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food & drink

Spicy sausage rice

Pork chops with peppers

(Serves 4)

This is like an old-fashioned jambalaya - a mixture of rice, vegetables and meat, a bit like risotto but without the need for stirring. Sausages are cheap but packed with flavour, and taking them out of the casing first flavours the rice beautifully. You can use any sausage you want - chorizo, merguez, pork or beef, depending on how spicy you want it.

Olive oil, for frying

1 red onion, peeled and sliced 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced 5 spiced sausages, e.g. Italian chilli 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika 200g long-grain rice ½ glass white wine 500ml chicken stock 4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped 1 tomato, chopped

Small bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add a glug of oil to a heavy-based casserole dish and fry the onion for 5 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the pepper and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Slit the sausage skins and crumble the sausage meat into the pan, then cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until coloured. Add the smoked paprika and mix. Season to taste.

Add the rice and stir well to mix thoroughly and absorb the flavour. Deglaze the pan by pouring in the white wine and scraping any bits stuck to the bottom. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid almost entirely absorbed.

Remove from the heat, gently fold in the spring onions, tomato and parsley and serve.

How to fry onions

If frying onion, don't slice it too thinly or it will burn before it has had a chance to caramelise. Never rush cooking an onion. Always give it 5 or 6 minutes in the pan on its own.

Slow-cooked aubergine

(Serves 2)

You'll be amazed at how two such simple things can taste so good together. The sweet and sour peppers really cut through the richness of the beautifully sauteed chops and make for a really good, quick supper dish. As always when frying chops, leave them to rest as long as you cooked them so that they can tenderise and reabsorb their juices.

2 pork chops, about 200g each Olive oil, for frying 2 garlic cloves, skin on, crushed Small bunch of thyme For the sweet and sour peppers: 1 red onion, peeled and sliced 2 red peppers, deseeded and thinly sliced Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 tbsp caster sugar 3 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Small bunch of basil, leaves shredded

First prepare the peppers. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion and peppers. Season with salt and pepper, add the sugar and saute over a high heat for 4-5 minutes until soft and coloured.

Add vinegar and let it bubble for a minute until it has reduced and the peppers are soft. Turn down heat, add the tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, cook for further 2-3 minutes. Stir in the shredded basil and continue to cook for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. Decant into a bowl and set aside to infuse. Wipe the pan clean, ready to cook the pork.

Using a sharp knife, make cuts into the fat of the chops, about 5mm deep and at 3-4cm intervals, making sure you don't cut into the meat. Season the chops really well on both sides, pushing the seasoning into the meat.

Place the cleaned-out frying pan over a high heat until hot and add a dash of oil. Add the chops, garlic and thyme and fry for 2-3 minutes until coloured. Turn and fry for a further 2-3 minutes on the other side, pushing the thyme under the chops and breaking up the garlic a little. Towards the end of cooking time, add 3 knobs of butter and baste the chops with it as they are cooking. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin, place with the herbs on top of the chops.

Serve the chops on top of the peppers with the resting juices and a little juice from the peppers. (Serves 4-6 as a starter)

This vegetable stew is such a simple combination of ingredients, but they undergo this amazing transformation during cooking to become more than the sum of their parts. A dish that just gets better and better the longer you allow the flavours to mingle.

Olive oil, for frying

2 aubergines, trimmed and cut into 3cm chunks 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped 1 red onion, peeled and diced 1 x 400g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes Pinch of caster sugar Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

1 loaf of crusty white bread, e.g. sourdough or pain de campagne Small bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped 100g feta cheese, crumbled

Heat a heavy-based casserole dish over a high heat. Add a glug of oil and fry the aubergine for 3-4 minutes until coloured on all sides. Add the garlic and onion and fry for another 5 minutes until the onion is tender.

Stir in the butter beans and pomegranate molasses with a generous pinch of salt and grinding of pepper. Add the tomatoes and sugar. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes until the aubergine is tender and collapsed and the stew reduced and flavoursome. (If you find the mixture is drying out too much, add a couple of tablespoons of water.)

To serve, slice the bread and toast on each side until golden. Stir the mint through the aubergine, spoon onto the slices of toast and scatter over the crumbled feta. Serve warm.

How to salt aubergines

Although it's not essential to salt aubergine before you fry it, doing so draws out the moisture and makes it absorb less oil. Simply chop or dice the aubergine as required, place in a colander and sprinkle with about one teaspoon of salt. Leave for 30 minutes, then rinse well, pat dry on kitchen paper and cook as you wish.

Life Begins 37

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