Category Archives: pork

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce

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Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika SauceThis recipe was on my waiting list far too long. As soon as I began blogging I knew I would have to write about stuffed bell peppers that my mom used to make. It’s an authentic Russian recipe, which means the peppers are stuffed with meat. Yes, we Russians are very much a meat loving nation. 🙂 However, our vegetable dishes are bountiful and ridiculously full of flavour and no one would ever imagine to sit down to just a plate of humungous steak. Variety and moderation is key to any diet in my world.
These peppers are loved by anyone who eats them, the meat filling is mixed with rice and flavoured with herbs and spices in perfect harmony, I tell ya.
Ingredients:

  • Olive oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Onion, chopped-1
  • Extra lean ground beef- 1/2 lbs
  • Extra lean ground pork-1/2 lbs
  • Rice, cooked- 1/2 cup
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped-  a bunch
  • Salt- 2 tsp.
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • Bell Peppers (any colour but I prefer yellow and red)- 10 medium
  • Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream- 1 1/2 cups
  • Crushed Tomatoes- 1 1/2 cups
  • Smoked Paprika- 1 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Bay leaf- 1-2

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F

Cook rice or use leftover rice. If you are cooking 1/2 cup of rice just for this recipe I usually cook it the same way as I do pasta. Bring water to a boil in a pot and add rice to it, cook for 7-10 minutes. Don’t worry if it’s not completely soft, it will get there when you are cooking peppers.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan gently saute the chopped onion over medium low heat until softened for 5-7 minutes.

In a large bowl combine beef, pork. onion, rice, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika sauce
Wash peppers, cut the tops off and removes the cores with seeds and membranes by gently pulling and twisting them out of the peppers.
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce
Stuff peppers with the meat filling. If you have any leftover filling roll it into meat balls. We used to call them “hedgehogs” when I was little because rice starts to poke out when they cook and they really start to resemble tiny hedgehogs. 🙂 Then stand them up in a casserole dish and put the meatballs (if you have any)on top. Choose a casserole dish where all the peppers can fit while standing up.
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce
Make sauce by mixing creme fraiche or sour cream with crushed tomatoes, then add paprika and 1 tsp. of salt. Pour the sauce over the peppers, add your bay leaf, cover with a lid and put in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until the peppers are soft.  One of the best features of this dish is the sauce. After 40 minutes in the oven sour cream based sauce becomes even more delicious through absorbing the flavours of the peppers and the meat.  People joke that Russians put sour cream in everything and we really do. Can you blame us?! Wouldn’t you if you hit the jackpot!

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce
If your sour cream separated a bit in the process of cooking don’t worry it will still look just as amazing. Serve your stuffed peppers with mashed potatoes or on their own. I am getting hungry all over again just thinking about them!
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Smoky Paprika Sauce

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Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp

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Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp
In my quest to deliver the tastiest food to you I am absolutely determined to get the dishes out that have been tested and approved by my family, dishes that are equally loved by children and adults, dishes that are quick, easy and inexpensive and preferably a one pot meal. That’s one tall order but Cajun Dirty Rice is exactly that! My kids dance for joy when I say it’s for dinner and, unsurprisingly, so does my husband? It’s been our staple for more than a decade and we are yet to get tired of it.

Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp

The origin of this dish is from the south of the United States, probably Louisiana, where it’s still very popular. It takes its name from its appearance as you can see. It used to be cooked with gizzards and livers which made rice look dark or “dirty”. If you have boys in your family the name will be a BIG seller! My boy loves it! You will also be happy to learn that no organ meat was used in this version. 🙂
Ingredients:

  • Olive oil- 2 tbsp.
  • Extra Lean Ground Pork- 1lbs/450gr
  • Onion, chopped- 1 medium
  • Celery, diced- 2 ribs
  • Green bell pepper, diced- 1 medium
  • Garlic, minced- 1-2 cloves
  • Cayenne- 1/4 tsp.
  • Paprika- 1/2 tsp.
  • Dried Oregano- 1/2 tsp.
  • Bay leaf- 1
  • Salt- 1 3/4 tsp.
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • Rice- 1 1/2 cups
  • Chicken stock- 3 cups
  • Shrimp- 1lbs/450gr
  • Green Onions, sliced- 2

Note: Instead of adding all the spices listed I often use a premixed spice. My two favourite ones are Louisiana Hot and Spicy by Victorian Epicure and Cajun Spice by Aromatica Organic Spices. Depending on where you live you can find any Cajun type spice mix from your local grocery store or use what I listed above. 

