Saturday, 28 March 2015

Duck and Brussels Sprouts Sandwich

An Unusual But Incredibly Tasty Sandwich Idea

Sliced duck breasts and sprouts cooked in duck fat make a delicious sandwich

I know this sounds like a strange combination to include on a sandwich but it really did work a treat and it's a perfect idea for a fairly light and quick to prepare dinner, perhaps on a weeknight after work. The idea came about firstly when I had been working on a project regarding how to get kids to eat Brussels sprouts and secondly when I was given a fresh duck breast to use. Originally, I was going to cook the duck breast and sprouts exactly as described below and serve them more conventionally with roast potatoes - but then I came up with this concept.

Duck breast fillet

Ingredients (Serves Two)

1 large duck breast fillet
6 to 8 medium Brussels sprouts
Salt and pepper
4 slices wheat, spelt and rye loaf (or similar, ultra fresh bread)

Starting to gently fry duck breast fillet


Start by bringing a pan of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the sprouts and simmer for three minutes only to part cook. Drain and leave to cool.

Pierce the skin of the duck breast several times with a fork but be sure not to damage the flesh. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.

Lay the duck breast skin side down in a cold, dry, non-stick frying pan. Put the heat on at low. As the fat starts to escape the duck breast, slowly increase the heat to high. Fry on the skin side for twelve minutes.

Duck breast fillet is left to rest

Reduce the heat under the pan to low to medium and turn the duck breast on to its flesh side. Fry for five more minutes. Lift to a chopping board with cooking tongs and leave to rest.

Frying Brussels sprouts in duck fat

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half, down through the centre. Add them to the pan with the hot duck fat and stir fry over a medium heat for two or three minutes.

Sliced duck breast fillet

Moderately thinly slice the duck breast across the grain. Remember that you will require enough slices to cover two slices of bread.

Duck breast slices are laid on one slice of bread

Lay the duck slices on two of the bread slices followed by the brussels sprouts, flat sides down. Add the top slices of bread and cut to serve.

Duck breast and Brussels sprouts sandwich

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Pork Tikka and Vegetable Stew

A Sumptious Indian Style Pork Stew with Fragrant Rice

Pork tikka on a blended bed of fragrant and plain rice with naan bread

Premade cooking sauces are not something I often buy and to be honest, I'm not really sure why I elected to buy one on this occasion. Maybe it was simply due to the fact that pork curries of any type are not too often encountered, so I wanted to see how it worked without expending too much effort. I'm not saying I'll buy premade sauces more often in future as opposed to making my own but I was certainly delighted in all ways in how this dish turned out.

Principal pork tikka ingredients

Ingredients (Serves Two)

3/4 pound pork loin steak
2 or 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 medium white onion (peeled and sliced)
5 ounce pack mixed, sliced bell peppers
1 pound jar tikka sauce
3/4 pint chicken stock
10 button mushrooms
6 ounces basmati or long grain rice
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 mini garlic and coriander (cilantro) naan breads
Freshly sliced basil leaves to garnish

Pork loin steaks


Dice the pork to one inch to one and a half inch pieces. This may of course already have been done by your butcher.

Chopped pork loin steaks

Pour the sunflower oil in to a large pot and gently heat. Add the sliced onions and gently sautee for a minute or so until just starting to soften, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon.

Starting to sautee sliced onion

Add the peppers to the onion and sautee for a further minute.

Chopped bell peppers are added to sauteeing onion

Use a large slotted spoon to temporarily remove the onion and peppers from the pot to a holding plate or bowl.

Sauteed onion and bell peppers are removed to a plate

The pork pieces should be added to the same pot and stirred around over a medium heat until sealed and browned. This should take a couple of minutes.

Satrting to brown and seal diced pork loin

Make sure the pork pieces are all evenly sealed as this helps keep the pork tender during cooking.

Browned pork loin

Tip the onion and peppers back in to the pot and pour in the tikka sauce.

Onion and peppers are re-added to pot along with tikka sauce

Stir well, pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about an hour and a half or until the pork is tender. Check frequently, giving a good stir.

Tikka sauce, pork and vegetables are stirred to combine

Add the mushrooms to the stew for the last fifteen minutes or so of cooking, while you prepare the rice. Be sure to stir them well through the mix.

