Tray-baked pork chops with rosemary and pears

pork pear rosemary

I’ve been making this dish for years. It’s a perfect meal for Saturday lunch when you want to get on with the weekend and not spend the day in the kitchen.

I regularly make this on Saturdays once the girls’ ballet lessons are out of the way (why, oh why did I go for dance lessons on a Saturday morning?) and it’s simply a case of throwing everything in a roasting tray, tossing in olive oil and bunging in the oven. Easy as. It doesn’t really warrant a recipe, but I thought I’d write it down anyway. It is actually based loosely on an early Jamie Oliver recipe, from his Naked Chef days, but even easier – if that’s possible.

So, simple and tasty and the kind of food I have to stop my children picking up and eating with their fingers, until I give in and join them.

pork pear rosemary

Tray-baked pork chops with rosemary and pears

Serves 2 adults and 2 children

3 or 4 pork chops – I used to share one between my two kids, but now they’re getting bigger they demand one each
several sprigs of fresh rosemary
6 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped into large chunks or quartered lengthways
3 pears, cored and quartered
4 large potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
6 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.

Arrange the pork chops, rosemary sprigs, carrots, pears, potatoes and garlic in a large roasting tray.

Season well with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to make sure all the ingredients are lightly covered.

Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until everything is nicely browned and turning the chops and vegetables once or twice during the cooking time. The pears will be squishy and the garlic oozy, while the pork chops will be sticky and the carrots will have that lovely caramelised thing going on. The kitchen will smell incredible.

Serve with a big dollop of mayonnaise, homemade preferably, or the best shop-bought you can afford.

Cooking-with-Herbs

 

As rosemary is used in abundance in this dish, I’m entering it into Cooking with Herbs hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage where the themed herb this month is rosemary.

Braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

This was one of the first recipes I featured on the blog many moons ago. It’s a rich, deliciously intense dish, in which pig cheeks are slowly braised in red wine, vegetables and caraway until they are so exquisitely tender they fall apart at the touch of a fork, and, if you weren’t upfront with your dinner guests, they would never dream they were eating offal. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never actually tried tricking anyone into eating pig cheeks before, but it would be rather interesting to see how it worked out. Anyway, I know my lot love this dish and they are generally pretty squeamish about eating ‘funny bits of animal’.

I thought I should enter these pig cheeks into this month’s Spice Trail challenge, which is calling for people’s favourite caraway recipes, as this is undoubtedly one of mine. The plan had been to simply link up my previous recipe post (badly lit photos and all), but then I spotted some pig cheeks on the butcher’s counter – rather unusual as I normally have to put in a special request for them.  So I took that as a sign I had to make the dish again, especially for The Spice Trail. Such a hardship, I ask you. The things I do for this blog.

braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

I always serve these braised pig cheeks with some kind of vegetable mash. It just seems to work so well with the rich sauce, and creates the most blissfully comforting of dishes. When I featured it on the blog previously I went for celeriac mash; this time it is carrot and parsnip. It could simply be mashed potato. Your call.

Braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

Serves 4-6

6 pig cheeks, trimmed of fat
salt and pepper
flour for dusting
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 leek, washed and cut into 1cm chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks
2 celery sticks, cut into 1cm chunks
2 garlic cloves, sliced
100g tomato puree
½ bottle dry red wine
300ml beef stock, hot
½ tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 bay leaf

For the mash

4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
50g butter
splash of milk
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 140°C/gas 1.

Season the pig cheeks and dust with the flour. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large ovenproof pan and fry the cheeks until golden brown. Remove from the pan and keep warm on a plate.

Add a little more oil to the pan and add the onions, leeks, celery, carrots and garlic and fry gently until just beginning to brown. Pour in a little of the red wine and the tomato puree. Cook gently to reduce the wine and caramelise the puree. Gradually add the rest of the wine, reducing down each time until you have a lovely rich dark sauce.

Return the cheeks to the pan and pour over enough stock to cover. Add the peppercorns, caraway seeds and bay leaf and bring to a gentle simmer.

Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for four hours. Stir occasionally and add more stock if it begins to dry out.

Towards the end of the cooking time, boil the carrots and parsnip in a pan of salted water for around 10 minutes. Add the butter, milk and a little seasoning, and mash well or puree with a hand blender.

When cooked, remove the cheeks from the pan and keep warm. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Bring the sauce to the boil and reduce until it is good and thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the cheeks on the mash and generously spoon over the sauce. Enjoy!

braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

This is my last entry for February’s Spice Trail challenge, which celebrates cooking with caraway.

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And I am also entering this dish into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event as both carrot and parsnip are certainly in season right now.

SimpleinSeason

How I make bangers and mash

bangers and mash

It’s only taken me a couple of years, but finally bangers and mash makes an appearance on my blog. There’s been a sausage pasta, sausage chilli, sausage bake, sausage and noodle soup,  and even a Star Wars sausage stew, but this is the first time that classic pairing of the humble sausage with mashed spuds has been allowed to take centre stage.

bangers and mash

It’s not really a recipe though, is it? I guess that’s why I’ve never featured it before, despite it being the namesake for my blog and a dish we eat almost every week. (In case you’re interested, here’s a blog post from 2011 on why I chose to call this blog Bangers & Mash.)

This month’s Family Foodies challenge, hosted by Lou over at Eat Your Veg and me, is all about the food you cook to show your family how much you love them, and I simply couldn’t not enter my good old bangers and mash. If my children are feeling low or have had a demanding day, then bangers and mash is one of those tried-and-tested dinners that is sure to put a big, beaming smile back on their faces. It works for my husband too. It’s a hug on a plate, all covered in gorgeous gravy.

Here’s how I make mine…

bangers and mash

The bangers

I tend to buy my sausages (and indeed most of my meat) from the local butcher, and I always go for the best I can possibly afford. I would rather spend more on good, free range, locally reared meat and eat less of it, than buy cheap, lower welfare meat which never tastes as good. While pork sausages must have a minimum meat content of 42 per cent pork, I try to make sure my sausages contain at least 70% meat. Fried sausages are of course quite delicious but I usually grill mine as it’s ever so slightly better for you.

The mash

It’s important to choose a good floury potato for your mash, such as King Edwards or Desirée. Peel and boil them until just tender, drain and then add a generous knob of butter to the hot potatoes and allow to melt before mashing them with a dash of milk, a dollup of wholegrain mustard and some salt and pepper. I rather like my mash to be a little lumpy. It’s not an excuse honest; in fact I have a slight aversion to the super smooth ‘creamed’ potato you get in restaurants – but each to their own!

The gravy

I must hold my hands up here and admit to using gravy granules fairly often. It’s different when you’re cooking a roast; there are lots of lovely meat juices from which to make your gravy. When you’re cooking sausages, it’s not quite the same. But it is still possible to make a delicious gravy from scratch (well, using a stock cube or frozen stock) and if you’ve got the time, it’s well worth that little extra effort. I like to make my gravy with red onions and redcurrant jelly for some sticky sweetness, which goes so well with sausage, although you could swap for white onions and Balsamic vinegar instead. Here’s my recipe…

Red onion gravy with redcurrant jelly

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large red onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced
1 tbsp corn flour
500ml hot beef stock
2 tsp redcurrant jelly
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the onions. Turn the heat down low, cover with a lid and leave the onions to cook gently for around half an hour or so, until soft and translucent. Give them a quick stir every now and again.

Stir in the corn flour and cook for a few minutes, before pouring in the hot stock and redcurrant jelly. Cook for another 15 minutes to thicken. Check for seasoning before pouring into your gravy boat and then smothering all over your bangers and mash. Delicious!

bangers and mash

As I mentioned before, I’m entering this dish into February’s Family Foodies challenge (hosted by Eat Your Veg and me) where the theme this month is LOVE.

family-foodies-valentine

Bolognese for ballerinas

spaghetti bolognese

We’re nearing the end of the school half-term holidays. It’s been a lovely week of movies (Mr Peabody and Sherman in 3D at the cinema and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 on DVD, both of which get a big thumbs up from my girls), baking (my eight-year-old Jess created a superb Victoria sponge with her very own recipe mango buttercream topping, while Mia elected to make double chocolate chip cookies although Mummy did most of the work), library outings, times tables testing, story writing, soft toy safaris, Sir Frances Drake research, and dance shows.

