A Christmas feast for two!

This will be our first LCHF Christmas. So far so good. After all, ’tis the season of bacon, sausages, sausages wrapped in bacon, cheese, cheese wrapped in bacon, nuts, bacon nuts…all lovely LCHF fare. For the last few years we’ve had an alternative Christmas day for just the two of us (usually after the days that are filled with the obligatory Christmas stuff, as something to look forward to): turkey feast, lots of cake, watching Bruce Willis run around in a vest (or some other, suitably violent, Christmas movie), some booze to fill in the spaces in between the food…etc. This year we had our meal early so that I could blog about it and perhaps give you guys a few more foodie ideas (if you need them). It’s not proper low-carb, but hey – it is Christmas!

Serves 2 with lots of left-overs (or 4-5 people)

Ingredients:

For the roast pork:
1 kg boned and rolled pork leg
500 g minced pork (you can use sausage meat if you’re not fussed about the gluten)
4 eating apples
4 large onions
Small bunch of fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
250 ml white wine
100 g butter

For the extra stuffing pots:
5 – 6 rashers smoked streaky bacon

For the fondant parsnips & carrots:
2 large carrots
1 parsnip
200 g unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or a sprig of fresh thyme)
Salt & pepper
100 ml water

For the cabbage-sprout gratin:
250 g brussels sprouts
1 savoy cabbage, shredded
50 g butter
300 ml whole milk
200 ml double cream
100 g grated cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (optional)
Salt & pepper
1 packet of hog lumps
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

First, prepare the stuffing. Finely chop one of the onions and gently fry with some butter. Meanwhile, dice two of the eating apples (I left the skins on), and add to the now softened onions. Fry for a couple of minutes, until there is a bit of colour on the onions and the apples. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl. Add the pork mince, plenty of pepper (I used about 2 tsp – you should be able to smell the pepper once it’s all mixed in), the salt and the chopped sage, and mix well.

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You can now pre-heat the oven to 220°C, whilst you prepare the pork for stuffing.

If you’ve got a boned pork leg most of of the work has already been done. All you need to do is remove the string, place the joint skin-side down on a board and open it out, with the thin edge to your right. To open it out further I usually start from the right (because I’m right-handed) and cut into the thickest part of the meat, unrolling it with my left hand as I go. Once it is as unrolled as it’s going to get, give it a good bash with a mallet or rolling pin (or your fists) to flatten it out.

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Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper, then place half of the stuffing mixture onto the pork and spread so that it covers about two-thirds of the surface area. Then roll the piggy back up (using the un-stuffed flap to stop the stuffing from oozing out), and secure with the string again, so that it once again looks like a big fat maggot.

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Now cut the remaining onions and apples into chunks and lay all over the bottom of your roasting pan. Pour the wine into the pan and place Mr. Pig Roll on top. Pat the skin dry with some kitchen towel and rub salt all over it. Roast in the hot hot oven for then first 20 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 170°C for the remaining cooking time (about 1 hour 40 minutes in total).

Use the left-over stuffing to fill two ramekins pre-lined with bacon, and add a bit of extra bacon on top to cover. These are ready to go in the oven with the gratin, 15 minutes before the pork is done.

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Next, prepare the gratin. Shred the cabbage and steam for about 5 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, melt about 25 g butter in a frying pan and fry the sprouts whole until they start to go brown. Place the cabbage and the sprouts in an oven-proof pan (I used a square cake pan, it was the perfect size), and prepare the cheesy sauce. For this, place the cheese, milk, cream, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg and xanthan gum (if using – this is just to thicken the sauce) in a pan and heat, whilst whisking, until everything has melted together and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Pour all over the cabbagey sprouts.

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For a cheeky extra touch, crush a packet of hog lumps (because not enough pigs were used in the making of this meal), mix with the parmesan and mixed herbs, and sprinkle over the top of the gratin. This is ready to go in the oven with the extra stuffing about 15 mins before the pork is done.

