Savoury Cornbread

I said when I made this regular plain cornbread that it would be good with extra stuff in it, and I was right. I followed the recipe exactly the other night, except …

When I greased the baking dish, I scattered on the bottom:

  • 4 sundried tomatoes snipped into small strips
  • 2 oz chorizo / paprika salami, cut into slices and then in half again
  • A handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • 3 oz strong cheddar cheese, in little cubes
  • A handful of dried black pitted olives

Wow. That was amazing served warm with chilli, and has been wonderful cold for breakfast, snacks and lunches since. If I were to do it and again (and believe me, I will, it’s an excellent thing to take to a bbq), I would:

  • put less salt in the bread, with the olives and cheese you don’t need it
  • cut up the olives, they were a bit big
  • put the cheese on top? or stir the lumps into the mix rather than onto the bottom of the dish? it came out warm like an upside down pizza with minimal topping, which did make it easy to handle, but cold it could have done with a little bit more oomph
  • think about other things like bits of fresh chilli or onion or fresh pepper, it was a good side dish but if it were a feature it needs a bit more texture and hidden surprises
  • look at the sort of things you top polenta with, after all, it’s the same thing really, just made into a cake
  • cut down the sugar a little bit but not too much, it balanced the salty stuff nicely – it’s too much for the plain bread, though
  • think about a sweet version with dried apricots and other fruit that you could serve with cold thick cream and warm honey

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Legendary Sprout Kebabs

Following this post last year, I made some sprout kebabs for a belated Bonfire Party last night. I didn't get very extravagant, I thought I'd try out the basic idea before messing with it.

I microwaved a pack of trimmed brussels sprouts for 7 minutes, which was the recommendation on the pack, and let them cool. I made a little bowl of spice mix using roughly ground black pepper, allspice, and freshly grated nutmeg. I took a rasher of smoked streaky bacon, dipped an end in the spices, and rolled it around a sprout until it had gone all the way round and little bit over to secure it. Stuck a bamboo skewer through it, and cut off the excess bacon. It worked out at two sprouts balls per rasher, and I put two on each skewer. I tried originally dunking the sprouts in the spice mix, but it didn't stick, whereas it clung nicely to the fatty bacon.

Cooking times would depend on method, I put them on a barbeque on a windy November evening, so they took a while, and didn't get really golden and crisp.

The sprouts were soft and delicate, with surprisingly little of that overcooked metallic brassica taste. The spice mixture set the whole thing off a treat. Most people tried one, which I didn't expect, and liked them as well. Alice is thinking about doing them as a vegetable / garnish at Christmas. We discussed the hot bread sauce as a dip to go with them, and that would certainly make a winter party item.

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Brussels Sprout Kebabs

Now, someone who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty brought Brussels Sprout Kebabs to a Bonfire Party on Saturday. Which was a stroke of genius, and yes, I did try one. But all he'd done was stick 4 sprouts on a skewer and grill them. So the outside was hard and crisp and the inside was softer but chewy, where it had steamed in its own water, but not enough.

We had a long conversation about how to improve them, and came up with the following ideas:

1) probably parboiling them for a few minutes beforehand would be a good idea

2) you could thread other things in amongst them – hard nuts would not work, but chestnuts might if you were prepared for them falling apart. Thinking about it again now, halloumi cheese might be good. I know you're thinking chunks of bacon, we'll come onto that in a bit.

3) marinading or at least basting – some kind of flavoured melted butter or oil. Nut oils such as hazelnut would be good by themselves, butter – you could add finely chopped onion, garlic, nutmeg, black pepper, ground nuts such as almond or hazelnut, honey, parmesan – although not all of them at once! just a select few. This was where we starting thinking about bacon, but we didn't take it far enough.

4) the blindingly obvious thing to do, now I've been writing it down, is Sprout Rumaki. Take your parboiled sprout, cut it in half, and match it up with half a chestnut to form a globular construct. Season with your choice of spices, but don't add salt. Wrap the globe in thin fatty bacon, preferably smoked, and secure with a toothpick. Grill until the bacon is done and crispy and the insides are nice and hot. Serve with a savoury dip – creamy bread sauce would be best of all …

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Minted Lamb, Halloumi and Watermelon Kebabs

These looked interesting. I love halloumi, but it's just way too calorific. These come in at 428 calories per 2 kebabs (recipe makes 8). Another one from a Waitrose card, June 2005.

 

20g pack fresh mint, leaves only
1 tbsp extra virgin olive
oil
1 lemon
340g pack Waitrose Diced Leg Lamb
¼ small watermelon (approx 500g peeled weight)
250g pack Cypressa
Halloumi Cheese, cut into 16 cubes
20g pack fresh coriander, roughly chopped
½ x 110g pack Waitrose Wild Roquette

Prepare and light the barbecue. If using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak 8 in cold water for at least 10 minutes to prevent them from burning. Line a baking sheet with foil if cooking under the grill.

Finely chop half the mint and place in a bowl with the juice of half the lemon and the oil. Whisk together with a fork. Season and add the lamb. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.

Remove the flesh from the watermelon, then cut into 16 cubes. Push the lamb, halloumi and melon alternately onto 8 bamboo, wooden or metal skewers. Place on a barbecue rack or on the foil-lined sheet under a pre-heated grill. Cook for 5 minutes on all 4 sides, or until the lamb is cooked to your liking.

Meanwhile, make the salad by placing the remaining mint leaves in a salad bowl with the coriander and roquette. Toss together with the juice from the remaining lemon half. Season to taste. Serve the hot kebabs with the salad.

Or you could just grill the lamb and halloumi in bigger portions, and serve on top of the salad with the watermelon, or shove it all in a pita or lavash bread.

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