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.

 

 





Real men DO eat quiche

27 12 2010

 

 Real men don’t eat quiche….

 I must have heard that line about a thousand times at this point, somehow there is this strange view that quiche is some sort of effeminate food that no proper man would touch for fear of developing breasts on the spot.

Well I happen to think that any man who is worried that his choice of food makes him look “faggy” has some issues that only a few sessions with a psychiatrist will be able to sort out.

Quiche is great!

You only have to take a cursory look at the basic components of a quiche to work out that this is food that is packing some serious flavours yet can still be light and delicate.

Quiche is also incredibly versatile; you can add pretty much anything you like into them and a quiche can be a great quick meal to knock up out of store cupboard staples or leftovers.

The simplest quiche to make is the ever popular quiche lorraine, which incidentally should NOT include onions. However I have decided to go for something a little more fancy and have included my recipe for one of my all time favourites: Chorizo and red pepper quiche.

Ingredients:

250g of good quality chorizo sausage

2 red bell peppers

1 clove of garlic

5 eggs

1 medium red onion

250ml double cream

250ml milk

125g gruyerre – you can use manchego if you want an authentic spanish cheese

3/4 tsp paprika

sea salt

black pepper

shortcrust pastry – shop bought pastry is fine but it is even better if you make your own.

Method:

Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic and set aside for later

Roll out your pastry to the correct size for the pie dish you are using and line the dish making sure it is well pressed into all of the nooks and crannies. Place the pastry lined dish in the fridge so the pastry can chill.

Stir together the milk and double cream before mixing in the eggs.

Grate the cheese and stir into the cream, milk and egg mixture until it is well incorporated, season with the paprika, salt and pepper.

Soften the diced onion and garlic over a low heat and place to one side to cool

Dice the chorizo and colour in a pan until it is lightly browned

Deseed the red peppers and slice into strips before mixing in with the chorizo, onion and garlic.

Take the pie dish out of the fridge and spoon in the mixture of chorizo, peppers, onion and garlic ensuring that it is well spread out and that all of the base of the pastry is covered.

Pour over the egg, cream and cheese mix and fill to the top of the pastry.

Bake in a 180 c oven for between 45 minutes and 1 hour or until the eggs have set and the top is golden brown.





Burger King Pizza Burger WHY???

15 12 2010

So I was happily trawling through the net earlier on today when I came across this…

The Burger King Burger Pizza

This 2,500 calorie behemoth has been available at the BK’s “Whopper Bar” in Times Square, New York City since September.

According to BK officials the Pizza Burger is the answer to the age old dilemma of whether to grab a pizza or a burger in order to sate your hunger.

Now I realise I’m not representative of the populace at large but…. a.) I have never asked that question & b.) That monstrosity would never be the answer!

For those who aren’t puking in disgust at the thought of this let me give you a quick run down of what makes a pizza burger…

 9 1/2 inch bun

4 x flame broiled whopper patties

Pepperoni slices

Marinara sauce

Mozzarella cheese

Tuscan pesto sauce

 Burger King have said that they have no plans to roll this out to any other restaurants across their chain and that it is an homage to NYC, now I’ve been to New York on several occasions and never was I put in mind of a gigantic burger topped in mushy crap.

With the pizza burger following on the heels of the equally repulsive Enormous Omelet Burger and the Triple whopper I wonder if at this point Burger King’s entire R&D budget isn’t being blown on trying to create the grossest most fattening sandwiches known to man?

 

 

 





Make your own chili powder

23 11 2010

A number of years ago I found myself getting increasingly fed up with shop bought chili powder.

Unless you go to a specialist shop it is just not a particularly good product; some chili powders have no heat what so ever even if they are labelled as being hot, some have no flavour to them at all and many of them are adulterated with colourants and additives which are just unneccessary.

So I started making my own, now I am able to have different blends or mixes made up ready for certain recipes and have complete control over what goes into my chili powders, their flavours and levels of heat.

You can also make rubs and seasoning blends in advance by mixing in the required herbs and seeds.

