Herb crusted pork with apple and dried plum stuffing

Some experimenting took place on the 10th and final day of the Cupboard Challenge when I needed to use up pork chops, apples and cider, but didn’t want to go the obvious (and for us, usual) route of pork in apple and cider sauce.

Plated chopsDeeper cupboard digging and a bit more thought produced these rather tasty herb encrusted, fruit stuffed pork chops.  Not the prettiest dish ever, but fine tasting!

CognacSoaking the dried plums in brandy or cognac isn’t entirely necessary, but I felt it added a welcome extra flavour dimension.  If you haven’t got any hanging around, don’t worry, just skip the first step of the recipe.

To serve two

Ingredients
2 boneless pork chops
5-6 soft dried plums (prunes), chopped
3-4 tablespoons brandy or cognac
A splash of olive oil
A knob of butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 eating apple, skin on, chopped
Small sprig of fresh sage leaves
1-2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
Packet of dried gluten free sage & onion stuffing mix (or you could mix gluten free breadcrumbs, chopped herbs and a little grated cheese – or you could use wheaty versions if gluten doesn’t hurt you)
Approx. 150ml dry cider
150ml (ish) single cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

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

Dried plums

If using brandy/cognac, place chopped prunes into a shallow bowl and sprinkle over alcohol.

Sage and onionAppleHeat olive oil and gently cook chopped onion and apple.  Don’t brown them, just soften them.

Apple, onion and dried plumsAdd chopped dried plums and brandy; continue to cook, stirring, until liquid has cooked off (if you haven’t soaked the plums, you obviously won’t need to do this step!)

Wholegrain mustardRemove from heat.  Stir in wholegrain mustard then set to one side until cool enough to handle.

Pork chopsUsing a sharp knife, carefully cut slits into the pork chops to create pockets for the stuffing.

Stuffed chopsFill pockets with cooked apple, dried plum and onion mix.  There will be mixture left over…keep this for making the sauce.

I didn’t feel it necessary, but if you’d like to quickly brown off each side of your chops in a hot frying pan, now’s the time.

Gf stuffing mixMake up the gluten free stuffing mix using slightly less water than indicated on the packet, and adding in a good knob of butter.

Topped chopsPress mix onto stuffed chops, cover loosely with tin foil and pop into preheated oven to bake for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size and stuffedness of chops).

Baked chopsRemove tin foil for last 10-15 minutes of cooking to allow topping to crisp up and brown.

Single creamWhile the pork is baking, make the sauce:

Add cider to the remaining cooked apple, plum and onion mix, simmer until liquid is reduced to around half.

Tip into a food processor/blender, add cream and blitz.

Return to pan and cook down until thickened.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Plated chopsSpoon a puddle of sauce onto the plate and place pork chop on top.  We had ours with mashed potato and broccoli, which was ok; however, I think a mixed root mash and mangetout would have been even better.  What do you think?
x

Beano Bangers and Mash

Day 9 of the Cupboard Challenge and I was running out of steam, so Barn stepped in and took up culinary responsibility.

Barn's cooking abilities & the moon phasesNow, leaving Barn in sole charge of the kitchen can be an…erm…interesting experience.  He firmly believes, and frequently declares, that he can’t cook.  He can.  Sometimes.  Depending upon the lunar cycle, or his Circadian rhythm, or some other such uncontrollable thing.

The point is, nothing is certain.  His offerings can range from restaurant quality, beautifully presented platters of taste sensation, through to scorched, unidentifiable mounds of rubble and goo.

Picture from: Antiques Atlas
Picture from:Antiques Atlas

With the greatest love in my heart, I have to confess that when Barn offers to cook, alone, inside my head a little carny guy starts his patter …

C’mon over and play the kitchen game…you could win big!  Fair food or foul? You decide little lady…wanna take your chance? Roll the plates?

Sometimes, you just don’t fancy taking the chance, and so cooking companionably together is a preferable option.  Other times you’re just too tired and hungry to care…anything on a plate would be great.  And there are times when you just know he’s going to make something fabulous.

