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.

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

Chilli beef pie with spicy potato wedges

chilli beef pie

This chilli beef ticks all the right boxes for me. It’s a proper winter warmer, pretty much all cooked in one pot. The beef is slow cooked so it practically falls apart in your mouth and is flavoured with delicious cumin, chilli, cinnamon and oregano. It’s topped off with crispy, spicy potato wedges. Oh and it’s got melted cheese on top too. Really, what’s not to like?

It’s the first dish I’ve tried from the Higgidy Cookbook and I’m now looking forward to working my way through the rest of the book. The lamb shank pie is another I’ve got my eye on.

chilli beef

Chilli beef pie with spicy potato wedges

Serves 6

2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp dried oregano
750g braising beef, cut into chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh coriander, leaves and stalks separated and chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
400ml beef stock
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp black treacle
1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 x 400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper

For the wedges

4 large baking potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
good pinch of smoked paprika
large handful of grated Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Crush the cumin seeds and chilli flakes in a pestle and mortar and then pour into a large bowl. Stir in the cinnamon, oregano and 1 teaspoonful of salt. Add the chunks of beef and toss well to completely coat the meat.

Place your casserole dish over a medium heat and add a tablespoonful of the oil. Brown the beef all over in batches. Don’t let the spices burn or they will turn bitter. Put the browned meat in a bowl.

Pour a little water into the pan, scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen all those lovely tasty bits, and then pour this over the beef.

In the same pan, heat the rest of the oil and then gently fry the onion, garlic, coriander stalks (reserve the leaves) and chillies until soft. Add the puree, stock, tomatoes and hot stock, and give it all a good stir. Cook for a minute or two.

Add the beef and bring to the boil. When the stew comes to the boil, remove from the heat and cover tightly with the lid. Cook in the oven for two hours.

Add the pepper and black beans, stir well, season with salt and pepper to taste, and then return to the oven with the lid back on for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the coriander leaves. Keep to one side with the lid on to keep warm.

Increase the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.

Cut the potatoes into chunky wedges and boil in salted water for around 8 minutes until just tender. Drain well and put into a roasting tin. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with paprika and salt and bake for half an hour until crisp and golden.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Scatter the wedges over the top of the stew, top with grated cheese and pop it under the grill until the cheese has melted.

Serve with soured cream. Enjoy!

chilli beef pie

As this stew-slash-pie features my favourite chilli, I’m entering it into The Spice Trail challenge, which has chilli as this month’s theme.

spice trail badge square

And as this pie-slash-stew is cooked almost entirely in one pot, I’m entering it into the Four Season’s Food challenge, hosted by Eat Your Veg and Delicieux, where the theme this month is Soups, Stews & One Pot Wonders. If you’re looking for more winter-warmers, head over there for some great inspiration.

fsf-autumn

Star Wars sausage stew

Somehow I completely failed to spot that this week is National Sausage Week here in the UK. Now if anyone should be celebrating the humble sausage, it clearly should be Bangers & Mash. The amount we consume in our house contributes significantly to supporting the British sausage industry, I’m sure.

Thankfully, I had this very tasty sausage dish waiting in the wings to appear on the blog – a perfect winter warmer for all the family on these darker, colder days.

So bumped up the running order a little, I bring you the ‘Star Wars’ sausage stew, a recipe my children (and us grown ups too) adore, which I discovered in my old Blue Peter Book of Gorgeous Grub, circa 1980. The topping of crushed up plain crisps and grated cheese takes me back to my childhood when crisps seemed to appear in hot dishes all the time.

As a child I was a committed fan of the BBC children’s programme Blue Peter, winning a total of four badges over the years in various competitions. I was forever pestering my mum for old boxes, loo roll holders and sticky backed plastic so that I could make the latest Blue Peter creation.

But for some reason I never tried to recreate any of their recipes. It was my dad who recently dug out this cookbook, which, to be totally honest, I can’t remember having as a child as I wasn’t really all that interested in food back then. Oh how things change! So I’m rather enjoying working my way through all the recipes that were submitted by Blue Peter viewers, answering the call from presenters Simon Groom, Chris Wenner and Tina Heath.

