Monday, 2 June 2014

It's coming home

The start of the world cup is racing towards us yet again, has it really been 4 years? I am pretty sure that 4 years ago I’d resigned myself to the fact that by the next world cup I would consider myself so old I was practically dead and yet here I am again, while a lot has happened, I don’t feel that much different at all. Wiser maybe, a few lessons learnt and many mistakes made but a hell of a lot of laughter along the way too, seriously I have the lines to prove it.

Is this really a blog about football I hear you cry, well the simple answer is….No. I’m far from a hardcore footie fan, I don’t have a love of the beautiful game although I can, just about, explain the offside rule with the help a salt and pepper mill and a sugar bowl. So it’s not so much the football that interests me when it comes to the World cup. It’s the camaraderie, the magical way that our country seems to unite in tournaments such as this…well until we get knocked out anyway.

But on a serious note it’s true, whatever people say about us Brits we do have a remarkable way of pulling together to celebrate. Over the last few years we’ve enjoyed a Royal Wedding, the Queens Jubilee, the amazing Olympics to name just a few. As a nation we pulled together and put on a bloody good show, if I do say so myself. During these times it really is a joy to live in the country, even if it is raining the whole time, get an umbrella and quit moaning.

I particularly like these events as not only is the country in a bubble of happiness but there is a lot of emphasis on FOOD! (and there’s the rather tenuous link) The media bombards us with food adverts, offers, ideas, recipes and much, much more. We are actively encouraged to eat drink and be merry. Suddenly everyone is having a garden party, BBQ, buffet for friends and I think that this is brilliant. Sharing food, fun and laughter with friends, family and even strangers is what makes life enjoyable and so any event, be it football or not, that promotes this united feasting gets my seal of approval. So come on England, just this once, let us carry on the celebration right until the end.

Having friends over for footie? A Brazilian theme is essential. These little empanadas can be customized to whatever fillings you fancy, they are essentially little pasties and so are perfect for eating in front of the football with your hands.  Grab a bag of tortilla chips too as they are the perfect partner for any leftover guac and salsa. The usual lager, even with a wedge of lime, just will not cut it. Instead try these Caipirinha’s. That way even if we lose, you’ll still have a big smile on your face. Good luck England!

Spicy Beef & Feta Empanadas with Salsa & Guacamole
Makes 12

Either 500g block ready made shortcrust pastry or make your own. (I know that you’re thinking how rubbish and lazy it is that I haven’t even made my own pastry, well I am sorry to disappoint you but I HATE making pastry. Weeks and weeks of pastry making at cookery school has scarred me for life. I know I CAN make it, I just don’t want to, so there :-P!!)
300g minced steak
1 corn cob
1 clove garlic
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp chipotle paste
2 tsp dried oregano
75g feta cheese, crumbled
1 red pepper, seeds removed and diced
15g coriander 
juice ½ lime
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
3 large ripe tomatoes
1 small red onion or long shallot, diced
15g coriander, finely chopped
1 tbsp vinegar from a jar of jalapenos, serve the chillies along side the dips
2 limes, juiced
2 really ripe avocados, halved, peeled & stones removed
1 clove garlic, crushed
dash tobacco

1 Make the filling. Heat a large non-stick frying pan and brown the beef with a good pinch of salt and pepper. You shouldn’t need any oil and the fat will release from the beef. While it cooks break it up using a wooden spoon so no large lumps remain. Once brown tip into a bowl and set aside.

2 Tip the spring onions, pepper and corn into the pan and soften for a couple of minutes, then add the chipotle paste, vinegar, smoked paprika, garlic and oregano. Stir and cook for 1 minute more then return the beef and cook everything until caramalised. Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes then stir in the coriander and feta and squeeze over the lime.

3 Heat oven to 220C/200Cfan/gas 7. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface Until about 4mm thick. Use a 10cm or 12cm pastry cutter to stamp out 12 circles, re rolling the trimming if you need to. Take each circle in your hands. Brush the border with a little beaten egg, place a spoon of filling on one half and fold over. Press to seal then crimp the edges together with your fingers. Glaze with more egg then place on a baking tray lined with non-stick parchment. Chill for 15 minutes, then remove, glaze again and bake for 16-20 minutes, until golden.

4 Meanwhile, for the salsa quarter each tomato and then cut out the seeds, discard these. Cut each quarter into thin long strips then dice, set aside a heaped tbsp for the guacamole. Add the rest to a bowl, squeeze over the juice from one of the lime, the jalapeño vinegar and add half the red onion and half the coriander, season with some salt and pepper and set aside.

5 Mash the avocado with the juice from the other lime, tobacco and some salt and pepper. Mix in the garlic, reserved tomato, rest of the coriander and other half of the red onion. Taste and adjust seasoning if you need to.

6 Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a bowl of chips and the dips all on a big platter and dig in.

Makes 4

6 juicy limes, cut into wedges then each wedge cut in half
4 tbsp raw brown sugar

240ml of Cachaça  or if you really, really can’t find this use rum, but try…

lots of crushed ice
You can also flavour these with different fruits, muddle in some chopped strawberries, raspberries, passion fruit or mango as well for a fruitier drink.

1. Make one at a time. Put ¼ of the limes in a tumbler with 1 tbsp of the sugar. Muddle with the end of a rolling pin until the limes release the juice and the sugar dissolves. Pour in 60ml of  Cachaça , stir then add a handful of ice to fill up the glass. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients and serve with straws.