Marinated Grilled Aubergines

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I’m not normally one to be publically mushy, but here it is.

 Almost one short year ago, I had quite honestly the best date of my life. All I did that evening with Charlotte was laugh and laugh until my face hurt! I have continued to laugh with her since, and have no plans to stop.

That fateful night we also spontaneously enjoyed a selection of tapas and a friendly serving of wine. What better way to celebrate a happy year, this Thursday, than with the same such delights!

 At Charlotte’s suggestion, we will be preparing a number of tapas to share, but one had to be prepared a little early. Grilled Marinated Aubergines! A delicious snack and something I’ve always wanted to try my hand to. What a great excuse!

 I’ve left it just a little later than I had intended- but then time really has shot by me this year. But, with two days to go I’d say I’m right in the nick of time! Here’s what I used…

Ingredients

  • 1 Aubergine
  • 6 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • A big pinch of salt
  • A few sprankles of crushed black pepper, plus about a teaspoon more
  • A sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • A sprinkle of Garlic Powder
  • A sprinkle of Onion Salt
  • 1 Fresh Red Chilli
  • Half a bulb of Garlic
  • Sprig of Thyme
  • About 500ml of Olive Oil

 

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THE SPANISH HAVE INVADED!!

My TASTEBUDS, that is!!

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Recently, a Spanish influence has stepped into my life and introduced me to a whole new world of flavour.

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This weekend, Diana gave me the perfect gift of a book to record my favourite (and some more secret) recipes. I immediately knew what the first recipe in this book was going to be.

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Salmorejo!

There aren’t the words to express how much I love this dish. Even looking at that picture now makes me go crazy for not having it in front of me. The combination of tomato, garlic, oil and bread may seem simple enough, and frankly I don’t understand all the magic behind the deliciousness. I also know the concept of raw garlic in anything will be enough to make my fellow Brits VERY nervous, but please PLEASE I beg you to put what you think you know to one side and try this dish. When I eat this, I feel absolutely invincible and satisfied beyond belief. I’ve never actually made this myself, but the last time Diana whipped it up, I monitored her activity with a tediously close proximity. Here’s how to do it…

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What I smuggled back from Amsterdam…

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I recently had the pleasure of a mind-blowing long weekend in Amsterdam with friends. While I was there, my eyes were opened to many strange and shocking things, the most innocent of these being what I discovered in a coffee shop. No, not that coffee shop, but an actual Starbucks.

Alongside the sugar and sweetener offered for you to add to your coffee, there were also sachets of honey! Oh, how the Dutch live! Here in England, you’re lucky if that’s offered free in a hotel!! Naturally, I stuffed a fistful straight into my handbag with neither hesitation nor logic, and took it away with me.

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A few days after returning home, I discovered these delights were still floating around in the vortex of my handbag. By coincidence, I also had a couple of pork steaks to cook, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them. And so, Honey-baked Pork Steak was born!

I have also recently been inspired by some Spanish ways of cooking- namely the common use of raw tomato and garlic, particularly in a new favourite of mine called Salmorejo. This played some small inspiration on the salad that accompanied these tasty steaks. A fine combination indeed!

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The Best of British

Recently, a selection of Spanish friends challenged me to cook a British meal that was “actually good and not boring”. Immediately, I was up to the challenge! But I must admit to being stuck. What’s the British classic that stands out as a beauty?

Like any modern woman with a question that can be resolved with a public vote, I turned to Facebook. There were oodles of suggestions each more British than the last- Roast Dinner, Pie & Mash, Fish and Chips… But one stood out to me as deliciously challenging and I couldn’t resist. I opted for Beef Wellington.

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Now, first and foremost the theme of this dinner was British, and nothing but! So after deciding on Beef Wellington, I thought very carefully about what ingredients are to be used, where they are to be sourced, and what sides and beverages are to be selected.

For the ingredients, my local farm shop sorted me out nicely.
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As someone that had never cooked or eaten a Beef Wellington before, I was incredibly nervous about this dish. I had no idea about cooking times or temps, so I used this Gordon Ramsay Recipe as a guide. You will see it calls for smoked pancetta to be wrapped around the beef… Which sounds absolutely amazing and something I will do in the future, but was unfortunately something I knew I would lose British points for. I still wanted that smoky bite to it though, so was very happy to find Smoked Garlic in my farm shop! Just what I needed for the job!

Among other items, Smith’s Farm Shop is also where I bought our starter- the royally delicious Brixworth Pâté, local to my home town of Northamptonshire and so perfect it’s rumoured the Queen of England herself has it ordered in to Buckingham Palace by the kilo!

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For the sauce? I wracked my brains to come up with something. A red wine or brandy sauce would be good, but wouldn’t work with my accompaniments. A white wine sauce? Also good, but name me one decent British white wine. Finally it came to me… A bizarr invention that might just be crazy enough to work…

Gin Stilton Sauce
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Finally, the drinks. It can only be Real Ale! I had great fun introducing people to their first sips of a variety of top ones! Noted favourites included Hob Goblin and Well’s Banana Bread. The Scottish Innis & Gunn was used to get the Spanish pallets adjusted and ready for the taste of ale and seemed to do the job very nicely as there was no holding back the beer from this point!
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The final point I’ll mention is the cut of beef to be used. Any Beef Wellington recipe will tell you to use fillet, which sounds like a delicious and tender treat… But go into Waitrose and ask for a piece of fillet steak big enough to feed 4 people in a Beef Wellington, and you will be quoted in the region of £30-£40. After 5 minutes of jumping from one foot to the other in a little panic as to which is the best alternative cut that will cook nicely, have a good flavour and remain tender, the kindly butcher eventually guided me to a silver side joint, bigger than the fillet cut I had just been shown and more than half the price. Better! So, if you follow this recipe, keep in mind that it’s with this particular cut of beef and I took very delicate measures with the cooking times as a result!
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So, now we know the facts, let’s press on!

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Pork, chorizo and Couscous Tagine

IMG_3606Sometimes, the best meals are the ones filled with ingredients and elements that remind you of the people who make you smile. Now frankly, I don’t think I could make just one dish that reflects ALL the people in my life who make me happy, but this tagine is a good start!

First, tagines will always and forever remind me of my dear friend, Stephen Swinnerton. They are his signature, his territory. The first one he ever made for me was beef and the tenderness blew me away. The most recent one he made me was pork, at which point I sussed this tenderness was no fluke, but a delicious result of the patience and care that goes into tagine cooking! He bought me my own for Christmas and it’s been kicking around for a while. Finally, the time arrived for me to give it a go with a few special ingredients of my own!

Within the ingredients list are the other special elements that remind me of people who make me smile. There is the chorizo and oregano, given to me by the fabulously Spanish Diana Requena, and the chillis, carefully grown to an adorable size here in our home by my father! Finally, I experimented with a little chipotle paste… Chipotle will always remind me of Eric Cartman.

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Ingredients

  • 2 pork steaks
  • A friendly amount of chorizo- sliced or diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 chillis, chopped
  • 500g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
  • About 100g of couscous- plain or flavoured, the choice is yours!
  • 2 peppers- red and yellow- diced
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • Salt, pepper, oregano and paprika
  • Chipotle paste
  • 1 more carrot, shreddred

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Let’s get cooking!

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