Because I tend to get through quite a lot of chili powder I make fairly large batches at any one point but you can make as much or as little as you wish.

You will need to ensure that you are using dried chilies or if not you are going to end up with a paste as opposed to a powder.

If you aren’t able to find the variety of chili that you want in a dried form you can but them fresh and dry them yourself, or even better grow your own chilies.

In order to dry your chilies you will need to remove the stems and the seeds from the chili and flatten out the pieces.

Place these onto a dry baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 5 or 6 minutes before checking them. Smaller less fleshy pieces will dry out quicker and can be removed before returning the larger pieces to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Once all of the pieces of chili are nice and crisp break them into  smaller section and pop them in a blender or better yet a spice grinder, pulse the chilies for afew seconds until you are left with a powder.

Hopefully you will notice that the colour of your chili powder is far deeper and that the aroma and flavour are far stronger and less artificial.

Store your chili powder  out of direct sunlight in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.





Greene King Hop (formerly The Beer To Dine For)

22 11 2010

 So we meet again Mr Bland….

 I was working at Greene King when The Beer to Dine For officially launched, unofficially it was the launch of butt plug beer but we wont go into that here…

Whatever it was called one thing is for certain it is still kicking around today, now under the interesting name “Greene King Hop”. The premise behind beer to dine for was that it would be the perfect accompaniment to food and would help win people over to real beer, particularly women.

The reality was a little different:

It looks fairly good, both in the bottle and when poured, having a nice clear honey gold colour with a fairly small head that quickly dissipates to nothing; I can well imagine it being poured into fancy glasses at some dinner party in suburbia and  fitting in well amongst the Blossom Hill and Jacob’s Creek.

The worry started to set in when I realised that there is no aroma, not just that it is faint but that there is quite literally nothing at all, not good.

The worrying lack of anything continues when you take a sip the best thing I can say about GK Hop/Beer to Dine for is that it is bland.  There isn’t really anything about it that jumps out and grabs your attention. There is some sweetness there and a slight amount of bitterness but being brutally honest there isn’t really much more flavour then you would find in Carlsberg or any other mass-produced lager.

Now correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the whole point of proper beer to steer people away from tasteless crap and onto something with a bit more going for it? Well you will never achieve that goal if the alternative is just as bland and unassuming.

The finish isn’t really anything you would be impressed by either it is thin and just helps contribute to the fact that this might as well be a bottle of fizzy syrup that has been allowed to go a bit skunky.

Oh yes did I mention the fact that due to the naff clear glass bottle 4 out of the 7 I tried had a nice skunky essence to them, just what I would want with my coq au vin!

I don’t go in for the idea of slagging off Greene King because they keep buying up smaller brewers but at the same time they really should know better than to put their name to this muck. It is marginally better with food but that is only because it is bland and inoffensive and doesn’t detract from what you are eating.

1/5





9 vegetable chili con carne

21 11 2010

Chili con carne is a great family favourite; it is cheap, filling, easy to make and tastes great.

It can also be a really great way of making sure that you get your 5 a day of fruit and vegetables or of tricking fussy kids into eating veggies that otherwise they might push around  a plate without them even realising they are there.

This works great for pretty much anything that you would normally use chili with more or less the only exception being chili burgers or chili dogs.

If you want to make a vegetarian version of this chili you can use quorn or soya mince in place of the ground beef and some nice meaty mushrooms such as portabello in place of the chorizo sausage.

To make the chili you will need: 

200g chorizo sausage

500g ground beef

2 onions

4 garlic cloves

2 medium carrots

1 stick of celery

2 fresh tomatoes

2 red bell peppers

1/2 tin of kidney beans

1/2 tin of pinto beans

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1tbsp paprika

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp chili powder

2tsp Worcestershire sauce

1tbsp red wine vinegar

1tbsp brown sugar

handful of  fresh coriander

1 pint of beef stock or hot water

olive oil

salt and pepper to season

Method

Peel and roughly chop the garlic, carrots, celery and one of the onions,  take these vegetables and place them in a food processor and blitz them until you have  salsa like consistency.