Method:

In a large pan heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil and cook your pork over medium heat until no longer pink. Then push the meat to the side of the pan, add remaining tablespoon of oil and add chopped onion, celery, green bell pepper and garlic, cook for 5 minutes, stir in all the spices mentioned, salt and pepper and rice and fry while stirring for 2 minutes. Now add your stock, bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

Take the lid off and if the rice is too dry or burned to the bottom a bit add a splash of water (1/4 cup) and stir in your shrimp, cover with a lid and let it cook for 2 more minutes until shrimp turns pink. Taste if the rice is fully cooked. (If not, let it stand covered for 5 minutes, off the heat). Gently stir in sliced green onions. Voila. A beautiful Cajun dish is done!Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp

Cajun Dirty Rice with Shrimp This recipe was adapted from “Quick from scratch one dish meals cookbook”.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos

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Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Imagine juicy and tender, I mean melting in your mouth tender pork wrapped in a soft corn tortilla. Then top it with some pico de gallo and velvety smooth avocado, maybe a dollop of creme fraiche. Go ahead throw in some cheese too if you like – I won’t judge you! You end up with one of the loveliest mouthfuls you’ll ever taste. How would you like if I told you cooking this pulled pork takes no effort AT ALL and a very short ingredient list?

Ingredients: (For Pulled Pork)

  • Boneless Pork Roast- 5 lbs (any cut will work)
  • Onion- 1
  • Tomato paste- 1 tbsp.
  • Cumin- 1 tsp.
  • Red Chilli Flakes- 1/2 tsp.
  • Dr. Pepper- 2.5 cups or 2 cans ( I know things just got weird but I promise you it’s worth it!)

Ingredients: (For Tacos)

  • Pico de Gallo (see the recipe  in the hyperlink below) or Salsa- 1 cup
  • Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche- 1/2 cup
  • Avocado- 1
  • Cheese (optional)- 1 cup

Method:

Preheat your oven to 300F/150C.

Slice your onion and put it on the bottom of a deep heavy pot, preferably a cast iron one or use your slow cooker, then place your pork right on top of the sliced onion.  Spread the tomato paste over the top of the pork and sprinkle with cumin and red chilli flakes.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Then pour in your Dr.Pepper.  The first time I made this recipe it was an act of faith. Dr. Pepper…really? I stumbled upon it on the Pioneer Woman website and was so intrigued by it I just had to give it a go. I slightly modified the recipe only because for the life of me I can’t find chipotle peppers in London and it’s a real tragedy.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Put it in the oven and cook for 6-7 hours. Flip it a couple of times. This is what it looks like closer to the end.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
When your meat is very tender take two forks and simply pull it apart.
Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
DE-LI-CIOUS!

Serve your pulled pork piled up on soft tacos with this pico de gallo or this chunky pico de gallo a couple of slices of avocado and a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos

Get Your Picnic On!

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Roasted Eggplant Salad

Lately, I am all smiles. Why wouldn’t I be? The weather outside is glorious! I know I am not the only one who is loving sweet summer days that lead to wonderful outdoor dining. A while back I announced a contest. I suggested my readers would challenge me with any recipes/meal ideas and I would cook them, photograph them and report back. I was supposed to randomly draw up 3 winners. Drum rolls please….
The first winner is Noemi Hedrick. Here is what she requested, “I would love to see a picnic “done well”. Cold foods that make you want to picnic ALL DAY! I love chicken on skewers and dip. Can you deal with that?”

