Barbecued Cajun pork burgers

Yesterday was National Burger Day (apparently) and I had the lovely Phil Dukes over for dinner and Doctor Who so I opted to cook burgers. (We watched Black Orchid and The Awakening – a plethora of Peter Davison, possibly influenced by the fact that we’re going to see Janet ‘Tegan’ Fielding at the weekend!) I got this recipe from the book Spice Up Your Life that I got for my birthday. It’s a nice recipe, could’ve been a bit spicier with the addition of a bit more Cajun seasoning and I, obviously, didn’t barbecue them, I cooked them in a ridged frying pan which I seldom use. The burgers were a little sloppy in consistency but they held together during the cooking. Wrapping them in bacon certainly helps to keep them together, although I misread the instructions and only wrapped them in one slice rather than two. Hey ho – you live and learn!

Makes 2 large burgers

125g of sweet potato, cut into chunks

250g of pork mince

½ an apple, peeled, cored and grated

½ an onion, grated

2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning

1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh parsley

4 back bacon rashers

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Cook the sweet potato in boiling water for 15 minutes or so until tender.

Drain well, mash and set aside to cool.

Place the minced pork in a bowl with the grated apple and Cajun seasoning. Add the mashed sweet potato and grated onion, along with the chopped coriander and salt and black pepper to taste.

Mix together well and shape into two burgers. Cover and leave to chill in the fridge for an hour.

Wrap each burger in two bacon rashers in a criss-cross fashion.

Heat the olive oil in a ridged frying pan and cook the burgers for about 5 minutes on each side until cooked through.

Serve with chips, salad and a lightly toasted ciabatta roll.


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Jerk chicken with corn on the cob, and rice and peas

I’ve been a bit slow on updating this – sorry about that, it’s been a busy few days. Anyway, this was the dinner I cooked for Alberto and I last Tuesday. (No Fig for the evening as he was in the swinging hotspot of Dunstable.) I fancied trying some ‘jerk’ something. I got both some jerk paste and some jerk seasoning from Sainsbury’s but as I had not used either before the following recipe is all a bit guessworky.

Serves 2

2 chicken thighs and 1 drumstick per person

1 red onion, cut into wedges

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1½ teaspoons of jerk paste

100ml of white wine

1½-2 tablespoons of tomato purée

20-30g of melted butter

1-2 teaspoons of jerk seasoning

2 knobs of garlic butter

2 corn on the cob pieces

Long-grain, easy cook rice for 2 people

1 red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

6 tomatoes on the vine

100g of petit pois

500ml of water


About two hours before cooking, mix the jerk paste with the wine, tomato purée and crushed garlic to make a marinade. Marinate the chicken pieces for two hours. (The jerk paste that I bought was unexpectedly spicy so I had to add a little bit of extra white wine and purée.)

Pre-heat the oven to 200.

Pour away the marinade and wipe the chicken dry with kitchen paper.

Arrange the chicken pieces in a roasting dish.

Mix the melted butter with the jerk seasoning and then brush over the chicken pieces. Tuck the onion wedges around the chicken pieces.

Roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

After the chicken pieces have been in the oven for 20 minutes, put the two corn on the cob pieces in another roasting dish and pop a knob of garlic butter on each, along with a twist of sea salt and pop in the oven. Add the tomatoes to the dish and drizzle with a little of the olive oil.

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil and gently fry the sliced red onion until slightly softened. Add the rice and stir well so that all the rice is coated in oil. Add the peas and stir likewise.

Add the water, bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes until the rice is cooked. Drain the rice and peas and serve with the chicken and corn.

A delicious combination of foods and you can make it spicy, or less spicy, by using more or less paste for marinating, and seasoning.



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Honey, lime and chilli swordfish steak, with hassleback potatoes

On Monday evening I fancied a bit of fish. I was initially thinking of some sort of jerk fish, probably cod, but in the end I changed my mind, (Don’t worry – Tuesday’s dinner was jerk chicken! I didn’t change my mind for long!) as swordfish was on special offer on the Sainsbury’s fish counter. I decided to use honey, chilli and lime to flavour it with.  I also accompanied it with a hasleback potato as Alberto had cooked one like it whilst I was in Devon and I liked the look of it.

It was all very easy to do and rather tasty.

Serves 1

For the fish:

1 swordfish steak

The juice of 1 lime

½ a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (more if you like more spice!)

