19 October 2013

Turkey & Bacon Meatloaf Open Sandwich with cheese!

Think "open sandwich" - and you'll be in the right area.

Hubby and I were pondering over what we had in the fridge that needed using and what we could do with these various things.  Having been blogging for the last three or four years - yes, it's been THAT long - we've got quite good at doing this kind of thing.   When hubby first suggested an open sandwich affair with the bacon, I pricked up my ears.  I've not done too many open sandwiches - and certainly not dinner varieties.

We'd been discussing meatloaves, as I recently made some Forfar Bridies (similar to a Cornish Pasty, except with no vegetables) that failed miserably - but the filling of them would have stood up against a fair amount of competition, as a meatloaf.  However, bacon meatloaf?  Bacon and what, though?  Not sausagemeat - too potentially salty and greasy.  Pork mince was mooted first, but then I remembered some meatballs I'd made with turkey mince and how successful they were.  Turkey mince has an inherent sweetness that would go nicely with the smoked bacon and it also has the ability to stick together, without encouragement such as egg.

I decided to do a little bit of research on what other people have put into their turkey meatloaves and decide from there what alternative ingredients to use.

So when hubby suggested we use the meatloaf on an open sandwich type affair, it sounded very interesting indeed.  We discussed whether to use a cut loaf like soda bread for the bread part, but decided the open texture of a ciabatta would be better suited to the close texture of a meatloaf - and even better, had a sudden brainwave to use a Leerdammer cheese melted on top which would serve to bring the whole sandwich together.  With something tasty under the meatloaf, it sounded like we were onto a winner.

Well, I made it this evening (actually, I started at about 3 o'clock this afternoon) and it was really good.  No, really, really good.

 The meatloaf ingredients were turkey mince, bacon (half minced finely, half chopped roughly), a small amount of breadcrumbs, a small amount of parmesan cheese, a red onion, a clove of garlic, some fresh parsley, some dried thyme, white pepper and four mushrooms.  I didn't use any salt at all, as with the bacon and parmesan cheese, I reckoned (and I was right) that there was already enough salt in the mix.

I used the food processor to finely chop (almost down to a paste), the onion, garlic, parsley, tail end of the smoked bacon rashers, thyme, white pepper and mushrooms.  This then got mixed with the breadcrumbs, roughly chopped bacon (for texture), turkey mince and parmesan cheese.  Packed into a silver foil lined one pound loaf tin and cooked for an hour in a hot oven, it was smelling wonderful.  I then drained the juice from the loaf tin and turned the loaf out into a roasting tin - upside down - and gave it another 20 minutes in the hot oven, just to give the outside edge some colour and dry the loaf out a little.

Hubby had some red onion marmalade on his toasted ciabatta, but son & heir and myself erred on the side of caution and went for a zig zag of tomato ketchup.  With the meatloaf slices laid on top and the cheese melted over, it really was so good.

Hence, the next time you're thinking "meatloaf" and decide against it because it's boring.  Think again and put it on some ciabatta toast with melted cheese.  Awesome.

I served ours with some home made coleslaw and watercress salad.  Beautiful.

The very best bit is that we've just under half the meatloaf left, for lunch tomorrow.  Yum.  The following recipe feeds three people, so remember to grill more ciabatta rolls and provide more Leerdammer cheese if you're making for more, or extra hungry people.  The meatloaf itself would happily make eight open sandwiches.


Ingredients :

1 red onion, cut into chunky pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 small bunch fresh parsley (to make 2 tbsp)
400g smoked bacon rashers
1 tsp dried thyme
4 chestnut mushrooms, cut into quarters
half a tsp white pepper
2 large handfuls white breadcrumbs
20g finely grated parmesan cheese
500g minced turkey
2 ciabatta rolls, each cut into two equal halves
1 tsp red onion marmalade or tomato ketchup
4 slices of Leerdammer cheese.

Method :

1.  Take the bacon and trim away the majority of the fat, which should be discarded.  Separate the tail (streaky) end from the eye (lean) part and finely chop the tail end.  Cut the eye part into three long slices, then chop into decent size squares so that they will provide some texture to the meatloaf.

2.  Into a food processor, place the red onion pieces, chopped garlic, parsley (broken into a manageable size), thyme, the finely chopped tail end of the bacon rashers, mushroom pieces and pepper.  Chop until the mixture begins to resemble a paste, but stop just as that happens.

3.  Tip the paste into a bowl and add the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and turkey mince.  Scrunch the ingredients together with your hands, until thoroughly mixed.

4.  Decant into a one pound loaf tin, previously lined with tin foil to make removing the meatloaf much easier.

5.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200degC/400degF/Gas 6 for one hour.

