Brussel sprouts with leeks and bacon

28 12 2010

When it comes to enjoying brussel sprouts I am normally in the minority,

There is something about sprouts that just seems to put people off; now personally I think a lot of it comes down to two things – how fresh they are and how they are prepared.

There is a huge difference in taste between wonderfully fresh sprouts still on the stalk and those little wizened ones you buy in those nets or even worse frozen.

When really fresh sprouts have a wonderful sweet nuttiness to them that I would defy most people to find unpleasant.

Of course it doesn’t matter how fresh the sprouts are if you are just going to boil the life out of them and serve up a big dish full of soggy, mushy balls with all the taste and goodness boiled out of them.

I like to go off on a bit of a tangent with my brussel sprouts, especially if I am going to be serving them to people that claim not to like them I prepared this dish of sprouts with leeks and bacon to go along with Christmas dinner this year and it was  a huge success, even with non sprout eaters – you know who you are 😉

*If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish you can leave out the bacon and crumble in a little bit of stilton about a minute  before serving*

Ingredients:

250g fresh Brussel Sprouts

150g Leeks

4/5 rashers of bacon

1/2 of a small onion

garlic salt

black pepper

olive oil

unsalted butter

Method:

Remove the outer leaves from the sprouts and make a small cross shaped incision on the base, this will allow for faster more even cooking

Clean the leeks and split down the centre before chopping into thin slices,peel and finely dice half an onion

Cook the sprouts in boiling water for about 3 1/2 – 4 minutes before refreshing by plunging into cold water. Now cook the leeks for just long enough for them to start to soften before draining and setting to one side.

Chop the bacon into small pieces and place to one side, now take the sprouts and slice them into quarters, if any of the sprouts are particularly large you may want to chop them into more pieces.

Fry the bacon in a little olive oil until it has just started to crisp at this point add in the chopped sprouts and a good knob of butter.

Cook the bacon and sprouts for around 3 minutes stirring regularly, add in the leeks, black pepper and garlic salt, stir through well and continue to heat for another 2 minutes or so until the leeks have warmed through.

Serve immediately.

 

 

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Merry Christmas 2010

24 12 2010

To all my readers I would like to thank you for supporting my blog and to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year

 

 

 





Butterbeer

23 12 2010

 I have messed around with the idea of making butterbeer quite a few times in the past, it has always seemed like quite a nice idea for a festive drink, particularly as I have more than a passing interest in historical English foods and beers.

 I have tried out several variations but in the end I settled pretty much on Heston Blumenthal’s recipe from one of his TV shows – Heston’s Christmas Feast if my memory serves.

I have made a couple of tiny little changes to the recipe but they are purely down to personal tastes. For starters Heston recommends using Old Speckled Hen; now whilst I have nothing against Old Speckled Hen I just find that it doesn’t sit right with me for this particular application.

My reasons for this are two-fold; firstly I would rather use something closer to what our Elizabethan ancestors would have had available and secondly and most importantly I don’t think it tastes quite right when mixed with the other ingredients.

Seeing as Heston’s recipe is pretty damn authentic I reckon the clash could come about because the other ingredients were supposed to work with a certain style of beer, I have seen other recipes make the suggestion that Fuller’s London Pride would work well but I am also not convinced that this would be the case, a pale ale just seems far too modern somehow.

Instead I have opted for an old ale, in this particular instance I am going to use Theakstons Old Peculier but feel free to go with whatever you want to use – I have in the past used Greene King Strong Suffolk to good effect.

One quick warning to any parents out there this is NOT a recipe for the drink of the same name in the Harry Potter series, there is very clearly alcohol in this recipe and as such is NOT intended for children to quaff whilst pretending to play quidditch.

That said you could always increase the heat in the early stages in order to cook off most of the alcohol, but where is the fun in that?

Ingredients

3 pints of “old Ale”

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground nutmeg

120g caster sugar

5 egg yolks

20g unsalted butter

Method:

Pour the ale into a saucepan and stir in the ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Gently heat the mixture until it is warm, do not let it boil.

