Pork Chops with Sauerkraut

I know this recipe might divide opinion and I’ll admit sauerkraut isn’t something I normally buy. I ended up with a monster sized pack of it from my vegetable box delivery as a substitution.

I asked round family and friends if there was anyone who was a sauerkraut lover, and couldn’t find a taker. One of them come back to me to explain that I should try to do something with it, as sauerkraut along with other fermented foods like kimchi are amazingly good for your gut health and we should all be eating more of these.

The only recipe I could think of was one I tasted about a million years when I lived in Germany. Kathy, the love lady I worked for made this dish for me once. It might sound a bit strange, and I know sauerkraut and pineapple aren’t two ingredients you would naturally think of together, but give it a chance. When they’re teamed up with pork chops, it works kind of like sweet and sour pork. The sauerkraut also helps make the pork really tender. This makes a great uncomplicated mid week dinner.

Ready for the oven

Ingredients

4 Pork chops

500 Grams Sauerkraut (drained)

350 Grams Can of pineapple rings

Method

  1. Place pork chops in an oven proof baking dish
  2. Cover with the drained sauerkraut, and top with the pineapple rings
  3. Cover with foil and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes

Lemon Tiramisu

Before tiramisu purists start, I know this is not strictly speaking a tiramisu. I’m a card carrying coffee fiend, but I’m not a fan of coffee flavour in sweet things.

Delicious slice of tangy tiramisu

What I do love is lemon flavoured desserts. This recipe gives you the creamy unctuous texture of a tiramisu, with the refreshing tang of lemon that stops this being sickly sweet.

The coffee flavour is replaced with lemon and ginger tea, and a shot limoncello gives an extra zing of flavour. This is a good recipe if you’re entertaining, you can make it the day before and it’s easy to plate up.

(N. B. This recipe contains raw eggs and is probably best not served to potentially vulnerable groups like pregnant women, the elderly and very young children)

Ingredients

500 Grams Marscapone cheese

250 Grams Sponge fingers (lady fingers)

2 Eggs

125 Grams Caster sugar

1 Lemon and ginger teabag (you can use other fruit teas if you prefer, but I think this works well)

1 Lemon (juice and zest)

1 Shot of limoncello liquor (optional)

250ml Boiling water

200 Grams Lemon curd

Method

  1. Soak the teabag in the boiling water for 5-10 minutes before removing the teabag. Allow the tea to cool and add the limoncello to the tea
  2. Separate the eggs. Add the caster sugar, lemon juice and zest to the egg yolks and whisk with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add the marscapone and whisk again until the ingredients are combined
  3. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they reach firm peaks. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture with a metal spoon, making sure its thoroughly combined
  4. Briefly dip half the sponge fingers in the lemon tea mixture and line a layer in a 9 x 12 inch dish. When you have a layer of dipped sponge fingers, spread this layer with one third of the lemon curd
  5. Top this layer with half of the marscapone mix
  6. Dip the remaining sponge fingers in the lemon tea mixture and lay on top. Spread this layer again with one third of the lemon curd
  7. Top with the remaining marscapone mix, dot the top with the remaining lemon curd and then drag a knife through it to create a marbled effect
  8. Cover with cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours, or ideally overnight

Breakfast Wraps

I used seeded wraps, but use whatever type you prefer.

I love these for breakfast but they also make a great lunch/brunch dish.

I can pretty much kill any plant at 10 paces, but I have a faithful mint plant that needed a trim, so this is why I used mint. Basil or parsley also works really well if you prefer.

This is quick, easy and full of fresh clean flavours and different textures.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Wraps

2 Avocados (cut into chunks)

200 Grams Halloumi (cut into strips)

12 Cherry tomatoes (halved)

12 Mint leaves (torn)

1Tbsp Olive Oil

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan, and fry your halloumi until it is brown on both sides
  2. In each wrap assemble the ingredients, and roll up, it really is that simple

Rendang Beef Curry

It may not be beautiful, but it tastes unbelievable

I love Indonesian food and how brilliantly spiced, fresh and fragrant everything is. Rendang can be found across Indonesia, Malaysia and as far as Singapore. According to a CNN poll it was voted one of the most delicious foods of all time, and you’ll probably agree once you try it.

