April 30, 2010

Our new dogs Sam and Alfie!

DSC04953

 

This is our new dog Sam that we got on Saturday. He’s a rescue dog and he’s 2 years old. Apparently he’s a pure Lhasa Apso like our last dog Fizz, but he has a completely different temperament and Steve’s Mum keeps saying he’s not a true Lhasa from the way he looks. After some research online we think he’s a Tibetan Terrier. But we don’t care what he is as he’s a brilliant dog. He loves to play, be stroked and fussed over. He’s extremely energetic and will chase balls, toys and sticks and as you can see from the photo he also likes slippers!

 

When we first met Sam we were all a bit shell-shocked that he let us touch him and play with him, because Fizz never let us do anything with her. So we were all very tentative and a bit scared to be honest! But we’ve quickly adapted to having him and he’s making sure we’re all getting fit by playing with him so much. But he also likes to chill out by jumping on the sofa and taking a snooze on our laps – aaaah!

 

We’ve given him a bath (another thing we couldn’t do to Fizz!) as he likes water and he jumped in the river before he came to us! But we’re going to get him properly washed and groomed soon, then he’ll look even better. But I think he’s perfectly cute just the way he is.

 

Mandy and Alfie

On Tuesday when Steve’s Mum went to pay the rescue woman some money for keeping Sam, she brought home another dog! He’s called Alfie and he’s the spitting image of Fizz. So even though we were shocked she wanted 2 dogs, we could see why she couldn’t resist. His tongue is incredibly long and is always sticking out. Although Alfie looks just like Fizz, his temperament is also the complete opposite as he’s so affectionate and always wants cuddles.

 

If I look tired in this photo then it’s because I am! The 2 dogs have been getting on OK (apart from some jealousy and fights over food), but Sam is so much bigger than Alfie and when they play-fight Sam is a bit too boisterous and so we have to keep an eye on them. So for the past 2 nights Steve has been sleeping downstairs with the dogs until 5am and then I get up and we swap guard duty. But we’ve been told this isn’t the right thing to do as they need to sort out their dominance problem between themselves, so tonight they’re sleeping on their own.

 

So blogging has taken a bit of a back-seat for a while as I’m just too tired to do much cooking or blogging about my plants. Next week I’m doing a couple of days work on the Tesco website and the week after I start a new job for 3 months! So hopefully I’ll have had a good night’s sleep before then!

April 29, 2010

Panko Fish with Katsu Curry Sauce

Panko Fish

 

MUNCH RATING: 4/5

 

When I was in the Chinese supermarket with my brother and we walked past the Panko breadcrumbs I told him that’s what is used to make Chicken Katsu Curry like in Wagamamas. So he asked how do I make the curry sauce and I told him I use the Golden Curry sauce mix (Medium Hot). So he bought some, but I’m not sure if he’s used it yet. So this recipe is for you Greg!

 

Curry Sauce-1

 

In the packet there are 2 foil-sealed blocks of the sauce mix and each block has 4 squares. The instructions say a whole packet will make enough sauce to serve 5, but I use just 1 square to make enough sauce for myself and Steve. I calculated the amount of water is 175ml to create a nice thick sauce.

 

Curry Sauce

 

Chicken Katsu is traditionally deep fried, but I don’t really like deep frying so I always shallow fry for about 5-10 minutes until crispy and golden brown and cooked through. Fish cooks a lot quicker and only needs a few minutes each side. After I learned my new trick to breadcrumb chicken using only oil (instead of using flour and egg first - see Creamy Chicken Kiev) I used the same method for the fish and it worked really well.

 

Steve likes his curry with brown rice, but I decided to have some roasted squash and sweet potatoes with mine.

 

  • Serves: 2

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 fillets of white fish (I used tilapia), cut into smaller pieces if very large
  • Olive oil
  • 2 handfuls of Panko breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 square of Golden Curry sauce
  • 175ml hot water

 

Directions:

  1. Coat the fish (or chicken) with the olive oil, then coat well with the breadcrumbs.
  2. Heat a few Tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large frying pan and then add the fish when the oil is hot (test the temperature by dropping a few breadcrumbs in and if they sizzle then it’s ready). Fry the fish for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy.
  3. Meanwhile, make the curry sauce by putting the hot water in a small saucepan, then add the square of curry sauce and whisk constantly over a medium heat until the square has dissolved and you have a nice thick sauce.

