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Pork Chops & Stuffing

Pork Chops & Stuffing

This supper dish I am showing you today is one of my favourite kinds of supper dishes.  A dish in which everything is cooked pretty much together, making for less mess and less of a clean up. But that doesn't mean less flavour as you will see!  This is delicious!

It looks pretty tasty even before it goes into the oven!  I was inspired by a recipe I found on Tablespoon for easy pork chops and stuffing.  It used boxed stuffing mix however, which is not something that is readily available over here in the UK.  We do have stuffing mix, but it is not the same thing as the one which the original recipe used.

The packaged stuffing we have over here uses rusk crumbs whereas the North American variety uses bread crumbs, and is seasoned quite differently.  Most cooks would have been tempted to keep looking for a recipe to use, which required ingredients that were readily available to them.  That's not me. I am not most cooks.

I liked the basic premise and then I set to work making it work for me, using what I had and adapting the recipe appropriately.  This meant I had to make a stuffing from scratch, but  . . .  its not really that hard to do.  I also didn't have frozen broccoli, but really how hard is it to blanche fresh broccoli.  Not hard really at all.

By all means if you don't want to go to the trouble, then go to the original recipe and follow that one, but if you like cooking food without preservatives and additives, from scratch, Stay Right Here!

You won't regret it.  This stuffing is moist and delicious, flavoured with celery, onion and dried cranberries along with a mix of herbs and seasonings.  The pork is simply seasoned with salt and pepper and browned before laying on top of the stuffing and broccoli, the broccoli being fresh broccoli, simply blanched prior to baking.

Altogether this was very delicious, the pork lovely and moist . . .  the stuffing filled with lovely flavours and the broccoli perfectly cooked.  I served it with sweet potato fries because I had some which needed using up and they went very well, but so would mash or rice, or boiled or baked potatoes of any kind.

*Pork Chops & Stuffing*
Serves 4

Easy and delicious, from scratch.  Tender juicy pork chops on a bed of savoury cranbery stuffing, along with your favourite crispy tender broccoli.

4 bone in Pork Loin chops, each about 1/2 inch thick
(slash fat edge prior to cooking to prevent curling)
salt, pepper
2 cups broccoli florets, blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes
For the stuffing:
2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot peeled and grated coarsely
60g of butter (1/4 cup)
4 cups of dry bread cubes (about 5 thick slices of stale bread, cubed and dried
in a hot oven for about 10 minutes)
a handful of dried cranberries
1/4 tsp each dried thyme, parsley and sage
a dash of nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste
chicken broth as needed  

First make the stuffing.  Melt the butter in a skillet.  Add the celery, onion and carrot.  Cook until tender over medium heat.  Remove from heat.  Place the bread cubes into a bowl. Toss with the vegetables/butter mixture and dried cranberries.  Add the herbs and spices, as well as salt and black pepper to taste.  Add chicken broth just to moisten. 

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a shallow casserole dish large enough to hold all the chops in a single layer.  Place the stuffing in the bottom of the dish and top with broccoli florets. 

Dust the chops with salt and black pepper.  Heat a bit of oil in the skillet you softened the vegetables in.  Add the chops and brown them on both sides, for two to three minutes per side.  Lay the chops on top of the broccoli in the baking dish.  Cover tightly with foil. 

Bake for 30 to 40  minutes or until the pork is no longer pink inside.  Serve hot.

As I have mentioned in  previous posts,  I was sent some pork to try out near the end of December by The Black Farmer, some of his new range of fresh pork raised without anti-biotics. Leading the way in being the first mainstream brand to introduce the products, The Black Farmer has worked closely with partner farms to establish farming and production methods in response to the rising resistance to antibiotics. The selection of fresh British pork cuts from RSPCA assured pork can be easily identified by the blue Antibiotic Free swing tag. Today I cooked the loin chops that I had been sent.  They were as lovely as the rest of it has been. 

The Black Farmer range comprises a Shoulder Joint; Fillet Medallions; Loin Steaks; Loin Chops; Belly Joint and Belly Slices. The Black Farmer Pork Range is available exclusively from the Online Grocery Ocado Shop.  