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Next, prepare the carrots and parsnips. They will take 30-40 mins to cook, but they do stay warm for ages so the timing isn’t vital (just don’t burn them, like I managed to!!). Cut them into chunks of about 2 – 3 cm thick, making sure they are roughly the same thickness. You can adjust this so that they all fit into your frying pan in a single layer. Melt the butter in a frying pan and heat it until it starts to foam. Then, add the carrots and parsnips. Keep the heat on medium and don’t move the pan or mess around with the veg for about 8 minutes. Turn the chunks over and repeat. Once both sides are nice and browned, add the garlic cloves, salt, pepper and thyme. Turn the heat to low and carefully add the water. The butter will get really excited at this point so maybe use a lid as a shield so you don’t get spat on. Cover and leave to cook for about 15 – 20 minutes until the carrots and parsnips are tender. Take care that the water doesn’t evaporate (my lid has a steam escape-hole, I’m not sure why, so my carrots got a bit too brown on the underside), and add more if you can smell burning! Once they are cooked, just turn the heat off and leave them in the pan until you’re ready to eat.

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Once the pork is cooked (I kept checking until I got a reading of 60°C on the old meat thermometer), take out of the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes, or until all of your other bits and pieces are ready. The stuffing pots should be brown on top, but you can check with a thermometer to see if they’re done (cooking times will vary depending on the size/shape of your ramekins).

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Carve the pork into nice chunky slices and serve with all of the trimmings and the pan juices.

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LCHF curry feast!

This is an homage to our local curry house, which has put up with our awkward dietary requirements for the last 8 months or so, never complaining when we swap bread and rice for extra veggie sides (even when there’s a deal on). I’m not sure what sort of curry this is, so I shall call it “lamb curry a la Roxy”, complete with cauliflower bhaji and courgette pakoras/fritters.

The curry serves 4, but us two managed to munch our way through all of the pakoras and cauliflower, so make extra if you’re serving more people.

Ingredients:

For the lamb curry a la Roxy:
500 g diced lamb shoulder
4 onions, sliced
4 large cloves garlic
6 – 10 dried kashmiri chillies (depending on how hot you want it), soaked in warm water for a few minutes
2 medium tomatoes
A chunk of ginger (about 5 cm)
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 green cardamom pods
2 black cardamom pods (just for the hell of it)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 small aubergine, chunked (optional)
Lots of ghee for frying

For the cauliflower bhaji:
1 cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed/boiled until almost cooked
1/2 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
Ghee for frying

For the pakoras:
1 large courgette, diced
The other half of the onion from the cauliflower, finely sliced
2 eggs
2 tbsp curry powder (whatever you have to hand, I went for madras as it was in my cupboard)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp tomato puree
Ghee or lard for frying (I ran out of ghee so I used lard for porky pakoras – or porkoras, if you will)

First, prepare the curry. Place the garlic, ginger, tomatoes and kashmiri chillies in a blender and blend to a fine paste.

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Heat a large saucepan and add the cumin seeds and cardamom pods. Fry until the seeds start to dance in the pan, then add the ghee (about 2 tbsp) and the onions. Fry for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are soft. Depending on how dark you want your finished sauce, you can cook the onions on a high heat to brown them, or fry them gently for a paler sauce (that’s what I did). Add the lamb and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Add the spice paste, fry for a minute, and then add the ground spices, the salt and the pepper. Add enough water to cover the lamb, bring to a simmer, then cover and cook on a loooow heat (use a diffuser if you have one) for 1.5 hours.

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Add the aubergine (if using) and simmer for a further 30 minutes, removing the lid and turning up the heat for the last 15 mins.

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Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients for the cauliflower bhaji and pakoras. For the cauliflower bhaji, steam/boil the cauliflower until just tender. Set to one side. Fry the onions in ghee for a few minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, tomato, turmeric and mustard seeds and stir-fry for a few minutes until the tomatoes start to break down. Add the cooked cauliflower and stir well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes until everything is properly cooked.

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For the porkoras, place the courgette, onion, eggs, curry powder, tomato puree, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

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Heat enough ghee/lard in a frying pan to shallow-fry the pakoras (about 2 cm up the side of the pan). Once the fat is hot (test by dropping in a small amount of batter – if it puffs up it’s hot enough), add spoonfuls of the pakora mixture to the pan. Fry for about 3 minutes on each side (keep an eye on the heat, don’t let the fat get too hot) until the courgette is tender and the pakoras are golden, then fry the next batch.

