My Foodie Adventures

Making up healthy recipes as I go along...

Year: 2015

Spinach Stuffed Pork With Roasted Vegetables

I recently came into possession of a large joint of pork and as a way of stopping myself from trying out 5 different pulled pork recipes* (which would have led to me sitting on my sofa eating the whole lot with a spoon) I decided to cook something that required a little more effort than I usually dedicate to the culinary arts.

It turns out, it was the same amount of effort (if not less).

It’s stuffed pork with vegetables. Slow roasted because I was playing Battlefield and you can’t pause that game.

There really isn’t much more to say about it, except it looks and tastes amazing. You really should give it a go.

*Once I have perfected my pulled pork rub (a phrase that sounds a lot dirtier than it is) I will post the recipe up here.

Ingredients:

For the pork.

Joint of Pork (I don’t know what size you want. Think about how many people are eating, gauge appropriately

Spinach (I just used baby spinach)

Ginger (I used pureed because I use it in almost everything and couldn’t be bothered to peel it every day)

Salt

Pepper

Cinnamon

Apple

Garlic

Paprika (Smoked or not, it’s your choice)

Method:

  1. Firstly, make incisions at about 1/4 inch along the skin/fat side of the pork at diagonals. I think this is either for aesthetics or decent crackling. Both good reasons
  2. Rub salt into the skin/fat bit
  3. Blend everything except the pork and paprika
  4. Make an incision in the pork and cut all the way through to the other side. You want a wide enough cut that you can get a decent amount of stuffing into it, but don’t bisect it.
  5. Stuff the pork. Just grab handfuls of the spinach mixture and cram it right on in there.
  6. Rub oil over the sides and underneath of the meat, but not on the fat/skin.
  7. Leave it to settle for a bit.

 

The Vegetables.

For mine, I used:

  • Fennel
  • Red onion
  • Carrot
  • Butternut Squash
  • Crushed Garlic
  • Cooking Apples

You can just grab whatever is in season, or whatever you like.

Chop them to roughly the same size, toss in a bit of oil and season with salt, pepper, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, fennel seeds, sage, oregano and a couple of bay leaves. Just a pinch of each, because otherwise you run the risk of not learning from my mistakes and every mouthful tastes like being punched by a spice merchant.

Cooking the lot

Make sure the vegetables all have room, you want one single flat layer. If you have them piled on top of each other they will steam and that’s not what we’re aiming for here.

Then mix apple juice and a beer of your choice (I had some Duvel in, but any hoppy beer will do).

Pour it in with the vegetables. You only want a really thin pool, about 2mm so the bottom of the chopped veg is sitting in it. We’re not boiling the veg in this mix (that’s for another recipe).

Sit the stuffed pork on top, skin side up

Cover over with foil

Set oven to… I’m going to guess at 200℃ but the numbers have all rubbed off on my oven dial so I, as previously stated, cook with guess work. It’s slow cooking, so just pick a fairly low heat. If it’s not cooking at all after an hour, turn it up.

Once the meat is cooked through (stab it, the juices should run clear) take the foil off, crank the heat up and cook it for a further 10 minutes. Make sure you check it regularly so it doesn’t burn. You want the skin to puff up and be crunchy.

Once that happens, take it out of the oven. Wrap the meat in foil and let it sit for 10 minutes. You can leave the vegetables in the oven so they don’t chill out too much.

Once it’s rested, put the vegetables on your plate(s), carve and serve the meat, pour on some of the juice from the bottom of the pan and enjoy.

Turning a Bag of Free Ingredients Into Moroccan Meatballs

I was recently gifted a load of ingredients from work. We had done a photo shoot using them and as the poorest person in the office, they felt it would be kind to ensure that I wouldn’t starve.

There was loads of stuff; tomatoes, coconuts, butternut squash, dried beans… just so much stuff. The things which piqued my interest the most, however, were the spices and giant couscous.

After we had carefully arranged the spices in the most photogenic way, we swept them all into a pot and I took them home. I don’t really know what was in it, but I’m pretty sure there was Ras el Hanout because I saw a tub of it on the table and there was definitely turmeric because my hands were bright yellow.

I had planned to make meatballs that evening, mainly because I had a kilogram of mince which I couldn’t fit in my freezer. The introduction of this plethora of free ingredients got my cogs turning and convinced me to push my boundaries a little. My comfort zone, regarding meatballs, is firmly in Italian territory. This gift gave me cause to ponder about ways in which I could venture out of my safe place and into a whole other world of flavour.

I decided to take a culinary trip to Morocco.