Base ingredients

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know about my love of Asian supermarkets. You can create a really good store cupboard at a fraction of the price you’d pay at a standard supermarket. So when you look at the list of ingredients and think when am I ever going to use things like tamarind paste, be brave and it will open up a whole realm of possibilities.

Galangal is a member of the ginger family but I think it has more of a citrus like flavour. Substitute this with more ginger if you can’t find it

A good store cupboard means you can experiment with new flavours and will be able to whip new and interesting dishes without any drama.

Anyway, lecture over. This takes about 10 minutes effort at the start, and after that you leave it to cook long and slow for a couple of hours while you get on with something else (ideal weekend cooking). Because of the long slow cooking, this dish can transform cheap cuts of beef into something delicious. I had this made with duck when I was in Bali and it was delicious, but I definitely think beef works better. This is quite a dry curry so don’t worry if most of the liquid evaporates. If you think it’s getting to dry for you, just add a little water.

All your base ingredients, whizzed up and smelling amazing.

Ingredients

500 Grams Chuck Steak (chopped into bite sized chunks)

400 ml Coconut milk

1 Tbsp Tamarind paste

1 Tsp Salt

5-6 Kaffir lime leaves

2 Tbsps Vegetable or coconut oil

1 Tsp Brown sugar (palm sugar is used traditionally, but I didn’t have this)

1 Tsp Ground Coriander

1 Tsp Cinnamon

For the curry paste base

3 Onions (peeled and quartered)

3 Chillies (roughly chopped, and seeds removed if you prefer less heat)

6 Cloves of garlic (peeled)

2 Stalks of lemon grass (outer woody stalk removed and roughly chopped)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (peeled and rough chopped)

Thumb sized piece of galangal (peeled and roughly chopped). If you can’t find this you can substitute this with extra ginger

Method

  1. Load the ingredients for the curry paste base into a food processor and blitz until you have a reasonably smooth paste (it will smell great but your eyes might water due to the onions and chillies)
  2. In a large pan with a lid heat the oil and add your paste. Cook for 5-10 minutes over a medium heat, stirring occasionally
  3. Add the meat to the paste (you don’t need to brown it), and the rest of the ingredients. Stir to make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined
  4. Reduce the heat and cover the pan. Cook for two and a half hours, stirring occasionally. About 2 hours in, you may want to uncover the pan to help the liquid evaporate to help thicken and intensify the sauce
  5. This is traditionally served with rice but it’s also great with flat breads. Like most curries I think this actually tastes better the next day.

OX, Belfast

Usually when it comes to food I believe you don’t have to slave away for hours to make something that tastes amazing.

However, occasionally you have to push the boat out and treat yourself to something that is really extraordinary.

An OX Martini to kick things off

The food scene in Belfast has changed massively in the last 10-15 years, and the city now has three Michelin star restaurants. As a special treat I visited one of them, OX. Located in Oxford Street in the city centre and overlooking the river Lagan, and the art installation known locally as “Nuala with the hula”

The interior is paired back Scandi chic, with lots is white washed walls and dark wood, making it minimal but also warm. The staff are knowledgeable, and have the gift of leaving you alone when you’re in the middle of a conversation and appearing as if by magic before you knew you needed something. They were also very accomodating when we asked for a rest between courses. I take this as a sign of a good Chef in control his kitchen. A couple of years I was in another pretty fancy restaurant in London (which was half full) and asked for brief break between courses, a shame faced server came back to apologise and say that the Chef was busy and would basically be sending the food out as it came!

First half of the taster menu

We had been waiting patiently since the start of lockdown to go to OX, and decided to go for the six course taster menu (there is the option of an additional cheese course, and wine pairing with each course).

Canap├ęs of delicate little tartlets with eel and horseradish and gougere (think warm savoury cheese profiteroles)

OX prides itself on using the best local and seasonal ingredients. Some of the herbs used are grown the Chef’s own garden.

Velvety smooth artichoke veloute, with salty crispy chicken crackling

The restaurant has long been a hit with visiting foodies (I met a German couple last year who when visiting Ireland, made a special trip to Belfast just to eat in OX because they had heard such good things from other foodies).

