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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Chicken Liver Parfait

Another one based on Glynn Christian's Pies, Pates and Terrines. Scaled up, with variations. Makes a beautiful smooth mild creamy pate, great for parties. Keeps well in the fridge if sealed with fat on the top.

  • 150 gms butter
  • 1 medium size onion, finely chopped (about 6 oz)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 750 gms chicken livers, cleaned, but left whole (3 tubs if you bought frozen)
  • 5 fl oz double cream (or possibly more, you want about 6 tablespoons of whipped cream by the end)
  • seasoning and flavourings, see below
  • butter / goose fat to seal

Melt the butter, in a fairly big heavy frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently until soft but not coloured, don't let the butter scorch. Add the chicken livers, and cook for about 5 minutes – don't stir them or poke them about, just let them set in the warm butter. They should still be pink inside. After 5 minutes, turn them over once, so the pink side is down, and turn the heat off. This is important now, let the mixture cool, not until it's set solid, but so that the fat is thickening and it's definitely not warm. It can easily take over two hours, especially if your kitchen is warm, so go find something else to do. Process in the whizzy-thing until perfectly smooth – the solidifying fat gives a good air content and a moussey texture. Whip the cream until thick, in a big bowl. Fold in the pate mix, and your chosen flavourings. Salt of some kind is good, and about 6 tablespoons of some kind of liquid – alcohol is usual.

Today I'm using brandy and crushed green peppercorns, but we've also had pernod and dried tarragon, prunes and calvados, or any plumped-up dried fruit left over after making flavoured vodkas.

Smooth into a serving dish, with a bit of room left at the top. Melt butter, let the solids sink to the bottom, and pour the clear fat onto the top to seal. You can put bits of greenery into that to decorate, or peppercorns, or whatever. Or you can just melt butter and poultry fat together, and use that. Make sure it's well covered to seal. Keep in the fridge, I think it's best left for a day or so to mature the flavours.

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Chestnut Stuffing

What with have a goose rather than a turkey, I somehow managed to avoid having anything with chestnuts in it for Christmas dinner. So this afternoon I'm baking a tray of my favourite chestnut stuffing, to have cold at Hogswatch. I've made this regularly for about 30 years now, it's a recipe by Josceline Dimbleby from the first ever Sainsbury's cookbook, her Cooking for Christmas.

  • 4 oz smoked streaky bacon, in small cubes
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 onion chopped finely
  • turkey heart and liver, chopped finely (if you've got giblets, otherwise don't bother)
  • 6 oz chopped mushrooms
  • 10 oz tin chestnut puree (unsweetened)
  • 1 small tube smooth liver pate
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 oz fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 whisked egg
  • salt and pepper

Fry the bacon, onion, and giblets in the butter for about 5 minutes. Scrape it all into a bowl, making sure you get all the fat, and mix in everything else. Put in a baking dish, baste with turkey juices if you're roasting a bird at the same time, and cook with the bird for the last 45 minutes.

I have taken over the years to adding a pack of ready-peeled chestnuts, crumbled, sprinkling it with sherry and chicken stock if no turkey juices are to hand, and find that 45 minutes in a square baking tray at Gas Mark 3 works fine. You can make it into balls if you're that way inclined. It sounds odd, especially that quantity of oregano, but it's very tasty and seriously moreish.

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Chicken Livers times three

I posted this elsewhere in response to a query about what to do with chicken livers:

Stir-fry with butter and garlic, toss into your favourite warm plain tomato pasta sauce, with just a tad of balsamic vinegar and nutmeg, and serve over pasta with a spoonful of sour cream and plenty of fresh basil.

Or cook in loads of butter until the centres are still slightly pink, let it cool til nearly solid, then whizz up in a food processor with a spoonful or two of your favourite strong booze – brandy, pernod, or cointreau are all good. Stir in appropriate flavourings such as green peppercorns or fresh citrus peel shreds, and mix lightly with whipped double cream. Let set in small pots in the fridge. Cover with melted butter to seal and it will keep for about a week. Great on thin crisp toast, or alongside a sharp green salad.

 

The first is a Northern Italian influenced thing, I've used NCG Plum Tomato and Creme Fraiche soup instead of pasta sauce in the past, which has worked well. It needs the nutmeg and maybe even cinnamon to boost the warmth. I can't remember where I got it from …

The parfaits are probably from a Glynn Christian Sainsbury cookbook, either Pies Pates and Terrines, or his Christmas one.

And of course there's the classic Dirty Rice, cooking them with loads of onion, celery and green pepper, with plenty of black pepper and paprika / cayenne, and then adding long grain rice and letting it simmer in wine and stock til done. Adding spicy or garlic sausage at the beginning if you like, and prawns and fresh chopped tomato at the end.

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