Button mushrooms are added to simmering pork tikka

Put the rice in to a fine sieve and wash thoroughly under running cold water.

Basnati rice is washed prior to being cooked

Bring two separate pots of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the turmeric to one of them, along with half the rice. Add the remaining rice to the plain salted water. Stir well in both instances and simmer for ten minutes.

Simmering rice in turmeric water

The two separate types of rice should be drained through sieves and left to steam for two or three minutes. If you try to combine them immediately, the excess liquid (which will escape as steam) will turn the white rice yellow.

Rice is drained and left to steam

The naan breads will require to be heated per the instructions on the pack. This usually takes a maximum of two minutes.

Mini garlic and coriander naan breads

Add the two types of rice to one of the pots and fluff them up together with a fork.

Plain and turmeric rice ready to be combined

Divide the rice between two deep serving plates and spread out as beds for the tikka.

Rice bed is formed for pork and vegetable tikka

Spoon the tikka on to the rice beds. Note that you may have a little bit of tikka leftover but this can easily be cooled, refrigerated and reheated the following day for lunch, perhaps with a couple of leftover naan breads (often come in packs of six).

Pork and vegetable tikka is spooned on to rice bed

Scatter the shredded basil leaves over the tikka.

Shredded basil leaves garnish pork and vegetable tikka

Cut the naan breads in half and arrange around the edges of the plates. They should be used to help scoop up and eat the tikka and rice.

Tucking in to pork and vegetable tikka with rice and naan bread

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Seared Ostrich and Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables Pitta Pocket

Ostrich steak slices and roasted Mediterranean veg in a pitta pocket

I love ostrich meat and its vastly increased availability in recent years means I get the chance to cook and enjoy it more often. The increase in availability is due to a number of factors but principally vacuum packing - which keeps the meat fresh for longer - and ostrich farming now being practiced here in the UK. When I prepared this dish it was with the intention of adding it to my Ostrich Recipes page on Hub Pages but then it occurred to me that I have never before shared an ostrich recipe on this blog - or at least, I don't think I have! So I hope you like this idea and will give it a go if you can get hold of some fresh ostrich steaks. These ones came from my local Lidl and cost £4.99 for three.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

Oven ready 3/4 pound tray of mixed Mediterranean roasting vegetables
2 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 pound ostrich steak
Rapeseed, vegetable or sunflower oil for frying
2 handfuls of mixed salad to serve
2 pitta breads
3 or 4 basil leaves rolled and shredded to garnish

Tray of assorted Mediterranean vegetables


You could of course select and buy the roasting vegetables separately but this option is not only easier, it's considerably cheaper! This tray includes cherry tomatoes, courgette (zucchini) slices, red and yellow peppers as well as red onion.

Mediterranean vegetables ready for roasting

The vegetables should be roasted at a fairly high temperature so start by preheating your oven to 220C/450F/Gas Mark 8. While this is happening, drizzle the vegetables with the rapeseed (recommended) or olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to turn the veg gently around in the oil and seasoning to ensure even coating. Put the tray on to a large oven tray and in to the hot oven for half an hour.

Side salad is washed thoroughly in cold water

Wash the mixed salad under running cold water and sit on your draining board to drain off.

Ostrich steaks

When the vegetables have been in the oven for about twenty minutes, pour some more rapeseed oil in to a non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a very high heat.

Starting to fry ostrich steak

Fry the ostrich steak for about one and a half minutes (two at the very most) each side until done. You may think it should take longer but it doesn't. It's very lean and cooking it any longer will make it tough.

Ostrich steak is turned in frying pan

Lift the ostrich steak to a board with cooking tongs and very importantly leave it alone like this for three or four minutes to rest.

Ostrich steak is rested for a few minutes

Take the vegetables from the oven and sit them on a convenient board for assembling the dish.

Roasted Mediterranean vegetables removed from oven

When it has been rested, the ostrich steak should be very thinly sliced with a carving knife. You should easily get eight slices from a steak this size.

Rested ostrich steak is thinly sliced

I've used garlic and coriander (cilantro) pitta breads here simply because they are my favourite. You could use an alternative variety - even plain ones - if you prefer.

