This week’s menu

  • Carnitas w/ lettuce wraps, guacamole and crème fraîche. 
  • Braai-spiced chicken drumsticks w/ coleslaw 
  • Leftover chicken, salad, cheese and coleslaw
  • Roast lamb w/ garlic cauliflower mash and greens
  • Aubergine stuffed w/ pork mince and peppers
  • Hula meatballs w/ greens and oven-roast cauliflower-rice 
  • Lamb curry w/ coconut cauliflower-rice

Carnitas! (gluten-free)

I love carnitas. Nothing better than tacos or quesadillas with braised, shredded luscious pork…. drool.

As tacos are off my menu I prefer to take my carnitas on salad (á la Chipotle) or wrapped in gem lettuce leaves, topped with all the usual fajita trimmings. I also have a bit of a weakness for transforming gnarley looking, tough cuts of meat into to something delicious – as with my lamb curry. Enter – Pig Cheeks.

Like many offal cuts it benefits from slow cooking as the collagen breaks down to leave über-tender meat, but there’s no gaminess, weird texture or smell, and no “acquired taste” required.  The finished texture after braising is similar to stewed shin of beef, and the flavour more rich than with pork shoulder cuts. Are you sold yet? If not, the final gem is that it only costs about £7/ kg (from Waitrose, all trimmed, zero extra effort required) and a half dozen cheeks (about 500g) will easily produce enough for 4 people so no need to spend all day cooking a cook a whole pig. DISCLAIMER: unless of course, you want to. In which case please invite me over 🙂

Back to the carnitas. This recipe doesn’t come out very spicy but it can easily be garnished with chillies or hot salsa if it takes your fancy. Always easier to add than to remove…..

Take a large, cast-iron pot and heat a couple of tablespoons of fat. Lard is traditional. Olive oil works fine. Season your 6 pigs cheeks with S+P and brown them in batches over a medium heat, setting aside to catch any resting juices. When the cheeks have all been browned (ooer… ) throw 100g cooking chorizo, chopped, into the pot and allow it to render its spicy paprika oil. When nicely browned, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside with the cheeks. Now, sauté 1 onion and 1 fennel bulb (both finely sliced) in the paprika infused oil until softened and translucent before adding 2 cloves garlic (minced). Take care not to burn the garlic at this stage. When the raw garlic smell has gone, pour in 200ml cold water to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Then stir in 1 tsp hot, smoked paprika, 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried thyme) 1 tsp ground cumin and half a cinnamon stick. Return the pigs cheek and chorizo to the pot, along with any resting juices, and combine well. Add enough cold water to cover the meat (approx. 400ml but will depend on size of pot) and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

When the time is up, turn off the heat. I like to take this opportunity to pop to the pub for a bit, but you could just crack on with dinner. Your choice. Remove the lid. It may look like meat stew with too much liquid. Be brave. Now stir enthusiastically for a few minutes until the pork breaks down, and you’ll see it soon transforms. If the finished mix is still too wet, just simmer with the lid off for a few minutes. I normally freeze half to two-thirds of the batch and prefer it to have a little extra liquid so when it’s been thawed and reheated I can let it simmer down without drying out.

Serve on lettuce cups with an assortment of guacamole, salsa, soured cream and grated cheese to garnish.

A very inauthentic Gumbo

So, it looked like Spring had come last week. Nice and sunny, warm enough for flip-flops. You know the routine. This week – WTF? what happened. Down to nearly zero at night and the wind is so beyond ‘nippy’ it’s not funny. I’d planned to start a regime of getting out in to nature and enjoying the fresh air – sod that.

Feeling cold makes me what to eat stodge (preferably of the pizza variety, failing that something with custard) so I adapted my stir-fry dinner plans to make a huge pot of steaming gumbo. Hot, garlicky, spicy, soupy – what more could you want?

I had to make a few adjustments to the authentic recipe, as the base requires a roux. This not only thickens the finished stew, but gives it a rich flavour. There are Paleo variations for the flour but instead I omitted the roux altogether and relied on okra to thicken the soup. I’m sure I’d be shot by anyone from Louisiana for even entitling this ‘Gumbo’ but you gotta call it something!