It does look as though this recipe is quite complicated, but don’t worry. I am a very lazy cook and I manage to get by on luck. So it’s actually pretty easy when put into practice.

There are two parts to the recipe because you make the meatballs and then cook them in the sauce. You can make the bits simultaneously which cuts down on prep time.

I took the leftovers into work as a way of thanking them for their charity and they went down an absolute treat. So I didn’t get to eat as much of it as I wanted, kind of a pyrrhic victory in that sense.

Moroccan Almond and Apricot Meatballs

CookingMeatballs

Ingredients:

Mince (preferably lamb, but any mince will do)

Shallots

Garlic

Flaked Almonds

Dried Apricots

Fresh Coriander

Salt

Pepper

Dried Chilli

Oil (any kind you like, really. I used coconut oil)

Method:

These meatballs are ridiculously easy. You won’t believe how quickly you can make them.

  1. Finely chop the shallots and garlic, like really small. Or put them in a blender, which I did
  2. Fry them off for a few minutes, don’t let them burn. You just want them to go a bit translucent
  3. Put all of the ingredients except for the mince in the blender and add the cooked mince and garlic
  4. Blend it for a short while. You don’t want it to turn into a paste, just really tiny bits.
  5. Grab a bowl, throw in the mince and your blended mixture
  6. Get your hands right on up in that bowl and start squishing. Make sure that the mixture is… mixed, I guess. What we’re aiming for here is a uniform spread in the meatballs, you don’t want to end up with one meatball that’s pure mince and one that’s pure mixture. We want even, uniform balls (let’s not be puerile, there is just no other way to phrase that sentence)
  7. Form what you end up with into balls (ok, it is kind of funny)
  8. Heat up your oil, don’t let it start smoking, or catching fire. That’s kind of obvious
  9. Put your meatballs in and cook them all over. I did that 12 o’clock thing where you start at the top of the pan and put them in the pan in a clockwise fashion so you know which went in first and can turn them accordingly
  10. Once they’re cooked all over, turn off the heat and get on with the sauce

MoroccanSauce

Moroccan Tomato and Apple Sauce

Before we make the sauce, which is also very simple, we need to do a quick prep with the apple. Simply chop an apple into small chunks, not too fine. Sprinkle on some cinnamon and toss them in a bit of honey. Roast in the oven until they go soft. Simple

Ingredients:

Tinned tomatoes

Roasted Apples

Chickpeas

Shallots

Any other vegetables you want really. The reason I didn’t add any to this was because I was putting them in the couscous

Garlic

Ras el Hanout

Turmeric

Cinnamon

Paprika

Salt

Pepper

Greek Yoghurt

Coriander

Dried Basil

Dried Chillis

Method:

Read carefully because this one is really complicated. I’m not even sure I can remember all of the steps, so I’ll just do what I can.

  1. Blend all of the ingredients except the chickpeas
  2. Stir in the chickpeas
  3. Pour over the meatballs and cook on a low heat until the meatballs are cooked throughout
  4. Reread this method because this is far too easy, you must have missed a step. That can’t be it, can it?

Phew! That one nearly got away from me. So glad I was able to recollect all of that

I ate this with grilled vegetables in couscous, the recipe for which I got from ThugKitchen. Word of warning, the language on that site is somewhat coarse, so tread carefully. But the food is amazingCouscous

Enjoy!

Let’s Get Classy, Don Draper Style…

Let me introduce you to my favourite drink. The Old Fashioned. A surprisingly simple drink which just makes you want to put on a suit and listen to jazz music. This potent potable has recently seen a resurgence in popularity, thanks mainly to the awesome TV show, Mad Men and Don Draper’s somewhat worrying penchant for them, at any hour of the day.

I recently took it upon myself to have a Mad Men Marathon; the first four seasons are on Amazon Instant Video, so it would be rude not to. Once I decided that this was how I was going to spend my weekend, I knew I would have to go all out. It wasn’t going to be as simple as pressing play.

I knew that I would have to mentally prepare myself for the blurred line between reality and TV, like the time I watched 30 episodes of The Sopranos and kept telling people to “fuhgedaboudit” and calling them a “schifosa” despite having no idea what it means.

For my initiation into the world of advertising in the 50s, this meant  I wound up wearing a suit and eating steak (rare, in case you were wondering).

However, about four episodes in, a thought dawned on me. My mouth was a little parched, probably because I had covered my steak in tabasco sauce and served it with chips covered in salt and vinegar. I knew I couldn’t just pour myself a normal drink. I needed a classy drink. I needed an Old Fashioned.

So, with introductions well and truly out the way, let’s do this.

