Ottolenghi Inspired Stuffed Peppers

Yes, the love affair with Mr O continues. Today the recipe is inspired by one from his book Jerusalem, and is, in turn, one of his own mother’s recipes. Momma knows best, we all know that.

As ever, I used what I had to hand, the original ingredients are in brackets following my version. It makes a stunning main course accompanied by a salad packed full of all your favourite leaves, or an excellent starter if you use smaller peppers and restrain yourself to eating only a half. Tough choice.

Stuffed Peppers (4)

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter – easily halved, or even doubled for a party)

  • 4 red bell peppers (which I halved and blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes) (8 romano peppers, no need to blanch)
  • 2 cups of homemade tomato sauce or (1 large tomato roughly chopped, 2 medium onions roughly chopped, about 500ml vegetable stock)

Stuffing

  • 140g basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp Allspice (1 ½ tbsp baharat)
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 400g minced pork (400g minced lamb)
  • 2 ½ tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (2 tbsp chopped dill, 1 ½ tbs chopped dried mint)
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • Salt and black pepper

Put the rice in a saucepan and cover with lightly salted water. Boil for 4 minutes, drain, rinse and set aside.

Dry fry the spices, add the olive oil and onion and fry until the onion is soft. Pour this and the stuffing ingredients into a large bowl and mix). Season.

Stuff either the half peppers or if using the romanos cut a slit lengthways without cutting in half completely and stuff each pepper.

If not using previously made tomato sauce, place the chopped tomato and onion into a large pan with a tight fitting lid (or pour your sauce in). Sit the peppers on top, cover with a lid and either simmer on the stove top on a low heat for about an hour or cook in a medium oven until the peppers are tender. If using the stove top, make sure the sauce does not dry out by adding a little water if necessary.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

French beans, asparagus and mangetout with chopped almonds and lime

Another Ottolenghi inspired recipe – his calls for roasted chopped hazlenuts and orange. Hey, you do what you can with what you have on hand and “wow” it was so good!

This was a dish I took along to a barbecue but with a little grilled meat or some hard boiled eggs (for a vegetarian meal) would make a very delicious and satisfying light lunch or supper dish.

Ottolenghi Beans (1)

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 400g of trimmed French beans chopped and lightly boiled
  • 400g mangetout lightly boiled
  • 1 bunch asparagus chopped and lightly boiled
  • 70g chopped or flaked almonds, dry toasted in a frying pan
  • 2 limes – zested and the juice squeezed out
  • 20g chopped parsley
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Simply mix together the lime zest, juice, olive oil and seasoning and add to the beans and mangetout. Sprinkle over the almonds, mix, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

 

Ham Hock Persillade

Some neighbours of ours in England recently moved from Bexhill on Sea to the wilds of Bonny Scotland. As with most house moves, it was a chance for them to de-clutter. Fortunately for me Mr Neighbour managed a local bookstore and as a result of this had a house packed full of a wide variety of books. I assume these had been come by through honest means and he didn’t shove a book down his trousers each night as he went home. It would have been churlish to ask as I was the lucky recipient of an eclectic collection of books.

One of them was Gordon Ramsay’s Sunday Lunch. I have to confess that in the past I have had no f*****g time for him, he swears too much…Jokes aside (yes, that was a little joke) I just hadn’t ever bought any of his books or watched any of his programmes so I was a little reluctant to even read the book, let alone use it. I’m so glad I did delve into its pages…a lot of very uncomplicated recipes and menus, dishes that I actually wanted to cook. Sorry Mr Ramsay, you bl**dy surprised me!

Persillade (1)

A local butcher regularly sells cooked ham hocks. It’s the knee basically, cooked and then sold with the gelatine (formed by the cooking liquid) for a bargain price of less than £3 (that’s about the same in Euro and a few US dollars more). I often buy them as the ham picked off the bones is great in sandwiches or soup and the dogs love the bones which keep them entertained in the garden for hours. Result all round.

I came across a recipe in the book, very grandly titled Ham Hock Persillade which reminded me of the delicious brawn my mum makes. The recipe called for cooking the ham and reducing the stock with gelatine to solidify it. No need for that, my hock was already cooked and covered in the delicious stuff. I halved his recipe which he says serves 6-8. Even my halved version (using pickled garlic instead of gherkins as I didn’t have any) would easily have fed 8 as a starter, probably with a little left over. I served it as a starter (for 5 people) thickly sliced on top of a salad of spinach and watercress and also as canapés (there were 6 of us for drinks and nibbles), cut into little cubes and served with some very retro cocktail sticks!

Persillade (6)

Ingredients

  • 1 large cooked ham hock and its gelatine
  • 2 tbsp large capers, cut into slices
  • 2 tbsp pickled garlic, thinly sliced
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley finely chopped

You will need a loaf tin or a deep plastic container.

Remove the gelatine and skin from the hock and place into a saucepan with about half a cup of water.

Pull the meat off the bones (the bones will now also go into the saucepan) and shred it. Set the meat aside.

Boil the skin, bones etc for about 7 or 8 minutes then drain the liquid and leave it to cool slightly.