6.  Once the time is up, gently tip the meatloaf tin and pour off the liquid.  Then gently remove the loaf from the tin - using the silver foil to lift it into a roasting tin.  Flip the meatloaf onto its head and replace into the oven for a further 20 minutes, to brown the outside and dry the loaf out a little.

7.  While the meatloaf is finishing cooking, grill the four halves of ciabatta roll and coat with your choice of either red onion marmalade or tomato ketchup.

8.  Once the meatloaf is baked, slice and lay a slice (or more) onto each half of roll.

9.  Cover the meatloaf with a slice of Leerdammer cheese, then place under the hot grill for 2-3 minutes, just enough to melt the cheese.

Serve with a watercress salad and coleslaw.

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13 October 2013

Tonight's Dinner : Marsala chicken with leeks, plus Rhubarb and plum sundaes!

It's been a funny old day today.  The weather has been chilly and wet, so not a day to do very much.

I was contemplating the menu plan for next week with hubby which inevitably involves taking a mental roundup of what vegetables we have left in the fridge.  I mentioned that I had quite a few plums that needed using up in some way and before I knew it, I was in the kitchen making a plum and rhubarb (which two sticks of rhubarb from the garden) compote for dessert!

That then progressed to slicing the kernels from one of the ears of corn in the fridge, to put into my small saucepan with just enough water for an Ainsley Harriott Cup a Soup - Wild Mushroom, in this case.  Once the kernels were cooked, just stir in the cupasoup mix, decant into a bowl and off you go for lunch.

Over lunch I got to thinking about this evening's dinner which was supposed to be a braised chicken dish.  However, it sounded fairly unremarkable upon second thoughts and I began pondering on how I could make it less "brown" and more interesting.

Inevitably, whenever I'm thinking about what to add to a meat dish to create flavour, my mind travels to the wine rack.  In this case, it settled upon the bottle of Marsala wine which I hadn't used in quite a while.  Marsala goes so well with chicken - and I'd used it in the past with my Velvety Marsala Chicken, with great success.  I didn't have any cream, so it would need to be a non-creamy version.  However, I did have a leek - and chicken and leek is just one of those classic combinations.  So, chicken, leek, Marsala wine ... add a few mushrooms for depth of flavour and we're sorted.  Lovely!

Lovely was indeed what it turned out to be.  I browned (or should that be "goldened"?) the chicken in the frying pan, then cooked the shallots, garlic, mushrooms and leek in the leftover butter/groundnut oil.  Then I deglazed the pan with the Marsala, added some chicken stock, parsley, freshly ground black pepper and a couple of teaspoonful of Bisto's Best Chicken gravy granules to thicken and add flavour.  Decant the whole lot into a casserole dish and cook, uncovered, in the Beastie combi oven at 200degC for 50 minutes with a pause half way through to give it all a stir.

Served with buttery mashed potato, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, swede and Brussels sprouts, it was a perfect Sunday dinner.

Hubby then disappeared into the kitchen to create his new masterpiece, the rhubarb & plum sundae.  Take a sundae dish and spoon in some home made (and cooled) rhubarb & plum compote.  Crumble in some broken (well, I knew they'd come in handy for something) meringue nests, add a large dollop of Cornish ice cream, more compote, broken chocolate digestive biscuit, more compote and a swirl of whipped cream - and the crowning glory of a cherry on the top.

As a spur of the moment, made up on the spot, Sundae (Sunday!) dessert, it was a triumph.  Not one ingredient was bought in specifically for it, they were all either growing in the garden or surplus to requirements in the fridge or cupboard.  Now THAT is the kind of thing that makes me proud.

9 October 2013

Bacon & Orzo Stuffed Mushrooms and Peppers

Pepper on the left, mushroom on the right.
I've not had a very good track record with successful "stuffed" things in the past.  I've tried stuffed marrow several times, some have been good, some pretty poor.  I've tried stuffed peppers in the past, again to mixed reactions.  So when I saw the Hairy Bikers stuffing mushrooms, it got my "I can do that!" indignation fired up again.

I came to the conclusion that it was simply a matter of not stuffing things with the correct stuffing for my family's taste.  You see, I like "juicy" stuffings such as a bolognese style mince concoction for marrow, which as the marrow cooks inevitably becomes all watered down.  Now I'm fine with that, but the rest of the family aren't.  It's taken me a while to get to grips with that, as I thought the objection was in the flavour of the stuffing, not the texture.  I know, sometimes I can be really dense.

Now I wanted to stuff peppers and tomatoes, but hubby correctly pointed out that tomatoes stood a very good chance of going the same way as the marrow (i.e. watery) and anyway, son & heir isn't keen on cooked tomato.  He suggested Portobello mushrooms instead and as I'm ALWAYS in the market for a mushroom, that made a lot of sense to me.

