Waves, Woods and Walks

New recipes are few and far between right now, we’re just enjoying old favourites. As we move from what was really not a bad British summer into a typical autumn (hot and sunny one day, grey and drizzly the next) we’re enjoying lots of walks around Bexhill.

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Time to share some of the walks we enjoy. First of all, the beach at Bexhill. We live just a few minutes walk from the main “prom” or promenade. During certain times of the year, dogs have to be kept on lead so we head off westwards to and area called South Cliff where they can  run off lead. It’s always full of dog walkers and at weekends families with young children, cyclists, older folk and everyone in between who enjoy this car free paved walk. If you keep walking,  you reach a little local landmark, a sculpture made from driftwood by a local artist of “Salty Sam and Seawater Sally”.

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Sadly, it has been vandalised in the past, but now people seem to like to stop and leave pebbles with messages written on them. It’s always changing,  a living sculpture.

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If we head Eastwards, we go towards and gentle slope and grassy area by the beach called Galley Hill. We can enjoy views in one direction towards Eastbourne and Beachy Head and in the other direction Hastings.

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A Peace Pole was erected near the top of the hill earlier this year and links Bexhill-on-Sea with every other place on earth that has participated in the project.

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If we keep walking east, we can follow a coastal path all the way to Hastings, but the dogs are always more interested in exploring than covering great distances!

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When the wind  is howling, or it’s a hot, hot day, it’s fun to head off into the woods. Within driving distance we have large areas of woodlands, but just on the edge of town we have Collington Woods, a small woodland area, beautifully preserved and maintained. Great for sheltering from the wind or heat.

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Of course, once we get home, we generally need feeding and a slow cooked Chilli con Carne hits the spot on a chilly autumn day…

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Slow Cooked Cuban Style Pork

Long slow cooked dishes usually make me think of the cooler months, but using the slow cooker means the kitchen doesn’t get all hot and steamy, and I don’t get all hot and bothered. And with a little planning, if you need to use the oven,  head out for a few hours to enjoy the sunshine  and come home to a delicious meal!

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I bought a shoulder of pork the other day, a not expensive cut of meat which goes a long way with a little crowd, or it can be used for a few meals when it’s just the two of us. I’d seen a few recipes for Cuban Mojo Pork which included the juice of citrus fruits like orange , lemon and lime and the fresh flavours appealed. I also recently discovered a lovely new blog, Iowa Girl Eats. Lots of lovely gluten free recipes for those that don’t/can’t eat gluten, and for others like me who can…just a lot of lovely,  beautifully photographed recipes! This dish follows  her recipe pretty much exactly (thank you Kristin!) and I can highly recommend it. We ate the dish, as she suggested with rice, guacamole and I made some spicy Black Bean dip. Lots of lovely leftovers too, so a win-win situation.

Ingredients (to serve 6 approx)

  • Pork shoulder  (about 2kg), skin removed
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or water
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup each of lime and lemon juice
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 hot chili (cut open but left whole)
  • 1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of dried oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of dried cumin and smoked pimentón 
  • 2 bay leaves

Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for about 10 hours. The meat should shred easily (like pulled pork) or you can leave it in chunks. I put the pork shoulder in whole but you can cut into  large chunks if it fits better into your pot that way.

If cooking in a conventional oven, I’d recommend cutting the pork into about four or six pieces, using a cup and a half of chicken stock and cooking on low for about 3 hours. Check the liquid half way through,  you may need to add more as you want the final dish to be juicy with some of the lovely sauce it creates to spoon over.

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Serve with whatever you fancy. I make my guacamole by mashing a large ripe avocado then adding in some finely chopped spring onion, a finely chopped ripe tomato,  finely chopped coriander and chili and seasoning.

If you enjoy slow cooked pork dishes, check out my Chinese Style Slow Cooked Pork.

PS. Am playing around with a “new look” on the blog. Let me know what you think, all criticism happily accepted! And if anyone knows how to add a “search” button to the top of the page, I’d love to know how…

 

Melting Spiced Pork with Aubergine

Not quite a curry, but with just a few fragrant spices and a gentle cook in the oven, you’ll be rewarded with a pot of melting meat and aubergine which will make you oh so happy! And for non meat eaters, read on to the end for a vegetarian alternative.

