Archive | December, 2012

Salt Cod Fritters

30 Dec

It was such a relief to cross this off my to-do list!

I didn’t know, but apparently it’s traditional to eat salt cod at this time of year!

I have tried it once before in ackee and salt fish, but that was quite a lot for me to get my head around in terms of new flavours and textures.

This recipe is more suitable for first time salt cod tasters, as the spotlight is on that one main ingredient. And it’s sweet and it’s juicy and it’s deep-fried…

Makes 14 small fritters (enough for 3 as part of a main meal, or as a starter!)

  • 250g skinless, boneless salt cod, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight, in several changes of water
  • 200g potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley or thyme (or 1 tbsp dried)
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • lots of sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying
  1. Drain the fish and flake it finely. Add the potato, vinegar, milk, onion, herbs and egg yolks. Season with pepper if you like – you will not need salt! Mix well.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the mixture.
  3. Heat a saucepan 1/3 full of oil until a small piece of bread sizzles and browns in 1 minute.
  4. Use a tablespoon to scoop up the salt cod mixture and gently place in the oil, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until brown all over (about 5 minutes for each fritter). Drain on kitchen paper.

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I served mine with sweet potato chips with harissa. I chop one large sweet potato into chips without peeling, then add them to a baking tray with a good drizzle of olive oil, 1 or 2 teaspoons of harissa paste and a sprinkling of salt, mixing it all together well so everything is coated nicely. I add harissa more often than not when making sweet potato chips, as it imparts a great flavour and it’s a great way to use it up! I bought a small jar of it months ago for mackerel, and since them I haven’t had a proper use for it, so it’s job has been to aid the above process. Bake in an oven set to 200°c for 30-40 minutes, until tender and slightly browned.

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Mixed Nut Roast

28 Dec

As requested by Tracey 😉

I have always been curious about this recipe, and finally got round to making it on Christmas Eve. Having made more than enough for 2, I took some round to the veggie mother-in-law for Christmas dinner, so she wouldn’t be stuck with just mashed potato and sprouts. She assured me that she loves it, and I certainly did, so I hope you’ll give it a go too!

I like to make 4 mini loaves, but you can make one big loaf instead.

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Serves 4

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 50g walnuts
  • 50g cashew nuts
  • 75g hazelnuts
  • 100g breadcrumbs, white or brown
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c. Grease your loaf tin(s). You may want to line them with greaseproof paper, but I found that I got a neater result without.
  2. Heat a frying pan and add all of the nuts. Toast for a few minutes, until they release their scent. Keep an eye on them because once they are toasted, it doesn’t take long before they burn. When they are done, set aside to cool.
  3. Now coat the pan with oil or butter, and add the garlic and onion. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat.
  4. When the nuts are cool, they all need to be ground. It is up to you whether you do this in a food processor for super-fine nuts, or if you put them in a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin. I prefer the latter approach – it is more therapeutic. It also leaves uneven chunks of nuts which I like. Stir the ground nuts into the saucepan with the breadcrumbs, egg, thyme, stock and seasoning.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin(s) and level the surface. Cook in the centre of the oven for 20-30 minutes (depending on mini or full-sized loaves respectively), until it is golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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Not the prettiest unfortunately, but don’t be put off! I served mine with braised red cabbage made with apples and red wine, which I would recommend,  but I do think that cranberry sauce would also be a perfect match.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

27 Dec

I feel as though it is about time I gave a shout out to THE Chocolate Guinness Cake.

Anybody reading this who knows me will probably not need to continue, as it has been made so many times by my own fair hands and those belonging to the love that they could make it themselves without the recipe, by recalling each taste and surmising from that which ingredients need to be used. And, if any of you own ‘Feast’ by Nigella Lawson, surely you have made it countless times yourself?

In any case, on the off-chance of one poor soul not having tried or at least heard of this cake, I am writing to bestow upon you the knowledge to enrich your life.

 

I first made this on Saint Patrick’s Day, I think last year… although it seems much longer ago than that…

Since then, it has been made into muffins; half-sized cakes; loaf cakes… all about as deeply damp and chocolatey as anybody could possibly wish for. Ever. I have also used natural yoghurt in place of the sour cream, which has worked just as well. We are actually getting sick of the requests to make it, as it reduces the opportunity to try anything new! (Yeah right).