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Serve everything together, and use the pakoras to soak up the curry sauce!

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Buttery roast chicken

If you want a fail-safe method for keeping your roast chicken lovely and moist, then look no further! All you need to do is shove a load of butter under the bird’s skin and you’re good to go. This recipe can be adapted to incorporate different flavourings. I’ve gone for garlic (of course), but you could add some fresh herbs, or keep it simple with salt and pepper.

Serves 2 with left-over chicken for a nice salad the following day

Ingredients:
1 free-range chicken (approx 1.5 kg)
75 g butter
3 large cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3-4 medium onions, chunked
200 ml white wine (or you could use chicken stock or water)

For the spice rub (optional):
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chipotle chilli powder (or smoked paprika)
1 tsp cayenne pepper

For the broccoli cheese:
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
120 g cheddar cheese
60 g butter
100 g double cream
150 ml full-fat milk
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

First, prepare a bed of onions for the chicken to sit on. Then, prepare the flavoured butter by whizzing the garlic, butter, salt and pepper. You can do this by hand – just finely chop the garlic and beat it with the butter until it is fully incorporated.

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Starting from the neck-end of the chicken, gently separate the skin from the breast, trying not to pierce the skin itself. Push the flavoured butter underneath the skin and try to cover as much of the breast as possible. Spread the remaining butter all over the chicken, not forgetting the nooks and crannies, such as the armpits.

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If using, mix the spice-rub ingredients together and sprinkle all over the chicken. Add the wine/stock/water to the dish (to stop the onions burning) and roast in the oven for 20 mins per 500 g, plus an extra 20 mins, or until the juices run clear.

Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli cheese. Steam/boil the broccoli until tender, and place into an oven-proof dish. Add the remaining ingredients to a pan and heat, whisking, until everything is melted and the sauce is smooth. Pour the sauce over the broccoli, and finish with lashings of black pepper.

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Bake in the oven, with the chicken, for 20 minutes. Serve with the chicken, the onions and some of the lovely buttery chickeny pan juices.

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Easy-peasy hol-lard-aise sauce

Ok so this isn’t actually made with lard, but it is easy-peasy so the title is at least half right.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
100 g butter
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt and pepper

Place the vinegar in a small pan over a high heat and reduce by half. Add the butter, salt and pepper, and continue to heat until the butter has melted.

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Meanwhile, place the egg yolk in a bowl and whisk until foamy. Slowly add the butter mixture to the egg, whisking constantly so that the egg doesn’t scramble.

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At this point it is ready to serve, but if you prefer a mayonnaise-like consistency, return the mixture to the pan over a very low heat (I use a heat diffuser) and stir until the desired consistency is reached. Serve with a some asparagus, bacon and a poached egg.

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**For bearnaise sauce, just fry a small, finely chopped, shallot before adding the vinegar, and finish with a tbsp of chopped tarragon. Really good with steak!

Stuffed roast leg of pork

Well I didn’t think it had been this long since my last post! I’m going to be doing some experimental baking today so depending on how that goes, stay tuned for a pudding post this week.

This happy little piggy was from our meat box. The meat turned out lovely, moist and full of flavour, and the crackling was teeth-shattering, as it should be.

Ingredients:
For the pork:
1.2 kg rolled leg of pork
2 medium onions
Small bunch fresh sage leaves
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon
Butter for frying
Salt & pepper

For the cabbage:
1 savoy cabbage, shredded
100 ml chicken stock
25 g butter
2 tbsp double cream or creme fraiche
Salt & pepper, to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (fan), or as high as your oven will go.

Finely chop the onions and sage in a food processor. Melt the butter in the pan and gently fry the onions and sage, along with a generous pinch of salt and lots of ground pepper, until the onions are soft. Set aside to cool whilst you prepare the pork.

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Using a sharp knife, butterfly the pork so that you can lay it out flat to stuff it.