April 24, 2010

Michelin Star Cookery Experience

Yesterday I attended the Michelin Star Cookery Experience at The Kitchen in Parsons Green.

 

My review for the Delicious. Magazine website has now been published!

 

Sea bass tray-1We were given the option to bring the food we’d prepared home and I thought Steve would like to try the Stuffed Sea Bass and Tarte Tatin that I’d made. So when I got home I just popped the fish straight in the oven, as it was packaged in an ovenproof container.

 

 

Sea bass-1

The fish was stuffed with red onion, tomato and herbs, then topped with slices of lemon. After 20 minutes in the oven it was perfectly cooked. They suggested serving the fish with brown rice and luckily I had some leftover in the fridge so I cooked it with some mushrooms, peppers, peas and home-grown chives.

 

Sea bass cooked-1

The sun was still out, so we ate our dinner in the breeze house. The fish was delicious and a perfect Summer dish. I told Steve it should be completely bone free as we had to remove the backbone, but there were still a few stray bones! He was still impressed though and declared he now liked sea bass.

 

 

Tarte Tatin-1

We’d also put our Tarte Tatins in an ovenproof container. I popped this in the oven as soon as the fish came out and reduced the temperature. It took a bit longer than the time suggested for the pastry to become golden brown. I think the temperature gauge on our gas oven lies.

 

 

 

Tarte Tatin pastry-1

But when it eventually was ready, it looked delicious. We had to leave it to rest for about 5 minutes, to allow the apples to absorb the caramel. When I did turn it out onto a plate, a lot of the caramel was still stuck in the cooking container and had set. So Steve popped it in the microwave to melt and then drizzled it over the apples.

 

Tarte Tatin cooked-1

We ate it with vanilla ice cream and it was very nice, except Steve thought the caramel tasted a little bitter (I thought it was perfect) and we both thought the apples were a bit tart (they were Granny Smiths). The pastry was perfectly cooked though.

 

 

 

Overall, it was a lovely meal and I learned a lot in the cookery class.

April 22, 2010

Lamb and Lentil Curry

Lamb and Lentil Curry

MUNCH RATING: 4/5

 

When I was in Sainsburys looking for some stewing lamb I found a boneless lamb shoulder, which worked out cheaper than those packets of diced lamb. As it was boneless it was easy to cut up into pieces and I managed to make 2 meals from the joint. One was a Thai Massaman Curry and the other was this curry.

 

I adapted a recipe from an old Fresh magazine and I cooked it in my Tefal 4-in-1. The meat was meltingly tender and had incredible flavour as the lamb shoulder had a good bit of fat on it.

 

I served it with brown rice and home-made naan bread.

 

  • Serves: 2 (the amount of sauce could serve 4 people if you double the meat)

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 500g lamb shoulder (or leg) cut into 4cm chunks
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons of Rogan Josh Curry Paste (I used Pataks)
  • 1 (400g) tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of water
  • 1 Tablespoon of concentrated liquid stock (I used Knorr Touch of Taste Beef)
  • 2 handfuls of split red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 whole green chilli, poked a few times with a knife

 

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the lamb in batches until lightly browned all over. Remove the lamb from the pan (set aside in the Tefal cooking bowl) leaving the oil in the pan.
  2. Add the onions and pepper to the pan and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft and golden.
  3. Return the lamb to the pan, stir in the curry paste and fry for a couple of minutes to release the spices.
  4. Add the tomatoes, tin of water, the Tablespoon of concentrated liquid stock, the red lentils and the green chilli.
  5. Bring to the boil, then transfer to the Tefal cooking bowl. Cook for 4-5 hours. You can transfer the curry back into the pan and simmer uncovered to thicken the sauce whilst you cook the rice in the Tefal.

 

COOK’S NOTES:

  • You can cook this on the hob by covering the pan and simmering gently for 1 hour 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Or you can cook it in the oven at Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C for 2-2½ hours.

April 17, 2010

Grilled Mackerel with couscous salad

Mackerel with couscous salad

 

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

 

After making the Devilled Mackerel recipe and finding out Steve really didn’t like the bones, I decided to try filleting the whole fish myself and simply grill them. I watched a How To Fillet Mackerel video on the uktv.co.uk site by James Martin, but I found it easier to start at the tail end (instead of the head end) and cut along the backbone and against the spine, all the way down towards the head. Filleting the fish was easy, it was just pulling out all the bones that was time consuming!

 

Mackerel is so cheap - two whole fish cost just £1.67 from Tesco and this was the reduced price! We’re trying to eat more of it because it’s good for you and we need to eat more oily fish. I have developed eczema as I’ve grown older and I take Omega 3 fish oil supplements (when I remember!) to help my skin, but I prefer to get the nutrients from my food.

 

Luckily I’d kept an article from my Delicious magazine about how to cook fish and it said grilling was the best method for fish like mackerel and sardines. I just slashed the skin to stop the fillets from curling up, drizzled both sides with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I loved the simplicity as it allowed the flavour of the fish to shine.

 

The couscous salad is something that Steve and I make quite a lot in the Summer. It’s just plain couscous with chopped up bits of whatever veg we can lay our hands on (like carrot, cucumber, tomato, sweetcorn) and then we mix in a dollop of Salad Cream and chilli ketchup. I’d never thought of adding Salad Cream to couscous, but Steve puts it on everything and it really works with the couscous by giving it a nice zing!

 

During my cooking course at Tante Marie I learned a new way to prepare couscous from one of the teachers called John. He said to add the olive oil to the dry couscous, then to add the hot water. The oil coats the grains so they become more fluffy and separated. Today I saw a chef on Saturday Kitchen toast the couscous first in a pan with oil and butter to give it a nutty flavour, so I might try that next time.

 

TASTE TEST:

I was worried Steve wouldn’t like this meal as I thought he wouldn’t like the amount of olive oil I’d used in the couscous and on the fish. But he loved it! He said it was absolutely perfect and it made him feel like he was eating dinner on holiday in a sunny country like Greece. So I was really pleased and it made all the effort of removing the bones worth it!

 

  • Serves: 2

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole mackerel, filleted or 4 mackerel fillets
  • olive oil
  • 90g couscous
  • hot water
  • ½ spring onion, finely sliced
  • ½ carrot, diced
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, diced
  • some cucumber, diced
  • Tablespoon Salad Cream
  • teaspoon Chilli Ketchup (we like the Heinz fiery hot one, but the mild one is good too)
  • salt and pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Slash the skin on the mackerel 4-5 times to stop it from curling. Drizzle with olive oil on both sides, then season with salt and pepper. Place under a hot grill for 5 minutes with the skin side up. Turn off the grill and leave the fish under the grill to rest for 2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile make the couscous: place the dry couscous in a large bowl and drizzle with about a Tablespoon of olive oil to coat all the grains, mixing well. Add just enough hot water to cover all the grains, then add the spring onions and quickly cover the bowl (with a large plate is fine). Leave the couscous to absorb the water and soften for about 5 minutes.
  3. When the couscous is soft, fluff up the grains with a spoon and then mix in the chopped vegetables, the Salad Cream and the chilli ketchup (don’t add too much of the sauces otherwise the couscous will be soggy, add just enough for flavour). Season with salt and pepper then serve immediately with the fish.

April 16, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cookies made healthier!

Chocolate Cookies

 

MUNCH RATING: 3/5

 

I saw this recipe in the April issue of BBC Good Food magazine and they looked really good. But Steve and I are still on a sort of health kick, so I decided to tweak the recipe and make it a bit healthier.

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

First of all I reduced the amount of caster sugar (the original calls for golden but I only had normal) and I only used the milk chocolate instead of adding dark and white chocolate chips/chunks. I also only used 100g of milk chocolate instead of 140g as I only had one 100g bar!