Baking Collage

Jess and Mia have been rehearsing for months and months for their big dance show with the Susan Hill School of Dancing. This finally culminated in much-anticipated performances at the end of the half term break at the Forum Theatre in Bath. The girls and their friends had a day of dress rehearsals on Thursday, followed by matinée and evening shows on Friday and Saturday. I helped out back stage on the Thursday and Friday, which was great fun but truly exhausting. I thought being responsible for two children was full on, but looking after a group of 13 five-year-old girls was something else, and not to be repeated too quickly!

Sadly, Jess was forced to miss her Saturday performances as she fell ill with a bug – she was absolutely gutted, but at least she got to dance on the Friday. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see her as I was back stage, although friends who were in the audience tell me she danced beautifully. So this weekend, poor old Jessie has spent most of the weekend on the sofa under a duvet. She’s off her food – always a sure-fire sign she’s unwell – although I have succeeded in tempting her with a little fresh melon and chicken soup with rice. I’ll post the recipe for the soup very soon.

Dance Collage

Earlier in half-term week my mission had been to feed my two ballerinas with lots of nourishing food to keep their energy levels up for all that dancing. And so the obvious dinner after their gruelling Thursday of dress rehearsals had to be their all-time favourite, spaghetti Bolognese.

Spaghetti Collage

Spaghetti Bolognese has been both of their favourite meals since they were old enough to pick up a fork and spoon. Whenever I make it, I always make sure there’s some left over to go in the freezer for an easy supper another day.

spaghetti bolognese

Everyone has their own Bolognese recipe. Mine varies depending on what I have in the house.

Sometimes mine will have a drop of red wine in there, and sometimes it won’t. Sometimes there will be peppers or mushrooms (much to Jessie’s dismay as she’ll have to pick them out), or perhaps some smoked bacon. If I have a Parmesan rind lurking in the fridge, I’ll chuck that in during the cooking to give it a scrumptious flavour boost. I don’t always add caraway seeds, but I thought I would this time so I can enter it into this month’s Spice Trail challenge, which has caraway as its theme. I think the caraway adds a lovely intense and slightly sweet flavour to the Bolognese, and I quite often use it in casseroles and other slow-cooked meat dishes.

Bolognese sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
500g minced beef
400g tin chopped tomatoes
beef stock cube or pot
½ tsp caraway seeds
dash Worcestershire sauce
Parmesan rind (optional)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the chopped onions, carrots and celery until soft – around five minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a couple more minutes before adding the minced beef. Stir to break up any lumps and cook for two to three minutes until browned.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes. Half fill the tomato tin with hot water and pour into the pan. Sprinkle in the beef stock cube, or ‘plop’ in the stock pot. Add the caraway seeds, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and the Parmesan rind if you happen to have one left over.

Give it all a good stir and allow to simmer for half an hour or so. If it starts to look dry, add a little more water. Before serving, give it a taste and add a little salt and pepper if needed, and remove the Parmesan rind if used.

Serve with pasta, ideally spaghetti, and a grating of fresh Parmesan cheese on top.

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I’m adding this Bolognese to February’s Spice Trail, hosted by yours truly, as it features caraway seeds.

family-foodies-valentine

I am also sharing this with February’s Family Foodies, hosted by Eat Your Veg and me, which this month has a Love theme. Spaghetti Bolognese is definitely a dish cooked with love for my loved ones, big and small.

‘Count on us’ Thai green curry

Thai Curry-Recipe Card

Photo courtesy of M&S

It hasn’t been particularly healthy here on the blog as of late; rather a lot of chocolate and cake and pizza about. I swear that’s not an honest reflection of my family’s dining habits in recent weeks, but it is true that my new year’s resolutions of eating more healthily have slipped somewhat.