Garlic and coriander pitta breads

The pitta breads should be heated under your grill/broiler or in your oven, simply by following the instructions on the pack.

Side salad is arranged on plate

While the pitta breads are heating, assemble the salad on the serving plates, shaking off any excess water immediately before you do so.

Reheated pitta bread is cut open

Cut each pitta bread along one side with a sharp knife and use the cooking tongs from earlier to fill alternately with the assorted vegetables and ostrich slices.

Ostrich and roasted vegetables are added alternately to pitta bread pocket

Use the side salad to prop the pitta breads up on the serving plates.

Ostrich and roasted vegetable pitta bread is plated with salad

Garnish with the basil and serve immediately. For best results, eat using your hands.

Tucking in to ostrich and roasted vegetable pitta bread pocket

Monday, 9 February 2015

Fajita Spiced Mexican Chicken and Dips

Fajita spiced chicken breast with assorted Mexican dip combinations

Mexican themed food has become a lot more popular in recent years here in the UK. Although it's sometimes difficult for us to differentiate between genuine Mexican food and the TexMex dishes which are of course not quite so authentic, the flavours are of course what it is all about.

Although I have used a chicken crown in this recipe, you could instead use a whole chicken to serve more people.

Fresh free range chicken crown

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1 chicken crown
1 tablespoon Mexican fajita spice
1 large ripe haas avocado
1 medium strength red chilli
1 medium strength green chilli
Juice only of one lime
1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander/cilantro
1 medium tomato
2 inch piece of cucumber
2 cloves of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Small tub (roughly 5 ounces) soured cream
2 thick slices of wholewheat farmhouse bread

Fajita spice is scattered over chicken crown


It is important for best effect that you plan this meal to allow the chicken at least a couple of hours' marinating time before it is cooked. Overnight in the fridge would also be OK if this makes it easier, though be sure to remove it from the fridge at least half an hour before it goes in to the oven.

Dry fajita spices are rubbed in to chicken crown

Put the chicken crown in a deep plate or flat bottomed bowl. Scatter with the fajita spice and use your hand to carefully ensure all areas of the chicken are evenly coated in the powder. Cover and leave for a couple of hours.

Avocado is stoned to make basic guacamole

The guacamole and salsa should be made as soon as the chicken is set aside to marinate. This gives the flavours time to infuse in these instances also.

Lime juice is added to guacamole flesh to prevent it oxidising and browning

Remove the stone from the avocado and spoon the flesh in to a bowl. Squeeze over the juice of half the lime.

Guacamole are carefully combined

Seed and dice the chillies. Add to the bowl along with half the chopped coriander, season with salt and pepper and stir well.

Seeding tomato and cucumber for making salsa

Seed and moderately finely dice the tomato and cucumber. Add to a separate bowl  along with the remaining coriander, one of the garlic cloves only - peeled and very finely diced - the remaining lime juice and around a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper before stirring to combine.

Combining simple salsa ingredients

In order to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.  Weigh the chicken crown.

Lightly oil a roasting tray and rub some olive oil over the top of the chicken. Place the chicken in to the oven for twenty minutes per pound in weight and twenty extra minutes.

Fajita spiced chicken crown ready for roasting

When the chicken comes out of the oven, pierce it at the thickest part with a skewer to ensure the juices run clear. Set aside to rest for ten minutes.

Roasted and spiced chicken crown is left to rest

The two slices of bread should be lightly toasted on both sides until golden.

Thick slice taken from wholegrain farmhouse loaf

Sit the chicken crown on a chopping board and carefully slice off the two breast fillets.

First breast fillet is cut from chicken crown

Slice each fillet across the grain in to four or five thick pieces.

Chicken breast fillet is sliced across the grain

Peel and lightly crush the second garlic clove. Rub it over the top of each slice of hot toast before drizzling with extra virgin olive oil.

Toasted farrmhouse bread slice is plated

Plate the toast and carefully arrange the chicken breast slices on top.

Sliced chicken breast is laid on toast

Divide the guacamole, salsa and soured cream each between two ramekins and plate alongside the chicken on toast.

Tucking in to fajita spiced chicken breast with Mexican dips