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!

Peanut butter pie (And the discovery of Brighton)

During the transitional period from the old blog and my change in circumstances that forced me to have some downtime from writing, I visited Brighton to see my fiancés best friend and her partner in Brighton. Id never been there before and thought it would just be the usual sort of British seaside town brimming with rock shops, amusements and novelty gifts, albeit with a more southern twang in the dialect. I usually despise being wrong but I must say I’m quite happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong about Brighton.

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Barring London, I genuinely don’t believe I have been to a better melting pot of modern, youthful culture, foreign flavours, gastronomic innovation and classic heritage. It just boggles the mind as to how diverse Brighton is when it comes to the people, the food and the experiences available to you. You can have fish and chips if your looking for the traditional seaside Heron gull enticing flavours or you can go crazy and have chilli and lime fish with sweet potato fries, a plethora of vegetarian restaurants (which were fantastic!), confectionery you have never even thought of before and vendors that push the boundaries of what you think you can buy from a stall. Not forgetting that this is the spiritual and physical home of choccywoccydoodah. Spell check is going mad at me for that but if you haven’t seen the TV show it’s a business that build the most ridiculous chocolate creations you have ever seen. http://www.choccywoccydoodah.com

When we arrived the weather was, in a word, horrific. I have never heard thunder like it and the rain was hitting the window so hard it was like a swarm of furious birds frantically scratching at the window to get at us as we tried to sleep. However we were blessed to wake up to beautiful blue skies and a heat that had the potential to burn my ridiculously sunshine shy skin to a level that can only be compared to a well-done baked potato. The combination of the amazing food that surrounded me during my trip combined with the crisp, blue sky and crystal clear seas left me with a lot of inspiration to come home with. Summer in Brighton had taken me from someone who had a few ideas to someone who was ravenously clamouring to create….with a sweet tooth to satisfy. This recipe is the perfect fit for someone who wants to give their family a treat for a day or give themselves a treat for a few days!

So we made the following recipe. A peanut butter pie sounds a bit rich and chewy doesn’t it? Don’t worry you don’t just tip a jar of peanut butter into a flan case! See below for the recipe for this funky little number.

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What you’ll need:

For the base –

  • 25 oat based biscuits (Finely crushed) but any plain biscuit will do!
  • 70g melted butter

Tip: Preheat your oven at 170 degrees.

For the filling –

  • 225g peanut butter (We used smooth but nothing wrong with using chunky)
  • 225g cream cheese
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 225g double cream (Well whipped)

Method:

  1. In a food processor blitz the biscuits into a fine sandy texture, add the melted butter and whiz into a lumpy consistency. Ensuring all biscuits and butter and mixed together.
  2. Put the mix into a medium pie dish and cover the base and sides well. Bake for 5-7 minutes in the oven.
  3. Mix the peanut butter and cream cheese together until its smooth. Add the icing sugar and mix well until combined.
  4. Once this is done, add the cream to the peanut butter mix and stir through until again, well combined.
  5. Pour the filling into the base (preferably by now it has cooled) and spread evenly.
  6. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Note – Always mix the ingredients for the filling separately and not at the same time to achieve the best consistency!

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!

Chorizo and red wine pasta sauce

I’ve always loved a bit of pasta. It can be an easy but satisfying option on a cold winters day or a bright summers evening, whether it be for a quick dinner for one or entertaining guests, you can impress with a good, homely bowl of fussili covered in an alluring, rosy red tomato sauce with some basil leaves and a grating of parmesan. It’s heaven.

This recipe takes a basic tomato sauce and gives it a little bit of a spruce up to create something a little more warming and give you something to get your senses tingling with some great flavours and to give your insides a hug! The combination of the spicy, strong garlic punch of the chorizo and the sweetness of the wine elevate the tomatoes to another new level, providing the perfect accompaniment for a dish of pasta, gnocchi or even spread over meat or fish. I made it with some left over ingredients from the wild boar stew earlier this week.

 

So to start us off you will need;

  • 1/2 a med chorizo sausage. Diced
  • 2 sticks of celery. finely chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 of a cup red wine
  • 1 tspn  garlic granules
  • 1 tspn butter (unsalted)
  • handful of sliced black olives
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil (Basil infused preferably)
  • large pinch sea salt
  • large pinch cracked black pepper
  • 200-300g pasta. I used some great little tortellini with spinach and ricotta.
  1. Boil the pasta in salted water to the pack instructions. Remove the pasta a minute or so before the instructed cooking time to maintain its al dente bite. Retain 1/4 a cup pasta cooking water.
  2. In a frying pan on a medium heat add the oil, celery and chorizo. Gently fry until the chorizo starts to go crispy.
  3. Pour in the wine and keep on the heat until it reduces by around half.
  4. Add the whole tin of tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan and stir well.
  5. Still on the medium heat, cook for 4-5 minutes until the sauce emulsifies thoroughly, stirring regularly.
  6. Stir through the olives and add the butter, pasta and the reserved cooking water.
  7. Turn the heat up slightly and continue to stir the pasta into the sauce for a minute or so until the pasta is well glazed in the sauce.
  8. Serve and enjoy. Great for winter nights this one!