Broad beans, soft cheese with truffle and sour dough crisp

It will take time before foreign visitors come back to Belfast in any great numbers due to travel restrictions. However, it was heartening to see that the place was fully booked with locals on a Friday lunchtime.

Lobster with courgette
Part 2 of the taster menu

A lot of fine dining restaurants can be intimidating for people who don’t eat in them regularly. Like the best of these types of restaurants, OX has found the perfect balance of making you feel that you’re eating somewhere special without being stuffy or pretentious.

Cote de Beouf
Sheep milk yoghurt with apricots
Blackberry and white chocolate sable

Champ

Buttery champ, the ultimate comfort food.

Northern Ireland has many unique dishes like potato bread, soda farls, fifteens etc. The place has world class scenery and is luscious and green, but that’s mainly because it rains pretty much every day. We have numerous types of rain that range from soft pillowy drizzle, to sideways stingy rain that feels like someone is pinging your face with rubber bands.

Because of our unique weather system, we love carb heavy comfort food. The king of comfort foods is champ. Champ is basically mashed potatoes with milk made smooth and velvety by milk infused with with scallions (spring onions). Traditionally it’s served in a big mound with a well in the middle where you melt a knob of butter. I’ve heard of a few tweaks, like beating a raw egg into the potatoes and most families will make it how their Mum taught them. This is how my Mum made it. I love this just on its own, but champ and sausage is a really popular family dinner. There is basically nothing this doesn’t go with. In a lot of recipes fancy chefs tell people not to use the green part of the scallion. Champ is peasant food, so nothing is wasted. The green part of the onion is what gives the champ the distinctive green flecks.

Allow the milk to infuse with the taste of the scallions.

Ingredients

1Kg Potatoes (pick a floury variety rather than waxy potatoes)

1 Bunch of scallions (spring onions)

250 ml milk

Salt and pepper

Butter

Method

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into equal sized chunks
  2. Put in a large pot of cold water and salt. Bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are soft
  3. Trim the tops and ends of the scallions, cut into 1cm slices and add to a pot along with the milk. Heat on a low heat for 5- 10 minutes (do not allow to boil)
  4. Mash the cooked potatoes. Gradually stir in the milk and scallions until you get a consistency you’re happy with
  5. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if it needs it. Spoon a mound of the champ onto a plate and make well in the centre and add a knob of butter which will then melt into a gorgeous pool of golden deliciousness

Mock Crab

It may not be pretty, but OMG it’s tasty.

I have no idea why this is called mock crab, as it isn’t remotely fishy. But, what it is, is a really quick and tasty filling for sandwiches, toasties, and maybe controversially baked potatoes.

My Mum made this mix of corned (chipped) beef, tomatoes and onion for slightly fancier lunches. I love her, but she wasn’t especially adventurous, this was one of the things she knew we all loved.

Someone told me that this was devised during World War II, because people had to rely on tinned food as there could be shortages of fresh food. However it came about, it’s really delicious.

Ingredients

340 Gram Tin of corned beef

1/2 Small onion (finely chopped)

2 Small tomatoes

2 Tbsps Mayonnaise (you can increase this if you want a creamier texture)

Method

  1. Remove the corned beef from the tin and either chop finely or mash with a fork
  2. Finely chop the onion, and chop the tomatoes into 1 cm chunks (you can makes the mix a bit chunkier if you prefer)
  3. Add the mayonnaise and mix well, before filling sandwiches or baked potatoes

Blueberry Galette

I love a galette, mainly because you don’t need to be a super talented baker. Galettes are open free form pies, so you don’t have to be a whiz with pastry to make something great.

I make different versions of these, both savoury and sweet and usually try to use seasonal fillings. They are really versatile, and if you’re organised you can make a double batch of pastry and freeze it for the next time you bake. You can of course use shop bought pastry if you’re short on time, but home made pastry will taste better. I’ve included some sugar in the pastry but if you want to make a savoury galette just leave it out.