So what would go well with long red peppers and mushrooms?  Well, bacon immediately sprang to mind, with shallot to help the savouriness and sweetness along.  I didn't want to use breadcrumbs, as I was very wary of the sogginess that can sometimes accompany a breadcrumb stuffing.  Thinking of things that hubby likes, brought to mind orzo.  It is very rice-like (although is actually a tiny pasta) and rice is another good stuffing ingredient.  I hadn't seen orzo used in too many stuffing mixes (and there may have been a reason for that) but it seemed like a good idea.

Now what could I use to provide some cohesiveness in this stuffing?  I didn't want to use egg but I did want something that would stick everything together a bit.  Thinking along the lines of what does son & heir like, produced mozzarella cheese.  If I dice a ball of mozzarella, it would melt and do that "sticking it all together" thing in an unobtrusively cheesy fashion.  Perfect.  Add a few herbs and seasoning and we're in business.

Ah, but what about the tops?  You need something to make a crunchy top, without cooking the heck out of the orzo and making it inedible.   Hmmn.  A slice of mozzarella would do that, but it doesn't carry much flavour.  What about if I grate some cheddar on top, then top that with the mozzarella slice?  Yes!  That'd do it.

In this way, the recipe was born.

I decided to leave the peppers without the mozzarella slice, just to see whether the cheddar would have been sufficient.  However, in the tasting, I think the addition of the mozzarella was a very good thing as it melted over the lot and provided a great "cap" that kept the moisture in the stuffing while the stuffed vegetable cooked.  The peppers weren't dry, but the cheese would have kept them from being that little bit less "cooked" if you get my drift.

The orzo was great as stuffing ammunition and I'll definitely use that again.  The mushrooms were by far the best end result as the mushroom itself provided enough body to support the stuffing.  The peppers were a bit thin - could have done with being a bit meatier - and cooked up to being a little bit papery.  Still, the flavour was great!

I served the stuffed mushrooms and peppers with a simple sweet potato mash (into which I added a little nutmeg and lots of butter) and some peas.  Apart from the paperiness of the peppers (I'd use round peppers instead of long ones next time), everyone really liked this dinner.  Just goes to show that life isn't too short to stuff a mushroom - you just have to get the stuffing right!


Ingredients :

6 rashers of smoked back bacon, finely chopped
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
half a tsp dried basil
freshly ground black pepper
50g orzo
2 balls mozzarella cheese, 1 finely diced, 1 sliced thickly
2 red peppers
3 Portobello mushrooms
a handful of mature cheddar, grated.

Method :

1.  Place the bacon into a dry frying pan that has been heated to a moderate heat and fry the bacon until the moisture has totally evaporated and the fat has begun to render out.  Once the bacon begins to caramelise and turn golden, remove to a bowl using a slotted spoon, to retain as much of the bacon fat as possible in the pan.

2.  Add the shallots to the pan and reduce the heat slightly.  Cook, stirring regularly, until softened and beginning to take on colour.  Add them to the bacon in the bowl and allow to cool while you cook the orzo, according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Once cooked, spread evenly out on a plate, to cool. 

3.   Once everything has cooled but is not cold, add the parsley, basil and a good pinch of freshly ground black pepper to the bacon/shallot mixture and stir to combine.

4.  Add the orzo, taking care not to "drown" the bacon mixture with orzo.  You need to have a 50:50 sort of mix, which may result in your having some orzo left over, which you can make into a little pasta salad for your lunch.  

5.  Add the one ball of mozzarella that has been finely cubed to the bowl and make sure to give the stuffing a good stir so that all the flavours have as good a chance to combine as possible.

6.  Slice the pepper in half so that it will lay flat on a baking tray.  Remove the seeds and pith from the inside of the pepper, but keep the stalk base intact or your stuffing will all fall out.

7.  Remove the stalk from the mushroom by carefully cutting it free.  You don't want a huge hole in the middle of your mushroom!  Turn the mushroom over and cut a cross into the crown, which should go right through.  This will allow any excess liquid to escape.  Place it, frill side up, onto the baking tray.

8.  Now divide the stuffing mix between all the mushrooms and pepper halves, pressing it firmly into each.

9.  Place a sprinkle of cheddar cheese onto each - a little more on the peppers than on the mushrooms.

10.  Place a round of mozzarella cheese on top of the cheddar on the mushrooms - you can add mozzarella to the peppers too, if you like.

11.  Place into a pre-heated oven at 180degC/350degF/Gas 4 for 40 minutes.

Serve with sweet potato mash and peas.

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Quick lunch : sausage & vegetable pot

Lunch - two sausages, each broken into three pieces and fried, then removed from the pan and three mushrooms and half a sliced courgette went in to cook.  Once softened, a huge handful of curly kale went in, a shake of Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of sea salt and a tablespoonful of double cream.  Toast a pitta bread, return the sausages to the pan for the last 30 seconds, then decant into a bowl and eat with a huge smile on your face.

