Pigs in blankets and roasted sprout macaroni cheese

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‘Pigs in blankets macaroni cheese?’ I hear you cry! Why yes, you have indeed read the title correctly and I applaud you for making the most wonderful decision to click on it and read on to sate your curiosity. Now I love a Christmas dinner as much as the next, however, the trimmings are the best bit; think unctuous bread sauce, fragrant stuffing, bitter, yet most welcomed, sprouts and, wait for it, pigs in blankets. For this macaroni recipe I have taken elements of my favourite festive foods and melded them to make the ultimate festive indulgence so draw up your shopping list, fire up the oven and get cooking!

Ingredients- serves 6
For the sauce
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
2 tsp mustard powder
400ml double cream
400ml milk
60g parmesan
500g macaroni- cooked and drained well

For the rest
20g unsalted butter
2 large banana shallots- sliced
300g sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
12 cocktail sausages
6 rashers of streaky bacon
50g panko breadcrumbs

1. Get started by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Wrap the pigs in blankets by winding half a rasher of streaky bacon around each cocktail sausage and placing on a baking tray. Allow a slight overlap as the bacon will shrink back a little when cooking.

2. Clean and chop the sprouts and place on a separate baking tray. I cut larger sprouts into quarters and left smaller ones in half but you can do whatever takes your fancy; slices also work well but remember these will need less cooking time. Toss the cut sprouts in the olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper and roast at the same time as the pigs in blankets for around 20 minutes or until tender and until the sausages are cooked through.

3. Take a small frying pan or saucepan and melt the 20g of unsalted butter ready for the shallots. Cook on a low heat on the hob until the shallots are turning a light golden colour; remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Next up goes the sauce! In a large pan melt the 50g of butter and add in the flour; cook together to form a roux. Gradually pour in the milk and cream and keep stirring so no lumps form; if they do, then remove the pan from the heat and whisk the sauce until the lumps disappear. Simmer until the sauce thickens and then remove from the heat before adding the majority of the parmesan. Season to taste.

5. When the sauce, sprouts, sausages and shallots are cooked and ready then combine them all and stir well to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated. Add to the cooked pasta and divide between 6 individual ovenproof dishes or 1 large one. Grate the remaining parmesan into the panko crumbs and top the pasta; for a twist, you could crisp up some extra bacon and also add this to the crumb mix which is delicious too. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve with a simple side salad if you like.

Pigs in blankets and roasted sprout macaroni cheese- the ultimate festive treat!

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Tray bake ‘fry up’

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The term ‘fry up’ conjures all sorts of images of greasy spoon cafes offering calorie laden breakfasts with tea so strong that you can stand a spoon upright in it but this is a completely different take on this. Rather than a meat heavy breakfast this makes the best of two of my favourite things which are both in season in the UK at the moment- Jersey Royal potatoes and asparagus. Each year I eat the best part of a family’s asparagus quota to myself and I hope this year will be no exception. My tray bake ‘fry up’ is much lighter and healthier than the usual fry up but it is perfect not only as a breakfast but also as a brunch or even a midweek dinner. It’s speedy but also is low on washing up which is always a bonus in my mind!

Ingredients- serves 2-3
Glug of vegetable oil
Jersey Royals- as many as you want depending on hunger!
1 red or white onion
1-2 garlic cloves
4-6 rashers of streaky bacon
Bag of baby spinach
200g asparagus spears
Cherry tomatoes on the vine
4-6 Portobellini or Portobello mushrooms
1 tsp chilli flakes
2-3 eggs

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180fan and bringing a medium pan of water to the boil. Take the tray that you will be making the majority of the meal in, add a splash of oil and heat on the hob over a medium heat. Meanwhile simmer the potatoes until just tender; drain well. Take a separate tray, add another small glug of oil and toss the potatoes in it. Season with salt and pepper and roast until golden whilst you crack on with the rest.

2. When the oil is warm, add the onions and garlic and fry until softening. Shred the spinach and add to the tray; stir until combined with the onion and garlic and continue to cook over a lower heat until wilted. Remove from the hob whilst you assemble the rest.

3. When the potatoes are golden, use a slotted spoon to remove from the tray and use the back of a fork to lightly crush them. Add the asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes to the pan. Sprinkle with chilli flakes and season well. Brush the vegetables with a light coating of oil so they don’t catch in the oven and bake until just tender. Make a couple of hollows in between the vegetables and crack an egg into each; return the tray to the oven and cook until the eggs are set.

