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So Christmas was a success, more or less anyway. Creamy Pea Soup and Prawn Cocktail with melba toast to start, one Citrus Butter Turkey and all the trimmings, and finally boozy (and I do mean boozy) Grand Marnier Chocolate Mousse topped with Spicy Cocoa Biscuits. All prepared and served to guinea pig family with no adverse effects (besides the adverse effects of eating a three course meal only a few hours after polishing off a proper salmon and scrambled egg breakfast, several Bucks fizz and an Apricot Queen), although I was still disappointed that despite all my efforts of butter under its skin and a white wine bath it was still on the dry side so that will need some tweaking and practising but not bad for a first attempt.

Its a little late to share all the recipes with you as I’m sure you need 12 months to recover before you even contemplate another Christmas dinner but since the theme of this post is a little break from all the decadence before new year finishes us off, I decided I would give you the pea soup recipe (at the end of this post) as it was definitely a keeper. It works really well as a little side with a prawn cocktail but a big bowl and some crusty soup would be just as good as a simple healthy meal on its own. The creaminess comes from adding half a can of coconut milk which isn’t exactly low fat (I did use the light version though) but definitely feels lighter than cream and has a much fresher, less cloying taste. You could add chilli or different spices as well but I quite like the full and unadorned pea flavour and brilliant green colour.

Despite a brief pea soup respite, after three days of drinking and eating I had to give my poor body a chance to get back on the band wagon before I bludgeon it over the head with a bottle or six of champagne so this week  I raided the healthy end of the store cupboard and made up a couple of new granola recipes in an attempt to restore normality.

Dark chocolate and chilli granola might not sound like normality but trust me it works. I got the most brilliant cookbook for my last birthday, The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. It gives you suggestions for flavour combinations by grouping ingredients into flavour families and it’s so useful when you are trying to come up with a recipe or use up ingredients and cant decide what to pair them with. Some of the pairings like chilli and chocolate are more common but I’ve learnt some unlikely new ones or finally found an explanation for why some things work together. This granola recipe is great because apart from barely requiring any cooking at all, you can add anything you want to the basic granola to make different versions and you can actually try the raw ingredients rather than having to cook them first and hope for the best.  I developed these combinations by tasting bits of fruit, chocolate and spices before I started to see what works the best. I was originally going to put cinnamon in with the white chocolate and cranberry but nutmeg was just perfect because the nutmeg adds a fresh balance to the extreme sweetness of white chocolate (think about what it does for a creamy white sauce). The ginger in the dark chocolate version is another classic pairing which adds a second gentle heat behind the chilli and brings out the orange flavour from the zest grated into the oats.

Anyway I’m getting a bit scientific about granola. Here are the recipes, enjoy the rest of your holidays and I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

 

Dark Chocolate and Chilli Granola

If you are making both of these at the same time then you can half the ingredients but I’ve given amounts for a full batch of each.

  • 250g rolled oats (preferably jumbo)
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 50g butter (if I am halving the recipe then I use 30g butter)
  • 6 tbsp runny honey
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • a large handful of dark chocolate chips (or as much as you like)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Combine the oats, nuts, seeds and spices in a large bowl. Melt the butter with the honey and add the grated orange zest. Stir into the oat mixture until the oats are properly coated. Spread over a baking tray lined with tin foil and bake for 15-20 min, stirring every 5 to 10 min so that the oats brown evenly. When toasted, remove the granola from the oven and allow it to cool completely before adding the chocolate chips and storing in an airtight container.

White Chocolate and Cranberry Granola

  • 250g rolled oats
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 50g butter (if I am halving the recipe then I use 30g butter)
  • 6 tbsp runny honey
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • a large handful of white chocolate chips

Repeat as above, adding the white chocolate and cranberries once the granola has cooled.

Creamy Pea Soup

This recipe makes enough to serve 4 as a light meal or at least 6 as a starter, depending on how much you serve. You can make it ahead and freeze as well if you are pushed for time.