Pour some olive oil into a large heavy bottomed pan and heat over a medium flame, add the vegetables you prepared earlier and sweat them for approximately 7-10 minutes

Whilst you are sweating the vegetables peel and finely dice the remaining onion and dice the chorizo sausage. Remove the leaves from the coriander and finely chop about half of the stalks that remain

Once the vegetables in the pan have softened add in the chorizo sausage,the coriander stalks, the paprika, the chili powder and the cumin seeds, continue to cook until the chorizo has just started to brown

At this point add in the remaining onion and the ground beef and cook until the beef has coloured

Now add in the sliced bell peppers, the kidney and pinto beans and stir everything together well before adding the tin of chopped tomatoes, the vinegar and about 1 pint of hot beef stock or water, leave over a medium heat for about 45 minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove the seeds from the fresh tomatoes and chop the flesh into  fine dice and roughly chop the coriander leaves add the tomato and coriander leaves into the chili along with the brown sugar and the Worcestershire sauce, stir together well.

Leave to simmer for a further 20 minutes before adding salt and pepper to taste.

You can eat this straight away but I prefer to leave it overnight in the refridgerator to allow all of the flavours to really incorporate into one another.

I like to eat this with boiled white rice, some salsa and some corn chips.





Winter Vegetable and Bacon soup

16 11 2010

With the weather getting colder and the nights drawing in sometimes I just want to eat something warm and filling.

This winter vegetable and bacon soup ticks both of these boxes and like all soups is cheap and easy to make.

If you make more than you need immediately you can portion it into ziplock bags and it will happily keep in the freezer until you need it.

You will need:

1 large potato

250g swede/turnip

1/2 tbsp thyme

bunch of parsley

4 carrots

4 parsnips

2 sticks of celery

2 leeks

2/3 bay leaves

1 large onion

2 cloves of garlic

200g pancetta

1/2 litre chicken or vegetable stock

salt and pepper to season

olive oil or butter

Chop the onions, garlic and celery and sweat with a little olive oil or butter for approximately 15 minutes until they have softened.

At this point add in the remainder of the vegetables having first peeled, cleaned and chopped them into manageable pieces, continue to cook for another 7-10 minutes

Now add in the chicken or vegetable stock along with the thyme, a good pinch of salt and pepper and the parsley which needs to just be roughly chopped and the bay leaves.

Turn down the heat and simmer for about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and pour everything else into a food processor and blend until you have a nice smooth puree.

Pour the puree back into the pan and thin with a little more stock if it seems too thick, add more seasoning to taste and warm through.

Fry your pancetta until crisp and drain of any excess oil, add to the soup and serve immediately in warm bowls.

If you wish to make a vegetarian version omit the bacon and ensure that you use vegetable stock.





Carbonara Sauce

15 11 2010

When Saturday evening rolled round it became quite evident that the grocery shopping hadn’t been done yet and that the cupboards were quite bare.

No one in their right mind wants to go shopping at 7pm on a Saturday evening and so I had a quick sort through to see what could be knocked together. Luckily for us we had just enough staple items left for me to make a personal favourite; pasta with carbonara sauce.

Carbonara sauce is very easy and cheap to make and yet still you see people loading up their supermarket trolleys with over-priced jars of gloop.

I realise that in Italy cream is rarely added to the sauce however I prefer it this way, if you want to you can leave it out just as easily.

To make your own carbonara sauce you will need the following.

2 shallots

1 clove of garlic

2 eggs

250ml of single cream

100g parmesan cheese

200g pancetta

black pepper

sea salt

Pasta of your choice – Spaghetti or Tagliatelle work best

Dice the shallots as finely as you can and grate the clove of garlic, add the shallots and garlic to a frying pan along with a small amount of olive oil and sweat until they have started to soften.

Add the pancetta to the pan and fry until it has just started to crisp.

