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I love rabbit, and I’m extremely lucky that my partner and mum are also big fans. With the weather feeling particularly wintery of late, I decided it was time for some wholesome, whole cooked hearty food. Where better to turn than a good old fashioned rabbit stew. As always, Canham & Sons in Hove didn’t let us down and my partner managed to source two fresh rabbits – one for the freezer (they freeze very well) for another wintery day…and one for our Sunday lunch.

Rabbit stew in cider gravy and mash

Rabbit pieces coated in flour, thyme, salt and pepper

The recipe

I wanted to go for a fairly traditional recipe – one with cider or mustard – and opted for the Hairy Bikers’ old fashioned stew from their Best of British recipe book – shared on the BBC’s Food pages. Although I’m not a fan of the TV show, I do find their recipes pretty reliable and very easy to follow. It says it will serve 5 to 6 – but we all have very healthy appetites so, between the three of us, we scoffed the lot.

Rabbit stew in cider gravy and mash

Browning the rabbit pieces

There are quite a few steps in the overall process, but it’s well worth taking care over every step. Coating in seasoned flour, browning the portions, holding back the saddle pieces for the first 45 minutes or so, adding the peas at the last minute…all make sure you get the best out of the flavours and overall tenderness of the meat and veg. I served mine on a plate of mash that worked brilliantly on soaking up the delicious cider gravy.

The verdict

We were all very happy with the result. A tasty, hearty meal with beautifully tender meat, delicious cider gravy and carrots that had soaked up all the lovely stewy flavours of the dish. We scored my version 8-9 out of 10.

Rabbit stew in cider gravy and mash

The end result – old fashioned rabbit stew in cider gravy with chantenay carrots, peas and mash

The improvements

I pureed my mash a little too much and overall it was too creamy for the dish. We all agreed that a fluffier, perhaps even chunkier mash would have worked better to absorb the juices. We could have done with a few more carrots and perhaps the peas should have been added in the very last few minutes to ensure a firmer texture and more prominent pea taste. The gravy was delicious and, although there was a good amount, we all wanted a little more.

As for presentation…hmm…I often struggle with how to best plate stews as it always looks a little dumped on the plate. So I’ll be checking out Pinterest for inspiration on how to make things look a little more sophisticated and to more of a professional standard.

I’ll definitely make this dish again…but  will bear all these points in mind to try and get myself more like a 9 or 10 out of 10.

The wine

I checked out a few sites to see what wine’s recommended with a rabbit stew. I opted for a very reasonably priced Bouchard Aine Et Fils Pinot Noir I managed to get on offer through Sainsbury’s at £6 per bottle. It was a great fruity match that really complimented the rabbit without overpowering it.

 

 

 

 

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We’ve been on a bit of a health kick since the new year – limiting red meat preferring to go with fish and veggie options as much as possible. We’ve also been avoiding too many carbs and have virtually completely cut out potatoes (for now). So I’ve been going a bit crazy with my purees…trying out pretty much every vegetable that would work well pureed and would make a great substitute for spuds, rice and the like. Having tried and retried most veggie options, I turned to cauliflower…and this is how I came across this absolutely delicious dish.

Lately, I’ve found myself going straight to the Great British Chefs website. Their tagline is “inspiring food lovers everywhere” and they’ve certainly provided me with plenty of inspiration over the past weeks. So I searched their site for cauliflower, and Tony Fleming’s spiced cod with curried cauliflower and mango arrived at the top of the list.

I can’t recommend this enough – especially if you’re after a light, refined and healthy curry alternative. Here’s how I approached the recipe…

Mango relishMango relish

This mango relish is delicious. And, other than removing the stone from the mango, it’s pretty straight forward.

I always make a big batch as it keeps nicely for a few days and is wonderful with a home cooked curry.

It’s also very pretty and adds wonderful colour and texture to what would otherwise be a pretty ‘grey’ coloured dish.

Mango relishFirst up you create a syrup from vinegar, sugar, water, mango stone, black onion/nigella and white mustard seeds.