I didn’t use an ice cream scoop or measuring spoon to form balls of the dough, I just used my hands. For the first batch I made the balls about the size of a walnut and they were quite large. The recipe didn’t state to flatten the cookies, so even after they were baked they were really thick and still quite ball shaped. So I had to flatten them whilst they were still soft and bake them for a bit longer, about 15 minutes in total.

For the second batch I made the balls a bit smaller, about the size of a cherry tomato, and I flattened them so they were about 1cm thick. I baked these for 9 minutes and they were much better.

 

TASTE TEST:

I didn’t really like the taste of these cookies, but Steve and his Mum thought they were very nice. The texture was quite good, slightly crispy/crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside.

 

The recipe below is how I made the cookies. You can find the original here.

 

  • Makes: 24
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C
  • You will need: baking sheets lined with Magic liner or non-stick baking paper

 

Ingredients:

  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g milk chocolate, melted

 

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C. Line 1-2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
  2. Mix the sugars and butter together with a wooden spoon, then add the egg, vanilla, flour and half the melted milk chocolate and mix together.
  3. Using your hands, form balls of cookie dough about the size of a cherry tomato and place them onto the baking trays (they don’t spread much, so you can place them quite close together). Flatten the balls with your hands so they’re about 1cm thick.
  4. Bake in batches for 8-9 minutes until pale golden and still soft to touch - they will firm up as they cool. Carefully transfer to a wire rack as soon as they can be lifted up, then drizzle with the remaining melted chocolate.

Creamy Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev

MUNCH RATING: 3/5

 

I was inspired by the Cheat’s Chicken Kiev recipe in the May issue of BBC Good Food magazine to make something similar. We hardly ever eat chicken breast as we normally find it too dry and bland compared to the dark meat (thighs and legs). But I had some soft cheese in the fridge and I thought it would keep the chicken nice and moist, especially when coated in breadcrumbs.

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I used Panko breadcrumbs as I always have them in the cupboard for when I make Chicken Katsu Curry. Normally I would pane the chicken by dusting in flour, then coating in beaten egg and then coating with breadcrumbs. But the Good Food recipe said to coat the chicken in olive oil and then coat in breadcrumbs. This method worked just as well as the pane technique and it’s a lot less faffing around! I didn’t flavour the breadcrumbs with parsley or garlic as I flavoured the soft cheese instead.

I flavoured the soft cheese with garlic and fresh chives (from my herb pot!) instead of using a shop-bought garlic and herb soft cheese.

 

TASTE TEST:

I thought the chicken was really moist and tender and I liked the crunch of the breadcrumbs. Steve said he wasn’t too keen on the soft cheese as he thought it had a strange taste, but he’s not a huge fan of it anyway. I think that maybe it was the garlic that tasted strange, as it had a bit of a raw taste to it. So maybe it is better to use a shop-bought garlic and herb soft cheese so that it would have a milder flavour? I would use this method of cooking chicken breast again as the meat was lovely and tender, but I would experiment with the filling. I loved the new technique of coating with the breadcrumbs, so I’ve learnt a new trick!

 

  • Serves: 2
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated
  • 2 Tablespoons soft cheese (I used Sainsburys Light Soft Cheese)
  • 2 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped
  • 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 Tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs (or use fresh breadcrumbs)
  • Olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C.
  2. Mix together the garlic, soft cheese and chives. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut a slit in the side of each chicken breast to make a small pocket. Spoon half the soft cheese mixture into the hole of each chicken breast and press together to seal. (I prepared the chicken up to this stage and then left them in the fridge).
  4. Coat the chicken breasts in the olive oil, then coat both sides with the breadcrumbs and drizzle with more oil (optional, I didn’t do this).
  5. Place the coated chicken on a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Bay Tree

16-04 Bay tree

I use quite a lot of bay leaves in my cooking, so I wanted to buy a bay tree to save myself some money in the long-term, as dried bay leaves can be quite expensive and I preferred the idea of being able to pick fresh bay leaves straight from the garden.

 

I ordered a bay tree from Suttons.co.uk as they had them on special offer. They’re normally £21.95 but they’re selling them less than half price at £10 with any purchase. So I bought some Green Manure mix seeds for £2.99, to plant in my raised bed over the winter as it will provide nutrients for the soil.

