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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Somerset Brie and Spiced Plum Tart

Another pickup from a menu title: Somerset Brie and Spiced Plum Tart with a watercress salad. I would imagine either crisp shortcrust or flaky pastry, a spiced plum compote base, maybe peeled halved plums stewed and laid in it. Topped with slices of brie, rubbed with garlic, maybe? and just heated through to melting. You could get stupidly rich and make a small tart case the size to take a whole camembert or mini-brie, bake it, scoop off the lid peel and top with a warm compote just before serving – but that would be way too much for a starter, which is what this nominally is.

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Blue Cheese and Parsnip Puffs (Souffles)

I have to admit I still have never cooked a souffle. It always seemed too much faff, there's that whole "last moment" thing, and nowadays they're not on the approved list. But these looked very yummy, and, dammit, it's about time. From Good Housekeeping December 1999, serves 8 at 189 cals per serving.

 

  • 225 gms parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 50 gms butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 50 gms flour
  • 284 ml carton milk
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 50 gms Gruyere, grated
  • 75 gms blue cheese, crumbled – suggests Stilton or Dolcelatte

Boil parsnips til tender. Drain, dry well over low heat, and mash.

Lightly butter 8 150 ml ramekins and put on a baking sheet.

Melt the butter, stir in flour and mix til smooth. Take off heat and blend in milk, reheat to boil, stirring continuously. Cool a little, beat in the egg yolks, Gruyere and parsnip puree, season.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peak, fold into parsnip mixture with the blue cheese. Don't overdo it.

Fill the ramekins almost to the top, cook at Gas Mark 6 for 15 – 20 minutes until puffed up and brown. Serve immediately.

I'd pop them on a bigger plate with some bitter salad – chicory, rocket, watercress, or they'd be a bit rich by themselves. While they'd make a great starter, you couldn't have a cheeseboard really after, and they might be better as a main course for a smaller meal – lunch or supper, maybe with some crusty bread. Be careful with the salt because of the cheese.

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Mango Salad Wraps

There's a recipe in one of the Moosewood books I've always liked, where you make little one-bite wraps with spinach leaves, filling each with pinches ot peanuts, toasted coconut, and chopped raw limes. This is a grown up version of that, it sounds well fiddly to make but deeply yummy. Serves 4, no nutritional info given. From olive, February 2004.

  • 6 small chopped shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 cm root ginger
  • 3 mild red chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tbsps roasted salted peanuts
  • 2 tsp shrimp paste
  • 2 tbsps fish sauce
  • 4 tbsps palm sugar (or light muscovado)
  • 2 heads bok choi or lettuce
  • 2 firm not too ripe mangoes, finely sliced lengthways
  • Half a fresh coconut, shaved into shreds with a potato peeler
  • Handful fresh basil, Thai if you can get it
  • 4 spring onions, finely shredded lengthways
  • 2 limes, halved

Blast the shallots, garlic, ginger and chillies in a food processor until well chopped but not mushy.

Crush the peanuts, keeping some texture.

In a pan, heat 200 ml water, the shallot mixture, the peanuts, shrimp paste, fish sauce and sugar. Boil hard, stirring, for 15 – 20 minutes until thick, dark, sticky and glossy.

Lay out everything on a platter, with the sauce in little bowls.

Take a leaf of bok choi or lettuce, lay on a slice of mango, spread with peanut sauce, add coconut, basil and onions. Squeeze with lime juice, roll and eat.

You'd have to be careful what bok choi you got, so there was a lot of leaf to white stalk. Spinach might be just as good as lettuce. Having to slice the mangoes that way round means no cheating and buying pre-prepared, you could do that but you'd have to rethink the physical structure of the wrap to allow for cubes of mango. It would mean you could have riper mango, though. This has the potential to be really, really sticky – get lots of wetwipes.

 

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Beetroot-cured salmon

We always have salmon over the holidays. Smoked, whole baked Crusader style with cinnamon and dried fruit, cold decorated with citrussy mustard jellied mayonnaise, or Russian pie with rice, hard-boiled eggs, dill and puff pastry. I like it with horseradish, too. We love beetroot as well, best of all being Russian beetroot caviar with garlic, prunes and brandy.

I've never tried making home-cured gravadlax, but this looks like an interesting place to start. From Good Food December 2005. Says serves 8 with leftovers, the calorie count is 306 per serving but that's based on 12 servings.

  • 2 skin-on salmon fillets, about 3lb in total
  • 8 oz caster sugar
  • 5 oz seasalt flakes
  • 3 oz fresh horseradish
  • 3 medium raw beetroot, grated but not necessarily peeled
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped

SALAD

  • 1 frisee or oak leaf lettuce
  • 4 medium beetroot, cooked, peeled and diced (that would be one vacuum-pack of pre-cooked)
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • drizzle olive oil

DRESSING

  • 1 200ml tub creme fraiche
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp fresh horseradish
  • handful dill fronds, chopped

Check the salmon fillets for pin bones. Mix up all the other ingredients to make the cure. Lay out a double-thickness of cling film and spoon on some of the cure. Top with one piece of salmon, skin side down. Add most of the rest of the cure. Sandwich together with the other piece of salmon, skin side up. Add the last of the cure, wrap up tightly. Put in a container (like a roasting tray), and weight. Keep somewhere cool (fridge or garage if it's cold enough) for at least 3 days or up to a week. Check every day, pour away surplus liquid, turn the salmon, and re-weight.

On the day, unwrap the salmon and brush off the remaining cure. Slice into thin slivers. Mix up the dressing and toss the salad.

The salmon will now keep in the fridge for a week and can be used as smoked salmon.

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Trout Excelsior

Every so often we go somewhere, and I pick up a menu to bring home. It seemed a sensible thing to do, to jot down dishes that looked particularly interesting in the vague hope of recreating them at some point. Some of them, of course, we didn't eat or even see, so this might be a bit of challenge.

 

From the Evesham Hotel: Trout Excelsior

Cornish smoked pink trout fillets with celeriac and walnuts in a lemon mayonnaise

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Crispy Pea and Parsley Gyozo with Stem Ginger and Lemongrass Dip

This looks good. I like parsley, but John doesn't, so a whole article on great recipes featuring parsley in fresh magazine June 2005 was a natural bit of food porn for me. You could use coriander, I suppose. No nutritional info given, but fried, so probably Not Good. Makes 12 gyozo.

 

Dip

  • 300 gms greek yoghourt
  • 1 tsp finely chopped lemongrass
  • 2 knobs stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
  • 1 crushed clove garlic

Mix all together and put in a pretty bowl.

Gyozo

  • 300 gms peas, lightly cooked
  • small bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and black pepper
  • 12 gyozo wrappers
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • oil for frying
  • Maldon salt and chilli flakes to garnish

Lightly mash the peas or pulse in the processor, to a slightly coarse paste. Add the parsley and season. Put a teaspoon of filling in a wrapper, and brush the border with egg yolk. Fold to make a semicircular pasty and pinch edges to seal. Crimp the edges with a fork to make pretty and provide extra seal. Fry in hot oil, a few at a time, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt and chilli flakes to serve.

If you can get Japanese mayo, that could probably sub for the yoghourt – although it's also quite sweet so maybe you could reduce the stem ginger, or you could use sushi ginger instead. Fat-free yoghourt and fresh ginger would take the calorie count way down.

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