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Luscious Lemon Cake

We celebrated Charles’ 29th birthday at the beginning of this month, so I made him this luscious lemon cake.  Of course, it was pretty difficult to keep it as a surprise with him popping in and out of the kitchen every now and then, and he had already spotted the homemade lemon curd in the fridge, even although I took a jar to his Mum to disguise the true reason for whipping up a batch a couple of days previously.  Not to worry – he knew there would be a cake of sorts so the fact that he knew it was a lemon cake was neither here nor there.  Besides, he had asked for a ‘healthy’ cake after we had spent the previous week working our way through his Dad’s ridiculously chocolatey birthday cake.

Anyway, it was a success all round after a few hairy moments during the decoration stage when the hot, muggy day combined with the heat of the dishwasher drying caused the icing to become a bit too slidey on occasion!  I decided to decorate it with loads of pick’n’mix jelly sweets and Haribo because jelly sweets are just about the only treat Charles has been allowing himself (apart from birthday cake, of course) since we both started eating a bit more healthily in preparation for our wedding (and in preparation for being super old).  I thought his Dad would think it was all a bit childish, but it raised a few laughs and smiles, after all, you can’t have a sweetie birthday cake once you’re in your thirties now can you?  This cake would still be great for general eating, and doesn’t really need any decoration, so you could leave off the sweeties and instead get creative with piping, texturising your icing or perhaps adding some candied lemon peel or edible flowers to make it a little prettier.  It’s effectively a moist lemon drizzle cake sandwiched with lemon curd and lemon curd buttercream, and decorated with the same lemon buttercream.  Delicious.  And perfect for summer.

Luscious Lemon Cake

Luscious Lemon Cake

Ingredients

    For the sponge:
  • 250g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp double cream or milk, or 2 tbsp crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • zest of two lemons
  • For the syrup:
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • juice of 2 lemons (so two whole lemons for the whole recipe in addition to the lemon curd!)
  • For the lemon curd buttercream:
  • 150g salted butter at room temperature
  • 4 tbsp double cream or half as much of your substitute
  • 300g icing sugar
  • Around half a jar of fresh lemon curd, although it's easy to get carried away!

Instructions

  1. Start off by preheating an oven to 160c fan or 170c non-fan assisted, and line yourself a couple of sandwich tins. Grab a large mixing bowl and a digital scale and that's you ready to go.
  2. Weigh out the butter and give it a good mix for a couple of minutes with an electric hand mixer to start it off on the road to becoming creamy and fluffy.
  3. Add the sugar and repeat the mixing process, continuing for a good 3-5 minutes on high power until the mixture is really creamy and fluffy and full of air. This is such an important step if you want a light and fluffy cake.
  4. Next, add the eggs, and repeat the process with the hand mixer. The introduction of the eggs should give you another chance to introduce some serious air, and you should only stop once it's pale coloured and almost frothy in texture.
  5. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, and quickly whisk in.
  6. The last stage in making your sponge batter is to weigh in the flour and measure out the cream or crème fraîche and add these to the mixture.
  7. This time, however, you want to introduce your electric whisk relatively gently and for as little time as possible, as this stage is just to combine the flour and moisture - overworking the batter will develop the gluten in the flour and give you a tough, heavy sponge, undoing all the good work you did with the butter, sugar and eggs. Whisk until just combined (although don't stop before it is combined or you might end up with pockets of flour in the finished cake).
  8. Your cake batter is ready for the oven! Divide it as evenly as possible between your greased and lined cake pans - I find a silicone spatula to be really helpful to scrape out the batter relatively efficiently making sure you don't waste too much to the washing up bowl. Even out the surfaces, but don't move it around too much or you could overwork the batter.
  9. Slide the cake pans into the oven and cook for around 20 minutes or until golden on the outside, starting to shrink from the sides of the pans and just springy when lightly pressed on top. Try not to open the oven until they look done as you could risk the sponges collapsing if the middles are still quite liquid.
  10. While your sponges are baking, you can get the syrup ready, as this needs to be poured over the sponges while they're still warm.
  11. Cut the lemons in half and thoroughly juice them, discarding any seeds.
  12. Grab a small saucepan and weigh out the sugar and water then add the lemon juice and stir it all together over a low heat on the hob. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up and allow the mixture to boil and reduce down for a few minutes. You want a syrupy consistency, so don't be scared to keep it simmering if you think it's too thin - it's going to be poured over the sponge so you want it to catch and seep through, not soak immediately through the cake.
  13. When the syrup and sponges are both ready, leaving the sponges in the cake pans, carefully divide the syrup between the two sponges, pouring it slowly over the surface of both sponges, being careful not to over-saturate any one are of the sponge. Now leave them alone until completely cool.
  14. In a clean bowl, weigh out the butter for the lemon curd buttercream and give it a whizz up with the whisk. Add the cream and whisk again. The wetter and creamier you can get it the easier (and less messy!) it will be to add in the icing sugar.
  15. Now add the icing sugar and beat this in well, trying not to cover everything in a cloud of icing sugar dust!
  16. Add the lemon curd and mix again, and that's the buttercream ready for the cake.
  17. When the sponges are nice and cold, turn them out onto a plate or cake board, turning the first sponge upside down and centring it on whatever you're serving the finished cake up on. Peel off the greaseproof paper circle and check it's fully cool underneath before proceeding.
  18. Spread a layer of buttercream onto the bottom sponge, a few mm thick.
  19. Then add a layer of lemon curd, bearing in mind that if this is too thick the weight of the top sponge might squeeze it out.
  20. Now repeat the turning out process with the other sponge, placing it upside down on top of the first sponge. Using a pallette knife, ice the cake all over, as evenly as you can manage.
  21. And that's you ready to decorate!
  22. As I mentioned earlier, I decorated Charles' cake with lots of jelly sweets....
  23. ...and some birthday candles.
  24. But it will be delicious either way!
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Nigel Slater’s Lemon Curd