According to eight-year-old Elspeth Bruford from Edinburgh who sent in this recipe…

We called it this because it was invented when we wanted a hot meal waiting for us when we came home from seeing the film ‘Star Wars’.

I wonder where Elspeth is now and whether she still makes her Star Wars sausage stew?

Star Wars sausage stew

Serves 4 to 5

1 tbsp vegetable oil
450g sausages (Elspeth cut hers into slices; I left mine whole)
2 onions, chopped
175g bacon, chopped
1 small tin baked beans
1 small tin sweetcorn (I used frozen)
1 large tin chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
2 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 packet of plain crisps, crushed
50g Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 150ºC / gas mark 2.

Heat the oil in a large casserole and brown the sausages, then remove to one side. Add the onion and bacon to the casserole and gently brown. Throw the sausages back in, as well as the beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Add the bay leaf, season well with salt and pepper and give it all a good mix.

Top with the sliced potatoes and season again. Cover with a lid or foil and cook in the oven for around two and a half hours.

Remove the lid or foil and turn up the heat to 190ºC / gas mark 5 and cook for another half an hour to brown the potatoes.

Finally top with the crushed crisps and cheese and return to the oven until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

Kale, red pepper and potato pithivier

I’d never really bothered with the Great British Bake Off before, but this series I felt compelled to watch it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on Twitter over the last year, and there had been so much talk about #GBBO I just had to see what all the fuss was about. And of course I was hooked from the first show.

In the final, John, Brendan and James tried their hands, rather successfully, at baking pithivier. Until then I had never even heard of pithivier. It turns out it’s a classic French pastry, sometimes sweet with fillings like frangipane and fruit but in this case savoury.

I rather liked the look of the pithivier so decided to give it a go myself. Mine is a much simplified version of Brendan’s recipe. You could probably go so far as to say it’s a cheat’s version, particularly since it uses ready-made puff pastry. For my filling, I opted for curly kale, red peppers, red onion, garlic and new potatoes, with lots of mature Cheddar cheese.

I was rather pleased with the end result and it went down with the family too. It’s like a big posh pasty. It didn’t have a soggy bottom, so Paul and Mary would have been happy. Although saying that, since I didn’t make my own pastry I guess they wouldn’t have been all that impressed. But I was. It’s lovely served warm and it’s also great cold the next day. And the next. It’s a bit of a monster, and kept us going for a while.

Kale, red pepper and potato pithivier

450g new potatoes
knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
2 red peppers, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
bunch of fresh thyme, picked
230g curly kale, washed and shredded
100g cream cheese
2 eggs
salt and pepper
2 x 500g packets of ready-made puff pastry
180g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes into half centimetre thick slices. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the red onion for about five minutes until translucent, then add the red peppers and continue to fry until they are softened. Add the garlic and stir fry for a couple of minutes, before stirring in the balsamic vinegar and thyme. Next throw in the kale, stir well and then cover with a lid. Allow the kale to cook down for a few minutes until al dente and set aside to cool a little.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese with one of the eggs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir this into the kale and red pepper mixture.

Flour the work surface and roll out one lot of dough until it is around 3mm thick, and cut out a disc 32cm across for the base. Roll out the second amount and this time cut out a disc 35cm across for the top. Place the base onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper or a non-stick sheet.

Layer the sliced potatoes on to the base, leaving a 4cm border all around. Next pile on the kale and red pepper mixture on top of the potatoes and finally sprinkle the cheese over the top, using your hands to press the cheese down to form a tidy mound. Brush the pastry border with the remaining egg.

Carefully place the larger disc over the top, pushing down around the mound to seal the pastry and cutting off the excess. Cut around the pastry border to form a sunshine shape and using the back of a knife, decorate the top with a sunbeam pattern and score the base. Be careful not to cut all the way through. Make a small hole in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush it all over with more egg.

Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes or so on a wire rack and serve at room temperature or leave it to cool completely. You’ll get around 10 slices out of this, so perfect buffet or picnic food.

