Simple cod burger with gnocchi sardi salad

So, its now April apparently and it very much seems like March was one of those months that disappeared faster than a horse running at the national. The months seem to fly now that the clocks have changed and even though it is incredible to be having some lighter evenings to relax outside, it just seems like time goes a little bit faster when your enjoying yourself in pub gardens and having barbeques at home.

All the more reason to make the most of all this sunshine were currently having! The bank holiday was an absolute beauty weather wise and there certainly was no shortage of people taking their chance to have a pint by the canal at my local, the Fox and Anchor near Coven.

It is not very often I rave about a chain pub but I do love the Fox as it has a great ambiance in the winter when they light the log fires and even more so when they are buzzing with summer beer garden seekers. I even got a little bit sunburned. Which is not exactly hard as I burn like an ant under a blow torch.

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Now that we have all emerged from our wintery cocoons its time for some lighter food to compliment the bottles of Corona on the lawn (slice of lime optional but advised). White fish comes to mind as its quick, fresh and light on the pallet while being full of protein and really satisfying, paired up with this pasta salad which is the true star of this dish,makes a great meal. Enhanced further by the fact that its full of all the good stuff you can fit in without it becoming unbalanced, you’ll be feeling very pleased with yourself afterwards. No guilt. No hastle.

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Try this recipe on for size next time your feeling lazy on one of these warmer evenings.

Serves 4

For the burger:

  • 2 cod loins. Both halved.
  • 4 wholemeal buns.
  • Tartar sauce.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Pepper.
  • Few salad leaves of your choice.
  • Olive oil.

Pasta salad:

  • 400g gnocchi sardi.
  • 1 small box of cherry or small variety of tomatoes, all halved.
  • 1 courgette, diced.
  • 1 red and 1 orange pepper, diced.
  • 1 small can of sweetcorn.
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped.
  • handful fresh parsley, finely chopped.
  • 5 tablespoons of zero fat Greek yoghurt.
  • 5 tablespoons light mayonnaise.
  • 1 tablespoons dijon mustard.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta to pack instructions.
  2. Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl and stir in all of the other ingredients apart from the courgette.
  3. Preheat a frying pan on a medium heat, add a tiny bit of oil and fry the courgette until it starts to brown a little, then remove and mix into the salad.
  4. Give a good few turns on a salt and pepper mill.
  5. Chill for 20 minutes.
  6. Use the preheated pan and add a little more oil.
  7. Add the cod loin halves and fry on a medium heat for around 4 minutes. Turn over and repeat.
  8. Turn the heat up to high and add a tablespoon of soy sauce, give the pan a shake so it reaches all of the fish, do this for around 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  9. Cut the rolls and put around a teaspoon of tartar sauce on both halves. Lay a few leaves on the bottom half, followed by the soy fried fish, along with anything else you want to add. (Go crazy, its a blank canvas).
  10. Finish with one big sprinkle of black pepper, cap it off with the top half of the bread and serve with a big spoon full of the pasta.

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Its another very simple but very effective recipe to fill a void after a hard day at work when the evening is best spent enjoying the sunshine outside!

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The Honu burger

As some people are aware I am very much associated with burgers. Everybody always asks me if I have any new burger recipes or if I still cook the recipe I took to the battle of the burgers final in 2013, this in fairness is completely justified as I do love making and eating a nice burger! There are so many flavour combinations that can be slotted under an equal amount of buns or breads, its the gift that keeps on giving.

 

I have a huge passion for food as you can guess, but I also have an equal amount of passion for animals and wildlife. Birds and sea life in particular. I have been reading for the past few years about the decline in the sea turtle or “Honu” population and it was heart breaking to come to terms with the fact that they had got to a point where they were near extinction. Such a gracious, docile and beautiful creature driven to the precipice of oblivion, not surprisingly accelerated by the western world starting to haunt the shores of Hawaii. However there is an upside, populations are making a gradual recovery thanks to designated conservation sites and a huge effort from the sort of people who don’t want to see the beautiful gifts the earth has given us disappear.