Whislt the pancetta is cooking beat together the two eggs and stir in the cream

Once the pancetta has crisped add the cream and egg mixture to the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer

At this point add your pasta to a pan of boiling water to cook

Grate the parmesan cheese into the sauce and ensure that it is well mixed in.

Add salt to taste – not much if any should be needed due to the pancetta and the cheese. Grind plenty of black pepper into the sauce and make sure it is incorporated well.

Once the pasta is just about cooked drain it and add it to the pan with the sauce making sure that all of the pasta is well coated.

Serve immediately.

If you want to add a touch of colour to the dish I sometimes like to add a small courgette cut into a small dice, this adds a different colour and texture to the dish without affecting the flavour.





Best roast potatoes in the world

9 11 2010

Being British I have eaten my fair share of roast potatoes, quite often as an accompaniment to roast beef but just as often alongside other less traditional dishes or just by themselves.

Some roast potatoes are good, some are ok and some are a downright insult. These roast potatoes are great.

Personally I love the mix of the regular potatoes with their new world sweet potato counterparts but you can exclude these if you want to keep things old school, if you don’t use the sweet potatoes then replace them with more white potatoes.

You will need:

2lb of white potatoes

1lb of sweet potatoes

2 large red onions

3 cloves of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

balsamic vinegar

fresh thyme

fresh rosemary

a handful of  sage leaves

sea salt

black pepper

 

Pre-heat an oven to 200 degrees C

Peel your regular potatoes and cut them into pieces of uniform size,  boil these for approx 6-7 minutes until they are part cooked.

At this point place the potatoes into a colander and give them a shake so that the edges get chuffed up. Pat dry the potatoes using some kitchen paper so they are as dry as you can get them.

place your potatoes into a large roasting tray and pour over a good amount of the extra virgin olive oil about 3/4 table spoons. Roll the potatoes around so that they are all evenly coated in the olive oil, season the potatoes with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

At this point pop the tray into the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, at this point they should be lightly golden brown .

Whilst the potatoes are in the oven by themselves you can prepare everything else; peel the onions and chop them into at least quarters, peel the garlic cloves and roughly smash them so that all of the flavour is released, clean your sweet potatoes and chop them into small chunks with the skin left on, remove any woody stalks from your rosemary and thyme.

Take a bowl and mix the herbs together with a good glug of olive oil and about 2  tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

Take your tray of potatoes and add in the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic making sure that everything is well distributed.

Now pour over the mix of herbs, oil and vinegar again making sure that everything is well coated and well distributed.

Turn the oven down to approx 180 degrees C and cook for a further 45/50 minutes until everything is crispy and bubbling.

Transfer to a dish and either serve immediately or cover with a lid and serve within 15/20 minutes at the most.





Homemade Onion Bhaji

25 10 2010

I was making  Indian food yesterday  and my brother asked me if I wanted him to pick up some onion bhajis from the takeaway in town on his way home from watching the Arsenal vs Man City game.

I said no of course as I don’t see the point in spending €6.50 for 3 super greasy over cooked bhajis when I can make dozens for far less money and with far more taste.

So here is my recipe for making delicious onion bhajis at home:

  • 100 g of gram flour (if yiou haven’t got gram flour then use plain white flour)
  • 2 large onions cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium sized red chili cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of garam masala
  • handfull finely chopped fresh corriander leaves
  •  pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 100 ml of water
  • 200 ml of rape-seed oil to fry

 

mix together the gram flour,onions, chilli,spices and seasonings

add the water to it, mixing it constantly, until you have formed a fairly thick batter

heat oil in a saucepan

using two spoons form the bhajis and place into the hot oil

ensure that there are no more than 2 bhajis in the pan at once or the temperature will drop

fry the bhajis until they are a nice golden brown colour and have a nice crisp texture

pat the fried bhajis with a kitchen towel to soak excess oil, if you aren’t eating the bhajis straight away they will keep perfectly well in a low  oven until you are ready.

These Bhajis are great by themselves but are even better with something to dip them in, personally I would make a nice raita to accompany them.








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