Tag Archives: Roasting

Preserved Red Peppers

Preserved Red Peppers

Sunshine in a jar ready for you whenever you feel the need of a little burst of flavour.

Preserved Red Peppers:

It’s time for the next round in the red pepper relay!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, I got a bit carried away recently with a great deal on red peppers and ended up buying 10 kilos of them.  The good news is not only that I got a bargain, but lots of new recipes.  I’ve been consulting cookbooks, friends and letting my imagination run around with this ingredient and have come up with some really tasty ideas.

In the past, I’ve bought countless jars of preserved red peppers, but have always been disappointed.  There was something about the flavour that jarred with me – I think maybe it’s to do with vinegar levels, of which there is none in this recipe.  Here, I’ve concentrated on bringing out the sweetness of the pepper and I reckon I’ve succeeded.  This simple recipe has hit the right note for me.  The sun dried tomatoes add a depth and a bit of zing whilst the garlic pushes flavour from behind the scenes.

They’ve become unmissable, I’ve been adding them to sauces, salads, pastas, and am going absolutely crazy for them over goat’s cheese.  When I made the peppers I have to admit to thinking maybe I’d made too much, but, now down to my last half jar I’ve hidden it in the cupboard to keep them to myself.

Preserved Red Peppers

Place the sun dried tomatoes on top of the garlic to protect it from burning during roasting.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

You’ll need some sterilised jars for this recipe.

Ingredients

8 x red peppers, seeds and stalk removed and cut length ways into thirds or quarters depending on the size.
8 to 10 large garlic cloves sliced thinly
150gr / 5.3 oz sundried tomatoes (in oil) chopped finely
3 x tbsps of olive oil to cook the peppers
Around 500ml / 1pt. US / 0.8pt. UK  olive oil cover the peppers in their jars – the amount will depend on the size of the jars and how densely you pack your peppers.
Salt

Preserved Red Peppers

Served on crispy toasted slices of baguette.

Method 

  1. Heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
  2. Place the peppers in a roasting tray, skin side down then put one or two slices of garlic on each and about half a teaspoon of sundried tomato. Drizzle over the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and put in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes or until they are soft and have taken some colour here and there.  Be careful not to burn the garlic, you can place the tomato on top to protect it.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven and sprinkle with some salt, allow to cool and layer them in your jars. Cover the peppers with oil and seal.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve as tapas or antipasto. Or, as a topping for bruschetta and I really like to chop them roughly and sprinkle over salads.
  • You can add the peppers to soups and sauces.
  • The peppers will keep for quite some time, certainly a couple of months. I prefer to store them outside the fridge as the cold makes the olive oil solid.
Preserved Red Peppers

Serve with tapas or antipasti.

 

Pork Chops with Leek Mash and Caramalized Apples

Pork Chops with Leek Mash and Caramalized Apples

Pork Chops with Leek Mash and Caramalized Apples :

I’ve always loved a pork chop, but somehow every time I made them, they seemed a little dry or tough.  I tried all sorts of ways of cooking them, and also bought meat from lots of different butchers, but I just couldn’t get the succulent result I wanted, until …  The secret of a perfect pork chop for me is to brine them first.  Basically that means steeping them in salted water for a couple of hours before you cook them.  Simplest of tips, but best results.

Preparation Time: Brining time is from 30 minutes to 4 hours, whatever you can manage.  The rest of the preparation will take about 25 minutes.
Cooking Time: Up to 30 minutes – some of this time will depend on how thick your chops are.