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Rub in some salt and pepper all over the exposed pork flesh, then spread the cooked onions over it. Now lay the bacon rashers over the onions and roll the pork back into its original shape. Secure with string, and place in a roasting pan. You might have to poke the onions and bacon back into the piggy (mine splurged out somewhat), just to tidy it up a bit. Pat the skin dry with a piece of kitchen towel, then score with a sharp knife and rub some salt and pepper into it.

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Place the joint in the very hot oven for 20 minutes, and then lower the temperature to 170°C for the remaining cooking time (about 35 minutes per 500 g). You will end up with something that looks like this:

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Prepare the cabbage whilst piggy is resting. Steam the shredded cabbage in a pan with the chicken stock, for about 5 minutes. Add the butter, cream, seasoning, and stir. Continue to cook, uncovered, for a couple of minutes.

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Serve with slices of the pork, and a nice chunk of crackling (watch your teeth).

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Make your own butter!

Anyone on an LCHF diet will no doubt have a fridge full of cream. In my case, the cream was over-flowing (accidental over-buy, oops) and there was no way we were going to use it up before its use-by date. So I made a flavoured butter. It’s so easy, and tastes delish!

Makes about 250g

Ingredients:
600 ml double cream (mine was extra-thick)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped / minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp parsley, finely chopped

Place the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer (you can also use a food processor), and beat on a high speed for 5-10 minutes (my extra-thick cream too a little longer). If you’re using a stand mixed, you will need a splash guard – I was a bit late applying mine so my walls were slightly re-decorated. You want to beat the cream way past the stiff peaks stage, until it separates into buttermilk and butter fat (or until there are yellow lumps floating in a milky liquid).

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Drain off the liquid (you can keep this to use in recipes that require buttermilk). Now you need to wash the butter to get rid of all traces of the buttermilk (this is the stuff that will go rancid if it’s left hanging around for too long) – knead the butter under a running tap and over a sieve to catch any runaways.

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You can use the butter as is, or you can add seasoning/flavouring. I flavoured mine with some chopped garlic, parsley and salt. Just return the butter to the (clean) mixer/processor, add the flavourings and mix until incorporated. Wrap the butter in parchment paper or cling film, and leave in the fridge to firm up until you need to use it.

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Great with a steak!

Great with a steak!

Poached chicken with egg-fried cauli-rice

I’m not going to lie to you, I do miss rice occasionally. Especially if we have a stir-fry. This cauliflower version of egg-fried rice definitely puts the rice cravings at bay. If it’s not over-cooked it does have the quality of rice, and certainly tastes like egg-fried rice with a hint of cauliflower! If you haven’t boiled a chicken yet, then do it (as long as you have a big enough pan/small enough chicken). The chicken stays really moist, it cooks in no time, and it gets infused with all the flavours you add to the stock. YUM.

Ingredients:
1 small chicken (this one was 1.2 kg)
1 large onion, chunked
1 bunch spring onions
3 large cloves garlic
3 red chillies, chunked
5 cm piece of ginger, sliced
1 tsp Schezuan peppercorns
2 tsp five-spice powder
2 whole star anise
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
1 tbsp tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
1 stock cube / fresh chicken stock

For the egg-fried cauli-rice:
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten

To prepare the chicken, place all of the vegetables and seasonings/spices into a large pan and place the chicken (breast-side up) on top. Fill the pan with hot water – the water should reach up to the chicken thighs (this way the breasts will steam, rather than boil).

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Bring to the boil, cover, then turn the heat down and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked (test whether the juices run clear by poking the thickest part of the breast/leg with a knife).

Meanwhile, prepare the cauli-rice. Whizz the cauliflower in a food processor until it has a rice-like quality (not too finely whizzed. Yes I do have a pink Magimix).

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Heat the oil in a frying pan, add some of the spring onions and garlic from the chicken pot and stir-fry for a minute. Add the cauliflower and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add a ladle of stock from the chicken pot, cover, and simmer for a few minutes until the cauliflower is cooked (keep checking, it won’t take long). Push the cauliflower to one side of the pan, and add the eggs to the other. Scramble the eggs until they are almost cooked, and then mix everything together. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper (or extra tamari/soy sauce) as required.

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Carve the chicken, and serve with the rice, some steamed mange-tout, the cauli-rice and lots of the stock!

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