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Freshly baked ciabatta bread

So I’ve been mulling over this particular article for a while and today is the day I finally get my act together and get it live. I have never been, and have never claimed to be particularly good at baking, although recently I have a much keener interest in it.

I have started from the ground up and started with making my own bread and I can confirm I am now hooked. Its hard to describe the feeling of accomplishment when it goes right and you end up with a really attractive end product emitting that soul warming smell that makes your home seem that little bit more special. Its a hard feeling to beat.

So rather than me harping on about it, here’s a recipe for you to do it yourself. I challenge you to do this once and not want to do it again!

Ingredients

500g strong white flour
450 ml Luke warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon dry Yeast
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons garlic granules
2 tablespoons oregano and\or 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
Olive Oil

Method

Pre heat oven to 200C or gas mark 8

In a large bowl mix with clean hands flour, sugar, herbs and yeast

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Pour in the water and salt and mix in the bowl with your hands for 5 minutes. The mixture will be like a very thick paste.

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Lift parts of the dough up and fold it over itself to push in a few air pockets. Work the dough in the bowl for 5 minutes. If you have a food mixer, beat it with a dough hook but still finish off with the hand method to push the air pockets in.

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Flour a work surface and continue to work the dough until smooth.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil directly to the dough and mix into it by kneading for a few more minutes.

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Allow to prove in a clean bowl drizzled with a little more oil to stop it sticking, covered with cling film for about 1 hour or until it doubles in size.

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Pour the dough onto a well floured work surface and fold over like an envelope length ways to create the ciabatta ‘look’. At this point you can leave it as a loaf, cut into rolls or get creative and twist them up. Once shaped leave to prove for a further 20 minutes.

Lift dough onto a floured baking tray and (sprinkle some flour onto the top of the bread/s to create a more rustic look) bake for around 25 minutes, until golden and when tapped sounds hollow. Leave till cool on a wire rack or a spare grill pan for 15 minutes before serving.

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Burgathon edition #2: The big pig

This week I have got a simple burger recipe for you that packs a real punch. Sometimes, as this recipe shows its not all about how complex you can make the dish, its the quality and integrity of the ingredients you use in it.

Britain has a great farming culture to call upon when we want to make great food and we have a great variety of choice when it comes to one of our most popular meat products, pork. Not many people are aware of just how diverse our livestock is, especially when we talk swine. There are a lot of different breeds available and it isn’t limited to the little pink babes that are the go to mental images when we say the word pig. There are a host of different shapes and sizes bred in Britain, for example; the Berkshire is black with some white markings, the British lop is the famed pink piglet we know and love, the lovable looking ginger Tamworth and the black speckled Gloucestershire old spot, all of which have different attributes to bring to your cooking, be it superior bacon or a better quality rack of pork ribs, your butcher will guide you in the right direction.

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This recipe in particular for me is a winner, I am a big lover of pork. I love the fact that you can utilise everything a pig has to offer, and the diversity of those products. For this tip of the hat to the noble pigs that feed us so regularly I use a good quality pork mince, ask your butcher for the best he or she has and just see what breed it is from if your interested, it might surprise you!

M favourite pig breed. the Tamworth.

M favourite pig breed. the Tamworth.

so what you’ll need to make 2 burgers:

  • 500g of pork mince
  • 5-6 well sized fresh sage leaves, finely sliced
  • 2 tspn minced fresh garlic
  • large pinch fine sea salt
  • 2-3 grinds of black pepper
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms
  • Handful of baby leaf spinach
  • 2 thick slices of Claxton mild blue cheese
  • 2 burger buns of your choice, halved
  • Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil

method:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pork mince, sage, garlic, salt and pepper and mix with clean hands until you can make one large ball with the mixture.
  2. Split the mixture into 2 evenly shaped balls and pat down into large discs.
  3. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Place a griddle pan on a medium heat, and apply a little oil to each side of each burger. Preheat your grill on medium/high.
  5. Place the burger on the griddle and cook for 6-7 minutes on each side. then remove from the heat to rest in a warm place, check the middle of the burger by pressing it with your thumb, it should be as firm as the outside if it is cooked all the way through.
  6. Place the mushrooms under the grill and cook for a few minutes on each side until it starts to flatten. remove from grill.
  7. place your bread rolls under the grill until browned, repeat for both sides.
  8. place a teaspoon of Dijon on the bottom of the bun, followed by some spinach, rest the burger on the spinach and place a slice of the blue cheese over the burger, followed by a mushroom and cap it with the remaining side of the toasted bun.

I loved this one, and I hope you do too. Coming up for edition 3 we have something a little more American coming your way, an ode to the food culture and diversity of flavour available in the one and only New York city. The maple steak burger!