This isn’t just lemon curd.  This isn’t even our lemon curd – it’s Nigel Slater’s Lemon Curd.  This post is a bit of a departure from our usual style. Whilst we have a couple of recipes waiting in the wings, we have to be honest and admit that when it comes to the classics, we do like to turn to the tried and tested recipes penned by those old enough to know better from time to time. Whilst I would normally skip over these episodes of unworthy of original blog content, Charles suggested that some of the classics by the biggest names in UK cookery were actually worth of review and I think he might be onto something.

lemon curd
Lemon curd seemed like a good place to start. It’s something we’ve both made a number of times, and it in fact featured in a poem which was read at our wedding. We’ve both tried various recipes, including Delia’s, but I was intrigued when I read Nigel Slater’s lemon curd recipe given he uses a whisk to get it all mixed up – a bit of a departure from the usual wooden spoon or silicone spatula and decided that this was worthy of comment!

lemons
To make Nigel’s lemon curd, you will need:

4 unwaxed lemons (if you can’t get unwaxed you can scrub waxed ones – B of B’s edit, not Nigel’s)

200g sugar (I used caster, but Nigel doesn’t specify)

100g butter

3 eggs and 1 egg yolk

how to make lemon curd
To make it, I found it easiest to get all the ingredients ready first, starting with finding a Pyrex bowl and small saucepan which would allow the bowl to balance comfortably with space below it for some simmering water, then adding a few inches of water to the saucepan and putting it on a medium heat hob.

lemon zest
Next, zest the lemons into the Pyrex bowl and then juice them and add the juice to the bowl, removing any pips. I find this to be the most time-consuming part and it’s unavoidable, but Nigel rather glosses over the time you need for this stage by stating that they should be zested and juiced in his ingredients list.

lemon squeezer
Stir in the sugar, and cut the butter into cubes.

cubed butter
Place over the simmering water (try not to be tempted to use a very hot hob as boiling the water will tempt the water to overboil and potentially jump into the curd, or boil dry, or cook the curd so hot that it scrambles, which is the elephant in the room in terms of curd failure or success.

nigel slater's lemon curd recipe
Stir until the sugar has dissolved then add the cubes of butter.

eggs
Meanwhile, crack 3 of the eggs into a bowl and separate the fourth, adding only its yolk to the bowl. Whisk together with a fork.