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Ingredients, to serve four with rice

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 750g pork cut into bite sized chunks (I used skinless pork belly strips)
  • 2 aubergines cut into bite sized chunks
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 onions, peeled and very finely diced
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander (separate stems and leaves and finely chop both)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • Juice of a lime

Heat oven to 200C/180C Fan Oven/Gas 6. Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan that has a lid and fry the meat until browned (you may need to do this in batches), remove from the pan.

Add the aubergine and brown (you may need a little extra oil), remove from the pan and put with the pork.

Now add the sugar to the pan and allow to caramelise slightly, then return  the meat and aubergine to the pan with the cinnamon and star anise.

Put the onions, ginger, most of the chili (reserving a little for garnishing) and the chopped coriander stalks into the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the fish sauce and enough water to cover the mixture completely.

Cover and place in the oven for an hour. Remove, stir in most of the coriander and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Garnish with any remaining coriander and chili and serve with boiled rice and vegetables.

For a vegetarian version, omit the pork, and replace with a mixture of robust mushrooms such as brown chestnut and shitake. Substitute the fish sauce with a light soy sauce.

 
Inspired by a BBC Good Food recipe

Carne en salsa – Pork with peppers and potatoes

In Andalucía many restaurants will offer, as part of their menu, a dish called “carne en salsa”. Literally translated this is “meat in sauce”. In Andalucía this will be, pretty much without exception, pork. The dish will be served as a tapa in tiny terracotta dishes with a small piece of crusty bread, or you can order a media ración  (a half portion) or a ración  (a full portion). Full and half portions would most likely be served with chips (fries) or perhaps potatoes or rice and main dishes are usually shared with several different dishes ordered and everyone digging in.

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This is a loose interpretation of the dish, it wouldn’t usually have potatoes or chorizo included when it’s cooked, so leave them out if you want to be more authentic. If you have an earthenware dish to cook it in, go for it. The gentle cooking in these pots does something good special to the flavour. I used my slow cooker (then warmed it through in my Cazuela to serve), but this can be cooked on the stovetop or in the oven if you prefer.

Ingredients (to serve 4-6 as a main course)

  • 1kg pork shoulder diced into bite sized cubes
  • 2 fresh chorizo sausages, sliced
  • About 500g potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 peppers (any colour) diced
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • A pinch of saffron threads or half a teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet pimentón
  • ½ teaspoon of hot pimentón  (optional)
  • About 10 sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large tablespoons of tomato purée
  • A glass of red or white wine (about 125ml)
  • A good slug of dry sherry (optional)
  • 125ml approx of chicken stock (extra if you cook in a conventional oven or stovetop)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour  (optional)
  • Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, to garnish

Put the pork, chorizo, potato, onion, garlic, pepper, tomatoes, saffron (or turmeric), pimentón,  thyme and bay leaf into your cooking pot or slow cooker. Season with the salt and pepper and mix.

Mix the tomato purée with the wine, stock and sherry and pour over the pork and vegetables. In the slow cooker cook on  high for about 4 hours until the meat is very tender. On the stovetop bring to a gentle simmer and cook, half covered for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender for about 2 hours. Check frequently, you may need to add a little extra stock.  In the oven, cook at a medium low heat for about 3 hours, covered, until the meat is tender. Check every 45 minutes and add extra liquid if needed.

When you’re almost ready to serve, if the liquid is too runny for your liking, add two heaped teaspoons of cornflour to a little cold water and stir in. Return the dish to the heat for about 20 minutes (slow cooker or oven) and 5 minutes (stove top) until thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, garnish and serve with plenty of lovely crusty bread.

Fresh Spanish Chorizo

Big Man was lucky to have been given a mincer/sausage maker at Christmas.  Ideal for producing sausages for the family and we hoped that it would give us the chance to make fresh chorizo to eat while in England. Occasionally we come across a very authentic version (in Lidl of all places) otherwise those produced by our local butcher are good but  just not quite the same.