Serves: 4
Ingredients
For the Pork Chops
The Brine
500ml / 1pt. tap water
2 x bay leaves
2 x tsp of salt
1 x tsp of whole black peppercorns
2 x smashed garlic cloves
½ tsp of juniper berries (optional)
The Pork Chops
4 x pork chops on the bone
1 x tbsp of olive oil
For the Mash
800gr /1.7 lb potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 x large leek, cleaned thoroughly and sliced thinly
2 x garlic cloves, chopped finely
About a tbsp of olive oil
2 x tsps of Dijon mustard (or to taste)
Salt and Black pepper to taste
For the Apples
1 x tbsp of butter
3 or 4 apples sliced into thick orange segment shapes (don’t peel the apples)
A drizzle of honey

Pork Chops with Leek Mash and Caramalized Apples

Method

  1. Place the brine ingredients in a dish that will hold the pork so that the water will cover your meat. If you need more water to cover the meat remember to adjust the ratio of the salt and other ingredients accordingly.  Place the pork in the brine and leave it for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  2. To cook the potatoes place them in a pan and cover them generously in tap water and a little salt, cover and bring to the boil, remove the lid and cook until there is little resistance to the tip of a knife when pressed into the potato. Drain and set aside in a colander to steam for a couple of minutes.
  3. In another pan heat the olive oil on a medium heat when hot add the garlic and the leeks. Sweat the leeks down by keeping them on a low heat and covering the pan with a close fitting lid.  Stir very occasionally just to check they are not sticking but there is enough heat to cook them.  Ideally you don’t want to get colour on your leeks that’s why we’re not frying them intensely.  The idea is to keep the colour of your mash nice an pale.
  4. To finish the potatoes put them back in their pan, mash them, add in the leeks, mustard, salt and pepper, mix and mash until smooth. Check for seasoning and set aside until you need them.  If you cover the pan with a close fitting lid, this will keep warm for about 10 minutes.
  5. To cook the pork pre-heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F
  6. Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels then rub both sides of each chop with olive oil.
  7. Place a non-stick frying pan on a high heat, get it nice and hot, then place the chops in the pan – they should sizzle immediately. Give them about 3 minutes on each side to colour, without turning them in between.
  8. Place the chops in the oven and roast them for 12 to 15 minutes. You can check if they are ready by using a meat thermometer, but I usually just slice into the thickest part of the chop that I will eat and check there is no pink colour.
  9. In another frying pan place the butter in on a medium to high heat, once it has melted add your apple slices. Let them fry for about 3 minutes on each side.  The idea is to get them brown, softened, but still with a bit of crunch.  Finish them by squeezing over a little honey (maybe only a teaspoon or so), toss them in the honey and serve on the side of your dish.

 Tips and Variations

  • I used to find that pork chops could become dry and a bit tough, but since using this brining method they stay nice and juicy.
  • Leeks can trap dust and dirt in between their layers. I find the best way to make sure they are clean is to slice them down the middle lengthways so that you can run the water and clean in between each section.
  • I normally use whatever eating apples I have, I don’t buy cooking apples for this recipe. The amount f honey you use will depend on how sweet the apples are.
  • If you don’t have a frying pan that you can transfer to the oven, use a roasting tray, but heat it up in the oven whilst you are browning the chops in a pan, then transfer them to the tray. Don’t forget to use your oven gloves when you are moving these pans and trays around though.

Pork Chops with Leek Mash and Caramalized Apples

Fail Safe Delicious Roast Chicken

RoastChicken

I was reading an article written by  a food blogger about what she had decided were the most annoying things that other food bloggers and recipe writers do.  One of the things she asked us all to do was to stop posting recipes for Roast Chicken.  She said that if your readers didn’t know how to do that, then there’s not much hope for them.  I didn’t like the comment or the tone.  It wasn’t so many years ago that I didn’t know how to roast a chicken.  I didn’t consider myself hopeless, but I was just lacking in knowledge.  I understand all to well what it’s like to be a beginner cook, when everything seems overwhelming.  The thing is about roasting a chicken, it is easy, but like so many things in life, if you don’t know how, then it might as well be rocket science.  You don’t know what you don’t know – right?  The other thing is about roast chicken, for me anyway, was that the result looked and tasted so fantastic that I thought there must be some kind of complicated technique to achieve this.  It is a really simple process, and many cooks and chefs play around with it, trying to make it better.  That’s not my thing, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  My method is simple, and I get a fantastic result every time.  So if you’ve never tried it before or if you have been bamboozled by overcomplicated recipes, start here.

And then go to my recipe for Chicken Stock.