*NB: There is no official, agreed upon method or recipe for an Old Fashioned. This is just how I make it*

Ingredients and Tools:

Whiskey or whisky (don’t just pick up a random bottle. The choice of alcohol plays a massive part in the taste of the end result)

Brown Sugar

Angostura Bitters

Orange Peel (just a small wedge will do, try not to get any pith because this will make it bitter and awful)

Ice (big chunky ice, you want it to chill your drink but not melt quickly and water it down)

Optional: A Drop of Water

You need a small tumbler for this, like in my picture up there. That was a glass I got free with a bottle of Jura.

Teaspoon

Method:

  1. Put about half a teaspoon of sugar in the glass, I had sugar cubes so I just used one of them
  2. Add a few drops of bitters and stir it in, this is where a drop of water comes in handy as you need the sugar and bitters to dissolve so you don’t end up with a saccharine sludge at the bottom of your glass
  3. Fill the glass with ice cubes and give it another stir, get the ice coated in the sugary bitters
  4. Put as much whiskey/whisky
  5. in as you like, it’s your drink, I won’t judge
  6. Point the orange side of the peel at your drink and give it a squeeze over it. This releases the oils and gives a light orange taste to your drink.
  7. Rub the peel around the rim of your glass and drop it in
  8. Final quick stir
  9. Slowly sip your drink and bask in its manliness. You’ll probably sprout a wicked moustache and talk like Ron Swanson, so prepare yourself for that
  10. Lose track of time and reality as you click ‘Next Episode’ for the 15th time
  11. Repeat

There are loads of variations on this recipe and as I make them, I will share my experiences with you!

How a Song Called “Flower” Defeated Me…

I’m not massively into fitness, but I have recently been looking for a new workout which:

  • Doesn’t take too long
  • Doesn’t use anything outside of a barbell, dumbell or kettlebell
  • Isn’t just repetitive motion (I know that seems like a far-fetched idea, but there are a few workouts which can be, dare I say it, fun…)

After searching online for serious workouts like “Batman training”, “Become the bat”, “Bane”, “How to work out like Arrow”, I remembered one I used to do ages ago.

I recalled my halcyon days of running through this workout like a breeze. Retrospect, it seems, was out to destroy me.

The workout I’m talking about goes by many names; “The Flower Challenge”, “Bring Sally Up”, “Moby Press-up Challenge”, “Reason I Cry When Moby Comes On Shuffle” (only one of those is untrue).

The principle behind it is disarmingly simple. Do press ups, or any exercise you choose really, in time to a song. It’s about 3:30minutes and roughly 30 reps. It sounds like a dream.

It isn’t. It really is not. I can’t stress enough how this is not a dream.

Here’s a link to the song, go ahead and enjoy it. It’s a great song, classic Moby. Gospel Blues vocals over a piano melody and thumping drums. It gets you pumped up, you feel like you’re ready to do this.

I was not ready to do this.

It lulls you into an entirely false sense of security. I am a fairly strong person. I have worked out for a large proportion of my adult life, I spent 3 months in Africa doing press-ups like someone was casting for a version of Bronson where he has a tan, thick lustrous hair and the slightest hint of a moustache. I made it 1:30 minutes into that song before I physically gave up. Which is 1 minute longer than it took me to mentally break.

The first few reps are fine, you establish a rhythm and it feels ok. “Bring Sally up” and up we go. “Bring Sally down” hello floor, my old friend.

*Something to remember, when you’ve brought Sally down, whatever the hell that means, you don’t lay face down on the floor. You go into a really low plank. This is probably what broke me*

About 5 reps in, you feel the burn. “Bringing Sally Up” takes a fraction of a second longer. In turn, you get a much shorter break at the top before Sally needs bringing down again.

Then comes the kicker. After the 8th rep, in case you’re starting this for the first time and haven’t heard the song before, there is a pause while the singer waffles on about being “dead and gone” – I have no idea what she was saying, it was difficult to hear over the sound of sobbing and swearing. The pause is at the bottom, you know where I said before about a really low plank? Yeah, that point. In your mind, it’s a brief moment of respite. It’s a break while you wonder why you chose to do this. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Right now, get down into a really low plank. Hold it there for about 8 seconds, then push yourself up. It’s not so fun now is it? You sarcastic, hypothetical person! It’s agony! And now, guess what?! Do 7 more slow press ups, safe in the knowledge that this scenario is going to repeat itself for 3:30 minutes.

I have yet to finish the workout, as the areas of my body which currently hurt are:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Abs
  • Pride

If I ever find out Sally is, I will give her a piece of my mind!