Homity pie

Before I go any further I want to say that Cranks today is probably quite different from how I remember Cranks growing up in the 1980s.

My step-mum was a big fan of Cranks. When we went shopping in the West End, we’d invariably end up in the Cranks restaurant just off Carnaby Street and we ate many dishes from their recipe book.

In case you don’t know Cranks, they’ve been around since the 1960s and were one of the first brands I’m aware of that were exponents of healthy eating. This of course is fantastic. But as a kid, I grew to associate Cranks with worthy food: brown rice, heavy wholemeal pastry, nut roasts and – this for me was the worst part – wholemeal pasta. Now I know we need roughage in our diet. But there is a right way and a wrong way to eat your fibre, and a bowlful of wholemeal spaghetti is for me most definitely the wrong way.

I’ve just taken a peek at the Cranks website. They are still going strong it seems and they look very different from the Cranks I knew growing up. There are some recipes I’d actually be quite interested in trying.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Cranks as a youngster, there was one dish that my step-mum could make time and time again from their recipe book and I’d be happy, and that was Homity Pie – a tasty open cheese and potato pie. OK so it was made with wholemeal pastry but I could cope with that when balanced with the lovely buttery, cheesey, garlicy potatoes and onions. As with all my favourite foods, so very simple and so very delicious. In fact, when I left home for university, this was the only recipe I copied out to take with me.

I’ve played with the recipe a little. I use half wholemeal and half white flour for the pastry. Sometimes I add ham or bacon to the filling. And quite often I add whatever leftover vegetables I happen to have in the fridge. Last time I baked it, I used half a celeriac I had hanging around, so this appears in the recipe below.

Homity Pie

For the pastry

100g plain white flour
100g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g butter
3 tbsp water

For the filling

300g potatoes, peeled and diced
300g celeriac, peeled and diced
3 tbsp olive oil
450g onions, peeled and chopped
50g butter
handful fresh parsley, chopped
150g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp milk
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 220°C/gas 7.

To make the pastry, place the wholemeal and white flour in a basin and rub in the butter with your finger tips until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Gradually add the water and mix in with a knife to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.

In a large pan of salted water, boil the potatoes and celeriac until just tender, then drain and return to the pan.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently sautee the onions until golden. Add the onions to the potatoes and celeriac along with the butter, parsley, 100g of the cheese, garlic, milk, salt and pepper and combine well.

Butter your flan dish – I use one that’s 25cm diameter. Take your dough out of the fridge and roll out on a floured board. Don’t worry if it’s quite crumbly. Mine always falls apart a bit and I end up moulding it into position to line the flan dish.

Simply tip your ingredients into the pastry case, flatten it out a bit so the pastry is well covered and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar cheese.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and the cheese topping has melted and is golden brown.

Beetroot and potato dauphinoise

I came across this delicious dish at one of our local pubs this Christmas, the excellent Holcombe Inn, and decided then I would have to recreate it at home.

It’s a lovely way to use beetroot, which is in plentiful supply at the moment, and is very good served with roast meats. My children really like beetroot, perhaps because it’s quite sweet.

Slice the beetroot and potatoes as thinly as you can. It’s best to use a mandolin if you have one.

This is a perfect dish for the Aga as it needs to be cooked slowly in a low oven.

Beetroot and potato dauphinoise

Serves 2

3 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large beetroot, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Handful fresh thyme, picked
4 cloves garlic, crushed
150 ml double cream, perhaps a little more
Butter

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 2.

Put the sliced potato and beetroot in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the thyme, garlic and cream and combine so that the vegetables are well covered.

Place in a small gratin dish and roughly arrange the potato and beetroot so the slices lie flat. I like to have a layer of potato and then a layer of beetroot and so on. Pack down well.

The cream should almost come to the top of the vegetables. If not, add a little more.

Fleck the top of the vegetables with a little butter and cover with foil.

Bake for around 1½ hours, until the potato and beetroot are tender. Increase the oven temperature to 220°C/Gas Mark 7, remove the foil and return the dish to the oven for another 10-15 minutes until the top has crisped up.