So when M&S got in touch to see if I’d like to review one of their new healthy eating recipes, it sounded like a rather good idea. M&S have put together four easy recipe cards for under-400 calorie meals, which means they are particularly suited to anyone on the 5:2 diet.

I opted to test drive the Thai green curry recipe, which uses a jar of count on us Thai green curry sauce. Back in the days before I used to cook much, only about nine years ago before the children came along, I wouldn’t have though twice about opening a jar of shop-bought sauce when I was making a curry. But not these days. I find most jars lack any decent flavour and are never nearly hot enough for my taste. And Thai green curry is right up there at the top of my favourite curries list. The best one I’ve had recently was at the Pan Asia restaurant in Bath, where the bling decor is as fresh and zingy as their dishes.

So M&S would have to turn out something pretty tasty to impress my husband and me.

But do you know what? It was actually pretty good. I was about to continue that sentence with for a sauce from a jar. But no, I stop there. It was pretty good, full stop. OK, so it wasn’t as hot as I’d have probably made it myself if I was starting from scratch, but I do tend to like things hotter than most and the chilli flakes scattered on top took care of that. We were very liberal. It also needed the fresh lime and coriander to create those tingles on the taste buds you’re looking for when you have a green curry.  What I probably appreciated most though was how quick it was to make. We had it one evening after the children had gone to bed, and I really wasn’t in a cooking mood, and it took less than 20 minutes.

At just 385 calories per portion, it’s definitely a winner in my eyes. I’ve got my eye on their jalfrezi sauce to try out next.

Here’s the recipe or download the M&S recipe card as a PDF.

Thai green curry with chicken and vegetables

1 tsp sunflower oil or olive oil
250g skinless chicken breast (2 fillets), cut into strips
300g assorted vegetables, eg baby corn, sugar snap peas
1 small pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
350g jar M&S count on us Thai Green curry sauce
1tsp fish sauce
generous handful freshly chopped coriander
red chilli flakes & lime (to garnish)

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and when very hot add the chicken. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until the chicken is
lightly coloured. Remove to a plate.

Add your choice of vegetables, such as baby corn to the hot pan, stir-fry for 2-3 minutes before adding the more tender sugar snap peas and pepper; stir-frying for a further minute or two.

Stir in the count on us Thai Curry sauce. When bubbling, add back the chicken, heat through for 2-3 minute then stir in the fish
sauce and chopped coriander.

Serve with egg noodles. Garnish with chilli flakes and a wedge of lime.

Photo courtesy of M&S

Photo courtesy of M&S

Disclosure: M&S provided me with all the ingredients for this dish in return for trying out their recipe. All views expressed are completely my own and are 100% honest.

Cherry-stuffed poussin with braised lettuce

poussin

Love is in the air with Valentine’s Day just a couple of days away. This cherry-stuffed poussin is one of the most romantic meals I can think to serve my husband, but I admit it probably isn’t a first date dinner.

Devouring a whole bird can be a slightly messy affair and getting to the best bits will certainly entail eating with your fingers. Yes, you’ll end up with juice running down your chin and hands. I can’t see a problem with that at all. There’s something rather sexy about getting messy with food.

But if you’re looking to impress your new beau, you might want to think about something a little tidier.
The idea of stuffing the poussin with cherries and nuts came from a beautiful book by Bethany Kehdy, The Jewelled Kitchen; a collection of Lebanese, Moroccan and Persian recipes.

Kehdy stuffs her chicken with albaloo, barberries, pistachios and rice. I’ve adapted her recipe a little to use dried cherries, which are slightly easier to get hold of, cashew nuts, as those are what I happened to have in, and bulgur wheat because, well I can’t seem to get enough of bulgur wheat at the moment. I really like its tender, chewy texture and use it a lot in salads. It’s particularly good with feta cheese and pomegranate seeds.

poussin

There is a hint of pomegranate in this stuffing too, in the form of pomegranate molasses, which bring a heavenly sweet and sour tang to the dish. All in all, this stuffing brings a beautifully fragrant, almost exotic, element to the poussin – just perfect for wooing your lover.

