Stuffed Peppers

After a slightly confused conversation with Chef J recently I feel I should explain something, for the benefit of the non-European readers amongst you: what we call ‘minced’ beef/pork/lamb you would call ‘ground’ meat.

You should also be aware that mincemeat (all one word) has nothing to do with meat at all (any more) and is in fact a sweet mixture made with dried fruit, spices, suet and sugar, used for filling pies at Christmas. I say ‘any more’ because originally there was chopped up meat in the mixture; I believe it was a way of using up roast meat left overs, with the spices used to help disguise the less than fresh quality of said meat, but that may be wrong…who knows what went on in the minds of 17th century cooks?!

Does that all make sense?  We don’t want any Rachel’s trifle type dishes now, do we 😉

halved peppers

Serves 4 hungry people

Ingredients
4 red peppers, washed halved and de-seeded
500g minced pork (or beef or lamb – as you fancy)
1-2 red onions, finely diced
1-2 celery sticks, finely diced
1-2 carrots, finely diced (no need to peel unless they’re very old carrots)
a good glug of olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 red chillies, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
8 slices of cheese – not pre-sliced, processed nastiness – some slabs of something good, like a very mature cheddar, carved from the block.  Don’t forget to eat one or two pieces, for quality control purposes.

For the sauce
a splosh of olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 courgette, diced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock pot/stock cube
½ a glass of white wine (optional)

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Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350°F

diced courgette and onion with tinned tomatoesFor the sauce – heat the olive oil, add onions and courgettes and cook over a low heat until the onions begin to caramelise (go a little bit brown and sticky!)

Add wine, tinned tomatoes and stock pot. Stir well to mix, bring to a simmer then turn off heat and set to one side.

diced red onion, carrot and celeryIn a different pan, heat a small amount of oil, add minced pork and cook, stirring, until there is no pink left.  Drain off any excess fat, put in a bowl and set to one side.

Now heat another glug of olive oil, add onions, celery and carrots and cook over a medium to low heat until soft but not brown.

spices and chopped garlicAdd chillies, garlic and spices and cook for another minute or so.

Throw the cooked meat back in and give it a good stirring to be sure everything’s mixed well.

Pour a layer of sauce into the bottom of an oven proof dish,keeping a few tablespoons in reserve for topping your peppers.

slices of cheese on topFill each pepper half with meat mixture, squashing it down well with the back of your spoon. Top each one with a spoonful of the reserved sauce and a slice of cheese then place into the sauce bedded dish.

Baked peppersBake in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes, or until the pepper has cooked. To test cookedness, you’ll have to put on you asbestos fingers and give it a little squeeze – I know of no other way!

served on a bed of riceServe on a bed of steamed rice with now thickened sauce spooned over or around.
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Rösti with a blue cheese centre

rösti
ˈrəːsti/
noun
a Swiss dish of grated potatoes formed into a small flat cake and fried.

When making rösti I’ve always gone for the grated and squeezed raw potato method, which has worked fine as far as I’m concerned.

However I recently read a thing on the internet that said you should parboil your potatoes for precisely 6 minutes, then cool before grating.  I can’t for the life of me remember where I read this, but I believe the person said they’d been taught to do it this way whilst growing up in Switzerland, and they spelled it ‘röschti’, so it seemed to me that they might know what they were talking about.  Worth giving it a go, anyway.

So I set about making my first batch of rösti using the parboiling method, with the intention that I also do a comparison batch using my original method.  However, I got sidetracked by a book during the cooling time for the parboiled spuds and by the time I remembered what I was supposed to be doing, hunger was pushing me to just cook and eat.

RostiI then got a bit carried away, adding the onions and blue cheese, thus I can’t definitively say whether or not the parboiling makes a substantial difference to a basic rösti.  I can definitively say that this less than authentic version tastes fan-bloody-tastic!

