Five Spice Quesadillas

Five Spice Quesadillas - delicious with or without meat!

Five Spice Quesadillas – delicious with or without meat!

What the heck is a quesadilla? I hear you cry, or not, you probably already know and if you do, then you will know that a quesadilla is a Mexican snack consisting of a flour tortilla (or wrap as we call them over here), filled with various ingredients and fried until crispy on the outside.  They are SO quick and easy to put together and cook and take just 15-20 minutes from prep to the table.  They are light and not overly filling and you can fill them with whatever you have in the fridge that takes your fancy.

Traditionally, they are filled with Mexican goodies such as cheese and refried beans, along with chilli, avocado and other vegetables and they are fried, but me being me, I like to mix things up a little bit and although I have some great recipes for more traditional quesadillas, this particular one is for a delicious Chinese inspired one.  I use cooked chicken pieces in mine and I also cheat with the Hoisin sauce (a delicious five spice Chinese sticky sauce), using the bottled version.

You might also notice that I cook my quesadillas in the oven not in the frying pan, you can do either, I just prefer the crisp you get from the oven… Don’t be tempted to brush oil or butter on the wraps, it won’t need them to crisp up and will only make them soggy and quite frankly rather unhealthy…!

Also, you can make it with or without the chicken so I’ve also included it in the Vegetarian Section.  And for those of you out there who like a bit of heat, simply add some chopped chilli to the mix…

So, here we go, this recipe will serve 1 person, to serve more, double the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 flour tortillas (use white or grain)
  • 100g cooked chicken
  • 3 stalks baby corn
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 mushrooms (oyster if you can)
  • 1/2 sweet pointed red pepper
  • 50g bean sprouts
  • Fresh ginger (a piece about the size of your index fingernail)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

METHOD

  1. Heat your oven to Fan 180C/200C/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Chop your vegetables into small pieces (apart from the bean sprouts, you can leave these whole), pop them all together into a small mixing bowl and add the soy sauce. Chop the chicken and leave it separate from the vegetables in another bowl and sprinkle the five spice powder over the top.
  3. In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the vegetables. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes until soft and add the chicken. Keep stirring and add the Hoisin sauce.
  4. When the whole mixture is thoroughly heated through, take it off of the heat and spread half the mixture onto half a wrap and fold it over, doing this twice and laying both folded tortillas side by side on the baking sheet. I twill look like you have 2 half moon wraps on your sheet.
  5. Pop the baking sheet into the oven and leave to cook for 5 minutes, watching carefully to ensure the wraps don’t burn, as soon as they turn golden brown, remove them from the oven, flip them over and do the same thing on the other side.
  6. Remove from the oven and cut into slices.
  7. Serve with a rice salad or on it’s own – yum!
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Categories: Chicken Dishes, Chinese Dishes, Dishes of the World, Light Lunch, Meat Dishes, Mexican Dishes, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Essential Utensils!

Essential Utensils For The Everyday Kitchen

Essential Utensils For The Everyday Kitchen

Just as every good workperson has his/her tools, so is it that every good cook has his/her utensils! (You’ll note that I went very PC there).

Yes, if you enjoy to cook on a regular basis, and let’s face it, if you are reading this blog you must like cooking enough to put up with my drivelling on and on and on… then you need a decent set of essential utensils.

I don’t mean the obvious essentials like a kettle, toaster, cutlery and plates etc, I mean the sort of equipment that will allow you to cook quickly, efficiently and easily in your kitchen be it when you have guests over or just for the family dinner.

Lets start with the electrical items, well lets not, because to be honest you don’t NEED these things, anything that a food processor can do, you can do with a knife or a cheese grater, anything that a toastie machine can do, you can do under a grill, anything a mixer can do, you can do with a bit of muscle and a mixing bowl, anything that a microwave can do, you can do in a regular oven… you get my drift here yes?  That said I don’t HATE these machines, quite the opposite in fact, I have a microwave which gets used to reheat food in a hurry or start of baked potatoes, I have a Breville sandwich toaster because both my girls and I are addicted to those lovely gooey cheese toasties which go down a treat on a rainy day.  I also have a waffle oven because it’s in the shape of Mickey Mouse and we have a 4 year old, and, horror of horrors I have not one, but TWO food processors, one regular processor which has a liquidiser attachment and which is great for blending soups and making smoothies or grating huge amounts of cheese, making breadcrumbs and chopping in a rush, and one mini processor which is a fantastic bit of kit which I got for Christmas last year and which gets a fair amount of use chopping onions and herbs and making pesto (you can pick these up for as little as £15).  And yes, I have a mixer, because it’s always easier to use a mixer for making dough, cake mix and whipping up cream etc.  Basically, these things are not ESSENTIAL items to have in your kitchen, but they can sometimes make your life easier if you are very busy.

