Sunday, 30 November 2014

The end is nigh!

I can't belove it's the last day of my 30 day NaBloPoMo challenge. And I'm sorry to disappoint you but there is no recipe today. The main reason for that is I haven't cooked a thing all day. N and I went out for our first Christmas dinner with friends today. It was a lovely evening, good food, good company, but it felt a little to early to be Christmas. I ate turkey and we pulled crackers but I still don't feel festive yet. Saying that advent calendars start tomorrow and I must put up my tree this week. Once I've done that I'm sure that will get me in the mood. And now my 30 days food blogging challenge is over I can start thinking about Christmas shopping. And all the other things I've put on hold for the last month. Because amazingly by spending 30 minutes every day writing a post, I have neglected everything else. My admin pile is mountaining, I have phone calls to return, we are running short of clean clothes and lets not even start talking about my skirting boards! That is because I now realise that the only 'free-time' I have every day (weekends are a bit different of course) is about 30 minutes. And I've been using that blogging. But I have no regrets. It was a greater challenge than I had anticipated but I got to the end. It wasn't easy, about day 9 I broke down and sobbed to N that I couldn't do it anymore. But I got past the wall and it was worth it. What an achievement for an absolutely fantastic cause. Thank you to everyone who logged on and read my blog, particularly those of you who logged on every day. Without seeing how many page views I was getting I doubt I would have been motivated to carry on. Thank you to all the wonderful people who favourited and re-tweeted my tweets and to everyone who liked my Facebook status. You have all been amazing and I really hope that somewhere in these 30 posts there has been a recipe of two you have used. 

So for now this is goodbye. I promise to donate my money to CHECT this week. And for any of you feeling particularly generous as Christmas approaches you can donate directly at www.chect.org.uk. Apart from learning how little free time I have, this post has reminded me that if you try you can always find time for something you want to do. So although I have no intention of posting every day I do promise to keep adding something at regular intervals so please make sure you keep checking! 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Capers!

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 100 

I actually managed to find 10 minutes this afternoon to browse through a recipe book. That is something I love to do but I rarely make time for it, there's just too much else to do. I have so many cookery books, thousands of beautiful pages with colourful and exciting recipes waiting to get out. But they just sit there on my shelf tucked away in a dark cupboard. But today I got out my favourite one. Nigel Slater's kitchen diaries, only for once I picked up volume 2.  I stumbled across a beautiful recipe for sea bass with rosemary and capers. I had all the right ingredients at home (except some sherry vinegar, oh and I added a few green olives in for good measure). it must have been fate! 

As a description to the recipe Nigel wrote a beautiful prose about capers. It is amazing how these random salty berries that lurk in the door of the fridge could be so fascinating. Here's an excerpt...

'Capers generally come in brine or salt. The latter is considered better, mostly because the capers are plumper and, although salty, the seasoning stays on the outside and can be washed off - unlike the brined version, where the capers soak up the water solution like sponges. 

The caper is the cooks' first call for piquancy. Bitter, sharp and salty, it has the ability to bring out the flavour of any ingredient it is partnered with. A dull nugget that makes others shine'. 

Nigel is without-a-doubt my food writing guru. I could read his words all day. 

Sea bass with rosemary and capers 
(Serves 2 | total prep and cooking time 40 mins)


Ingredients 
- 2 boneless sea bass fillets 
- approx 250g new potatoes
- olive oil
- 1-2 bushy sprigs of rosemary 
- 1/2 chilli - deseeded and finely chopped 
- tablespoon of capers - rinsed and crushed or chopped slightly 
 - juice of half a lemon
- 2 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- 6-8 green olives - sliced 
- tablespoon of chopped parsley

Method
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan
- Wash the potatoes and cut them into slices about the thickness of a pound coin
- warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large, shallow pan or roasting tin set over a moderate to low heat and slide in the potatoes. Cook for a about 10 mins stirring and turning regularly so they don't stick to the pan 
- while the potatoes are cooking remove the needles from the rosemary and place in a small bowl. Add the chilli, capers, olives, lemon juice, tablespoon of olive oil, parsley and garlic and stir well
- when the potatoes have been cooking for 10 mins, take off the heat and lay the sea bass fillets on top. Pour over the dressing and cover the dish with foil
- place in the oven for approx 25 mins until the fish and potatoes are cooked 




Thursday, 27 November 2014

Should we chicken out?

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 54

So this chicken contamination story scared me a little today, and my automatic reaction was 'should I stop eating chicken?' Until I realised of course that this is not new. Chicken infected with campylobacter has always been the case, the food standards agency has just happened to release a new report on it. But as much as I always knew you have to be really careful with undercooked chicken or contamination with raw chicken juices I did not know that up to 70% of all supermarket bought fresh chicken is infected. That is huge. And no supermarket is spared although some seem to sell a greater proportion of infected meat than others. And ironically going free range is worse as chickens pick up bacteria from the ground. I know supermarkets have pledged to reduce their rate of infected chicken over the forthcoming years by 'steam-cleaning' the meat but is this really the answer. They only plan to reduce the percentage of campylobacter in chickens by 10% so if you go in to a shop and buy a chicken you still have a very high chance of buying infected poultry. So the only real solution is incredible food hygiene and safe cooking practices.  I like to think I am pretty careful but I guess you can never be too sure. I always use a separate chopping board for meat, chicken and fish and I make sure my chicken is well cooked even if I risk over cooking it. But the best tip I ever learnt was to not wash the chicken. This made no sense to start with, I assumed by washing it you clean it, but actually all you do is spread the bacteria. 