About The Black Farmer 
The Black Farmer is one of the UK’s leading gluten free brands marketing a range of higher welfare, award winning pork sausages, chicken, burgers, meatballs, pork cuts, bacon, eggs and cheese. Launched 12 years ago the brand has gone on to great success with its products available in all the major UK high street and online retailers. The brand’s founder, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones is in his own words ‘a poor boy, done good’. He was born in Frankfield, Clarendon, Jamaica and then, after his parents came to the UK in the 1950s, was raised in inner city Birmingham. For a number of years Wilfred worked as a chef before pursuing a career in television. In 2000 Wilfred fulfilled a lifelong ambition to buy a small farm in Devon. This inspired him to develop and launch The Black Farmer – a name coined by his Devon neighbours. His Premium Pork sausages are one of the country’s leading brands of super premium sausages.

Note - Although I was sent these products free of charge for the purpose of review, I was not required to write a positive review in exchange.  Any opinions are quite simply my own.  

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Marie Rayner
Chicken Cheats

Chicken Cheats

There are certain things from Costco that I try to always keep in my freezer.  Things like the All Beef Hotdogs, cod fillets, and chicken.  I like the crispy crumbled chicken breasts.  They are really nice, just on their own served with veg or in a sandwich, etc.

We can get quite a few meals out of a package of them, truth be told, as there are only the two of us in the house, so they are quite economical for us.  I always like to season them a bit prior to baking.  Sometimes I will just use cracked black pepper and sometimes I will sprinkle them with cajun spice, or whatever flavours I am in the mood to be eating.  They are really quite an adaptable ingredient to have in your store-freezer!

Yes, it is a bit of a cheat, I know . . .  but I would be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes even the most seasoned chef's like to cheat a bit!  These frozen breaded fillets can also make a great basis for other things! Kind of like a pizza crust  . . .

They need never be boring.  You can partially cook them and then top them with a multitude of things and finish them off, and nobody will be complaining!! 

If you keep a store cupboard filled with lots of lovely bits, dressings, cheeses, sauces, etc. the world is your oyster!

This is a seriously simple way to dress things up and keep everybody happy. You could even make a bit of a party of it and let everyone top their own with their own choices.

Once topped and baked, they are ready to serve with any variety of sides . . .  potatoes, rice, vegetables, there is no end to what you can do.

Cranberry sauce and toasted soft goat's cheese  . . .  seriously scrummy . . .

Ranch style with ranch dressing, cheese, bacon and spring onions  . . .

Parmigiana with a good marinara sauce, parmesan cheese and mozzarella . . .

Hunters chicken with BBQ (I like the Paul Newman one) bacon, cheese and spring onions  . . .

Chicken Caesar with caesar dressing, parmesan and four cheese blend, with a bit of bacon and spring onion on top . . .

And those are only a few ideas . . .  marmalade with some apricot stilton . . . (can you imagine!) . . . salsa with some jack cheese and pickled jalapenos . . .  how about Mozarella and pizza toppings like olives, mini pepperoni, etc.  The world really is your oyster and these are truly a fabulous canvas for whatever floats your boat!

*Tasty Ways to Dress Up Breaded Chicken Breasts*

Note - Season all of your chicken with some garlic and onion powders, seasoning salt and black pepper prior to baking.  Bake for approximately 2/3 of the baking time allotted on the package and then proceed as follows for your choice of flavours. 

Chicken Caesar -  Spoon a heaped TBS of Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing on top of each.  Top with 2 TBS grated Parmesan Cheese and 1 TBS each chopped spring onion and cooked bacon.
Chicken Ranch -  Spoon a heaped TBS of Creamy Ranch Salad Dressing on top of each.  Top with 2 TBS Grated Cheddar Cheese and 1 TBS each chopped spring onion and cooked bacon.
Chicken Parmigiana - Spoon 2 TBS well flavoured marinara sauce over each piece of chicken. Top with a slize of Mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Hunters Chicken - Spoon 2 TBS of your favourite BBQ sauce over top of each.  Top with 2 TBS Grated Cheddar Cheese and 1 TBS each chopped spring onion and cooked bacon.
Cranberry Chicken -  Spoon 2 TBS of your favourite Cranberry Sauce over top of each.  Top each with 2 slices soft goats cheese.
Bake for the remainder of the cook time for the chicken until the chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.  Serve hot with your favourite accompaniments, pasta, baked potatoes, rice, etc.

Of course you could just pound, bread and fry your own chicken breasts and they would probably be even better, but when you are pressed for time and inspiration, these are fabulous! I am all out of them now so guess who will be making a trip this week to get some more?????  You got it Pontiac!  Mois for sure!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Apricot, Oat & Walnut Cookies

Apricot, Oat & Walnut Cookies

Some days you just want a cookie . . . or biscuit as they are called over here.  That inner child in you just crys out for something sweet . . . something which feels like a reward.
A tasty treat that is equally at home with a glass of cold milk . . . or with a cup of something hot, for dunking . . .