So here is my list of must have essentials for a good running kitchen…

  1. A good set of knives is definitely one of the most essential things in the kitchen, I have a complete Jamie Oliver set along with a diamond sharpener (which is awesome) but you need not break the bank with a whole knife set, the essentials are a good chef’s knife for chopping, a good paring knife for peeling and cutting smaller things in your hand and a bread knife for cutting.. well bread really.
  2. A decent chopping board is next on the list, although health officials will tell you that plastic is better as it doesn’t trap bacteria, I find a couple of wooden boards, one for vegetables and one for meat, are much better, the larger and thicker the better, you don’t want them warping and bending on you unless you’re happy to use your board to cut off a couple of fingers.  You can also use the boards for serving food as well as preparing it!
  3. Pans are another obvious essential, you ideally want to have a set of 3, a small pan for sauces and gravies, a medium pan for veggies and smaller portions and a large pan for potatoes, pasta etc.  I have an additional large pan which I use for soups, curries and stews as well but it isn’t essential to have one of these unless you make a lot of them.  You also want to make sure that your pans are good quality with heavy bases so that heat distributes evenly when cooking with them.
  4. Another pan that is essential is a good sauté or frying pan, I also recommend buying a good cast iron griddle as well for that BBQ char on meats.
  5. A decent selection of wooden spoons is something I wouldn’t be without, you will use more than you think when cooking and as they are inexpensive to buy, it’s a good idea to have a few handy for different pans so you don’t have to keep going back and forth to wash them.  Also included in the wooden utensil list (though not entirely essential) are a spaghetti fork, stir fry spoon and rolling pin.
  6. Get yourself a decent grater, now I’m not talking about those ones that are £1.00 in supermarkets which grate 4 different sizes of cheese, I’m talking about the handheld ones, with a good one (starting off at about £3.50) you can grate lovely fresh parmesan over pasta or lemon and orange zest into a cheesecake, you’ll use it a lot more often than you think you will so go out and get one.
  7. Another tool that I wouldn’t be without in the kitchen is a set of prongs, I use them when making almost every meal! I used to have silicon ones but they were a pain, so I invested £2.50 in a pair of stainless steel ones from Asda. I use them for everything from turning sausages and meatballs in the pan to fishing rolls out of the oven!
  8. A crock pot (or slow cooker). OK yes, this isn’t an essential because the oven does the same job, but you can’t leave the oven on while you’re out at work can you? So the humble crock pot is on my list of kitchen essentials because they are inexpensive and invaluable in the kitchen, I use mine for all manner of things, slow cooking meat, stews, even pot roasts!
  9. Finally, you can use saucepan lids, but I personally recommend a good colander or sieve for draining vegetables and pasta.  The amount of times I lost my dinner down the sink because I lost my grip on a saucepan lid whilst straining just wasn’t worth the hassle any more so I went out and bought a colander and never looked back!

And that’s it, along with a few other items which you can pick up along the way such as mixing bowls and serving dishes, this list will give you the tools to cook up a veritable storm in the kitchen!

Categories: Quick post! | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chorizo & Pancetta Deep Pan Pizza

Choritzo & Panchetta Pizza

Choritzo & Panchetta Pizza - When the moon hits your eyes....

In our house we like nothing more on a rainy Saturday afternoon than to curl up on the couch, all three of us, watching a movie and stuffing our faces with this meaty, cheesy, deep crust pizza covered in delicious meats and cheeses and fresh basil leaves… It’s ridiculously easy to put together and even easier to scoff in one sitting!

It’s here that I hold up my hands, I am a cheater, yes, I admit it, I rarely make my own pastry and I rarely make my own pizza dough… I am a sucker for Hovis bread mix… there I said it.

There are no added preservatives in Hovis breads, which there are in most white breads unless they are organic, for me these preservatives can be a problem as I am allergic to them and I wake up the morning after eating them feeling like I have a hangover, which is particularly annoying if I haven’t had the debauched night before to go with it. I could of course make up my pizza dough with a nice organic bread flour… but the Hovis range of bread mixes include a white one for a very reasonable price (under £1 in most supermarkets), it’s so quick to throw together, rises nicely and hasn’t yet made me a horrible dry or soggy pizza base! So there you go, you don’t need to be a master baker to make pizza dough!

When it comes to toppings, this Mediterranean meat feast is my absolute favourite, but of course, the world is your oyster, you can bung on whatever you like, vegetables, mixed cheese, ham and mushroom, ham and pineapple, pepperoni, meat feast, chicken, leftover pulled pork (that’s a good one together with some of that BBQ sauce) and more, bung olives, peppers and anchovies on there, it’s entirely up to you!  This recipe as I said is for my personal favourite pizza though, chorizo and pancetta!

Because you don’t have to have meat on your pizza, I am throwing this one into the Veggie Dish section as well for all your vegetarians out there!

This recipe makes 2 large pizzas with pretty thick bases, if you want them thinner then cut the dough into thirds or even quarters.

