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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Lemon and Garlic Lamb Shanks

We like lamb shanks. I normally do them casseroled with a classic onion and red wine sauce, but I saw this recipe in the Waitrose magazine. It was in an article about steaming things, and to be honest I couldn't be farted running in and out of the kitchen checking on the steamer water for a couple of hours. So I did it slightly differently:

  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsps coriander seed
  • 2 tsps ground cumin
  • Big pinch saffron threads
  • 2 preserved lemons, cut into strips
  • 1 tbsp garlic puree from a tube
  • 2 lamb shanks (we had some small New Zealand ones)

Heat the butter and olive oil in an ovenproof casserole. When it's frothing, stir in the spices, lemons and garlic. Mix well and allow to cook down a bit until the fat is impregnated with the flavours. Don't let it burn, though. Put the meat in, turning a couple of times and making sure it's well coated with the spices. Put in a low oven, Gas Mark 3 or thereabouts, for a couple of hours, longer if you like, turning occasionally.

We ate them with a steamed cauliflower, which was lovely coated with the lemony garlicky buttery sauce. The original recipe suggested serving it with a herby couscous, and that would be yummy too. It's very rich, and a gorgeous winter evening dinner.

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Crusader Salmon

An old idea, and I've usually followed the Glynn Christian version for a whole salmon. But there were only three of us, so I changed it a bit. Well, quite a lot, actually.

Start with 5 – 6 indiividual fillet boneless portions of salmon, skin off, and lay on a foil-covered baking tray, that's been drizzled with a little olive oil. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5, and the grill to high.

Take:

  • 3 knobs of stem ginger in syrup
  • 2 tbsps the ginger syrup
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • half a lemon, peel shredded
  • 50 gms shelled pistachios
  • 1 onion that's been baked slowly for a long time
  • ground cinnamon, allspice, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic puree

Whizz in a processor the first three ingredients, to a rough mix. Tip out and mix with the peel, grind the pistachios coarsely and add. Whizz the onion to a coarse paste (this happens really fast, watch it), and stir in with the spices, tasting as you go. You want sharp, sweet, slightly hot. It will be v. wet. Add salt-and-sugar-free muesli, sprinkling on a bit at a time until it feels like porridge and looks like it will hold together well. If you're using a muesli base, you probably need some raisins or sultanas.

Spread the topping on the fillets to make a crust. Cook 10 -12 mins in the oven, then under the grill to crisp the topping and make it nice and brown. This took 5 – 7 minutes. We had a mix of thick but narrow pieces, and wide flat ones. The thick ones had less topping per portion, but the salmon was done about right. The wide ones were surplus to requirements, and are in the fridge.

Served with plain boiled rice and some fresh green beans stir-fried in a garlic and chicken stock sauce, with toasted flaked almonds.

Didn't really need a sauce as the topping was so moist inside, but maybe a wetter vegetable dish to go with it? or a more pilau style of rice.

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Braised Red Cabbage with Preserved Lemons

We have braised red cabbage a lot in the winter. I have made it for years, and have finally settled on the Chou Rouge a la Limousine (with red wine, spices and chestnuts) recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (By the way, if you haven't already done so, visit http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/2002/08/25.html). My Mam used to make it with brazil nuts in. I've found this variation in delicious December 2005, from Tom Norrington-Davies. He calls it a tagine, although he swiftly admits it isn't, but it does have a middle-eastern tinge to it.

Serves 6, 97 cals per.

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled but whole
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 medium (800gms) red cabbage, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small preserved lemons (large would be home-made, I suspect, while small are Belazu size)
  • 2 tbsps sultanas
  • 2 tbsps verjuice or wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 125 ml fresh vegetable stock or water
  • chopped fresh coriander to serve (optional)

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4. Heat the olive oil in a casserole and fry garlic, cloves, and cinnamon briskly until garlic just starts to brown. Add cumin and onion, stir to coat. Add cabbage and stir again.

Halve the lemons, discard the insides and slice the peel thinly. Add to the cabbage with all other ingredients, stir well, cover and bake for 50 minutes until cabbage is soft.

Remove from oven, keep covered, and rest 30 minutes.

Fish out the cinnamon and serve, topped with chopped fresh coriander if you want.

Not sure about browning garlic, that's not usually a good thing. Why the resting? It's a veggie version, no bacon or ham or anything.

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