4. While that is in the oven, fry the streaky bacon in a dry pan or even wipe out the tray that you used to roast the potatoes and use this on the hob to minimise washing up further! Streaky bacon has a high fat content so you won’t need any extra oil. Fry until golden and remove from the pan. Towards the very end of cooking you have a bacon related decision to make… You can either serve the bacon on the top of the tray bake in whole rashers or you can do as I did and crumble a couple over the top whilst keeping a couple whole so it’s up to you. Serve immediately.

Tray bake ‘fry up’- just as delicious but minus the calories!

 

Pan fried sea bream with bacon and samphire crushed new potatoes

I absolutely adore sea bream- firm yet tender, meaty yet delicate, it ticks all the boxes for flavour in my book. Fish is almost always best treated simply to let it shine without being taken over by the accompanying ingredients. I have teamed the bream with marsh samphire, which is now readily available. Samphire needs little done with it to add a wonderful saltiness; it can be steamed, roasted or pan fried to perfection.

‘Bacon as well as samphire?!’ I hear you cry! ‘Absolutely’ says I! Don’t think that the bacon and samphire will create a thirst inducing meal, it simply isn’t so. I used a lightly smoked back bacon which is tossed in with the potatoes at the last minute. If you like, consider replacing the bacon with other sea vegetables. Another word: Jersey Royal potatoes are currently in season in the UK and are simply wonderful so do use them whilst you get the opportunity.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 fillets of sea bream- skin on
Salt and pepper to season
60g butter
200g jersey royal potatoes
100g samphire- rinsed well
2 rashers of smoked back bacon- roughly cut

1. Before you get cracking on the fish itself, boil a kettle of water and cook the potatoes. Most average sized new potatoes take around 15-20 minutes but this will also depend on the size. Test if they are cooked with a knife, drain well and set aside.

2. Meanwhile take two pans; one that is suitable for the fish so this needs to be a non- stick frying pan ideally and one that can be used for frying the bacon. Sea bream fillets will take around 5-6 minutes so I simply pan fry with 20g of butter (and a glug of oil if you like as well). Season the skin side of the fish with salt and pepper before frying skin side down for 3 minutes until golden. Flip the fish onto the other side and season before cooking for a further 2-3 minutes until cooked through. I used a spoon to baste the fish with the melted butter in the pan throughout the cooking.

3. At the same time this is all going on, heat a knob of butter in the second pan. Pop in the bacon pieces and samphire. Take the drained potatoes and lightly crush them with a masher or spoon before adding to the pan. Keep as much butter as you want (or need) to work its way through the potatoes. Now is not the time to worry about the diet! That can wait! When the bacon is crisped, the samphire soft and the potatoes warm, divide between two plates. Carefully remove the bream from the pan and place on top of the bed of potatoes. Serve immediately.

Pan fried sea bream with bacon and samphire crushed potatoes- savour every bite of this wonderfully simple yet elegant dinner!

 

 

Dark chocolate and bacon truffles

Now this is a match made in heaven! The delicate bitterness of the chocolate with the savoury yet sweetness of the bacon makes for a unique truffle. These truffles are great if you use a 70% cocoa dark chocolate so try and use the best chocolate you can find to make an indulgent treat. Of course (if there are any left!) you can dress the truffles up and give as gifts. You could also add a shot of rum or bourbon to pep the truffles up!

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Ingredients- makes 25- 30 truffles
6 slices streaky smoked bacon
3 tbsp light brown sugar
250ml double cream
250g chopped dark chocolate
100g cocoa powder for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 220c/ 180 fan. Lay out the slices of streaky bacon and rub 1/2tsp of the sugar onto each slice. I then transfer them to a wire rack placed on a baking tray so any drips of fat can be caught as the bacon cooks, making it easier to clean.

2. Cook the bacon for 10 minutes on each side before removing from the oven and allowing to cool. The sugar on the bacon will caramelise in the oven and the bacon will harden as it cools. Try to resist the temptation to have a nibble! When the bacon is cool finely chop the bacon and set aside.

3. Over a medium heat, add the double cream to a saucepan and heat until it just begins to simmer. Take it off the heat and then stir through the chopped chocolate until combined well.

4. Add the cooled bacon pieces to the chocolate mixture. I then transfer the mixture to a bowl to pop into the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight if you can.

5. When the chocolate is chilled and hardened enough to handle, start rolling the truffles. You can either use a melon baller or scoop the chocolate with a teaspoon before shaping. When you have rolled the truffles, coat them in the cocoa powder to finish. You could also try a nutty coating such as finely chopped hazelnuts if you like. Keep the truffles in the fridge until ready to devour!

There we have it! Indulgent dark chocolate and bacon truffles to test the taste buds of all your friends!