Jambalaya

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Jambalaya is a spicy Creole rice dish which makes the most of a range of ingredients from vegetables to chicken to prawns and back again. It can be adapted as much or as little in the way of meat as you like but is also delicious as a vegetarian option by loading up the veggies. I like to serve it in the middle of the table as it can look really quite impressive and that way everyone can help themselves- I can guarantee that there will be no leftovers!

 

Ingredients- serves 4
1 tbsp oil
2 chicken breasts- cut into chunks or strips
100g chorizo- cut into chunks
1 onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed or finely sliced
2 celery sticks- finely sliced
1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper- sliced
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
200g long grain rice
400ml chopped tinned tomatoes
400ml chicken stock
Small pack of raw king prawns- deveined
3 spring onions- finely sliced

1. Take a large non-stick frying pan and heat oil over a medium heat. When hot, add the chicken and chorizo and cook until the chicken is browned off and the chorizo is starting to turn golden and crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside but keep the delicious juices.

2. Add the onion, celery and pepper to the pan and fry until softened. Near the end add in the garlic cloves so they don’t catch. Stir through the mix of paprika, cayenne, oregano and thyme and cook for a further minute. Add the chicken and chorizo back to the pan and stir well to coat the meat with the spice mix.

3. Add the uncooked rice in and stir to combine with the rest of the ingredients. Add in the chopped tomatoes and half of the chicken stock next and bring the pan to a simmer. I also added a handful of halved cherry tomatoes for an extra sweetness against the spice but this is optional. Pour in the remaining stock gradually so the rice has time to absorb the stock and so it doesn’t start to dry out. This will need to simmer for 30-40 minutes until the rice is tender- some rice may take a bit longer than others so do keep checking and tasting as you go. If the jambalaya looks like it’s a little dry then add a bit more hot stock.

4. When the rice is tender and the stock has been absorbed, add in the raw prawns and spring onions and cook until the prawns are cooked through and tender. Serve the jambalaya in warmed bowls and dig in!

A spicy jambalaya- perfect for the ever-changing weather until we wait for the summer that we were promised!

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Sweet and sour pork

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Sweet and sour pork is one of the mainstays of most Chinese takeaways and restaurants and is known and loved throughout the land. There’s only one snag though- it’s rich often cloying batter so I decided to give the dish a revamp and lose the batter but not compromise on flavour. If you know me, I am not a huge fan of fruit in savoury dishes, but the pineapple in this dish is a must as it balances the flavours and is deliciously tender. If you prefer, you can substitute pork with chicken.

Ingredients- serves 3-4
For the sauce
3 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp plum sauce
4 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp lea and perrins
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- peeled and grated
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp corn starch in 4 tbsp. water

For the rest
Groundnut or vegetable oil
1/2 fresh pineapple- peeled, cored and chopped
1 red and 1 green bell pepper- chopped
350-400g pork tenderloin tossed in 2 tbsp seasoned corn flour- chopped

1. Kick off proceedings by combining all the sauce ingredients in a small pan and heat over a low heat until starting to thicken; remove from the heat whilst you start the pork.

2. Take a pan that you can shallow fry in and add enough oil; heat to medium- high. In a couple of batches, fry the cornflour flour tossed pork until golden. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon, blot onto kitchen roll to remove excess oil and set aside.

3. In a wok, add a glug of oil and fry the pineapple and peppers until softening and until the pineapple is picking up a little colour. Pop the pork in the wok and cook for a further couple of minutes before adding the reduced sauce. Continue to cook until well combined and the sauce is coating each piece of pork. Serve immediately with rice or noodles and dive in!

Sweet and sour pork- not a scrap of batter in sight!

Honey duck with vegetable pilaf

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Pilaf is a spiced rice based dish that is common across the world and can be packed with a whole range of ingredients, from vegetables to meat to fruits and everything in between. I have used a vegetable pilaf here to pair with the richness of the duck which is glazed with honey and pomegranate molasses. Pomegranate molasses gives a sour edge so you have different layers of flavour running throughout the dish to give a balance.

