Thaiella…an experiment in pork and rice…

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Thaiella...an experiment in pork and rice...

Right. tonight I had a pork tenderloin in the fridge and several ingredients left over from a Thai dish I did last weekend. I had no basmati rice but I did have a bag of bomba paella rice. And I had a glass of 2001 Gran Fabrica Carinena to inspire me. Well, I had a little more than a glass….

I knew I fancied something spicy and something warming. I puzzled and then decided. A Thai Paella!

I sliced the pork tenderloin into medallions. Popped them in a dish with 1 red chilli deseeded and finely chopped. 1 thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and chopped. 2 stalks of lemon grass. A handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped. Some black pepper and a little rock salt. This mix I left to cogitate for half an hour.

I then put my large sauté pan on a low heat and added olive oil and a chopped clove of garlic. I let it sizzle quietly for a moment or two, then added 8 halved baby plum tomatoes. I let it fry gently for another two minutes. Then I added the pork mix. The heat went up and I stirred it as the pork medallions coloured.

Meanwhile, I made 500 gm of vegetable stock and measured out 250 gm of paella rice.

After the pork had been in the pan for 10 minutes I added the rice and the vegetable stock….and a pinch of saffron for effect.

I brought it all to a good simmer, turned the heat down low and let it gently bubble for 15 minutes. You want the rice to be al dente, so you may need to add a little more hot water at the end and leave it just as long as it takes to get the rice to your liking.

Take it off the heat, remove the lemon grass, add more fresh chopped coriander and let it stand for about 5 minutes.

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This was an experiment that worked and one I will repeat for sure. Fragrant, spicy and soothing.

My kids thought it was one of the best pork dishes they had tasted. That was good enough for me!

IMG_4958Tonight’s sous chef…..most helpful and inspiring!

Beanz do not have to mean Heinz!

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Beanz do not have to mean Heinz!

This is a recipe I first came across in Tuscany, though I have had similar hearty soups in Rome and Sicily. Nonetheless, it is redolent of all that is fabulous about the Mediterranean and its warmth permeates every mouthful. Close your eyes and you will be sitting by the sea sensing the magic of the Med through every pore.

And it is, as ever, so simple. Why oh why does anyone ever contemplate buying a tinned soup? I am at a loss for an answer. Speed? Cost? Certainly not flavour.

Anyway, here we go. Do this one. Please.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 celery stick chopped
1 onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 litre of chicken or veg stock
400 gm can of cannellini beans drained
400 gm can of borlotti beans drained
Sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
1 bay leaf
8 rashers of prosciutto – or you could, at a pinch, use streaky smoked bacon
4 good Sicilian sausages – or, frankly, any top quality bangers with flavour

Heat the oil in a large casserole pan or stock pot. Add the vegetables and a little rock salt and black pepper. Cook gently for 10 minutes. Add the stock, beans, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer for another ten minutes.

Lift out the herbs with a slotted spoon. Bin. Use a stick blender and whizz to a rough chunky but creamy texture.

Cook the sausages how ever which way you fancy – grilling possibly best for this recipe. Allow to cool a tad, then slice each sausage into 4 or 5 pieces.

Add to the soup, and pan fry gently the prosciutto until crispy. Add a rasher or two to each bowl. Serve this dish of the Gods with crusty bread and a good hearty glass of pinotage or other suitable firm red. The sausages are not necessary but make it a real tummy rumbler of a meal. 

Enjoy with or without the sausage…but be bold.

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Cumin roasted and fried squash, potatoes and cannellini beans…

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Cumin roasted and fried squash, potatoes and cannellini beans...

I reckon this is a dish I could eat a lot of, and on its own. It is a mouthful to say and indeed a mouthful to eat! And a fine mouthful at that.

I had a butternut squash but wanted to experiment rather than just roast it straight. I peeled the beast, cut it into rings then halved the pieces. I then cut about 8 baby new potatoes in half.

I gurzled – new word I just made up (and I like it!) – some olive oil into a roasting tin and scattered over 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds . I popped this into a hot oven – 200c- for about 10 minutes, then added (carefully mind) the squash pieces and the potatoes. I then put the roasting tin back in the oven for around 40 minutes.

I had a loin of pork in the oven roasting satisfyingly away to itself on a bed of 4 halved long shallots and when it was ready I rescued the onions and put to one side.

Whilst the meat rested, I took out the squash and spuds and added it all to a large frying pan to which I added the shallots and a 400 gm tin of drained cannellini beans. Oh, and a little pinch of a garam masala mix. A little salt and pepper was duly ground over also and stirred gently for 5 minutes or so whilst everything got romantically aromatic.

The smell was divine. Rapturous. Roasting it first and then transferring it to finish off with the beans and shallots was a good move, if not economical on the washing up side of things!

Just for the sake of completing the circle – my main intention was after all to draw your attention to the fabulous squash dish – I added 125 gm of vegetable stock to the pork juices in the pan plus a tablespoon of crème fraîche and some black pepper.