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When you buy fresh chorizo in Andalucía  (typically from the butcher) you’ll be offered freshly made ones which are designed for frying, cooking on the plancha or barbecue and are for immediate consumption. You will also be asked if you want some for drying.  These will have been made a few days previously and you take them home, hang them up somewhere cool and dry and leave them to dry out to the texture of what we know as salami. Depending on the weather and time of year this can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks.

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Asking our friends and family (including a pal who is a butcher) what spices we needed, everyone looked at us as if we were mad foreigners and said “you buy a packet of Chorizol and follow the instructions”! Hmph.

So, on our last trip this is what we did, but this packet mix contains preservatives which we’re not keen on using or consuming.  As an aside, this word in Spanish is “conservativo” as a “preservativo” is a condom….. definitely NOT what you will be using for your sausage making! I digress. I’ll give the instructions for making up an equivalent spice mix per kilo of meat but feel free to play around until you get your perfect flavour combination.

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Ingredients per kilo of meat

  • 1kg of pork which should be about 30% fat to meat. We used pork shoulder meat and pork belly strips.  The meat should be coarsely minced.
  • 60g of spice mix per kilo of meat. To make this you need about 35g sweet pimentón, 15g  smoked pimentón, 5g salt (add more salt to the meat mix at the end for taste if you prefer) 5g garlic powder.  You can also add a little grated nutmeg (a pinch) and a pinch of finely ground dried oregano.
  • A splash of wine (red or white)
  • Sausage casings

Add your spice mix to the ground/minced meat, together with a splash of wine. Mix thoroughly with your hands (I recommend wearing gloves or you will have very stained hands from the pimentón for a few days ). Add a splash more wine if necessary to make a slightly moist mix.

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The meat should already start to smell like the chorizo we know and love but to be sure, break off a small piece and dry fry it for a minute or two on each side. Taste and add any further seasoning. We added about a teaspoon of hot chili powder to ours which gave a little heat.

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Cook and taste a little again if necessary and then move on to the highly entertaining part of filling your sausage casings. This is most definitely a job for two people! Ours were not uniform in thickness or length and we found it easier to make long sausages then tie them into shorter lengths when  we were done.

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Hang your sausages up in a cool dry place (if this is practical for you) for 24 hours. This allows the skins to dry out a little and helps them not to burst when cooking. Now you can cook, freeze, dry, share enjoy your chorizo….happy chorizo making!

If you are looking good for something to make with your chorizo, why not try this simple but delicious tapa? !

Chorizo con Cebolla (5)

Slow Cooked Chinese Style Barbecue Pork

We’re now back from Spain after a hectic month of family, friends and house repairs. Some good times and some sad times but that’s life isn’t it? Back in Bexhill for the moment and life is taking on a gentler pace for the next couple of weeks. That’s good as far as we’re concerned!

A gentler pace means time for slow cooking. I seem to have been rather enthusiastic about my passion for the slow cooker as my best pal Ria decided she wanted to give one a go, so I bought her a slow cooker for Christmas. My mum then decided that she’d join in so bought a slow cooker too. We’re all at it – slow cooking with passion and exchanging recipes. Not a bad way to enjoy food, especially when we’re able to share the results of our experimenting with each other.

 

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Here’s a great recipe which works equally well in the oven or the slow cooker. It takes very little preparation and after the required number of hours you’re rewarded with a dish which looks and tastes as though you’ve done something very cheffy and clever.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 2 finely chopped or grated garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin (use sweet sherry otherwise)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • a bones and rolled pork shoulder (about 1kg/2lb in weight)
  • Steamed or boiled rice and chopped spring onions to serve

Put the garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce, mirin, oil and five spice powder in a large bowl and mix. Add the pork to the bowl and coat it in the sauce.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight if possible.

When you are ready to cook, bring the pork to room temperature. Put into an ovenproof dish with a lid or into a slow cooker. In a conventional oven, cook at Gas Mark 3 for about 4 hours, If you find it is drying out, add a small glass of water. In the slow cooker cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours until the meat is very tender (you won’t need to add any additional liquid in the slow cooker).

