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Pumpkin, Pecan & Spinach Mash for Inbetween Days

Not a looker but this mash is delicious

Summer has gone. The leaves are falling, the winds rising, and the rain is a more regular visitor. The nights close in earlier than before.

It’s that time of year when it is impossible to dress correctly, always being too hot, or too cold. It’s just not all that pleasant.

But, it’s not all bad.

Pumpkins are in season again, their proud round orangeness proclaiming the arrival of an imminent Halloween. Carve ‘em, light ‘em, and make them a jack ‘o lantern. Do eat them too, they’re delicious.

I love them in soups, curries, tarts and pies. I love a rough and tumble of diced cooked pumpkin with strong cheese, nuts and spinach. I especially love them in a mash.

Now this mash is non traditional. It’s crunchy and soft, salty and sweet. For me it was the perfect plate of comfort that I needed to get me through one of the first autumn evenings.

Now pumpkins may seem tricky, but I promise that they’re not. For this, buy one small one, cut in half and scoop the seeds and fibres out with a spoon, then drizzle with olive oil and roast for 25–30 minutes at 180 deg C, until just tender. Now they will be very easy to peel and mash, and the flavours will be concentrated. Just delicious.

Read more for the recipe: Pumpkin, pecan and spinach mash for inbetween days | iVillage UK http://www.ivillage.co.uk/pumpkin-pecan-and-spinach-mash-inbetween-days/13514

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The Beauty of the Bird: Another Lovely Duck Breast Recipe with Soya and Spice

Soy & Spice Marinaded Duck Breast

More duck?! So sue me, I love eating duck. It’s definitely been the bird of choice this winter. I generally love all poultry, but duck is so rich in flavour, so receptive to marinades and so easily available that it has featured heavily in this winters cooking.

One of the things that I love about cooking birds is the variety of textures and flavours possible with each. Take duck, as we’re talking about that. The breast is tender and gentle with lovely tender skin coasting a slim layer of bouncy delicious fat. Cooked properly with the fat rendered out slowly, you’ll get a gentle slightly crispy skin and tender pink flesh. The legs are wonderful slow roasted so that the skin is super crispy and the meat dark and falling off the bone. The flavour is intense and rich, and ok it’s fatty, but so what? As long as you’re not eating them every day, you’ll be ok.

Duck loves fruit, duck loves spice. Hey! So do I. We can be a kitchen dream team. I have been experimenting a lot with it, and have a host of new recipes, including a new favourite recipe which I have made 3 times this week, seeing how it worked with legs and breast and playing with the spicing. A slow cooked roast leg was lovely, but the breast, which has the bonus of cooking really quickly, was much better for me.

I love it and I hope you do too. There are a lot of ingredients but they all contribute and don’t let them put you off, it’s easy peasy, just make sure you take the time to marinade it. The cooking time for the duck will depend on the size of the breast, cut into it to see if unsure, you want it to be pink.

Soy & Spice Marinaded Duck Breast

Soy & Spice Marinaded Duck Breast

The marinade will cover 4 breasts in an dish that fits them compactly or a freezer bag

Ingredients

Marinade:

75ml soy sauce
50 ml rice wine
2 tbsp honey
3 star anise
1 red chilli, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
5 cloves
1 large cinnamon stick, broken in pieces
sea salt & black pepper

4 x duck breast, rinsed, and wiped dry

Method

Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade, season with S&P to taste. Bash them about a little with a rolling pin or pestle to get the flavours talking to each other.

Slash the duck breast at intervals of a cm or so just to the skin, but not through it.

Cover the duck with the marinade in a compact dish or a freezer bag and rub it in with your fingers. Marinade for as long as possible, at least 2 hours if you can, or over night.

Wipe the marinade from the duck breast and fry on a low to medium heat, skin side down for 8-10 minutes or so, to render most of the fat out and crisp the skin. No oil is necessary, there’s lots of fat in the duck already.

When the skin is crisped slightly (it won’t go like roast skin but will go gently crisp) turn over and turn up the heat to medium. Cook for a further 5 minutes or so, until breast is still light pink but cooked. Let rest for a couple of minutes.

Serve sliced on top of stir fried pak choi or noodles fried with a little sesame oil, coriander and spring onion.

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Recipe: Balsamic & Thyme Duck with Aubergine & Tomato Mograbiah

Balsamic & thyme duck with aubergine & tomato mograbiah

I love a bit of urban foraging. Turning a corner and seeing rosehips, blackberries, wild garlic, the random edibles that grow in random places. This summer I even found a wild apple tree in the hedgerow at the end of the train track.