You can read more about this here if you wish: http://www.wildhawaii.org/marinelife/turtles.html

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So its for this reason I have decided to write a recipe and name it in honour of an icon of Hawaii. A symbol of conservation in the western hemisphere and a wonderful creature that deserves our attention to keep it around for the next generation to appreciate. The fact it is slightly easier to pronounce than the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a burger also is a contributing factor! (The Hawaiian state fish)

Which brings me onto the ‘Meat’ of this sandwich. The recipe. It uses the zingy fresh tang of tropical pineapple to cut through the luscious beef patty and salty smoked bacon, creating an all round enjoyable experience that should hopefully bring a little bit of sunshine to meal time! Recipe should cover approximately 4 people.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 medium wholemeal buns.
  • 600g beef mince.
  • 12 pieces of smoked streaky bacon.
  •  4 rings of canned pineapple, chopped.
  • Your choice of salad leaves.
  • 4 slices of Emmental cheese.
  • Worcester sauce.
  • Salt and pepper.

Method:

In a bowl combine the mince with a tablespoon of Worcester sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper. Mix well with clean hands until well combined however try not to overwork it as the burgers will become tougher to eat. Get both hands in the bowl and work into a ball.

Break the ball of mince into 4 and squash into round shaped patties of equal size (around 1cm or so thick). Leave in the fridge for a minimum 30 minutes to rest. Make a small thumb print in the middle of the burger to stop it popping up too much during cooking.

pre-heat a frying pan and a griddle pan on a medium heat, lightly oil both sides of the patties. Add the burgers to the pan 2 at a time and fry for around 4-5 minutes a side. Pop the bacon in the griddle pan and dry fry until crispy on both sides (or to your own preference).

On the last turn of the beef, add a tablespoon of chopped pineapple, toped with the cheese. Turn the heat off and allow them to rest for a minute or two in their own juices. The cheese will relax and spread over the fruit, locking it to the top of the patty.

Remove the bacon and leave on a piece of kitchen paper to absorb any unwanted grease or fat.

Cut the buns, add a dollop of mayo or ketchup on the bottom half (your choice, go wild!) and a few of the leaves. Cross 3 pieces of bacon over the salad and sit the burger on top.

Pin it with a skewer so it doesn’t all try and escape…And your done! I served mine with roasted new potatoes for a healthier option to chips or fries.

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So there you have it. The “Honu” burger! A burger that in my opinion makes meal time a little sunnier. A tip of the hat to an ancient and very awesome member our oceanic heritage. Here’s to you turtles!

Chicken and chorizo stew.

Over the course of 2014, I had found myself doing a lot of new things and being inspired to create new recipes, make dishes that can take me away from the everyday trudge of mealtime and keep eating after work just as enjoyable as eating at the weekend. Monday blues are no excuse to stick to beans on toast (not that there’s anything wrong with beans on toast!) purely through a lack of inspiration.

I have a few stalwart recipes that come to mind that tend to remedy this, however, This one in particular is fast becoming a favourite for me and my family! I have cooked this for a fair few people now and its always met with the same positive reaction, which makes me feel pretty confident that its something you guys will love.  Its hearty, its healthy, and its full of ingredients that when put together, create a great ‘feel good’ kind of meal that is quite suitable for battling Monday blues, getting over the Wednesday hump or any day of the week you need a bit of a pick me up. Oh and don’t worry about not having time. It doesn’t take more than 5o minutes in total, So get somebody to help with the prep or chop your ingredients in advance to save time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbspn rapeseed oil.
  • 4 Chicken breasts. Diced.
  • 1 Chorizo ring.
  • 200g Diced butternut squash.
  • 100ml Red wine.
  • 1 Tin chopped tomatoes.
  • 300ml Good chicken stock.
  • 1 tbspn Dijon mustard.
  • 1 tbspn Paprika.
  • 1 tbspn Turmeric.
  • 2 Chopped sticks of celery.
  • 2 tbspn Worcester sauce.
  • 1 Can butter beans.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Add oil to a large cast iron dish or saucepan on a low heat, add the oil, chorizo and celery. Fry for a few minutes until the chorizo releases its own oil and starts to brown.
  2. Add the chicken a move around the pan until the chicken starts to also take on the reddish brown colour from the chorizo. (About 3-4 minutes).
  3. Splash in the red wine, followed by the squash, tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Next pop in the Dijon mustard along with the paprika and turmeric. Leave on a medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. A few minutes before serving add the butter beans and give them a good stir around. Put the lid on if you have one and leave them to warm through for a couple of minutes, turn the heat up if you wish to finish it off nicely. (Putting them in at the end retains their form better as they seem to escape their outer casings and disintegrate into the abyss otherwise)
  6. Serve with rice and enjoy being hugged from the inside. I use the easy micro bags of rice to save time and as a bit of a cheat.