Stir the lemon, sugar and butter mixture until the butter has all melted. Now, Nige doesn’t mention it, but you should really consider the temperature of the bowl and mixture st this stage because you’re about to add the eggs. If you’ve ever made custard, you’ll be familiar with the danger of scrambling the eggs if you add the cream or milk when it’s too hot. Likewise, with lemon curd, it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to cool the melted mixture (even though you are going to have to heat it again) to be sure you aren’t going to scramble the eggs and waste all the time you didn’t zesting and juicing all those lemons. The simplest way is just to take it off the heat and give it a stir for a minute or two. Next, pour in the eggs, being ready with your whisk to stir it all together to even out the temperature of the two bowls before there are any disasters.

making lemon curd
This takes a bit of muscle, but it does mean the curd is immediately much thicker than it would be by any other method. Now, get whisking! I used the whisk to sort of stir it around most of the time, whisking it up properly as it thickened, as it’s actually pretty difficult to whisk a hot liquid in a steaming bowl which moves around all the time!


When it’s well on its way to being done, the texture will become more consistent and small frothy bubbles will start to form on the surface. If it’s taking too long , you may be tempted to turn the heat up, and you can do, just be careful of monitoring it and consider turning it back down if the water underneath the bowl is boiling too hard – the point at which your curd is ready versus when it can turn bad is pretty precise so a more controlled temperature is a more cautious approach. It’s really important too that you stir constantly, even if it does take 10 or 15 minutes to get to the correct consistency. Your curd will be worth it!

lemon curd
Checking it’s ready was pretty difficult with the whisk. Nigel says it should “feel heavy on the whisk” but Charles’ whisk is pretty heavy anyway so my wrist was too tired to tell the difference. As I had experience of making lemon curd, however, I could tell that the thick custardy texture was nearly ready so I grabbed a silicone spatula to dunk into the mixture. The curd coated it, and the costing remained separated after I ran my finger through it, so it was ready to be poured into sterilised jars to set and later refrigerate.

lemon curd
Overall, the result was a decently balanced fresh lemon curd, thick, zesty and tart, but sweet and creamy enough to make it as moreish as fresh lemon curd tends to be. Whilst it was a little odd getting used to the whisk, and required more concentration that the endless stirring I’ve encountered in the past, it made for a much, much quicker way of producing three small jars of curd. And that makes it a winner in my book!

Speedy Guacamole

Come on, we all know the world has gone nuts for avocados, and I’ll admit that they’re great in salads, on toast, or with prawns served up in them like my Nana still likes to offer up at Christmas time (although I hated them as a kid and can now understand why my parents were puzzled when I turned my nose up at these fantastical fruits!), but they’re purest, happiest form to me is smooshed and served up as a wonderful guacamole and served alongside fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas or plain old tortilla chips.  Especially if your tortilla chips are homemade too.  I’ve been meaning to share this one for awhile as it is so easy and a great way to use up that extra ripe avocado that’s lounging around in your fridge.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve justified a tex-mex meal on the basis that I have an avocado to use up!  As you may know, avocados tend to go brown if left in the air to oxidise for too long – although the squeeze of lime should help to prevent or at least slow that process down – so I like to leave this until the very last practical minute to make up prior to serving – usually whilst the chicken or beef is frying off or when the finished article is in the oven in the case of enchiladas, but it really is so quick and easy that it’s no stress to organise it that way.

This isn’t a traditional guacamole recipe, as there are usually chunks of red onion and chilli added to guacamole recipes, but it’s how I prefer to eat it – smooth, creamy, zesty and the perfect foil for that spicy, cheesy mexican food!  As with most of our recipes, this will be plenty to serve alongside a mexican meal for two people.

Speedy Guacamole

Speedy Guacamole

Ingredients

  • One ripe medium avocado
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp lime juice

Instructions

  1. Cut the avocado round its middle, lengthways, until you hit the stone, being careful not to cut yourself. Remove the stone, either by squashing it out, pulling it out, or carefully edging the blade of your knife into it and twisting (this is the higher danger option as it can get stuck on the knife and it'll be quite slippery to remove, but it's also the most effective for me).
  2. Squash, scoop or fork out the flesh from both sides of the avocado and mash up in a bowl. I went for the messy option and used the ramekin I was planning to serve the guacamole in, but you might find it easier to use a larger bowl to give you room to mash and mix and then serve it all up in a prettier, cleaner bowl.
  3. Add the chilli powder and salt and mix these in well.
  4. Add the lime juice and mix it in well. And that's your guacamole ready to serve!
  5. If you have any left over, cover it and keep it in the fridge, but make sure you use it up the next day. It may still discolour a little but it will be safe to eat.
  6. If you want to shrink the recipe down for one serving, use the avocado half that the stone doesn't stick into. Reserving the side which still contains the stone will help to stop the avocado discolouring whilst it's waiting to be used, and I also like to pour a little lemon juice over the surfact before cling filming well and putting in the fridge.
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Why not try serving it up alongside our homemade quesadillas or tortilla chips?