Next up, dice the mango and mix with finely chopped red chillies and red onion.

Add this to the hot mango syrup, cover and chill for at least an hour. You can leave this until you’re ready to plate up but they do recommend bringing the relish to room temperature before serving which is when you mix in the fresh coriander.

Curried cauliflowerCurried cauliflower puree

Again, this is absolutely delicious and really simple to make.

After frying up the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds in butter, mix in the chopped cauliflower for it to soften slightly.

Then simmer in milk until the cauliflower is cooked. The smell is divine!! Add in some cream (I use creme fraiche) and simmer until it’s reduced and thickened.

Curried cauliflowerPop into a blender – I find my hand blender works perfectly well for this – along with mango chutney and lemon juice then blitz until it’s completely smooth.

To make sure this is a beautiful creamy puree, pass through a fine sieve then leave to one side until you’re ready to plate up.

Try and keep it warm if poss, or just gently heat up when you’re ready.

Spiced codSpiced cod

Preparing the cod is super quick so make sure you’ve got everything ready to plate up before you start.

Simply season and cook the fillets in a little oil in an ovenproof pan on the hob for a couple of minutes. Then pop into a warm oven (180deg) for 5 minutes.

Heat up a pan with butter and curry powder, add the cod then baste for a couple of minutes with the frothing butter mix. Finish with lemon juice, rock salt and coriander and leave to stand for a couple of minutes.

Curried cauliflower

Plating up

There’s nothing like a beautifully presented plate of food – and presentation is something I need to work on. I don’t have the most delicate of touches and haven’t focused enough on this in the past.

So, with a drawer full of new tools combined with lots of research for inspiration on Pinterest, I’m practising as much as I can.

You can see my attempt here is to have a little pot of relish to the side, with a Masterchef-esque puree swoosh to the other.

I place the cod in the centre of the plate, then layer on top with more mango relish. I pipe and dot domes of puree to the side and finish with some whole coriander and cress leaves on top. Tony Fleming’s recipe also includes some beautiful thinly shaved purple cauliflower, which, sadly, I’ve found hard to find so far. So I’m adding this to my endless list of things to grow in the garden this year.

I absolutely love this dish and will definitely be adding it to my potential dinner party dishes to choose from.

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Good ol’ spag bol

In my opinion, Spaghetti Bolognese is right up there as one of the best comfort foods. And, in my opinion, it’s one of the easiest dishes to get right. But so often, in particular in restaurants and cafés, it’s served up as a bit of a tasteless slosh of bland mince, token tomatoes and way too much limp pasta. I’ve never quite figured why so many places get it wrong – a touch of laziness maybe? Again, in my opinion, spag bol deserves care and attention…even if it is indeed one of the simplest dishes to make.

 

For me, there’s a few absolute musts for a good ol’ spag bol. Bacon to kick things off, a good base of chopped veg (onions, garlic, carrots and celery), good quality minced beef, plum(!!) tomatoes, chopped cherry tomatoes, red wine, herbs (I use rosemary, oregano, bay leaves and basil) and parmesan.

All of these deserve a decent amount of cooking time to make sure to infuse the flavours. And I like to simmer mine for at least an hour…or, even better, make ahead to bring out the maximum flavour.

Having looked around for recipes, I quite like BBC Good Food’s ‘The Best Spaghetti Bolognese’ recipe although, despite loving spicy food, I prefer to leave out the red chilli. They too use plum tomatoes…and I really rate the addition of parmesan to the whole dish before serving. Basil added during cooking and then to garnish the dish is also a great touch. Oh…as for the pasta…dried pasta (as good as fresh in my view) popped into boiling water and simmered for 12 minutes is bang on every time.

Below are the recommended ingredients for the best spaghetti Bolgnese and you can find the full recipe here.

