A Perfect Pork Chop

pork-chops low resServes 1

Now, let me talk to you about pork chops. Vegans and vegetarians please look away now. This is a serious subject. As most everyone knows, a pork chop cooked to perfection is about as perfect as eating gets. I have lived most of my adult life with people telling me that tender pork is the result of good cooking, nothing to do with the quality of the meat. Three minutes on each side. Six minutes on each side. No, cook it long and slow. No, no! Braise it in stock for goodness knows how long.

Well I can declare that that is all bollocks! (Sorry Mum.) It has absolutely nothing to do with short cooking or long cooking or roasting or braising. It has everything to do with the quality of the pork! It doesn’t matter how I cook it, Maltese pork is UN_BE_LIEV_ABLE!!! It is moist and tasty and tender beyond all the laws of science and I bow down and give thanks to the great Pork Gods who give us such bounty. And I realise too that as I am writing this, no matter what a great writer I may think I am, I cannot begin to convey to you the food heaven I am talking about. There is only one way you can understand it; come to Malta and try it for yourself. They say that in life you should find one thing you are good at and stick to it. This is a brilliant example of that. Malta does the world’s best pork. But don’t expect great local beef. Or lamb. Just pork.

1 pork chop
Sea salt
Black pepper
Smoked paprika
Olive oil

Now is the time for me to tell you how to cook it. No arguments please! Take your pork chop and wash it well. This isn’t about getting it clean. This is about washing away any annoying bone fragments that may be lingering after the butchering process. Dry it with kitchen paper. Lay it in an oven proof dish (I think a glass dish works well). Season it generously with sea salt and black pepper. And then smother it with smoked paprika. Use your finger tips to spread the seasoning around. The pork chop should look a deep ruby red at this stage. Pick it up and splash a little olive oil in the dish then place the chop spice side down in the dish and move it around to spread the oil about. Season the new top side with sea salt, pepper and smoked paprika and spread that around with your fingertips too. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

These instructions may seem overly detailed but let me say; you are preparing the most amazing meat dish on the planet, bar none. This last bit is easy. Bake the chop in the oven at 200° for 15 minutes. Turn it over and baste it and turn the oven down to 180° and bake it for a further 10 minutes. Turn it over and baste it and bake it for a further eight minutes. These times are approximate; they all depend on the thickness of your pork chop and the efficiency of your oven. And last but definitely not least, rest it at the end. That is, once it is cooked, take it out of the oven, but leave it in the roasting dish, cover it in foil and leave it for ten minutes. And then the best bit of all. Eat it!

As you may have gathered from all of this, I had a pork chop for dinner on Saturday! And although I spend a lot of my time eating fruit and vegetables, just at this moment I feel like king of the Atkins Diet hill.

And I have decided that every year henceforth the 26th September will be known as International Pork Chop Day.

Bonza BBQ Seasoning

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My recipe for Bonza BBQ Seasoning is a mix of herbs and spices that is an ideal flavouring for all BBQ foods. With a medium heat and strong flavours it is perfect for outdoor grilling.

Mix together a generous amount of Bonza BBQ Seasoning with a little oil to make a loose paste. Then simply rub it onto your chicken, steak, lamb chops, pork chops, sausages, fish, vegetables – whatever you fancy – and leave it to marinate for up to an hour. Then chuck it on the Barbecue and have a feast!  (Weather permitting, that is.  If you are enjoying a typical English summer’s day, you may be better off grilling it indoors or baking it in the oven!)

1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt

Mix all of the ingredients together and store in a spice jar until needed.

Spiced Lentil Salad

Spiced lentils 2 low res

Serves 4 as a side dish

This is a tasty make-ahead dish that’s great as a side dish with baked chicken or fish. It is also ideal as part of a buffet. But actually I like it so much I like to make it a meal of it, a nice big bowl full with lots of crusty bread and butter. Puy lentils are a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, they are low in fat and they make you feel full so you are less likely to have snack attacks. Pretty much an all-round winner!

Don’t be tempted to add salt to the water for the lentils or to cook them in stock that contains salt. Lentils cooked with salt tend to go hard, so it’s always best to season them after cooking.

250g puy lentils, rinsed well under running water
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
9 sundried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
1 to 2 large red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ rounded teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ rounded teaspoons ground cumin
1 rounded teaspoon ground black pepper
Extra salt for seasoning

Simmer the lentils in a large pan of unsalted water until they are cooked but still have a slight bite to them. This will take about 40 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently sauté the onions for five minutes. Add the sun dried tomatoes and continue to cook for a further five minutes or so until the onions are softened and golden. Add the chilli, garlic and salt and continue to sauté for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the oregano, cumin and black pepper and stir fry for two minutes, making sure the mixture does not catch.

Mix the sauce into the cooked lentils. Taste the dish and add salt as necessary, stirring well to make sure the salt is evenly distributed.

Cool and chill in the fridge until needed.

Chickpea and Grilled Vegetable Casserole

Chickpea and veg casserole 2 low res


Serves 3

This is a delicious one-pot dish that’s great to eat all year around. The roasting of the peppers and aubergines intensifies their flavours and make the dish as special as it is. Don’t be tempted to skip this stage or all you’ll end up with is a slightly spiced ratatouille-esk meal! I like to serve it with lots of crusty bread (and butter!).