Absolutely!

I loved working on this post because it combined so many things that I adore-my reader’s request, Russian food I grew up on, endless tasting tests with friends and family while having picnics of my own.

The first thing I got working on was skewered meat with dip called Shashlik in Russian, which is mostly likely a borrowed word as it doesn’t sound Russian to me. 🙂 Shashlik is a marinated meat that is later skewered and slowly roasted over hot coals. It’s Russian campers’ favourite past time. All city dwellers will talk of nothing more than their desire to finish the work week and go to the countryside “na shashliki” (to have shashlik).  This tasty food came to Russia in the 19th century and was brought by Russian soldiers who fought in the Crimean War and fell in love with that local delicacy. Since then it’s been one of the most beloved foods and became the symbol for outdoor eating.Russian skewered meat "Shashlik"

My husband Brad was first introduced to shashlik by my two friends Marina and Misha in the country house outside of Nizhni Novgorod, Russia. He loved it so much that he made it his first project in our newly bought house to build a brick fire pit for making shashlik. It does tend to leave an impression on people!

Russian Shish Kebab "Shashlik"
Shashlik is traditionally enjoyed with fresh vegetables and simple salads.
        My Picnic Menu

  1. Pork Shashlik with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip
  2. Crudités (tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers or any vegetables you like)
  3. Grilled Eggplant Salad with crusty bread
  4. Mixed Olives
  5. Red Wine

Russian Picnic Menu
Russian Picnic Menu
Grilled Eggplant Salad
Ingredients for Shashlik:

Marinade:

  • Onions (sliced for marinade)- 3 large
  • Garlic- 1 head
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Paprika- 1 tbsp.
  • Oregano- 1 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Fresh Pepper- 1 tsp.
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 2/3 cup
  • Lemon Juice- 1 lemon
  • Bay Leaf-2

Skewers:

  • Pork Loin- 2,5 lbs
  • Onions (quartered for skewers)
  • Bell Peppers- 2-3 (red, green, yellow)

Method:

{The night before}

In a large wide bowl combine all the ingredients for marinade, then add 3/4″ cubes of pork loin, cover with either a lid or a cling wrap and refrigerate over night.

Prepare hot coals for grilling until coated with white ash or use a gas grill.

Remove the meat from the marinade and string it on a skewer intermittent with pieces of bell peppers and onions. Grill the skewers sprinkling with marinade every 3 minutes for 9-11 minutes.

Note: Do not use the onion slices from the marinade on your skewers as they were in contact with raw meat for hours and might be unsafe to eat.

Ingredients for Minted Greek Yogurt Dip:

  • Greek Yogurt-1 cup/250ml
  • Lemon Juice-1/2 lemon
  • Fresh Mint- 3-4 sprigs, leaves only (to taste)
  • Cucumber (diced)- 1/4 cup
  • Radishes (diced)-1/4 cup
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Recruit your spouse or partner to grill the meat. This way you can get all the side dishes ready. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, mint, salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and radishes right before serving as the vegetables will release quite a bit of liquid and will make the dip too watery if combined too early.

Also prepare a selection of raw vegetables and arrange them on a platter. They will be delicious with Minted Greek Yogurt Dip.

Grilled Eggplant Salad

Ingredients for Grilled Eggplant Salad:

  • Eggplant- 2 medium
  • Eastern European style or Italian marinated mushrooms (usually in the deli section)- 1 small jar
  • Bell peppers (red, orange, yellow)-  2-3 mini peppers or just the number according to the size
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)- 7-8
  • Olives (optional)-1/4 cup
  • Flat leaf parsley (chopped)- 1/4 cup
  • Garlic (crushed)- 1 clove
  • Red wine vinegar- 1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste

Method:

While your barbecue is warming up, cut the eggplants into 1/2″ slices and leave them in a bowl filled with water and 1 tsp. of salt for 30 minutes. Then remove them from water and put on the skewers, brush with a bit of olive oil or spray with a calorie reduced cooking spray. Grill on the barbecue for 10 minutes, test for doneness, they should not be spongy but have a soft and silky texture.