Mix the shredded meat with the capers, garlic (or use gherkins), parsley and some freshly ground pepper. You probably won’t need salt as ham hocks tend to be quite salty. Put this mixture into a loaf tin or plastic tub lined with cling film then pour the liquid over until the mix is completely covered. Tap the tin or terrine gently to get rid of any air bubbles, cover with cling film and place a weight on top. Chill overnight or until it has set.

Persillade (10)

When you are ready to serve, peel off the cling film on the top and invert the container onto a serving plate. It should slide out easily, then you can peel the remaining film off. Serve cut into thick slices (Mr Ramsay serves his with piccalilli which I imagine must be very good). A really impressive but not too tricky to make dish. Would be great for a picnic too as it’s very portable when still in its mould.

Thanks Mr Ramsay, a flippin’ marvellous recipe!

Slovenly Strawberry Pie

A pal and commenter, Lynn, asked if I would be posting some strawberry recipes as we are smack bang in the middle of strawberry season….of course, am happy to oblige! Regular readers though will know that I am not much of a dessert maker (the ever expanding waistline does not permit too many treats) so I usually pull together dishes that are quick and easy but delicious enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. Strawberries are also so good right now, they don’t need too much mucking about with.

For anyone who also signed up for the “throw it together and see what happens dessert class”, this one’s for you.

Strwaberry Tart (3)

Ingredients (to serve 4-6)

  • 500g dessert pastry (I cheated and used ready made, but you can always make your own)
  • 600g fresh strawberries halved or quartered if very large
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 level tbsp cornflour
  • Splash of fruit liqueur (I used framboise)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Brown sugar

Mix the strawberries with the icing sugar, cornflour and liqueur and set aside while you roll the pastry out into a circle. Place the pastry onto an oven tray or into a tin, I used a deep paella pan which worked beautifully!

Pile the strawberries into the middle of the pastry circle then fold the extra pastry in over the top to form a bowl shape. Brush the top of the pastry with egg yolk and sprinkle over some brown sugar.

Bake at 180 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the strawberries are bubbling. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving – the cornflour will slightly thicken the juices. Serve with ice cream or cream whilst pretending to your impressed loved ones that it was really hard work to prepare.

Shallow Fried Cod with Vegetable and Saffron Risotto

Ok, so the photo doesn’t do this dish much justice but I’m an honest Chica and I don’t have photoshop. We also eat ridiculously late so there’s no natural light. But what I show you is a delicious meal which would also be an amazing light vegetarian lunch or supper without the cod.

The risotto is creamy and delicately flavoured and, as a bonus, pretty healthy and low in fat too as it contains no cream or cheese. Granted, coating cod in flour and frying it in olive oil sort of cancels that out, but fish and olive oil are good for us, we all know that, so not only does this taste great it’s good for you too!

DSC_0017

Ingredients to serve 2 hungry people (and we’re always hungry)

  • 1 large piece of cod cut into about 6 large chunks and lightly coated in seasoned flour
  • About 150g risotto rice (I used carnaroli)
  • Approx half a litre of hot vegetable stock into which you dissolve about 5 strands of saffron
  • One roasted red pepper peeled and finely chopped
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of peeled and crushed garlic
  • 1 small courgette cut into fine dice
  • 1 large ripe tomato, peeled and finely chopped
  • About a dozen mangetout beans, finely shredded
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • Lemon to serve

The risotto is made in the usual way – start by softening the onion and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil, then add the pepper, tomato and courgette and cook until the courgette has softened. Add the rice and make sure it is coated in oil before gradually adding a ladleful of hot stock. Cook until the stock has been absorbed then add the next ladleful. Continue in this way until the rice is just starting to lose its bite.

At this point heat olive oil in a deep frying pan to a depth of about 1cm (you can also either deep fry or use less oil if you prefer). When the oil is very hot, gently lower in the cod pieces and cook on each side for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.

While the cod is cooking add the shredded mangetout to the rice and a final ladleful of stock. Taste and season then place the cod on top of the rice. Turn off the heat and leave the rice to rest for a few minutes before serving with wedges of lemon to squeeze over.

Green Lentil Curry

We all know (and some of us love) dhal made with little red lentils. It’s fast and simple to cook and immensely gorgeous. This curry takes longer to prepare as the green (or you can use brown) lentils need about 45 minutes to an hour of cooking to become tender and delicious. It’s worth the wait though, I promise.

The recipe comes from Anjum Anand’s book Anjum’s New Indian and is perfect as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish in a larger meal. Economical to make and if you make curries regularly you’ll have most of the ingredients to hand. Delicious eaten with naan bread and/or plain boiled rice – I added a dollop of creamy yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped fresh coriander.

Green Lentil Curry (9)

Ingredients (to serve 4-6 as a side dish)

  • 250g green lentils
  • A paste made from about 6g of peeled fresh ginger and about 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ small onion, peeled and chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 rounded tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 3 small tomatoes puréed or grated or finely chopped
  • Finely chopped fresh coriander leaves and stalks

Rinse the lentils and simmer in plenty of water until soft (about an hour).

Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds until they give off their scent then add the onion and cook until golden brown. Pour in the garlic and ginger paste and cook until this turns golden then add the salt and powdered spices and cook for 10 seconds.

Pour in the tomatoes and simmer until the moisture has cooked off and the oil has separated from the mix to form the masala. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add the masala to the lentils and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check the seasoning again, sprinkle with coriander and enjoy.