2 teaspoons of runny honey

For the potato:

I medium sized baking potato

1 garlic clove, sliced into three or four pieces, depending upon how big it is

A few fresh basil leaves

A knob of butter, melted

Freshly ground sea salt

A sprinkling of grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 210.

Place the swordfish steak in a foil tray and squeeze the juice of half a lime over it. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Slice the potato into thin slices without cutting completely through the potato. This can be a bit tricky, especially at the ends, but putting the potato in the hollow of a metal spoon can help as the blade of the knife hits the edge of the spoon before it goes right through the potato. This should leave you with a series of thin discs of potato, joined at the base.

You can slip whatever you like between these slices – I opted for thick slices of garlic and basil leaves. Sprinkle with ground sea salt and then brush with melted butter.

Place in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, brushing with melted butter at least twice during cooking.

After 40 minutes take the potato out of the oven, brush with butter one final time, sprinkle with the grated cheese and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

This way of cooking potatoes is delicious. The slices get a crispy edge, like French fries, and yet the butter makes the interior of the potato slices tender and creamy. A definite winner.

Once the potato is in the oven, in a small bowl, mix the honey, chilli flakes and juice of a ¼ of a lime.

After the fish has marinated for 30 minutes drain off the lime juice and brush both sides of the swordfish steak with the honey, chilli and lime juice mix and replace in the foil tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, turning once halfway.

Tasty. you can make the honey/chilli/lime spread for the fish as spicy or as sweet as you like.


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Cod loin with fried leeks, wrapped in serrano ham

Monday night’s dinner was very similar to something I’ve cooked before, with cod wrapped in smoked bacon. That was tasty but I think, on the whole, I prefer this version – there’s something almost melt-in-the-mouth about the wafer thin serrano ham that the smokey bacon lacks.

Serves 1

1 chunky cod loin

3 slices of serrano ham

½ a leek, finely sliced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan and quickly fry the sliced leek over a medium heat until slightly softened and beginning to colour.

Lay out the three slices of serrano ham on a shopping board, slightly overlapping and place the cod loin in the centre of the slices.

Top the cod with the fried leek, season with salt and pepper and then wrap the ham slices around the cod loin.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in the frying pan and quickly fry the wrapped cod loin until seared on both sides.

Place in a piece of tin foil, pour over a little of the oil from the frying pan and seal the foil into an parcel.

Place in a roasting dish or on a baking tray and cook in the over for 20-25 minutes. Halfway through, open up the foil parcel

I served this with wasabi mash and roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes.



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Roast pork

On Sunday I decided to cook a bit of pork for dinner. Alberto loves a Sunday roast and has been shamelessly flattering about the quality of my roasts often enough to ensure that he gets one whenever he wants one! :) Normally I wouldn’t bother blogging about a roast as they’re fairly standard, recipe-wise, however, with this one I made a rub which I smeared over the bottom of the joint.

The other trick, of course, getting the crackling to crackle!

I served the roast with roast potatoes, steamed spring greens and broccoli and honey glazed carrots and parsnips.

(There’s) The Rub:

Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of olive oil
20 fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon of freshly ground sea salt
2 plump garlic cloves, crushed

Crush all the ingredients in a pestle and mortar until they form a thick paste, then spread the paste over the base of the joint and place it, paste-side down in the roasting dish.

The crackling:

The best way, I find, to get crackling, is to get the joint out of the fridge at least half an hour before you’re going to cook, wipe the skin dry and cover with a later of coarsely ground sea salt. Leave to stand for about 20 minutes, wipe the salt off and then lightly dust with another, lighter, layer of salt.

Preheat the oven to 220 and cook the joint for half an hour at this high heat before turning down to 190.

I also placed apple wedges around the base of the joint – this is nothing to do with the crackling, it’s just nice.

I then used the meat juices and fat from the roasting dish to help make the gravy.

Honey-glazed carrots and parsnips:

(for 2)

2 large, chunky parsnips, cut into ‘wedges’
A handfull of Chanterey carrots (they’re cute and teeny tiny)

Place the carrots and parsnips in a saucepan of lightly salted water and boil for 4 minutes.

Drain. (I reserve the water and use it to make the gravy later!)

Place the carrots and parsnips back in the saucepan, along with a generous knob of butter, two tablespoons of the reserved water and two tablespoons of runny honey.

Stir well to combine and heat, stirring continually, until the carrots and parsnips are glazed.