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter

2 Egg yolks (1 yolk goes into the pastry, and the second yolk is for brushing the pastry with)

1 Tbsp Caster sugar

Zest of one lemon (optional)

For the filling

400 Grams Blueberries

1 Tbsp Cornflour

1 Tbsp Caster sugar (reduce or increase depending on the sweetness of your fruit)

Method

  1. In a food processor add the ingredients and pulse until resembles breadcrumbs (you can use the rubbing in method if you prefer)
  2. Very gradually add cold water until it starts to come together. Turn onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
  3. After your pastry has chilled, remove from the fridge and allow it to come back to close to room temperature (it will be too difficult to roll out otherwise)
  4. Pre-heat your oven 180 degrees. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment
  5. On a floured surface, roll out your pastry to make a circle about 1.5cm thick. Transfer your pastry to the parchment (if you’re not especially confident with pastry, just put your ball of dough on the parchment at the start and roll it out (means you don’t have to transfer it)
  6. In a bowl add your fruit, corn flour and sugar and combine
  7. Place the fruit in the middle of the pastry, leaving a border of about 5-6cm around the edge of the pastry
  8. Brush the border with beaten egg yolk, start to pleat the pastry border together to bring the border towards the centre. Brush the pastry crust with the remaining egg yolks
  9. Bake the galette for 40-45 minutes until golden brown, allow to cool a little before dusting liberally with icing sugar. I love this served ice cream, or whipped cream

Goats Cheese and Beetroot Salad

I have vegetarian friends who scream at the thought of this, because it’s often the only vegetarian option available in restaurants.

I do sympathise, but done well there is a reason why some things are classics I understand that goats cheese is like kryptonite for some people, so I went with a really creamy soft cheese (that wasn’t too “goaty”), but this also works well cheeses like Gorgonzola.

Do you think you’re not keen on beetroot, I was an adult before I actually discovered that I liked it. I was put off by being made to try disgusting pickled beetroot as a child, and having horrible purple vinegar run into the other food on my plate. I’m probably over sharing my personal childhood trauma, but I know a lot of people have been put off for the same reason. When roasted, beetroot is sweet and earthy and goes really well with the soft cheese. I was lucky enough to get little beetroots in my farm box ranging in colour from gold, pink to deep purple, the range of colour is nice but they all taste the same, so give them a go.

Ingredients

150 Grams Soft goats cheese

200 Grams Roasted beetroot

200 Grams Salad leaves (I used rainbow chard, but use what you like)

25 Grams Walnut (Optional, I actually for forgot to add these, but they add some extra crunch to your salad)

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine vinegar

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees, wrap your beetroot in tin foil and place on a baking try. Bake until you can stick with a knife into the beetroot and an its soft. Set to one side and allow to cool, remove the skin with a knife, and cut into bite size pieces
  2. Spread your washed salad leaves across a platter, top with the beetroot
  3. Scoop teaspoon sized dollops of the cheese across the platter and sprinkle with walnuts if you are using them
  4. Mix the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the salad and serve immediately

Mint and Basil Martini

I love a cocktail. Usually I’ll pick something that’s fruity and not too strong. But sometimes you want something a bit more grown up.

These are fragrant and refreshing but they are strong, so enjoy responsibly (or not).

These need a simple syrup. You can buy this but it’s basically equal amounts of water and sugar heated together until the sugar dissolves and it becomes a syrup. This takes a couple of minutes to do and is a fraction of the price of syrup you can buy. Once the syrup is made allow it to cool and transfer to a jar with a lid. It keeps for ages.

This cocktail works best when everything is really cold i.e. your gin and simple syrup should be chilled. I pop the cocktail glass in the freezer about 5 minutes before I plan to serve these.

Ingredients

50ml Gin (or Vodka if that’s your thing)

25 ml Simple syrup

Juice of 1 lime

4 Basil leaves

2 Mint leaves

Method

  1. Some of you may have those fancy cocktail kits with shakers and muddlers etc.
  2. I don’t, so in a small jug I add the mint, lime juice and basil and “muddle”. What this means is that you bash or bruise the leaves so they release their natural oils and flavouring. I used the end of a wooden spoon
  3. Add the gin and simple syrup, you can decide if you are the shaken (like James Bond) , or stirred like me because I didn’t have a cocktail shaker
  4. It doesn’t matter which you choose, it will still taste fabulous. Transfer to a chilled glass, making sure to not to include the bashed leaves