The poussin is so delicious, I’ve served it very simply with braised lettuce. You’ll notice there are no stodgy carbohydrates in this meal, as I really don’t think you want to end up completely over-stuffed and unable to move at the end of Valentine’s Day.

poussin

Cherry-stuffed poussin with braised lettuce

Serves 2

60g dried morello cherries
80g bulgur wheat
½ tbsp sunflower oil
small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
30g cashew nuts
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
½ tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
2 x 450g poussins
25g soft butter
olive oil
½ tsp cinnamon
4 spring onions, finely sliced
40g butter
2 little gem lettuces
150ml hot chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.

Place the dried cherries in a cup of hot water and leave to soak for 10 minutes and then drain.

Place the bulgur wheat in a bowl and pour over boiling water to at least double the height. Leave for 15 minutes, then drain.

Fry the onion in the oil until soft. Add the garlic and fry gently for another minute. Remove from the heat. Add the cherries, cashew nuts, bulgur wheat, pomegranate molasses and cinnamon and give it all a good stir. Season to taste.

Place the two poussins in a small roasting tin and carefully spoon the stuffing into each of the cavities. Truss up the poussins to keep the stuffing inside.

Rub the skin with the butter and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle the skin with cinnamon, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes. Poke a skewer into the thickest part of a leg and if the juices run clear, the poussin is cooked. Leave to rest in the tin for 10 minutes.

In a saucepan, gently cook the spring onions in the butter until soft. Shred the lettuces and stir into the buttery spring onions. Cook for a minute or two until the lettuce is wilted, then pour in the hot stock. Simmer for five minutes or so until the lettuce is tender and the stock has reduced. Taste and season if needed.

Serve the poussins on a bed of braised lettuce, remembering to untie them first. You may wish to pull out a little of the stuffing to reveal the treats inside.

This recipe was first published in my Eat the Season column in the Wells Journal on Thursday 6 February 2014.

Beef broth with rice and vegetables

beef broth

While we all love to experiment in the kitchen, every cook has their favourite ingredients they use again and again in their meals. My usual suspects include garlic, chilli sauce, cream cheese and that Great British favourite, Worcestershire sauce.

I love the way Worcestershire sauce gives a comfortingly rich yet suitably spicy note to all your family staples. It makes a regular appearance in our cottage pies, casseroles and Bolognese sauces. But this is the first time I’ve tried it in a broth and it didn’t disappoint. Together with the soy sauce and beef stock, it creates a gorgeous, deeply meaty broth, just perfect with the tender slices of beef steak, crunchy vegetables and soft rice.

beef broth

This dish was a winner with all the family, although I suspect my husband felt it would benefit from the addition of a little sliced chilli, but then he thinks that about most things I serve up. And it also tasted very good the next day when I heated up a pot in the office microwave for my lunch.

Beef broth with rice and vegetables

1 large sirloin or rump steak
vegetable oil
black pepper
1 litre beef stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and a little more for frying the steak
1 tbsp light soy sauce
4 spring onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin batons
half a butternut squash, peeled and cut into thin batons
120g basmati rice, rinsed
large bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Heat a large frying pan. Brush the steak with a little vegetable oil and season with black pepper. Fry over a high heat for around 3 minutes on each side, shaking over a few drops of Worcestershire sauce as it cooks. Leave to rest on a warm plate.

Pour the stock into a large saucepan and heat. Add 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and one of soy sauce, and throw in the spring onions, garlic, carrot, butternut squash and rice. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook gently for around 10 minutes.

Divide the broth between 4 bowls. Thinly slice the steak and place on top of the broth.  Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

beef broth

If you’d like some more ideas on how to use Worcestershire sauce in your cookery, you should take a look at Lea & Perrins’ YouTube channel. They have created a series of recipe videos with British YouTubers Sorted Food, bringing all kinds of twists to classic family dishes, such as spaghetti Bolognese and cheese on toast.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Lea & Perrins.