Something comfortable and comforting.  It doesn't even have to be chocolate . . . in fact there are days when chocolate just doesn't cut it . . . you want something more . . . something homey . . . with just a touch of sophistication . . .

Something which wraps you up in a nice warm hug like a loving Grandmother's cuddles and kisses always did . . .

Something which  feels indulgent and yet at the same time wholesome . . . we don't always want to feel totally naughty . . . sometimes we just want to be a tiny bit naughty . . .

 These lovely oaty moreishly wholesome biscuits fit the bill on all counts . . . they are the type of old fashioned treats that your Nana might have baked . . . and maybe she did.

Chock full of rolled oats, toasted walnuts, chunks of apricot and gently sweetened with creamy honey . . . these are biscuits to come home to . . . biscuits you want to sink your teeth into and then just float away on a sea of remembrance of honey comforts and a gentler . . . kinder time.

*Honeyed Apricot, Oat & Walnut Cookies*
Makes 4 dozen

Soft and golden, and studded with toasted walnuts and bits of dried apricot. 

180g of butter, softened (3/4 cup)
95g of granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
2 tsp finely grated orange zest (optional)
170g of creamed honey (1/2 cup)
1 large free range egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
160g of old fashioned rolled oats (2 cups)
175g of plain flour (1 1/4 cups)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
60g of toasted chopped walnuts (1/2 cup)
75g of chopped dried apricots (1/2 cup)

For the optional glaze:
125g of icing sugar, sifted (1 cup)
whole milk
1/2 tsp orange extract 

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Line several baking sheets with baking paper.  Butter the baking paper, or spritz with low fat cooking spray. 

Rub the sugar and orange zest together if using, until you can smell the orange.  Cream the sugar, honey and the butter together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the extracts and the egg.  Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt.   Add this to the creamed mixture along with the oats.  Mix together well.  Stir in the nuts and the apricots.  Mix well. 

Drop by the tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets, at least one inch apart.   Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.  Scoop off the cookie sheet onto wire racks to cool.  Once cool, whisk the drizzle ingredients together until smooth and dribble the resulting glaze in a decorative manner over the tops.  Store in an airtight container. 

I really dislike these cold dark days.  The light has been really poor no matter the time of day and its hard to get a decent photo of anything.  If it wasn't so cold out or raining, I could go outside but brrr . . .  not doing that.  Don't let the dark photos put you off from these tasty cookies.  They are really delicious!  Perfect with a hot drink for elevenses! Bon appetit! 


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Marie Rayner
Buttermilk Banana Bread

Buttermilk Banana Bread

I always try to buy enough bananas so that the Toddster can get his fill of them, and I will have some leftover blackened ones to bake with.  I confess I am not overly fond of eating fresh bananas, but bake them into a muffin, cookie or a bread and I am all over them!

The exception for the eating fresh rule is eating them on top of my rice crispies.  And I always need a sprinkle of brown sugar on top. Not sure why that is . . .  its probably something that goes back to my childhood.  Rice crispies, banana and brown sugar just makes me feel all yum yum.  I love them.

Is there such a thing as too many banana bread recipes???   I think not!

And this is one of my absolute favourites.  It smells all heavenly when it is baking  . . .

Its moreishly moist from the amount of banana and then the buttermilk  . . .

Its stogged full of lovely toasted pecans.  I always like to toast my nuts before using them. It just makes them taste . . .  well . . .  nuttier, for some reason.

This is beautiful on its own  . . .  with no embellishment, just the bread . . . sweet, moist and banana-ee.

Its lovely cut into thin slices and spread with softened butter too  . . .  and it is gorgeous toasted under a grill until its edges start to caramelize, flipped over and caramelized on the other side  . . .  and then, yes  . . . . spread  with butter or honey butter . . . wowsa. I am such a glutton!

*Buttermilk Banana Bread*
Makes 1 large loaf
When your bananas are black on the outside and looking like they are destined for the compost heap, they are perfect for banana bread.  Be sure to use a metal pan for this (not cast iron or glass).  To do otherwise will result in a heavy, overdone on the outside, soggy inside bread. 