Barn's ability to make mashed potato & the moon phasesOn this occasion, Barn offered to cook and stated that ‘mashed potato and something’ was on the menu.  I knew, when carny man started up his blarney, that the dishes were stacked in my favour – one thing that can be said for certain about Barn’s cooking is that he always makes the best ever mashed potatoes. I don’t know what he does that’s different to what I do, but mine are not amazing and his are.  Maybe one day he’ll let us all in on his secret.

Anyway, I gambled, leaving an unsupervised Barn in the kitchen while I went off for a soak in scented bubbles.

Bangers and mashMy faith paid off – Barn came up trumps, producing a cartoon style dinner of bangers and mash, making me grin and giving me one of those “Wow, I love my husband!” moments 😀

Best eaten fresh from the bath, wrapped in clean fluffy things and surrounded by a contented glow.
x

Quick and Easy Creamy Seafood Stew

Much as I want to forge ahead with posting recipes from the birthday banquet, I really should finish up the Cupboard Challenge recipes first.  After all, one purpose of this blog is to help me practice discipline, to learn to see one project through before flitting off to another 😉

This seafood stew, from day eight of the challenge, used up some odds ‘n’ sods of fishy things from the freezer – a hot-smoked salmon fillet, a handful of king prawns and a bake-in-the-bag cod thing bought by Barn on an occasion when he’d been left to fend for himself.  You can easily amend the recipe according to what you have available.

To serve two

Ingredients
A glug of olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
A small portion of frozen peas
A really good slug of white wine. In fact, make it two.
300ml chicken stock (or even better, fish stock)
2 teaspoons cornflour, mixed to a paste with cold water
Approx. 400g mixed seafood (if frozen, defrosted; if fillets or large pieces, cut into chunks)
Approx. 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped
A pinch of fresh thyme leaves
About half a tub of crème fraîche
Lots of freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt
Music

Ready to make an easy, satisfying dinner?  Ok then, let’s get cracking…

Carrot, celery, onionHeat the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion, carrot and celery on a low heat, for 10-15 minutes, until soft but not brown.

GarlicAdd the crushed garlic and cook for another minute or so.

Frosty peas

Toss in the frozen peas.  They don’t have to be as frosty as these ones.White wineGlug in the wine and simmer on a high heat until reduced to about half.

Pour in the stock, add the cornflour mix, turn up the heat slightly and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes, until sauce has thickened.

SeafoodSeason, then add the seafood…

Chopped herbs…and thyme, and most of the parsley.

creme fraicheSimmer for a few more minutes, until fish is piping hot, then stir in the crème fraîche.

Creamy Seafood StewHeat gently for a another minute, just to bring the temperature back up, then scatter with the remaining parsley.  Add more black pepper.  Serve with buttered, crusty bread.
x

Armagnac Soaked Dried Plums Stuffed with Duck Breast Pâté

So, we poshed it up for Big Sis’s birthday this year with an 8 (or 12, depending on how you count 😉 ) course meal.  It has been fantastic indulging in fine ingredients and decadent recipes while testing and refining the menu, and then sharing in the eating of the final result.

Beautiful Armagnac soaked plum with luscious pateGoodness only knows when the occasion/opportunity to make this kind of food will arise again (probably Christmas), so I trust you won’t mind if I prolong the pleasure by sharing some recipes with you.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy them…if not by trying them out, then vicariously!

This recipe will make enough pâté to stuff around 24 dried plums and still leave you plenty to have another day, on hot buttered toast for supper 🙂

If you were making it to serve as a starter in its own right, without the plums, I’d say you’d get 6-8 good portions from the quantities shown.

For best results make 24 hours ahead of serving.

Be warned, this looks disgusting in the making…push past that…it’s SO worth it!

