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)

Music

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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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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