  • 1/2 a leek, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1 litre good vegetable stock
  • 50g butter
  • 750g frozen or fresh peas
  • 200ml coconut milk

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and fry the onions and celery over a low heat until soft (do not brown). Add the leeks and fry for another 2 min. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then add the peas (I run the frozen peas under water for a bit before I add them to get rid of some of the ice). Boil the peas for about 4 min until just cooked and then add the coconut milk. Allow the soup to stand for a couple of minutes before blending in batches. You can now store in the fridge or freezer (defrost before you try to heat it) or put it back on the heat straight away to warm slightly. Just avoid boiling at length at any stage or the peas will lose their bright green colour and fresh flavour.

Happy eating! ♥

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Anyone who knows me wont be surprised that my Christmas tree has been up for a week already. I haven’t always been this obsessed with Christmas. I think it started when I moved to Scotland because in South Africa its usually too hot to contemplate the effort required to wiggle your lilo over to the edge of the swimming pool for another drink, never mind trying to eat a tableful of turkey and all the trimmings.

I’m sure the novelty will eventually wear off but until it does I’ll spend every November and December getting slightly over excited about tree decorations, wrapping presents and most importantly, delicious food with a festive theme. I am making Christmas lunch this year for the family and for the first time so I’m a little more maniacal than usual, trying out different elements before the day to make sure they work (so far there don’t seem to be any complaints from Ross who is ‘forced’ to eat them all).

To celebrate the start of Christmas in our house I cooked this chilli glazed gammon with braised red cabbage and crunchy roast potatoes and it turned out to be a recipe worth sharing. Since you probably arent as over eager as I am in the tree department you can still probably use it to celebrate the occasion as well if the flavours appeal to your taste buds. Otherwise its a nice twist on the classic Christmas gammon if you havent chosen your menu yet.

The chilli is chilli jam rather than fresh chilli and it gives a lovely sweet hot flavour to the glaze and a bit of kick to the red cabbage without clashing or overpowering. You could make any veg you feel like to go with it but the cabbage goes perfectly and is suitably festive in colour and the crunch of the roast potatoes balances the other softer textures. Hope you like it.

P.s. I am planning to make another gammon this week because I’ve gone a bit gammon crazy at the moment so if you have any different ideas for a glaze or side dishes please let me know!

Chilli Glazed Gammon

Serves 4.

  • 900g unsmoked gammon
  • 2-3 strips of orange skin
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick (you can re-use this for the cabbage as well)
  • 1 onion halved (I used 2 shallots instead because I had some left over)
  • 1 bay leaf

Glaze

  • 2 tbsp chilli jam
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp english mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 20 cloves (or enough to stud the gammon)

Put the gammon into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, drain and rinse under the tap (this is to remove the saltiness, alternatively you can soak overnight but this is much quicker).

Put the gammon back in the saucepan and cover with cold water again. Add all the other ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. If your gammon is smaller or bigger, calculate the cooking time as 20 min per 450g plus 20 min and half this for the boiling time. When ready, drain the ham and cool enough to handle. You can keep the stock for making soup instead of throwing it away.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the gammon in a roasting pan lined with foil, slice off the top layer of fat, score with a knife in a diamond pattern and stud with cloves. Put the glaze ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until you have a sticky glaze that is thick enough not to slide straight off into the pan. Drizzle this over the gammon, covering the fat and place in the oven for 30 min (or the other half of your cooking time) to crisp up the fat and heat through.  If you have cooked a larger gammon and/or let it cool completely then you may need to start on a lower heat and cook for longer. Just turn up the oven for the last 30 min if you do to crisp the fat.

Festive Braised Red Cabbage

  • 1 red cabbage, core removed and shredded
  • 75g butter
  • 275 ml red wine or 200ml chicken stock
  • 50g dark brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 2 tbsp cherry jam
  • 3 tbsp chilli jam
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the cabbage and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the red wine or stock, bring to the boil and then simmer until the liquid has reduced slightly. Add the other ingredients, bring back to a simmer, cover and cook for 40-50min until tender.

Remove the lid and cook for 5-10 min over a high heat until the liquid has evapourated.