Ingredients
Dried plums (prunes) in sufficient quantity for your serving requirements
75ml Armagnac (or Cognac would work just fine)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
75ml hot water
Sliced pancetta

For the pâté
1 duck breast
2-3 chicken livers – you need around ¼ of the weight of the duck breast
1 shallot (or a small chunk of onion) sliced
A splosh of Armagnac (or Cognac)
1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 – 1 small clove of garlic
1 tablespoon gluten free flour (or ordinary flour, I guess)
1 small egg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plenty of butter for greasing your baking dish
Music

Now, before we go any further…the ‘dried plum’ thing…I don’t know about you, but ‘prunes’ do not have good connotations for me – I somehow find ‘dried plums’ to have more appeal.  What’s in a name?  Quite a lot actually!

PrunesSo, place the dried plums in a single layer in a shallow dish.

Dissolve the sugar in the hot water, combine with Armagnac and pour over plums.

Soak for between 2 and 6 hours, depending on the intensity of flavour you desire. Drain and pop in the fridge until you’re ready to stuff them.

Set your oven to preheat at gas mark 4/176°C/350°F

Duck breast and chicken liverScore the fat of the duck breast several times and place fat side down into a hot, seasoned frying pan.  Cook until all that gorgeous, flavoursome fat has rendered and the skin is a deep golden brown.  Flip over and quickly brown the other side.

I forgot to take pictures of it at this point, which I deeply regret as they would have made this section much more visually appealing.

sliced onionsRemove duck breast from pan and set to one side.  Now add the shallot/onion and liver to the hot duck fat and quickly brown.

Tip everything, including the rendered fat, into a food processor.  Add in the duck breast.

Other pate ingredientsAdd dried herbs, garlic, egg, flour and Armagnac to the other ingredients and blitz until smooth.  Add plenty of freshly ground pepper and a good pinch of salt.  Blitz one more time, just to be sure.

A well buttered dishTake a suitably sized, over proof dish and give it a thick coat of butter.

Disgusting looking sludgePour in the revolting looking meat sludge you have created.  Despair not.

Not much better looking meat blockCover with tin foil and bake in the preheated oven until it has started to pull away from the sides of the dish, a knife comes out clean, and you have created a not wildly good looking meat brick.  Keep the faith.

Allow to cool, remove from dish, wrap tightly in cling film, then in tin foil and leave in the fridge for around 24 hours. You can eat it before that but the flavours are better after being allowed to develop.

An awesome supperTaste test on toast with cornichons and tiny, sharp pickled onions on the side. Remember to re-wrap really tightly to help slow down the inevitable discolouration that always occurs with pâté.

Beautiful Armagnac soaked plum with luscious pateWhen you’re ready, crisp up the pancetta slices (I do mine in a dry frying pan), spoon pâté into plums, top with a piece of pancetta and serve.

Enjoy the accolades 😉
x

8 – 12 Course Menu, with paired drinks

I have been a bad blogger.  There have been reasons for this, but I won’t bore you with them.  Instead I shall offer a gourmet feast for your delectation.

Birthday Dinner TableHowever, before I do that I’d like to quickly address a couple of things:

Firstly, number of courses…it helps to know how many you’re creating so you can brag say, “I cooked an X course meal for eight people”.  I promise, I can count up to twenty and beyond, without even using my fingers and toes, but on this I’m a little confused.

When making the count apparently certain parts of a meal don’t qualify as a course.  If you discriminate against certain foodstuffs in this fashion, and don’t include palate cleansers or coffee, then this would be an eight course meal.  I have questions about the validity of this counting method.

Then there’s the order of courses… Soup before salad? Cheese before dessert? Where do palate cleansers fit in? Surely there must be some kind of standard?  But no, apparently not.  I’m telling you, a quick look around the internet and you’ll see what I mean…anything beyond three courses the whole thing’s up for debate.  Right or wrong, this is how we opted to do things (‘we’ being me, of course!).

Centre pieceThis meal was a really fun thing to do for Big Sis’s birthday.  I had an awesome time, from planning to consumption. Hopefully everyone involved enjoyed themselves just as much!

Recipes will follow, as will the update on the now completed Cupboard Challenge, but for now, let me run you through the menu…

Amuse bouche - dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.

Amuse bouche – dried plums soaked in Armagnac, stuffed with duck breast pâté and topped with crisp pancetta.
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Now, those eight courses I mentioned – that includes the amuse-bouche…but are you supposed to include them?

