Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Feta & Tomato Stuffed Bell Peppers

I love peppers. I try and shoehorn them into as many dishes as i can get away with - sweet & crunchy deliciousness. However, they're usually just another ingredient in a larger recipe. This won't do at all - time to make the peppers the star! These are ideal summer fayre as despite being cooked, they're light, so they can be used as a side dish as well as the main dish.

You can use whatever cheese you like, you don't have to use Feta. Mozzarella & Cheddar work equally well. Again, this recipe involves peeled tomatoes, so just refer back to the tutorial a few posts back if you've run out already.

You will need the following ingredients:

2 large peeled Tomatoes
2 large whole Red Bell Peppers
125g of Feta Cheese
Handful of fresh Basil
4 crushed Garlic Cloves
Olive Oil

Utensils Needed:

Chopping Board
Chef's Knife
Pyrex or Ceramic Dish

Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 3 (350° Fahrenheit / 180° Celsius). Cleave the peppers lengthwise, keeping the stalk in place. Sharpen your knife beforehand, the stalks can be quite tough.

Remove the seeds and as much of the white bits as possible while retaining the stalk, as shown below.

Take your peeled tomatos, slice them into quarters, discarding the stalks in the process. Each pepper half will hold two quarters.

Place all the newly tomato stuffed pepper halves into your oven dish. To keep the peppers level in the dish, use small balls of tinfoil to 'wedge' the peppers into place.

Mix the crushed garlic with two tablespoons of olive oil.

Take your handful of basil...

...and go mad with a knife! If you don't have any fresh basil, dried will work perfectly well, just be careful not to use too much of it.

Cube the feta and divide it between the peppers. Then drizzle the garlic & olive oil over the feta, and finally sprinkle liberally with the basil.

Place in the top of the oven for at least 20 minutes. To get them out of the dish afterwards, you may find a shallow serving spoon rather handy - i've tried tongs before and it just ends up with a mess!

These peppers are brilliant served with some grilled chicken on a bed of basmati rice, or just on their own as a quick lunch :)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Perfect Salsa

What better to go with your perfect Guacamole, than a nice bowl of Perfect Salsa? :D

Okay, seriously, i've seen the horrifying 'salsa' that gets sold in the shops and i've even dared to taste it. It's definitely not what salsa is supposed to taste like, it's the wrong consistency and if i could sum it up in one word, it'd be 'Ew.'

If you're making any kind of mexican food, be it a burrito or fajita or even just feel like using it as a side to another dish, this is what salsa is supposed to be. Fair warning - it is time consuming to make but i hope that you'll think it's worth it once you taste the end result.

You will need the following ingredients:

6 large peeled Tomatoes
Bunch of Spring Onions
1 whole Lime
1 large green Chilli (or 3 small ones)
Handful of fresh Coriander

Utensils Needed:

Chopping Board
Chef's Knife
Two Bowls

Trim the spring onions to about 3" in length.

Chop as finely as you can and add to the bowl.

Cut the chillies lengthwise and de-seed them.

Slice lengthwise and chop as finely as you can again - you don't want to be stuck eating a large chunk of green chilli, unless you have an asbestos face!

Now comes the messy part. De-seeding your tomatoes. As with the Guacamole recipe, reduce your peeled tomato to the point shown below. Repeat for the remaining 5 tomatoes.

Once de-seeded, rinse them in a bowl of cold water.

Slice each segment lengthwise and chop into 1cm wide chunks.

Add to the bowl with your handful of chopped coriander, a big pinch of salt, and the juice of the lime.

Simply mix through with a spoon and voila - Salsa!

It's ready to use as it is, but rather than a burrito or fajita, i decided to serve mine with some Salmon Fishcakes for a low-fat, healthy dinner :)

Perfect Guacamole

I realise 'perfect' is just my opinion, but hopefully once you've made this, you'll agree with me! It's so much better than any of that horrible green ooze you get in a jar in the supermarket that tastes nothing like Avocado. It's not hard to make at all, and if you have a food processor, takes less than 10 minutes.

You will need the following ingredients:

4 large Avocado's
Bunch of Spring Onions (Scallions, for you Americans...)
1 large peeled Tomato
1 large green chilli (or 3 small ones, as pictured)
1 whole lime
Handful of fresh Coriander (Cilantro)
Cayenne Pepper
Ground Cumin
2 cloves of Garlic (optional)

Utensils Needed:

Chopping Board
Chef's Knife
Food Processor (if you have one, if not, use a fork and a bowl)

I'm aware the garlic isn't shown in the above picture, but as mentioned in the ingredients list, it's optional, and i didn't have any left!

Regardless of whether you're using a food processor or not, you want to take your spring onions, chillies and tomato and prepare them. Split open and deseed the chillies, crop the spring onions and peel off the outer layer if it's a little manky. With the tomato, cut through the middle, use a 'v' groove to remove the stalk, cut in half again and de-seed it. If adding garlic, crush at least 2 cloves and add it at this stage.

At this point if you're using a bowl and a fork, chop all three up as fine as you can with the knife, and add to your mixing bowl with your handful of chopped coriander. As i'm using a food processor, i added it, and pulsed it a few times to reduce it all to what is shown below.

Split open your avocado's, remove the stone, and peel off the skin. Add the flesh to your mixing bowl/food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Half a lime is usually enough for three avocado's, but for four, you want to use a whole one. Add a large pinch of salt, a heaped teaspoon of ground cumin and half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Consistency is entirely up to you, but i prefer my guacamole with plenty of nice chunks in it. I use the 'pulse' function on my food processor a few times to get it looking like below.

There - that wasn't so hard now, was it? Now go and grab yourself a bag of tortilla chips, or add it to a burrito/fajita :)

Tutorial - How to remove the skin from Tomatoes

There are often times in recipes that call for peeled tomatoes, and i have a few myself ready to put up. It might sound pretty daunting, but actually it's pretty simple, you just have to pay attention to the timing. It's best to do them in large batches due to the fact it can seem like a bit of a chore.

You will need the following ingredients:

7 large vine tomatoes (you can use any tomato, but the smaller, the fiddlier!)

Utensils Needed:

Chopping Board
Chef's Knife
Large Saucepan
Large Bowl
Slotted Serving Spoon
As much Ice as you can get hold of

First off - 3/4 fill a large saucepan with water and get it upto a nice, rolling boil.

Check the tomatoes are firm - soft tomatoes will fall apart, so make sure they're as fresh as possible.

Score the tomatoes with a large 'X' on the underside with your knife. Try not to score the flesh too much if you can help it.

Now, this part is time critical and can be fiddly. Use the slotted spoon to put all of the tomatoes into the saucepan of boiling water, and count down 60 seconds. NO MORE THAN 60 SECONDS! Smaller tomatoes will need less time but never exceed 60 seconds regardless of the size of tomato.

Take the tomatoes out of the boiling water and plunge them straight into ice water. The colder the better. It stops the tomatoes from cooking, and makes it easier to remove the skin.

Leave them in the water for at least 5 minutes before peeling them. Start at the 'X' mark and the skin should come away with ease. The tomato will feel a little soft & slippery, so return it to the water to rinse off.

You should be left with a bowl of lovely skinned tomatoes, as shown below.