The whole meal was one of my favourite Sunday spreads for a while.

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Poor man’s pots with lemon & thyme pork chops…

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Poor man's pots with lemon & thyme pork chops...

This is a take on the famous Spanish dish of patatas a lo pobre – it is wondrous in its simplicity yet divine in its complexity of flavours. There is little like it – I could easily eat it on its own – or it could just as easily accompany anything from lamb to fish. I ate it in Menorca last August snuggling up to a snow white slice of monkfish and it was delectable – I swear I can still taste it when I close my eyes. That version was with green peppers. This one is based on Nigel Slater’s version from ‘Eat’.

For 4

750 kg baby new potatoes – scrubbed and halved
Olive oil
A red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 red peppers – deseeded and cut into thin strips
Large red onion sliced thinly
A clove of garlic finely chopped
Pinch of smoked paprika
Large knob of butter – about 75 gm
500 gm vegetable stock
A small bunch of basil finely sliced

Heat oil in a sauté pan. Place pots in cut side down with the chilli. Leave them for about 5 or 10 minutes while you deal with the peppers. Add them to the pan, then the onion and garlic. Then the paprika.

Pop in the butter and stir until all get coated nicely.

Leave again for about 10 to 15 minutes to get the potatoes browning in that very attractive fashion they have. Have a drink.

Then pour in the stock, bring to the boil, season a little. Cover with a lid and simmer for around 20 to 30 minutes until the stock has evaporated down a lot. I took the lid off for the last five minutes and crushed most of the potatoes ever so lightly with a masher to soak up the magical juice.

Stir in the basil at the end.

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I served this alongside a loin chop pan fried slowly in a little olive oil. Half way through cooking I grated over the zest of a lemon and sprinkled lots of thyme and black pepper.

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The resulting meal was one of those I simply wanted to prolong as much as possible – the flavours were straight from heaven – a Spanish heaven in this case – somewhere possibly just outside Granada or Zaragoza.

This is the grandaddy of the versions – but you could just do it with the spuds, onions, pepper and stock with a little seasoning.

If you have never tried this I urge you to. Soon.

Very soon.

Let there be light lunches!

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Let there be light lunches!

The last few days as my stomach returns to normal and the gastric juices flow more calmly, the order of the day has been for light lunches – and yesterdays was a typical one in our household. A good buffalo mozzarella from a local farm – Laverstock, which has its own magnificent buffaloes and produces all sorts of amazing products, including buffalo ice cream! – sharing a plate with my favourite tomatoes – baby san manzarnos, a variety of salad leaves including chard, escarole, red oak leaf and baby beet greens with a drizzle of balsamic crema al limone, a little rock salt and a grind of black pepper. Then just a simple platter of porchetta from Modena in Italy and some more serrano ham. My kids also adore fennel so we try to always have slices of those on such a table with a little lemon juice and olive oil.

And what I love about such lunches is that they are slow, easy and generate lots of great conversation – people can take their time.

The table is the best place to be – apart from the kitchen!

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Belly Pork Pizza….tis the season to experiment!

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Belly Pork Pizza....tis the season to experiment!

Well, yes, odd I know, but I had to give it a go – and I didn’t get it quite right but I will next time – if there is one – which there may well be. I have read of places like Jamie Oliver’s Union Jack messing about with pizzas, topping them with English style food, and I know of the porchetta pizza which is topped with cooked slices of stuffed roast pork. Anyway, I sallied forth yester eve with my own version.

My kids loved them – especially my son who rolled his and sliced it into pizza pork rolls! I used ready made pizza bases as time was of the essence last night.

250 gm of stuffing
4 pizza bases
A little melted butter
Tbsp of finely chopped parsley
Mozzarrella
4 slices of belly pork
A small quantity of runny apple sauce
Fresh sage leaves
Black pepper

I brushed each pizza base with a little melted butter in which I had stirred some finely chopped garlic and parsley. I grilled 4 slices of seasoned belly pork til just done, then sliced each one; though next time I would slice them finer. I placed 4 pieces of mozzarella on each pizza and then added the sliced pork. i then dotted some crumbled stuffing around, followed by a drizzle of apple sauce over plus some chopped fresh sage.

A dash of black pepper then into the hot oven for 8 minutes.

Next time I would add more mozzarella.

They were fun to make and interesting. Worth giving a go and altering to your own tastes. Warning – very filling! Christmas experimentation over – now back to my shopping list – though why I bother I am not sure as I never stick to it!

Oh the weather outside is frightful…but the sprouts are so delightful…!

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Oh the weather outside is frightful...but the sprouts are so delightful...!

I am catching up with my tail and trying to shop in between and decorate the house and sort recipes for the coming days and now and then….relax! Sunday I roasted a magnificent piece of Wiltshire Ham – it was truly fine in every way. Succulent and delectable. And tonight we will have cold slices of it with home made chips, fried eggs and pickles and chutneys. I cannot wait!