 Perfect Roast Chicken

 This really begins with the quality of the chicken you buy. The things I look for are:-

  • A chicken that doesn’t look as if it has been pumped up with a bicycle pump.
  • A proportioned bird, not one with a huge breast section and tiny legs.
  • Some small fat deposits under the skin.
  • On feeling the skin it feels a bit lose – there is some movement – its not tight.
  • A good poultry shop.
  • Free range is a good indicator of quality.

To Cook the Chicken

Ingredients

1 x good quality chicken ( a bird of about 1.5kg will give you 4 good portions)
Salt and Pepper to taste
One lemon (optional)
One large onion
A little olive oil (about 2 x dessert spoons)
5 or 6 sprigs of each Rosemary and thyme (optional)

Method

  1. Use a roasting tin that can comfortably hold the bird.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  3. Cut a large onion into 5 thick, equal rings, place them in a 2, 2, 1 formation in the roasting tin.
  4. Cut the lemon into 4 wedges and place this inside the chicken along with Rosemary and thyme.
  5. Place the chicken on top of the onion slices.
  6. Rub the oil onto the palm of your hands and then rub it over the chicken.
  7. Sprinkle with Salt and pepper.
  8. Add water to the roasting tin, just out of the tap. Enough to take the water level up to the top of the slices of onion.
  9. Place the chicken in the oven for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Check after about 50 minutes.  When it’s an even golden brown, take the chicken out.
  10. To test if it is cooked through take a slim knife or a skewer and press it into the place where the leg joins the body. If the juice that comes out is clear and you see no pink flesh, the chicken is ready. If you do see traces of pink, put back and check again after 10 to 15 minutes, repeating this until there is no trace of pink or red.

Cooking time may vary depending on your oven and the size of the bird.  You may also see that one side of the chicken cooks quicker than the other.  This is due to hotspots in the oven, so all you need to do is turn it around.

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Duck is my favourite poultry.  That said though, for some reason I seemed to struggle when cooking it.  Overcooking, undercooking, drying it out or ending up with a smoke filled house because of all that hot duck fat.  I decided it was time to focus on getting it right.  Getting it right every time.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Ingredients for 4 Servings
For the Duck
4 x duck breasts (skin on) each weighing about 180gr / 6.3 oz. to 200gr / 7 oz. (give or take)
Some rough sea salt
Freshly Ground Black pepper

For the Redcurrant and Port Sauce
300ml / 10 fl. oz. good quality chicken stock
200gr / 7 oz. red currants
20gr / 0.7 oz. unsalted butter
1 x shallot chopped finely
2 x tsp of fresh thyme leaves
4 x tsp of port (ruby or tawny)
2 x tbsp of honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

For the Duck

  1. Put the oven on to heat it to 200°C/400°F. While the oven is heating, start the cooking process in a heavy bottomed frying pan/skillet.
  2. Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the skin side of the duck and rub it in.
  3. Place your pan on the hob/stove top. Put the duck breasts in the cold pan, skin side down. Turn on the heat to medium high and allow the duck to cook, leave it alone while this happens. If it starts to smoke too much, turn down the heat a little.
  4. Once you can see that the duck has cooked about a little more than half way by looking at the side of it to see the colour change, it should be transferred to the oven. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes, but of course it depends on the thickness of your duck and the intensity of the heat you use to cook it. You can do this in your pan if it has a metal handle, or you can transfer the duck to a roasting tray if your pan has a plastic or other unsuitable handle which won’t withstand the heat of the oven. I do the latter. If you are planning to do this too, heat the roasting tray in the oven beforehand. The easiest way to do this is to place it in there whilst you wait for the oven to reach temperature. The duck should be placed in the oven skin side down.
  5. Once in the oven, cook it for a further 7 to 10 minutes.
  6. Remove and allow to rest for a further 7 minutes before slicing it.

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

For the Redcurrant and Port Sauce

  1. Place half the butter in a pan and allow it to melt. Then add the shallots and cook them until softened on a medium high heat.
  2. Add the thyme, chicken stock, port, honey and a little salt and pepper. Add about ¾ of the red currants, keeping the rest back to add at the end of cooking.
  3. Turn up the heat to reduce the sauce until it is about 1/3 of its original volume.
  4. Turn down the heat, add the rest of the butter and whisk through until it is melted. Add the remaining berries, check for seasoning and serve poured over the duck.

