Fiery Indian green chilli pickle

If you’re afraid of the chilli then run away and duck for cover as this bad boy is not for the faint of heart! This Indian green chilli pickle uses a traditional mix of pickling spice to give a flavoursome but punchy pickle. Make a large jar and share the joy of it with everyone you know! Maybe warn them that it gets hotter the longer you keep it though…

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Makes a jar:
30 serrano chillies or approx. 50 green finger chillies
2 tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp medium or hot chilli powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
Juice of one lemon
5 tbsp of vegetable oil

1. First you need to get going with the preparation for the pickling spice mix. The mustard, fennel and fenugreek seeds one spice at a time and dry roast in a small pan until fragrant. Each spice should take around 30 seconds to roast; put them aside to cool down.

2. Grind the spices so they are coarse and add the salt, asafoetida, chilli powder and turmeric to the mixture.

3. Next up wash and pat dry the chillies of your choice before chopping into 2mm pieces. If you want to reduce the heat level in the pickle then you can remove some or all of the chilli seeds as you go.

4. The pickle needs to be kept in air tight jar (I use Kilner jars which have a proper seal) and make sure the jar is properly sterilised. Now it’s time to mix the pickling spices, chillies, lemon juice and oil together and give a good old stir before putting into the jar. I then push the chilli mixture down a bit with the back of a spoon to level it out a bit and you can then top it up with extra oil if needed in order to create a protective layer if you find the chillies have absorbed some of it.

That’s all there’s to it! The pickle can be used straightaway however I like to leave it for at least a day to develop the flavour- if you resist!

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Slow cooked sticky Chinese pork belly slices

Forget your favourite Chinese takeaway this week and give this a try. The sweet pork belly meat is balanced with a savoury and punchy marinade which is a surefire winner!

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Ingredients- serves 4
8 pork belly slices
1 tsp five spice
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns- ground (optional)
2 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 garlic clove- finely grated

1. This pork benefits from being marinated in advance, even the night before if you can so the meat can take on the different flavours. To make the marinade, simply mix the spice and wet ingredients before massaging into the belly slices. Cover and keep in the fridge before you need it.

2. When you’re ready to cook the belly, preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Place the belly slices onto a baking tray and cover with foil. Cook in the oven for 1 hour. As the pork cooks, check it occasionally and use the sticky juices to baste as needed. After the first hour, turn the oven up to 200c/ 180 fan, remove the foil and cook for a further half an hour.

Serve with long grain rice and a vegetable side dish. I served with a mixed vegetable stir fry of shredded pak choi, tenderstem broccoli, sugar snap peas and spring onion which was finished simply with soy sauce and sesame oil.

Unctuous pork belly- move over takeaways!

Traffic light bean chilli and ‘burrizzas’

A great chilli should be part of everyone’s repetoire. It’s easy to make in batches and can be adapted to please the tastebuds of your nearest and dearest. This traffic light chilli is as colourful as it is flavourful and, funnily enough, contains ingredients that resemble traffic lights. As ever, I make way too much and then got creative with using the leftovers to make ‘burrizas’. What’s a ‘burrizza’ I hear you cry? Well read on…

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Ingredients- serves 4
Glug of vegetable oil
1 large onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 red and 1 orange pepper- sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
3-4 arbol chillies
1 fresh jalapeno- finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tins of mixed beans- drained and rinsed
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
400ml vegetable stock

1. Take a large pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic and peppers until they all begin to soften before adding the herbs, spices and chillies. Cook for a further minute and then add in the tomato puree and cook for an additional minute. I used Mexican arbol chillies which have a real kick and are well worth a try if you haven’t before. I pricked the chilli a couple of times to help the flavour infuse.

2. Add the drained beans, tomatoes and stock and bring to a gentle boil before reducing to a simmer. You can then cook this on the hob for an hour or two until the sauce is thick and reduced. This chilli also cooks well in the oven on a low heat for a couple of hours if you prefer.

3. Rescue the chillies before serving so none of your guests have a nasty surprise when they bite into one. Serve with rice or homemade tortilla chips and soured cream. To make tortilla chips simply cut a stack of tortilla wraps in wedges and shallow fry in vegetable oil until golden on both sides.

