Lockdown Lethargy – what a yawn. Right now, I am ignoring the siren call of the ironing board and the growing mountain of clothes begging for attention from me and my deft hand with an iron. Definitely not on today …
The weather is such that comfort food is necessary and provides a legitimate displacement activity. Especially the eating thereof. Last night, I resurrected a dish I made eons ago, not quite when I was a school with God and his friends and the nuns. It proved a great hit with That Man who declared I could ‘make that again, any time.’ Praise indeed.
Jocelyn Dimbleby, the first food writer (later everyone jumped on the bandwagon) to remind me of the watermelon salads I enjoyed in the Middle East as a child, produced a book entitled Marvellous Meals with Mince. Courtesy of her generosity, dear reader, I share this recipe which has nothing to do with watermelon.
I didn’t have the minced pork detailed and used minced veal. Minced chicken or fish (a flavoursome variety) would work well too.
Savoury Pudding with Red Peppers and Green Peppercorns – with thanks and apologies to Jocelyn Dimbleby.
serves 4 -6 depending on appetites
400g /14oz. minced veal (or pork, beef, chicken, fish. The recipe calls for 500g/17 ozs/1lb but the pack in my freezer contained 400g …)
1 or 2 leeks, depending on size, (not in JD’s recipe, but I like them) sliced not too thinly. (Or ‘slicedly thin’, as I have been known to malaprop.)
2 good-sized red peppers, halved and grilled or oven roasted till charred
2 dessertspoons green peppercorns
2 large cloves of garlic (Not in the original recipe, but I like garlic, too.)
Handful breadcrumbs (Not in the original recipe, but I used sourdough crumbs)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons red pesto (the recipe called for tomato purée. I didn’t have any. Your choice.)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Greek yoghourt – full fat (essential fatty acids to feed the endocrine system which supports the hormone cascade.)
When the peppers are charred (what wouldn’t I give for a gas hob!), shove them into a bag or wrap in greaseproof paper and leave for a couple of minutes. (You can make this a faster job by using peppers in a jar … cheat by adding smoked paprika to achieve the smokiness of charred peppers.) Then skin the pieces and chop quite small. I got fed up chopping them last night, so I chopped two-thirds and then lined the bottom of the steaming bowl with the other pieces.)
Soften the leeks in butter or olive oil
Chuck the mince in a bowl, grate in the garlic (don’t mess around with garlic presses, you waste time and garlic) mix in the breadcrumbs, the green peppercorns, sea salt and black pepper. Mix in the chopped peppers, leeks and the eggs. Add more breadcrumbs if liked, to absorb some of the juices as it cooks.
Butter or (olive) oil a pudding basin –I lined the bottom of the bowl with red pepper pieces – tip in the veal mix, cover with greaseproof paper and then aluminium foil (note the correct spelling, USA readers!) Put on an upturned saucer or special stand so the pudding bowl doesn’t crack in the saucepan, pour in boiling water to seven-eighths of the way up the bowl. Cover with the lid.
Steam for one hour, making sure to top up with boiling water throughout. You may, of course, cook it in a loaf tin or round cake tin and bake for a similar time, in a medium to hot oven.
Upend into a flan dish or serving dish with sides, wider than the pudding – there will be juices – top with two or three dollops of Greek yoghourt and plenty of fresh coriander or parsley. (Jocelyn Dimbleby recommends green peppercorns but I had used them all in the pudding. Improvisation is all – and I love coriander.) The colours of the savoury pudding, red peppers, white yoghourt and green herbs look so appetizing.
Serve with jacket potatoes (make sure the skin is crunchy!), rice or bird’s eye pasta (orzo) or polenta. Spinach provides a good contrast, as does kale (kalettes are my latest fave green vegetable), cavolo nero, green beans, mange tout, courgettes or a salad.
Take care in these covid days – don’t ignore sensible precautions. I have friends who have been dangerously ill with it and two who have died. It’s worth the effort to stay well: it will annoy the hell out of your enemies.