INGREDIENTS

DOUGH

  • 1 pack Hovis White Bread Mix (or your own mix if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon oilve oil

TOMATO SAUCE

  • 8-10 nice fresh tomatoes (plum tomatoes are great, but if you don’t want to use fresh then use 2 tins of chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

TOPPING (PER PIZZA)

  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • 100g grated four cheese mix (available ready grated from most supermarkets)
  • 1 50g sliced chorizo (smoky not spicy – unless you want spicy that is!)
  • 1 50g pack pancetta
  • Handful of large fresh basil leaves

METHOD

  1. Firstly you need to make your tomato base so that it can sit in the fridge and develop a flavour while the dough is rising.  If you are using tinned tomatoes, sieve away the juice by pouring them into a tin and allowing the juice to pour away either down the drain of your sink or into a jug for making Bloody Marys later. Once they are pretty well strained, you can tip them into a mixing bowl. If you are using fresh tomatoes, things are a tiny bit different. You need to chop each tomato into small cubes, less than 1cm in width and length, try and get rid of all the seeds and juice inside as this will just make your pizza soggy (the same reason you got rid of the tinned tomato juice).  Pad the tomatoes with a wad of kitchen towels to ensure most if not all of the liquid is gone, then pop them into a mixing bowl.
  2. Finely chop your garlic and add it, along with the olive oil, oregano, Liquid Smoke and a grinding of salt and pepper, into the bowl with the tomatoes and stir.  Have a little taste, if you want more seasoning, then add it now. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge until you are ready with your risen and kneaded dough.
  3. Make up your dough by mixing the bread mix according to the packet instructions, including the tablespoon of olive oil and the tablespoon of oregano, once your dough is in a ball, turn it out onto a floured surface and give it a good kneading for about 5 minutes. Then wash and oil your bowl and place the dough inside, leaving it to rise in a warm place (by a radiator, hot oven or in an airing cupboard) for 45-60 minutes.  When you come back to the dough it will have doubled in size and will now need to be kneaded once again and cut into two pieces (one for each of two pizzas).
  4. Turn your oven on as high as it will go, placing one shelf a third of the way down and a second tray another third of the way down, so your oven is cut into three basically. Leave the oven to preheat and be careful when you open it, I got a heck of a suntan on my face the first time I did this!
  5. Take each of your dough pieces and using a rolling pin and your hands on a floured surface, begin to make your pizza base, there’s no hard and fast rule here that says it has to be round, I have two large chopping boards at home, one round and one rectangular so I always make one of each shaped pizza so I have something to slice and serve them on.  When you have your shaped base ready place it carefully onto a piece of tinfoil which has been oiled to prevent sticking.  I usually then pop the whole base and tin foil onto it’s relative board in order to use the board as a sort of pizza shovel when taking the  pizzas in and out of the oven.
  6. Rip the mozzarella ball into pieces, dabbing with a wad of kitchen roll as you go (mozzarella balls are supplied in a brine and you want no trace of this all over your nice crispy bases!
  7. Next, remove the tomato mix from the fridge and spoon it over the bases, spreading it out with your (clean please) hands.  Then add your meats, followed by the ripped mozzarella, grated cheese and the basil leaves on, in and around the meat.
  8. Turn your oven down a tiny bit, about 20 degrees should do it, and then slide the whole lot into the oven in one swift move using the chopping board as a tool so you don’t spill the pizza or burn your hands. Obviously don’t leave the boards in the oven! Place one pizza on the top shelf and the other on the bottom and cook for 5-8 minutes before taking the pizzas out of the oven, removing the tinfoil from the bottoms to crisp up the base and swapping the two pizzas back in the oven (so the one that was on the bottom is now on the top and vice versa) for a further 5-8 minutes.
  9. Remove the pizzas from the oven, leave for a couple of minutes to settle and slice and serve!
Categories: Italian Dishes, Pizza & Pasta, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chunky Minestrone Soup

Chunky Minestrone Soup

Chunky Minestrone Soup - It's a big soup!

In Italian, Minestrone literally means ‘big soup’ and this lovely thick hearty winter warmer is anything but small! Really more of a meal than a soup it has everything you need from a meal in one single bowlful.  Even if you aren’t a fan of soups, give it a try, my girls don’t like soup as a rule but scoffed this when I first made it!

Chock full of pasta, simple vegetables and some other lovely garden goodies, my version of Minestrone Soup is not only healthy, but it also truly a ‘store cupboard soup’ i.e. most of you will already have all or most of the ingredients in your kitchen so if it’s cold out or you want something warming and comforting, then this is one to try!

Never a traditionalist, I like to ‘faff’ (as my Dad would say) with the ingredients and also add a bit of meat to my Minestrone in the form of smoked bacon and chorizo, but you obviously don’t have to use meat, so this one is included in the veggie section of the blog too! You can also add to it as you please, try adding different vegetables, like parsnip or turnip or the traditional Savoy cabbage or if you don’t like it chunky, then give it a good blending before adding the pasta.  Don’t like chunky pasta either? Simple, just snap a few strands of spaghetti into the soup!

