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Oh Amazon, thou art a wicked temptress!

“Free shipping!” said the email and I, unable to resist a bargain, went cookbook shopping.  It wasn’t really an impulse purchase – I’d had my eye on the latest River Cottage book for quite a while.

I’m a big fan of the series, but when my dear friend Joanna raved about the book, I knew it had to be a winner.

It has a very approachable feel to it, reminiscent of some of the early Jamie Oliver cookbooks – simple, wholesome food which we really could eat every day.

The book arrived less than a week ago and I’ve already made several recipes from it – a good indication that this will be a well-used resource in our kitchen.  Here are a couple of dishes that have gone down particularly well with the tribe!

. . . . .

Tupperware Mexican Chorizo

This is a genius recipe.

The basic idea is to make a seasoned mince, which is left to mature in the fridge, and dipped into periodically to create various meals.  Definitely the sort of thing that appeals to me, although I didn’t have the nerve to store it in the fridge for two weeks as HFW suggests!  My variation is listed below, with the original ingredients in brackets:

  • 750g coarsely minced pork shoulder, preferably free-range
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika (1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika (2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chilli powder (¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper)
  • 1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 10g /2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 50ml red wine
  • freshly ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and squelch everything together with your hands until evenly combined.  Hugh suggests frying a little of the mix in oil to taste for seasoning – we did this by microwaving a tiny patty for just a few seconds until it was cooked.

The mix starts off quite salty to begin with, but as it matures, the flavours mellow out and integrate.  Remember though that the salt is necessary to preserve the meat, and Hugh suggests covering the mixture and storing it in the fridge for at least 24 hours to begin with, and for up to two weeks in total.

Edit: I asked Lee, who is a food chemist, whether or not he would be happy with keeping the raw chorizo mince for two weeks, and this was his reply:

No, I wouldn’t be happy with it. The only protection is temperature. The salt will not be enough, the spices may have some protective effect but I wouldn’t rely on them. The meat is diced/chopped so plenty of opportunity to get ‘seeded’ with bacteria. The saving grace is that all recipes cook the meat well.

Please use your discretion – I know that on Lee’s advice, I now won’t be keeping the mixture for more than a few days, and I might start making half batches from now on.

Over the course of the next four days, we turned this 750g mixture into…

…mini meatballs, and served them in our roasted tomato passata, tapas-style…

…five plates of Migas, each topped with a freshly laid egg and Picasso sheeps’ cheese…

…and the ultimate meatlover’s pizza!

There was something fabulous about having a container of raw savoury mince in the fridge, waiting to be turned into an instant meal. This is a recipe we’ll be making regularly!

. . . . .

Easy Rich Chocolate Cake

This was the recipe that convinced me to buy the book, after Joanna posted about it on her blog!

  • 250g (8.8oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa – I used Callebaut callets)
  • 250g (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 medium free-range eggs, separated
  • 150g (5.3oz) caster (superfine) sugar and 50g (1.75oz) light brown sugar (or use 200g/7oz ordinary caster sugar)
  • 50g (1.75oz) plain (AP) flour
  • 50g (1.75oz) ground almonds

1. Grease a 20cm/8″ springform cake tin and line the base with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 170C/340F or 160C/320F with fan.

2. In a large pyrex bowl, melt together the chocolate and butter in the microwave using short bursts, being careful not to scorch the chocolate.  Stir until smooth and combined.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar to form a paste, then stir in the melted chocolate and butter.  Carefully fold in the flour and almonds.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.  Stir a large spoonful into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then carefully fold the remaining egg white in with a large spatula or metal spoon, trying to keep as much of the air in the mixture as possible.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes, until  just set.  The original recipe specified a 23cm/9″ tin and 30 minutes baking time, but I found my smaller tin (and therefore taller cake) needed a few more minutes to set.   The cake will still be a little wibbly in the middle – resist the urge to bake it until solid.  Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes on a wire rack before opening the springform.

I’ve made this recipe twice in the last week, and both times it’s been demolished within 24 hours by family and visiting friends.

River Cottage Everyday – definitely a cookbook that suits how we  like to eat, every day!

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Migas, which translates to crumbs in English, varies widely across Spain, but the fundamental ingredient in all incarnations is fried bread.  The recipe is easily adaptable, and was featured recently on Wild Gourmets in Spain. It’s a great way to use up leftover cottage loaves!

This is the traditional breakfast of the shepherds who tend the Manchega sheep in La Mancha, as it’s made from easily transportable ingredients.  Here’s my take on it…

  • chorizo sausage
  • paprika, preferably smoked
  • stale bread, torn into bite-sized chunks
  • olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • eggs
  • Manchego, or other hard sheeps milk cheese

Note: the original recipe used Spanish chorizo, a smoked cured meat, similar to salami.  I couldn’t find one that I liked, so I’ve gone for an Italian style chorizo, which is a fresh sausage that needs to be cooked before eating.  Alternatively, you could use salami, bacon or a different fresh sausage.

1. Sprinkle the bread with a little water if it’s dry.  Set aside.

2. In a large frypan, heat a good lug of olive oil and fry the onion and garlic, then add the chopped chorizo.  Fry until the chorizo starts to cook and releases some of its oil.  Add a little paprika – this adds a lovely colour and flavour to the dish and helps to compensate for the lack of paprika in non-Spanish chorizos.

3. Add the bread and fry until well coloured and crisp.  Spoon out onto serving dishes.  Top each plate with a fried egg and a few slices of cheese, then season with freshly ground black pepper.  Very moreish!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

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