Another type of urban foraging I love is not really foraging at all, although I call it so. I love finding ethnic food shops and exploring their shelves looking for previously undiscovered delights that I can use at home in my kitchen.

A few years ago, one such forage yielded a bag of mograbiah in a Turkish shop. Like giant “giant cous cous” (really Israeli cous cous – widely available in the Jewish section of larger supermarkets and Jewish food shops), I wondered what it was. The instructions were illegible to me, so I chucked it in my basket and approached the counter.

I intended to ask the lady at the checkout for some advice, when she picked it up and looked at it, and I thought – SWEET! She’s going to tell me what to do with it. What she actually said was – I’ve always wondered what to do with this, do you know what it is?

Ah well. Not to worry, I love a challenge and a little kitchen adventure.

The mograbiah cooks like pasta, and in 15 minutes. It has a fantastically bouncy texture, and is great for supporting other flavours as it doesn’t really have a strong one of its own. Seriously useful then, and a little different too.

The duck, well it’s that season isn’t it? There’s game everywhere and I fancied a little bit of duck. I love roast duck, and duck legs with crispy skins and fork tender flesh, but I also love duck breast, cooked pink, with lovely crispy skin.

How to cook it? I often spice it, but I wanted to veer from that. Duck loves fruit (plum sauce, with cherries, a l’orange etc.) and I had a fantastically fruity and rich balsamic vinegar from Belazu that I knew would be a perfect partner. It’s rich and syrupy, sweet with a tang that would be great with the duck fat. Some aromatic thyme would give it some nice herbaceous notes,and smoked sea salt I find irresistible at the moment, although normal sea salt would do.

What to serve with it? I decided on a bed of bouncy mograbiah salad (why else would I rattle on about it at the start?), with some meaty fried aubergine, fruity fresh tomatoes, and some very thinly sliced acidic onions threaded through the other ingredients. Just one regret, it needed some flat leaf parsley, but you can add that when you make it at home.

It’s a quick dish. In total, if organised and excluding marination time, you could put it together in half an hour. It’s flavours belie this speed, big bolshy and still gentle, it’s a Winter treat. A quality balsamic is important, the Belazu one is really good being fruity and sharp. It’s £12.99 but worth it, a recommended kitchen investment.

WINE: this was lovely with an NZ Pinot Noir. We had one from the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Range which was actually very good when allowed to breathe for half an hour or so. It was a quite reasonable £9.99 too. Quite fruity and light, it worked well with the fruity balsamic vinegar and is a great partner for duck anyway. More traditional Burgundy Pinot Noirs would work very well too.

Balsamic & Thyme Duck with Aubergine & Tomato Mograbiah

Serves 2

Ingredients

Mograbiah Salad:

150g mograbiah
1 average aubergine, diced
8 cherry/baby plum tomatoes, halved
half a red onion, sliced down the middle, and sliced finely after that
a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Duck:

2 duck breasts
5 tbsp good balsamic (it needs to be rich)
6 or so sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from the stems
Smoked sea salt or normal sea salt, to season

Method

Combine the balsamic & thyme and marinade the duck in it, skin side down, for at least an hour.

Fry the aubergine in a little oil for 10 – 15 minutes until brown and cooked.

Cook the mograbiah by boiling in salted water for 15 minutes or until tender.

Combine the mograbiah, aubergine, tomatoes, onion and parsley and dress with some olive oil. Balsamic is optional but not necessary as there will be a strong flavour of that from the duck.

Heat a solid based frying pan to a low heat, and fry the duck breasts, skin side down for about 8 minutes until most of the fat has rendered out.

Take the duck out, pour off the fat and quickly rinse the pan (it will be quite sticky) before heating to a medium-high heat, and crisping the duck skin a little for a minute or so. Don’t worry too much if it looks black, the balsamic will do that.

Turn down the heat to medium, and cook the flesh side of the duck for about 4 minutes, when the duck should be cooked to pink. You can check by cutting through the end of one, you will be serving it in slices anyway. For the last minute or so, add the remaining marinade and let it reduce to a sticky sauce which you can pour over the meat. Yoyu may want to thin it out, depending on how much you have left.

Rest the duck for a few minutes, season, then slice and serve on top of the mograbiah.
Enjoy!

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Recipes from the Archives: Some Top Winter Warmers

November is a lovely month to spend indoors, cooking for friends and family around a roaring fire, mulling some wine or gin or confecting some hot port. Those weeks leading to Christmas demand a certain prudence in advance of silly season, when things can get a little too much.