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If you have any leftovers then read on for another way to serve the chilli…

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‘Burrizza’

All you need to make a ‘burrizza’ is tortilla wraps (allow one per person as they are filling), a handful of sliced jalapeno rings, grated cheese and tomato salsa. Simply fill a tortilla with some of the chilli and fold. Pop the folded tortillas in an overproof baking dish so they are nice and snug with the folded side placed on the bottom so they hold together. Spoon over the tomato salsa before topping the wraps with the chilli and cheese. Bake in an oven which is heated to 180c/ 160 fan for around 20 minutes until the chilli is warmed through and the cheese melts.

Why choose between a burrito and pizza when you can have a twist on both?!

Smoky Hungarian pork goulash

In honour of an upcoming trip to Budapest I thought it was only right to get into the spirit of things with a warming, spicy goulash. I have used pork here but you can use beef if you prefer. Much like a lot of traditional recipes, there is no definitive goulash recipe but this is my take on it. I slow cooked this in the oven for 3 hours but you could do it in a slow cooker if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4

400-500g diced pork
1 large onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
Pinch of all spice
Pinch cinnamon
150g button mushrooms- halved
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tins of chopped tomatoes (use 1 if using a slow cooker)
400ml chicken stock
1 dried ancho chilli

1. Preheat the oven to 160c/ 140fan while you get cracking on the pork. Take a large casserole pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium to high heat. When the oil is hot, brown off the pork pieces a few at a time until sealed off and golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. In the same pan, cook off the onion and garlic until softening. Next up goes the spices. I used a combination of smoked and hot paprika but you can adjust these to taste if you want a bit more heat. Goulash comes in a range of heats so play around! Cook the spices for a minute before adding the tomato puree for an additional minute. I also added a dried ancho chilli to give a fruity, smoked flavour which worked perfectly alongside the blend of spices.

3. Add the pork back into the pan along with the mushroom, chopped tomatoes and stock. Bring to a gentle boil before popping in the oven for 3 hours. The pork is ready when it is tender and falls apart under gentle pressure.

Serve with soured cream, sauerkraut and rice or potatoes.

A Hungarian classic that will leave everyone Hungary for more!

Carmarthen ham pasta with garlic and chilli

This is probably the most quick, straightforward but most delicious meal I have posted so read on. Carmarthen ham comes from a market town in Wales and is similar to Parma ham however the recipe for Carmarthan ham is said to predate its Italian counterpart. Carmarthen ham follows a traditional recipe and the slices are slightly thicker but less fatty and less salty that Parma ham however the pasta can be made with either.

I have kept this recipe simple so you can taste each element in all its glory so don’t be tempted to overdo it with any additions. You can find information about Carmarthen ham and order it  from the butcher over at www.carmarthenham.co.uk– you won’t find this anywhere else! A quick word of advice: buy more than you think you need as, if you’re anything like me, most will be eaten before it even hits the pan!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g spaghetti
30g butter
1 large garlic clove- crushed or finely chopped
1 small red chilli (fresh or dried)- deseeded and finely chopped
4 slices of your ham of choice- cut into thin slices
Parmesan to serve

1. Boil a large pan of water and cook the spaghetti according to the instructions. I keep mine slightly al dente.

2. When the pasta is a few minutes away from being ready take a medium sized pan and heat the butter. Cook the garlic and chilli for a couple of minutes until they release their flavour but be careful not to overcook- nobody wants burnt, bitter garlic! Add the slices of ham and cook for a further minute.

3. Drain the pasta well and add into the saucepan with the ham and toss to coat well. Serve in warmed bowls with a helping of grated Parmesan.

Carmarthen ham pasta with garlic and chilli- so simple and yet so effective! Treat yourself to a pack or two and you’ll definitely be hooked!

Spanish style marinaded quail with morcilla and pepper potatoes

A wonderous thing happened a few weeks ago when walking around Borough Market. We stumbled across a Spanish produce stall and morcilla jumped into my hands and propelled me towards the counter to seal the deal and I’m glad it did! Morcilla is a Spanish blood sausage which is perfect crumbled through dishes so this is when this recipe was born. I allowed two quail per person for a main meal but this recipe is easy to double as needed. I also served this with a dressed green bean side dish which is well worth a try so read on for the recipes for the quail, potatoes and beans!