Ingredients
1 medium, or a couple of small, waxy* potatoes per person
*Charlottes are generally easy to get hold of in the UK
1 small onion
Blue cheese of choice (I used Danish Blue)
A knob of butter
A couple of splashes of vegetable oil
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
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Before you start, you need to find a plate the fits over your frying pan…ideally it should be slightly larger than the pan or fit snugly just inside at the top edge.  Set it to one side cos you’ll need it later to turn your rösti over.

You’ll have to improvise if you don’t have a big enough plate (how large is your frying pan?  Or should that be, how small are your plates?).  Maybe you could try covering a chopping board with baking foil…it just needs to be heatproof and have a smooth, slidey surface.

Parboil for exactly 6 minutes
That is not a hairy potato…

Place your unpeeled potatoes into a pan of water, bring to the boil and cook for 6 minutes.

Drain and cool, then refrigerate for at least two hours.  Three hours and fifty two minutes is about right if you have a book to read 😉

Ad onions and seasoningCoarsely grate the potatoes, skin and all, into a bowl.

Coarsely grate the onion on top and season with salt and pepper.

Put chunks of cheese all overHeat half the butter and oil in a frying pan, over a medium to high heat; when it’s sizzling tip in half the potato mix and spread evenly across pan.

Add your blue cheese, then cover with the remaining potatoes.

cover with remaining potatoShake your pan around to level things out a bit then allow it to cook for a few minutes before starting to shape your rösti using a spatula.  Don’t squish it down too much.

Leave to cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the bottom is golden and crispy.

Cook other sideTake your larger-than-the-pan sized plate, place over the pan, flip everything upside down, and you should now have an empty pan and a plate containing a half done rösti, cooked side up.

Heat the remainder of your butter and oil, again until it’s sizzling, then slide the rösti back into the pan.

Cook for a further 10 minutes and serve.

Serve with salad & horseradish sauceServed for supper with a small undressed salad on the side.

The last minute addition of a dollop of horseradish sauce was, if I may say, a stroke of gustatory genius.  If you have some, you should go for it.  If not, you could try mustard, which is the condiment I originally intended to use, before the jar of horseradish sashayed seductively into my field of vision.

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Mini Smoked Salmon Terrine

smoked salmon

Barn’s been away working so I took the opportunity to indulge myself in foods he doesn’t like.  Prime example, this beautiful organic smoked salmon, snapped up on a half price deal.  Snapped up with no idea what I was going to do with it, and with flagrant disregard for the rules of a cupboard challenge.

Having snagged my booty I felt I should at least apply the principle of a cupboard challenge by purchasing no further ingredients – whatever was at home would have to do.  Fortuitously, what was already in my fridge enabled me to make this delicious terrine 🙂

This recipe makes a decent lunch sized portion for one; size the recipe up according to the number of people you wish to serve.  If you have smaller moulds and wanted to do this as a starter, the quantities below should serve two.

Smoked salmon terrine with oatcakes

Ingredients per serving
100g thinly sliced smoked salmon
1 heaped tablespoon cream cheese
1 dessert spoon crème fraîche
A squeeze of lemon juice (about a dessert spoon)
Freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing
3 dessert spoons olive oil
3 dessert spoons lemon juice
A pinch of caster sugar
A few sprigs of fresh dill
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Thinly sliced cucumber and green salad leaves, to serve
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Remember – this is a per person recipe!

line ramekin with cling film and salmon slicesPrepare a small ramekin by lining with cling film, making sure you leave plenty of excess overhanging the dish.

Use slices of smoked salmon to completely line the ramekin, again, making sure there is an overhang.  You should have around ⅓ of the salmon left.

add cream cheese and creme fraichePut remaining salmon into a food processor and blitz to a fine mince.

blendAdd cream cheese, crème fraîche, a squeeze of lemon juice and the black pepper then blend. It doesn’t have to be completely smooth, a little texture is fine 🙂

fill ramekin with cheese mixPour the salmony cheesey goodness into the prepared ramekin.