Tartiflette pizza

Tartiflette pizza

This recipe was first published in my Eat the Season column in the Wells Journal on 30 January 2014.

Certain dishes can magically transport you to places from your past. Whenever I eat chicken satay, for instance, I’m taken back to trips to Malaysia as a child, visiting my mother’s family. And whenever I eat buttery poulet a l’estragon, I’m straight back to France and the first time my father-in-law cooked for me and I discovered Elizabeth David.

This tasty pizza is another dish that takes me back to France. But it’s not to the snowy French Alps I go, which is where Tartiflette originates. It is to St Émilion; where I sat with my family last summer in a touristy pavement cafe in the blazing August heat, and where I first tried this rather different take on the classic French cheese and potato bake.

I promised myself then that I would make the pizza on my return home. It’s only taken me five months. But actually, I think this pizza is probably suited to the winter months. It is rich and creamy, and can definitely be classed as an indulgent comfort food with its topping of delicious Reblochon, the French mountain cheese from the Savoie region.

tartiflette pizza

My recreation back at home worked well. I wasn’t 100% sure the children would cope with the cheese as it does have a rather strong taste, but they gobbled it down greedily. Potato may sound an odd topping for a pizza and this is certainly not a light pizza, but it is just so good with the oozy cheese and caramelised onion, making for a very satisfying meal.

Tartiflette pizza

Makes 2 large or 4 individual pizzas

For the dough:

400g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
1 tsp dried oregano
250ml luke warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
semolina for dusting

For the Tartiflette topping:

150g smoked lardons
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 potatoes, peeled, boiled and cooled
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 Reblochon cheese, around 240g
50ml double cream

To make the dough, put the flour, salt, dried yeast and oregano into a large mixing bowl and mix well.

Make a well in the middle and pour in the lukewarm water and oil. Gradually work the flour into the liquid, making a soft dough. If it’s too dry, add a drop more water. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.

Flour your surface before tipping the dough onto it. Knead the dough by stretching it away from you, then pulling back into a ball. Do this for five minutes or so, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover loosely with cling film and put in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

While you are waiting for the dough to prove, gently fry the lardons until they release some fat. Add the sliced onion and continue to fry gently until the onion is soft. Stir in the crushed garlic.

Uncover the risen dough and punch it back down. Flour the surface again and divide the dough into four balls. Stretch or roll out each ball until you have a thin circle about 22cm across. Place the pizzas onto baking sheets, lightly dusted with semolina.

Thinly slice the cooked potato and arrange on the pizza bases. Scatter over the lardons, onion and garlic and sprinkle with the oregano. Thinly slice the Reblochon and lay on top. Finally drizzle each pizza with cream.

Bake in the oven for around 10 minutes, until the topping is golden and the pizzas are crispy. Serve at once with a crisp green salad.

tartiflette pizza

Admittedly pizza isn’t one of the most sophisticated dishes ever created, but in my eyes Reblochon cheese is one of the sexiest foods I know. And sexy foods in my eyes equal romantic foods. So I’m entering my Tartiflette Pizza into February’s Cheese, Please! challenge over at Fromage Homage where the theme this month is Cheesy Romance. This pizza would definitely get me in the mood for love…

cheeseplease

Ham hock terrine

This article first appeared in the Wells Journal on Thursday 23 January 2014.

ham hock terrine

One day I would like to own my own pig; one day when I’m all grown up and have a vast enough garden, so I can fence off an entire section for the pig to churn up. Oh, and a house big enough to accommodate a huge chest freezer too.

I like the idea of keeping a pig for home-reared pork and bacon. I’d love to learn about butchery and making my own ham and sausages, as well as having a go at things like chorizo or salami.

It’s a bit of a romantic ‘good life’ idea, I know, but the pig is an incredible beast when it comes to providing meat. I don’t think there’s any part of the animal you can’t eat; nothing gets thrown away. How’s that for good value?

