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.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Red Couscous

Following the M&S couscous salad the other week, I decided to make something similar for a party tomorrow. I got down a big mixing bowl, and:

Filled it about a third full with dry couscous and added a little salt and enough boiling water to cover it plus about half an inch, and left it for 5 minutes.

Got out the food processor and roughly chopped:

  • a large red onion
  • a seedless clementine
  • half a packet of frozen raw cranberries
  • a handful of organic dried apricots

When the couscous had absorbed all the water, I fluffed it up and added the veggie mix, along with a drained tin of chickpeas. I would have put in two tins if I'd had them, it would have improved the texture.

Then I put the processor back together again (unrinsed) and blended:

  • a huge bunch of fresh coriander, stalks and all
  • orange juice (about a mugful)
  • lemon juice (about a half a cup)
  • 2 teaspoons rose water
  • enough olive oil to make it look like a salad dressing
  • lots of spices, biggest amount first - mixed spice, cinnamon, paprika, ginger, oregano, thyme, cardamom, nutmeg
  • three heaped teaspoons chopped garlic from the jar

until the coriander was quite finely chopped, then I poured it over the couscous.

Before I mixed it in I also added:

  • a handful of very good dried sweetened cranberries, that were almost like glace cherries
  • a mugful of raisins
  • a mugful of flaked almonds
  • half a mug of dried barberries
  • half a mug of dried pomegranate seeds
  • half a mug of raw pumpkin seeds

I stirred it all well, and topped it up by sprinkling some of the still hot water over it – when the dressing starts to get absorbed it will dry out. It felt like making a really good Christmas pudding.

Tomorrow I will taste it again, and see if it needs more salt, I don't use a lot of salt automatically anymore and tend not to add enough. Also for sweetness – it's going to be one of those things that initially tastes very sharp but has a lot of lasting sweetness in it, so the first taste might need mellowing and the longer tones sharpening – honey and onion will do that nicely. And for heat – it will need just a little kick and some more paprika or even cayenne might be in order.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Ultra Spiced Christmas Bread

Oops. I misread teaspoons and tablespoons again, this might be a bit much. Then again, it might not, so I thought I'd better write it down. From the bread machine recipe book, with extras:

Basic White, Bake Raisin, Extra Large, 4 hours

  • 1.25 tsps yeast
  • 1 lb 5 oz strong white flour
  • 1.5  tbsps sugar
  • 1 oz butter
  • 2 tbsps milk powder
  • 1.5 tsps salt
  • 400 ml water
  • In the raisin dispenser – 5 oz mixed dried fruit – today we have cranberries, blueberries, and cherries – and 3 tbsps (should be 3 tsps cinnamon) mixed spice – 1 tbsp ground cardamom, 1.5 tbsps speculaas spice, 0.5 tbsps cinnamon.

It's in the machine now, we'll see what happens …

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Christmas Day menu

Breakfast:

Beetroot-cured salmon, blinis, hardboiled quail eggs, creme fraiche, Ovruga fake caviar, chives and dill. Champagne or clementine juice, coffee.

Dinner:

Glass of Taylor's Chip Dry White Port, chilled.

Roast goose, goosefat roast potatoes, butter roast parsnips, sausages in bacon, sage and onion stuffing balls, plain boiled sprouts, petits pois, ginger cream sauce, port and redcurrant gravy. Choice of spiced pickled pears, sweet spiced prunes, cherry compote, cranberry and horseradish relish. Chateau Neuf du Pape.

Christmas pudding with cream or white sauce or rum butter. Orange Muscat Flora.

Coffee and Bendicks mints.

Late supper:

Winter apple, Comte cheese, clementine.

Phew.

 

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Mincepie Taste Test

Having tried Waitrose own brand, various other retail ones through buffets at work, and Duchy Organic, we had the final trial of M&S mincepies this evening. We've selected deep fill for all products, where available. The regular (Classic) ones had good pastry, probably because it wasn't all butter, but the mincemeat wasn't exactly exciting. Unlike many others (Duchy Organic being the worst) the proportion of pastry to mincemeat was good too. The Duchy pastry was lovely, but there was far too much of it, very thick.

M&S Luxury were good, and left a lovely aftertaste, very orange peel and cherry, with an alcohol over-note. The pastry wasn't right, though.

The Connoisseur ones were excellent – moist mincemeat with plenty of fruit and booze, the pastry was better than the Luxury ones. The taste hit you full on, they would be lovely warmed with some thick cream or rum butter. They're still not quite right, but they are the best we've had, and I'll go and stock up later in the week.

I noticed today that they also do some puff pastry ones, and little ones with special toppings. Might as well …

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Dried Fig and Sour Cherry Chutney

A Nick Nairn recipe from Good Food December 2001. Dried figs are great, we always have them around on the holidays, but there's also usually quite a lot left over. This says serve straightaway or "leave to mature", which probably means it's a bit late to make for this year, but making it in January time and putting somewhere dark and cool for several months would work. This quantity says to make 1.5 pints, which is a couple of reasonable size preserving jars or one big one.

 

  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 in piece root ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsps mustard seeds (doesn't say what colour)
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 3 x 75 gm packets dried sour cherries (or cranberries)
  • 250 gms / 9 oz dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 1 cooking apple, peeled and chopped
  • 100gms / 4 oz light muscovado
  • 100 ml / 3.5 fl oz red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic, 2 -3 minutes. Add ginger, mustard, chilli, dried fruit, apple and sugar, salt and pepper and stir well. Pour in the vinegar and 300 mls / half pint cold water. Stir and boil. Simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, make sure it doesn't catch, or until the liquid has nearly all evaporated and the chutney is thick. Serve as is or put in a sterilised preserving jar and mature.

Sounds good – texture, acid versus sweet versus heat, all the elements of a good chutney. Not sure I'd use red wine vinegar, cider would be fine and slightly lighter. It's not so easy now to get the dried sour cherries, the supermarkets seem to have switched to sweeter ones. But I get barberries (sumac berries) from the local Middle-Eastern grocer, which are really sharp sharp sharp, and a mixture of those with the sweet cherries has worked well in vodka flavourings. Some asafoetida (hing) would give some of the sourness back as well.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Texan Dollies

One to make the fillings hurt. From olive February 2004. No nutritional info given, but you wouldn't really want to know, would you? Great to take to office bakesale days. Because you could have one, but if you had them at home you wouldn't stop.

  • 300 gms crushed digestive biscuits
  • 150 gms unsalted butter, melted
  • 150 gms chopped walnuts
  • 100 gms chocolate chips, milk or plain
  • 75 gms sultanas
  • 200 gms dessicated coconut
  • 600 ml sweetened condensed milk
  • 50 gms plain chocolate

Heat the oven to Gas Mark 3.

Mix biscuit crumbs and butter. Press into the base of a lightly oiled baking tin about 20cm square and at least 5 cm deep.

Cover the base with the walnuts, chocolate chips, sultanas and coconut. Pour over the condensed milk and spread evenly.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until light golden. (They emphasise the oven must be no hotter than Gas Mark 3 and the cake should not be overbaked.) Let it cool overnight in the tin.

Melt the plain chocolate and drizzle over the top. Once it has set, using a very sharp knife, cut into 25 squares, easing gently out of the tin.

Make sure you don't use a good non-stick pan or the sharp knife bit will be a bugger. So don't line it with foil or anything either. You could substitute things easily – dried cherries or cranberries for the sultanas; pecans or hazelnuts or chopped brazils for the walnuts. I think the coconut probably has an important part to play in texture and holding everything together, I'm not sure if you could use anything else.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend