Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂
Cook Your Way To A Healthy Smile
I am quite excited about this meal. The challenge is simple. I have been supplied with a number of Abel and Cole boxes which contain a selection of ingredients, all of which have positive benefits in terms of dental health, I have to make them into a meal. You can read more about foods to improve your dental health on Simply Health.
This is complicated somewhat because, due to the exigencies of my schedule this week, I have had to come up with the meal and execute it all within a day. Frankly this is just the sort of problem I like to solve. It’s made me feel just a little bit as though I am on some form of cooking game show. The downside is that it’s not a super critical celebrity chef judging my efforts but a tougher critic, my lovely wife.
The Contents of my Boxes
- Organic chicken legs
- Organic pork sausages
- English apples
- Baby leaf spinach
- Brazil nuts
- Walnut halves
So let me be clear, I’m going to get some bits and bobs to add to this, so what I am looking at are flavour combinations. The first thing that shoots out is apple, walnut and celery. I’ve never made a Waldorf salad before but it seems like an obvious choice. The crunch of the celery and roasted walnuts is a perfect partner to the sweetness of English apples and some nice crisp lettuce. So the starter was pretty much a ‘gimme’. The exact recipe is as follows.
- 1 stick celery
- 1 apple
- 50g Walnuts
- Romaine lettuce
- 1 apple
- 1 tsp English mustard
- 100ml natural yoghurt
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tsp fresh tarragon chopped
- Chop and then roast off the nuts at gas 4 for around 15 minutes. Mix the yoghurt, mustard, tarragon and lemon, season to taste.
- Chop celery into small chunks, peel apple and slice into fingernail size chunks, mix through dressing. Serve with toasted nuts on top.
The main course is again about classic combinations. After a nice fresh starter I want a main course with substance. This time the star is going to be the pork backed up with some more of those apples. I’m making no apologies for the fact that apples feature in all 3 courses. Firstly, there were loads of them in the box but secondly, at this time of year there are few things finer than an English eating apple. So, for the main I’m going for a sausage, chicken and cider casserole. The sweetness of the apple and cider will cosy up to the sausage just nicely and I’ll offset that with a note of smoke from some smoked streaky bacon.
The bacon is here as a seasoning as much as anything and so needs to be chopped finely less it overwhelms the dish. The vegetables I want to highlight are carrots and shallots, both adding sweetness and mild flavour. The onion and celery are there to add base flavour and texture so these need to be chopped really finely. My tip here is to avoid food processors. It’s a pain to chop by hand but it retains the liquid and flavour of the veg. I always think tat the food processor pummels the veg down to size and it just doesn’t taste as vibrant as a result. I’ll serve with a couple of baked potatoes, all fluffy inside and crunchy skin with some of that spinach on the side, lightly wilted and seasoned. The casserole recipe is below, you can replace the apple juice and vinegar with dry cider should you prefer.
Sausage, Chicken and Cider Casserole
- Vitalite (for frying, butter is fine unless your daughter is allergic to dairy protein, plus I think it adds little to the flavour here)
- 4 Pork sausages
- 2 chicken legs
- 1 eating apple
- 2 onions – chopped finely
- 3 rashers smoked streaky bacon – chopped finely
- 2 celery sticks – chopped finely
- 3 carrots – cut into batons
- 10 shallots – halved
- 300ml apple juice
- 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 300ml chicken stock
- 2tbsp cornflour mixed with same quantity water
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp chopped tarragon
- Heat the oven to gas mark 3.
- Heat butter / vitalite in cast iron casserole. In casserole, brown sausages and chicken piece by piece removing to a plate.
- Add more vitalite in to casserole and add in bacon, fry until browned. Add finely chopped vegetables and apple and fry until the veg has softened (10 – 15 minutes).
- Add meat back into the pan along with remaining vegetables. Pour in stock, vinegar and apple juice. Bring to boil.
- When boiling, cover and put into oven for 2 hours. For the last 30 minutes raise the heat to gas 6 (to cook the potatoes)
- Once the oven cook is finished put on the hob and bring to the boil, add in the cornflour mix, mustard and herbs, correct seasoning if need be.
- To cook the potatoes, pierce skin and microwave on full power for around 8 minutes, finish skin by baking in oven for 30 minutes.
- Put spinach into a colander, boil a kettle of water, pour over spinach. Mix with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
(Brief side note, after serving we realised this was far too much food and this also made a couple of dinners for the children to have too).
Cheat Tarte Aux Pommes
The last dish is a dessert and I apologise as it’s probably not at all good for your teeth. I think I may have got a bit carried away, but it is delicious! It’s a cheats tarte aux pommes. It would be better for your teeth if you excluded the marzipan.
- 3 eating apples
- 1/2 block of marzipan
- 1/2 block puff pastry
- Roll out the pastry to either a circle or square just less than 1/4” thick.
- Roll out marzipan to about 1/8” thick to the same shape as the pastry but smaller by about 1/2”.
- Peel apples and cut into segments.
- Place on top of the marzipan in a circle
- Paint marmalade on top
- Bake in oven at gas 5 or until it looks done.
You’ll notice I didn’t put the brazil nuts into a recipe, there’s no need, they’re lovely just as they are for a low GI snack. I’ll be munching them after my next morning run.
*This is a collaborative post.