Spaghetti Siciliana

Spaghetti low res

Serves 1

This recipe shows that delicious food needn’t be complicated. You will need to have already prepared some real tomato sauce though, but don’t despair, I have already posted the recipe for that. This recipe is for one portion; to serve two just double it, to serve four quadruple it, you’re smart (or you wouldn’t be reading this), so you get the picture.

This dish is vegetarian and also vegan if you skip the parmesan.

1 medium to large courgette, cut into bite size pieces
2 sweet peppers, one yellow and one orange, stems removed, deseeded and cut into bite size pieces
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
A drizzle of olive oil
1 portion, approx. 225ml, of home-made real tomato sauce
100g spaghetti
To serve, grated parmesan, optional

Put the courgette and peppers in an oven proof dish. Season with sea salt, black pepper and a pinch of chilli flakes. Drizzle with the olive oil and stir. Bake in the oven at 180° for 15 minutes, then give them a good stir and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. After this time the vegetables should be slightly softened and just starting to colour at the edges. Mix with the tomato sauce and set aside. This can all be done ahead. Just store the vegetable mixture in the fridge until you are ready to finish off the dish.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water according to the instructions on the packet. Meanwhile, reheat the vegetables in a large frying pan. As soon as the spaghetti is cooked, drain it and add it to the frying pan. Toss or stir the mixture to make sure the spaghetti is evenly coated.

Serve immediately sprinkled with the grated parmesan.

Sit back with a warm belly and a big smile on your face and think, “Boy, that Kev.i.n really knows what he’s on about!”

Adulteration of Herbs, Spices and Seasoning Blends

The recent scandal involving Volkswagen is a sad reminder that we cannot trust even so-called premium brands to be truthful about what they are selling to us. Sometimes, as with Volkswagen, the deception appears to be deliberate. Other times it may be careless or inadvertent; think of the Tesco “beef burgers” that in 2013 were found to contain 29% horse meat.
Paprike low res
Adulteration of foods may not only give you an inferior product but at worst it may kill or poison you. Herbs and spices and seasoning blends are a good example. In 1994 ground paprika in Hungary was found to be adulterated with lead oxide. Several people died; dozens of others became unwell. And 2005 saw the largest food recall in history following the discovery of carcinogenic Sudan Red dye in red chilli powder.

In a perfect world we would always buy herbs and spices and seasoning blends that are pure and natural, wouldn’t we? The trouble is, the only way to be certain of that is to buy organic products and you can expect to pay a premium for organic, sometimes a hefty premium at that. However, most of us don’t use huge amounts of dried herbs and spices so paying more shouldn’t break the bank. Organic doesn’t only mean that there is no use of man-made pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers. Organic certification means independent inspection to ensure pure and natural standards.

Unfortunately, not all non-organic herbs and spices on the market are pure and natural. Herbs and spices that are not pure and natural are those that have been adulterated. The most common form of adulteration is economic adulteration – the addition of constituents to herbs or spices to increase their value/profit or appearance. As examples, the addition of cheap bulking agents to a spice enables a producer to sell it more cheaply, or artificially enhancing a spice’s colour may enable a producer to inflate its price.Indian Spices low res

Most herbs and spices are sold ready-ground rather than whole. Likewise, most seasoning blends are made up of ground, rather than whole herbs and spices. It is much easier to adulterate ground spices than whole. Very often spices are ground at source by growers and producers. It is essential, therefore, that the spices used are from reliable and ethical sources.

In general spices are grown overseas because climactic conditions are ideal, rather than because costs will be lower. Spices are sourced from dozens of countries including India, Indonesia, Egypt, Grenada, Sri Lanka, Spain, Morocco, Turkey and Brazil to name but a few. Also, inadvertent adulteration can be a problem if there is lack of cleanliness in the production process. This is difficult to control in some developing regions where producers may gather spices from large numbers of small growers. Many spices from developing countries are sourced from thousands of farmers who grow, harvest and dry spices on small plots of land.

The most common form of adulteration aims to deceive you into thinking a food is more valuable than it actually is. If so, you will either pay more for it, so boosting the profit to the unscrupulous producer or you will be tricked into thinking you are getting a bargain when in fact the unethical producer has reduced his costs by selling you an inferior product. In some cases you may not be getting what you think you are getting (such as by the addition of turmeric to saffron powder to bulk it up cheaply) and in extreme cases the actions of unscrupulous producers may pose a grave threat to human health (such as the addition of carcinogenic Sudan Red 1 dye to red chilli powder to enhance its colour).