So after my little panic I calmed down. You clearly can't stop eating chicken, but it's a great reminder of how careful you need to be with these things. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Spag Bol!

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 91

Spaghetti Bolognese is probably one of the most frequently made dinners. In fact it's almost thought of as a bit of a cop out! Especially if you use a ready made sauce. But it doesn't have to be. I try to put a bit of a twist on mine by packing it full of veggies. It makes it taste less dense and it's a fantastic way to boost your 5-a-day, especially for little ones that try to avoid their greens! The key to a great bolognese is to cook the mince on a low heat for as long possible. If you have the time to do this fantastic, but I would add the vegetables a lot later so you can preserve the vitamins. 

My Spag Bol! 
(Serves 2 | total prep and cooking time at least 1 hour)


Ingredients 
- 120-150g spaghetti 
- 400g pack of beef or lamb mince
- 1 onion - diced
- 3 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- 6-7 mushrooms - sliced 
- vegetables e.g leek (very finely chopped), spinach, peas etc 
- 227g tin chopped tomatoes
- lamb or beef stock - how much depends on how long you plan to cook it for, if you don't make enough don't worry you can top up with water if need be
- Italian herbs 

Method 
- cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions
- fry the onion in a large frying pan or sauté pan
- add the garlic and fry for a few moments
- add the mince and brown, stirring regularly so the mince doesn't clump together
- add the mushrooms and vegetables and fry for a few moments 
- pour in the tomatoes and add the herbs. Stir well and cook for a few moments
- add approx 200 ml of stock and simmer for 30 mins. Keep adding water if it dries out or turn up the heat and uncover if there is too much water
- serve on top of the spaghetti or mix the spaghetti into the sauce

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Arrabiata

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 42

For some reason I never order Arrabiata when I go out to eat but I quite enjoy making it at home. It's an especially good choice when I have a pack of bacon in the fridge that needs using up. And if I happen to have my back-up ready roast chicken in the fridge it's actually a pretty speedy meal. For some reason I always add mushrooms, I guess it breaks up the meatiness a little. I know it's traditionally meant to be made with penne but I vary the pasta depending on my mood, but to be honest the penne tastes the best! 

Pasta Arrabiata
(Serves 2 | total prep and cooking time 40 mins)


Ingredients 
- 150 g or 6 handfuls of pasta 
- 1 onion - diced 
- 3 cloves of garlic - finely chopped 
- 1/2 chilli - finely chopped 
- 3 tomatoes - chopped
- 150-200g mushrooms - sliced
- 4 rashers of bacon
- 1 chicken breast fillet
- basil or other Italian herbs - frozen, fresh or dried
- black pepper
- 150ml vegetable or chicken stock 

Method
- cut the chicken breast into small pieces and fry in a little oil until sealed all over. Set aside
- heat a little more oil and cook the bacon. Once cooked remove any fat and cut into small pieces
- heat some more oil and fry the onion, garlic and chilli 
- add the mushrooms and cook for a few moments 
- add the tomatoes 
- return the chicken an bacon to the pan and stir well
- add the herbs and the stock and simmer for 10-15 mins until the chicken in cooked through. 
- turn up the heat until any excess liquid has evaporated 
- meanwhile cook pasta according to intstrictions 
- once cooked, drain the pasta and stir into the Arrabiata sauce 
- top with fresh black pepper

Monday, 24 November 2014

A quick meal for a cold winter night

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 66

I can't believe how the weather has changed. I feel like all I have done today is de-ice my car. In my 15 years of working this is the first winter I've ever have to drive to work. I used to envy people that could get into their warm cars on a cold winter morning but I had not accounted for how long it takes to clear frosted windows. Thank goodness for de-icer. It has got to be the best invention. Except for the poor girl that was getting into the car across the road from me this evening. I saw her start her car and just stand outside it waiting. I shouted across the road to ask her if she wanted to borrow some de-icer and she looked eternally grateful. It turns out she had two cans of it in the boot, but her boot had frozen shut. Now how do you possibly account for that! Moral of the story is keep it in the main car, one of those 4 doors is bound to open! 

Anyway, so after reaching home, late and covered in frost, barely feeling my fingers and toes, all I wanted was a hot shower and dinner to be ready for me. Thankfully I had some lemon sole in the fridge and just the recipe for a quicky tasty weekday dinner! 