 

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There you have it! Its as easy as that to make and its worth every second. Packed full of all the good stuff you need to feel full and satisfied without neglecting your vegetables. The chorizo is just an added bonus to reward your obvious dedication to giving yourself something healthy to eat!

 

Give it a try, get creative and add your own twist to it and add fresh chilies or olives. Go crazy!

BBC good food show winter 2013

December 1st 2013 marked my first visit to the BBC good food show winter at the NEC in Birmingham, offering a day full of food and drink and a chance to meet some great people with similar passions for the edible delights our world has to offer.  There were plenty of celebrity chefs rolling around the halls to grab a quick chat with some real giants of the food entertainment industry, and it was quite surreal to meet some of my own media influences.

Me and Cyrus Todiwala CBE

We purchased the tickets fairly early at a charge of around £25 each with a ticket to the super theatre show with the Hairy bikers, two of my favourite TV chefs (also quite easily a two of the nation’s nicest people, as I found out). We got their early enough to park relatively easily and made our way down to the main NEC halls, accompanied by a growing hoard of other tired looking hungry people. We entered the hall at around 9:30 on the button, this being fairly early for a Sunday morning everybody’s heavy looking eyes and drooped shoulders in the queue were absolutely justified. The perfect tonic however was the smell of the supreme sausage stall cooking their wild boar and apple sausages www.supremesausages.co.uk, The smell crept around the peripheries of the show, right by the exit, for the entirety of the day making it possibly my favourite place to stand throughout the day.

Before we had chance to start trying any food we had to dash to the super theatre to catch our early morning appointment with Si and Dave, the Hair bikers. I initially thought it would be a lot more intimate and was a little concerned with how back our seats were, but I have to say it was set up perfectly. Having the monitors behind them so you didn’t miss a trick was great and the sound work was great meaning you could hear it all happening, it really was worth the ticket price just to see them work their magic with the crowd and the food. They really are more than just talented cooks, they are natural entertainers and made everybody laugh while really getting people involved in their show, it really was an enjoyable experience.

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After around 40 minutes, the show finished and we were released upon the rest of the show to view the stalls and start getting some decent food in for our late breakfast, so naturally we made a break for the supreme sausage stall again. Upon browsing the range they have to offer it was apparent we had come across something special, but I will go into this in more detail later. I had a million and one ideas that I could use the sausages for (check out the recipe in the prior post for a good one), and we really weren’t disappointed with what we tried. We ended up buying two packs the wild boar and apple with a pack of the venison, pork and mushroom sausages and at £10 for the 3 I can’t complain at all.

The W.H.Smith stand provided an opportunity to buy and get your books signed by some of the celebrity chefs in attendance, but their strict ‘one book to one person’ rule was a bit harsh but I do understand why it was in place as the queues got a little bit hectic.

 

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The show was huge and to go through everything we saw would be a rather mammoth read so I will give you my top 5 stall highlights from the show and then fill in any details afterwards if I miss something, so to get us started we have:

5: I am not known to be a drinker but towards the end of the show we uncovered a stall doing a variety of flavoured alcohol, there was a few flavoured vodka’s and a really refreshing limoncello which I enjoyed quite a lot. The star of their range was raspberry vodka, which I must say tasted amazing, but dangerously not like alcohol! A definite winner though and I would recommend them to anybody, unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the company and I cannot find them on the exhibitor list so I will update this if I find out who they are.