Don’t forget the extra touches either, a good grating of parmesan and a sprig of parsley to serve atop your soup, alongside a beautiful chunk of fresh crusty bread and butter! So simple and sooooo good…

This little lot will feed 3-4 with large bowls… keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container, in fact, it tastes better reheated!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 900 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Liquid Smoke
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (fresh is great but dried has a better flavour)
  • Handful of fresh thyme leaves (I use a mixture of common and lemon both from my garden)
  • Handful of pasta shells (if you like your soup to keep a lot of liquid then use small shells, if you like it thick, then use large like lumaconi)
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Grated parmesan cheese and fresh parsley to serve

(THE FOLLOWING IS OPTIONAL)

  • 100g smoked bacon
  • 75g chorizo (as always I use sweet and smoky, but feel free to use spicy)

METHOD

  1. Grab yourself a large and deep saucepan and a frying pan.
  2. If using the meat, fry it off for a few minutes in the frying pan until browned. While the meat is browning, dice your potatoes, carrots and onion into 1cm cubes, slice your celery and finely chop your garlic.
  3. Heat the olive oil in the large saucepan and then, using a slotted spoon to drain off the meat fat, transfer the meat from the frying pan into the saucepan.
  4. Throw the vegetables on top of the meat and stir, leaving them all to cook together over a medium high heat for about 5 minutes until they are all softened.
  5. Stir in the Liquid Smoke, tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, thyme leaves and oregano and bring to the boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer the soup for 10 minutes.
  6. Give the soup a stir and add the pasta shells and allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes.  Season to taste and either serve or allow to cool and reheat later (recommended).
Categories: Italian Dishes, Soups, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Butt Kickin’ Cookies

Butt Kickin' Cookies

Butt Kickin' Cookies - Get the kettle on!

Cookies are the ultimate treat, especially in my house! You can stuff them full of all sorts of goodies from nuts to toffee to chocolate chips and even Smarties! You can mix and match your chocolate or just go all out nuts, it really doesn’t matter and this recipe is so easy to make and to keep for future use that my little one often helps to make them with no problem whatsoever!

You can whip up a batch of cookie dough from the recipe below and store it for up to about a week in the fridge or month in the freezer, but ultimately, the amount of cookies you get out of one batch depends on how big you like your cookies. So this recipe will give you enough dough for about 80 small cookies or 25 large ones…

There really are a lot of decisions to be made when baking cookies, white chocolate or milk, nuts or toffee or both. Then, when that decision is made you need to decide on what size cookie you fancy, large or small, smaller balls make for smaller cookies, and THEN you need to choose between chewy or crunchy cookies…. longer in the oven for crunchy or vice versa and this all depends on that size you decided earlier! Phew… The only decision that isn’t tough is how many to eat in one go… An easy choice – as many as you can!

One small ingredient note, where I mention using vanilla (in any of my recipes), I mean decent vanilla.  Not vanilla essence as this tends to be weaker and not as strong, if you want to use a good quality vanilla extract that is fine (you can find excellent but rather expensive Nielson Massey Vanilla Extract in most supermarkets), but I personally always have a jar of thick, gooey and beautiful Nielson Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Paste which is more expensive, has real vanilla seeds in the paste and tastes phenomenal. Tesco do a cheaper alternative called Hansells Vanilla Paste but Nielson Masseys in unquestionably the best and the one used by all the top chefs be it in paste or extract form, you can find it on Amazon and also in Lakeland stores (I go all the way to Chester for mine and buy it along with a couple of bottles of Mr Fitzpatrick s Old Time Sarsaparilla Cordial!). You can also buy vanilla pods and just use the seeds if you wish, but I advise buying these in packs of 10+ on eBay as you will get a larger amount for the same price as about 3 in a supermarket.  Anyway, I digress….

The temperature and timing of your oven will all depend as I said on how you like your cookies, but these guidelines are what we like in our house will make you about 80 (as a whole) or 24 (as a batch) 2-3 inch cookies which are lovely and chewy inside with a touch of crunch on the edge… perfect in my opinion…

INGREDIENTS

  • 220g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 115g soft brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract or paste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 315g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Chunks of filling adding up to about 180-200g, this can be chopped chocolate, nuts, toffee, fudge or whatever you like