Lemon Sole
(Serves 2 | total prep and cooking time 25 mins) 


Ingredients 
- 3-4 lemon sole fillets (they are pretty thin so you may need more than one each) 
- olive oil
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 spring onions - finely sliced 
- 1-2 tablespoons capers - slightly crushed 
- 6-7 green pitted olives - sliced 
- tablespoon chopped parsley 
- black pepper 

Method 
- preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan
- place the fish fillets in an ovenproof dish
- in a bowl mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, spring onions, capers, olive, parsley amd black pepper 
- pour the marinade over the fish
- cover with foil and cook for 10-15 mins until the fish is opaque and flaky
- serve with boiled new potatoes and your choice of vegetables 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The perfect egg fried rice

Working out how to make perfect egg fried rice is like trying to boil the perfect egg. It sounds simple but actually it takes a bit if practice and trial and error to get it right. The most crucial thing is to make sure the rice is cooked and cooled before hand. The easiest way to cool it is to spread it out on a plate. The next bit is whether you scramble your egg first or add it in to the rice. Ken Hom recommends the latter and who am I to question my Chinese cooking guru. And to be honest it tastes pretty good, try it next time you make Chinese food, you may have found your perfect egg fried rice recipe. 


Cook and cool the rice
In a bowl whisk egg(s) with some toasted sesame oil and a pinch of salt
Heat the groundnut oil in a large frying pan or wok
Add the cooled rice and stir fry for a few minutes
Drizzle on the egg mixture and fry for a few minutes until the egg has set and the mixture is dry 
Continue to fry for a few more minute until some of the rice grains start to turn a bit crispy
Top with chopped spring onions if you wish 



Saturday, 22 November 2014

Chicken curry

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 39

I will start by apologising. I have no photo today, I am sorry. Before I could even get the camera ready half the dinner was gone. I would like to take it as a compliment but I suspect part of the reason was pure hunger. But sometimes there's nothing like a good homemade chicken curry. It's not the fancy dishes you get in the restaurants with nuts and cream etc. it's just simple, tasty North Indian chicken curry. A piece of cake to make but utterly delicious. If you already have a range of spices at home there is absolutely nothing stopping you making it. In fact in the time it takes for your take away to be delivered you can have it ready on the table (well almost)! 

Chicken Curry 
(Serves 2-3 | total prep and cooking time 45 mins) 

Ingredients 
- 4 chicken things, skin removed and chopped in half if they are big
- 1 large onion - finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
- 1.5 inch piece of ginger - finely chopped 
- 227g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 heaped teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 heaped teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric 
- salt to taste
- tablespoon fresh chopped coriander 

Method
- heat oil in a deep pan e.g a casserole dish 
- fry the opinions
- add garlic and ginger and fry until soft and slightly brown, stirring regularly 
- add all the dry spices - cumin powder, coriander powder, tumeric and paprika 
- stir until mixed well and cook for a few minutes
- add the tomatoes and chopped coriander and keep stirring until it forms a smooth paste
- add the chicken pieces, mix well, simmer and cover for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Do not add any water at this stage as the chicken will release plenty
- once the chicken is cooked add water if you feel the gravy is too dry and cook uncovered for a few moments. 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Are carrots really good for your eyes?

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 73

Carrots will make you see better. This is probably the most common eye myth we know, told to us from when we were young, probably to make us eat more veggies. And still to this day is it one of the most common statements patients say to me. Half joking but half serious. The question is, is it really a myth? The answer is yes and no. No, carrots won't actually make you read more letters on the chart or reduce your need for glasses, but carrots do contain a lot of beta- carotene which the body converts to vitamin A and is very important for overall eye health, particularly in the retina. So yes eating carrots are good for your eyes. As is eating a number of other things such as omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish. But of all these antioxidants are probably one of the key nutrients for not only maintaining eye health but also general health including things like cholesterol and cancer. 
   
Antioxidants are nutrients that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals—molecules associated with ageing. Free radicals are atoms lacking an electron which as a result make them stable. In order to gain stability they steal electrons from other cells there by causing cell damage. This is known as oxidative stress and is one of the things cause by UV rays. Free radicals are thought to cause eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Antioxidants keep the creation of free radicals under control and help protect and repair cells damaged by them. Common antioxidants found in our food include vitamins A, C & E, selenium and zinc. They often occur in brightly coloured foods. Examples are oranges, red berries, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, egg yolk, green and black  tea watermelon and broccoli, although this list is by no means exhaustive.

I think this kind of research and information is fascinating - it's obviously the geeky scientist in me. I'm sure it's by no means the answer for everyone as I'm sure there are many people that eat all the right things and are still unfortunately affected by illnesses however it is definitely something I feel we should bear in mind when look at what we consume on a daily basis. Particularly if it gives me an excuse to have the occasional glass of red wine and some dark chocolate, both excellent sources of antioxidants in case you weren't aware!  

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Omelette....how do you like yours?