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the duck

1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 duck legs

For the pilaf
Glug of vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- crushed
150g long grain rice
1/2 aubergine- finely chopped
1 carrot- finely chopped
400ml hot vegetable stock
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
Handful of fresh coriander and parsley

1. Get started by seasoning the duck legs with salt. Combine the molasses, honey and oil and brush onto the duck legs so they are well coated; set aside. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for the duck later on.

2. Heat the oil for the pilaf in a wide pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic; cook until softening. Next up goes the aubergine and carrot and, again, cook until softening. Sprinkle over the spices and stir well to combine.

3. Pop the duck legs on a wire rack and cook for around 35-40 minutes until the juices run clear. The time may need to be adjusted depending on the size of the legs.

4. Meanwhile, add the rice to the pan and add the stock little by little as it is absorbed a bit like you do when you cook a risotto. Continue to do this until the rice is cooked and tender. `Check the levels of spicing as you go and adjust to taste.

5. When the duck is ready, rest it for a while to help the juices reabsorb which makes sure the meat is really tender. Finish off the pilaf with the freshly chopped herbs and serve.

Honey duck with vegetable pilaf- spice up your life!

 

 

 

Kimchi rice bowl with braised pork and prawn

After recently restocking my supplies of kimchi I thought it was only right that this kimchi rice with prawns and braised pork belly took pride of place on the dining table. Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and has become much easier to get hold of in recent years.

The key to cooking the rice is to prepare it ahead of time so it has plenty of time to cool before stir frying to reheat. This will give you rice that is fluffy without being stodgy. I cover the rice with water and then bring to a boil before simmering with the lid on for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the lid on so it steams. You’ll get perfect rice every time!

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the pork
2 generous slices of belly pork
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp gochujang paste
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 garlic clove- crushed
1/2 tbsp runny honey
400ml water

For the rice
300g white rice- cooked and cooled
Glug of groundnut oil
50g kimchi- shredded if in larger pieces
1/2 tbsp gochujang paste
Bunch of spring onions- half shredded, half kept whole
1 tbsp sesame seeds
200g raw king prawns

1. Start by preparing the pork belly. Cut the pork into bite sized pieces. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pork for 2 minutes before removing from the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain the water and dry the pan before placing it back on the hob over a medium heat.

2. Add the vegetable oil and dissolve the sugar into it. Pop the boiled pork into the pan and cook until golden; this may take a good few minutes so don’t rush it. Combine the gochujang, soy, rice wine vinegar, garlic and honey and add to the pan; stir well to coat the pork before adding the water. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for an hour until the pork is meltingly tender and the sauce is reduced. Towards the end of cooking you may like to remove the lid to help it reduce even more.

3. Next up goes the rice base for the dish. Get going by heating a large wok or frying pan and popping in a little groundnut oil over a medium heat. Add in the kimchi and garlic and cook for a minute before adding the gochujang. Half of the spring onions need to be shredded and added into the pan next before tossing the cooled rice through to heat. Add the pork chunks back into the pan along with the prawns and stir through, cooking until the prawns are cooked through. Sprinkle in the sesame seeds before serving. Lightly trim the remaining spring onions and oil before griddling and serving on top of the rice.

Kimchi rice bowl with prawn and braised pork belly- a delicious introduction to Korean cuisine!

 

Paella

After a recent trip to the local market and the purchase of some fabulously fresh and juicy prawns as well as succulent squid, a colourful paella was the natural choice to make to enjoy the ingredients at their best. Paella hails from Valencia and traditionally includes rabbit however these days you find paella containing a range of meat and seafood. I have used a combination of chicken, chorizo, prawn and squid but simply replace the chicken with rabbit if you like. Rabbit is easily accessible all year round and is also relatively economical.

So, as this trip to the market progressed I found myself drawn to a local cookware shop where a rather large (46cms to be precise) paella pan landed in my hand. A paella pan is worth the investment and you can find them in a range of sizes. A paella pan is flat and shallow which cooks the rice evenly. Paella rice should be firm but tender; don’t confuse it with risotto rice as this is more creamy. For this reason paella rice should not be stirred too frequently so avoid the urge!

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Ingredients- serves 6
Glug of vegetable oil
2 red onions- finely chopped
4 garlic cloves- crushed or finely chopped
150g chorizo- sliced
6 large vine ripened tomatoes- chopped
3 chicken breasts- cut into inch pieces
500g bomba paella rice
600ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
Saffron threads
3 jarred roasted red peppers- sliced
100g garden peas- shelled
3 small squids- cleaned and cut into rings
Shell on whole king prawns- as many as you fancy!

