Throwback Thursday: The chilli pepper.

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The Trinidad scorpion pepper, this one is a mean customer

This is an old post from the previous blog that was very popular when I first wrote it. Thought some people might find it useful or interesting… plus its very much in the spirit of ‘#tbt’

So, the chilli pepper. One of my favourite natural ingredients (garlic being another) and usually ends up in my sauces, salads, chopped up in wraps or sandwiches or scattered over the molten cheese of a pizza. I’m getting hungry just writing this! Here’s some interesting facts about the chilli.

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  • The chili has been used in the Americas since around about 7500 BC and one of the first Europeans to experience the fiery kick of a chilli was actually Christopher Columbus.
  • They were used for medicinal purposes in Spain after they were brought back by a member of Columbus’s crew.
  • They were traded with the Portuguese and spread through colonies throughout Asia, including their introduction into Indian cuisine.
  • New variations of chilli are still being created today.

What can I do with them though?

Everybody knows you can cut them up and put them in chilli’s or curries, that’s a great application for them as they have become a staple in the countries of those dishes origin. But how about getting a little more creative with it? Try these quick little ideas sometime or simply use them to inspire your own creations. these are just a few of my favourites.

Devils grilled cheese on toast

ingredients:

  • 2 thick slices of good quality bread. (bloomer/tiger bread is good cut into slices around 2cm thick)
  • 60g strong cheddar cheese
  • 60g red Leicester cheese
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
  • 1 tea spoon of mild chilli powder
  • 2 jalapeno chilli peppers, finely chopped (keep the seeds!)
  1. Preheat the grill at a medium to high heat.
  2. Mix the tomato puree, Worcester sauce and the chilli powder well.
  3. put the bread under the grill until it starts to brown on the one side.
  4. remove the bread from the grill and evenly spread the spicy puree evenly over both slices
  5. scatter all the cheese and chopped peppers over the untoasted side of the bread, return to grill and toast until melted, then remove and enjoy!.

Habanero hot sauce

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white rice vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 habanero peppers, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • Pinch of white pepper
  1. Add the water and vinegar to a saucepan and bring to the boil on a medium heat.
  2. Add the sugar, garlic, peppers, ginger, paprika, white pepper and ketchup.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Strain into a serving dish to serve.

This works great for a BBQ or even a dip for a Saturday night in watching a movie or some really bad TV. Very warming on a winters eve but equally inviting in the heat of summer. perfect.

Are they good for me?

Red chilies contain large amounts of vitamin C and small amounts of carotene. Yellow and especially green chilies (which are essentially unripe fruit) contain a lower amount of both. In addition, peppers are a good source of most B vitamins. So in short, yes. they are. They are also said to kick start your metabolic rate, which could help fat burning.

Hottest chilli out there?

They’re measured by something called the scoville scale. check it out below

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Now that’s a little snippet of what the chilli is all about and how you can use it, next time you get chance jump in your kitchen and use it in something new. Throw them in an omelette or through some noodles or salad. They’re really versatile, and add a third dimension to many a dish. Don’t be scared, get cooking!

Phil

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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!

Burgathon edition #3 The maple steak burger

This week brings a whole different kind of animal to the burgathon table to finish the series. It brings together two sides of the spectrum and mashes them together to create something so moreish, I struggle to not eat it every day. This is easily my favourite burger so far. The Maple bagel burger is a congregation of sweet and savoury flavours joining forces to excite the taste buds and whip your senses into frenzy.

This one is inspired, just like the mardi gras burger, by the cultural melting pot that is the USA. The blend of flavours and culinary diversity that comes together to create some truly unique food. The soft bagel, the sweet, warm, spiced burger and the mellow, mustardy undertones of the dressing complete the package and create something truly fantastic.

 

So to get us started youll need:

For the burger

600g lean steak mince
3 tablespoons maple syrup
large pinch cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon mild chili flakes
pinch fine sea salt
4 fresh white bagels
8 slices pastrami
8 slices good Swiss cheese
chopped salad leaves of your choice, sliced tomato and a splash of olive oil.

For the dressing

1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon good quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon English mustard
pinch white pepper.

Method:

  1. Combine the mince, chili flakes, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a bowl. With clean hands mix well until all seasoning and the maple syrup is evenly distributed.
  2. split into 4 evenly sized balls and pat down into discs around an inch thick.
  3. Cover and leave in the fridge for 10-20 minutes to firm up.
  4. preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat and add a little oil to each side of the burgers.
  5. Add the burgers to the griddle 2 at a time and cook for 7 minutes on each side. Preheat your grill on high.
  6. Grill the bagels on both sides until they start to brown.
  7. cut up 2 pieces of pastrami per burger, top with a few pieces of cheese and slide under the grill for a few minutes. then remove and rest for a few moments.
  8. Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and add it right the way around the base of the bagels, followed by the salad, the burger with the pastrami and now soft Swiss cheese, capped off with the top half of the bagel and press down a little to push it all together.
  9. Then enjoy it! it really is a show stopper!

that completes my trio of simple but effective burger recipes for you to try, I hope you enjoyed them! Keep your eyes peeled for new burger recipes and more on food gecko!