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I accompanied the ham with roast potatoes which I par boiled for 5 minutes, then popped them in a preheated oven tray with a little hot vegetable oil, then drizzled them with olio al peperoncino to give them a gentle kick.

And as you can see from above one of my favourite veg made its entrance but this time with a twist. I like them steamed and crunchy – and I have fried them before after par boiling but this time I sliced them into 3 pieces each. I poured a little olive oil in to a sauté pan and gently fried two cloves of chopped garlic with strips of smoked bacon and a finely sliced red chilli. After about ten minutes I added the sprouts with a knob of unsalted butter, stirred it all round then put the lid on and let it all steam together – the result was sprout of this world!

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Sprouts are often much maligned but I adore the little emerald gems. They are part of the brassica family – derived from an ancient Celtic word for cabbage – bresic – which corresponds to the Latinized brassica which is now part of our language. Besides cabbages and sprouts the family includes cauliflower, broccoli, kale and calabrese. They are even related to swedes and turnips…so these guys are well connected! Respect!

Right, time to dip into Winchester for a few morsels and another attempt to finish some of my festive shopping.

Speak soon!

Perfect perky pork….

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Perfect perky pork....

All I am doing this evening is just sharing my supper with you…and it was all down to just wonderfully old fashioned succulent pork belly sourced from a local farm – Parsonage Farm in Upton. Good meat needs little frills, no fancy sauces – just love and attention. I scored the skin then rubbed it with rock salt, black pepper and thyme. No oil this time and it worked a dream. Crisp crackling and the juiciest tenderest mouth drenchingly perfect pork. It had a blast at 180c for 30 mins then an hour at 180c, then I let it rest for a while. I served it with steamed shredded savoy cabbage and parmesan mash – plus the jus from the meat with a little stock added and some pepper and thyme.
I drank with it, a rather fabulous wine from southern France, called Pigassou. That is all you need to know. A very fine and rewarding Monday supper. A happy week to you all!

Saturday Supper Part Deux – Med Eggs…

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Saturday Supper Part Deux - Med Eggs...

I used to love egg and chips for supper as a child – in fact I still do…who doesn’t…but these eggs, with a mediterranean twist, are just a wee bit posher, yet still simple. I will give you the ingredients for one person and then you can multiply it to your heart’s content…this is a very social dish.

Olive oil & vegetable oil
2/3 potatoes, par boiled for 15 minutes – I used Maris Pipers
2 spring onions, chopped quite finely
A good handful of cherry or baby plum tomatoes, sliced
1 good free range or organic egg
Fresh rosemary – a good tbsp chopped roughly
1 clove of garlic chopped finely.
Black pepper and sea salt

Once the potatoes have cooled – I leave them for about 15 minutes or so in a sieve over a pan – slice them into rounds-some may split but that does not matter. In a really serious splash of olive oil, pan fry the potato slices until starting to brown – be patient and turn gently with a spatula – great word that – spatula…love it! Add a few grinds of black pepper and sea salt.

Then add the spring onions, garlic, tomatoes and rosemary. Continue to fry gently for about another five minutes – at this stage you could also add some slices of serrano or parma ham if you felt so inclined and in a more meaty mood.

In another frying pan, heat a splash of vegetable oil and fry the eggs until the white sets but the yolk is still unctiously runny. I used eggs from  Old Cotswold Legbars last night – a favourite of mine – so tasty and deep golden. And their shells are a rather funky pastel blue colour!

Serve the spuds in a dish and slide the egg on top…I split some of the white doing this…as you can see above…blast…so take care…but, hey , it still tasted wonderfully wonderful! I love a little zing with this dish- so I also threw a few slices of red jalapenos on mine.

The eggs, olive oil and rosemary just meld so well flavour wise. A great Saturday supper….or indeed anytime!

The picture below is of the ingredients making friends in the pan…..Happy Sunday to you all!

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Late Summer Saturday Supper…enhanced by early Autumn apples!

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Late Summer Saturday Supper...enhanced by early autumn apples!

I wanted something not too heavy for supper last night and not too taxing after two late nights, so I went for something around
apples as I collected a whole basketful of them on an afternoon wander around the grounds.

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Obviously it had to be an apple sauce as I had some gorgeously perfect pork chops quietly ruminating in my fridge. I made the sauce first – 500 gm of apples peeled and cored, 20 gm castor sugar and 100 ml of water – all into a pan with a lid on a low heat until all had blended into a tangy toothsome concoction. I pan fried pork chops til golden with garlic cloves and black pepper. I also wanted something cooling, so plumped for a simple warm potato and red onion salad – using garlic mayonnaise. I steamed some broccoli and kale, taking it off in time to leave the broc with a bit of a bite. I have to say that it was a very satisfying supper – simple – cheap and bursting with flavours and textures – the apple sauce helped it all on its way – as did a very nice bottle of tempranillo thank you very much that had insinuated its way into my presence whilst cooking. I am easily tempted!

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