Quick Tasty Pork Rub

Pork loin steaks and pork chops tend to be readily available, whatever the season, in supermarkets and butchers alike, so this quick tasty pork rub recipe is a great one to have in your back pocket to transform a simple and balanced supper into a delicious weekday treat. If you’re anything like us, you’ll already have the ingredients in stock at all times (not the pork, obviously), but if not, they’re all fairly common ones which can be used in all sorts of recipes meaning they’re worth investing in.

Quick and Tasty Pork Rub

Quick and Tasty Pork Rub

Ingredients

  • 4 pork loin steaks or 2 large chops
  • 1 heaped tsp dried oregano
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin
  • 1 heaped tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 heaped tsp dried thyme
  • pinch salt
  • crack of black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Take the pork loin steaks (or chops) out of the fridge a good half hour before you plan on cooking them. This rub isn't a marinade so it doesn't need a couple of hours to settle into the meat; but you could of course use it that way if it's more convenient for you.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180c fan, and prepare a good sized baking tray by lining it with tin foil.
  3. Get yourself a clean bowl and add each herb and spice to it in the quantities given above, starting with the dried herbs and spices then adding the fresh thyme.
  4. Feel free to alter the proportions if there's something you prefer to taste, or leave out or substitute ingredients you don't have to hand for those you do. This is convenience food!
  5. Mince up or grate up the garlic before adding it in.
  6. Add the oil and stir everything together.
  7. Rub the rub into both sides of the pork and lay it onto the baking tray.
  8. Put in the oven for around 8 minutes until it looks cooked on the surface.
  9. It should be juicey and tender, but cooked through.
  10. Serve up with your choice of sides. We plumped for a lemony vegetable cous cous made with a little vegetable stock and lemon juice as well as some green beans.
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This recipe would also be great for sticking on the barbecue, just make sure it’s nicely cooked before you serve it up.  That said, there’s been a change in heart as  to whether pork can be served up pink.  We reckon it’s a matter of personal preference and are happy to serve it to ourselves that way, it helps it to stay as moist and tender as possible, but we wouldn’t serve it up like that to guests if they weren’t willing to try it!

If you liked this recipe, why not try our summery chicken marinade, which also works well in the kitchen or on the barbecue.

Easy Paprika Chicken Traybake

There are some evenings when you have less time and inclination to throw together a home-cooked meal, but when you still want something satisfying, filling and – most of all – tasty.  This easy paprika chicken traybake is the perfect solution.  A bit of chopping, a bit of grating, a bit of sprinkling, chuck it in a casserole dish and fire it in the oven for 40 minutes and you’re golden.  Your chicken will be too.  This is definitely going to become a staple on the Blunty’s supper table.

Easy Paprika Chicken Traybake

Easy Paprika Chicken Traybake

Ingredients

  • 1 packet chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 large onion or 4-5 shallots
  • 2 beetroot
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes, depending on size
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 knob ginger
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika (unsmoked paprika will do if it's all you have)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • drizzle olive oil
  • a sprig each of fresh rosemary and thyme (optional but lovely)
  • A few slices of cooked chorizo (also optional but delicious, or if you prefer cooking chorizo you use that instead, just cut it into chunks and add around 20 minutes into the cooking)

Instructions

  1. Remove the chicken from the fridge and preheat the oven to 200c
  2. Chop the onion, beetroot, sweet potatoes and pepper into chunks or wedges.
  3. Set the peppers aside and add the other vegetables to the casserole dish along with 2 cloves garlic.
  4. Sprinkle on the cumin and fresh herbs, if you're using them, and mix everything around in the dish.
  5. Grate or microplane the remaining garlic and ginger, and rub into the chicken.
  6. Add the paprika, lemon zest, seasoning and olive oil and rub into the chicken.
  7. Set the chicken on top of the vegetables. Pop the whole dish in the oven and leave it alone for around 30 minutes.
  8. At the 30 minute point, remove from the oven, add the pepper chunks and chorizo and slide back into the oven for the remaining 10 minutes.
  9. When it's ready, the sweet potato will be cooked through, the onions will be caramelly and the chicken will have a beautifully crisp skin.
  10. Enjoy! Any leftover chicken will be delicious cold for lunch the next day.
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If you love chicken, but you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, why not try our Coq au Vin recipe?