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Operation: Eat bunny

Hi all and welcome to the start of my personal mission. The aim of which is to convert people to a different way of thinking about what goes into their food.

I am an adventurous eater and I take an enormous amount of enjoyment in trying new things, while taking even more joy in introducing other people to new things. This has led me to what I am writing about now, as not nearly enough people can really appreciate the kind of great produce our country has to offer if they are limiting themselves to what is available at the supermarket meat counter. This is not the consumers fault, but supermarket’s specialise in providing people with products they think sell well, which includes the usual cuts of beef, lamb, pork and a sprinkling of ‘acceptably fresh’ fish and I see it as a real shame that butchers are closing down all over our country because we are preferring the corporate convenience to the art of providing real, local produce in a butchers shop. The supermarket chains are forcing us to not have an option, due to killing off all of the independent businesses in local areas around their stores with mass produced (and sometimes low quality) meats. They mostly care about profit margins not quality of produce, the recent horse meat scandal is a good example.

I have no issue with using supermarkets for things and I am certainly not saying they aren’t great ways to get a half decent range of foods and ingredients on your doorstep on short notice, especially when they are open 24 hours a day. My only gripe with it is they limit the opportunity to try new things because they have set products that they stock in every store, unlike your local butcher. who can give you what you ask for or maybe offer you something new, because they prepare it right in front of you with their vast knowledge of the animals they use.

My granddad was a butcher for a number of years so I have an appreciation for the trade, a trade that is dying. This is why I am concerned, not because I am standing on my soap box and hopping on my high horse trying to feel superior to people because I like to try new things and they don’t, what I am saying however is that because we are becoming so detached from the process of the butchering of animals, it is changing the way we see our food. Nearly gone are the days you see the pig hanging from the hook in the window as you go in to buy the joint for your Sunday roast, now all you see is the rows of air tight packaging and labels. There is no connection to the fact it has been reared on a farm, cared for, put down and cut into that form by fantastic, skilled people. I believe this is slowly changing us into fussier eaters. Which is not a problem but it is a real shame. As I really don’t like the idea of people missing out on some truly great food just because it is not on the shelf at ASDA due to them deciding it’s not what you want. Ultimately, there are less options out there for us as consumers without the family butcher physically being able to offer you different options and sticking to what we know from the shelf.

It’s for this reason certain animals and former staples in the UK are fading away and causing people to be desensitised to what actually goes on to produce what ends up on their plate. A perfect example is when I stated I was on the hunt for a few rabbits to experiment with and was met with absolute shock and awe by my friends. ‘That’s just wrong’ or ‘I couldn’t eat a rabbit its just plain sick’ and even ‘Your evil’ which really got to me, as I am not evil!. Less than 50 years ago it was possibly on par with chicken as one of the more commonly eaten meats in England. There are estimated to be over 40 million rabbits in the UK and getting your hands on one isn’t really hard, I got a whole jointed rabbit for £3.50 at my local butchers (Chandlers, Stafford road, Wolverhampton). The meat is darker than chicken, having much more depth in flavour and being more gamey. Although very similar to the untrained tongue, given to any unknowing chicken lover and I am pretty sure I’d get the thumbs up.

If you haven’t tried it yet I would encourage you to give it a go at least once, and if you don’t like it, fair enough, But….

 

The biggest problem in peoples thinking is this:

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I love animals. I do. I have a pet dog and I’ve had many pets in the past so I can, in one sense understand that the picture above has a certain warmth to it. He’s cute, nobody can deny it. But he still tastes pretty great and in these times of apparent austerity people don’t have the money they used to, while still spending on expensive cuts of meat and overlooking perfectly good alternatives because they used to have of rabbit as a pet when they were 7. I just don’t understand the logic when people eat lamb, but say rabbit is too cute to eat. Its well worth a go, it really is. Rabbit is just one option too, there are a vast range of game birds out there that are less popular today that make great eating like Grouse, Pheasant, Partridge, Wood pigeon or my personal favourite niche bird, Guinea fowl.

Your Lamb shank used to look like this!

Your Lamb shank used to look like this!