Oh yes.

2 October 2013

Creamy Parsnip and Squash Bake

The first instalment of summer squash got used to make this fantastic - and soon to be made again - creamy bake of a side dish.

It all came about because I was looking for a simple recipe that would enable me to tell how the squash tasted and how it behaved during cooking.  The recipe was perfect for that and I was able to glean that it held together very nicely, was sweet and didn't dissolve into water once cooked.

I had four lovely little parsnips from thevegibox.com that were waiting to be used in something and I started to think about what hubby particularly likes.  Now it goes without saying that he likes chilli, and Mexican flavours, Spanish flavours, Mediterranean flavours and a whole raft of Indian and Chinese flavours.  However, none of those really matched up with parsnip and squash.  However, creamy flavours did - and hubby loves creamy flavours.  So then a picture came into my mind of Dauphinoise potatoes - but made with parsnip and squash.  Except, the garlic didn't really go.  Aha!  But finely chopped shallot would - and so would thyme and parmesan.  Bingo.

So what meat would go nicely with this combination?  Well, chicken was an obvious choice and I'm always keen to have a roast chicken dinner.  Plus, Vegibox had delivered some more lovely rainbow chard and this would be a perfect opportunity to try some cooked quite plainly and as a side vegetable.

I contemplated what to do with the chicken next.  Yes, I could have just roasted it with a little oil and seasoning, but that was a bit dull and if the bake didn't come off it would be a very disappointing dinner.  Lemon was out because of the cheese and cream in the bake, but I was already using thyme so that was a possibility.  So what goes with cream?  Well, you have mustard cream sauces but I didn't want to use more cream.  What do you use with chicken that would go with mustard and with the cream in the bake?  Honey!  Aha!  Honey mustard chicken!  Perfect.

So there we were - the creamy parsnip & squash bake, with honey mustard chicken, rainbow chard and carrots.  Yum.

Now assuming you're rather better with a mandolin than I am, you'll be able to cut your parsnips and squash into evenly sized slices without losing any skin - which is the recommended method.  I lost the edge of my little finger - and this is the not-to-be-recommended method.  Alternatively, you could just use a knife, but be sure to get your slices even widths or they will all take different times to cook.

Owing to the relatively few ingredients required for the bake, it came together really quickly (even with a first aid break) and my Nanna's lovely brown heatproof glass casserole was perfect for it.  I was able to control the browning of the cheese on top by use of the casserole dish lid and it sat very politely waiting to be served when it was done some 10 minutes early.

All that contemplation as to what hubby liked paid off when, after his first few forkfuls, he declared "this parsnip & squash thing is fabulous!".  After my first taste, I had to agree - it was fabulous.  You could still taste the parsnip, but it didn't take priority over the other flavours (as parsnip is wont to do).  The squash was there, adding sweetness and that lovely gentle flavour that is uniquely squash.  The cream, onion and thyme bound the whole ensemble together and the cheese added that richness to the flavour that just finished it off perfectly.

Oh, and for those who are interested in such things - the rainbow chard was really very good indeed!  I used the cooking juices from the honey mustard chicken as a light gravy over the chard and carrots and they went together beautifully.  People who have seen the photographs on Rhubarb & Ginger's Facebook page, have asked me what the "rhubarb looking" thing is - and it is interesting that chard has the same effect on your teeth that rhubarb does!  Rather less than rhubarb in fact, but it is nonetheless still there - that furry, odd feeling.  Its flavour is almost tinny, but in a nice, juicy, veggie kind of way.  I was expecting it to be more cabbage-like in flavour, but in fact it turned out to be much more spinach-like.  Really very acceptable - and it makes rather more sense as to how it can be used in flans and quiches now!

Everyone, without exception, really liked everything on the plate but particularly the creamy parsnip and squash bake.  To the point that, at washing-up time when I discovered a spoonful of it left - cold - in the dish, son & heir and myself were to be seen sharing it.  Well, it was too small to keep!  I think that was testament to how good it truly was.


Ingredients :

butter, for greasing & several small knobs for the surface
500g parsnip, peeled and finely sliced
500g butternut squash, peeled and finely sliced
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
300ml double cream
25g parmesan cheese
15g strong cheddar cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 160degC/325degF/Gas4.

2.  Rub the bottom and sides of a gratin dish with butter.

3.  Place the parsnip and squash slices into the dish and toss together with the shallot, thyme and some salt and pepper.  Arrange the slices randomly but fairly evenly to give a fairly flat surface, in the dish.

4.  Pour over the cream and sprinkle on the cheeses.  Add a dot of butter here and there on top of everything else and give an additional sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.

5.  Cover the dish and put into the oven to bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the lid and replace into the oven for the remaining 15 minutes, to brown the surface.  The bake is complete when a knife will insert easily into the vegetables.


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