If there’s any left over it makes an awesome dip. Or just scoff it with a spoon.

Cover topBring up overhanging salmon edges to completely cover the filling.

wrap tightlyWrap reasonably tightly with the overhanging cling film – not too tightly or you risk having your filling splurge out.

Wrap the entire thing again with a double layer of cling film – this is going to be refrigerated overnight and you don’t want to imbue everything else in there with salmon flavour.

When you’re ready to serve, make the dressing by putting lemon juice, olive oil, caster sugar and a little chopped dill into a small jar with a tight fitting lid; shake vigorously (shake the jar!).  Add salt and pepper according to taste.

salad leaf & cucumber bedMake a bed of salad leaves on a plate, with a ring of sliced cucumber on top.

Smoked salmon terrineUnwrap the salmon terrine and carefully turn out onto the plate.  Drizzle with dressing and garnish with a sprig of dill.

Served with oatcakesServe with gluten free oatcakes…or ordinary ones…or crackers…as your tastes and dietary needs dictate 🙂

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Kedgeree

Kedgeree is curried rice dish made with smoked fish and served with an egg on top.

There all definites end.

Kedgeree
Some say you must have boiled egg, others champion the delicious ooze of a runny poached egg.  Type of fish can be an issue too, with one camp swearing it must be haddock and the other saying that’s nonsense.  Some believe parsley is a must, others say it has to be coriander.  Many people demand peas in a ‘proper’ kedgeree, others recoil in horror at the thought.  In these days of poshing-up everything, there are some who feel basic shop bought curry powder is too ’70s and that a select few spices are better, while others insist that the basic curry powder is necessary for ‘authentic’ flavour.  Debates rage about the matter.

Well, I say debates rage…it’s probably more like an occasional cluck of annoyance, as Mildred and Henry order kedgeree for Sunday brunch then exchange tuts and outraged whispers about the inclusion of poached egg rather than boiled, and the complete absence of peas in the dish.  But still…

with mango chutney and a lemon wedgeI’m not too fussy myself – I like a dry kedgeree, not a wet, sauced version, which is too porridgey for my tastes – apart from that I’m willing to ring the changes a little.  This was a convenient attitude to be sporting when it came to making this particular kedgeree – we’re having a mini cupboard challenge right now and so needed to use what’s already available in our stores.

This is another imprecise recipe as it’s so easy to scale up or down according to number of servings required; tweak the recipe according to your own requirements, tastes and available ingredients.

ingredientsIngredients
Cooked rice – as many servings as are needed
1 small/medium sized piece of smoked haddock fillet per person
2 eggs
2 red onions, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
2 green chillies, sliced
2 teaspoons Very Lazy Garlic or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-3 teaspoons curry powder, according to strength of powder and taste
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A large chunk of butter – use proper butter and use lots!  I had some lemon, garlic and herb butter left over from a previous meal so I chucked that in, with about the same amount again in ordinary butter – luvverly.
A good fistful of fresh parsley, chopped
A couple of spring onions, sliced
A couple of lemon wedges and few spoons of mango chutney to serve – not compulsory
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To prevent constant harassment, it’s a good idea to shut any cats out of the kitchen before you get started with this recipe.

Kitty excluded?  Ok then…Happy EggsHard boil your eggs by putting them in a pan of cold water, enough to cover the eggs.  Bring the water to the boil then turn down to a simmer and cook for 6-7 minutes.

hard boiled eggsAs soon as they’re done drain off the hot water and place the pan under a running cold water tap for around 1-2 minutes – this helps stop that horrid black layer developing around the yolks.  Peel off the shells and set to one side.

smoked haddockTo poach your fish bring a shallow layer of water (a couple of cm) to the boil, in a pan that has a lid; turn off the heat.  Pop in the fish, skin side up in a single layer, put the lid on and leave for around 5-6 minutes.  You’ll know when it’s done because the skin will easily peel away.

poached haddockDon’t over cook it.  Don’t overcook any fish 😉

Drain and discard the fish poaching water.  Remove skin from fillets, feed to cat, who Houdini like, has found a way out of exile and into the kitchen.  Flake cooked fish and set to one side.

cook onion and celery until softMelt butter (in that same lidded pan), add diced onions and celery and cook with lid on, over a low heat until soft.