METHOD

  1. In a mixing bowl, using either a wooden spoon or electric mixer, cream together the butter, both sugars and vanilla.
  2. Break the eggs into a jug and lightly mix them, then pour them gradually into the butter mixture, mixing as you go, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, salt and baking powder together, then fold this into the wet mixture in the other bowl gently, you use a figure of eight motion, going in on one side of the bowl, and out of the other, turning the bowl as you go until mixed together nicely, it does get touch if you are doing it by hand but think of the muscles you’re building – if you are using an electric mixer then BE CAREFUL, don’t mix too fast.
  4. Finally, add the chopped extras, mixing it in thoroughly and bringing the mixture together as a thick dough with your hands.
  5. Take the mixture out of the bowl and form it into a rectangular block, wrapping it well in a parcel of greaseproof paper. Pop it in the fridge and leave it there for at least 1 hour.
  6. When the hour or more has passed, preheat your oven to Fan 140c/160c/Gas Mark 3 and prepare a couple of cookie sheets with lightly buttered greaseproof paper (don’t use salted butter or the cookies will reek of the salt and taste gross!)
  7. Remove your dough block from the fridge and pull off pieces and roll in your palms to make 24 dough balls 1 inch in diameter, the more perfectly round they are, the more perfectly circular your cookies will be. Place the dough balls carefully on the prepared baking sheet, about 5cm apart so that there are 12 on each sheet.  With the bottom of a glass or a spatula (I use a fish slice actually), lightly press the top of each ball to flatten it VERY slightly, the oven will do the rest of the work for you.
  8. Place in the oven undisturbed for a minimum of 7 minutes, after this time, take a peek, if they aren’t browning (golden, not mud brown) on the edges, leave them a couple more minutes but keep an eye on them, as soon as they start to go golden brown on the edge they are good to go. If you have timed this right these particular cookies will have a nice outside crunch and a beautiful chewy inside.
  9. Remove them from the oven, leave them to rest on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes then, using a fish slice or spatula, gently ease them off the baking sheets one by one.  If they are still warm and going squishy instead of moving nicely then leave them a little longer to cool.  If they are still doing it then you’ve cooked them for too short a time… tut… pop them back in the oven for a minute or two till that edge goes golden brown… They’ll be just fine.
  10. Pop the cookies in an airtight box or jar and put them on the highest shelf in the kitchen behind a couple of cookbooks.  This last step isn’t a necessity, but it does stop the kids scoffing them before you can!

You could also put the dry ingredients together in layers in an airtight flip lid jar like the ones you find in Ikea and Asda. Write a pretty label with cooking instructions including a bit that says how much of the wet ingredients to add.  Pop a nice ribbon around the top and give it as a gift!

Categories: Baked Goodies, Sweet Treats | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What The Heck Is Liquid Smoke????

Liquid Smoke

Liquid Smoke - Schmmokin'!

You’ve probably seen me now rattling on endlessly about the marvel that is Liquid Smoke, but do you have the slightest clue what it is? No, neither do most people I talk to about it INCLUDING one of my best friends in America where the flipping stuff is from!!!

Basically, if you love the smooth smoky flavours that only a log burning BBQ can offer you but you don’t have the time, equipment or indeed the inclination to cook using this method – you need this stuff…

It is essentially smoked wood in a bottle. You’ve probably already tasted it, ever had cured smoky bacon or processed hot dogs? Then you’ve probably already had Liquid Smoke without even knowing it.

So here’s the science bit… A substance produced from smoke passed through water, Liquid Smoke consists of smoke which is produced through the controlled burning of wood chips or sawdust (usually hickory), which is then condensed into solids or liquids and dissolved in water. This method is called destructive distillation and the solution produced can be then be modified to develop a wide range of smoke flavours.

Many chefs and cooks don’t advocate the use of Liquid Smoke, but I treat it just like any other herb or spice in the kitchen.  Overused it can be horrible, but used with care, it can produce some of the best flavours you will ever taste! I use it in pulled pork, rubs, pasta dishes, burgers, meatloaf, soups, sauces and more… it’s great in baked beans and it really is my best friend in the kitchen.

You can buy Liquid Smoke mostly online, I haven’t yet found it in supermarkets in the UK, but I do know that it is widely available in the US, you can import it or buy on a marketplace such as eBay, though be careful, you could end up paying more than if you visited a UK supplier such as Hot Headz.  This is the brand of choice for me, followed by Stubbs because they are the easiest to find in the UK, but when I visit Boston this summer I will be testing out a few other varieties!

Check out these sites for decent Liquid Smoke, I do prefer Hot Headz for a couple of reasons though,

1. it is additive and preservative free and

2. it has a handy little dropper in the neck of the bottle so you can’t overdo it!

http://www.hot-headz.com

http://www.americansweets.co.uk

Happy pretend smokin’!

Categories: Herbs & Spices, Quick post! | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Sausage Polpetti Spaghetti

Sausage Polpetti Spaghetti

Sausage Polpetti Spaghetti – just add cheese!

Sausage Polpetti Spaghetti (Sausage meatballs and spaghetti for want of a boring title) is really one of the easiest meals to cook, the yummiest to taste and the messiest to eat! It’s a great meal for the kids and adults in the house alike and they are a big midweek favourite in our house because they are so quick and easy to prepare and cook when you have so many other things to do.

Some like to use plain pork or beef sausages but I prefer flavoured gourmet sausages, all of the major supermarkets have their own range and among others I find that Parmesan and Panchetta, Pork and Apple and Pork and Caramelised Onion work best in this recipe but it’s entirely up to you! Chorizo sausage also adds a certain pep to the dish, as well as my best friend in a bottle, Liquid Smoke. Basil adds to the aroma and I always have at least 1 plant on my windowsill, you pay a couple of pound for your first plant, then keep it trimmed and watered and it will keep you in fresh basil for an absolute age. More in my Herb Garden piece later.

