together, then take a tablespoon of the cheese sauce and whisk into the eggs quickly but carefully so they don’t have a chance to scramble.  Add another spoon of the cheese sauce and carry on whisking.  Repeat this until you have added almost half the cheese sauce.  At this point it is safe to add the egg mixture back to the rest of the sauce in the saucepan.
  5. Bring to a low boil again then turn off and let the custard cool.  Refrigerate for a few hours before using as it will be much easier to handle.

Flaky Pastry

  1. Measure the butter then wrap in foil and place in freezer for 30 mins.
  2. Grate the butter into the flour, then mix together with a knife cutting through the butter.  Add the salt.
  3. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water then bring together with your hand into a dough, you can add a splash more water if needed but the dough should not be sticky.
  4. Wrap the pastry in greaseproof paper and leave for 30 mins in the fridge before rolling out.

To assemble:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  2. You should be able to get 24 discs from this pastry using a 5” round cutter.
  3. Place 1 tbsp of cheese custard and 1 tsp peach jam into the centre of each disc.
  4. Moisten the edges with egg wash and then bring one side of the pastry over the filling and seal down to the other side.
  5. Make a couple of small slits in each pasty with a knife, brush with egg wash and place them on baking trays.
  6. Bake for around 15 mins.