 

The website says that bay trees are easy to grow and fully hardy and they can be pruned to keep it small or fashioned into an imposing specimen bush or pyramid.

I placed my order on the 15th March and the tree only arrived this morning. It was packaged in a large brown paper bag. The soil was very dry but the plant looked very healthy.

 

 

16-04 Bay tree leaves The website also said the plant would be 40-60cm tall. I measured mine and it’s 46cm so I’m happy. It looks like they’re are some buds growing and I’m not sure if these will grow into flowers and whether or not I should let it flower or not – some research is in order!

 

 

The instructions that came with the bay tree said:

“Grow in a sunny position that is sheltered from cold drying winds which can damage the foliage. In colder areas where temperatures can fall below -5°C, over winter in a greenhouse or conservatory. In Spring pot on into a large container using John Innes number 3 potting compost, eventually a 38-45cm (15-18”) tub will be required. Once or twice during the Summer months trim the plant to shape. Keep well watered during the Summer and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser weekly.”

 

16-04 Bay tree roots

It came in a 1.5 litre plastic pot which was slightly cracked and the roots were clearly visible on top of the soil, so I decided to re-pot it. The pot it came in was 14cm in diameter, so I decided to use an 18cm one as I read somewhere that you shouldn’t increase the pot size by too much.

 

 

Before I re-potted it, I left it soaking in some water before I went out (to the Kingston Food Festival which was a complete waste of time as there were hardly any food stalls to see!) and when I came back the roots looked like they’d had a good drink. The roots looked healthy and not too pot bound, but hopefully they’ll be happy in the bigger pot. I ignored the instructions and just used the multi-purpose compost I already had (Westland), firmed down the soil around the plant and watered well.

April 15, 2010

Thai Sticky Chicken – Rachel Allen

Thai Sticky Chicken

MUNCH RATING: 3/5

 

Rachel made this recipe on her ‘Home Cooking’ series and we thought it looked really good. I made it again the other day as it was Thai New Year between the 13th-15th April!

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I’ve made this twice now and made it slightly different both times:

  • The first time I used the nam pla (fish sauce) and it completely stunk out the fridge, but it did make the chicken taste good. I marinated the chicken for 2 days.
  • The second time I substituted the nam pla for ketchup manis (sweet soy sauce) as I hoped it would make the chicken sweeter and more sticky. I marinated the chicken overnight. I used the remaining marinade in some stir-fried noodles.

 

Both times I used less chicken than the recipe stated (so it would serve 2 people), but I made the right quantity of marinade so we’d have more sauce.

I don’t like coriander leaf (but funnily enough I like the seeds) so I omitted it completely both times.

 

The recipe says to ‘Remove the chicken from the fridge about 30–40 minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature.’ but I didn’t have time the second time I made it, so I nuked the chicken on high for 2 minutes, then cooked in the oven as normal.

 

TASTE TEST:

The chicken tasted much better the first time I made it. I don’t know if it was the extra marinating time or the nam pla, but the flavours (sweet, sour, salty) were just more intense. So I would definitely marinate it for 2 days and store the chicken in an airtight container to stop the stink of the nam pla taking over the fridge!

 

The recipe below is how I made it, you can find the original here.

 

  • Serves: 2
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C

 

Ingredients:

  • 500-700g chicken, drumsticks and thighs (2-3 per person, depending on size)
  • 2 red chillies, seeds removed and chopped
  • 2.5 cm piece of root ginger, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick lemongrass, outer skin discarded, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp soft light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 limes, juice only
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla) or ketchup manis

 

Directions:

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut slashes in the chicken drumsticks and thighs and place
    them in an airtight box.
  2. Place the remaining ingredients in a mini chopper/food processor and blend to a rough paste, then pour over the chicken. Put the lid on the box and shake to evenly coat the chicken in the marinade.
  3. Leave to marinate in the fridge, preferably for 2 days, shaking the box occasionally to redistribute the marinade.
  4. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C.
  5. Remove the chicken from the fridge about 30–40 minutes before cooking to bring
    to room temperature (or heat on high in the microwave for 2 minutes). Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade (reserving the marinade) and arrange in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 35–40 minutes or until the meat is coming away from the bone.
  6. Arrange the chicken pieces on a warm serving platter and place the reserved marinade and any juices from the baking tray into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon and scrape any sticky bits from the bottom, until thickened and sticky.