Don’t worry about cheating when it comes to the sauce either, I can and sometimes so make my own as with my Quick Tomato Sauce, but 9 times out of 10 when cooking a spaghetti sauce meal I use a good old jar of Dolmio, it has no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and when something ain’t broke why replace it? Making your own sauce is time consuming and sometimes, quite frankly, not as nice… Anyway, there are plenty of varieties out there, Dolmio is my sauce of choice but you may have another, or you might prefer to use your own, not a problem!

There are so many recipes for Sausage Meatballs out there, but this one is mine… it serves 3-4 so go ahead and give it a try why dontchya?

INGREDIENTS

  • Pack of 6-8 sausages (whatever flavour you wish)
  • 1 stick celery
  • 150g chopped Chorizo sausage (you can use spicy but I use sweet and smoky)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Handful fresh basil leaves
  • Jar of tomato sauce or your own batch ready made
  • 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3-4 servings of spaghetti
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve

METHOD

  1. Firstly get a pan of salted water on the go for your spaghetti to cook while you are sorting our your meatballs – don’t skimp on the salt, for years I only sprinkled salt in the pan until I realised that a decent pinch of sea salt made the pasta taste all the better.
  2. Warm the oil in a decent sized deep non stick frying pan and then take your sausages and with a sharp knife, slice down the length of the sausage, only a shallow cut, in order to be able to peel of the skin, which you then discard.
  3. Cut each sausage into 5 pieces and with wet hands, roll each piece into a ball, don’t worry if you use pork and apple and a few bits of apple fall out.
  4. Dice the celery and Chorizo (if whole) and pop into a bowl on one side, then chop the garlic finely and place into another bowl with the basil leaves, which you need to tear or chop into smaller pieces.
  5. Pop the little balls of sausage into the pan to begin to fry on a medium high heat for about 8 minutes, shaking the pan every couple of minutes to allow the heat to distribute throughout nice and evenly.
  6. When the sausages are beginning to brown nicely, then add the chopped celery, Chorizo and the Liquid Smoke and stir.
  7. After a couple of minutes, you will see that the juices in the pan are turning red, this is from the Chorizo, this is also when you add your garlic and basil to prevent them burning and turning bitter.
  8. Another couple of minutes later and you now need to turn your heat right down to medium low and add your sauce, stirring it in and leaving it to heat through.
  9. While the sauce is finishing off the main dish, sort out your spaghetti which should now be cooked through, when draining, try and keep an eggcup full of the starchy water from the pasta to help prevent the pasta from sticking together, and making it easier to mix with the sauce.
  10. Pour everything from the meatball pan into the spaghetti pan – or vice versa if you prefer – stirring until everything is nicely mixed together.
  11. Grate plenty of parmesan cheese (I use Italian Pecorino Romano which is nice and nutty and not overly strong) over the top of the dish and serve along with crusty bread and a salad.

Magnifico!

Categories: Dishes of the World, Italian Dishes, Meat Dishes, Pizza & Pasta, Pork Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honey Jack BBQ Sauce

Honey Jack BBQ Sauce

Honey Jack BBQ Sauce - perfect with pork or chicken!

This Honey Jack BBQ Sauce is a gorgeous addition to any pork based BBQ meal, and it is SO easy to make and it keeps well in the fridge in a lidded jar or bottle or an airtight container for about a week. You can use it as a dip or a topping – I like to warm it in the microwave for a few seconds before pouring it over pulled pork or chops and you can also add it to chicken breasts as you griddle them in a pan for a delicious and quick BBQ chicken meal.

You can make your own BBQ sauce base, but I prefer to  use Paul Newman’s Hickory BBQ Sauce, and YES! It IS ok to cheat a little here and there in the kitchen, I don’t usually make my own pastry either!  There are some great brands of sauce out there available both online and in supermarkets, I would avoid using BBQ ketchup though, this isn’t the same as BBQ marinade sauce, you’ll find the right stuff in the aisle with the other marinades in the supermarket. Nandos do a good one too, but it has a bit of a hot kick to it which I prefer not to have. I also avoid using supermarket own brands as they tend to be very vinegary.

Try and get Jack Daniels for the bourbon part of the sauce, it really is superior as far as bourbon goes, Canadian Club is ok as is Jim Beam, but neither really holds a candle to old Jack, if you don’t want to invest in a big bottle (for further use… ahem I have no idea what you mean, one for the sauce, one for me…) then get a small bottle or even a couple of those little aeroplane sized bottles!

Anyway, this is ridiculously easy to make and just as easy and versatile to use so here goes.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bottle good BBQ marinade sauce (I use Paul Newman’s Hickory, but you can use any as long as it is good, or you can make your own!)
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 50ml fresh pineapple juice
  • A good dash of Jack Daniels 50ml at least (or any other brand of bourbon is ok if you don’t have Jack)

METHOD

  1. Into a small saucepan, pour 3/4 of the bottle of BBQ sauce, add the honey, pineapple juice and the Jack Daniels and mix thoroughly.
  2. Bring the sauce to the boil over a medium heat for about 5 minutes then remove from the heat and serve however you need it.