While we are at it, let’s consider the good and bad about chickpeas. On the good side, they are naturally low in salt, high in fibre (which leads to lower cholesterol), high in protein and they are high in iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus and folates. On the downside, beware canned chickpeas which can be high in salt (!), remember chickpeas are calorific, and their high minerals and vitamins can be a problem if you have a medical condition. So, that’s clear as mud then! The bottom line is, if you have a medical condition think about what you are eating; if you don’t, remember the mantra – moderation in all things.

This is a vegan dish as long as the stock is vegan (and as long as you skip the butter with the bread!).

1 large red pepper
1 large yellow pepper
2 medium aubergines, thickly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cayenne
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g cans of chickpeas
450ml vegetable/vegan stock
Black pepper
2 tablespoonns red wine vinegar

Roast the peppers on the BBQ, turning occasionally, until the skins are black. Place them in a plastic bag for 8 minutes then rub off their skins. Remove the stalks and seeds and cut the flesh into bite sized pieces. Brush the aubergine slices with oil and lightly season with sea salt. Roast the slices on the BBQ, turning occasionally, until golden on both sides. Cut into bite sized pieces.

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onions until soft and starting to colour, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute then add the cumin, coriander, oregano and cayenne and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and the peppers and aubergines and stir to mix well. Simmer for 35 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning adding more salt, cayenne and red wine vinegar as necessary. Cook for a further 10 minutes. This dish can now be cooled and stored in the fridge and reheated when needed.

Pineapple Chutney

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Different varieties of chutneys and pickles are found throughout Caribbean and Creole cooking. This one is sweet and fruity and piquant, and delicious with grilled chicken, meats or fish or served with any jerked, barbequed or piri-piri food. There is no actual cooking involved – just combine all of the ingredients, give them a good stir and store covered in a refrigerator until needed. If you can’t get crushed pineapple, just buy pineapple chunks and crush them with a rolling pin. Finally, don’t go too easy on the Tabasco – this chutney is meant to be spicy.

(Tabasco is vegan, so this is a vegan dish. Not all pepper sauces are vegan though, so if this is important to you and you are using a different pepper sauce, check its list of ingredients.)

500g crushed pineapple, drained
2 spring onions, finely chopped (include some green tops as they add a colour contrast)
25g unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 medium red pepper, finely chopped
A good glug of Tabasco (or other pepper sauce)
4cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon dark rum
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Blackened Chicken

Blackened chicken recipe low res

Serves 4

The great thing about using rubs is that you can turn out fantastic tasting food with virtually no effort. When I first started blending herbs and spices, one of the first I made was a blackening seasoning which I call Hubba Hubba Blackening Spice. It is still one of my favourites. It works on any meat, fish or poultry but is particularly good on chicken and salmon. The spice mix has a medium heat at most, so don’t be frightened of it!

If you haven’t already made up some Hubba Hubba Blackening Spice, don’t worry because it’s easy to make and you can check out the recipe here.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 heaped teaspoons Hubba Hubba Blackening Spice
4 whole chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs)

Mix the spice mix into the oil and rub onto the chicken pieces to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Bake in the oven at 180°C until cooked, approx. 45 minutes.

I like to serve this with cherry tomatoes on the vine that have been seasoned with salt, pepper and balsamic and roasted alongside the chicken. Serve with a freshly made salad and you have a perfect summer dish.

Most Smarties/M&Ms eaten in one minute blindfolded using chopsticks

jpg most-mmssmarties-eaten-in-one-minute-using-chopsticks

Do you know, believe it or not, there is actually a Guinness World Record for this? Apparently on 8th December 2011 in New York someone named Ashrita Furman (an American, of course), ate 20 M&Ms in one minute using chopsticks while wearing a blindfold.

Andy Warhol has a lot to answer for. But even he couldn’t have imagined that some of his compatriots would be so desperate to have their 15 minutes of world fame as to take the ridiculous to such dizzying new heights. I reckon it won’t be long now until someone is awarded a Guinness World Record for being the only American left alive who hasn’t attempted a pointless Guinness World Record.

(By the by, LW got really confused when I asked her to put her M&Ms in alphabetical order.)

Hubba Hubba Blackening Spice

Paprike low res

This is a great all-purpose rub. It has a rich flavour with a medium heat. If you like you can make it less or more hot by adjusting the amount of cayenne chilli powder. It is good on all sorts of meats, poultry, fish and vegetables.

Simply mix together all of the ingredients and store in a spice jar until needed. This recipe makes 8 teaspoons in all. I like to use a generous amount of this rub, typically 1 teaspoon per portion.

½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne chilli powder
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 ½ tsp paprika
1 tsp salt

Nutella Lock

Nutella lock

The Telegraph has carried a story that a German man, Daniel Schobloch, has invented a lock for a Nutella jar to stop people surreptitiously nicking spoonsful of the stuff. Apparently you can buy them on eBay for €10 and so far Herr Dan has sold nearly 1,000 of the things.

So, who is crazier, Herr Dan for wasting such time and effort making the locks or the 1,000 odd Nutella nutters who have more money than sense? A small jar of Nutella costs less than €2 (depending where you are). Wouldn’t you be better off spending your hard-earned dosh on a few more jars of the stuff? And a little more time contemplating the meaning of life may just help these Nutella nutters get their lives back on track.

Now, if Herr Dan will just invent a coded lock for chocolate bars, LW will get far fewer dirty looks.