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce

Hand made wild mushroom ravioli with white truffle butter sauce
Drink pairing: Prosecco

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta

Roasted tomato bisque garnished with crumbled feta
Drink pairing: Wheat beer

Twisted Waldorf Salad - savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing

Twisted Waldorf Salad – savoury profiterole filled with celery mousseline, topped with diced apple and toasted walnuts, served with a maple syrup and mustard dressing
Drink pairing: Dry cider

Lemon sorbet (Not home made.  Don't judge.  Time constraints guys, time constraints!)

Lemon sorbet.  Not home made. Please don’t judge me…time constraints guys, time constraints!

Seriously now, why do palate cleansers not qualify as a course?  In a meal of this type they’re about the same size as other things that pass muster.  Seems a little wrong to me.  It’s like saying, “You’re just here to clean my mouth out…you can’t be a course, you’re not substantial enough.  You’re not even really food.”

Poor bullied sorbet 😉

Continue reading

Stinky mushrooms (mushrooms in blue cheese)

Day 7 of the Cupboard Challenge presented an unmotivated Renegade household with mushrooms and blue cheese that urgently needed using up…it really had to be stinky mushrooms.  This was absolutely no hardship, because stinky mushrooms are flippin’ delicious!

They make the perfect, easy wind down meal for a stay-in Friday (she says, as if on a ‘normal’ Friday social fluttering is the standard order of things – there are  pandas with more active social lives than mine).  These mushrooms also make a great starter when served in individual dishes and browned off under a hot grill.

For this meal we had them with baked potatoes.  If you’re planning to do the same and they’re not yet ready, I suggest you whack those spuds into the oven straight away.  Now bugger off to do something else until 10 minutes before they’re done.

Back so soon?

To serve two

Ingredients
5-6 decent sized mushrooms (chestnut ones are great but we only had white ones in)
A knob of butter and a little oil
Approx 150ml Single cream
1 teaspoon-ish mustard
A chunk of blue cheese – cubed
A tiny end piece of Parmesan – grated (optional)
A handful of fresh parsley – roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

MushroomsClean or peel mushrooms, and slice.
Browned mushrooms

Heat butter and oil in a frying pan then add the mushrooms.

If you want to make sure you get beautifully browned fungi, remember Julia’s edict: “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!” 😉  Cook in batches; drain on kitchen roll.

Cheese sauce ingredients

Cheese sauceWipe the pan clean with kitchen roll.  Add cream, cheese (both blue and Parmesan, if using) and mustard; stir over a low heat until cheese has melted.

Add mushrooms back into pan and stir to coat with sauce.

Adjust seasoning to taste and stir in chopped parsley.

Baked potatoIf you’re having this as a starter or stand alone dish, pile the mushrooms into individual dishes, top with a little grated parmesan and brown under a hot grill.

If you’re having the mushrooms in baked potatoes, cut open the spuds, slather in some butter and add a good dose of black pepper.
Served in baked potatoes, with saladPile sauced mushrooms into baked potatoes and serve with a salad of chopped apple, celery and rocket (no dressing required).

Eat with feet up, while watching nonsense TV.  If possible, wash it all down with an ice cold bottle of cider.

And relaaax….
x

Fantastically Flavoursome Pasta Bake

Day 6 of the Cupboard Challenge, and in the process of preparing dishes for Big Sis’ impending birthday celebration I’d managed to add a couple of red peppers to our supplies.  For a short while I was worried that this might be cheating, but then I remembered…this is my game so I can make up the rules.

It’s not cheating.
To any VIPs reading this: I know, and I’ll say it before you do – 7 or 47, some things never change 😀

The beauty of this dish, as with much of what we cook, is that it’s pretty willing to flex according to what you have in your stores.  Treat the following as a guide…this is by no means a recipe that needs to be slavishly followed!

OrecchietteNote however, that the shape of your pasta does make a difference to the finished dish.  I like to use orecchiette for this as all the chopped pieces of meat and veg get caught and held in the pasta dimples.  Little tubes, like tortiglioni work well too, as do the small shell shapes of conchigliette.  Long pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine is not so great.

