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.

x

Blackberry & Apple Upside Down Cake

When I was a child, living in the depths of Wales, the summer holidays brought many good things…dawn-to-dusk freedom, yomping through fields and barns, ‘helping’ with hay making, riding bikes and ponies (not simultaneously), paddling in the stream, chasing water boatmen across ponds and marvelling at the way they could walk on water, eating crab apples (and never getting belly ache, despite everyone’s assertions that we would), building dens, grubbing in mud…kid paradise.

BlackberriesThe other thing that summer brought was blackberries – in fields and gardens, along hedgerows, in a derelict chapel, filling the little island in the middle of the stream – simply acres of unpolluted, naturally growing, free to all, fat, purple, lip-and-finger-staining berries. Three of us could easily harvest two buckets each within a matter of hours (it would probably have taken less time if we’d not eaten so many along the way), and there would still be plenty more for the days and weeks to follow.  Mum made a lot of jam.

So you see, to me blackberries are something you forage for and pick yourself by the bucket load – they’re not something you buy at around £2-£4 for a teeny little 170g pack of not-quite-ripe, cultivated, inferior flavoured, supermarket berries (oops, I think my food snobbery’s showing 😉 ).

That price just seems insane to me, so I tend to go without unless I happen across some rare, relatively unpolluted, inner city scrub land that’s bearing fruit.Big fat berries

However, if someone else succumbs to said insanity, then gifts me the berries, I am not going to spurn the gesture – that would just be rude.

Which is why, when a friend recently tossed a pack of Mexican blackberries to me and said, “I bought you these – thought you’d be able to do something with them”, I did not respond with, “Are you mad?!”  I simply said “Thank you very much”, and started to plan what to make.

Baked apple and blackberry cakeThis was an experimental recipe so required tweaks revealed themselves in the review process.  What follows is a posting of what I actually did, with guidance on the things that should be done differently.

The ingredients list is accurate and will work for a 7″ or 8″ round cake tin.

Because I was experimenting, I split my mix and did a 5″ tin with apple and blackberry, and a 4″ tin with just blackberries.  This produced two very different cakes – the one with apple was more of a pudding really, and the other a tea/coffee cutting cake.  Both had their own merits.

Continue reading

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

Autumn Cupcakes

During October 2013 I did a fair bit of experimentation with cupcake flavours, creating three new recipes with which I was happy.  I’m happy to verify that relaxed bliss can be achieved by taking any of the following Autumnal creations, adding hot chocolate, a snuggly blanket and a black & white afternoon matinee.

Cherry Bakewell CupcakesCherry Bakewell cupcakes: almond sponge cake, centrally filled with morello cherry flavour buttercream, covered with lemon laced fondant and topped with a cherry.  All boxed up ready to go to Mum and Big Sis.

Banoffee grows upGrown up banoffee cupcakes: roasted banana sponge topped with a puddle of dulce de leche (which is just a posh name for caramel made using a boiled tin of condensed milk), dark chocolate buttercream and a banana chip.  These were incredibly good.

Spiced Toffee AppleSpiced toffee apple cupcakes: fresh apple pieces set between two layers of gently spiced vanilla sponge cake (cinnamon and cloves).  Topped with a cloud of vanilla buttercream, drizzled with dulce de leche and sprinkled with toasted nuts and cinnamon spiced dried apple pieces.

x