Of course, nose-to-tail eating is rather trendy these days, but it’s a good trend. As Fergus Henderson, author of ‘The Whole Beast’ says,

“If you’re going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing.”

For now I must rely on my local butcher as my source of free range pork, and I enjoy exploring and cooking with different parts of the animal. I have yet to try the trotter but I am extremely partial to pig cheek, which is cheap as chips.

The first time I asked my butcher for cheek, a few years back, I came home with a couple of sections of pig head, complete with parts of an ear and snout. Thank goodness I’m not a particularly sensitive type, as it took quite a lot of hacking to extract the cheek. I’ve now learned to ask the butcher to trim it down for me.

Ham hock or knuckle is another cheap cut. It has a wonderful flavour and a little goes a long way. Plus when the hock is cooked, you’re left with a delicious stock which makes the perfect base for a soup.

Ham hock terrine is one of our favourite dishes. Whenever we have family gatherings where we are asked to contribute one of the courses, this terrine is what we normally turn up with. It’s a lovely starter served with homemade piccalilli (I followed Mark Hix’s simple recipe, which is very good) and a few leaves, or try it with crusty bread for a delicious light lunch.

ham hock terrine

Ham hock terrine

Serves 10

2 ham hocks, about 1kg each
2 carrots, halved
2 celery sticks
1 onion, peeled and halved
handful peppercorns
2 large handfuls fresh parsley, roughly chopped
170g jar cornichons (baby gherkins), roughly chopped
2 gelatine leaves

Place the ham hock into a large pan, with the carrots, celery, onion and peppercorns. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 3 hours until tender. Take the ham out of the pan and set aside. Leave the stock to cool.

Wet the inside of a 900g loaf tin and carefully line with three layers of cling film. Make sure you leave excess cling film overhanging.

When the ham is cold, pull the meat off the bone and tear into strips into a large bowl. Discard the fat. Add the parsley and cornichons to the ham and combine. Spoon the mixture into the lined tin.

Soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Pour 300ml of the stock into a saucepan, warm through and remove from the heat. Remove the gelatine from the water, squeeze out the water and place in the cooking stock. Gently stir until melted and leave to cool.

Carefully pour the gelatine and stock into the tin. Wrap the overhanging cling film over to seal the terrine.

Cut some card large to just cover the terrine and wrap in foil. Place on top of the sealed terrine, and wrap the whole thing in more cling film. Set overnight in the fridge.

Use a sharp knife to cut the terrine into thick slices and serve with a simple rocket and spinach salad and a generous dollop of piccalilli.

Lemon roast chicken for Sunday supper and Monday lunch

lemon roast chicken beetroot carrot sweet potato

Before I had a family and had slightly more disposable income, I rarely took a homemade lunch into work. I’d usually pop out to the local sandwich shop, or on a Friday I might join colleagues for a pub lunch and a shandy. Those were the days!

Keeping a lid on our food budget means preparing a packed lunch most days, for me and my husband and the girls. And very often that means making the most of the leftovers from the night before. But lunchbox leftovers don’t need to be dull, and they don’t need to be a case of simply reheating last night’s dinner.

leftover lunchesI’ve teamed up with Most Wanted, the lifestyle magazine from money-saving site VoucherCodes.co.uk to devise a recipe that demonstrates how you can spend just a tenner on a delicious family meal for four that can then be magically transformed into a deliciously different lunch the following day.

The good folk at Most Wanted are keen to help people make the most of their money without compromising on life’s little luxuries. While a trip to the local deli might be a nice treat, regularly spending £5 on a salad or panini can’t be cost-effective. So they’re on the search for tasty recipes that create an abundance of leftovers you can eat for lunch without it costing a fortune.

I love a roast on a Sunday and, what’s more, they are ideal for leaving you with heaps of delicious leftovers for versatile weekday lunches, from soups and curries to sandwiches, wraps and salads. Personally I like to play with my leftovers a little, so I don’t find myself growing bored eating the same dish again and again.