Number of servings depends on how much of everything you use, and on how big the receiving appetites are.;-)

Ingredients
Sufficient cooked pasta for your serving requirements.
Courgette – diced
Red pepper – diced
Soffritto
 Dried porcini mushrooms – soaked in hot water for around 30 mins (keep the liquid for the sauce)
A handful of diced pancetta
A splash of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan for topping

Sauce Ingredients
Another splash of olive oil
Crushed garlic – a lot or a little, as you prefer
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a good splash of the mushroom soaking liquid
1 chicken stock pot (or stock cube)
Approx. 150g crème fraîche (or more, or less…flexible, remember? 😉 )
A few sprigs of fresh thyme – leaves picked from stalks
More sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

Got your groove on?  And your apron if you wear one?  Let’s set to it then…

Preheat oven to gas mark 6/200°C/400°F.

Put your cooked pasta into a large bowl.

Drain the mushrooms (keeping the liquid) and roughly chop – add to the pasta.

Prepared vegHeat the oil and cook the soffritto over a medium heat until it starts to soften.  Turn up the heat a little and add the red pepper and courgettes; continue to cook until the peppers are just beginning to soften and the courgettes are starting to brown.

Add to the pasta and mushrooms.

Cubed pancettaChuck the pancetta into the same pan used for the vegetables, and fry until beginning to crisp.  Soak off excess fat with kitchen roll, then add to pasta and veg.

Pasta mixMix pasta, veg and pancetta together, season with salt and pepper, then tip into a shallow, oven proof dish.

See what I mean about those lovely veggies getting held in the pasta?  Like teeny tiny serving bowls they are 😉

Garlic and thymeNow for the sauce:  wipe out your pan with kitchen roll, leaving the thinnest layer of pancetta fat…sauté the crushed garlic in that (just a few seconds)

Tinned chopped tomatoes

Chicken stockpotAdd the chopped tomatoes, stock pot and some mushroom liquid.  Stir well and bring to a simmer.

Creme fraicheRemove pan from heat.  Stir in crème fraîche, thyme leaves, salt and pepper.

Liberally sprinkled with grated parmesanPour sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.  Be liberal but not insanely generous…you want it to crisp up a bit, not end up in a gloopy blob.

Baked cheese often seems to look burned in my photos - in reality this was perfectly browned ;-)
Baked cheese often seems to look burned in my photos – in reality this was perfectly browned 😉

Bake in the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown and bubbling.

Pasta bake with baked fennelOn this occasion we had baked fennel on the side, but a fresh green salad is good too.

In its baked form this dish wasn’t wildly photogenic…but does it really matter when something tastes this good?
x

Steak ‘n’ salad

The last few days have been utter madness.

Firstly, someone drove into the back of the car Barn was travelling to work in.  Fortunately no-one was seriously injured, and for that I am truly grateful.

However, Barn and one of his colleagues sustained some damage to neck, shoulder and back.  Barn has been a little vexed and cranky about this; not because of the discomfort per se, more because it’s impeding his usual gym routine – challenging times for this born again fitness enthusiast (and his long suffering wife 😉 )

Additionally, things have been particularly  demanding at the day job – it’s one of our busy periods, so long and late shifts are currently fairly standard. On top of that it seems that anything that could go wrong, has been going wrong, particularly anything computerised; we barely get one thing sorted when another implodes. Pile on top of that a couple of ‘problem’ employees, impending deadlines for important paperwork, and a sudden procedural change that requires my whole team to be retrained.  A tad stressful.

Crazy EmpressNow, just for good measure, let’s add in the Crazy Empress, who has suddenly decided to spend 90% of her waking time sitting at closed doors crying to be let in/out.  It’s not that she wants to actually be somewhere…she just wants to be on the other side of any closed door.  As soon as you let her through, she wants to come back again.  So essentially, all internal house doors must be open, or she will cry.  That’s such fun!

MoochFinally, we have Mooch who, never wanting to be left out of anything, has decided to cry every time the cat does.  Not for anything, just because the cat’s doing it.  It’s like having a pair of toddlers in the house.