There is a long history and tradition of food adulteration. In the third century BC Theophrastus commented on the use of artificial flavourings and economic adulteration. In the first century BC Pliny the Elder gave a detailed report of adulteration including the addition of juniper berries to pepper. In the second century AD Galen also expressed his concerns about the adulteration of pepper. Adulteration of foods, including spices, became more significant with the growth of cities and urbanisation and, in 1860, English statutes were enacted to outlaw adulteration. They haven’t worked and adulteration involving spices continues to this day.

The seriousness of the health issues involved and the consequential risks of criminal charges to the individuals and businesses behind them beg the question of why adulteration still goes on. There appear to be three main reasons.

The first and most obvious reason is greed – to increase profit. A producer may use a cheap filler that is easily disguised in the spice to increase its volume; this makes it cheaper to produce than pure spice and so increases his profit margin.

The second reason is to enable a producer to compete. For instance, if a retailer thinks oregano will sell better if it looks greener, he may ask his supplier for a greener product and an unscrupulous producer may react by adding rockrose (cistus) to it. Rockrose has a dark green colour that when added to oregano makes the oregano more visually appealing than pure oregano. A knock-on undesirable consequence is that this might encourage copycat behaviour to enable other spice producers to compete.

The third reason for adulteration is to do with market forces and consequential cost cutting pressures. If retailers squeeze suppliers to reduce costs and suppliers in turn squeeze producers, there comes a point when a producer can no longer supply a pure product profitably. At that point he must decide whether to turn down the business or to adulterate his product to reduce his costs and maintain an acceptable margin. It is believed that these cost cutting pressures are the main reasons for the adulteration seen today in the herb and spice industry. As a result, suppliers of premium (pure and natural) herbs and spices always compete on quality rather than price.

Generally, a food can be considered adulterated if it:

  • contains any added poisonous substance
  • contains filth
  • contains additives
  • has had any substance added to increase its bulk or weight or to make it appear more valuable
  • has had any constituent removed
  • has had any substance substituted for it

There are many examples of adulteration of spices. Here are just a few of them:

  • adding bulking agents such as non-spice vegetable matter to increase volume
  • adding defatted paprika (the residue of paprika that has had its colour and flavour components removed (using hexane, a constituent of gasoline)) to paprika and chilli powder, to standardise colour
  • adding spent black pepper meal (the residual material left after removing its oleoresin) to ground black pepper
  • the addition of colour additives, such as turmeric to paprika and saffron, or Sudan Red 1 to chilli powder
  • the removal of flavour constituents (for use elsewhere) such as in defatted paprika
  • producing ground spices adulterated with grains, hulls, starch and added oleoresins (a mixture of oils and resins extracted from various plants such as pine and lovage)
  • capsicums adulterated with tomato skins, Sudan Red and related dyes or dextrose
  • oregano adulterated with other herbs such as marjoram, savory and thyme or with foreign leaves such as cistus
  • saffron adulterated with floral waste, turmeric or artificial colours
  • ground black and white pepper adulterated with buckwheat or millet seed
  • cinnamon adulterated with coffee husks
  • nutmeg adulterated with coffee husks

The best defence against deliberate and inadvertent adulteration is to buy only from respected sources. Your best protection is to buy products that have organic certification, as the organic inspection and certification process minimises the risks of adulteration.

Real Tomato Sauce (not Ketchup!)

Mutti Passata low res

This sauce is not to be confused with tomato ketchup which is a quite different kettle of fish, or should I say tomatoes?

This is a great all round tomato sauce that you can use as a base for all sorts of dishes. Whenever a recipe calls for a tomato sauce base you can reach into the freezer and grab one you’ve made earlier. I use it in pasta sauces, goulashes and ratatouille or even just as an accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken.

This sauce tastes fruity and fresh. One caveat, though. The main ingredient is passata and not any old passata will do. It needs to be the best quality you can get. I’ve tried many different ones over the years and there is no doubt in my mind which is the best – Mutti passata wins hands down.

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 x 700g bottles of Mutti passata
½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
A generous pinch of dried chilli flakes
A generous pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar

Heat the oil and gently sauté the onion until soft and golden, approx. 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry for 1 minute. Add all of the other ingredients, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir from time to time. Taste to check the seasoning adding salt, pepper, red wine vinegar or sugar if needs be.

Divide the sauce into small portions and freeze them separately. I usually get five portions of about 225ml each. That way you can defrost only as much as you need and not waste any.

Candied Shallots

Shallots low res

Serves 4 to 8

These babies taste fantastic! Try them as a garnish for just about any beef or game dish. This recipe is for 24 shallots. Allow three per person for a starter garnish or more – up to six – for a main course garnish.