Place in a roasting dish, drizzle over the buttery honey liquid and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so.


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Home-made beef burgers with polenta chips

Alberto was off out to a work’s leaving do last night and so I cooked dinner for the two of us before he went. I was originally toying with various ideas, including a couple of interesting looking stews, but in the end I settled on home-made burgers and polenta chips. We’d had polenta chips as a starter at Pizza Express on Tuesday and I fancied making them for myself. They weren’t a bad first attempt – bit too crunchy and a bit too much rosemary – but they came out fairly well.

Serves 2

For the burgers

380g of beef mince
30g of chorizo, finely chopped
30g of mozarella, finely chopped
½ a red onion, finely chopped
A handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

For the polenta chips

170g of quick cook polenta
500ml of boiling water
30g of Parmiggiano Reggiano
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons of freshly ground sea salt
Olive oil for drizzling and brushing

Put the polenta into a heavy-based saucepan and slowly whisk in the water and salt.

Keep whisking over a low heat for about 3-4 minutes while the polenta starts to thicken. (I used quick cook polenta. If you’re not using ‘quick cook’ it may take a bit longer)

Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and chopped rosemary.

Pour the polenta onto a flat surface, I used a wide tupperware but a plate would do too, and use a spatula to shape into a thickish cake.

Leave to cool completely.

Pre-heat the oven to 190.

Once cool cut into chips (I managed to make about 20 chips out of this much polenta.) and place on a non-stick baking tray.

Brush with a little oil and put in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the chips are crunchy and golden. (I cooked them for 30 minutes and they were a little *too* crunchy. I also used a little too much rosemary.)

Whilst the polenta is cooling mix the ingredients for the burger together, mashing together until sticky and well mixed. Leave to rest.

When the chips are halfway through cooking start to fry the burgers – I usually do them on a low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Tasty. The chips are nice and the chorizo in the burger compliments the flavour of the beef.


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Chicken tagine with harissa, artichokes and green grapes

Last night I decided to make this for Alberto and I. It was partly prompted by the fact that we went out for pizza on Tuesday and he had one with artichokes on. That reminded me of this recipe which I’ve seen in tagine cookbook but have never cooked before.

It’s fairly easy to do, although the meat does need to marinate for a couple of hours before cooking so it can’t be done on the spur of the moment.

Serves 4 (although, obviously, I scaled it down)

4 chicken breast, cut into thick strips
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 onions, halved lengthways and sliced
½ a preserved lemon, washed and thinly sliced
1-2 teaspoons of sugar
1-2 teaspoons of harissa paste
300ml of chicken stock
1 x 390g tin of artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and halved
20 green grapes, halved lengthwise
A small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade

2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of oilve oil

Mix the ingredients for the marinade together, toss the chicken into the mixture and marinate in the fridge, covered, for two hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 200.

After two hours, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Stir in the onions, preserved lemon and sugar and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until lightly caramelised.

Toss in the marinated chicken pieces and quickly stir fry. Then add the harissa and tomato purée.

Stir well to combine and then add the stock and bring to the boil.

Transfer to a tagine, cover with the lid and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add the artichokes and halved grapes, pop the lid back on and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with buttery cous-cous.




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Duck tagine with clementines

As duck is still on special offer in Sainsbury’s I decided to make this recipe, which I found yesterday whilst looking for something to cook for Fig. Unfortunately Sainsbury’s is currently out of duck legs, which the recipe specified, but had a special offer on duck breasts, so I used them instead and simply reduced the cooking time a little. I also fiddled with the recipe a little by adding less stock and a tin of chopped tomatoes and some cherry tomatoes so I’ve written out my version, rather than the original version. I was initially sceptical about the use of clementines, but they really worked in the recipe. They go crispy and slightly caramelise which, along with the honey, gives the dish a sweetness which nicely complements the rich meatiness of the duck.

Serves 2

2 duck breasts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
10 medium sized shallots, peeled and cut in half
1½ teaspoons of ground coriander,
1½ teaspoons of cumin
1½ teaspoons of ginger
1½ teaspoons of paprika
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
350ml of vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of clear honey
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 small, firm clementines, peeled and divided into sections of 3 or 4 segments
1 tablespoon of chopped coriander leaves
1 440ml tin of chopped tomatoes
6 cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato purée

Pre-heat oven to 190.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Put the duck breasts in the pan, skin side down and cook gently for 10 minutes or so until crispy.