This lemon roast chicken with beetroot, carrot and sweet potato is a colourful and cheery take on a roast dinner, making the most of those seasonal root vegetables. The veggies are roasted along with the chicken for an incredibly easy meal, full of rich, sweet, caramelised flavours.

lemon roast chicken carrot beetroot sweet potato

To give the chicken its incredibly fresh, vibrant flavour, I roast it with half a lemon stuffed inside, and then when the cooked chicken is resting, I squeeze the juice of the other half all over the skin. It’s so simple but it tastes glorious.

lemon roast chicken

Then to turn the roast into a different dish for Monday lunch, I’ve used the leftover meat and vegetables in a tasty bulgur wheat salad with fresh mint and coriander and lots of nutty, juicy pomegranate seeds. The colours are fantastic and I love the way the beetroot juices soak into the bulgur wheat turning it pink.

lemon roast chicken beetroot carrot sweet potato

What’s more, you should also have enough chicken left over to cook up a soup for Tuesday lunch, making a stock from the chicken bones.

And all this for under £10. Pretty good, eh?

lemon roast chicken carrot beetroot sweet potato

Lemon roast chicken with beetroot, carrots and sweet potato

Serves 4 with leftovers

1 medium chicken (around 1.5kg)
1 lemon
salt and pepper
25g soft butter
400g raw beetroots
450g carrots
350g sweet potatoes
olive oil
mixed salad leaves

Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.

Sit the chicken in a roasting tin. Cut the lemon in half, and then one of the halves into quarters. Place the lemon quarters inside the chicken cavity and sprinkle some salt in there too.

Rub the butter over the skin and sprinkle with some more salt. Put the chicken in the oven and roast for around 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you poke a sharp knife into the thickest part of a leg. If the skin is browning too quickly, cover with a sheet of kitchen foil.

Peel the beetroot, carrot and sweet potato. Cut the beetroot and sweet potato into wedges, and slice the carrot into similar sized chunks.

Place the beetroot onto a sheet of foil and drizzle over a little olive oil and a grind of salt and pepper. Wrap loosely and place in another roasting tin.

Place the carrot and sweet potato at the other end of the tin, and similarly drizzle with oil and a little salt and pepper. Mix it up with your hands to make sure the vegetables are well coated.

Put the vegetables in the oven once the chicken has had around 50 minutes of its cooking time. Roast the vegetables for around 40 minutes, until they are tender and beginning to brown.

When the chicken is out of the oven, sprinkle with a little more salt and squeeze the juice from the other half of lemon all over the crispy skin. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Serve the roast chicken and vegetables with a simple leaf salad. There’s no need for any dressing; simply pour over the lemony roast chicken juices. Don’t be greedy now – make sure you leave enough chicken and veggies for tomorrow’s lunch.

So now for those leftovers…

lemon chicken bulgar wheat roast vegetables

Lemon chicken and bulgur wheat salad with roast vegetables and pomegranate seeds

Serves 4

125g bulgur wheat
leftover roast vegetables – beetroot, sweet potato and carrot
handful each of fresh coriander and mint, roughly chopped
seeds from half a pomegranate
juice of half a lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper
leftover cold roast chicken

Rinse the bulgur wheat and place in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water to at least double the height of the bulgur wheat, and leave for 15 minutes. Drain the bulgur wheat and leave to cool.

To assemble the salad, simply place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl with the vegetables, fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds.

Squeeze over the lemon juice and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season to taste.

Mix it all together gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning if required.

If you’re serving this straightaway, lay pieces of shredded chicken on top of the salad and bring to the table.

If you’re taking the salad to school or work for lunch, I share the salad between the plastic boxes and then place the torn pieces of chicken on top before popping the lid on.

For some reason, I prefer to keep the chicken separate to the rest of the salad, but feel free to mix it all up together if you like.

So there you have my two ways with a roast chicken.

How do you use your Sunday roast leftovers?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by VoucherCodes. I received a fee to buy the ingredients and develop the recipes. 

no food waste challenge

 

As these recipes are a brilliant way to ensure you reduce your food waste, I’m entering them into this month’s No Waste Food Challenge hosted by London Unattached and Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.