24 shallots, peeled but with their roots intact to stop them breaking up
60g (4 tablespoons) butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
200 ml red wine

Heat the butter and oil in a wok and when foaming add the shallots. Sauté until they are golden brown, approx 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they cook evenly. Add the sugar and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar starts to caramelise. Add the red wine, bring to a simmer, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and boil to reduce the liquid to a glaze.

These can be made ahead, stored in the fridge, and reheated when needed. To reheat put a splash of water in a small saucepan, add the onions, cover and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.

Beef in BBQ Sauce

Beef brisket joint

Serves 8

This is my take on a classic dish of beef slowly cooked in a BBQ sauce. You’ll find versions of this dish in various cookbooks and although they are all quite similar, the difference comes from the mix of BBQ sauces used. You can use any BBQ sauce that you prefer but I have found that mixing the Levi Roots and Jack Daniels sauces gives the perfect balance of sweet, sour and spice.

This is a sweet dish so a favourite with the kids. And it’s easy too. Although the cooking time is long, it can be made ahead of time, stored in the fridge and reheated when needed.

For the Marinade…
1 bottle Levi Roots Reggae Reggae sauce
1 bottle Jack Daniels smoky BBQ sauce
250 ml (1 small bottle) lager
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 onions finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 brisket of beef, rolled and tied, approx. 2kg in weight

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together, add the brisket and make sure it is evenly coated. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Heat the vegetable oil in a large oven-proof casserole dish. Remove the brisket from the marinade, scrape off any excess marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Brown in the vegetable oil, turning to make sure the brisket is evenly coloured. Pour over the marinade, bring to a simmer, then cover and bake in a low oven for 3 hours.

Once cooked, allow the brisket to cool slightly, then transfer it to a chopping board. Remove the string then cut the meat into slices and chunks. Cut away and discard any excess skin or fat.

Place the meat into a clean casserole dish and pour over the sauce either as it is or sieved if you like it smooth. Stir to mix evenly, then allow to go cold, cover and store in the fridge overnight.

When ready to serve remove the dish from the fridge and remove any fat that may have solidified on the surface. Bake in the oven uncovered until bubbling and hot. Stir from time to time to make sure the surface doesn’t burn.

 

Nutritional InfoValue per ServingDaily Value
Calories559
Total fat22g34%
Saturated fat7g34%
Cholesterol155mg52%
Sodium758mg33%
Total carbohydrate31g11%
Dietary fibre2g6%
Sugar23g
Protein53g106%
Vitamin A3%
Vitamin C8%
Calcium6%
Iron34%

The Kev.i.n 11 Words Weight Loss Plan

bear chasing fat people low res

If, like me, you are short for your weight, then this blog post is for you.

I hope you are sitting down. Because I am going to tell you a sure-fire way to lose weight. (That is assuming you have weight to lose, but hey, who doesn’t?)

And it’s free.

And I’m going to tell you how in just 11 words. That’s right, 11 words.

Dieting need not be a weigh of life. (Oh dear.)  Follow my Kev.i.n 11 Words Weight Loss Plan for a better way of life.

Throw away your diet books. Don’t waste your money on support groups or diet clubs or meal replacements or laxatives or diet pills. Forget Atkins. Forget Weightwatchers. Forget the Zone diet, the raw food diet, the grapefruit diet or whatever other fad diet is currently doing the rounds.

So here goes.

How easy is that? It’s no biggie. It works. Trouble is, if you do it, no one is going to make money out of you. And the diet industry isn’t about losing weight, it’s about making money isn’t it? In the UK alone the diet industry is worth about the same each year as the cost of running the entire NHS’s A&E departments nationwide, that’s over £2 billion. Here’s a horrible statistic. In the UK people spend over £20 million each year on laxatives alone!

No one is going to pay a “celebrity” to tell you that to lose weight all you need to do is eat less, eat better, drink less and cheat one day a week. Who’s going to make money out of that?

I should mention exercise. If you exercise more you will be healthier and feel better. But unless you are prepared to spend several hours at it each day, it won’t help you lose much weight. For most of us, a 20 minutes brisk walk will burn off about the same number of calories as you find in one chocolate digestive biscuit. It’s a hell of a lot easier to just bin the biscuit!

So, whether you’re just trying to lose a couple of pounds or if you’re starting to show up on radar, give it a go.

Finally, do you recognise this?

“I want to lose 10 pounds this year. Only 13 left to go.”