1 tbsp olive oil
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 carrots trimmed and finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 sprigs rosemary leaves picked and finely chopped
500g beef mince
2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
Small pack basil, leaves picked, ¾ finely chopped and the rest left whole for garnish
1 tsp dried oregano
2 fresh bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 beef stock cube
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
125ml red wine
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
75g Parmesan grated, plus extra to serve
400g spaghetti
crusty bread, to serve (optional)

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Greek salad

Greek Salad

With a trip to Athens next week…with a half Greek partner who craves food memories of Greece…I’ve decided to brush up on my Greek cooking skills. So where else to start than a good old Greek Salad.

I love Greek Salad and found myself indulging every morning for breakfast when I spent a week in Crete last year.

Hunting around the internet and a variety of Greek cookery books, I decided to go with the Guardian’s Felicity Cloake’s How to make the perfect Greek salad recipe. I love their ‘how to make the perfect..‘ recipes as they’ve done their groundwork and share in detail tips from top chefs, all the different ingredient varieties followed by their recommendation on getting it perfect. This is a classic dish, and, as Felicty mentions, it’s actually pretty rare to find a decent one outside Greece. But it should be pretty simple right?

Well after having made this a couple of times now, yes, it’s simple…but to take it to the next level, there are a few brilliant tips that I would never have thought of – mainly around marinading the onions and tomatoes and adding a special splash of Ouzo!

For the onions, it’s simply a case of giving them around 20 minutes in a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar and three tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Although I love raw onion, by marinading it, you lessen what can be an overwhelming hit of onion which can overpower other flavours in the salad.

Similarly, for the tomatoes – which must be as sweet and ripe as possible – sprinkling them with a little sugar and salt helps bring out the best tomato flavour…and the juice that results is a fantastic addition to the final dressing.

Cucumber is obviously a must and definitely best cut into bite-sized chunks rather than thinly sliced or large rounds that make it tough to fit on your fork alongside all the other delicious ingredients.

Other staples include feta of course – the best you can find rather than the bland, mild varieties you find in supermarkets’ economy sections. Crumbled over the top rather than neat slices or a huge hunk make this look a lot more appetising…and with crumbs of feta blended across the salad adds to the delicious flavours on your fork. Olives are obviously a must – the recommendation is of course kalamata but I’m open to other varieties as long as they’re decent quality olives. The addition of capers really helps bring out the sour saltiness of the feta…but gherkins are also recommended which I’m definitely going to try next time.

Oregano is a staple in this household so I wouldn’t dare try using other suggestions of mint or coriander. Not having many fresh herbs growing in the garden at this time of year, I used dried oregano which works perfectly well.

And finally the dressing – a good old classic of red wine vinegar and decent extra virgin olive oil do the trick. But, as I mentioned earlier, the addition of a teaspoon of Ouzo takes this to another level. That hint of aniseed, for me, takes this dish back to Greece and somehow makes this dish taste all the more authentic.

Greek SaladSo below are the recommended ingredients for the perfect Greek Salad and you can find the full recipe here.

½ red onion
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
10 smallish, sweet tomatoes
½ tsp caster sugar (optional)
1 cucumber, chilled
25 kalamata olives, preferably stone-in
1 tbsp capers, drained (or rinsed if packed in salt)
1 tsp ouzo or pastis (optional)
3 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves picked and roughly chopped, or a generous pinch of dried oregano
150g feta

 

 

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Keep an eye out…there’s a new Brighton based supper club coming soon!

With food and cooking being right at the top of my list of things I’m passionate about, I decided it was time to take the plunge and set up some kind of food related business. I love food…I love entertaining…and I love my home…so it was a bit of a no brainer to think about setting up a supperclub.

While I’m investigating all the ins and outs and the best way to approach it, I thought I’d practise as much as possible – my partner’s a perfect guinea pig! And I thought I’d share how I get on with trying new recipes and trying new foodie places I come across out and about on my travels.

Abigail’s Party will be a new supperclub coming to Brighton very soon. But in the meantime, I’d love to share my journey with you…and for you to get involved by giving me feedback, comments and suggestions. Please do get involved as I’d love to build this around what people want.

You can find my latest discoveries and get involved on my blog and my facebook pages.

If you’re interested in hearing more about coming along to one of my first supperclubs, please drop me an email.

Thanks

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