Slice the meat and shred lightly to serve. Pour over any cooking juices and serve hot with the rice and spring onions.

Leftovers are wonderful cold in sandwiches.

If you’re inspired by this, why not take a look at my twice cooked melting pork?

Twice Cooked Melting Pork (8)

Crackling and Stripping

That’ll be the crackling on a pork belly, and the stripping of a Victorian Fireplace. Not some traditional pre Christmas party games, sorry to disappoint!

First, the food…for who can work on an empty stomach? Inspired by a recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book “River Cottage Everyday” (his crackling was made with coriander and fennel seeds), I gave a thick piece of pork belly a few minutes of love before popping it into the oven with some whole sweet potatoes and ended up with a fabulous lunch and lots of lovely cold pork for leftovers.

Cumin & Anis Pork Belly 009

Ingredients (to serve 4)

  • 3 heaped teaspoons of cumin seeds (coriander in the original recipe)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 1 piece of thick-end pork belly (scored, if possible) mine contained 4 ribs
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7

Put the seeds into a mortar and crush them lightly. Rub the pork skin with the salt and pepper and just over half the seeds. Scatter the remaining seeds into a roasting tray and lay the meat on top. Cook on high for 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 180C/Gas 4 and continue to cook for 1 ½ hours.

If your crackling hasn’t fully crackled, turn the oven back up to high and check every few minutes until it is done to your liking. Remove the meat from the oven and leave it to rest in a warm placed (but uncovered) for about 15 minutes. It will stay warm and keeping it uncovered will keep the crackling “crackly”. If you need to leave it for longer before eating, remove the skin and keep that to one side, wrap the meat in foil and keep warm until serving.

Serve with your favourite veggies and be sure to make enough to enjoy leftovers another day!

Meanwhile, all other sensible folk are starting to get their homes in order for Christmas. We, on the other hand, pulled up some horrible carpet which will soon be gone permanently, then the floorboards in the dining room. This was to find the source of the mysterious bouncing floor. A rotten joist awaited us so Big Man set to repairing the damage.

Rotten Joist

Not wanting to be left out of the DIY session, I decided to start stripping the first of the three cast iron fireplaces which were fortunately not ripped out upstairs.

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We have one in each of the bedrooms and one in the bathroom.

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As you can see, I think this may be a long job, but I have a lot of patience for jobs like this, and I love a challenge!

Churrasco de Pollo

Churrasco in Spain, Portugal and South America generally refers to meat that has been grilled over an open flame. Often it has also been marinated in something, in Andalucía it’s typically a spice mix used to make Pinchitos Morunos (Moorish Kebabs) little skewers of meat, usually pork. They’re typical fiesta food and very popular.

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At home meat can be rubbed in the spice mix (which is bought ready made) which is made up into a paste with olive oil. Generally about 3 teaspoons of mix to every kilo of meat. The meat is then cooked on a hot griddle pan or over a barbecue. We’re just back in England, so I’ve made sure to bring a supply of spice mix with me to remind me of this dish.

If you can’t get hold of the spice mix (which is almost like a mild curry powder), you can make your own. The meat I used was a 2 boned thighs and drumsticks and it was cooked on the bbq – delicious!

Ingredients

1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried yellow mustard
pinch of ground Spanish saffron

Turn your favourite Latino music up to top volume, serve with an ice cold beer and enjoy!

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs

Before we set off for Spain and the kingdom of the pig, we had one final beef-feast meal in England. We have a local butcher, a young man called Ben who is passionate about locally sourced, organic meat and providing new and exciting cuts of meat to his customers. We love to shop at his store and make the most of what he recommends.

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The other week it was beef ribs, something I hadn’t eaten for years. Put images of the court of Henry VIII out of your mind, with massive roasts supported by half a cow. Something like that just wouldn’t fit in our modern day ovens! I bought six ribs which I asked him to separate into individual ribs, so that I could slow cook them. I had anticipated 2 ribs per person but after our prawn starter, we managed 4 ribs between 3 people – I leave it to you to decide if, like me, “your eyes are greedier than your belly” (as my grandmother used to say)!