 

You will use a whole block of butter. There is a reason for this: heaven.

Cuts into 12 slices (the perfect amount to pour into a 12-hole muffin tray!).

  • 250ml Guinness
  • 250g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 75g cocoa
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1 x 142ml pot sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp real vanilla extract
  • 275g plain flour
  • 2.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the Icing:

  • 300g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar, sieved
  • 125ml double or whipping cream

Before you get started, make sure all of your ingredients are weighed, ready and waiting to be used. I believe it is better to work quickly in the initial stages of this recipe, as the cake is on the hob, and if left to heat for too long before it is ready to go in the oven, it looks like a cake before it’s in the tin. Surprisingly, the end result doesn’t really suffer from this, but I feel more comfortable if the cake still resembles mixture before it is baked.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c, and butter a 23cm springform tin. 
  2. Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan. Add the butter and heat until it has melted. Then whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
  3. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla, then pour into the pan.
  4. Whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
  5. Transfer the cake batter to the tin and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean).
  6. Leave to cool completely in the tin. Meanwhile you can make the icing.
  7. Beat the cream cheese and sieved icing sugar together, then add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. I like to do this in a food processor, because if I don’t, for some reason I always bung all 3 ingredients in a bowl without thinking, and this does not make it easy to achieve the desired consistency.

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Of course, the icing is meant to resemble the froth on top of a pint of Guinness. And yes, the Guinness does make a fantastic difference and it is noticeable, though people trying it unawares may not be able to put there finger on what ‘that taste’ is. I would describe it as a sweet and subtle bitterness, which creates the most amazing depth of flavour.

Piccalilli

26 Dec

Piccalilli is something I never envisaged myself going near, let alone making, let alone eating, let alone enjoying!!

But I have a lovely Nan who is rather fond of the stuff and so I decided to make a batch for Christmas. The recipe yielded loads, meaning that I wound up with enough excess piccalilli for me to think ‘”Right… I’ve heard it’s nice with cheese”.

And that’s where the love affair started. I now smell of onions far more often than is socially acceptable I think.

I have looked at a lot of recipes for this, and it has led me to believe this is a fairly milder version of the usual, so may be good for first-timers (judging by my reception of it anyway)! This is a great way of using up a glut of vegetables, so feel free to substitute certain ingredients if you like. Quartered shallots could be used instead of pickling onions; apples or pears would be lovely I think; cherry tomatoes; cucumber… and other additions such as coriander seeds; mustard seeds; ground ginger instead of fresh; capers if you like them…

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So here it is. Makes 4 x 450g jars.

  • 500g courgettes
  • 500g cauliflower
  • 400g silverskin or pearl onions
  • 100g salt
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp English mustard powder
  • 400ml white wine vinegar
  • 25g plain flour
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • thumb-length piece fresh root ginger, grated

Before you start, I think it ought to be made known that this requires overnight brining. 

  1. Chop the courgette and cauliflower into similar sized pieces. I chose to make mine into 1 inch cubes, but a little thinner or chunkier would be no terrible thing. Peel the onions. 
  2. Boil 1 litre of water, then add the salt and mix until the salt has dissolved. Leave to cool, then tip the brine and all of the veg into a large bowl or saucepan. Weigh it down using a plate and leave overnight.
  3. Drain the veg thoroughly, swilling it briefly under cold water.
  4. Put the remaining ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently, whisking until blended. Slowly bring to a simmer and take off the heat when thickened. Mix this sauce into the vegetables and leave to cool.
  5. Transfer the piccalilli into sterilised jars (see below for instructions), seal and leave for at least 2 weeks before eating for the flavours to develop.

And here’s some piccalilli outings… Cue the ‘best friend’ music; imagine I have a 2-seated bicycle 🙂

Here’s piccalilli with some ham…

Here it is with some cheese and crackers…

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Okay I’ll stop. I hope you get the same pleasure from this as I do.

Sterilising Jars

Preheat the oven to 180°c. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water and rinse in clean warm water. Place the jars upside down on a rack in the oven and allow to drip-dry. Leave for at least 20 minutes.

Sterilising jars and equipment is essential to the success and longevity of any preserves you make.