Add curry powder, green chillies and garlic and cook, stirring, for minute or so.

Cooked riceStir in the cooked rice, salt and pepper, making sure everything mingles properly.

Add flaked fish and parsleyAdd flaked fish and most of the chopped parsley then stir gently to combine.

with mango chutney and a lemon wedgeServe bedecked with boiled egg halves and scattered with chopped spring onion and remaining chopped parsley. Finish with a spoonful of mango chutney on the side and a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top.

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Braised red cabbage with apple and onion

Before I begin the recipe we must first pause to behold the wondrousness of my gorgeous new chopping board, on its first outing…Awesome handmade chopping board

This chunk of wooden beauty was a Christmas gift, handmade by Medieval, with assistance from Mme. H (such was her dedication to the hand sanding process, she had totally smooth fingertips over the Christmas period.  Ideal time to commission a crime?!)

I know the dark bits are cherry wood but I’m not sure about the others…I believe some beech may be involved.  So tactile.  Love it.

IngredientsServes 6 – 8 (this freezes really well)

Ingredients
1 small red cabbage
1-2 cooking apples (or sour eating apples), peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1-2 onions, finely diced
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
approx. ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of ground cinnamon
2 dessert spoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or cider)
a knob of butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

First things first – find a casserole dish with a tight fitting lid.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/325°F/170°C

Cabbage heartRemove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage and cut out the heart.  Feel ferocious like an Inca.

Shred what’s left of the cabbage using a sharp knife or a food processor.

Put a layer of shredded cabbage into your casserole dish (the one with the tight fitting lid) and season with salt and pepper.

Diced onion and chopped applesAdd a layer of chopped onions and apples, sprinkling with some of the garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar. Continue to layer like this until your casserole dish is full, or you’ve used up all your ingredients.  Finish with a cabbage layer.

Dot with butterPour over the red wine vinegar and dot the butter all over the top.

Put the lid on the casserole, pop in the oven and let cook slowly for around 2-2½ hours, stirring once or twice to be sure everything cooks evenly.

Braised red cabbage

Serve with something hearty like a roast joint, a casserole or cottage pie.  Goes exceptionally well with beef dishes.

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Cottage Pie (of sorts)

Because I’m something of a pedant at times, I’d like to get something cleared up: a shepherd’s pie is made using lamb and a cottage pie is made with beef. They are not interchangeable names,’k? 😉

Now that’s sorted, let’s clarify something else: a traditional cottage pie contains diced carrots and celery, perhaps some peas, and is topped with mashed potato.  This is not a traditional cottage pie recipe, but by swapping ingredients you could make it so.

Baked til golden brown

Serves 3-4

Ingredients
1 small swede
2-3 carrots
3-5 potatoes
a knob of butter
1-2 onions, diced
approx. 1 tablespoon oil
500g minced beef
some mushrooms, sliced
500ml good beef stock OR 500ml water & 2 beef stockpots/stock cubes
2 tablespoons cornflour, in a mug, blended to a smooth paste with a little cold water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
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Pinny on?  Peeler a go-go?  Ok then…

Set the oven to preheat at gas mark 5/375°F/190°C.

Carrots, swede and potatoes
Now, let’s get cracking with the root vegetable mash topping.

Peel and dice the swede, peel and slice the carrots, peel and cube the potatoes; place everything into a large pan of water and boil until tender.  Don’t bunk off while your veg is boiling – you need to get your pie filling ready.

Diced onionsHeat the oil in a medium pan, add diced onions and cook until soft but not browned.

Add mince and cook, stirring, until the mince becomes that attractive grey colour.

Sliced mushroomsDrain off any excess fat, add sliced mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.

