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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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?
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