There’s lots of old recipes on this little blog that have remained very popular over the years, and remain the most read. They could almost be called The Pork Files, however there’s a couple of great vegetarian numbers and others to enjoy also. Some newer readers might not know them, and it’s always nice to have a list of Winter Warmers, so here you are, my top suggestions for those toasty evenings in.

Prawn Curry

A spicy dazzler, and one of the most popular recipes on this site (second recently to it’s vegetarian sibling which will appear later in this post). Buy your spices whole and use the best tinned tomatoes and you will be rewarded with a warming and fruity curry with clear bright flavours.

Pea & Ham Soup

Pea & Ham Soup

A take on Heston’s version published in the Times, this offers lots of big flavours and comfort.

Slow Roast Pork Shoulder

Slow Roast Pork Shoulder

A 6 hour recipe, but chuck that in your oven first thing on a Sunday morning and you will be rewarded with a perfect roast pork shoulder with sensational crackling. You won’t need a knife for the meat, you could serve it with a spoon if you like. Lots of pork fat will render which will be perfect for roast potatoes.

Five Spice Duck Breast

Gentle, soothing, and very quick to make. The crispy spiced duck skin topping the pink tender meat is great for weekday evenings.

Roast Pork Belly, cooked simply

Simple roast pork belly is a winning recipe. The fat renders out leaving gentle, tender bit, and crispy crackling. Bone in is best giving a much richer flavour.

Roast Pork & Black Bean Chilli

Perfect for leftovers from your roast pork belly or shoulder above, it’s a great follow up to a Sunday roast on a Monday evening. Again, bright fresh spices and good quality beans make a huge difference.

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

This is one of the most popular recipes I’ve ever posted. People email about it frequently and meat eaters and vegetarians both love the big flavours. It’s healthy too.

Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach

Another chickpea recipe that is also very popular, thbis makes a great snack and is perfect for lunch.

So, there you have it. A good starting point, I think and I do hope that you enjoy them. More Winter Warmers will be winging their way to you soon.

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Recipe: Chorizo, Iberico Pork Belly and Chickpea Stew

Chorizo, Iberico Pork Belly and Chickpea Stew

Chorizo, Iberico Pork Belly and Chickpea Stew

It has been a good week for cooking. I love it when Winter saunters in and I have so many excuses to retreat to my kitchen and cook up my own storm to match the one outside. A mid week shopping trip provided excellent ingredients, particularly the Iberico pork belly I used in my last recipe, I used it again today.

I tend to cook old favourites right now, and it occured to me that I haven’t really blogged them. I always like to cook new things and experiment for recipes that wind up here, but I’ve decided to start blogging my old favourites, those soothing winter warmers, over the next little while.

The Iberico pork belly is a big fatty piece of salted pork belly from those finest of Spanish pigs. It’s like super fat pancetta that when rendered, releases smoky rich fat that adds a beautiful dimension to any dish, I am not sure I’ve ever had anything quite like it. The lovely Iberico pigs  spend their lives happily wandering munching on acorns, and then they end up on plates everywhere, luxurious and expensive. This piece wound it’s way to me via Selfridge’s Food Hall.

In a previous post I said that it was 80% fat, really it seems to be more like 95%. It’s very, very, rich. I diced it into cubes, then sauteed it, watching it melt like ice cubes, the fat rendering and spitting, unhappy at being released but calming as it rendered further. When only small crisping cubes were left, I added the chorizo, letting it sparkle in the Iberico fat, releasing it’s own orange fragrant fat and joining the party. 

This is not an everyday dish, as this amount of animal fat ,whilst delicious, would surely cripple if regular. But treat yourself occasionally, with a bold glass of rioja to accompany and I promise you a lovely evening.

Chorizo, Iberico Pork Belly & Chickpea Stew

Serves 4

Ingredients:

100g Iberico pork belly or pancetta
200g hot fresh cooking chorizo (I use Brindisa)
500g cooked chickpeas (substitute 2 tins)
1 tin good tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
500ml good light stock like chicken
A handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

Dice and sauté the iberico pork/pancetta for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, and rendering most of the fat. Add the chorizo for anothyer 3/4 minutes, until seared and the fat is orange. Then add the finely chopped garlic cloves for 30 seconds or so.

Add the chickpeas, tomatoes and stock. Stir thoroughly, and cook for 30 minutes.

Take off the heat and stir in the parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve with good crusty bread or toast. With a compulsory glass of rioja.

Enjoy!