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the quail
4 prepared quail
60ml sherry wine vinegar
40ml olive oil
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp runny honey
Salt and pepper

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For the potatoes
Glug of olive oil
250g new potatoes
1 large roasted red pepper- sliced
Handful of crumbled morcilla
Roughly chopped flatleaf parsley

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For the green beans
100g green beans- trimmed and cut in half
Glug of oil
1 garlic clove – finely sliced
1 shallot- finely sliced

1. Get started by making the marinade for the quail by combining the sherry wine vinegar, oil, paprika, oregano, honey and seasoning. Cover and set aside for at least an hour but longer if you have a bit more time.

2. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan when you are ready to get going, pop the quails in a roast dish and cook for around half an hour until cooked through and the juices run clear. During cooking I basted the quail in the excess marinade to keep them moist. I also covered them with foil for the first half of the cooking time before removing for the last part.

3. While the quail is roasting you can start the potatoes. Par boil the potatoes for a few minutes before removing and halving. If you halve them before cooking they can get a little soggy so this way round is better. Drain well and set aside as you heat a glug of oil in a frying pan. Pop the potatoes in the pan over a medium heat for 10 minutes until they are starting to become a little more tender and turning a light golden colour. Add in the pepper slices and crumble in the morcilla and cook for another few minutes. Sprinkle over the parsley when ready.

4. At this stage you can think about boiling a separate small pan for the green beans- multi-tasking at its best! The beans need to be boiled for 5 minutes and then removed with a slotted spoon before refreshing in a bowl of cold water. Reserve 100ml of the cooking water. Using the same pan, heat a small amount of oil and cook off the garlic and shallot for a minute or two before adding the reserved water and beans back into the pan. Pop the lid on the pan and cook for an additional few minutes until the beans are tender and the water has reduced. The water, garlic and shallot creates its own little kind of dressing.

Serve the quail, morcilla potatoes and green beans in warmed dishes so everyone can help themselves.

Spanish style quail with morcilla potatoes and dressed green beans- a perfect way to try morcilla!

Lamb, swede and feta bake

Think of this as a delicious twist on a traditional greek moussaka! It’s a perfect balance of sweet swede, savoury lamb and salty feta so dig in!

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
400g lean lamb mince
1 onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tbsp crushed chillies
1/2 tbsp oregano
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp tomato puree
Splash of white wine
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
200ml beef stock
1 swede- cut into thin slices

For the topping
50g butter
50g plain flour
500ml milk
1 egg
200g feta

1. Take a large pan and heat the oil over a medium/ high heat. Brown the lamb and remove using a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain any excess fat before cooking the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes over a medium heat. Add in the chilli, oregano and nutmeg for a further minute.

2. Next up goes the tomato puree to cook out for another couple of minutes before adding a healthy splash of white wine. Wait for this to reduce by half and then pop in the stock and tinned tomatoes. Season well. Simmer for half an hour until starting to reduce and then remove from the heat.

3. Take one large or two medium size ovenproof roasting dishes and lightly oil. Add a layer of the thinly sliced swede before adding the lamb and then another layer of swede. Preheat the oven at this stage to 190c/ 170 fan.

4. You then need to make the sauce for the topping by taking a medium-sized pan and melting the butter and flour together. Stir well before gradually adding the milk. Bring up to the boil and then lower to a simmer and cook until you have a smooth sauce. Remember to keep stirring! Take the pan off the heat (this is really important) and then crack one egg into it and whisk in well to combine. The egg thickens and enriches the sauce so it is a worthwhile addition. Next in goes 100g of the feta and stir well again. Pour the sauce over the lamb and swede before crumbling the remaining 100g of feta over the top.

5. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes before removing the foil and then cooking for another 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve with bread or greens.

I served mine with purple sprouting broccoli which I had steamed lightly before finishing in a frying pan along with a small knob of butter, panko crumbs, one anchovy and a clove of garlic which complemented the lamb perfectly. Lamb, swede and feta bake- a break from the ordinary!