Monday, 20 September 2010

Pork, Pepper and Pineapple Puff Pastry Pie

This is a recipe which came about when I was given a bag of small, homegrown red bell peppers and I wanted to come up with some different ideas for using them in cooking. I first considered a pork, pepper and pineapple stir fry but ultimately decided on this alternative.

Ingredients (Serves Two)

1/2lb diced shoulder of pork
2 small red bell peppers or one normal size
2 rings of pineapple (if canned, in own juice and not syrup)
1 pint of fresh chicken stock
4oz puff pastry
6 small lettuce leaves
2 plum tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

1 beaten egg for glazing


The first and most time consuming step is to cook the pork shoulder meat. The meat should firstly be browned in a large pot before the hot chicken stock is added and brought to a simmer. The pork should be simmered for around an hour and a half, to become beautifully tender. Note that the chicken stock may well need topped up with some hot water during the cooking time. Do not let the pork boil dry and remember that some liquid stock will be required in the pie.

When the pork is cooked, the pepper(s) and pineapple rings should be roughly chopped and stirred through the mix. The combination should then be added to a pie dish, as shown above, covered and left for at least half an hour to cool.

The puff pastry should be rolled evenly out on a floured surface to a size slightly larger than is required to top the pie. The cut-offs should then be used to line the edges of the dish before the main pastry is added to top the pie.

A couple of slits should be made in the top centre of the pie to allow steam to escape during cooking. The pie should then be glazed with the beaten egg and added to an oven preheated to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for thirty-five to forty minutes, or until the pastry is beautifully risen and golden.

The pie should be served with the lettuce and tomato and garnished with fresh basil leaves, as shown at the top of this post.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Baked Fillet of Pouting with Roasted Potato Wedges and Garden Peas

There will unquestionably be a great many people reading this and thinking, "What is pouting?" Pouting - Trisopterus luscus - is actually a type of fish, a lesser known member of the cod family and one that is not generally considered good to eat. It is usually only caught by mistake by rod and line anglers when fishing for other species and either thrown back in to the sea or used as bait in the hope of a more desireable, alternative catch. I have to be honest in that I too subscribed to this belief until very recently, when I happened to be engaged in my frequent practise of browsing the fresh fish offerings in my local supermarket. When I saw, "Pouting fillets," my initial reaction was that it was some form of joke. Soon realising it was no joke, however, I decided to purchase some and have a first ever go at cooking pouting.

The first big positive of buying and cooking pouting for anyone who is perhaps on a restricted cooking budget is that they are incredibly cheap. The four fillets pictured above cost me only just over £1.00 and are easily sufficient to serve two people. The reason for this is unquestionably due to their lack of popularity and - as I hope to show - is in no way indicative of poor flavour.

Although I knew that pouting were a member of the cod family and that most cooking methods which could be applied to such as cod, haddock or whiting would most likely work perfectly well, I decided to take a quick look at Google for some potential inspiration. I was amazed by the lack of pouting recipes to be found in this normal goldmine of information and although I did find a few appealing suggestions, I decided to go it alone, cook pouting as I would whiting and hope for an at least acceptable result.

The first step in this recipe is to get the potato wedges on to cook. The potatoes I am using here (pictured above) were given to me from a local garden. They are very floury and thus perfect for roasting. Given their long, oval shape, I simply scrubbed them and cut them in half lengthwise.

It is imperative that the potatoes be put in to hot and never cold oil. I therefore added sunflower oil to a deep baking tray (enough to comfortably cover the base) and put it in to the oven, which I turned on to preheat to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.

After fifteen minutes, I removed the baking tray from the oven and added the halved potatoes, skin side down. I gently swirled them around to coat them as much as possible in the oil before using cooking tongs to turn them so that they were flesh side down. I then put them in the oven for twenty minutes, at which point I carefully turned them over to expose the flesh side and cooked them for a further twenty minutes.

When the potatoes have been turned, the pouting fillets should be prepared for the oven. A large sheet of aluminium foil should be lightly greased with a little butter. The pouting fillets should be placed skin side down, seasoned with a little salt and a freshly torn basil leaf scattered over the top. This will allow them to infuse with a little extra herb flavour as they cook.