Categories: American Dishes, Dishes of the World, Sauces & Gravies | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Honey Jack BBQ Pulled Pork

Honey Jack BBQ Pulled Pork

Honey Jack BBQ Pulled Pork with a warm cheese baked roll and a side of sauce

Oh, Pulled Pork… you must surely be my only vice… well you and the several other vices that I have.

Whenever we have friends over for dinner and I ask them in advance what they would like to eat, they tell me 8 times out of 10 Pulled Pork. I serve it as part of a bigger spread, with sweetcorn, my Oven Baked Mixed Potato Fries, Homemade ‘Slaw and lashings and lashings of my Honey Jack BBQ Sauce

The thing about Pulled Pork is this, people don’t like to attempt it because they think it is too arduous a task and too tricky a recipe. well that is utter pants I tell you, Pulled Pork is one of the easiest and most delicious meals out there, sure, it’s a bit of a hike as far as the cooking time goes but it’s not that big of a deal, it takes care of itself, really it does!

The other thing about Pulled Pork is this you do NOT need a smoker to cook it in, I have always cooked mine using my slow cooker (although I would love a smoker) where it takes care of itself and I can merrily go about my day.

So in this recipe here, I will show you how to make the Pork itself, I will show you the side dishes too, but not here…

There are 3 parts to cooking a good Pulled Pork and they are as follows:

  1. The rub and overnight marinade
  2. The first cook
  3. The second cook and cut

You begin by making a rub, which can either be dry or wet, my particular rub is wet. This sits on the pork overnight and when in the cooker, helps to give it a bit of a crust. Then you have the first cook, where the pork sits in the slow cooker on low for at LEAST 6 hours (the longer the better really). Finally you have the second cook followed by the cut, where you add your BBQ sauce and cook for another few hours before removing the pork form the pot, getting rid of the fat and shredding it for serving.

Pulled Pork Rub Ingredients

So first, the rub. There are a TON of recipes for rubs on the Internet, hot and spicy, sweet and mellow, and I tried and tested many of them before making up my own, which I will show you now along with the method and how to get the pork ready for the next morning and the cooking pot!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pork shoulder (big enough to fit snugly in your slow cooker)
  • 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt (any will do if you can’t find unrefined)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon english mustard powder
  • 1/3 cup Liquid Smoke
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

METHOD

  1. In a small mixing bowl, put all of your dry ingredients together, followed by the wet. Mis it all together to make a stodgy, gross looking mixture, it smells so strong and you may be tempted to taste it, but trust me, you don’t want to do that just yet, better save it for later…
  2. Unwrap the pork shoulder – you can leave the butcher string on the joint, otherwise it will fall apart before you even cook it and you don’t want that, better to remove it when shredding it later on.
  3. Take a sharp knife and make deep cuts all over the fat on the pork joint. Then, rolling up the old sleeves, grab handfuls of the rub and smear it all over the pork shoulder, on the top, in the sides, across the bottom, in any little crevices you find… everywhere.
  4. Next, take some cling film and wrap the pork up snugly for the night. Don’t be stingy, its going to bed in the fridge, would you like it if you weren’t wrapped up warmly? Wrap the pork in double amounts of cling film, followed by a couple of layers of kitchen foil.
  5. Then, put it inside a larger mixing bowl and pop it in the fridge overnight.
  6. That’s it for now, off to bed you go, see you about 8am for the next step!

Ok then, it’s the next morning and you’re up nice and early, grab yourself a coffee and turn your slow cooker onto LOW.  What we’re going to do now is get the first cook going.

INGREDIENTS

  • The marinated pork shoulder
  • 100-150ml of liquid, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, ginger ale or water all work

METHOD

  1. So, take the marinated pork parcel out of the fridge and unwrap it carefully, trying not to lose too much of the juicy marinade from the edges in the process.
  2. Add about an inch of liquid to the bottom of the slow cooker, this will stop the pork form gluing itself to the bottom later on which is going to make your life a lot easier than you might think! You can add ANYTHING, some good suggestions are Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, ginger ale and good old fashioned water. The acids break down in the pot and make the meat juicy and sweet.
  3. Pop the pork snugly into the cooker, pop the lid on and head off to work or whatever it is you are planning on doing until about 5-6pm. A quick note here, yes, I have said to run the first cook through from 8am till 5-6pm BUT it doesn’t matter if you are unable to do this, if you get home at 7 or 8 even it will be fine because to be honest, the longer this baby cooks, the better it will taste.

Right, onto the final stage now, it should be late in the afternoon and you have just arrived home, good day at work dear? Here is the method for the last part of the cook and the recipe for the gorgeous tangy sweet Honey Jack BBQ Sauce that will follow the pork all the way from this part of the cook to the table and your mouth!