450g to 525g mashed overly ripe banana (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups,
or 3 small to medium bananas or 2 large)
2 large free range eggs
95g granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
100g soft dark brown sugar (1/2 cup packed)
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
120ml buttermilk (1/2 cup)
280g plain flour (2 cups)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
125g butter, melted (1/2 cup)
60g coarsely chopped toasted pecans (1/2 cup) 

 Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F. gas mark 6.  Butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf tin and dust it lightly with flour, shaking out any excess.

Combine the mashed banana with the eggs, both sugars ad vanilla in a bowl.  Beat in the buttermilk and butter.  Sift the flour, soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the banana mixture and beat until well blended.  Stir in the chopped nuts.  Spoon into the prepared baking tin, smoothing the top.

Place the tin into the preheated oven and immediately REDUCE the oven temperature to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Bake for one hour and fifteen minutes, or until the top is risen and nicely browned, the loaf is beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin, and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to unmold. Carefully turn over and cool completely before cutting into slices to serve.  As with any teabread like this, letting it stand overnight improves the flavour and helps it to cut neater.

Note - this is really lovely toasted and buttered. Just saying  . . .

A slice of this with a hot cuppa is a real treat on a cold winter's day.  Perfect for chasing away the winter blues  . . .  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Oat, Apple & Sunflower Seed Muffins

Oat, Apple & Sunflower Seed Muffins

I am not a person who feels blue very often, but today I had kind of a blue day. It came at me from out of nowhere.  I felt teary-eyed and down-hearted for most of the day, for no real reason.  I find that when one of those moods hits, it is best to just get my head down and get stuck into something simple and mindless.  I decided to bake muffins. 

 I didn't feel inspired enough to make any from off my own back, so I turned to one of my favourite sources of tasty muffin recipes, entitled Mad about Muffins by Diana Bonaparte.  Its a book I got when I was living down South, on the say-so of my Bishop's wife.  All of the recipes are very sound and delicious!

These sounded lovely . . . . and somewhat healthy, aside from the sugar and golden syrup . . . with plenty of oats, sunflower seeds and chopped apple.

If you don't have light muscovado sugar, you can use soft light brown sugar, and in the place of golden syrup you can use light corn syrup, or even honey would work well.

Actually I think I might even try them with date syrup sometime.  I think that would be fabulous . . .  with some chopped dates instead of apple and maybe toasted walnuts instead of sunflower seeds.

Watch this space.  In the meantime we are sitting here enjoying these just as they are.  Delicious little cakes that are completely at home with a hot cuppa or a hot chocolate, or even a glass of milk.

They would also make very lovely additions to the kids' lunch boxes I dare say.  A delicious way of getting something good into them.

*Oat, Apple & Sunflower Seed Muffins*
Makes 12
In one word, MOREISH.  From the book Mad About Muffins by Diana Bonaparte.  

285g plain flour (2 cups plus 1 TBS)
150g soft light muscovado sugar (3/4 cup, packed)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
50g porridge oats (2/3/ cup)
170ml milk (6 fluid ounces)
2 large free range eggs
100g butter (1/2 cup minus 2 TBS)
50g golden syrup (2 1/2 TBS)
1 large sweet eating apple, unpeeled, cored and chopped finely
20g hulled sunflower seeds (3 TBS)
To top:
2 TBS jumbo oats
1 TBS hulled sunflower seeds
1 TBS demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Line a 12 cup medium muffin tin with paper liners, or butter and dust well with flour, shaking out any excess.  Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  Push the muscovado sugar through a fine sieve and stir it into the flour. (If you cannot get muscavado sugar, use light brown sugar).  Stir in the porridge oats.  Whisk together the milk and eggs in a measuring beaker, beating together with a fork.  Heat the syrup and butter together until the butter melts.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the milk/egg mixture and the syrup/butter mixture all at once.  Stir together just to moisten.  Stir in the chopped apple and sunflower seeds.  Spoon into the prepared muffin cups.

Sprinkle the jumbo oats on top of the batter, then the sunflower seeds and finally the demerara sugar.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until well risen and godlen brown and the top springs back when lightly touched.  Scoop out to a wire rack to cool for a bit prior to eating.  Lovely warm, and pretty good cold as well!

Hopefully I will be able to shake off this feeling soon.  I hate feeling blue, especially when I have nothing to feel blue about.  I guess they call it the January Blues and I know I am not alone.  We all get them from time to time!  In any case I did enjoy these muffins, and I had a good old clear out of the cupboard at the same time!  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner

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