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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Devilled Eggs

25 11 2010

Love it or hate  it the festive season is fast approaching.

One of the biggest headaches in the run up to Christmas and New Year (I refuse to say “The Holidays”) is what foods to serve guests, particularly if you are hosting a party.

Big heavy sit down dinners are all very well and good on Christmas day itself but for more laid back occasions it is often nicer to serve a selection of delicious finger foods – not to mention easier! As such over the coming days I am going to be publishing a selection of my favourite recipes for easy and delicious party food that everyone is going to love.

Devilled Eggs are surprisingly simple to make and cost very little money, not only that you don’t need cutlery to eat them and your vegetarian guests can enjoy them too (vegans not so much)

To make 24 servings you will need the following:

12 medium or large eggs

4 tbsp mayonnaise

4tbsp dijon mustard

1 spring onion

2 tsp cayenne pepper

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Paprika

Some chives

Method:

First you need to hard boil your eggs,  when boiling eggs make sure that you take the eggs out of the fridge in advance and let them reach room temperature before adding them to the water.

Once the eggs are hard boiled and cool enough to handle you need to peel off the shell and cut the eggs in half lengthways.

Using a teaspoon remove the egg yolks and place to one side in a bowl.

Add the mayonnaise and dijon mustard to the egg yolks and mix until you have reached a smooth creamy consistency.

Very finely chop you spring onion and mix into your egg yolk mixture along with the cayenne pepper ensuring that it is well distributed throughout your mixture.

Season your mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

At this point you need to add your mixture to the egg whites; to do this you can either use a piping bag or you can fill them with a spoon.

To stop your eggs from sliding around on the plate you can place them on some fresh crisp lettuce leaves.

Using a sugar sifter sprinkle over a little of the paprika and finely chop some chives and scatter over as a garnish





Homemade Harissa Paste

18 11 2010

Harissa is a hot and spicy paste from North Africa, the key ingredient in it is red chillies and it’s use is prevalent in Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian cuisine.

Harissa is hot I won’t deny it but don’t let that put you off, there is more than just heat! There is a lovely rich fruitiness from the tomatoes and indeed from the chillies themselves and the kick of spice just transports you a million miles away from a wet and windy November afternoon.

I know that some recipes will disagree with me on this but the chillies that you use really should be dried, in my opinion this gives the best flavour to the sauce.

Depending on how hot you want the harissa you can vary which type of chillies are used and can remove the pith and seeds if you wish, personally I use a mix of dried habanero and scoth bonnets  and leave all seeds and pith intact.

To make your own harissa you will need:

250g tomatoes

100g Dried Chillies – I use a mix of habanero and scotch bonnet

1 onion

4 cloves of garlic

1tbsp cumin seeds

1tbsp coriander seeds

1tbsp mustard seeds

1/2tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2tbsp vinegar

olive oil

Add the chillies and the spices to a food processor and blitz until the chillies have started to break down

At this point add the garlic cloves and the onion and blitz until these are combined

You can now add the tomatoes and the 2 tbsp of vinegar and continue to blitz.

Once everything has reached a paste consistency you can add in the salt and pepper adjusting to taste.

Pour everything into a saucepan and bring to the boil, leave to cool completely and then pop into jars. Add enough olive oil into each jar to completely cover the harissa





Bubble and Squeak

12 11 2010

No Bubble and Squeak are not Disney’s newest cartoon creations or my pet mice or any other such nonsense.

Bubble and Squeak is a traditional British meal made with the leftover meat and vegetables from dinner, in particular a Sunday roast. The name  itself comes from the sounds that are made as the dish is frying in the pan.

Bubble and Squeak is one of these meals whereby everyone does it differently (and why shouldnt they!)  but two things are constant in most recipes; the bulk of the dish is made up of leftovers potatoes and cabbage or any other green vegetable such as sprouts.

Traditionally the left over beef from dinner was chopped up very fine and mixed in as well, a lot of people have stopped doing this but I think that it just isn’t bubble without it!

I’m not really sure that there is anything else out there that is as cheap and simple to make and yet tastes half as good as bubble and squeak, try it for yourself and find out.

To make your Bubble and Squeak vegetarian friendly just omit the beef.

To make bubble and squeak you will need

approx 1lb of leftover potatoes – boiled, mashed or roast any will do

approx 1lb of leftover cabbage or other green veg

leftover beef (if any is left!)

1 onion

salt

pepper

butter

Roughly mash your leftover potatoes and chop your cabbage and onion down into small pieces, mix this together and add salt and pepper to taste

shred your leftover beef as finely as you possibly can, combine this with your vegetables and pop in the fridge for about 20 minutes or so.

Melt some butter in a large frying pan add your mixture, fry until lightly golden brown.

Bubble and Squeak can be eaten by itself as a light meal or used as a side dish or my favourite as part of a cooked breakfsast.





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.








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