Category Archives: Savoury

Cauliflower Cheese

I had a bit of time off this week which meant I could do a few things, apply for jobs (I really need a better job!), check out a few exhibitions in central London & have some quality kitchen time during the day. I had a few ideas in mind but for my next blog entry I decided on a classic example of comfort food, Cauliflower Cheese. There are some dishes that everyone should have in their repertoire & Cauliflower Cheese is unquestionably one such dish. It is delicious either as a meal on its own or as an accompaniment to a nice Sunday roast. In the bad old days when I ate microwave meals I’d often choose this one for a quick snack, although I had made it before but using a packet cheese sauce. After trying this never again will I go down that route, & nor will you.

cookies larder cauliflower cheese ingredients

Ingredients

1 Cauliflower

40g Butter

50g Plain flour

400ml Milk

1 tsp English mustard

Cheddar cheese (grated)

Parmesan cheese (grated)

Breadcrumbs

Salt & pepper

cookies larder cauliflower cheese  florets

Method

First cut up the cauliflower (as I had an extra large one I only used half so you may want to use a medium size), slice it in two & then remove the stalk & break up the florets into even size pieces. Place in a saucepan of boiling water adding salt, bring to the boil & simmer for about 5 minutes until nearing tenderness. Drain in a colander.

cookies larder cauliflower cheese  sauce

Now it’s on to the sauce which is pretty easy really. Melt the butter over a low/medium heat slowly adding the flour stirring until it becomes a smooth paste. Remove from the heat & gradually add the milk a little at a time whisking until you’ve got a nice sauce mix.  Return to the heat, bring to the boil & simmer for a couple minutes before removing from the heat a final time. To finish the sauce add the mustard, cheddar cheese & a dash of pepper giving it a last stir.

cookies larder cauliflower cheese  pre-oven

Put the cauliflower in an ovenproof dish, pour over the sauce covering all the florets. Now a last minute addition, I had the end of a bloomer loaf in my cupboard & decided to cut it up & blend it into crumbs to hopefully give a nice crusty top. I sprinkled this over the top along with the Parmesan cheese. Place into a preheated oven at 190°C for about 25 – 30 minutes. I whacked the heat up full for the last few minutes to help the top get a bit crispy. Oh just to let you know, as you can see in the ingredients there are no measurements for the cheese, just add as much as you want really. The basic rule is, when you think you have enough cheese add more!

cookies larder cauliflower cheese

So here it is & its a shame this blog doesn’t have smellovision because it smelt fantastic, as well as looking great. Fresh out of the oven with the cheese bubbling & it tasted lovely. Would I do anything different I hear you ask? Well, maybe try whole-grain mustard instead or forgo the mustard altogether & add garlic & parsley to the sauce or maybe try different cheeses. I might add a bit more flour to give a slightly thicker sauce & maybe dice some bread crust & pop that on top to give a real crunch to the dish. But overall this was basically a faultless version of Cauliflower Cheese.

Sweet potato stuffed Anaheim pepper with chipotle mayo

Ever since I can remember I’ve always loved spicy food. I’m not sure when it started but there is something addictive about feeling the burn from a curry, chilli or splash of hot sauce. I went through the usual youthful ritual of a late night curry with plenty of pints & poppadoms. I recall one particular Indian dish so hot my knees sweated, a never repeated experience. But beyond the macho bravado once you start your spicy food journey your taste buds will discover a world of varied flavour sensations as well as heat.

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It was by chance that I read about the 2nd annual Festival of Heat. Travelling bleary eyed into work with the usual throng of commuters last Friday I saw a brief mention of it in my copy of the Metro. I knew I couldn’t miss this, in fact I was a bit more excited about it than my blind date that night which didn’t go that well sadly. But memories of another failed romantic endeavour soon faded & after a quick omelette breakfast I headed towards Spitalfields City Farm where the event was taking place on Sunday 28th October.

Close to Buxton Street (named after abolitionist & social reformer Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton) Spitalfieds City Farm is situated in Tower Hamlets one of the most vibrant areas of London & the streets were packed with tourists & traders alike as I made my way there. Thankfully the weather was good, & the festival was already in full swing when I arrived.