INGREDIENTS

  • The slow cooked pork shoulder
  • 1 bottle good BBQ marinade sauce (I use Paul Newman’s Hickory, but you can use any as long as it is good, or you can even make your own!)
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 50ml fresh pineapple juice
  • A good dash of Jack Daniels (or any bourbon if you don’t have Jack)

METHOD

Remove the pork shoulder from the slow cooker and place it on a chopping board.

Discard the liquid from the bottom of the slow cooker pot, this is mostly fat and juices from the meat and the now boiled liquid from before. You can keep a little to add to your sauce if you wish, but I don’t bother as a rule.

On the chopping board, remove the butcher string from the pork and cut off the thick layer of fat from the top of the shoulder. Then place it back in the slow cooker.

Into a small mixing bowl, pour 3/4 of the bottle of BBQ sauce, add the honey, pineapple juice and the Jack Daniels and mix thoroughly.

Pour the mixed sauce over the meat in the pot and replace the lid.

Leave to simmer in the pot for another 15-30 mins while you get the other sides ready to serve.

When you are ready, remove the pork from the pot again, leaving the sauce in the pot. Place on a chopping board and begin to pull the joint apart with a couple of forks and a sharp knife for those big chunky strips.  Place all of the pork you have shredded onto your serving platter.

Over a small bowl, sieve the sauce that is left in the pot, then pour that into a jug. You can either pour the sauce over the meat now before serving or you can put it on the table for those who don’t want a lot to choose how much sauce they use (my preference, you don’t want to force it on people!).

Slice up some nice warm cheese topped subs or rolls and serve up the pork, delicious in the rolls topped with the BBQ sauce and a large spoon of my Homemade ‘Slaw.

Categories: American Dishes, Dishes of the World, Meat Dishes, Pork Dishes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oven Baked Mixed Potato Fries

Mixed Potato Fries

Mixed Potato Fries, perfect with BBQ!

We threw out our chip pan years ago, it was doing us no good at all and one day we went to a restaurant in Caernarfon called the Black Buoy where they serve the most amazing tasting chips. I spent ages trying to figure out what it was that made them taste so good until I realised that it wasn’t the potato or the way it was cooked, but rather the OIL it was cooked IN.  Turns out that frying chips in rapeseed oil is not only better for you health-wise but it makes them taste amazing too and I recommend that you try it immediately!

Of course, deep frying in rapeseed oil is a pretty costly way to cook chips, so, I came up with a great, simple way to make great tasting chips that have a lovely flavour and go well with almost anything! I don’t fry my chips, I bake them in the oven!

The thing about my fries is that I don’t just use white potato, I also use sweet potato, the two combined make for a great taste experience and together with the olive oil and my special seasoning are a great overall side dish for any BBQ, I always make them with my Honey Jack BBQ Pulled Pork as well as my Lime and Coriander Peri Peri Chicken and they go really well with a side of Homemade ‘Slaw.

This recipe makes enough for 2-3 people but if you want to feed more then simply make more! Also, if you like a heat kick, pop 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper into the seasoning mix. Avoid using fresh garlic over the garlic powder as fresh garlic (though it may well sound more appealing) actually burns in this hot of an oven and tastes bitter and horrible whereas the powder survives the heat and tastes great.

INGREDIENTS

THE FRIES

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about the size of both of your fists together)
  • 2 large white potatoes (Maris Piper are my preference, again, the size of two fists)

THE SEASONING

  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

METHOD

  1. Begin by preheating your oven to a massively hot 230C/210C Fan/Gas Mark 8.
  2. Wash your potatoes and peel them if you wish (I don’t bother, the skins add flavour and texture and they contain most of the nutritional value of the potato), then cut the edges of of them until they resemble a rough square or rectangular block.  If you don’t do this then you will end up with horrible skinny brunt edge fries which do not taste good!
  3. Slice the blocks of potato into fries that are just over 1.5cm in thickness, then pop them in a colander and drain them for a few minutes.
  4. While the fries are drying off a little after rinsing, mix your spices together in a bowl, you can experiment with your spices by all means, but I love this particular mix, the five spice really does something special to the sweet potatoes in particular!
  5. Spread your fries over a couple of large baking trays or roasting tines, don’t crowd them or overlap them, if you do this you will end up with soggy fries, they need room to breath in the oven so if you on’y have 1 tray or tin, do the fries in 2 batches.
  6. Sprinkle the seasoning and oil over the fries then pop them into the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. After 15 minutes, take the trays out of the oven and give them a shake, loosen the fries from the bottom of the tray and turn them over with a fish slice. Then pop them in the oven once again for a further 15 minutes.
  8. When the buzzer goes, take the fries out of the oven, place them on some kitchen towel for a few moments to get rid of any excess oil (of which there should be none really if you have done everything correctly), then mix them together in a serving bowl and serve with a nice dip or sauce.
Categories: Hot Sides, Side Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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