The aluminium foil should then be folded in to form a sealed tent. There should be plenty airspace in the package to allow the steam to cook the pouting fillets. The tray should then be placed in to the oven for eight to ten minutes, dependant upon the size of the pouting fillets. This should of course be done to make the end of the cooking time coincide with that of the potatoes.

The peas which I have served with this dish were frozen. This means that they required to be added to boiling water for a mere three minutes. I put them in to the water immediately before I removed the pouting and potatoes from the oven to begin plating up. A wedge of fresh lemon also makes an optional but attractive garnish.

This is now the third time I have cooked pouting and I have every intention of doing so again. You can find my other pouting recipes (totally different to this one) via the link below:

How to Cook Pouting

I mentioned in this recipe that I use cooking tongs (pictured above) to turn potatoes in hot oil and for a whole host of other purposes in the kitchen. These incredibly versatile implements should be a must have for any kitchen. They not only make many jobs easier but considerably safer by reducing the risk of dropping hot food or causing oil to splash up, as would be the case with a spatula or spoon.

Below is an example of the bargain tongs currently available to buy from

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Cheesey, Pineappley, Super BLT with Fries

It is rare - if ever - that I prepare any type of recipe which could be classed as junk food, either to be published on this blog or anywhere else. I have always believed, however, that the BLT is very unfairly treated in being classed as junk food and that, in theory at least, it is and can be a fairly healthy concoction. The idea for this adaptation of the BLT to a higher level came about one night very recently when I was enjoying a gammon steak with pineapple. I was delighted the way this recipe turned out and I hope that you will try it some time soon.

Preparing the French Fries

I am aware that the way in which I prepare French fries - or British chips - is fairly time consuming and that not everyone will have the luxury of being able to emulate this method. If time does permit, I would urge that you try them this way, but if not, a more traditional cooking method will of course suffice.

In simple terms, I firstly peel the potatoes and then slice and chop them in to French fry shapes. I then add them to a pan of cold, lightly salted water and put them on to a high heat. When the water starts to boil, I reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer and allow the fries to simmer for five minutes only.

(Tip - Using a wire basket more associated with a deep fryer, as in the image above, allows the parboiled fries to simply be lifted from the hot water rather than drained. This means that they are less likely to break.)

The fries should be lifted from the water, covered and allowed to cool. They should then be placed in a tupperware dish and refrigerated for at least one hour. After this time, they should be very carefully dried with kitchen towel before being fried in moderately hot oil for five minutes. They should again be drained, cooled and refrigerated for at least one hour.

The fries should be fried for the second and final time in slightly hotter oil at the stage below where the bacon has been put on to cook.

Preparing the BLT

It is important that all of the individual elements for the BLT be prepared in full prior to starting cooking. You will not have a great deal of time between the various stages of this procedure and lack of forward planning could cause significant problems.

Per BLT, you will require:

1 large, soft bread roll (no sugar and salt saturated burger buns!)
2 rashers/slices of bacon
2 leaves of Little Gem or other small lettuce variety
1 slice of beef tomato (approx. 1/2" thick)
1 pineapple ring
1 oz grated cheddar or other hard cheese
2 basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

The first step is clearly to cook the bacon. Note that I have used Ayrshire middle bacon in this instance. This bacon is rolled and sliced, rather than cut in to rashers, though traditional bacon will of course work just as well. I have also on this occasion gently fried the bacon in a dry, non-stick pan. The fat of the bacon will melt on an initially very low heat and no other fat or oil is required. The bacon can of course also be grilled for an even healthier effect.

When the bacon is almost ready, the bread roll should be halved and very lightly toasted under a hot overhead grill.

The first stage of assembling this cheesey, pineappley BLT is to place the lettuce leaves on the bottom of the bun. The bacon should be gently shaken to remove as much of the fat as possible before being laid on top of the lettuce. The slice of tomato goes on next, to effectively complete what would be a traditional BLT.

