Pulled Beef Brisket Chilli

For all the lovely folk that enjoyed the Beef Chilli at the Heartbeat party for the British Heart Foundation in Newent last night, here’s the recipe I used (based on Jamie Oliver’s recipe):

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 kg beef brisket, trimmed and scored
  • olive oil
  • 2 tins of tomatoes
  • 400 ml beef stock
  • 4 bell peppers (red/yellow), sliced
  • 1 tin of black beans
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 red chillies, sliced
  • red wine vinegar (splash)

Method:

Mix the spices together with a little salt and pepper and rub it all over the beef. Drizzle with olive oil and seal in a hot pan until browned all over.

Browning beef brisket

Place the brisket in a large pot and add the tomatoes, stock, peppers and black beans.

Fry the onions and chillies for a few minutes and add them to the pot.

Bring it all to the boil, cover, and then simmer on a low heat for 4 to 5 hours until you can easily pull the beef apart using 2 forks.

Add a splash of red wine vinegar to balance the flavours.

beef brisket chilli

Serve with sour cream, grated cheese, fresh chillies, salad leaves, fresh coriander and basil. If you’re serving the beef in tortilla wraps, this should serve around 20 people.

 

 

Cheese & Bacon Pastries

Twists, turnovers, straws – all so deliciously naughty and yet devilishly simple to make at home.

Every now and again I have moments where I look at something familiar, and wonder why I’ve never thought of having a go at making it for myself. Often the ubiquitous is simpler than you think. Some things just aren’t worth the effort, however these pastries most certainly are.

I find it so satisfying to transform a block of puff pastry into delectable treats. Naturally, they’re not going to be a healthy option, but at least they’ll be homemade and you’ll know exactly what’s gone into them.puff pastry

Life’s too short to be making your own puff pastry, so don’t feel bad about using a shop-bought block or even splashing out a few extra pennies for the pre-rolled sheets for an even quicker turnaround.

Here’s a few options using similar ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • Puff pastry (block, rolled or even your own rough-puff)
  • Streaky bacon
  • Grated cheese (cheddar is nice and tangy but feel free to experiment)
  • Dijon or English mustard
  • Egg, beaten
  • Seeds – black/white sesame or poppy (optional)
  • Tomato, sliced (optional)
  • Dusting of flour

Method 1 – Twists:

  1. Roll out your pastry to about 3mm thick on a dusting of pastry or simply unfold your pre-rolled sheets.
  2. Brush over a thin layer of mustard.
  3. Top with grated cheese.
  4. Lay down parallel strips of streaky bacon, leaving a little gap between.
  5. Carefully cut between the bacon using a large knife to make equally sized strips.
  6. Holding each end, confidently twist.
  7. Place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up and help them keep their shape when cooked.
  8. Brush the pastry with a little beaten egg.
  9. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.

cheese bacon twists

Method 2 – Turnovers:

  1. Cut your rolled out pastry into even squares about 12cm x 12cm.
  2. Brush with a thin layer of mustard (optional).
  3. Add a couple of slices of tomato (optional).
  4. Lay a rasher of bacon diagonally across the pastry.
  5. Top with grated cheese.
  6. Fold one corner into the centre and brush the exposed pastry with a little beaten egg.
  7. Fold the opposite corner over to form the turnover shape.
  8. Sprinkle over a little extra cheese for good luck.
  9. Back in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.

cheese and bacon turnovers

Method 3 – Straws:

This is perfect for any offcuts or leftover pastry.

  1. Simply cut your rolled out puff pastry into strip, brush with beaten egg and top with grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of seeds.
  2. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy.
  3. Devour.

homemade cheese straws

 

Have a go at looking at the world differently. Question yourself and rise to the challenge.

For me, it’s going to be flatbreads next. I already know that they’re super-easy to make – easier than a normal loaf – yet somehow I’ve never had the confidence that my attempt would be as good as shop-bought.