Stock pots and cornflourAdd beef stock and bring to the boil then turn down heat a little.

To thicken the gravy, ladle some of the hot stock into the mug with the cornflour paste, stir really well to make sure there are no lumps, then tip the whole lot back into the pan, stirring all the time. Simmer for another minute or so then remove from heat.

Minced beef and mushroomsPour into an oven proof dish (or individual ones) and allow to cool slightly. The cooling helps stop your mash sinking.

Add a good knob of butterWhen your vegetables are cooked (you hadn’t forgotten about them had you?), drain them and return to the pan. Add a generous knob of butter and a good helping of salt and pepper. Mash.

 

Pile mash on topSpoon mashed veg on top of meat and gravy, flatten down with a fork, then bake in the preheated oven for around 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

It’s a good idea to put an empty baking tray at the bottom of the oven to catch gravy overflow.

Cottage pieServed with braised red cabbage and steamed green beans.
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Puff Pastry Mushroom Tarts

These gorgeous individual tarts are the result of some kitchen playtime aimed at producing non-meat options for serving at Mum’s birthday party – I think they’ll be going on the menu 🙂

A forest of mushroomsI debated whether or not to add garlic to the recipe but in the end decided against – the flavours of these particular mushrooms are so amazing I just wanted to let them shine.  However, if using a mix of more ‘ordinary’ mushrooms, then I’d probably include it.  As ever, with this and everything you cook, the choice is yours!

Serves two if cut into approx. 12cm circles – will make more if circles are smaller 😉

Ingredients
Approx 200g of ready made puff pastry
A knob of butter
250-300g mixed wild/’exotic’ mushrooms, roughly chopped (we used golden enoki, white enoki and brown shimeji – whatever you use, choose really flavourful varieties like these, morrel, shiitake or porcini, for example)
25g-30g parmesan, finely grated
Small handful fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
Music

Set the oven to preheat at gas mark 6/200°C/400°F.

Pastry circlesRoll the pastry out and cut four circles – mine were about 12cm each.  Brush two circles with beaten egg then stack the other two on top…so you have two discs, each made of two layers of pastry.
Apologies for the absence of visuals – the lighting (and the lack of my photography skills) was doing grim pink and green things to the colour of the pastry.  And let’s face it, my ‘solution’ of using this black and white effect isn’t desperately appetising either.  Perhaps you can see why I gave up trying to take photos of the uncooked pastry?!

Pastry cuttersIf you have a suitably sized smaller pastry cutter, use it to score a 1cm-ish border around the edge of each pastry circle – don’t go all the way through the layers, just about half way.  You can do it with a knife if you don’t have a pastry cutter.

Leave to chill in the fridge, but not on the baking tray you intend to use to bake them on.  All will become clear my friend, read on…

Finely diced onionsHeat the butter in a large frying pan and cook onions over a low heat until soft.

Cooked onion and mushroomsTurn up heat a little, add chopped mushrooms (and crushed garlic if using) and cook for a further 5 minutes or so, making sure there’s no liquid left in the pan.

Mushrooms, parsley and parmesanCombine cooked onions and mushrooms with parsley and parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.

This is my tip for avoiding a soggy bottom on your tart (ooh, err!) –  lightly oil your baking tray and pop it into the oven to heat while you finish prepping up the tarts.  See why it’s a good thing your baking tray isn’t in the fridge? 😉

Spoon the mushroom mix into the marked centre circle of each chilled pastry disc then brush the edge  with beaten egg.

Mushroom Tarts - bakedCarefully slide onto your preheated baking tray and bake for about 15-20 mins, until puffed up and golden brown.

Mushroom Tart - puff pastryServed here with oven baked, truffle butter drizzled asparagus (oh yeah baby!), on a bed of crushed carrots, with roasted baby potatoes.  Really, really good 🙂
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BBQ Beef & Spit Roast Chickens

The SpitExciting times in the Renegade household this weekend – Petit Man, Mme. E and Medieval came round and we had our first test run of this bad boy, in preparation for Mum and Little M’s upcoming birthday fête.

