Tag Archives: eats

Mince pies using sweet shortcrust pastry (Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

I was chatting to my housemate about making pastry the other day and she was telling me of a Hawksmoor pie recipe that used both eggs and suet in the recipe and it dawned on me that this would be a great way to make sweet shortcrust.  By making the pastry with suet it made the pastry beautifully light and more flaky than crumbly.

The concept of using two types of fat to make the pastry is not a new one, growing up the Delia Smith recipe that I used to follow for mince pies used equal amounts of butter and to make the recipe.  However I have found the in using suet you get a far better distribution of fat throughout the pastry which gives it a marbled look when rolled out and it helps to turn the pies a beautiful golden brown colour during cooking.

Now to the mincemeat aspect of this pie – there is absolutely nothing wrong with using shop bought mincemeat!  This is exactly what I do however I like to ‘pimp’ it up a bit by adding chopped walnuts, cranberries, glace cherries, plump sultanas and brandy.  So if you have some dried fruit or nuts in you cupboard that you would work chuck it in, not only will it add to the flavour it will add to the texture of your pies.  Enjoy!

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Pulled Pork (Serves: 6/8 – Preparation time: +8hrs)

I’m back to cooking low and slow – as I’ve mentioned before it is a very simple way of cooking in terms of effort.  The key is to ensure that you have plenty of time to let the meat gently cook, it should not be rushed and don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to speed up the process.  By cooking the meat low and for a long period of time the meat will become beautifully tender and become infused by flavours of the herbs and spices.

The dry rub has a slight warmth to it from the combination of chillies used and cayenne pepper however it is not over powering. The smoked paprika and chipotle chilli flakes give the dry rub a wonderful aroma of barbecues and bonfires which adds to the overall flavour of the pork. If you don’t have smoked paprika in your spice cupboard at home I would strongly recommend getting some and giving it a try – it is great in soups, chilli con carne and hummus.

I cooked the pulled pork in my slow cooker on the lowest setting.  If you don’t have a slow cooker then cook it in a heavy casserole (with lid) and cook in the over at 120°C for 6-8 hours.

Serving suggestions:

  • serve as you would fajitas with homemade salsa, grated cheese, sour cream and guacamole.  If you are looking to be slightly healthier then replace the tortilla wraps with lettuce leaves; or
  • serve in brioche buns with barbecue sauce, coleslaw and chips.

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Chicken and mushroom pie (Serves: 4 -Preparation time: +1hr)

I suspect that you will be somewhat surprised to hear that the inspiration for this pie recipe was ‘Beef Wellington’- well to be more specific the mushroom duxelle and the pastry elements of it.  There is nothing complicated about this recipe, it is just simple ingredients cooked well and left to speak for themselves.

“Tender chicken in a silky mushroom sauce topped off with crunchy flaky pastry – comfort food at its best!”

The filling can be made up in advance kept in the fridge for 1-2 days until it is needed which makes it a fantastic option for mid-week entertaining or to have in reserve if life is particularly busy – if you are doing this then cover with the pastry just before putting in the oven otherwise the pastry may dry out in the fridge.

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Stuffed Portobello mushrooms (Serves: 2/4 – Preparation time: 25 mins)

The recipe below is a little gem as it can be prepped and ready to eat in just over 20 minutes and works well both as a main meal or starter.  It is packed full of veggies meaning that you are well on your way to meeting your “5-A-Day”.  I am not really the type of person to talk about ‘clean eating’ as I am of the view that if you make something from scratch more often than not it falls into that category – that being said, for those of you that are looking for a healthy option for supper this recipe is right up there!

There is no denying that this is a ‘rustic’ recipe – in other words the presentation lacks finesse.  However, the variety of vegetables used in this dish means that your plate is filled with vibrant colours making it draw the eye and entice the eater.  The flavours complement one another giving a delicate balance between sweet, salty and creamy. Ladies and Gents, if you like mushrooms then this is one to try as it is tasty no nonsense cooking. Enjoy!

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Moroccan spiced shoulder of lamb with apricots (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

One-pot cooking is incredibly convenient for washing up purposes but also in terms of ease.  The idea with this style of cooking is that you can throw everything into a casserole dish, cover and leave to bubble away in the oven without needing to think about it until it is time to serve.    The added bonus with this particular dish is longer you leave it the more succulent and tender the lamb becomes.

As this dish cooks, the juices from both the apricots and lamb seep into the sweet potato mixture turning it into a stuffing that is infused with all the flavours of the dish.  I would recommend serving this meal with simple accompaniments for example fluffy couscous and steamed green vegetables so that you can relish the taste of the lamb.  This recipe would be a good alternative to a traditional Sunday roast, or would make a great centrepiece for a dinner party. Enjoy!