While your eggplant is getting grilled, prepare the dressing for the salad. Mix together oil, vinegar, crushed garlic and chopped parsley, set aside.

As soon as you take the eggplant off the grill, put the slices in a salad bowl and pour the dressing on them while still hot, then add the remaining ingredients, season with salt if needed.

Set aside for the flavours to meld. This salad is delicious both cold from the refrigerator and at room temperature. Perfect picnic food!

{Note: Grilled Eggplant is also great just on its own with the salad dressing as pictured in this post.}Grilled Eggplant SaladRussian skewered meat "Shashlik"
So what do you think Noemi? Did I handle it alright?

Christmas Dinner- Roasted Pork Leg with Port Gravy {Part 1}

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Believe it or not but this entire post in 3 parts was inspired by my most recent acquisition from the Greenwich market- this antique meat carving set. The vendor kept warning us about the sharpness of the blade so I had very little choice but to buy a chunk of meat and test it for myself!

Also, I am becoming very keenly aware that Christmas is very fast approaching and I would love to offer you some wonderful options from the Vikalinka’s kitchen for your festive dinner. This post is all about the meat and gravy but in the subsequent parts I will be telling all about your sides like potato and stuffing. So stay with me for the whole run!

I don’t know how you feel about roasts but I’ve always been a fan. Nothing is easier and more satisfying than throwing a big hunk of meat in the oven waiting for a couple of hours and then feasting on it for days and making your house smell heavenly in the process! My love for them only grew deeper when we moved to England where a Sunday Roast is a century-old tradition. When it comes to roasting meat I trust my favourite chef (who also happens to be a Brit), Jamie Oliver, more than anybody else in the world, even my own mother. I’ve looked through at least 6 of his recipes for different cuts and this is what I came up with- a hybrid of sorts but delicious and tender nonetheless.

Ingredients:

Pork leg- 6-7 lbs

Carrot-2 medium

Celery-2 stalks

Onion-1 medium

Sage and Rosemary- 2-3 sprigs of each

garlic-3 cloves

salt and pepper

For Port Gravy:

Flour-1 tbsp.

Port-1/4 c.

Stock- 2 c.

Method:

Preheat your oven to the highest temperature.Take your pork leg out of the fridge, rinse it with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Lay it on the cutting board skin side up and make slits on the skin with a sharp knife. Rub the meat with salt and paper. Take your herbs and vegetables and roughly chop them up while leaving garlic whole but smashed. Put them in the middle of your roasting pan and place the pork leg directly on top of them like that.

Place the pork in the oven and cook at 475F/250C for about 10-15 min allowing the skin to blister up, then turn the temperature down to 350F/180C and cook for 2 hours or until the internal temperature is 145F/60C basting it with the pork drippings half-way through. If you don’t have a meat thermometer I highly recommend buying one. They are inexpensive and a great way to make sure you don’t overcook your meat and end up with something that tastes like a shoe.They are quite important as oven temperatures vary so much that going by the internal temperature of your roast is much better than the cooking time in the recipe. I suspect that the reason many people stay away from roasts is because of the memories of dry and overcooked meat from their childhood.

When your roast is done. It should look similar to this one.

Remove the roast from the pan and set it aside. Cover it with foil if you plan on eating later. On the side note, once you take the roast out of the oven and cover it, the temperature will rise a bit more as the the internal cooking is still happening. That is why it’s important to watch the temperature and take it out of the oven sooner rather than later.

Next on the list is gravy. I cook mine in the same pan where I cooked the roast. This way you can use all the drippings and the burnt bits. That’s where the flavour is going to come from…well that and port, of course!