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 64

I am a little bit addicted to eggs. I could eat them at any mealtime. Fried, boiled, scrambled, you name it. But there's something about a good omelette that you can't beat. I'm easy when it comes to fillings. Mushroom and cheese is always a winner but spring onion and ham work well too. But my favourite has to be the omelette I grew up on. I guess you could call it an Indian omelette. All you need is finely diced red onion, chopped coriander and a little bit of chopped chilli. Mix it in to a whisked egg and add a bit of salt to season. Perfect with hot buttered toast. A perfect dinner. Or lunch. Or even breakfast. I told you I could eat it any time of day! 



Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Meal planning

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 54

I am a big fan of meal planning. I think it's a wonderful idea I'm just not sure why I never get around to doing it! I used to plan our meals a lot and it worked well but it's one of those things that once you stop it's really hard to get back in the flow of it again. And ironically although it will shave of loads of time in my week I can't seem to find the initial time do set up the meal planning! But the benefits are clear. I spend so much if my day wondering what to cook, I actually find it quite stressful. I often ask friends and colleagues what they are going to cook that evening and no-one ever seems to know, but the difference is it doesn't seem to bother them. I guess some people need to meal plan and others don't!

I've also recently heard lots of people talking the next stage in meal planning.  All-in-one recipe and ingredients boxes. You pick the meals you want to make online and a box is sent to you with the recipes and all the ingredients, measured out and ready to use so there's no waste. I was sceptical as I assumed this would work out expensive but I've been told it can cost as little as £10 for a meal for 4. I think I could be a convert, although I'm not sure how many of the recipes N would want to eat! 

So for now I will just stick to meal planning. And I'm going to start. Soon. I've even designed a weekly meal planner chart, sad I know but I'm hoping it will motivate me. I will keep you posted....

Please post a message and let me know how many of you meal plan. I'd love to hear your experiences. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Salmon en papillote

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 76

Sunday's total page views: 72

I told N I'd make salmon for dinner. Which of course to him meant I would make my usual salmon and cous cous en papillote. But I decided to make something different tonight. I knew he would be a little disappointed but if I don't try something new how on earth am I meant to find blog posts to write! So I tried my luck. I decided not to veer to far from the standard meal and I still made the fish 'en papillote' so that poor N wouldn't have a shock. The result was pretty good with fresh and crisp flavours. N's big thumbs up sign and grin on his face when he tucked in was just the validation I needed. 

Salmon en papillote 
(Serves 2 | total prep and cooking time 30 mins)


Ingredients
- 2 boneless salmon fillets 
- handful of olives
- 2 spring onions - sliced
- 6 small cloves of garlic peeled but left whole 
- 2 vine ripened a tomatoes - chopped
- 4 lemon wedges
- black pepper
- tablespoon of olive oil

Method 
- preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan
- cut a large piece of baking paper
- place the salmon fillets in the centre and drizzle over the olive oil and black pepper
- scatter the garlic, spring onions, tomatoes, lemon wedges and olives on top of the fish
- fold up the paper and twist the edges to make a sealed bag 
- place in the oven for 20/25 mins. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

A fake chicken kiev

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: sorry blogger playing up so I have no idea 

I've always wondered whether it's easy to make a chicken kiev at home. You've probably realised from some of my previous posts that am a bit partial to the occasional chicken kiev. But they are very buttery and clearly fried that it makes me feel a little bit guilty. Saying that perhaps that's why they taste so good! I still haven't found a homemade version to try so if you know of one do let me know. I'd prefer it to be baked or shallow fried rather than deep fried. In the meantime I tried an adapted version with garlic butter in chicken breast wrapped in Parma ham. It was pretty good and probably a lot healthier than a regular chicken kiev but even I have to admit it wasn't quite the same without the breadcrumbs.  

Garlic butter stuffed chicken wrapped in Parma ham
(Serves 2 | total prep and cooking time 45 mins + refrigeration time) 


Ingredients 
- 2 chicken breasts
- 6 rashers if Parma ham or proscuito
- 3-4 tablespoons butter
- 4 garlic cloves - crushed
- tablespoon of chopped parsley 

Method
- heat the oven to 180 degrees fan 
- in a bowl stir together the butter, garlic and parsley. Separate into 2 portions and refrigerate for at least 30 mins but preferable longer. Tip: you can make a larger portion of this, roll into a cylinder, refrigerate, cut off 2 discs to use and freeze the rest in cling film
- pound the chicken breast fillets with a meat mallet until they become the thickness of a pound coin
- place the butter mixture in the centre and roll the chicken breast like a parcel encompassing the butter
- cover evenly with 3 rashers of Parma ham evenly spaced out to cover the whole chicken breast 
- Spray or brush with a little olive oil and place on a baking tray
- cook in the oven for 30 minutes until the juices run clear from the chicken 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Spicy potato toasties

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: 64

I'm having a seriously lazy day today. So much so that as soon as I finish this post I am straight off to bed, so forgive me if it's short! It was such a lazy day that the thought of slaving over the cooker to make a decent meal just did not appeal. N and I racked our brains as to what we could make that was either no effort at all or seriously speedy. I suggested frozen pizza, but N's face it not reciprocate my enthusiasm. N fancied seafood soup, which although requires some prep and cooking it is pretty quick, but the thought just didn't appeal to me. Sadly we only had one chicken kiev in the freezer as Waitrose were out of stock yesterday. Finally I decided on a great fail safe often used by our mums. A dry Indian spiced potato dish made into a toasted sandwich. Now normally the potato dish will be left over from dinner the night before but sadly that was not the case so I had to make it, but even still it was pretty effortless and very very tasty. Unfortunately I still have to do the washing up, sadly there's no short cuts for that one. 