Grow your own Rosemary 2010

Rosemary SeedsPLANT: ‘Rosmarinus officinalis’

A hardy evergreen shrub, the leaves are traditionally used to compliment rich meat dishes, in stuffings and many Mediterranean dishes. Develops small flowers in late spring. Rosemary is a perennial and can be grown all year round. Plants will live for up to 20 years and grows to a height of around 1m.

Apparently it is easier to propagate rosemary than to grow it from seed, but I thought I’d give it a try anyway since the rosemary plant I bought last year isn’t really established enough to take any cuttings from.

 

Sow under cover: February-May 26th Feb
Germination time: 21–35 days 12st Mar
Plant out: April  
Harvest:    
Time from seed to plate:    

 

SOW:

  • Rosemary is harder to germinate than most herbs, so expect low germination rates.

GROW:

  • Dig a hole slightly larger than the size of its pot and add a handful of sand to the bottom of the hole. Place the plant in the hole and replace the soil around it, firming gently. Water the plant well and ensure the soil does not dry out until it is established.

CARE:

HARVEST:

March 21st:
21-03 rosemary Well I finally get to do an update on the rosemary as one seed has actually sprouted! The others don’t seem to be showing any signs of making an appearance and I’m not holding out much hope. Before I bought my rosemary seeds I didn’t know that they weren’t very easy to grow, so it pays to do some research first! I suppose it makes this small success of one seed sprouting all the more sweeter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL 15TH:

15-04 Rosemary

My one lonely rosemary seedling is making very slow progress. It now has 4 leaves but it’s not grown any taller. As it’s going to be a while before I’ll be able to use it, I’m going to look into propagating a cutting from my existing rosemary plant which isn’t growing either!

April 12, 2010

Naan Bread

Naan Bread

 

MUNCH RATING: 4.5/5

 

I copied this recipe into my recipe book ages ago, but I didn’t write down where I got it from. After the nice naan bread that I’d made using the Hairy Bikers’ recipe, Steve was reluctant for me to try a different recipe. But I love to try new recipes, particularly as the Hairy Bikers’ one wasn’t perfect enough to warrant a 5/5 Munch Rating!

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

The only thing I changed was the amount of yoghurt I used. The recipe said to use 4 tablespoons, but when I measured it out from a 150g pot there was only about another tablespoon left and I didn’t want to put it back in the fridge or in the bin so I just added it to the mix.

 

I also only used ½ teaspoon salt as I always try to cut down on salt. Perhaps that’s why they weren’t as tasty as they could have been, but I would rather add healthier flavourings, like herbs and spices, than add more salt.

 

TASTE TEST:

I made 6 small naans that were about the size of a small side plate. They were just the right size when served with curry and rice.

 

Steve said these were the closest I’ve got to making naan bread like you get from a restaurant or from a packet from a shop. They had a lovely soft texture and went really well with the curry we had (leftover from a Keema Pie I made). They didn’t get a full 5/5 because they needed more flavour, as we couldn’t really taste the garlic or onion seeds.

 

But this is definitely going to be the naan bread recipe that I’m going to stick to and just experiment with different flavourings. Not only does it taste better, but it has less ingredients than the Hairy Bikers’ recipe.