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There were numerous stalls mainly focusing on independent hot sauce makers. In fact there were so many to choose from I didn’t know where to start.

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The enticing bottles with names such as Five Finger Death Punch & Evil One were displayed along with free samples.

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Many of these had a one-more-go level of intense heat that left some visitors literally teary eyed. There were also more delicate flavoured offerings whilst others enticed with their rich depth of flavour.

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Thankfully there were plenty of other refreshments on offer, in fact I had to take a breather after a while with a cooling pint of locally sourced cider. It wasn’t only hot sauces, with live music & dance also provided for burnt throated attendees!

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For those with culinary leanings, like me of course, there was the chance to buy chillies & chilli plants along with workshops & an interesting interactive stall which explored the way in which taste is informed by many other factors such as colour & smell. An interesting respite from the addictive onslaught of hot sauce sampling.

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This was a brilliant day & basically essential for any fan of spicy food, after buying a nice selection of sauces & chillies I left with that lovely warm feeling in my tummy & loads of ideas in my head about how to make the best of what I had experienced.

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As I walked back to the station the sound of music caught my attention, turning a corner I stumbled upon the Upstart Crow Festival. This free event dedicated to singer songwriters was a welcome surprise, I settled down for a short while enjoying the music & another pint.

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So what would I concoct after my day of heat? Initially I wanted to make a hot sauce, but I thought a break was in order from the intensity I’d enjoyed at the festival so settled on a subtler dish. I’d never stuffed a pepper, & the large Anaheim seemed perfect for a first attempt. I initially thought about cream cheese but after talking to a friend who recommended Indian style spiced potato I changed my mind. I really like sweet potato, especially with the addition of chilli flakes so that was the way I rolled. I wanted to create my own mayo to accompany it, the chillies I’d purchased seemed ideal for this to give an extra, controllable fire to the dish.

Ingredients

1 Anaheim pepper

1 sweet potato

Chilli flakes

6 slices of Parma Ham

2 Chipotle chillies

4 – 5 tablespoons of mayo

Juice of 1 lime

Paprika

Cumin

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Method

Firstly I attempted the mayo. Unfortunately the chipotle chillies were dried so weren’t so easy to blend even after finely chopping. My blender is pretty basic as well which didn’t help. In fact I ended up pushing the mayo through a sieve to remove the small but harsh bits of chilli. I used about 4 tablespoons of mayo, adding the juice of one lime along with paprika & cumin. I kept tasting to see if the flavour was right, adjusting the spice level accordingly which you would need to do of course to suit your palette.

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Putting this into the fridge I turned to the pepper. Splitting down the side I scooped out the interior, removing as much of the seeds as possible. Setting that aside I peeled then cut the sweet potato into even sized chunks before boiling for about 15 – 20 mins until soft. Draining then mashing the spud followed, adding a knob of butter a dash of pepper & a liberal amount of chilli flakes. Again keep tasting till you reach the level you’re comfortable with.

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When it came to stuffing the pepper I realised there might be some difficulty in the pepper retaining its shape, so after it was filled I wrapped a few slices of Parma ham around it, securing with a toothpick or two. Then it was into a preheated griddle pan for a few minutes, turning occasionally until the ham started to darken.

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As a first attempt this wasn’t bad & tasted alright the mayo adding a nice afterburn of heat to the dish. There are of course things I’d do differently, maybe blanch the pepper first to soften it as it was quite firm, or use smaller ones. Although the combination of sweet potato against the Parma ham worked well the potato had lost its temperature, probably due to the relative thickness of the pepper. A filling not so reliant on heat would be better, a cream cheese as originally intended for example. Philadelphia Light with Sweet Chilli would probably work just as well with the ham. A longer cooking time possibly in the oven may give a better result, keeping everything hot. To be honest I was going to shove it in the oven but was hungry & impatient! Maybe a different colour pepper would be superior aesthetically. Visually it might have looked better sliced? On a bed of sweet potato mash? Endless possibilities it seems. But not bad overall, definitely a work in progress I will make further attempts to perfect.