Spiced potato toastie 
(Makes 3 toasted sandwiches | total prep and cooking time 40-45 mins) 


Ingredients
- 2 large or 3 medium potatoes - peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
- approx 100g green beans - chopped into 1 inch pieces
- oil for cooking
- teaspoon of whole cumin
- teaspoon of black mustard seeds
- teaspoon paprika
- teaspoon cumin powder
- teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- salt to taste 

Method 
- Par boil the potatoes, drain and set aside
- heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the whole cumin and black mustard seeds
- Once they turn slightly brown and start 'popping' add the potatoes and beans 
- Stir well
- Add the cumin powder, coriander powder, paprika, turmeric and salt and stir
- Pour in approx 100ml water, stir, cover and simmer for 5-7 mins untill the potatoes and beans are cooked and the water has dried out
- make into toasties and serve with yoghurt and slalad 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

N's creation - ginger, garlic and chilli prawns

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: 108

N made the most delicious prawn dish this evening. I feel completely spoilt. N doesn't cook very often, but before you take this the wrong way it's not because he is lazy, but because he works such long hours. If I waited for him to come home and cook dinner we would never eat before 10pm. I also have to reluctantly admit that another reason he doesn't enter the kitchen much is probably because I am a bit of a bossy cook! I like things just so in my kitchen. Although he's great at emptying the dishwasher and as much as I appreciate it (so please don't stop N) it does take me days to find where all the things have been kept! We're still missing one of the frother attachment for the Aeroccino but to be fair I think I probably did make the last cappucino. Oh well, here's hoping it turns up soon.

So back to the prawns. N was clearly in a cooking mood this evening and knew exactly what he wanted to make. I suggested mixing the stir fry vegetables and prawns to make one dish (quicker, less washing up etc) but he insisted on making the prawns separately. And I have to say good call! He told me the recipe and it sounds so simple. Heat the oil and stir fry the cooked tiger prawns for a few moments. Add the finely chopped ginger, chilli and garlic and stir. Add a few dashes of soy sauce and a tiny splash of oyster sauce. Stir well and turn off the heat. Cover and let it stand for a few minutes to let the flavours soak in. Serve with thinly sliced spring onions on top. N's top cooking tip was to make sure you don't over cook it. That way you keep the ginger, garlic and chillies fresh and you make sure the prawns don't shrink and become dry. N you've done yourself proud, maybe we should make it a weekly thing? 


Friday, 14 November 2014

The countdown to Christmas has begun

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: 117

I can't believe it's only 6 weeks till Christmas. And I'm finally starting to feel a bit festive. For starters I've spent the evening watching a really bad Christmas movie on a special channel that magically graces our TV for the holiday period. Christmas 24 and Christmas 24+. I've never heard of them before and I've never heard of a single movie that's on there but it's strangely addictive. As a child my sister and I used to force our dad to buy a glossy TV magazine guide every Christmas, even though he wanted us to use the one that came free with the newspaper. We would then sit there and circle all the films and special programs that we wanted to record, and if there was a clash we had to work out which one to tape and which in to watch. And invariably someone would program the video incorrectly and something wouldn't record properly and then the dramas would really start! I'm sure that's a memory that rings true with most people growing up in our generation but I suspect it's different now. With sky plus you don't need a TV guide. You just scroll through and click record or series record and it's done. It's a lot easier but it really doesn't have the same magic. This year I will make sure I look through an actual paper TV guide, granted it will probably be a free one with the newspaper, but nevertheless I will use it to look out for my favourite movies and then use it to program the sky plus box! 

But even more important than TV is Christmas food and drink. For me the first sign Christmas is coming is my first latte in a Starbucks red cup. That really gets me in the mood. I also had my first mince pie the other day and I've already got my eyes peeled on which advent calendar I want this year. I'm thinking a Maltesers one could be fun. N's also found his first taster of Christmas. All week he has been talking about an amazing cross between a mince pie and a Bakewell tart he found in the cafe Apostrophe. He was thoughtful enough to bring one home (or half a dozen) so I could try it (sadly we don't have things like Apostrophe in Whitechapel where I work). I have to say he wasn't exaggerating. Light shortcrust pastry, sweet and fruity mincemeat laced with the flavour of almond frangipane.  Delicious! I. MUST. FIND. OUT. HOW. TO. MAKE. IT! That is my next mission. Anyone got any ideas???