Something else that has been a point of discussion between me and a few friends is my willingness to get out there and physically find and hunt wild game, which was also met with mostly negative views of how I could kill something. I don’t have a problem with that view but it’s certainly how society has conditioned us to be. As I said above, we no longer look at a joint of gammon or pork and see a pig, we see its shiny plastic wrapping and the thick piece of fat that we all love and fight over when it’s roasted in its crunchy, golden glory. I believe knowing where your food has come from is a great way to get the best out of it in the kitchen, so this post is the beginning of my journey to do all the leg work so you don’t have to.

I am becoming more and more interested in being a part of the journey from field to plate and will be going to great lengths to experience hunting and producing the food we eat in the coming months from Signal Crayfish to game birds, visiting farms and butchers. Hopefully I will be able to give you everything you could ever wish to know, accompanied by some great recipes for you to try too. Expect a lot more on this very soon…

So to start off, here’s my recipe for all the culinary braves out there willing to try to battle their preconceptions and try eating some really great wild rabbit!

This is a brilliant but simple little recipe for you to enjoy with your family or to scoff all by yourself, with a changed attitude towards rabbit and genuinely bring a big food induced smile to your face. This can serve around 3-4 people.

I served this with black pudding and really luscious mashed potato, which I do also cover below.

Stewed wild rabbit. Using a slow cooker.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Whole jointed wild rabbit (available from a good butcher at under £5)
  • 4 large rashers of un-smoked bacon, chopped into lardons.
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 125ml white wine
  • 1.5 pints of vegetable stock
  • 8 chantenay carrots, tops cut off but left whole
  • 1 whole medium white onion
  • 2 celery hearts, chopped roughly into chunks
  • sea salt
  •  black pepper
  • Olive oil

additional ingredients:

  • 8 Large potatoes great for mashing, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons natural yoghurt
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of butter
  • salt, white pepper
  • 6 even pieces of good black pudding

Method:

  1. Add the olive oil to a pan and bring to a medium heat. Pre-heat your slow cooker ON ‘High’,
  2. Add the rabbit to the pan and brown off evenly on all sides. You may want to do this in batches of 2 pieces at a time, then remove from the pan and put to one side.
  3. Add the bacon and garlic, cooking them in the rabbit enriched olive oil until the bacon starts to brown. Then remove the bacon.
  4. Turn the heat up to a medium-high heat and pour in the wine and 500ml of the stock, stirring well. This will bond all the lovely juices and fats that have escaped the meat with the liquid. Simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  5. lay the rabbit evenly in the bottom of the slow cooker, covering it with the remaining stock.
  6. Add the carrots, chopped celery, bacon, onion, big pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Followed by the reduced pan liquid.
  7. Give it a quick gentle stir without disturbing the underlying rabbit, pop the lid on and leave to cook for 4 hours.
  8. Around 40 minutes before the rabbit has finished its lazy 4 hours in its golden bath of yumminess, fill a large saucepan with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.
  9. Add the potatoes and boil until they slide from a skewer and are soft and fluffy, but not crumbling into the water. (Usually about 30-35 minutes give or take on high)
  10. Mash well with the butter, yoghurt, cream cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper to season. Pre heat your grill.
  11. Grill both sides of the black pudding until crisp and warmed through.
  12. Removed the rabbit from the stewed vegetables and stock and rest for a few minutes. Strip the meat from the bones with a fork. Be careful as there are some tricky little ones hiding in there.
  13. Serve the now shredded rabbit with a big ball of mash and a few pieces of black pudding.
  14. Add the carrots from the slow cooker on the side (which should now be beautifully tender and flavourful)
  15. Finally, take a few cups of the liquid from the slow cooker and add to a pan on a medium-high heat and reduce for a few minutes until it thickens slightly. (I do cheat sometimes and add a heaped tablespoon of onion gravy granules to thicken it up and create something quite unique and a little more intense) Add a few spoons worth over the rabbit, and the potato. Finishing it off nicely. It truly is heavenly.

I hope the recipe is to your liking and I will close with this, the only reason I have written this is because I care. I care about great food. I care about people making the most of what we have. I care about people not missing out on great produce and finally I care about great, skilled people being wasted and fading away. Don’t be scared, go to your local butcher or green grocer and buy something you wouldn’t usually buy and try something new. You might love it.

Phil

Self grown greenery: A brief look.

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Lately, I have started taking an interest in the difference between eating shop bought produce and doing it at home.  My father has been doing a small scale grow every year in a greenhouse at the bottom of the garden, growing tomatoes and cucumbers mainly but sometimes making a foray into other areas like red and green chili peppers.