Coq Au Vin

There are many days when all I want to do  is throw together a stir fry and eat something light and tasty but there are other days when I feel like settling into the kitchen and putting time and effort into preparing something a bit more complicated. This was one of those occasions.

Some people are a bit funny about eating meat on the bone, but if you’re one of them, just make this in advance, and give yourself time to pull the meat off the bones. Often it’s easiest to do that when it’s stone cold, and you can use your fingers instead of a knife.


For this tasty treat, you will need:

10 shallots

4 carrots

1 packet of smoked bacon lardons or about 3 thick slices of pancetta, cubed

2 cloves garlic

Around 8 chicken thighs and legs

Around 12 button mushrooms or chestnut mushrooms

Salt and pepper

1 beef stock pot

3/4 bottle drinkable red wine

A few sprigs of fresh parsley and rosemary

2 tbsp plain flour

Recipes using bacon lardons

  1. Trim off any of the excess fat on the bacon lardons that you don’t like the look of, then add them into a large stock pot or casserole on a low heat to let the fat render a little, then turn up to brown.  Remove the bacon from the pot when it’s looking tasty.chicken thigh recipes
    2. If there’s alot of fat still kicking about in the pot, carefully use a piece of kitchen towel to mop up the excess.  With the heat still on high, add 4 of the chicken pieces to the pot, skin side down to start with, and brown on both sides.Recipes using chicken thighs  3.  When golden, set aside on a plate to cool.  Add the remaining 4 chicken pieces and brown on both sides.  Set those aside.
    Hoe to cook chicken thighs    4.  Next, it’s time to prepare the vegetables. Skin and half the shallots and add them into the pot, turning the heat down to medium.
    Recipes using shallots  You should be able to do some of the vegetable chopping while the bacon and chicken are browning.

5. Finely chop the garlic and add it to the pot once the onions are getting on their way to cooking.photos of shallots  6. Peel and chop the carrots into chunks and add them to the pot.

recipes using carrots 7.  Let the vegetables cook gently for 10 minutes or so.

8.  Then add back the bacon and chicken, pour in the wine and dissolve the beef stock pot in the pot.  The meat and veg should be nicely covered by the liquid.  Season and add the fresh herbs.  Now leave the whole thing to simmer for around half 20 minutes, with the lid on.

Coq au vin recipe

9.  After 20 minutes, add the smaller mushrooms whole and halve or quarter any larger ones.  Put the lid back on and allow to simmer for another 20 minutes.how to make coq au vin 10,  when it’s just about ready, the sauce should have turned from red to brown and the meat should be starting to fall away from the bones, but your sauce will still be quite thin.  To thicken it, simply put the flour into a mug, cover with cold water and mix into a paste.  Add to the pot, stirring constantly until it comes through the boil.  Cook out for a few more minutes to get rid of any floury textures.

 11.  Serve up with green vegetables and potatoes or wholegrain pasta.  It reheats really well but it’s easiest to do so once you’ve taken any remaining meat off the bones.

Coq au vin

Bon appetit!How to make Coq au Vin

Sweet Potato and Salmon Fishcakes

Fishcakes are something that look and sound relatively appetising and healthy ( well, not to Charles as he doesn’t eat fish) but in the end they turn out to be much less good for you than you would think when you take into account all those potatoes, the butter or milk you add to the mash, the breadcrumbs and the oil those crumbs suck up while you’re getting them crispy. 

This recipe, made with lower carb, higher vitamin sweet potato mash and not crumbed or coated in the slightest, will just about fulfill that fishcake craving without any of the guilt, as well as being much simpler to make. 

 Salmon and sweet potato fishcakes 
 You will need:

2-3 sweet potatoes 

2 boneless salmon fillets

1/2 onion

1 clove garlic 

2cm fresh ginger

2 tbsp olive or groundnut oil

Salt and pepper 

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp chilli powder 

Handful frozen peas 

A few leaves of fresh parsley or coriander (optional)
recipes using sweet potatoes
  1. Cut the sweet potatoes in half and place cut side down on a foil lined baking tray and put into the oven at 180c for 25 minutes to half an hour. When they’re ready you should be able to squeeze the flesh out of the skins relatively easily. 
 salmon recipes 
  2. Sprinkle some smoked paprika onto the salmon fillets, place on a foil lined tray and cook at 180c for 8 minutes or until just cooked. healthy recipes 
  3. Chop the onion and grate the onion and garlic. Cook off in a little oil until the onions are translucent and allow to cool a little. salmon recipes 
  4. Remove the salmon fillets from the oven. Mash up the sweet potatoes with a fork – you’ll find this much easier than making mashed potato – then mix in the salmon, onion mixture, spices and seasonings. fishcake recipes 