Three Sunday roastsAlthough on the day we’ll be cooking a suckling pig, for the time being we contented ourselves with a couple of chickens and a slab of beef.

The chicken on the left had truffle pesto under the skin, and the one to the right a BBQ sauce that I’m working on.

Truffle pestoThe truffle pesto idea was an absolute winner – it melted under the skin, basting the chicken as it rotated and cooked, creating a juicy, succulent chicken with salty, crispy skin.  Doing that again!

The BBQ sauce is still not quite right quite right, but a recipe’s slowly emerging from the trials.  The first flavour burst is grand but something’s missing in the depth of the flavours…it doesn’t ‘continue’ in the mouth as it should (does that even make sense to anyone but me?!)  I’ve a few ideas on how to improve this – adding a couple of ingredients, increasing one or two existing ones, preparing some of them differently – when I feel I’ve succeeded, I’ll post 🙂

Crisp and tasty on the outsideMedieval created a rub for the beef, using white and black pepper, chipotle salt and juniper berries.

BBQ beefCooked to absolute perfection – without doubt this beef was the star of the show.

Served straight from the board when we descended like a wake of vultures, crowding around Medieval, gobbling up slice after slice as he carved, moaning with gustatory pleasure as we begged for more.

Beef in a bunAlso served in brioche buns (because that’s what we had in, but something sturdier and less sweet would have been better), with a sprig or two of watercress and the sweetest Sicilian cherry tomatoes on the side.

Dandelion seedClearly we should have tackled some weeding, but who could be bothered after all that meat? 😉
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Spiced Pineapple Chicken

Yet another cold, wet, miserable evening (we’re having far too many of them, even for this rain-renowned neck of the woods), and I was found standing in the kitchen glaring at a pineapple.

Pineapple

Why was this unfortunate fruit on the receiving end of my evil eye?  Well…hmmm…  I suppose we should just get this little bit of Bohemian crazy out of the way first – the thing is, it came from a hot place and I was suffering sunshine envy.  Ahem!

Moving swiftly on, and more to the point, I’d bought it on an impulse (very, very cheap) despite knowing that I have an inordinately difficult time persuading pineapples to take off their jackets and give me their fruit.  At the point of purchase I always tell myself that the deliciousness within will be well worth the effort to obtain; however once at home a reluctance to face the task usually settles in and avoidance becomes the order of the days.

This particular pineapple was at the eat-me-now-or-lose-me-forever stage of ripeness, which meant there was no choice but to prepare myself, and the kitchen, for a hack and chop session with the spiky one.

Massacred pineappleQuite frankly I find it ridiculous that despite much research and trying of different techniques, I still have not managed to skilfully prepare a fresh pineapple.  I waste far too much fruit, both in cutting off the skin and when gouging out all those tedious, bristled eyelets that get left hanging in there.  I also seem to end up with juice flowing over cutting board and work surface, running down arms, dripping off elbows, puddling into sticky foot anchors on the floor…it’s a mess!
Granted, the juice thing probably wouldn’t happen if I didn’t wait until one stage prior to rot before tackling it.

The obvious question is, given that I could easily buy a conveniently preprepared pineapple, why do I do it?  Stubbornness, in part – I don’t want to admit defeat (imagine: “Of all the culinary challenges, what broke me was a pineapple.”  How incredibly sad is that?! 😉 )

Another contributing factor is that fresh tastes so much better than tinned, although in a recipe like this it probably makes little to no difference (let’s refer back to the stubbornness paragraph).

Then, of course, there’s the unwillingness to pay the extortionate price for fresh preprepared pineapple, even if it is saving me some hassle.

The choice is entirely yours as to whether you go with fresh or tinned pineapple – you’ll find no judgement from these quarters.