Do not add anything cold to hot jars, or anything hot to cold jars or the jars will shatter.

It has been a WONDERFUL Christmas.

25 Dec

Merry Christmas everyone!

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I hope you have all had a wonderful day.

I have been spoilt. It is so beautiful when people you care about show that they care back, in a special way. I won’t rattle on about the gifts I’ve received, but I will say that the love has been about as generous and as astute (his own words) as I could hope for him to be. And I would also really like to show off one particular present that I feel super-grateful for.

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Two bears, one made by the love’s nan, the other equally as treasured.

Of course, cooking has featured heavily over the last few days. There are a lot of recipes I have wanted to make at Christmas for many years, and this time round I got to put a few of those to the test!

I made these, and I will post about them all in due course:

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We were also blessed with another fantastic treat from the mother-in-law, whose efforts and presents are always thoughtful and brilliant. Here, she outdoes herself with cranberry and pistachio biscuits! We had ours with a glass of Vin Santo, rather than biscotti. I announced this beautiful wine a Christmas tradition last year. It is too good not to be celebrated properly.

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Martin had a great time too.

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Spinach and Ricotta Pie

22 Dec

This is based on a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem. I don’t own the book (although I would like to – Yotam’s recipes are the best!), but this was published in a magazine I subscribe to, under the name ‘Herb Pie’.

I have deviated somewhat from their blueprint, mainly because I couldn’t find some of the ingredients they list such as anari cheese, and my local supermarket just never seems to supply chard. I loved this version however, and I hope you will too!

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Serves 2.

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 250g bag baby spinach
  • 25g rocket
  • large handful parsley, chopped
  • large handful mint, chopped
  • large handful dill, chopped
  • 60g ricotta
  • 50g mature cheddar, grated
  • 30g feta, crumbled
  • grated zest 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 125g filo pastry (approx 1/2 pack or 3 large pieces)
  • salt, pepper and caster sugar (a little of each) for seasoning
  • olive oil, to fry and to brush
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°c. Pour a little oil into a large, deep frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and fry for 5-10 minutes. Turn the heat up a bit, add the spinach and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to encourage wilting. Add the rocket and herbs and cook until everything is wilted together. Transfer to a colander to cool.
  2. While the mixture is cooling, halve each sheet of pastry (if you are using an 18.5cm flan tin). Lay one sheet on a clean work surface and brush with oil. Cover with another sheet and continue until you have 3 layers of pastry. Start again and do the same thing with the remaining pastry.
  3. When the spinach mixture is cool, squeeze as much water out of it as you can, then transfer it to a chopping board. Roughly chop, then return to a bowl and add the three cheeses, lemon zest, eggs and seasoning. Mix it all together.
  4. Line the base and sides of your pie dish with 1 stack of pastry. Fill with the spinach mixture, then place the remaining stack of pastry, scrunching it up a little for effect, if you like. Trim the edges so it just covers the pie. Brush with oil, then bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until the pastry is crunchy and golden brown. It is now ready to serve.

A relatively short post from me here! I feel like I have been running around like a headless chicken for the last week or so. I don’t know how true that is,but it is definitely how I feel. Want to post, need to sleep! Compromising by not rabbiting on for half as long as I could…

But DO try this! 🙂

Beetroot Risotto

20 Dec

Risotto attempt 3 and it is wonderful!

Not having to add liquid bit by bit or stir constantly makes this the easiest and quickest recipe, with the added bonus of beautiful colour and gorgeous taste. Using this method (simply baking in the oven), I’ve realised that my previous results weren’t very much like a risotto should be at all. They were edible and okay, but the texture was not this luxurious, creamy affair. You know when you feel like you could happily eat a never-ending bowl of something? Well for me anyway, this is the only recipe that has had this effect besides pasta and cereal (they are my vices).

Serves 2.