Winter and the cheese bacon tomato turnovers

 

Okonomiyaki

Today is a good day. I’m rarely happier than when I’m off on a foodie expedition, ice-axe in hand. There’s things I’ve eaten, read about, seen on TV and the like, but the mountain is never really conquered until you’ve truly ‘been there’. Tick.

Okonomiyaki [o-konomi-yaki] is a Japanese savoury pancake. I’ve eaten plenty, but discovering how easy and satisfying it is to make them in your own kitchen is positively joyous.

Here’s the low-down:

Make a pancake batter, fill it with delicious savoury ingredients, cook it slowly and top it with equally delicious and visually attractive garnishes. 

The name derives from ‘okonomi’ which means ‘whatever you like’ and ‘yaki’ meaning ‘grill’. As you may be aware, I’m a big fan of using up leftovers and reducing food waste so this is right up there in the list of go-to/back-pocket dishes.

Although it has regional variations across Japan, generally speaking it’s filled with shredded cabbage, but I’ve used gem lettuce in my version as it’s what I had to hand. It’s your dish – mix it up to your liking, but you’ll have to trust me with the mayonnaise zigzag.. I think it really is essential and brings an additional dimension.

Felix eating Okonomiyaki

Ingredients: (serves 1)

  • 1 large egg
  • 50ml stock, cooled
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 handful lettuce (or cabbage), shredded
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp black sesame seeds or Furikake*
  • 1 tsp rapeseed of vegetable oil
  • mayonnaise (from a squeezy bottle)
  • oyster sauce
  • Sriracha chilli sauce

Method:

  1. Beat the egg, stock and flour together with a pinch of salt.
  2. Mix in the lettuce and some of the spring onion (or ‘whatever you like’).
  3. Fry in the oil over a low heat for about 5 minutes on each side until until golden and a little crispy.
  4. Top with the obligatory crisscross of sauces and top with the remaining spring onion and your choice of condiments.

*Furikake is a Japanese seasoning made from mixed sesame seeds, Shiso leaves and nori seaweed.

japanese savoury pancake dish

Foodie Resolutions 2017

Every year the Food Revolution becomes stronger and reaches further. This year is going to be a big one – I can feel it. The number of concurrent initiatives combined with growing media coverage is helping us to build awareness. Every little action adds to the snowball effect that will ultimately turn the tide and deliver change.

So. For 2017, my resolutions are as follows:

  1. Carve out additional time for supporting the Food Revolution charity. I’ve found it quite challenging over the last year as I’ve been involved in more activities and events than ever before, but it never feels like enough. I want to do more, so I’ll have to develop a strategy for allocating time.
  2. Run. I honestly don’t think that there’s any other sport as accessible and ’rounded’ for mind, body and soul. I’m slowly returning from my running hiatus and I need to focus on getting out there as often as possible.
  3. “Why not?”. I love pushing the envelope and forcing myself into situations where I have to try something new, different or out of my comfort zone. Last year I made a list of specific ingredients that I’d work with and it was hugely satisfying. Whatever comes up, my initial response will be to ask myself “why not”. Relax and go with the flow; what’s the worst that can happen hey?!?
  4. Make more videos. Hmmm, see point 3 ref: comfort zone. Do I wish that I had more clips of events and moments from the last few years? Absolutely. Let’s be a bit brave and see how it pans out.

Now, when I suggested this monthly ambassador challenge to the team, I was feeling, like every year to date, quite optimistic and positive about what the following year may have in stall.. Little did I know that the world would be facing such troubling developments with potentially long-lasting and catastrophic implications.

Good luck all, I hope it’s a good one.

 

Christmas Cake

Here’s a classic fruit cake which I reluctantly refer to as a Christmas Cake, as it seems a shame to restrict beautiful food to a particular time of year, religion and belief :o)

Festive Cake?

Albeit an incredibly delicious cake, the joy of this is all in the making for me; the family can all get involved in the various steps of the process and feel equally proud of the results – there’s always going to be plenty to go round, and more than enough to share with friends and family. I was so chuffed at how well received it was this year.