4:  Coopers gourmet sausage rolls. I can pretty much sum these up in 2 words really, yes and please. These babies are probably among my favourite sausage rolls that I have ever had, the mixes they came up with looked great but between me and my girlfriend we had pork and leek and I had black pudding and pork. They were really tasty and to back up the size they packed some really big flavour, we bought a couple to take home and heat up for our dinner. It was a really hearty end to our day back home. Good stuff coopers! www.coopers-sausage-rolls.co.uk

3: Napton water buffalo. When you find yourself feeling hungry at a food festival or food show, there’s either something wrong or you’re not trying hard enough! We spent so long walking around taking everything in and going to book signings that we neglected to really fill up that much, luckily for us Napton’s caught our eye. Fresh water buffalo burgers, made with their own animals reared on their farm. The meat was cooked to perfection, Just the right side of rare with a nice bit of bite to it. Was a great little treat that we would be able to eat it over and over! They produce a whole host of buffalo products not just meat, including milk, cheese and ice creams. Mainly available local to them or at the shows they attend. Find out more at www.waterbuffalo.co.uk

2: Pie mania. These guys are a Banbury based gourmet pie producer and have a small but strong showing of handmade pastries that are good value for money and are very pleasant, while not being too heavy which I find some pies can be. We opted for the Goats cheese, sweet potato and spinach variety. Upon arriving home we reheated it in the oven for about 25 minutes and when warmed through it became a completely different animal and we loved every mouthful, only downside was we thought it would have been nice to have been able to buy them warm at the stall. Apart from that they were incredibly moreish and look forward to seeing them again so I can nab another one.  www.pie-mania.co.uk

1: Already mentioned and deservedly so, Supreme sausages. Amazing. This company provides some of the best flavour combinations found in sausages that I have encountered, being somebody who loves game and other alternative meats they really do cater for my tastes. We both agree that they deserve the number one spot purely down to the fact that eating that first sausage kept them on our minds all day. Not only did the initial sausage make us marginally fall in love with their produce but the ones we took home created some great meals that pushed us further over the line. Their range includes (As mentioned above) the venison, pork and mushroom, the wild boar and apple along with the Toulouse, Cumberland, the fire sausage, pork with tomato and black pepper, pork with honey and mustard and also lamb and mint to name just a choice section of their range. They also offer an online delivery service guaranteed delivery within 24 hours of despatch, packed with icepacks in polystyrene boxes to guarantee they maintain their freshness en route. Visit www.supremesausages.co.uk to order yours or to find out more.

 

 

Other honourable mentions are, the Cheshire cheese company, the Snowdonia cheese company, the arm and hammer soda mixology stand, Lakeland, the world cheese awards (never seen so much cheese!), The potted game company.

Overall the show worth every penny of the entrance fee and I would recommend it to anybody who loves food. The next one is in July just in time for all your summery gluttonous needs, Fingers crossed ill see some of you there, in the meantime visit the links and help support these great companies!

Introducing our new contributor!

Hello Gecko readers, I would like to firstly thank Phil for asking me to be a guest blogger and secondly I’d like to introduce myself.

My names Naomi and I have had a passion for food ever since I can remember; my dad often tells me that as a little girl I’d be asking what was for dinner whilst eating my lunch.

I grew up spending a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandma, who is from Jamaica, cooking was always based on using fresh ingredients and putting love and care into the food, not just throwing something in the oven or microwave. Cooking wasn’t about just about filling the hunger; it was about getting together as a family and sharing the love put into the food. The pleasure I got from watching my grandma put wonderful food together and the enjoyment I had from tasting the food and sharing the experience with my family was what really drove my passion for food in general.

My passion for baking (especially cakes) came when I was in primary school and I entered a Halloween cake competition; I made a cake that looked like Medusa, even down to the snake hair and I guess this is when I figured that baking was my thing.

The Skittles cake

The Skittles cake

What do I love about baking? EVERYTHING! I especially love cupcakes, maybe because I’m a girly girl and they can be made to look very cute. To me baking cakes is firstly about the taste, but they also have to look good, as they say we eat with our eyes first. The main thing I enjoy about baking is the enjoyment it gives to others. I love the reaction I get when people see something I have made then I wait for the reaction on their face when they bite into it.

I would like to share some of my work with you and hope that you enjoy it. I would like to show you how easy it can be baking for yourselves, its much more satisfying that buying from the supermarket and trust me, it will taste much better.

One of the first recipes I will be sharing is one of my favourites for this time of the year. Gingerbread and Nutmeg Cupcakes! The warmness of Ginger and Nutmeg is perfect for these colder days. Keep an eye out for the recipe… coming soon.

Naomi