 


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Pasta Perfect

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: 57


Can you believe there're are more than 350 different types of pasta and even more names as often one shape of pasta is known by numerous terms. But they are all made out of the same basic ingredients, 100% durum wheat and water. There is a pasta shape to complement every pasta dish out there and pairing the correct pasta shape can make a big difference in your overall satisfaction when cooking. I currently have 6 different types of pasta at home, but I always veer towards some shapes rather than others. My favourites are spaghetti and fusilli but for a change I often use French brand Panzani which make an interesting Nouilles Fines variety. And recently I went out on a limb and bought large rigatoni tubes and some fusilli lunghi pasta which looks like an old fashioned spiral telephone cord! I still have no idea what to do with these! It got me thinking about matching my sauces to my pasta. For example whilst spaghetti bolognese is probably the most popular pasta dish it is actually fundamentally inauthentic as such a thick meaty sauce would be much better served with shells or tubes to 'catch' the sauce or even with longer thicker pasta like tagliatelle.

I've spent this evening doing a bit if research and I am astonished to find out what a speciality it is. It's common to become a wine or cheese connoisseur but I wouldn't be surprised if people start becoming more interested in the science of pasta shapes. It certainly has opened my eyes to how much more interesting 'making pasta' for dinner could be. Here are a few basic rules taken from the Good Food website www.bbcgoodfood.com.


Pasta shapeSuch as...Serve with...
Long and skinnySpaghetti, linguine, fusilli lunghi, vermicelli
Light seafood sauces, cream- or oil-based sauces.

Long ribbonsTagliatelle, pappardelle, fettuccine, mafaldineRich, meaty sauces.
ShellsConchiglie, lumacheHeavy cream or meat sauces; large ones can be stuffed
TwistsFusilli, trofie, strozzapreti, caserecce, gemelliLighter, smoother sauces which will cling to the twists, such as pesto
TubesPenne, rigatoni, macaroni, paccheriHearty vegetable sauces, or baked cheese dishes. Also good with Bolognese or ragu. 
Mini shapesOrzo, fregola, canestrini, stellineIn soups and stews or as pasta salads. 
Filled pastaRavioli, tortellini, cappellettiAs the filling contains lots of flavour, these are traditionally served with a light butter or oil sauce. 

Top cooking tips

Pasta in pan• Always cook pasta in a very large pan of salted, boiling water. If you don’tgive the pasta enough space to move in the pan, it will stick together. Italians say the water should be as salty as the sea to flavour the pasta.
• There is no need to add olive oil to your pasta when cooking. It won’t prevent it from sticking together, and will just end up down the drain.
• The classic British version of spag bol usually consists of cooked spaghetti topped with saucy mince, but in Italy, the pasta and sauce are always combined in the pan to ensure every piece of pasta is coated.
Pasta cooked• Don’t cook the pasta all the way through in the water. Instead, drain it when it still has a little bite, then add to the sauce and continue cooking for a few minutes more until the pasta is cooked and has absorbed a little of the sauce.

• When draining the pasta, make sure you save a cup of the pasta water. Then, when you add the pasta to the sauce, splash in a little of the water if it looks too dry. The starch in the water will help the sauce cling to the pasta.



Wednesday, 12 November 2014

An Indian meal in one pot

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: 68

I decided to try something new tonight. I had decided on prawns but I am bored of the usual stir fry or paella. My mum makes a great prawn pilau so I thought I'd have a go. I'm quite impressed with the result, probably not quite as good as hers but a pretty decent weeknight meal nevertheless. N is home late tonight so his plate is in the food warmer, fingers crossed he is as impressed as me! 

Prawn Pilau
(Serves 2 | total prep and cooking time 45 mins)


Ingredients

For the marinade - 2 tablespoons plain youghurt, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, 1 paprika, 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, pinch cayenne pepper, pinch garam masala, juice of 1/2 lemon  

For the rice
- 200g cooked prawns
- 1 small onion - diced
- 3 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger - finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes - chopped
- 1/2 chilli - finely chopped
- 8 mushrooms - sliced 
- peas (however much you want) 
- 120-150g basmati rice (6 handfuls)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 
- tablespoon chopped coriander 
- salt to taste 

Method
- Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl
- stir in the prawns and make sure they are evenly covered by the marinade. Set aside
- cook the rice until 3/4 cooked (still slightly firm to taste)
- Fry the onions in a sauté pan. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and fry until brown
- Add the tomatoes and fry until the tomato softens and the juice separates 
- Add the mushrooms and peas and stir
- Add the cumin powder, coriander powder, paprika and tumeric and mix well. Fry for a few mins until it starts to take some colour 
- Meanwhile in a separate frying pan heat some oil and fry the prawns until the marinade dries out and the prawns start to turn brown 
- Add the prawns to the sauté pan and stir well
- Add the coriander and salt to taste. Stir
- Add the rice and a little water and mix well. Simmer until the rice is cooked 
- Serve with yoghurt


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

It's a steak out!