Turn the duck breasts and gently cook for a further 10-15 minutes until browned.

Remove the duck breasts to a roasting dish, cover with foil and place in the bottom of the oven to keep warm whilst you make the sauce.

Pour half of the duck fat off into a bowl to use later.

Add the shallots to the remaining fat in the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until lightly coloured.

Sprinkle in the spices and mix well.

Add the stock, honey, lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and bring to the boil.

Transfer the sauce to the tagine, retrieve the duck breasts from the oven and sit them in the sauce. Scatter the cherry tomatoes around, place the lid on the tagine and cook it in the oven for 35 minutes, until the duck is tender.

Whilst the tagine is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved duck fat in a frying pan, add the clementines and fry for 3-4 minutes until glistening and starting to brown all over.

After the 35 minutes of cooking time have elapsed, add the fried clementines to the tagine, tucking the pieces around the duck breasts and cook, with the lid off, for a further 15 mins.

Serve with couscous and sprinkled with the chopped coriander.



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Salt duck with spinach, potatoes and bacon

Last night Fig was over for dinner and Doctor Who (The Stones of Blood this week!) and so I decided to make this lovely dish. Partly, I must admit, because Sainsbury’s has duck legs on special offer at the moment! This is tasty, easy to do and full of lovely flavours. The recipe says to leave the duck legs, covered in salt, overnight, which I didn’t have the time to do, so I simply covered them in salt for about 20 minutes – that seeemed to work quite nicely.

The recipe as listed serves 6, but I scaled it down for just the two of us.

6 duck legs
2 tablespoons of sea salt
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
500g button onions (Sainsbury’s didn’t have button onions so I used small shallots instead and cut them in half)
500g of small waxy potatoes
175g of smoked bacon lardons (I had some smoked pancetta slices in the fridge so I used that instead, cut into postage stamp sized pieces)
A handful of fresh sage leaves
200g of baby leaf spinach
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar

The day before cooking place the duck legs in a dish and sprinkle over the salt, rubbing it into the skin. Cover with cling film and chill. (As I say, I only did this for 20 minutes, not overnight and it seeemed fine to me.)

On the day, rinse the duck legs under cold water to remove the salt and pat dry with a clean towel.

Heat oven to 160.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Place the duck, skin-side down, in the pan and cook gently for 15 minutes until crisp and golden.

Turn the duck and pour off the excess fat into a small bowl. Retain the duck fat for later.

Cook the duck for a further 15 minutes and then transfer to a roasting dish.

Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes or so.

Whilst the duck is cooking, put the onions in a pan with 1 tablespoon of the reserved duck fat and gently cook for 15 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes for 15 minutes in a pan of salted water, then drain, peel (or not – I was using new potatoes so I didn’t bother peeling them.) and leave to cool.

Tip the remaining duck fat into the frying pan and add the potatoes, bacon, and sage to the onions.

Fry for 10 minutes until golden, then add the spinach and cook for 4 minutes to wilt the spinach.

Then add the sherry vinegar and turn up the heat to bubble off any excess liquid.

Serve with the cooked duck legs


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Glazed teriyaki pork belly

On Friday I decided to cook another meal from the The Family Meal cookbook. This time I only did the main course, not the full three courses. I’ve done this pork belly recipe once before and it is delicious but it takes a while. Also, of course, it is just meat, so I did a small vegetable stir fry to accompany it. I also cheated slightly and bought an Oriental Snack Pack from Sainsburys – 4 pieces of sesame prawn toast, 4 mini-spring rolls and 4 won tons. That make a perfect starter for the meal.

Serves 2

400g joint of belly pork
1 litre of water
2 pinches of salt
8-10 black peppercorns
½ an onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
200g of teriyaki sauce

Put the belly pork in a large saucepan and cover with water.

Add the salt, peppercorns, onion and garlic.

Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook the pork for 1½ hours until cooked through. (You may need to top up the water during cooking.)

Once cooked, remove from the water, drain well and place on a chopping board.

Cut into thick strips – about 2cm thick.

Pre-heat the oven to 180

Place the pork slices in a roasting tin, in a single layer, and cover with the teriyaki sauce.

Roast the pork for 30 minutes, regularly basting with the teriyaki sauce to glaze it.

Tasty and tender.

I accompanied this with rice and a few vegetables quickly stir-fried in Hoi Sin sauce.


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