1. Heat the paella pan over a medium to high heat on the hob before adding a good glug of oil. Pop in the onion and cook until softened before adding the garlic for another minute or two. Add the chorizo and chicken; cook until the chorizo is starting to crisp on the edges and the chicken is just cooked on the outside. Next the chopped tomatoes go in and these need cooking until the chunks are breaking down.

2. Add the paella rice and stir well to combine so the grains are coated in the tomato mixture. Put the saffron threads into the hot stock and pour all the stock into the pan. Stir so the rice is evenly distributed in the pan. Pop in the sliced red peppers and sprinkle in the peas; simmer for around 20 minutes and stir from time to time. Test the rice and when it is a few minutes away from being ready, add the prawns and squid rings. The prawns are ready when they turn a beautiful blush pink and the squid will be tender. Finish with some chopped parsley if you like and serve immediately.

Prawn, chicken and squid paella- a perfect dish for a summery day!

 

Smoky chilli, tequila and lime brisket

Smoky chilli, tequila and lime is a classic Mexican combination which have been brought together in this wonderfully full and deep flavoured chilli. The key to this is to cook the brisket for a longer time on a low heat to give it chance to develop the spice levels. I have used a combination of ancho and arbol chillies as the ancho brings a gentle smokiness and the arbol adds a bit of fire! Stock up on these beauties over at http://spicemountain.co.uk.

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Ingredients- serves 4
600g (approx) beef brisket
Glug of vegetable oil
1 onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or grated
2 tsps of the following spices: ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne
30ml tequila
1 lime
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
400ml beef stock
2 large dried ancho chillies
2 dried or fresh arbol chillies (optional)

1. Start by preheating the oven to 170c/ 150 fan. Take a deep casserole that will by large enough to fit the brisket and add a splash of oil. Brown off the brisket on each side over a medium/ high heat before removing and setting aside.

2. Pop in the onion and garlic and cook on a medium heat until softening but not turning golden. Next up go the spices, stir well to coat the onion and cook for a further minute to help release their flavours. Add the tequila and juice from one lime and reduce by half; this will also deglaze the bottom of the pan. The tequila adds a bit of bite but if you prefer you could also use a light beer.

3. Add the chillies, stock and tomatoes and return the brisket to the pan and bring to a simmer. I leave it for a few minutes on the hob bubbling away before placing in the oven for 2- 2 1/2 hours. Check it for time to time and add a splash of stock if needed so it doesn’t try out. The chilli should be rich, dark and unctuous when it is ready and the meat should fall apart. Serve with rice or filled in tacos and dig in!

Smoky chilli, tequila and lime brisket- a taste of Mexico in the comfort of your own home!

Indonesian style stir fried rice

Perk up your tastebuds with this flavoursome rice recipe. It uses a crunchy combination of vegetables as well as succulent prawns and pork which go well with Indonesian spice. Ketjap manis features in this recipe to give a further tang- this can now be found in supermarkets and is a thicker, spiced version of soya sauce.

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Ingredients- serves 4
250g long grain rice- precooked as per pack instructions
1 red chilli- finely chopped
1 banana shallot- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
3cm piece of fresh ginger- finely chopped
50g sugar snap peas- sliced thinly longways
1 large carrot- grated
200g raw king prawns- deveined
200g pork loin or similar- cut into bite size pieces
3 tbsp ketjap manis
Handful of fresh coriander- chopped

1. Get a large wok and place a glug of vegetable or groundnut oil and heat. When the oil is hot, add in the chilli, shallot, garlic and ginger and cook for a minute. Next in goes the sugar snap pea slices and carrot for a further minute.

2. Pop in the pork and prawns for a two minutes before stirring the precooked rice in well to combine everything. Leave on the heat as you add the ketjap manis and keep it cooking. Taste as you go and adjust the amount of ketjap manis if needed. I also made a wafer thin omelette which I then thinly sliced and stirred through the rice. When the prawns and pork are cooked through finish with a final flourish of fresh coriander and serve.

A tasty stir fried rice- perfect to brighten up a dull January day!