The pineapple ring should then be placed on top of the tomato. Note that this pineapple ring did come from a can but was canned in pineapple juice and not syrup. The basil leaves are quickly torn and scattered over the pineapple.

The cheese is the final addition before the bottom half of the BLT goes back under the hot grill. Pressing the cheese down lightly when it is added will help to prevent it slipping off as it is put under the grill. When the cheese begins to bubble, the roll should be plated, given a final seasoning with black pepper only (the bacon will provide sufficient saltiness) and served with the French fries, either open as at the top of this post or closed as below.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Schweinhax'n mit Reiberknodel und Sauerkraut

Confused? Well, pictured above is a roasted shank of pork, Bavarian style. It is served with a potato dumpling and sauerkraut, a combination which is particularly popular in the restaurants and beer halls of Munich. Although I have eaten this precise combination in Munich on many occasions, this is my first attempt at making it myself. I will, however, be totally honest and reveal that the sauerkraut is out of a jar. As making sauerkraut from scratch takes several weeks, I decided to leave my attempt in that respect for another time.

Preparing the Pork

The first step in this recipe is to prepare the pork and get it in to the oven. It will take around two hours to roast.

As can hopefully be seen in the image above, I have first of all made two cuts with a sharp pair of scissors along the length of the pork shank, through the skin, at either side of the under part. This will allow the skin to shrink and crisp up on top and expose more of the meat directly to the heat during cooking for a better roasted effect. I then rub the shank all over with salt and quickly seal it all around in a hot, dry frying pan.

The oven should be pre-heated to 325F/170C/Gas Mark 3. One pint of fresh chicken stock should then be heated in a pan until almost boiling. The pork should be placed in a large roasting tray, importantly ensuring that the flatter side with the two cuts through the skin is made to be the underside. Around half of the chicken stock should be poured over the pork before it is placed in to the oven.

The pork shank should be basted every twenty to thirty minutes. The leftover half pint of chicken stock should be kept ready, as it is likely that it will be required during cooking to top up the liquid levels in the tray.

Preparing the Potato Dumplings

The following ingredients will make two potato dumplings, each approximately 3" in diameter.

2 medium potatoes
2 tsp plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tsp farina/semolina flour
2 tsp fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 beaten egg
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and white pepper to taste

When the pork is in the oven, the potatoes should be peeled and chopped. They should be added to a pot of cold water and the pot put on to heat. When the water is boiling, the heat should be reduced and the potato pieces simmered until soft, around twenty-five minutes. The potatoes should then be drained, mashed, covered and left to cool while the pork roasts.

When the pork is ready, it should be removed from the oven to a large plate. Remember that it is imperative to ensure that the pork is fully cooked. The easiest way to do this is to stick a skewer in to the thickest part of the meat and ensure that the juices run clear. The plate should be covered with aluminium foil and the meat left to rest while the potato dumplings are prepared and cooked.

A large pot of water should be put on to reach a boil while the potato dumpling ingredients are mixed together in a large bowl. When the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together - the easiest way to do this is by hand - the resultant dough should then be split in to two equal portions. If the dough appears too wet to hold together in a rolled ball, a little more flour should be added until an effective consistency is achieved. The dough should then be rolled in to spheres and gently deposited in the boiling water. The heat should be reduced to achieve a simmer and the dumplings cooked for fifteen minutes.

When the dumplings are almost ready, the remaining stock from the pork should be reheated to be served as gravy. It should be lusciously thick and tasty. The pork shank can then be added to a large plate, the gravy spooned alongside and the sauerkraut and potato dumpling sat in the bed of gravy. A little freshly chopped dill leaves scattered over the potato as a garnish complete the dish.

A Bavarian Beer is Essential with a Schweinhax'n!

In Munich, a schweinhax'n will often be served with a mass (litre) of local beer. For a true Bavarian experience, therefore, try to get a Bavarian beer from your local supermarket and ensure that this traditional meal is enjoyed to the full.

If you want to know more about Bavarian beer, food and associated traditions, you may find the site linked to below to be of interest.

Great Places to Visit for a Beer in Munich, Germany