 

Crispy Roast Potatoes

  • 5 roasting potatoes
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp semolina

Preheat the ovewn to 250°C. Pour about 1 cm of vegetable oil into a roasting pan and place it in the oven to heat up for at least 10 min. In the meantime, par boil the potatoes for 5 min, drain and bash around in the pan to break up the edges. Sprinkle over the semolina, toss to coat and place carefully into the roasting pan. Turn to coat with oil and place in the oven for 40-50 min, turning over half way through. When ready, remove from the oven onto kitchen towel to absorb the oil and then serve. Keep in the oven until you are ready to serve to keep them crispy.

If you are making these dishes together then carry out the steps in this order:

  • prepare the gammon and then boil it with the infusing ingredients
  • prepare it for the oven and set aside
  • prepare the cabbage and put it on to simmer for 45 min (pre heat the oven for the potatoes)
  • par boil the potatoes and put them in the oven for 50min
  • with 30min to go, turn the oven down to 220°C and put the gammon in
  • if you turn down the heat on the cabbage after 40min it will bubble away fine for another 10 min if the gammon and potatoes are still in the ovwn and you will just have less juices to cook off at the end
  • Finally cook off the cabbage juices while you get the gammon out of the oven
  • Let the gammon rest for 5-10 min while you are getting the potatoes out and then carve into slices and serve everything

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    Peri Peri Ostrich

     

    Snow snow snow snow snow! I know most people wont agree and I’ll probably be slightly less exuberant after I’ve tried to get to work in it tomorrow, but until then… I’m making snow angels! Sorry I had to get that out of the way first.

    So you are probably frowning at the title of this post. It’s what I’m calling the ostrich prego rolls I made for dinner last night and also the recipe I’m entering into In the Bag November 2010. For the unfamiliar, this is a regular recipe competition run by the authors of The Real Epicurean and A Slice of Cherry Pie and this month’s “bag” is game. I know Ostrich isn’t the most obvious choice but since it’s South African and it’s a game bird, I thought it would do nicely for my first entry to this competition.

    And before I get in trouble for choosing ingredients from the other side of the planet I should point out that depending on where you live, you can get ostrich meat in England and Scotland fairly easily now and even our local farmer’s market has ostrich on offer (I do feel a little sorry for the ostriches given the current weather though, hope someone gives them a jumper).

    The peri peri part of the dish is Portuguese, which is also South African to me. I realise that will sound odd to some but without recounting a history of South Africa,  we have a big Portuguese influence and we like our peri peri. Case in point – Nandos. If you don’t know what Nandos is, google it. You are missing out.

    Anyway, back to the point. A prego roll is a very simple dish of thin steak marinated in chillies, wine and garlic and served in a chewy Portuguese roll. It’s not a fancy dish with lots of frills but the simplicity is partly what makes it so good and the steak is the star of the show. I normally make prego rolls with beef but the rich gamey flavour of ostrich is perfect with the chilli and garlic. The warmth of the marinade also leaves you with a nice after glow which is perfect if you plan on going out to play in the snow afterwards.

    So without further ado, here’s the recipe. Oh and happy sledging!!

    Peri Peri Ostrich Prego Rolls

    Serves 2.

    • 2 ostrich steaks
    • 1-2 chillies chopped (depending on the strength of the chillies and your preference)
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • sprig of rosemary
    • half a cup of white wine
    • salt and pepper
    • olive oil for frying
    • 2 Portuguese or Ciabatta rolls

    If you have very thick ostrich steaks place them between two pieces of cling film and flatten slightly with a rolling pin. Put the garlic, chilli and rosemary in a shallow dish with the wine, cover and marinate the steaks for at least a couple of hours in the fridge.

    Remove the steaks from the marinade and pat dry. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the steaks for a few minutes each side until cooked to your liking. Take out of the pan and leave to rest. Pour the marinade into the pan and fry until it reduces slightly. Place each steak in a roll and pour over some of the marinade.

    Enjoy and spare a thought for a chilly ostrich! ♥

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