  • 250g pack vacuum-packed beetroot
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 125g risotto rice
  • 75ml white wine
  • 350ml hot chicken stock
  • sour cream, chopped dill and grated parmesan, to serve
  1. Heat some oil (and/or butter, depending on preference) over a medium-low heat in an ovenproof pan with a lid. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Stir in the rice, mixing it to coat with the oil, then pour over the wine and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir well, then pour in the stock, cover and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whizz one or two of the beetroot (depending on size) with a hand blender to make a purée. You may want to use a food processor if you are as uncareful as me and end up splattered in red stains, looking remarkably like you have committed some kind of atrocity, although I hated the idea of cleaning our food processor for the sake of 1 beetroot. Chop the remaining beetroot into small pieces.
  3. By now, the risotto should be looking beautiful. If it is a teensy bit more liquid than you’re aiming for, remember that you will be stirring through quite a lot of bulk in the way of beetroot, so this will thicken it up nicely into the silkiest thing you’ve ever known. So take it out of the oven and stir through a handful of parmesan, the beetroot and beetroot purĂ©e, then serve with a dollop of sour cream each, some extra parmesan (if you like) and a scattering of dill.

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I wish I’d allowed beetroot into my life earlier :’)

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons

18 Dec

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For years, there has been such a wealth of recipes on my list of things to make, that pretty much every time I ate (at least, when this was a regular thing), it was something new. It still is fairly often, but the dust has settled a bit so that there are times when I can come back to recipes I particularly liked. This is nice! And very novel, but my palms are starting to sweat. I must not become routine in my cooking! I know there are thousands more recipes to write up a NEW list of things to make… but it’s such an intimidating task! I have many cook books and even more magazines. To get through all these (which would be what I had to do – I can’t start something and not finish it fastidiously!) would take a long time, resulting in back ache and blistered hands, but also a fresh new port of call for ‘what do I cook tonight?’ inspiration. Well, the holidays are coming up I suppose…

Got a bit carried away there. All I really meant to say was that this is one of those recipes I have cooked before and loved, so I have returned to it, tweaking it to suit my tastes 100%. It is a recipe from Ghillie Basan’s Tagines and Couscous (a fantastic book) with a few changes via me.

I have written previously about how to make preserved lemons. It is another quite rambly post, but the main point to bear in mind when making this (or any) recipe is that shop-brought preserved lemons are much smaller than home-made, so you have to adjust the amount you use accordingly. Always give them a rinse before using, to rid them of excess salt.

Serves 2.

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 shop-brought or 1/2 home-made preserved lemon, cut into thin strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, halved, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • couscous, to serve

For the Marinade

  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • about 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • small pinch of saffron strands
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • small bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • good pinch of sea salt
  1. Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and put the chicken thighs in a shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the chicken, rubbing it into the skin. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours (or as long as you have time for).
  2. Put a tagine or heavy-based casserole over medium heat, then brown the chicken thighs (with as scant a covering of marinade as possible) all over. Pour over the rest of the marinade and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the chicken. Bring the water to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally.
  3. Add the preserved lemon, green pepper and dried thyme. Cover again and simmer for 15 minutes more. You want some liquid left to seep into the couscous and make everything beautifully moist, but by now it should be much reduced. Serve with couscous.

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P.S: It is the tenderest chicken ever!!

Mont Blanc

16 Dec

Usually when you see Mont Blanc, it is served in individual portions. This is fine, obviously, but I fancied making it into a ‘pavlova’, not least because this is the first time I’ve successfully made meringue, and I felt like this was a better way to show it off 🙂

I was amazed at how simple meringue actually is to make! I can be very impatient you see, and when I have tried before, I have added all the ingredients to the bowl at once, only to then read through the method and discover that you are supposed to add the sugar GRADUALLY and once the egg whites already form soft peaks.

Making this has enabled me to cross quite a few things off my to-do list, such as trying marrons glacés! I found a small box at John Lewis and jumped at the chance to buy some and not pay a ridiculous amount. They are expensive and tend to come in larger quantities than this. They are extremely special though, so worth it in my book.

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There are a couple of things I’d change slightly next time, namely how to layer the dessert, and I will write the following recipe with these changes in mind, but they will not change the taste in the slightest, and the taste is one of my all time favourites. The alterations are for aesthetic purposes only, as my version ended up flatter than I’d have liked. It looks more like a pie, as you will see below!

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Serves 4.