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Mackerel salad (serves 1 – preparation time 10 mins)

Last Easter my brothers and I met up in Yorkshire for a weekend of walking, eating and sampling one or two of the local drinks…  Unbeknownst to my brothers I decided that we needed to balance out the gluttony of the weekend with a healthy meal.  Now, for those of you that know my brothers you will appreciate that a mackerel salad would not be their first choice, so much so that when I first told them that mackerel salad was on the menu for Sunday lunch they quickly suggested a walk to the pub for a pre-lunch beer, which then led to another and another … it is safe to say that the mackerel salad did not happen that day.

However the following day there was no escaping the Mackerel salad as I prepared it before the boys were up.  I suppose you are wondering why I persisted with the Mackerel salad, well first up despite the boys protests I was pretty sure they would like it.  Secondly, I wanted to see if it was enough of a meal to stop them feeling hungry.  The good news is that the boys were both pleasantly surprised and full, thanks to this protein rich salad.  Win!

The recipe below, serves one person, but can easily be multiplied to cater for more.  As with any salad you can chop and change the ingredients according to what you have available.  If you are entertaining / hosting a dinner party then I would suggest serving as a starter and reducing the quantities by half.  If however you are having friends over for lunch then adapt the recipe to cater of the right number of people and present on a large platter so that people may help themselves.

Alternatively if you are looking for a packed lunch ideas, this salad can be made up the night before and stored in a Tupperware. My only advice if you do this: (1) do not quarter the boiled egg until you are ready to eat; and (2) keep the vinaigrette separate in a little jar to prevent the salad going soggy overnight.

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Mackerel salad 
Serves: 1
Preparation time: 10 mins

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 smoked mackerel fillet
  • 1 egg
  • 1 handful of mixed salad leavesDSC_0461.JPG
  • ¼ avocado (diced into cubes)
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 small piece of carrot (peeled and cut into strips using a potato peeler)
  • 1 small piece of cucumber (peeled and cut into strips using a potato peeler)
  • 1 small piece of red pepper (thinly sliced)
  • 5 black olives (stoned and halved)
  • 2 slices of stale baguette
  • Olive oil

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  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1tsp fresh dill (chopped)
  • salt and pepper

Note: the quantities for the vinaigrette will be enough for 4 people.

Steps:

  1. First prepare your croutons: slice the stale baguette into cubes, place in a baking tray and drizzle over a little olive oil (roughly 1 tablespoon) – make sure that each side of the bread has a little oil on it. Place in a preheated oven on at 190°C and bake for roughly 7- 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. Next prepare the soft boiled egg: place an egg in a saucepan with a little salt and cover the egg with boiling water. Boil the egg on a medium heat for 6 minutes, then pour away the boiling water and fill the saucepan with cold, set to one side and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
  3. Whilst the egg and croutons are cooking prepare your salad: place the salad leaves on a plate to form a base, add the carrot, cucumber, red pepper, cherry tomatoes, avocado and olives.
  4. Remove the skin from the smoked mackerel and place on top of the salad and scatter over the croutons.
  5. Prepare your vinaigrette: pour the lemon juice into a jam-jar, add an equal amount of olive oil, the dill and salt and pepper. Shake well.
  6. Finally peel your egg and carefully cut into quarters (the yolk will be runny) add it to the salad, before pouring over a little of the dressing. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Rolled Guinea fowl with Moroccan stuffing

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What a weekend it has been! We (my brothers, their other halves and I) have just celebrated Christmas up in Yorkshire as we are all heading in different directions this year. Over the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of discussion over what we are going to eat. I mentioned to my brothers that I fancied trying to recreate a meal I had recently had at a school friend’s wedding breakfast (pheasant with a Moroccan stuffing).

After deliberating about how I was going to approach re-creating this dish for a Christmas feast – the suggestion I put to my brothers was Guinea fowl with a Moroccan style stuffing and dried fruits, wrapped in streaky bacon. The idea was well received until they heard that I was planning on deboning and rolling the bird which was met with much consternation. Their concerns revolved around:

  1. The fact I had never deboned a chicken let alone a Guinea fowl before.
  2. How much meat there would be left on the carcass?
  3. How long this meal would take to prepare as they wanted to eat at some point over the weekend.
  4. How many birds was I intending to do and was I sure that there would be enough to eat!?

I tried to quash their concerns by telling them that I had done a lot of research, watched a lot of YouTube videos and felt confident that I knew what to do.  In relation to timings, well we weren’t going to eat until the evening so even if deboning the Guinea fowl took an hour each we would still be able to eat around 7.30/8pm. And finally yes there would be enough to eat (I had ordered two Guinea fowl and just shy of 1kg of pork stuffing meat) I felt underfeeding was not going to be an issue.