I’m going to go sulk now

Pizza, Moretti and Dean Martin: Part 1, Making The Base

This culinary adventure began with a simple idea. At some point over the weekend, I knew I would want pizza. I had no idea when the mood would strike, nor what my circumstances would be when it did.

Would it be in the morning? Are pizza places open in the morning?

What about the afternoon? Do I really want to be that guy stood in a takeaway on a Saturday afternoon, making small talk and inventing a party I was going to so they wouldn’t figure out I was going to eat two pizzas alone while watching Criminal Minds?

I could get the urge in the evening, but that has its own concerns. Most evenings I settle into quite a routine:

  • I throw on something casual (PJs or sweats)
  • Take my socks off (because that is the ultimate sign that your day has finished. When your bare feet hit the floor, you know it’s over)
  • Light my oil burner (because I like my flat to smell like a tropical paradise)
  • Grab myself a cup of tea
  • Become Batman

What if I feel myself sinking into my sofa, ready to allow laziness and the hypnotic lights of my TV to guide me towards slumber? What if the people of Gotham find that they need a hero? Suddenly, I feel a rumbling in my stomach. I would have to frantically scavenge in my fridge, only to find that I have nothing in which would satisfy this craving. I can’t do that to the citizens.

I would be forced to put on outside clothes and venture into the town center. I would be required to push through the throngs of drunken revellers beginning their night, only to arrive at the place where many of their nights would end.

This was an unacceptable series of possible outcomes. I knew I would want pizza and I knew there was only one reasonable solution. So on Wednesday evening, I made pizza dough.

Making pizza dough is a simple and cathartic exercise. I really don’t understand why more people don’t do it. It’s flour, water, yeast, salt and sugar. You can probably get a bit more complicated if you want (I raided my spice drawer for a few added bits), but essentially it’s a load of stuff you already own.

The only drawback to making your own dough is time. The actual act of creation itself takes about half an hour, including cleaning up. It’s the proofing and extra kneading that means that it requires forethought.

This is why I began the effort on Wednesday.

If you’re willing to plan ahead slightly, you are in for a real treat. Imagine having your significant other round, you’re both discussing what to have for tea (dinner) and you settle on pizza. Instead of arguing over where to order from, what to have on it, etc; you just stand up, go into the kitchen and rustle up an Italian classic. It even takes less time to assemble and cook than most takeaways, leaving you with more time to bask in the smug glow of your partner’s awe inspired gaze.

Let’s get started.

Before you start grabbing ingredients, you need to put on some music. You’re creating a piece of gastronomical art here today, it needs a soundtrack. I opted for some classic Ratpack; Dean Martin all the way. Just so I could sing “That’s Amore” (almost word for word) while choosing herbs and pouring olive oil. God, I felt so Italian.

With the music chosen, now we cook.

Ingredients  (This will make enough dough for two decent sized pizzas):

  • About 500g of plain flour (most recipes call for “00” flour, but I could not be bothered to find that so I just used strong bread flour)
  • Yeast (If you have those sachets, use one. If you have a can of it like I do, about one teaspoon should do it)
  • 1 dessert-spoon of salt (I used coarse sea salt, but use whatever you want. Throw in some pink Himalayan sea salt if the mood takes you)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar (I used date sugar because it was all I had, but you can use brown, white, castor, not icing sugar because that’s ridiculous)
  • About 350ml of tepid water (lukewarm, room temperature whatever you call it, just make sure it’s not boiling or freezing. It’s to make the yeast work, in case you were wondering)
  • Some spices (I had fennel seeds and sage to hand, so I ground them and threw them in. They’re not necessary, but they add a little something extra)
  • Olive oil (not sure how to elaborate on this one…)
  • More flour (believe me, you will need it)

Quick word of warning: You may get messy. Your kitchen may get messy. Your taps may get messy. Maybe your pets, who knows?

Method (I use this term loosely):