Cream together the egg yolks and caster sugar.

Once the ale is warm, add the egg yolk and sugar mixture, stirring constantly, until the liquid has started to thicken slightly. Be careful not to let the saucepan get too hot or the eggs will scramble.

After 2/3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until it melts. Stir vigorously to make sure it is well incorporated with the other ingredients.

Serve immediately in 1/2 pints, if you want to get a frothy head you might want to use a small capuccino frother





Make your own Mulled Wine

15 12 2010

What is more festive than a warming glass of hot mulled wine?  With its heady mix of fruit and spices it is quite literally Christmas in a glass.

I know that a lot of people buy those prepared bags of spice mix that you can get in the supermarket and they are all very well and good but once you have made your own mulled wine from scratch you will never even think of going back to the pre-made sachets or bags.

Ingredients:

75 cl bottle cabernet sauvignon red wine

75 cl bottle of port

25 cl apple cider

1 orange

12 cloves

2 clementines

3 lemons

6 tbsp honey

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp ground ginger

3 fresh bay leaves

1 vanilla pod

2 star anise

1 whole nutmeg

2 measures of brandy/cognac – optional

Method:

This really couldn’t be any easier to make;

Take the orange and stud it with the cloves and chop the clementines and two of the lemons into slices, this can be done in advance

Add the port and the wine to a large saucepan and pour in the honey, cider and brandy, if you are using it, along with 2 pints of water. Give everything a good stir and pop the saucepan over a low heat to simmer.

Zest the remaining lemon and squeeze in half of the juice

Grate approx 1/3 of the nutmeg into the pan

Split the vanilla pod in two and  add to the pan along with the sliced fruit and the rest of the dry ingredients.

Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let the mulled wine boil or you will cook off all of the alcohol.

Serve warm in 1/2 pint mugs





Spicy Breaded Mozzarella Balls

2 12 2010
 I am at a loss to think of many things that are better than gooey melted mozzarella cheese and crunchy fried  breadcrumbs with a little hint of spice. That is why I simply love these little fried mozzarella balls, they are delicious either by themselves, with a spicy tomato sauce or a sweet chili dip.
 
 Your guests will love how they taste and you will love how easy they are to prepare.
 
Ingredients:
1 lb drained bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)
3 large eggs
1 cup panko dry bread crumbs
4tbsp white flour
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1tbsp milk

Method:

Drain the liquid from the mozzarella balls and pat dry with some kitchen paper

Beat together the eggs and the tablespoon of milk with a little bit of salt, the milk will help make the egg wash really smooth and the egg will break down the membrane in the egg helping it stick better.

Mix together the flour, salt and pepper in a ziplock bag and then poured in the drained mozzarella balls making sure that they get an even coating. Shake off any excess flour.

Dip the balls into the eggwash ensuring they are well coated

Mix the garlic powder, cayenne and paprika in with the breadcrumbs and make sure everything is well combined before adding the mozzarella balls

place the balls back in the egg wash and then dip them again in the breadcrumb. This double breading will help ensure an even coating and will make the balls extra crunchy and delicious.

Fry the balls in vegetable oil for about 1 – 2 minutes until they are lovely and golden.

Serve immediately with a nice dipping sauce or keep warm until needed in a low oven





Mini Chicken & Beef Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

29 11 2010

Continuing on with my selection of top party foods for the festive season I have decided to post my recipe for delicious mini chicken satay.

Obviously the satay marinade can be used with whatever you want but in this case I have chosen bite size pieces of chicken and beef so as to make the skewers easier to hold and eat.

These chicken and beef satay sticks are particularly good served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce for which I have also included my recipe.

I know that a lot of people like to include peanuts or peanut butter in the marinade itself but I prefer not to. Not only is this recipe better in my opinion but it is also safer for people with nut allergies as they can still enjoy the marinated skewers and can avoid the dipping sauce.