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: 98

N loves a good steak. Which is odd for a guy that claims he doesn't particularly like red meat. I have to say I don't blame him. If you get the right cut of beef, cooked the right way and with the right side it really is a perfect meal. And the fact it generally comes with chips is always a bonus for me! Now I am by no means a steak connoisseur. In fact the fanciest steak restaurant I've ever been to is Gaucho and these days we go to the Beefeater at the end of my road (hey, don't knock it, they do good steak)!

I've tried a few cuts and my favourite is definitely a fillet. I am pretty nervous about undercooked meat so I've always ordered my meat as 'well done' which might be why I never used to enjoy it. Then one day I was brave enough to order a 'medium' and it changed my life (ok not quite but you know what I mean)! So, so far we have a medium fillet steak. Pretty good. But the piece de resistance has got to be the sauce. It can make or break the dish. You can have bernaise, mushroom, peppercorn but my favourite is chimichurri. 

We hadn't had a chance to go out for a steak for a while so I treated N one night to a home made steak dinner. Now I won't insult you by telling you how to griddle a steak but I will share this amazing chimichurri recipe with you. 

Chimichurri Sauce 



Ingredients 
- small bunch parsley - roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (optional) 
- 3 garlic gloves - finely chopped or crushed
- 1 shallot - finely chopped
- a large pinch of dried chilli flakes
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar 

Method
Simple. Blitz all the ingredients in a food processor and serve with your favourite steak. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Another soup day

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: 107

I'm clearly still not feeling well as all I seem to be want to eat these days is soup. Saying that this chicken noodle soup is amazing. It feels much more like a meal than a light soup and when I serve it with the delicious Japanese Gyoza I buy from Ocado you almost forget that you're eating in the comfort of your own home rather than in a restaurant in China Town. The other great advantage with soups is they reheat so well. You can make them earlier in the day or even the night before, but be careful with this one as if you leave the noodles in the broth too long they will absorb the water and become heavy, which kind of defeats the object of a nice light soup for dinner!

Chicken Noodle Soup 
(Serves 3 as a main or 4 as a starter | total prep and cooking time 45 mins) 


Ingredients
- groundnut oil for frying
- 1 small onion - diced
- 3-4 cloves of garlic - finely chopped 
- 1 inch piece of ginger - finely chopped
- 1/2 small chilli - finely chopped
- teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
- tablespoon soy sauce 
- tablespoon toasted sesame oil 
- 1 chicken breast fillet
- chicken stock cube dissolved in approx 500ml water. Have more boiling water ready 
- 1 nest of egg noodles
- approx 7 mushrooms - quartered
- other vegetables e.g. brocolli, green beans, mange tout
- tablespoon chopped coriander 

Method
- heat the oil in a deep saucepan
- fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli until softened 
- add the five spice and stir
- add the chicken breast, stock, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Stir and bring to the boil
- simmer and cook for 20-25 mins until the chicken is cooked 
- remove the chicken breast and slice or shred the meat
- return the shredded chicken to the pan
- add the noodles, mushrooms, other vegetables and coriander and stir 
- add more boiling water depending on how watery you like your soup
- cook for 5-7 minutes 
- serve with dim sum 




Sunday, 9 November 2014

Instant fresh frozen soup? Is that a contradiction of terms?

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: 50

I really struggle with lunch ideas. Sandwiches can get so boring, and for a person like me who could easily eat half a loaf of bread a day that is saying something. Sometimes a soup is perfect, especially in this weather. It's warming and filling and a nice change. Chilled soups from the supermarket are perfect but they have a use by date and I'm never sure when I will be having lunch at home. I stopped having packet soups years ago as I always seemed to end up with a sludge if powder at the bottom of the mug! I'm still a glutton for canned soups, particularly Heinz cream of mushroom or cream of chicken. I know they're just full of salt, but sometimes that's what you need. But today I found they perfect lunchtime soup option. It's fresh and takes just over 10 minutes. And the best thing is it doesn't involve any chopping! All you need is a pack of Essential Waitrose frozen winter vegetable mix which I bought from Ocado. Boil it in some vegetable stock for 8-10 minutes and then transfer to a jug blender to blend. Serve. Simple as that. You will never need ready soup again. Of course I enjoyed mine with a lovely chunk of fresh french baguette! 


Saturday, 8 November 2014

British Sausage Week

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total views: 58 

So apparently this week is British Sausage Week. Part of me thinks we are getting a bit carried away. There's always some national day or week or month. I know that's very hypocritical seeing that I am writing this post as part of National Blog Posting Month. I mean today is apparently national X-Ray day and tomorrow is national tongue twister day! Next Thursday (13th) is one I particularly like...national kindness day. But I've thought of some new ones of my own. How about national stay in bed day? Or national say-what-you-think day, now that could he dangerous. But national food days or weeks are fun. Particularly for lesser used foods like turnip! Sausage is not a food that I need a special week for though, I am quite happy to cook them all the time, but I did use this opportunity to do something different with them. Instead of my usual sausage and bean cassoulet or toad-in-the-hole I decided to try making meatballs. I read a tip that a great way to make pork meatballs it to use sausages. And it worked.  These meatballs are easy, tasty and different. Try them tomorrow, on the last day of British Sausage Week. 