This recipe is lifted from Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook, his latest (and potentially greatest) book to date. Developed from refinements on classic recipes and innovative twists over nearly two decades, it certainly won’t be gathering any dust on my shelf.

My 5-year-old daughter, Winter, was particularly keen to get involved with this bake and I found myself having to reel her in at times so I had a moment to pause and think before crashing ahead. #SuperKeenBean

Ingredients:

  • 75g dates
  • 75g prunes
  • 100 glace cherries
  • 400g mixed dried fruit
  • 1 apple
  • 100ml stout or porter
  • 1 clementine, zest and juice
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Find yourself a 20cm square cake tin, grease it with butter and line it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Roughly chop the dried fruit in a food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  3. Grate in the apple, add the stout, clementine juice and zest, and set aside.
  4. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy and then mix in the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk, a little at a time.
  5. Combine the two mixtures and then sift in the flour, spices, baking powder and cocoa, folding everything together.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the lined tin and bake for 2 hours at 150°C.
  7. Allow the cake to rest in the tin for 30 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. You can finish the cake however you like – you may want to just eat it like that – but we chose to coat it in a thin layer of apricot jam followed by marzipan and finally a fairly thin layer of royal icing.

Coating with Jam

Little hands working hard to roll out the royal icing on a sprinkling of icing sugar. rolling out the icing for the Christmas cake

We used a simple Scandinavian (Ikea!) cookie cutter to stick mini sugar pearls to the cake with a dab of water.

decorating the christmas cake

The finished ‘Festive Cake’:

Christmas Cake

Enjoy!

(Note to self – steady on the royal icing).

Going Green

I’m a convert. I’ve been initiated into the world of smoothies.

Inspired by the request for an ‘Alien Food’ cooking lesson at St James’ Primary School, I too have ventured into a somewhat mysterious and unfamiliar world..

This has long been the domain of my wife (For The Wellness Of Winter) and her dawn blender sessions that act as my daily alarm clock.

This recipe is just so perfectly quick and easy, but more importantly for me, the result is more ‘juice’ than ‘smoothie’ (personally I struggle with texture of smoothies).

Today’s four classes proved that children just adore this recipe, even though it’s loaded with raw spinach – a great way to pack in essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

green smoothie classes

Green Juice

Ingredients: (1 glass)

  • 100g Baby Spinach
  • 1/2 Lime
  • 125ml Apple Juice
  • 1/2 Banana

Method:

  1. Wash your spinach, peel your banana and squeeze the juice from your lime.
  2. Blend it!
  3. Serve.

If you have a Nutri Ninja/Bullet then great, but a normal blender will be just fine. The baby spinach leaves are not fibrous like kale so you won’t be left with any pulp.

happy face

 

 

 

Roast Guinea Fowl

Here’s my twist on Jamie’s classic roast chicken recipe – if you can cook that, you can cook this!

It’s easy to master and I think you’ll find it really satisfying. Mixing it up a little extends your repertoire and I hope that it gives you the inspiration and confidence to keep experimenting with lovely ingredients and different techniques.

Originating in the jungles of Guinea in West Africa, this unusual little bird isn’t as gamy as pheasant (it’s not really a game bird), but it’s certainly has a deeper and richer flavour than chicken.

Guinea fowl is very lean and carries little fat, so it’s not as forgiving as chicken; it’s inclined to dry out easily if overcooked. The trick is to bard it before roasting (wrap with bacon) and/or baste it throughout cooking to keep it moist and juicy.

I chose to serve this roast with lemon thyme celeriac, cavelo nero (Italian black cabbage), roasted parsnips, dauphinoise potatoes, broccoli, gravy and redcurrant jelly, but of course you can choose whichever sides float your boat. It’s all about balance and variety for me.  You could simply roast the bird with carrots, potatoes and garlic cloves as per Jamie’s roast chicken recipe.

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan). This is relatively low, as guinea fowl is more delicate than chicken.