 5. Add the frozen peas straight from the freeze then add in the herbs and mix it all together. how to make sweet potato cakes 
  6. This is where things got a bit messy for me! Because you aren’t using starchy potatoes as the base for your fishcakes, the mixture will be quite wet and sticky so I found it easier to turn the mixture into parties immediately before frying it up – if you put them down while you make the others they’ll just stick to everything and be quite difficult to pick up again. 

healthy meals 
  7. Set out a medium frying pan with a tablespoon of your preferred oil in it, set into a high heat. Fry each fishcake in turn until nicely brown on both sides.healthy fish recipes 

Then serve with lots of lovely vegetables (and add a poached egg if you like your protein!). 

Mushroom and Brown Rice Stuffed Peppers

I’ve been sceptical of stuffed peppers for many a year, fearing I’d be branded a vegetarian for daring to tuck into one. As part of my new year’s resolutions, I vowed to get more adventurous with food and so stuffed peppers became my first experiment (only to find that Charles had done the same thing 2 days before).

I was pleasantly surprised, so here’s one way to make them.

Stuffed pepper recipe You will need:

One shiny lovely red pepper (or indeed a pepper coloured to your taste)

One portion of brown rice – I made too much but enjoyed munching my way through the leftovers)

1/2 brown onion

1 clove garlic

4 chestnut mushrooms or 8 button mushrooms

Olive oil

1 tbsp butter

A sprinkle of dried parsley

A sprinkle of dried thyme

Salt and black pepper
vegetarian meal ideas 1. Get the brown rice on to cook first in some salted water, as it will take around 20 minutes to cook.  Finely chop the onion and mince or grate the garlic. Preheat the oven to 180c.
Mushroom stuffed peppers   2. Slice the mushrooms.

how to cook onions 3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, turn the heat up a little and throw in the onion and garlic.
How to make onion and mushroom stuffing 4. Cook out the onion until browning and translucent, but don’t turn the heat up too high or you might burn the garlic. Add the mushrooms, seasoning and herbs and cook out until the mushrooms are just cooked (they’ll get more cooking in the oven). recipes using brown rice 5. When the rice is tender, drain it and place it into a bowl.
 Tasty Stuffed Pepper Recipe 6. Mix the onions and mushrooms into the rice.  Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary – this should be really tasty and moreish if the balance is right.
How to stuff peppers 7. There are many ways to stuff peppers – some people half the pepper and fill it up, which would be a great accompaniment to a heavier meal, but I wanted this to be the star of the show so I serves up a whole one by neatly slicing the top off and removing all the seeds and sinew from inside, giving me this lovely edible bowl.
 8. Add the filling, squashing as much in as you’d like, but remembering you need to get the top on.  Use a form to push it right down into the corners.
Midweek Meal Ideas 9. Pop it on some tin foil on a baking tray, drizzle with some oil and put in the oven at 180c fan for 25-30 mins depending if you like your pepper crispy – don’t roast it for too long though as it could become too soft and collapse! Exploding peppers!

Resipes using peppers I served mine with a piece of salmon and some green beans for a delicious, filling, (relatively) healthy meal – you could swap out the oil for butter, but I much prefer butter with mushrooms!
Peppers stuffed with brown rice Hopefully we’ll be sharing some alternative ways to stuff peppers in the future – Charles has his filled with spicy cous cous! Let us know what you think, and remember to sign-up to our mailing list!

Pork and Red Pepper Burgers 

The Mary Berry recipe for these calls for minced pork. I pinched an idea from my future mother-in-law, however, to make this recipe my own, (as she makes beef burgers using beef she grinds up herself – resulting in the tenderest burgers you can imagine) and to try to control the quality a bit, especially as I’m trying to focus on protein, fruit and veg as far as possible. Blitzing up your own meat lets you strip out all the sinew and fat. It takes longer, but it’s a much more satisfying process. This recipe made 4 burgers using a relatively small piece of pork. 