I am pleased to report that in the end the meal was not only a success but that we had leftovers! It may have taken me roughly 45 minutes to debone each bird but it was worth it.  I couldn’t have been happier with you the meal turned and even better today we were able to enjoy some pretty yummy sandwiches for lunch before we all headed home.

The Moroccan flavoured stuffing with the dried fruits kept the guinea fowl meat wonderfully moist.  The spices were subtle and did not overpower the Guinea fowl.  The dried fruits added just enough sweetness and gave the stuffing a slightly tangy flavour and finally the pistachio added a pleasant texture.

If you don’t wish to go to the efforts of deboning a Guinea fowl then just make the meat into stuffing balls instead and cook the Guinea fowl (or chicken if you prefer to choose a slightly cheaper meat) and stuffing separately.

So the big question, would I make it again? Without a doubt! However, I would stress that this is a meal for special occasions given the time it takes to prepare but it is absolutely worth the effort!  Good luck and enjoy!

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Rolled Guinea fowl with Moroccan stuffing (serves 10)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Guinea fowl (c.1.25 kg in weight)
  • 16 slices streaky bacon
  • 900g seasoned pork stuffing meatDSC_0184 (4)
  • 3 red onions (finely diced)
  • 100g apricots (diced)
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 175g pistachios (shelled)
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger

Steps:

1. Place the onions in a sauté pan with a little oil, cover with a lid and sweat on a low heat until soft. (Do not rush this process as you do not want the onions to catch and burn).

2. Place the apricots, cranberries, pistachios, breadcrumbs and spices in a large glass bowl and mix together thoroughly.

3. Once the onions are soft and have cooled slightly add to the mix with the pork meat. Use your hands mix together all of the ingredients making sure that the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the stuffing. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge whilst you prepare the Guinea fowl.

4. Debone your Guinea fowl. (I would strongly encourage you watch a video demonstrating how to do this). The method I used is as follows:

  • Make sure your boning knife is very sharp and if necessary sharpen your knife before starting. Make sure that you have a clean tea towel to hand before starting.
  • Start by removing the Parsons nose.
  • Remove the wishbone, being careful not to snap it off. If you do snap it off by mistake, you’ll need to remember to remove the splinters of bone at the end.
  • Next move on to the wings, if you imagine the wing to be an arm at the ‘elbow joint’ remove the lower section of the wing so that you are left with just the top section of the wing.
  • Turning to the legs, at the knuckle carefully slice through the skin. Then holding the chicken leg in the tea towel pull the knuckle off – the reason you do it this way is so that you remove some of the sinew. If you are not strong enough don’t worry, just cut the knuckle off at the joint.
  • Next place your Guinea fowl breast side down on your chopping board. Cut straight down the centre of the back of the bird from head to tail.
  • Working on one side at a time (my preference is to do the left side first), slowly and carefully starting at the head and working down the bird cut the meat away staying as close to the bone as possible and making sure that you remove as much of the meat as possible.
  • When you get to the wings and legs cut through at the joint to enable you to continue working down the length of the carcass until you get to the bottom.
  • Repeat the process on the other side.
  • When you get to the point that the bird is only attached to the carcass by the backbone, using your finger to avoid tearing the skin run you finger between the backbone and flesh to remove the carcass.
  • Next tunnel bone your wings, pulling the bone out at the end to turn your wing inside out. The reason you do this is so that you have no holes in the skin once you have finished deboning the Guinea fowl.
  • Repeat the same process with the legs. Once the legs are inside out remove as much of the sinew as you can. Once you have completed this you will have a deboned Guinea fowl ready to stuff and roll.

Note:  Remember to use all the bones and trimmings to make stock which will form the base of your gravy.

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5. Once you have deboned both of the birds you can prepare them for cooking.  Split your prepared stuffing in two and shape into cylinders.  Then place the stuffing in the centre of the birds where the carcass would have been. (Don’t worry if you have too much stuffing to go in the middle as you can shape it in to small balls and cook as separate stuffing to serve with it).

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6. Next fold over the skin so that it overlaps slightly and then wrap the rolled guinea fowl with streaky bacon.

7. Next tie your joint with some cooking string to hold it together whilst cooking. The best knots to use are a slip knot followed by an overhand knot (aka a Butchers knot). Don’t worry if you find this too difficult just tie a knot that will hold the meat securely.

8. Place the meat in a lightly oiled roasting tray and cook at 180C Fan/ Gas mark 6 for 1hr 15mins -1hr 45 mins.  To test that your birds are ready insert a meat thermometer into the centre of the joint, if it reads over 65C they will be cooked through.

9. Once cooked remove from the oven, wrap both joints in tin foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

10. Serve with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and don’t forget the gravy.

Enjoy!

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