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, throw in the salt and herbs, give it a quick mix and then make a well in the middle of it all.
  2. Put the yeast and sugar in with the water and stir it until it’s all dissolved.
  3. Pour a little bit of the yeasty, sugary water in the well you made.
  4. You know have a choice. Spoon or hands? You can keep your distance from your creation or you can throw caution to the wind and dive right on in. I’m a diver, it’s how I roll.
  5. Mix the flour and water together, adding a bit more when necessary. You will need to use all of the water mixture so you will probably need more flour.
  6. When it’s all stuck together in a big, doughy ball you will have to get your hands messy. You are going to have to grab hold of it and give it a good knead. Seriously squash it, you want it all mixed and pressed together.
  7. Spread some flour on your countertop and put your dough on there. Don’t wash the bowl though. You will need it.
  8. Kneading is basically: flatten, fold, roll, squash, repeat. Just keep doing that over and over again for about 20 minutes. Seriously, grab it, squash it, punch it, powerslam it, who cares?
  9. If you want to know if it’s time to stop kneading, take a smallish bit (about a golf ball) and stretch it out. If it goes incredibly thin without breaking, time to move on. If not, I’d suggest “Little Ole Wine Drinker, Me” while you give it another five minutes of controlled violence. In case you were wondering, it’s something to do with gluten strands. I am not 100% sure about this.
  10. Once it’s fully kneaded, pour a little olive oil into your mixing bowl. You need enough to make sure that the inside of the bowl is nice and coated.
  11. Put your dough in, cover the top with clingfilm and leave it somewhere warm. Somewhere near your boiler or something, not in an oven.

Well done, you’ve just made dough. It’s not difficult, but the payoff will be extraordinary. Quick tip: If you’re struggling to get the dough of your hands, grab some flour and rub your hands together. The flour absorbs the moisture and makes it fall off.

Now, pour yourself a glass of wine or open up a Birra Moretti, Hell you can make yourself a Martini (or, in my case an Old Fashioned). You’ve just made the first steps towards an awesome meal. You deserve it!

Next time, we top this bad boy…

 

 

 

Setting Sail….

My name is Luke, that’s me up there. I love food and I abhor boredom. I love the comfort of daily routines, but I constantly want new experiences.

I am, by no means, a chef. I have very little idea of the technicalities of cooking and I only own about two pans. I have an alarming number of knives, most of which I have no idea how to wield (as you can tell by the fact that I refer to it as ‘wielding’) but one fork, so I can’t host dinner parties unless I tell everyone we’re being “authentic” and eating with our hands.

I have honed my “skills” through a combination of necessity and pride as well as a lot of trial and error. I don’t have “recipes” but I do like to cook fairly healthily.

I have been fortunate enough to have been influenced quite heavily by one of the greatest cooks the world has ever known, my mother. I can’t think of a single meal that she has made that I haven’t enjoyed (and still do at any given opportunity, to this day).

My grandmother has also displayed a flair for cooking on occasion, especially her Sticky Toffee Pudding (I will endeavour to get a guest blog from her because it is amazing), although her portion sizes leave a lot to be desired. I’m a 6ft 2 man grandma, why am I getting the same sized portions as my 8-year-old brother? Why do you hate me so much?

That’s not even mentioning my Granny, a.k.a. the reason I refuse to pay for Indian food. Granny has been cooking it her entire life and nothing I could buy would ever come close. The woman used to feed me Roti with butter and sugar and I still get all nostalgic every time my left arm tingles and my breath gets short.

I also spent 7 years on and off as a chef in a professional kitchen (anyone who knows me, don’t point out it was Pizza Hut). So, I have some experience in this industry (don’t tell them I got fired either, let’s maintain an air of mystery here people!)

I began this blog because I’ve always loved cooking, even after I burned my eyebrows off because I looked too closely at a toaster. I’ve had a number of mishaps and a fair few successes. So if this site goes quiet for a short while, there is a distinct possibility I have overestimated my talents and set a small fire.

As the days go on, I will try to remember some of my more memorable failures, because no one likes a blog about one person’s constant success.

The thing to remember when you wander through the rocky terrain of this blog is that I tend to cook what I feel like. There is neither rhyme nor reason in the endeavor. I’ll just be sitting there and suddenly, I’ll think,

“I haven’t had coconut curry in a while” or

“I want biscuits, but the shop is shut”

And then I’ll resign myself to the fact that I’m going to have to make it. So if the recipes seem sporadic or disjointed, it’s because they are.

Before we unfurl our maps and embark on this culinary adventure together, please bear a couple of things in mind:

  • I cook with guess work. I broke my scales and I’ve never owned a meat thermometer. So if my ingredients lists seem vague, it’s because I don’t know how much I put in.
  • I don’t have any dietary requirements. If a recipe doesn’t specifically say gluten free or vegan, it isn’t. Although, it’s probably going to be obvious.
  • I am not an affluent man. This is probably a bonus for most people reading this. So there will be very few opportunities for you to break out the truffle oil or dust off your spiralizer (even though I really want one of those). Just basic ingredients you can find in most shops.

With you well and truly warned of the perils awaiting us on this journey, we can set sail. Get your walking boots on, throw on your apron and grab your compass. Actually, leave the compass. We’ll figure it out on the way…

Follow my blog with Bloglovin