  • 2 egg whites
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

For the Topping

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 300ml carton double cream
  • 250g sweetened chestnut purĂ©e (with vanilla if possible, if not, add 1 tsp vanilla extract to the purĂ©e)
  • 6 marrons glacĂ©s

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  1. First make the meringue. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 160°c. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Add the sugar little by little, whisking after each addition, until it has all been added and stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Whisk in the cornflour and vinegar. You should see that this final addition stiffens the mixture that little bit more.
  2. Spoon the mixture onto the baking tray in a squat circle – don’t spread it too thinly or the meringue will be more difficult to prise off the tray later, and it won’t look as toweringly impressive. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 140°c and continue baking for 40 minutes more. Turn off the heat and leave the meringue in the oven to cool completely (1-2 hours, but can be left overnight). It should be crisp but uncoloured.
  3. For the filling, mix the chestnut purĂ©e in a bowl with most of the double cream (leave about 2 tbsp in the carton to use later). When it is combined, whisk until thickened to your liking – the stiffer the mix, the better it will sit on your meringue.
  4. Break up the chocolate in another bowl and add the remaining double cream. Heat in the microwave at 30 second intervals, giving it a stir each time. Alternatively, heat over a bain marie (melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water without letting the base of the bowl touch the water), but I find this set up oh so laborious 😉 leave to cool completely.
  5. When it is time to assemble the pud, sit the meringue on a serving platter. Spread the melted chocolate over the top, then dollop on the chestnut mixture. Crumble two of the marrons glacĂ©s over and you’re ready. The remaining marrons glacĂ©s are for serving on the side. I think it’s a nice gesture 🙂

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I didn’t whip the chestnut-cream mixture for long enough, so it remained a little fluid when I added it to the meringue. As I didn’t want to let it drip all over the serving plate, I saved some of it for another time. I am positive that it would be delicious served alongside a warm mince pie.

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To see the meal that preceded this dessert: https://welcomebackbelly.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/spicy-maple-glazed-pork-fillet-with-roasted-vegetables/

Spicy Maple-Glazed Pork Fillet with Roasted Vegetables

16 Dec

Long time no post! At least it seems that way to me… I like to post daily, but I do not like to post for no reason, and I just haven’t felt as though I’ve had anything good enough to share for a few days! Luckily, this came through tonight.

For many people, Christmas is a time to get together and celebrate with the people you love, usually in quite large gatherings. I adore these occasions, but unfortunately, they have been way too few and far between in my life.

I dream of a day when I can be the one who arranges parties for special occasions and just because, but currently, living in a flat without much extra room and on an income that wouldn’t happily stretch to provide an atmosphere and a table of plenty very often, this isn’t as realistic as I’d like.

One thing my budget will stretch to is the occasional schmansy meal for two, and even in future times of abundant family festivities, having a special time with the love will continue to be something I prioritise.

Now, I wanted a goose for ‘our Christmas’, but they turned out to be rather expensive and too big for our freezer. This will remain on the to-do list until next Christmas.

I decided to do pork fillet instead. I’ve wanted to try it for a while and at this time of year there seems to be lots more interesting cuts of meat available at the supermarket. Great value too at ÂŁ4 something!

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To make it Christmassy, I made a spicy maple glaze, traditionally used with gammon ham, and placed the smothered fillet on a bed of winter vegetables to roast in one tin. Of course, we had leftovers from this meal, but not many, and anyway, leftovers are no hardship if the food is this good 😛

Sliced thinly, we had the leftover pork on some sandwiches, and they were divine.

Serves 4.

  • 1 pork fillet, approx 500g
  • 4 medium parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthways
  • 1 butternut squash or 2 smaller squashes (such as acorn), peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 red onions, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 Bramley apple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the Glaze

  • 40ml maple syrup
  • 40g dark muscovado sugar
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice

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  1. Preheat the oven to 200°c. Arrange all of the prepared vegetables in a roasting tin. Drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt. Give it a stir so everything is coated.
  2. Make the glaze by putting all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and heating until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Roll the pork fillet in the glaze, then place it on top of the vegetables. Drizzle the remaining glaze over the veg, then put in the oven for approx 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the pork is cooked through (when the thickest part is pierced with a skewer, the juices should run clear).
  4. Leave to rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice the pork and serve with the vegetables.

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If you’d like the apple to retain more bite, leave them out of the initial vegetable mix and add them 20 minutes after the tin has been in the oven.

We had a glorious pudding afterwards! See https://welcomebackbelly.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/mont-blanc/