Tips and Variations

  • It may seem strange to start the duck cooking on a low heat. After all, I’m always going on about getting pans hot before placing meat in them. The reason for this cold start with the duck is that it helps render the fat from the meat gradually, giving an even cook and a crispy skin.
  • The sauce works really well with cherries and blackberries too. Normally they are a little sweeter than redcurrants, so you could cut down on the amount of honey or add a squeeze of orange juice to balance the flavour should you prefer.
  • The redcurrant sauce works nicely with venison and other game birds like pheasant, partridge and quail. I have been known to serve it with game sausages, or a game pie which is great too.
  • You can make the sauce in advance and heat it up when you are ready to serve. It will keep in the fridge for a few days.
  • Keep the duck fat and use it to make roast potatoes.

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Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Pasta with Roast Butternut Squash and Spinach

Pasta with Roast Butternut Squash and Spinach

Pasta with Roast Butternut Squash and Spinach

This is a bit of an accidental vegetarian recipe.  What I mean by that is that I didn’t set out to make a vegetarian recipe, but it sort of just happened that way.  Staring into the fridge one day at a butternut squash that I had bought on impulse (ok, some women buy shoes on impulse, I buy squash – what of it?), I had to come up with a way to use it.  I had been obsessing over a curry with squash for a while, maybe combine it with some frozen spinach which I always have in the freezer anyway and perhaps some chickpeas.  But, I didn’t feel like a curry that day, and then it came to me, all of a sudden, it had to be pasta……

Preparation Time: 25 minutes (includes roasting the squash)
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients for 4 Servings
For the Butternut Squash
2 x medium butternut squash, peeled and diced (smallish, bite sized pieces– remember though, they will shrink a bit in the oven)
2 x tsp honey
1 x tbsp olive oil
½ a freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
For the Spinach Sauce
2 x tbsp olive oil
500gr / 1.1 lb. frozen spinach (not creamed spinach), defrosted
3 x shallots chopped finely
5 or 6 sage leaves chopped finely
2 or 3 large garlic cloves chopped finely
300gr / 10 oz. cherry tomatoes, quartered
300ml / 10 fl.oz. buttermilk
To Serve
75gr / 2.5 oz. toasted pine nuts
50gr / 1.5 oz. grated pecorino cheese (or parmesan)
Some extra virgin oil to drizzle over (optional)
Lumache Rigate pasta

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
  2. Place the butternut squash in a roasting tray big enough that you can spread it out. Drizzle over the oil, mix it through to cover all your squash, then drizzle over the honey, grate over the nutmeg, sprinkle over a little salt and pepper. Place in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. The time will depend on how big you made your pieces of squash. The result you are looking for is that the squash has softened a little (not mushy though) and that it has taken on some colour.
  3. Whilst the squash is cooking you can get on with the pasta and the spinach sauce. Drop your pasta into boiling, salted water for as long as the packaging instructs.
  4. For the spinach sauce, heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, then add the shallots, garlic and sage. Cook until they have browned then add the spinach. I like to keep any water that has come from the spinach, I don’t drain it, just add it all. Stir through and add the tomatoes, mix in. Once bubbling, add the buttermilk, mix it through, then add and some salt and pepper to taste. This part of the cooking only takes a few minutes, you don’t want to overcook the spinach otherwise it will lose its vibrant green colour.
  5. When the squash is ready, add about 2/3 of it to the spinach in the pan and stir through, keep the rest back to dress.
  6. To add the pasta, I don’t drain it, as I want to get a little (just a little) of the water in which it has cooked into my sauce. To do this I decant the pasta into the pan with the spinach and butternut by using a slotted spoon. Stir your pasta through, check for seasoning.
  7. To serve sprinkle over the remaining squash, pine nuts, cheese and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil if you wish.

Tips and Variations

You can make the squash in advance and heat it through the spinach sauce.

Pasta with Roast Butternut Squash and Spinach