Testimonials

“I think Kev.i.n is absolutely wonderful.” Anonymous

“It didn’t work for me.” Victoria Beckham

“Obesity is just Labour propaganda.” Eric Pickles

“When it says eat better, is it meant to say eat butter?” Blond housewife (name withheld)

Trinidad 3 Times Cooked Chicken

limes low res

Serves 4

I call this dish 3 times cooked because it is first marinated, then simmered and cooled before being simmered again. This allows the flavours to develop at various stages. The finished dish is soft, rich and piquant.

This is my version of a dish I had in the Bahamas a while back. The restaurant called it Trinidad Chicken. I subsequently showed the recipe to a Trinidadian lady I know and she told me it didn’t resemble any chicken dish she’d ever had! So, I don’t know how authentic it is but it jogs a happy memory. Most importantly, it tastes fan-tas-tic and is definitely in my chicken recipes hall of fame.

For the marinade…
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 large celery stick, finely sliced
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
8 chicken thighs

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
25g dark brown soft sugar
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup (it’s got to be Heinz, hasn’t it?)
225ml water

In a large bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients except the chicken. Add the chicken, turning it to coat well, cover it with cling film and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the chicken thighs and pat dry with kitchen paper, reserving the marinade mixture. In a large heavy-based saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat until hot but not smoking and add half the sugar. When the sugar begins to bubble add half the chicken thighs and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned. Remove the chicken to a plate and repeat with the remaining sugar and chicken thighs. Remove those too to the plate once they are well browned.

Pour the reserved marinade into the pan, add the tomato ketchup and water and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer it, covered, for 45 minutes. At the end of that time, remove the pan from the heat and let it go completely cold – approximately 2 to 3 hours. At this stage the dish can be stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

To serve, bring the pan back to simmering point and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

This dish is delicious served with rice pilaf, pineapple chutney and a crisp green salad.

Schooner Wharf Fish Rub

Coriander low res

I have named this fish rub in honour of our favourite bar in Key West – Schooner Wharf Bar. If you want a bar right by the water’s edge that is lively and fun and has real pirates (with chains and parrots, honestly), look no further.

We love all sorts of fish and shellfish and very often the best way to appreciate it is to keep it simple. Sometimes though, we like to add other exciting flavours and that’s where my Schooner Wharf Fish Rub comes in. It enhances rather than masks the flavour of the fish and will keep you coming back for more.

This spice mix has a mild heat. Allow one teaspoon of the rub per portion, so if you are cooking for four, use four teaspoons of the rub. This recipe makes eight teaspoons in all and it will happily keep for ages stored in a spice jar.

Sumac adds a sour note. If you can’t get hold of it, just leave it out and instead add a squeeze of lemon juice to the fish before cooking.

Simply mix the rub with a little oil to make a loose paste and then rub it onto your fish – white fish, salmon, prawns, whatever you fancy – then leave it to marinate in the fridge for up to an hour. Then cook in the usual way – roast, grill, barbecue or fry.

½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp mustard powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp sumac
½ tsp salt

Beef and Prune Tagine

Prunes low res

Serves 2 to 3

This is a dark and very rich Moroccan dish full of aromatic, body-warming spices. Every time I eat it I am transported back to the spice stalls in the souk in Marrakesh. Pyramids of brightly coloured ground spices draw you in and the air there is redolent with pungent cinnamon, cardamom and cumin. A bit different to the little pots of ground spices we see in our local supermarkets!

This dish is strong on flavour but not too hot. It has become a firm favourite with everyone who has tried it. The sweetness of the prunes is balanced by the sourness of the tamarind. I serve it with plain boiled white rice but it is equally good with flatbreads. As a vegetable accompaniment, I like courgette batons lightly sautéed in vegetable oil.

You’ll notice in this recipe that the meat isn’t browned first. Browning meat is a routine many cooks get into but it isn’t always necessary. In dishes like this where the meat is covered in spices, browning it could easily burn the spices and give the dish a bitter taste.

For the marinade…
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
600g (trimmed weight) beef shin or knuckle, cubed

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
250g soft stoned prunes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons runny honey
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch coriander leaves, washed and roughly chopped (about 2 heaped tablespoons)
2 rounded tsp tamarind paste
2 green jalapeno chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
500ml beef stock

Start by marinating the beef 24 hours ahead of time. In a medium bowl, mix all of the spice powders with the olive oil to make a loose paste. Add the beef cubes and stir well to make sure the beef is evenly coated. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 24 hours.

To make the finished dish, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions until softened and starting to colour, approx 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry for 1 minute. Add all of the other ingredients, except for the beef stock and the beef and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the beef, stir well and allow the beef to heat up. Finally, add the stock, bring to a simmer and cook in a low oven for 2 to 3 hours. Add a little boiling water from time to time if the dish starts to dry out but make sure the sauce in the final dish is rich and not too loose.