Top the bird with some thin slabs of butter and then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lay strips of bacon or pancetta over the top and then roast for around 60 minutes (15 minutes per 500g plus 15 minutes), until the juices run clear. The bird will then need a good 10 minutes to rest properly so once you’ve taken it out of the oven you can increase the temperature to finish your dauphinoise and parsnips whilst you make the gravy.

Dauphinoise potatoes are always a winner. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone that doesn’t adore them. Finely slice potatoes (a mandolin or food processor is ideal) and layer them into a buttered ovenproof dish, seasoning as you go. I often add a little minced garlic and thyme leaves along the way. Pour over a generous splash of double cream so that it can seep through the layers of potato, and then top with grated cheese and bake for about an hour.

Potatoes dauphinoise

The parsnips can simply be quartered, turned in olive oil and roasted in the oven alongside the guinea fowl and dauphinoise.

Jamie’s celeriac recipe works brilliantly with guinea fowl. Peel and cube a celeriac and then cook it in a covered pan for about 25 minutes over a low heat with a swig of olive oil, lemon thyme, salt and pepper.

jamie oliver simple celeriac

Steam your greens for just a few minutes and dress them with a squeeze of lemon juice, flaky sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Keep the water from your steamer for the gravy.

To make a gravy whilst the guinea fowl rests, combine the roasting juices, some vegetable cooking water and a little redcurrant or quince jelly in a pan.

 

Sit down, fill your plates, fight over the crispy bacon and enjoy the rustic flavours with a warming glass of red wine.

Roast Guinea fowl

Must. Try. Harder.

Well, it’s finally out there. I know I should be jumping for joy to see it, but alas, although I haven’t even read it yet, the public reaction tells me that the UK Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy doesn’t hit the mark.

govt_strategy

 

I’ve had an opportunity to pore over it now, and here’s what I think.

Reading the introduction inspires me to go out for a run; this is serious stuff that we can’t ignore. More needs to be done to get the facts into the public domain and reinforce the severity in the minds of those not inclined to read Government strategy papers.

There’s absolute sense in what they state about long-term, sustainable change only being achievable through the active engagement of schools, communities, families and individuals. This is the core objective for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. It follows the basic principles of change, as we must raise awareness, create the desire, and help people to understand what they can do to make a difference.

The sugar tax is a positive step, but is it enough? If I were a food manufacturer, I don’t think I’d be too worried about any of this..

I see a lot of wishy-washy wording that leaves plenty of room for localised interpretation. I would have liked to have seen some more decisive moves rather than merely ‘encouraging’ change with a limp carrot.

The plans around sport for schoolchildren are great, but I’m concerned that the mindset will become “I do lots of physical activity, so I can get away with eating whatever I want”. The balance is paramount, and if those affected don’t have a clear understanding, then what hope do they have?

In conclusion, I’m glad that we have this, but we had a real opportunity for transformational change, and I can’t help but feel terribly disappointed that we didn’t grab it with both hands and really capitalise on it.

As stated, the launch of this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word. I for one will be making sure that I’m involved in that conversation, will you?

 

Seabass with Samphire & Lemongrass Butter

Here’s my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution fish recipe. Using very similar skills to his classic pan-fried salmon and vegetable dish, I’m mixing it up a little and showing how you can create incredible variations in flavour.

If you’re buying whole fish and filleting it yourself, make sure you look out for bright, clear eyes.  The brighter the eyes, the fresher the fish. My children are fascinated by the whole process and we’ve luckily avoided any squeamishness by making it the norm whilst they’re still young.

Samphire is the asparagus of the sea. Delicate, tender, delicious.

I’ve chosen to accompany the fish with Swedish Hasselback potatoes. They’re really easy to make, and I love how this little twist transforms the humble potato to make it super-crispy and delightfully moreish.

The lemongrass butter gives everything a clean and zingy lift. You can make it ahead and store it in the freezer for future use; it’s stunning on charred corn on the cob.