It’s not a complicated dish to prepare, the impact of flavour comes from the long, slow cooking which can also be done in a conventional oven.

Ingredients (to feed 4-6 people)

  • 6 beef ribs, separated into individual ribs
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato purée
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • A large sprig of rosemary
  • A glass of red wine (plus one for the cook)
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • Maldon (or kosher) salt

Heat a griddle pan to high and switch your slow cooker on to heat (or switch on the oven to low). Sear the ribs on all sides on a high heat until browned. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches unless you have a huge griddle pan like me!

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While they are being browned, gently heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan. Add the garlic and as soon as it starts to soften, add the tomatoes, the tomato purée and the wine.  Bring to a gentle bubble, season lightly and pop the rosemary in. You are not looking to make a finished sauce at this point, just to get it started and to ensure that it’s hot when it goes into the slow cooker or oven.

Put the ribs into either the slow cooker or an oven dish which you can cover. Sprinkle lightly with Maldon salt and pour the sauce over. Cover the pot/slow cooker and be very, very patient. I cooked mine on low in the slow cooker for about 10 hours, turning them over gently 3 or 4 times during this period until the meat was falling off the bones. In a conventional oven I think 5 or 6 hours should be fine, and if you can make the dish a day ahead, even better.

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Gently remove the ribs from the sauce, trying to keep the meat with the bones if (like us) you feel cheated if someone else gets your bone.

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Put the sauce into a pan, remove the rosemary and reduce for about 10 minutes on a medium heat. If you want a silky smooth sauce, use a hand blender to sort out those little chunks of tomato. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve the ribs with the sauce on the side so that strange folk like Big Man can eat them without and normal folk like me can smother them. Creamy mashed potato is always a good idea.

If you happen to be in beautiful Bexhill, do pop into London Road Butchers and say hello to Ben!

For more slow cooked dishes, why not try Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks or Mustard and Cider Chicken?

Beef Pot Roast with Ale

I’m a great fan of cooking with alcohol. A glass of wine in my hand, another for the pot is good. Usually I use wine, but on this occasion I used beer, a dark beer called Hobgoblin (don’t you just love the names of some of the Ales produced in England!).

The recipe was another of my beloved slow cooked dishes, a pot roast this time, and it’s a perfect all in one dish that just needs some boiled potatoes or creamy mash to soak up all those delicious juices. Any leftovers make a perfect topping for pasta.

Dark Beer, Beef & Vegetable Pot Roast (1)

The steam in the photos must be the Hobgoblin escaping from the finished dish….

Ingredients (to serve 6 people)

  • 2 onions peeled and cut into quarters
  • 8 small carrots peeled and cut into large wedges
  • 3 celery sticks cut into pieces about the same size as the carrots
  • 2 leeks, cut into large chunks (or substitute any of your favourite root vegetables)
  • A piece of brisket, about 1.5kg
  • About 300ml of dark beer (don’t use Guinness though, it will be too bitter in the final dish)
  • About 100ml of beef stock
  • A little olive oil and flour

Dust the joint of meat with flour and in a deep frying pan with a little oil, brown the meat all over. Season the joint, remove and put into the cooking pot or slow cooker. Add the vegetables to the frying pan and cook until the onion starts to turn brown at the edges, then put them into the slow cooker (or oven dish if you are cooking in a conventional oven).

Pour the beer and stock into the frying pan and scrape up the juices from the beef. Sprinkle in a level tablespoon of flour and stir as you heat the liquid. It will start to thicken slightly. Bring the liquid to a boil and pour over the meat.

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Cook in the slow cooker for an hour on high and then for about a further 7 hours on low until the meat is really tender. In a conventional oven it will need about 4 hours on low. You will need to turn the meat over 2 or 3 times during the cooking period as it will not be covered entirely by the liquid in the pot.

When it is cooked, remove the meat and vegetables from the sauce. If the sauce looks too thin, put it into a pan and either fast boil it to reduce or make a beurre manié .  It’s made with equal parts of butter and flour mixed together and stirred into the hot liquid – about a tablespoon of each for this dish. Add it to the liquid and cook until thickened. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary, pour over the meat and vegetables and enjoy.