  
You will need:

1 pork tenderloin

1 red pepper 

4 shallots

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp chopped fresh basil or parsley

Salt and pepper 

2 tsp Dijon mustard 

Because I’m trying to cut down on carbs (especially empty ones like in burger bindings) I haven’t added in any breadcrumbs and egg isn’t really necessary as the onion and pepper will add alot of moisture. 

  
1. Finely chop the shallots and pepper. Don’t worry too much about their evenness – they’ll all get puréed later. Cook until soft then allow to cool. 

  
2. Trim the pork and cut into chunks. Put the cooled veg mixture into a food processor (or bowl and blend with a good stick blender) and blend until mostly smooth. I left some lumps for texture. Remove and then replace with the pork. Blend until smooth. This part doesn’t smell great but it makes lovely burgers!

 
3. Put the blended mixtures in a bowl together and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well with your hands then form into round patties.

  

4. Gently fry on both sides until firm to the touch, flipping every few minutes to stop them burning. Don’t over cook or they’ll dry out. 

  

Serve in a bun or with salad, rice, wedges, whatever you like! 

   

Chilli Con Dos Carnes

I’ve made basic Chilli Con Carne more times than I can remember. But I was reading Nigella’s Kitchen the other day and thought that her version, which features cocoa powder and chorizo, might be worth a try, especially as I had chorizo in the fridge. This recipe, therefore, combines elements of her recipe and my own (although I’m not convinced the cocoa powder added much!)

I just ate mine with some home-made guacamole and baked tortilla chips with a light sprinkling of Gruyère over the top while it was still hot from the pot. It’s warming, it’s filing and it’s (mostly) full of goodness. And let’s face it, there’s not much better than a pot of chilli bubbling on the stove on a Sunday afternoon!

  
You will need: 

110g approx. of cooking chorizo

500g beef mince (or lean steak mince if you can get it)

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp mild chilli powder 

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped 

1 knob of fresh ginger, grated

Salt and pepper 

1tbsp tomato purée 

1 normal tin of chopped tomatoes (400g approx.)

1/2 tomato tin of hot water swirled around to catch the remnants (full can of not using the coffee)

1 good splash Worcestershire sauce

1 can kidney beans 

1 carrot

1 onion

1 pepper 

1/2 cup brewed coffee (optional)

Beef stock (optional) – I used 1 Knorr Stock Pot

  
1. Slice the onion, carrot and pepper however you like and add to a casserole dish which has been preheating on the job with a splash of oil in it and cook until starting to soften. 

2. Slice the chorizo into thick disks, then quarter the disks. Add a new pan on a low heat and cook on both sides until starting to brown, and until you see the fat starts to render out. You can, of course, cook this in the main casserole dish if you’d like; I just prefer it this way so you can control how much fat ends up in the final Chilli. 

3. Add the grated garlic and ginger, stir, then add the tomato purée, turning down the heat to avoid the garlic burning and to help the tomato purée to render out into sweetness. Then add the chorizo to the vegetables, and however much fat you wish to include. I used quite a hot chorizo so I got rid of all of the rendered fat, leaving a residue in the pan for browning the mince. 

  

4. How you continue at this point is up to you, but for me, this was dictated by the size of my casserole dish!  You want to gently brown the mince, not boil it, so if you don’t have alot of space in the casserole (or large saucepan), I would advice browning the mince in the pan you used for the chorizo. Add the mince to the pan in batches, making sure you don’t overcrowd the pan, occasionally flipping and stirring it, until it had sealed all over. Sprinkle the mince with the cocoa, dried herbs and dried spices. 

5. Add the mince to the casserole, stir into the vegetables and add the tomatoes, water, stock, coffee and Worcestershire sauce. Give it all a good stir and allow to simmer on a low heat for at least 40 minutes, but 1 or 2 hours would be best, stirring occasionally. If it starts to get dry, add in some more water or coffee. 

 
6. When you think you’re about half an hour or so from the finish, strain the kidney beans and add them to the Chilli. I like to rinse them out as well, as they seem to accumulate a purple goo in the tin which perturbs me a little!

7. Continue to simmer until you’re happy with it, adding any other seasonings you feel are needed to taste.  Serve with rice, tortilla chips, salad, tacos, whatever! The world is your kidney bean. It is fantastic with sweet potato wedges, with lashings of cheese, sour cream and guacamole. 

   

¡Buen provecho!