Ingredients:

(serves 2)

  • 2 Seabass fillets
  • 150g Samphire
  • 100g Butter, softened
  • 1 Lemongrass stalk
  • 1cm Ginger
  • 1 Parsely sprig
  • 1 Tbsp Ponzu
  • 6 Small waxy potatoes (you may wish you’d cooked more though…)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

To make the butter, remove the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass and finely slice the core with the parsley leaves. Peel and grate the ginger into a bowl and mix it together thoroughly with the lemongrass, ponzu, butter, parsley and pepper. Tip the butter onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and form it into a log shape. Wrap it up like a Christmas cracker and pop it into the fridge so that it firms up.

The potatoes need to be evenly sliced without cutting all of the way through, so that they fan out when cooked. The more slices, the crispier the results. I use a wooden spoon as a jig to hold the potato in place and stop the blade. You’ll find it easiest with a very sharp, thin bladed knife.

wooden spoon jig

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a roasting tray with a knob of butter and then carefully add the potatoes, making sure that they’re nicely coated. Roast for about 50 minutes until beautifully golden and crispy.

Slash the skin of your fish. This will help the heat to penetrate the thickest part so that you have evenly cooked fish.

Seabass fillet

Heat a non-stick frying pan and add a little oil just to coat the surface. Season the fish before placing it skin-side down into the pan, pressing it down for the first few seconds to prevent it from curling up. Cook the fish for 3 to 4 minutes without touching it or moving it around. Once the skin is golden and crispy, gently turn it over and cook for a further minute.

seabass

Steam the samphire for just 3 minutes and dress it with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Rock Samphire

Assemble your dish, topping with a slice of the lemongrass butter. Don’t place the butter directly onto the skin as I have done below if you want to keep it nice and crispy.

seabass with samphire and lemongrass butter

As always, recipes are merely guides; mix it up a little, adapt to your tastes and build on the foundations to satisfy your soul. The next time I cook this dish I’m going to focus on the Swedish angle and switch the lemongrass for some form of dill sauce.

 

 

Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry

Pad Kra Pao Gai (ผัดกระเพราไก่); this is one of the most memorable dishes we acquired for the repertoire during our stint in Australia. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s my wife’s absolute favourite – it makes a regular appearance on our table.

You’ll notice that Thai basil (bai horapha) has beautifully deep purple stalks. The wonderful aniseed flavour of this variety is so distinctive, yet rather than being overpowering, it’s delicate and fragrant.

Fresh Thai Basil

This recipe introduced us to ‘garlic shoots’ which unfortunately we’ve never seen since leaving Australia, other than chopped up and frozen in mixed vegetable bags at Waitrose. Garlic shoots are so special to us that I’ll admit to buying numerous bags and picking through! Like long, perfectly straight green beans, garlic shoots have a mild flavour and provide a slightly squeaky, crunchy texture to the dish.

You could always have a go at growing them yourself as they’re just garlic scapes with the flower bud removed. If you can’t get your hands on any, fine green beans will suffice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken breasts
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 3cm Galangal (or Ginger)
  • 1/2 Chilli
  • 1/2 Red Pepper
  • Small bunch of Asparagus
  • Small bunch of Spring Onions
  • Small bunch or Garlic Shoots or Green Beans
  • Bunch of Thai Basil
  • 3 tbsp Oyster Sauce
  • Splash of Fish Sauce (optional)

Ingredients

Method:

Cut the chicken breasts into thin slices.

Blend the garlic, chilli and galangal into a paste using a mortar and pestle or roughly chop it all together. Marinate the chicken in a covered dish or bag in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Slice the vegetables into roughly the same size and set aside. Do make sure that you have everything ready to go and within reach before you start cooking as it’s going to be quick quick quick.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil.

Stirring as you go, first fry the marinated chicken for a couple of minutes.

Add the vegetables and fry for a further minute.

Add the oyster sauce and a splash of fish sauce (or water if it’s not your thing), cooking for another couple of minutes.

Finally, add the Thai basil for just 30 seconds so that it wilts and releases its beautiful aroma.

So in total, the stir fry should take you about five and a half minutes to cook.

Serve with white rice or cauliflower rice for a healthier option.

Thai Basil