Perhaps then, you will understand why on Day 5 of the Cupboard Challenge, I was seeking the easiest of easy food?  Comfort food with a vitamin punch was needed, sought and found in the form of steak, baked potato, salad and blue cheese dressing.

And some music to go with it…

I’m absolutely positive you don’t need me to tell you how to cook a steak, so I’m not going to.

Steak, baked potato and saladI used up a lovely little piece of fillet steak that had been loitering in a corner of the freezer just waiting for me to want it;  Barn had half a chicken but I forgot to photograph that.  I’m sure you can imagine what half a roast chicken looks like.

Salad stuffI’m pretty sure you can bake a potato and make a salad too.  This is what went into my salad.

Blue cheese dressingI made a blue cheese dressing by mashing some Danish Blue together with mayonnaise; in the absence of soured cream I loosened it with a little balsamic dressing.  The consistency was more like a dip and visually it was a bit like cement, but my word, it tasted divine!

Steak, salad and baked potatoAnd there you have it – a simple, comforting, nutritious dinner to fortify the flagging Renegades.

I hope you’re all having a smoother week than we are?

If not, hang in there, the weekend’s coming! 🙂

x

Sunday Brunch: Pastrami Hash Patties and Fried Egg, followed by Honey Baked Figs with Orange Yoghurt

Over the past few weeks you may have noticed a failure to mention Petit Man in blog posts; fear not, he’s not buried under the patio – he’s moved in with Mme. E.

This weekend he was back for fridge raiding a visit so once again I had my kitchen buddy with me for the making of Sunday brunch – cue much happiness!  Not only does he have all the skills necessary to pull off a successful Cupboard Challenge (proud Momma taught him how), but, perhaps more importantly, his egg frying prowess was an invaluable asset in the making of this meal 😉

Ah, yes…now is probably a good time for me to apologise for the gappy photo narrative of this post…I was enjoying Petit Man’s company so much I forgot to take pictures at several stages of the food preparation.  Sorry if it’s not clear what’s going on!

Serves three (makes six good sized patties)

Hash Patty Ingredients
3 medium sized potatoes, coarsely grated
1 medium onion, coarsely grated
200g pastrami
7 eggs (one for the patty mix, the remainder for frying and topping patties)
A handful of fresh, chopped chives
Approx. 3 tablespoons single cream
1 teaspoon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oil for shallow frying

Honey Baked Figs Ingredients
6 fresh ripe figs
1 teaspoon(ish) ground cinnamon
4-6 tablespoons honey
1 small tub natural Greek style yoghurt
Finely grated zest of half an orange
Music

All set? Let’s kick off Day 3 of the Cupboard Challenge

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200°C/400°F

Squeeze as much water as possible from the grated potato by rolling it up in a clean tea towel, then wringing it out.

Grated potato and onionPut squeezed potato into a bowl with the grated onion, salt and pepper.

Pastrami, before it was stripped
Pastrami, before it was stripped

Slice pastrami into thin strips and add to the potato and onion mix.

Add one beaten egg, the cream, the chives and the mustard; mix everything together really well.

Heat oil in frying pan over a medium heat and spoon in dollops of the mix.  Use the back of the spoon to push the dollops into patty shapes.

Flip them once, making sure both sides are beautifully crispy and brown.  They might lose their shape and structure a little when you turn them – just push them back together with your spoon.

If you have a second frying pan, fry up the eggs while the second side of the patties are browning.  If you don’t, pop the patties into the oven to keep warm while you take care of the eggs.

Pastrami Hash Patties with Fried Egg and Onion MarmaladeLay one fried egg onto each patty (keep those yolks runny!) and serve with the condiment of your choice.  I had caramelised onion marmalade, Petit Man went with HP and Barn just had lots of black pepper.