  • 100g Smoked garlic sausage [like andouille, but French 😉 ] sliced into thick rings then halved.
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp Paprika, ½ tsp each Oregano and Thyme, ¼ tsp each Cayenne pepper, Garlic powder and Onion powder
  • 1 tblsp tomato paste
  • Tin chopped toms
  • 3 cups Chicken stock
  • 100g Okra, trimmed and sliced
  • 3 x skinless, boneless chicken thigh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 100g cooked prawns

Fry the sausage in a smidge of oil until golden. Remove from pan, but keep the garlicky oil in there. Sauté the onion, pepper and celery until just translucent then add the garlic. Stir until the raw garlic smell is gone. Now add the seasonings and tomato paste, stir for 30secs before adding chopped toms and chicken stock. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer. I let this simmer and reduce for about 15mins before adding the okra and sliced chicken, then simmer until chicken is cooked. Add the prawns and the reserved sausage and heat thru. The okra should have thickened the soup nicely. Serve in a bowl with a spoon and expect seconds 🙂

Homemade Nakd bars

Though I much prefer the flavour of Lära bars, Nakd bars are more easily available in the UK. Like Lära bars they have a low number of ingredients, but they’re still pretty pricey for what they are. I’ve checked a few different recipes online and this seems to work for me, and produces a batch of 12 for less than 50p per bar – based on buying small quantities of ingredient from Waitrose.

Fruity Bars:

  • 150g whole, un-blanched almonds
  • 50g pecan halves
  • 12 large, pitted dates (approx. 220g)
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 40g desiccated coconut
  • 1 tblsp melted coconut oil

Chocolate Orange Bars:

  • 150g whole, un-blanched almonds
  • 50g macadamia nuts
  • 20 large, pitted dates (approx.360g)
  • 40g good quality cocoa powder (Green & Black)
  • Zest or 1 orange, plus 1 tblsp juice

For either variation, pulse the nuts until broken down. You don’t want dust, just make it nice small crumbly bits. Chuck into a large bowl. Pulse the dates a few times before adding the remaining ingredients. You’ll now have a datey dough ball.

Knead together the nuts and fruit until it looks evenly combined. Press into a lined 8″ square tin and bung in the freezer for half an hour to firm up. Turn out onto a board and cut into 12 bars. Ta daa!

If you wrap carefully in greaseproof paper and foil, they can keep in the freezer for a few months so you always have a sweet treat to hand. Otherwise they’ll be ok in the fridge if you intend to eat them quickly but don’t forget, these are still a high sugar snack, even though that sugar is fructose. These should only be consumed in moderation.

This week’s menu

  • Lamb curry with roast cauliflower
  • Carnitas on baby gem lettuce with guacamole, salsa and sweet potato wedges
  • Czech meatballs w/ leeks and mashed swede
  • West African Chicken w/ cauliflower and broccoli
  • Bobotie topped w/ sweet potato rosti, and steamed cauliflower leaves
  • Leek lasagne
  • Chicken and prawn gumbo
  • Pork ribs w/ coleslaw and sweet potato wedges

Super-quick chocolate mousse

Melt 100g dark chocolate. Can be done in a microwave on medium for 2-3 mins, but remove before completely melted, then stir until smooth.

Stir in 200g cold fromage frais. Divide between (up to) 2 glasses and eat immediately!

My favourite sausage dinner (adapted from Delicious Magazine)

This is a really nice way to eat aubergine as it goes super soft and creamy, so no nasty squeaky bits. Plus only needs a frying pan and a baking sheet to prepare. We have it between 2 with some broccoli on the side, but it’s meant to serve 4, so you only get half an aubergine and 1 sausage each. A green salad and the garlic bread as they suggest might work. I don’t add the breadcrumbs at the end, but use parmesan or a little mature cheddar instead.

MUST USE DECENT SAUSAGE!!! I get the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 70% pork in the 10 packs when they’re on special and split them up to freeze. You only need 4 sausages so does work out quite economical. I’ve been known to bung the rest of the pack of sausages on the baking tray too cook while this is roasting so I have cooked sausage in the fridge for frittatas etc. This week I used my own chorizo-style kofta sausages (from WellFed2) as they’ve been in the freezer a while. 

Whole thing costs under £4.50 to make 🙂

http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/sausage-and-herb-stuffed-aubergines-recipe

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How to be a Domestic Goddess

Following a few weeks off, trying to adjust to an office-free existence, I finally got my backside in gear and invested a whole day in the kitchen. As a result, my freezer is now full to bursting and I have a whole month’s dinners planned!

Dinners:

2 x Lamb curry
2 x Pork cheek and chorizo carnitas
3 x West African Chicken stew
5 x beef and pork ragu
3 x Lamb bobotie
1kg Czech meatballs
Jerk seasoned, shredded ham hock
Bora bora fireballs (pork and pineapple meatballs)
Grilled chicken thighs
Spanish pork casserole
Eisbein
Farm shop beef meatballs

 

Sorted. I like to be ahead of the curve, but if I have to chop another onion any time soon I may go postal 🙂