Satay:

12 skinless chicken thighs  or breasts cut into bite size cubes

1kg  flank steak cut into bite size cubes or thin strips

 Marinade:

250g lemongrass

2 shallots or 2 small onions

6 cloves garlic

4/5  fresh red chilies

4 inch piece of fresh ginger

2 tsp turmeric

4 Tbsp ground coriander

4 tsp cumin seeds

6 Tbsp dark soy sauce

8 Tbsp fish sauce

4 Tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil

10  Tbsp brown sugar

Method:

Soak the wooden skewers in water over night so that they don’t burn, if using metal skewers this step is not needed.

Cut the chicken and beef into pieces and place into 2 separate bowls

Peel the onion/shallots,the garlic cloves and remove the woody section from the lemongrass.

Place all of the ingredients for the marinade into a food processor and blitz until everything is combined together and you have a suitable consistency for a marinade.

Try a little of the marinade to make sure that it tastes ok,  the main tastes you are looking for are salty and sweet with the chilli in the background. Adjust accordingly.

Pour equal amounts of the marinade over both the chicken and beef ensuring that all of the pieces are well coated.  Cover the bowls and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour ideally a whole day.

When you are ready to cook thread the meat onto the skewers ensuring that you leave space at the bottom of the skewer for them to be picked up.

Cook the meat under a hot grill or ideally on a BBQ.  Depending on the thickness of the meat used you will need to cook for between 10 and 20 minutes turning every 5 minutes or so.

If you have any left over marinade at the bottom of the bowls you can baste the skewers each time you turn them.

Serve immediately with the spicy peanut dipping sauce.

Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce:

225g sugar free smooth peanut butter

60ml rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp ponzu sauce / lime juice

1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce

1 clove garlic

2 tbsp hot chilli sauce (or to taste)

1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

60ml sesame oil

2tbsp water

Handful of peanuts to garnish

Method:

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until you a sauce with a nice thick consistency.

Crush the whole peanuts and scatter over the sauce as a garnish along with a few red chilli flakes





Pigs in blankets

26 11 2010

Pigs in blankets are  great, they make a perfect accompaniment to your turkey on Christmas day, they are great as a starter and make an excellent festive finger food.

I understand that in North America pigs in blankets are little Vienna sausages in pastry not dissimilar to a sausage roll, well these aren’t them.

In the UK pigs in blankets are a chipolata sausage wrapped in a piece of bacon and roasted in the oven and typically most people would have them only at Christmas time.

The trick to serving great pigs in blankets is to make sure you use the best meat that you can afford, there is nothing worse than pigs in blankets made from the cheapest nastiest frozen sausages wrapped in watery bacon full of preservatives.

In recent years I have started using olive oil infused with sage, rosemary and garlic when I cook my pigs in a blanket, all three flavours go great with pork and just really help to lift it to another level.

To make 24 pigs in blankets you will need:

24 good quality pork chipolatas

24 rashers of good quality bacon, I prefer to use maple smoked bacon but it is up to you.

500ml of extra virgin olive oil

24 rosemary stalks with leaves till attached (optional)

12 sage leaves

2 garlic cloves

a handful of rosemary leaves

Method

The first thing you need to do is infuse your olive oil with the rosemary, sage and garlic flavours, I tend to do this well in advance so that you really get the flavour of the herbs coming through in the oil, ideally 2 weeks to 3 weeks minimum.

Bruise the herbs so as to help release their essential oils and drop them into your bottle of olive oil along with the garlic which should be roughly crushed.

I tend to remove approximately half of the oil from the bottle before doing this both to allow for displacement and also so as to have oil to hand to help dislodge any stray herbs that get stuck to the neck of the bottle.

Refill to the top with oil and place in a cool dark place for as long as possible.

Wrap each chipolata in a rasher of bacon, you might want to flatten the bacon out with the flat of a knife

when each pig is safely in it’s blanket I like to secure them, you can use a couple of cocktail sticks but  I like to be a bit fancy and use a woddy stalk from some rosemary sharpened into a skewer.

Lay your pigs in blankets into an oven proof dish and drizzle with the infused oil, if you have any sage leave left over I like to scatter these over before popping the dish into a preheated oven at 185 c for about 35 minutes.








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