Blond Witch BeerPetit Man and I decided to have this locally brewed ale with ours. I’m no beer aficionado but it was pretty good – crisp and fresh, with none of the horrid after taste I often get with beers. Barn had some kind of hyper-powered fruit juice blend – it was dark red and looked smugly vitamin packed next to the beer 😉

Figs sprinkled with cinnamonJust before you serve the hash patties, cut the figs in half, set them on an oven proof dish, sprinkle with cinnamon, drizzle with honey and bang in the preheated oven.

Greek style yoghurtMix orange zest with yoghurt and leave to infuse.

Go and eat your patties and eggs.

Baked figs with orange yoghurt
About 15-20 minutes later, you will have finished your pastrami and eggs, and your figs will be perfectly baked.

Serve with the orange yoghurt; drizzle with the juices from the baking dish.

This was very close to our idea of perfection for Sunday brunch.

How about you, what makes your perfect lazy day fare?

x

Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Mango Salsa

We awoke early this morning to a stunningly beautiful, hot, sunny day – a rare enough occasion in these parts to instantly elevate the day’s status to ‘awesome’.

Days like this tend to trigger serious house and garden maintenance activity from both Barn and me – dust motes dancing in sun rays are only romantic in films and photographs, and prostrating oneself for sun worship amidst towering grasses and triffidesque weeds is not altogether appealing.

Today, by some unspoken agreement, and in a manner quite atypical of the Renegade household, we went with the ‘traditional’ breakdown of tasks: while he was outside, hacking around, always alert for the possibility of discovering lost tribes in the depths of the wilderness, I was hurtling around the house, corralling possessions back to their designated areas, collecting laundry from behind the bathroom door, and terrorising dust bunnies with the hoover.

In no time at all the house was guest presentable and the garden is now, if not tamed, at least subdued.  It’s amazing how quickly things can get done when the sun is doffing its hat and waggling its hot little fingers at you.

The view from the garden swing seat
The view from the garden swing seat

I think the smell of cut grass and the heat of the sun joined forces with the temptingly ripe mango to influence the dinner menu on Day 2 of the Cupboard Challenge.

Serves two
Plan ahead as this requires marinading time!

Chicken Kebab Ingredients
400g chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 courgette, cut into chunks
1-2 onions, cut into chunks

It would have been better with lime, but lemon was what we had...
It would have been better with lime, but lemon was what we had…

Marinade
1 Scotch Bonnet chilli, finely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Approx. 2 dessert spoons dark brown sugar (I used muscovado)
A good couple of glugs of olive oil
Approx. 4 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce if not bothered about gluten)
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme
A good grating of fresh nutmeg

Although there's garlic in this picture, I didn't use it in the end, deciding the flavour would be too strong.
Although there’s garlic in this picture, I didn’t use it in the end, deciding the flavour would be too strong.

Mango Salsa Ingredients
1 ripe mango, diced
2 spring onions, sliced
zest and juice of half a lemon (again, lime would have been better)
Half Scotch Bonnet chilli, finely chopped
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
Music

Chicken in marinade

Get the kebabs under way by putting all the marinade ingredients into a shallow dish and mixing well.  Add chicken chunks and smoosh around with your hands to ensure all the pieces are well coated. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours (I think 6 hours would be even better).

Mango salsa

Next up, put all the salsa ingredients into a bowl, stir well, cover and refrigerate for around 4-6 hours (depending how long your chicken’s getting).

While the chicken’s marinading and the salsa’s melding, go and read a trashy novel (or your personal equivalent).  If possible, sit in sunshine.

Courgettes and onions

Chickn and veg on skewers

When the marinading time’s up, or you’re ravenous and just can’t wait any longer, thread alternating chunks of chicken, courgette and onion onto skewers.

Chicken kebabs

Grill, or barbecue, turning frequently, making sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Baste with marinade during cooking to keep the chicken moist and intensify flavour.

Spicy chicken kebabs, mango salsa and potato wedgesServe with oven crisped potato wedges, peppery watercress and the luscious mango salsa.  Or serve with other things, as you wish.

This whole meal tasted amazing; however, visually it would have benefited from additional colour.  If I’d had any I’d have added sweet red pepper, either diced in the salsa or chunked for the kebabs.  In the absence of red peppers, perhaps I should have used tomatoes?

x