Spiced pineapple chicken with parathasThis dish has quite a long cooking time but doesn’t necessarily need much effort from you; however, do bear in mind that depending on your skills set, preparation time may be affected by aforementioned choice 😉

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Nduja in the Style of a Moussaka, with Baby Fennel & Tomato Salad

Our standard use for nduja has been in a tomato based sauce, served with pasta – a bit like an über spicy Bolognese.  This is very tasty, and all well and good, but the nduja needed new ways to express itself.

AubergineThis plump, purple aubergine got me thinking about moussaka…which got me musing about the probable wondrousness of a creamy sauce against fiery nduja…which, eventually, lead to the creation of this dish.

It’s actually nothing like a moussaka, apart from the aubergine, but it was inspired by… 😉

Finished dish with saladThe salad of fresh tomatoes, crisp, slightly aniseed fennel, and zesty lemon dressing cuts perfectly against the richness of the cheese sauce and oily nduja to make a beautifully an ugly, but flavour balanced meal.

Note:  I accidentally got beef mince, instead of pork, out of the freezer so that’s what’s in the pictures.  However, pork mince would work much better with the spicy pork nduja paste, so that’s what I’ve listed in the ingredients.

Ingredients
1 aubergine, sliced
1 courgette, cut into small chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into small chunks
A glug of olive oil
2-3 hands full of soffritto
1 teaspoon chopped smoked garlic
400g tinned tomatoes
100g nduja
400g minced pork
250g ricotta cheese
150g Manchego cheese, grated
150ml single cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Baby fennelFor the Salad
4-5 baby fennel bulbs, sliced into rings
2-3 fresh, ripe plum tomatoes, sliced
½ lemon – juice only
Olive oil
2-3 sprigs of fresh basil, leaves stripped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190°C/375ºF

Baby fennel in olive oil & lemon juice dressingPlace fennel rings into a small non-metallic bowl.

Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until to preferred taste and pour over fennel. Set to one side.

Sliced aubergineLay the aubergine slices onto a triple layer of kitchen roll, sprinkle liberally with salt, top with another triple layer of kitchen roll.and leave for 20-30 minutes, until plenty of water has been released.

Alternatively, layer in a large, non-metallic sieve set over a bowl.

Soffritto

Smoked garlic

Heat oil in a heavy based, lidded pan.  Add soffritto and garlic then cook over a low to medium heat, with lid on, until vegetables are soft but not brown.

CourgetteChuck in chopped courgette (yup, still working our way through them!) and red pepper – cook, with lid off, for 5-6 minutes.

Nduja

Add minced pork and nduja and cook over a medium heat, stirring and turning until the nduja has ‘melted’…

Fiery red nduja oil…and all those gorgeous, hot, peppery, orange coloured oils have been released.

Pour in tinned tomatoes and simmer with lid off until sauce has thickened, with almost no liquid remaining.  Remove from heat.

Cheese sauce ingredientsNext, make a cheese sauce by gently heating the single cream, ricotta and about ¾ of the Manchego (keep some back for sprinkling on top) until everything’s melted together.

Cheese sauceAdd a splash of milk if it gets too thick.  Season to taste.  Resist grabbing a piece of bread to dunk in.

Layered and ready to bakeRescue the aubergines from their soggy tissue shroud – pat dry.  You can fry them to brown them off if you want to, but it’s not really necessary.

In an oven proof dish build alternating layers of aubergine slices, meat mixture and cheese sauce, starting with aubergine and ending with cheese sauce.

Topped with cheeseSprinkle reserved cheese over the top and bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

Tomato and fennel saladTo finish salad – place sliced tomatoes onto a plate, shred basil leaves over the top and season well with salt and pepper.  Spoon fennel rings and a little of the dressing over the top.

Finished dish with saladI really should have taken a good shot of the baked whole dish as nothing was going to make a served portion look terribly pretty!

If you make it, I’m sure you’ll agree that the taste explosion is ample compensation for the explosion-like appearance.  I hope so anyway! 🙂
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