Red Cabbage

I usually make French-style red cabbage, with red wine and bay leaves. But tonight I wanted something a bit sweeter, thicker, warmer. More in keeping with a British November night.

In an oven-proof casserole, fry some lardons (or the fat end of a piece of ham, which is what I had), an onion and a leek until it’s all nicely sizzling and browning off. Add shredded red cabbage, and a Bramley apple chopped up (cored but not peeled). Stir around and add ground cloves, salty chicken stock, a couple of glugs of Starbuck’s Gingerbread syrup (or crumbled ginger biscuits, or gingerbread) and a glug of Apple Balsamic Vinegar.

Cook in a low oven, Gas Mark 3-ish. An hour will cook it, but you can keep it going for longer if you like it softer.

We had it with crispy pork belly. Taste before you serve, and balance the sweet/sour/salt. You could add chestnuts, but adjust the seasoning as they can leach the salt out of the sauce.

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Sardine Stuffed Peppers

Waitrose do little red cherry peppers stuffed with a sardine mush as part of the Delicatezze range, and they're gorgeous but very expensive. So when I saw packs of baby orange bell peppers in LIDL the other day, I took them home and did things.

  • 6 baby bell peppers
  • 2 tins sardines (boneless, skinless, in oil)
  • Big handful organic stoned dates
  • Balsamic glaze (the vinegar reduced until it's a thick syrup)
  • Lemon juice
  • Teaspoon chopped roast garlic
  • Pine nuts

Steam the peppers whole for 20 minutes (which made them very soft, a shorter time would have worked). Cool.

Pour off some of the oil from the sardines, not too much because you need the moistness. Mash the sardines. Process the dates with the garlic, some balsamic and lemon until it's a thick slurry. Mix into the sardines, add the pine nuts and set aside to mature for a couple of hours.

Cut the stem ends off the peppers, clean inside if necessary, and stuff with the sardine mixture.

There was enough filling to do at least another 6 peppers, it was great as a spread on bread and just wet enough to be a dip for tortilla chips.

Next time: could do with a bit of salt. Additions could include chopped herbs, anchovies for the salt, shredded lemon peel. We ate them straight away, you could put them in a shallow bowl and dress with an oil and lemon dressing and leave for a bit. Room temperature is probably better than fridge cold. Raisins would do instead of dates, and might be a bit sweeter – they are what is in the Waitrose ones.

EDITED: whoops, forgot the garlic.

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Parmesan Gelato on Red Wine Toast with Balsamic Glaze

I'm trying to focus on more healthy food at the moment, but this was just too weird to pass on. It's a party dish, quantities are for 25 – 30 canape portions. I don't think you'd want to eat a lot of this … and it would take up a lot of space in the fridge to prepare. From delicious magazine, January 2004, recipe by Valli Little.

  • 150 gms grated Parmesan
  • 375 ml double cream
  • pinch of paprika
  • 250 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 125 ml red wine
  • olive oil
  • 1 -2 garlic cloves, peeled

Put the cheese, cream and paprika in a bowl of simmering water, stir until the Parmesan has melted, season. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing through with a spoon. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

Simmer the balsamic vinegar until reduced by half. Cool. (Or you can buy ready-made glaze, I've got some somewhere.)

Using a small ice-cream scoop, place scoops of the cheese gelato on a lined tray and return to the fridge.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Drizzle the bread slices with the red wine, brush with oil, lay out on a baking tray and cook 6 – 8 minutes until golden. Rub with the garlic while still warm. Cool.

To assemble – put a scoop of gelato onto each toast, drizzle with glaze.

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