The cucumbers are sometimes a little hit and miss but you cant beat a tomato straight off the vine, whether it be cut up into a salad or turned into a sauce. Now this little taste of it has given me inspiration to take a lot more of an interest in the next mini crop at the end of the garden. Were in August now and coming up to the end of the summer, the tomatoes we have are about to start the end cycle of their growth and the cucumbers are nearly ready to be pulled off, so I will be planting some  late in the year seeds once the next harvest has finished. I can see a big opportunity to grow some really great herbs and veg. Garlic is something I am certainly going to try to produce as I tend to use a truck load of it, same goes for basil and coriander.

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Now why would you want to?

In the current financial climate that is referred to over and over in modern media ( I guess I’m part of that now too) its more important than ever that some people look after the money they earn each week or every first of the month. While it seems like a lot of bother to grow anything yourself it can be really rewarding and can save you money if you put it into perspective. For example; in my local supermarket a bunch of Basil is priced at around 80p, whereas a potted basil plant is £1.85. So by buying the plant (or two, like id advise and keep them in rotation) can over time, if you look after it properly, produce a constant conveyor belt of beautiful, fragrant basil for you to toss into your salads or use in your next pasta dish sitting on the windowsill in your kitchen.

Here in Britain we can never rely on the elements to help us, sometimes even our summers can be cold. Don’t leave it to chance, grab yourself a greenhouse and even heat it if your aiming for something a little more tropical. Otherwise just do your research and move with the seasons. Our green house was second hand and apart from the elbow grease to put it up and prep the area where it was going, only cost us what the seeds were to buy as we tend to move with the seasons. After the initial graft, its only a few months of care and attention and it can save you a whole heap of money. Here are just a few options of what you can use a green house to grow; Tomatoes, cucumber, oregano, basil, parsley, aubergines, chillies, various varieties of pepper, beans, peas or courgettes. And that’s just a small amount of the possibilities.

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They say food tastes better when its free, I think it tastes better when you create it yourself.

Anglo/ cajun burrito

I came up with this recipe recently and its fast becoming one of my favourites. I really do feel Mexican and American influenced food is totally lost on British soil in the vast majority of cities, there is the odd street food vendor or independent that has a genuine passion for it but there aren’t many (if any) chains that I know of that really provide any sort of creative, exiting westerly influenced dishes. So I like to get inventive and make something tasty with a bit of a southern American vibe now and then, this one really hit the spot for me…Its cheap. its easy. and don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Its also doable with things I trust you may already have in your house. The best part of this recipe is that it is totally adaptable and customisable to your own tastes so only use this as a template if you like, get creative. Add your favourite peppers, different varieties of beans, fresh chili, amp up your heat. its all up to you, But keep reading to get to know the basis for your next western adventure. I will add a slight disclaimer, this isn’t a traditional style of burrito. But feel free to use kidney beans for a more authentic feel.

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The essential ingredients:

6 flour tortillas

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 can baked beans

500g turkey/beef mince

1 heaped tablespoon of Cajun spice mix (Available at most supermarkets)

2 tablespoons of chopped coriander

2 tablespoons of cooking red wine

2 medium sized chopped chili peppers (red and green for a little colour)

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1-1.5 tablespoons of smoked paprika

pinch of sea salt

Your choice of strong cheese, grated, approximately 100g

Method:

1) Add the beans and tomatoes to a pan and bring to a simmer on a medium heat.

2)Place the mince into a pan on a medium heat with a little oil until it starts to brown.

3) When it starts to simmer add the Cajun mix, red wine, the sea salt, paprika, mince, garlic and chili peppers. Stir gently but thoroughly.

4) Cook together in the pan on continuous medium heat until it really starts to bond together and the turkey is cooked through. This is usually around about 20-25 minutes. Stir regularly.

5) Once it is cooked through, turn your oven on at 180 degrees/ gas mark 4. Heat a frying pan or griddle pan on medium and place a tortilla on for about 15 seconds each side.

6) Spoon the chili mix and a sprinkle of cheese into the middle of the tortilla.

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7) Fold over each of the sides, leaving about half an inch between each side.

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8) While keeping the side folds steady, take the bottom lip of the tortilla and press it to the top lip.

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9) With a firm but steady hand, slowly drag the contents back so that it gathers in the bottom part of the tortilla.

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10) Roll over completely to lock it together. Wrap snuggly in tin foil and place in a tray. Repeat 6 times!

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I will be updating this with a video soon to help as it can be tricky.

11) Put the wrapped bad boys in the oven for 10 minutes to really get rockin’

12) Remove from the oven, unwrap and serve with rice or eat stick them on a platter and let people pick one up for themselves. I love these, comfort food in its best and simplest form.

This one is a little messy and a little crude but I have to say its one of my many guilty pleasures and great for a hearty, fun meal for the kids! I hope you enjoy them.

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Phil