Pork meatballs
(Serves 2 generously | total prep and cooking time approx 50-60 mins + 30 mins refrigeration time)


Ingredients 
- 6 good quality pork sausages
- handful chopped thyme 
- 1 onion - diced
- 3 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
- 8 - 10 closed cup mushrooms - sliced
- 227g tin chopped tomatoes
- handful chopped parsley
- 200ml chicken or vegetable stock

Method
- Cut the skin off the end of each sausage and score down the edge. Peel away the skin and slip out the sausage meat into a large bowl. Once you have the meat from each of the 6 sausages mash them together with a fork and sprinkle with cracked black pepper and chopped thyme. Portion off a section of the meat and roll into a ball approximately half the size of a golf ball (or bigger if you prefer) 
- Place the meatballs on a tray and sprinkle with flour. Place in the fridge for at least 30 mins 
- Fry the onions and garlic in a sauté pan until soft and golden
- Add the meatballs and fry until brown on the outside 
- Add the mushrooms and fry for a mins
- Add the tomatoes and stir well, cook for a few minutes
- Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer. Cook on a low heat for approximately 20- 25 mins or until the meatballs are cooked. Add more water if the sauce is drying out
- stir through the parsley and serve with rice and vegetables or spaghetti

Friday, 7 November 2014

Pick me up soup

For NaBloPoMo November 2014 my challenge is to upload a post every day thoughout the month. That's 30 days and 30 posts. The more page views I get per day the more money I will donate to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Help support my challenge by logging on daily and donating directly www.chect.org.uk. 

Yesterday's total page views: 82 (come on people that's rubbish!) 

Can you believe we're a week into November and it's only about 6 weeks till Christmas. How scary is that! I really feel like winter has crept up on me this year but I guess that's partly because we've been spoilt with particularly mild weather. But this week has been awful. I actually had to de-ice my car yesterday (I suppose it doesn't help that I leave home by 7am). I wore my furry winter boots to work and there was a point in my commute where I wished I had picked up my ear muffs. And in addition to all the extra clothing the other joyous thing the winter brings is germs! I can almost see them around me, on the escalator hand rail at the station, in the tube or on the door handles at work. When I see people coughing and spluttering next to me on the train I almost wish I could 'borrow' surgical masks from work and wear them home. But I know there's no avoiding it. So the key is to protect yourself. WASH YOUR HANDS! Trust me it helps. None of that antibacterial stuff, although I do carry that around in abundance. Just good old soap and water and a thorough hand washing technique. Guidelines say it should take between 40-60 seconds to wash your hands properly. Try it, it's a long time!! And being in direct patient contact I must wash my hands a minimum of 15 times a day. They are so dry now, I really must get some better handcream! 

Anyway, apart from OCD hand hygiene the other key is improving your immune system. And what better way than through your diet. I'm a convert to the use of turmeric. My mum told me that if you feel a sore throat coming swallow 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric (this is actually very hard to do as it just sticks to your tongue) followed by a gulp of water to wash it down. This is the best home remedy I have ever come across. I suggest it to everyone that ever mentions to me that they are coming down with something and I have even been known to take a little pot of turmeric to poorly friends' house in case they don't have any! My other home remedy tip is allium sativum. Don't worry it's nothing illegal, it's only garlic! N and I are huge believers in the power of garlic. I know it can be antisocial but we eat it in abundance, particularly when we feel like we are coming down with something. Like today. We both felt like we were fighting off something. My remedy was homemade chicken and leek soup with loads of garlic. It's just what I needed, I feel better already! 

Chicken and Leek soup
(Serves 2 | total prep and cooking time 35-40 mins)


Ingredients 
- 2 chicken breast fillets
- a small onion - roughly chopped 
- loads of garlic (I used 5 large cloves) - roughly chopped
- 1 large or 2 medium leeks - chopped into thick slices
- 1 large potato - chopped into large pieces
- 1 Knorr chicken stock pot dissolved into 750 ml (or you can use a stock cube)
- chopped parsley 
- oil for frying
- black pepper

Method
- Fry the onions and garlic in a deep saucepan
- Add the leek and potatoes and cook for a few mins
- Add the chicken breasts and stock. Stir. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 mins until the chicken is cooked and potatoes are soft
- Remove the chicken from the pan and pour the rest of the soup in a jug blender and blend until smooth(ish). You can also use a hand blender, although I hate these! I have never got the hang of not spraying myself with food!
- Cut the chicken into small pieces. If you cut along the grain of the chicken breast it should 'shred' quite easily 
- Return the blended soup and chicken into the saucepan. Add the chopped parsley and black pepper, and boiling water if you wish to make the soup thinner
- Serve with crusty bread or for an extra garlic boost try my garlic bread recipe (April 2012)