Archive | February 2017

A Romantic Interlude…

IMG_20160815_121133 (2).jpgSweet Peppers Stuffed with Cream Cheese

vegetarian/lactofree/gluten free/can be made vegan

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Before we get properly started on the epic adventure curry quest I thought I would share a quick recipe to mark the occasion of receiving my first ever Valentine’s card with the word “wife” on the front. (We got married last summer. Yay us.)

This is one I often make as a romantic treat for my husband. (Yes, we do live in the 1950s apparently) wife-6-600x782.jpgIt’s tiny sweet peppers stuffed with cream cheese. My husband loves these naughty little beauties. He first spied them in a pub while on a weekend away in Birmingham and has lusted after them ever since. The look on his face while he is eating them suggests that he may even love them more than me. For my part, instead of getting jealous of the peppers, demanding to know whether he is eating them behind my back, obsessively checking his phone for pictures of peppers and throwing his cheese out of the window, I have decided to take the unconventional approach of welcoming the peppers into our relationship and fulfilling his gastronomic urges every chance I get.

I think these work best when eaten as part of a tapas style spread. On the last occasion, we ate them with sweet potato fries, miniature vegetarian pigs in blankets, baked green lemon tiger tomatoes and olives but you can do whatever you like best.

Recipe Tips

  • Sweet peppers of suitable dimensions to make delicious, single-bite-sized parcels of cheesy goodness are surprisingly difficult to find. Most on offer that I have found in supermarkets are simply too big to be consumed in one bite. Of course the recipe does still work perfectly well with the larger variety, it’s just less satisfying when you have to cut them up. For those of you with a taste for the spicier things in life, this recipe is traditionally made with chillies, and these have the advantage of being the perfect size. I and my digestive system however, cannot cope with all the excitement. On balance, the scarcity of perfectly sized peppers is probably a good thing; given an unrestricted supply who knows what orgies of cheese based consumption might otherwise ensue in our household.
  • You don’t actually have to use cream cheese for this – any soft cheese will do if you can eat cheese.
  • I have not yet found a vegan or lactose free cream cheese that contains herbs or anything exciting so have added in the step of making my own for this dish. If you are using normal cream cheese feel free to skip this part. I like to add Herbes de Provence but a standard Italian herb mix will do just nicely. You can also add a sprinkling of paprika and/or garlic powder if you like them.
  • To minimise cheese-leakage when cooking I have, through much experimentation come up with an ingenious solution involving a scrunched up roll of aluminium foil to hold the peppers cheesy end up. I call my marvellous invention the patented* perky pepper proper-upper  *patent pending**    **patent not pendingpeppers-4

(It’s not the most eco-friendly option I know but unless you are a much better person than me and your dedication to the cause extends to scrubbing burned cheese off your cookware I would highly recommend this solution)

Ingredients

  • As many tiny sweet peppers as you think you can eat – remember: they are going to be stuffed with cheese so this one really is between you, your arteries and your conscience.
  • A tub of spreadable cream cheese. (I use lactose free but vegan works fine too)
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika and garlic powder (optional)
  • Mixed herbs
  1. Prepare the pepperspeppers-1

Gently cut a ring around the stems using the tip of a knife. Pull the stems out and you should be left with a neat hole. Wash the inside of the peppers out under the tap to remove the seeds.

  1. Improve the cream cheese

Decant some cream cheese into a bowl – no measures, just as much as seems reasonable – a few dessert spoons should do it for one person. Add salt and pepper and herbs to taste.

  1. Stuff those pepperspeppers-2

Using a knife, fill the peppers with cream cheese. If you’re feeling fancy you can use a piping bag but the results are much the same.

  1. Bakepeppers-3

Place on a baking tray lined with foil or greaseproof paper. Bake for roughly 15-20mins (give or take – just keep checking it) on 200C.

  1. Revel in cheesy decadence. 
    800px-Neufchâtel.jpg

    Neufchatel. Markus Lindholm Wikimedia Commons.

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Curry for the unadventurous

Spices_for_Indonesian_food.jpg

 

Image source: Flickr. Matt Oldfield. The kitchen UWRF13. Wikimedia Commons.

 

Well hello there. My, what a time is has been! We have feasted, we have frolicked and we have made merry. We have roasted, fried, dipped, marinated, drizzled, boiled, crushed, glazed, baked, squeezed and sprinkled until we are fit to burst. I have (ironically) been so busy in the kitchen over the festive period that I haven’t even had time to write about it. The good news is that the fruits of my labours have provided lots of new recipes and tips to tell you all about in time for next year.

But for now, February…

Oh.

As I write this at 4pm the sun is just caressing the horizon, gilding the neighbours’ Cypress tree with warm light. Below, the pond is frozen solid and slivers of frost still linger in the shady patches of ground. This time of year is often undeniably beautiful yet we seem do our best to hate it anyway. In my daily life, I rarely encounter anyone with a good word to say about February. All of the fresh January enthusiasm has faded leaving ice on the car windscreen and a fridge full of wilting salad. I totally understand the compulsion to feel healthy after the splurge of December. I for one am craving apples. I normally hate apples. But I have never got to grips with the whole raw vegetables thing when it below zero outside. Surely, I think, there must be a better way. And I think I have found it in curry.

I would love to know more about cooking curry but have always been held back by the long lists of unfamiliar ingredients involved and a vague terror of making things too spicy. (IBS will do that to you) Despite liking the idea of curry the furthest I was prepared to venture in the past was a mild chicken korma. Even black pepper on my dinner was living wild as far as I was concerned. My husband however can tolerate food so hot that the sales assistant in our local spice shop once speculated that there must be something wrong with him.

Over the last couple of years of cooking together and trying to find a middle ground between our tastes I have gradually increased my tolerance for spice without really knowing it. So much so that the other day while eating one of my standard chicken with super-mild-korma-sauce-from-jar I was actually moved to get up out of my comfy chair to add some extra chilli powder before I even realised what I was doing.

Curry for me embodies everything you need on a cold February day. It’s colourful, warming and can be filled with fresh vegetables. Some ingredients in curries (i.e. ginger) can also be good for battling the dreaded plague demons that regularly beset us fragile mortals at this time of year. (Plus, it sort of looks like witches’ brew and that pleases me greatly. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to cackle manically as I stir a cauldron of bubbling curry on the stove).

So, I propose a quest. An adventure into the world of curry for the chronically unadventurous. Join me as I start by re-tracing my steps through the easy, mild curries that I am familiar with and then boldly venturing into delicious and unchartered realms. I’ll go and get the ingredients, you check back for the start of the quest soon!

(insert manic cackle here)

hocus-pocus-bubble