Sprinkle your flour over the pan and blend it in the fat. (I drain most of the fat but leave about a tablespoon.) Remember all the herbs and vegetables that were hidden under the roast? They should be nice and very soft right now. Mash them with the potato masher and blend everything together. The mixture will be very chunky but we won’t worry about it right now. Add port and let it cook for a couple of minutes, let the flavour seep into the gravy and then add the stock. Turn the heat up and allow the gravy to thicken, just watch it bubble away and enjoy the aroma that rises from it. When the gravy reached the right consistency take it off the heat and strain into a gravy dish leaving all the vegetable bits behind.I can’t begin to tell you how much the roasted veggies and port in this recipe improve and add depth to the overall taste of the gravy. The sweetness that port offers works particularly well with the pork. Please, please, please give it a try! I promise you won’t regret it! And when you do try it let me know your thoughts. Also, don’t forget to come back for Part 2 and 3 of this fabulous meal.

It was such a hit with the whole family that the last words of my 6-year old before bed were: “Mummy, can I please have more of that pig tomorrow?”

 

 

 

Beef Wellington ( the humble version)

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Ground Beef WellingtonToday is American Thanksgiving and I am quite sure their bellies are going to be full of all kinds of amazing food. I am also sure this post is going to be absolutely irrelevant to the nation quietly snoring on their couches by 5pm. As for the rest of the world…well, we still gotta eat something. What I am bringing to you today is a humble, speedy but no less delicious version of grand Beef Wellington.  Traditionally Beef Wellington is prepared with a good cut of beef but our recipe calls for ground beef which is much cheaper and less intimidating to work with. While I’ve always wanted to make the “real” version I never seemed to be able to justify spending the money on the high priced chunk of beef. When Jamie Oliver came up with this recipe I knew it would become a regular week night dinner option. On a side note, I would like to express my love and devotion to Jamie Oliver. Isn’t that guy amazing?!! I simply adore his food. I follow him on Twitter, I follow him on Instagram, I subscribe to his daily recipe, I watch him on TV and I have at least 5 of his books! Wow, I think I just scared myself with my passion for the man! No intervention needed I think I got it under control.

Right, back to food.This tasty dish is a winner with everyone, from young to old. It’s beautiful and will make you look like you possess chef-like skills in the kitchen while it’s a breeze to make. Ready?

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 potato
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 portobello mushrooms or 5 regular button mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary or thyme (your choice)
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 egg
  • 1lbs of ground beef/mince meat( I used  a half and half mix of extra lean beef and pork)
  • 1 package of store-bought puff pastry -500gr
  • flour for dusting and rolling
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C and take your pastry out of the fridge to soften a bit. Peel onion, carrot and potato. Dice all the vegetables (except the peas!) into similar size pieces, put your frying pan on a medium heat with 2 tbls. of olive oil, chop up your herbs and squeeze the garlic through a garlic press or chop it up with a knife and throw them in the pan as well. Gently saute everything stirring occasionally until your vegetables are tender and onions are translucent. It will take about 5-8 minutes. Then transfer your mixture into a bowl and cool completely.

Ground Beef Wellingon

Once it’s cooled enough to touch add your beef and peas to it. Here is your chance to play with your food-get into the bowl with your hands and start mixing everything together adding salt and pepper and a half of your beaten egg, reserve the rest for the pastry. If you are one of those people who really doesn’t like to touch meat I recommend buying kitchen gloves for instances like that because it’s really important to get into the mixture with your hands to ensure even distribution of all the nice bits plus it’s just fun!

Ground Beef Wellington

Dust your clean work surface with a handful of flour and roll out your pastry to a 1/4 inch thickness or use an already rolled one!

Shape your beef mixture into a log and place it on your rolled out pastry sheet, brush the edges with the reserved egg. Roll it up tucking the ends inside like a giant burrito, brush with the egg all over and place it on a baking sheet seam down.

Ground Beef Wellington

Bake Beef Wellington in the preheated oven for 45 min to an hour depending on your oven until golden.

That’s what mine looked like…

Ground Beef Wellington

Serve your Wellington with a simple green salad or roasted potatoes if you wanted it to be a heftier meal.

Ground Beef Wellington
Enjoy and come back for more!
Ground Beef Wellington