 

  • Makes: 4 large or 6 small naans
  • You will need: a large bowl, a large non-stick frying pan

 

Ingredients:

  • 250g plain flour (plus extra for dusting/kneading)
  • 7g sachet fast action dried yeast (I used Allinson Easy Bake Yeast)
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 level Tablespoon black onion seeds
  • 1x 150g pot natural yoghurt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 100ml warm water
  • sunflower oil for greasing

 

Directions:

  1. Sift the flour, stir in the yeast, salt and black onion seeds.
  2. Mix together the yoghurt, garlic and the warm water, then pour this onto the dry ingredients.
  3. Mix to form a soft dough, then knead on a floured board for 5-8 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic (you may need a couple of handfuls of extra flour).
  4. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with cling film/plastic bag and leave to prove for 30-45 minutes until roughly doubled in size.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and split into 4-6 pieces. Flatten and stretch the dough until approx. ½ cm thick (cover with a tea towel if not cooking straight away).
  6. Lightly grease the frying pan with the oil (use a piece of kitchen towel to mop up any excess oil and use this to continue oiling the pan) then fry the naan in batches over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes on one side until golden brown, then use the oiled kitchen towel to lightly oil the naan on the uncooked side and flip over and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

 

COOK’S TIPS:

  • Cooked naans can be frozen. Store them in an airtight container with greaseproof paper in between them. To reheat: bake in an oven from frozen at Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C for about 5-7 minutes.
  • The warm water that you add to the dough should be quite hot, but cool enough to be able to stick your finger in it for a few seconds.

 

NUTRITION:

  • 150 calories, 0.6g fat per large naan

April 10, 2010

Soda Water Pancakes

Soda Water Pancakes

 

MUNCH RATING: 4/5

I had almost a whole bottle of soda water leftover as I only used a little bit to make a tempura batter. I wanted to see if I could use it in another recipe and I found a pancake recipe by Larry Moore and under his pancake tips he said to use ½ milk and ½ soda water to make fluffier pancakes.

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I actually stuck quite faithfully to the recipe, except that I used both oil and butter to grease the pan as I like the way butter gives the pancakes a nice golden colour and the taste is better. I also reduced the salt. I’ve re-written the recipe to show the cup quantities in metric and for it to make more sense to me!

 

Soda Water Pancakes inside

 

TASTE TEST:

Well I thought the pancakes were great and Steve said he liked them too, but he thought they were a bit hard to swallow (I reckon he tried to eat too big of a bite of pancake!). I think these are just as good as the Cheat’s American Pancakes that I’ve made before. As I don’t always have soda water in the fridge, I will try Larry Moore's Basic Pancake Recipe with just milk and see how they turn out.

 

  • Makes: 9 pancakes

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (140g) plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt (I only used a ¼ tsp and it was enough)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup (112ml) milk and ½ cup (112ml) soda water [or 1 cup (225ml) milk]
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

 

Directions:

  1. Blend the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
  2. Blend the egg, milk, soda water and oil in a jug. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients.
  3. Whisk together until just incorporated, the batter will be slightly lumpy but that’s ok.
  4. Grease a large non-stick frying pan (I used my wok!) with oil and a tiny knob of butter and pour or ladle in pools of the batter to form 8-9cm circles.
  5. Cook the pancakes on one side over a medium heat until bubbles form on the surface, then flip them over and cook on the other side for another couple of minutes until golden brown.
  6. Serve immediately or keep warm whilst you cook the rest. We like them served with lots of golden syrup.

April 9, 2010

Chicken Rice – Ching-He Huang

Chicken rice

 

MUNCH RATING: 1/5

 

I still had loads of Chinese dried mushrooms so I thought this would be the perfect dish to use them in.

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I used boneless chicken thigh instead of chicken on the bone as it’s easier to eat and it also cooks quicker. I chopped up the mushrooms into small dice instead of slicing them and I grated my ginger instead of slicing it as we don’t like big bits of ginger. I also added some crushed garlic. I also ran out of sesame oil so I only used 50ml instead of 100ml, but I think it’s such a strong flavour that too much can spoil a dish.

 

I only used one pan as it seemed pointless frying the chicken and mushrooms in one pan, putting the rice in another pan and then pouring the chicken and mushrooms on top of the rice. So I’ve written the recipe to skip this step.

 

TASTE TEST:

This was a very disappointing dish. The rice was overcooked and soggy. Since I’ve bought my Tefal 4-in-1 I’ve been able to cook perfect rice, so I really should stop experimenting with different cooking methods!

 

But the chicken itself was very bland. I don’t think using the correct amount of sesame oil would have helped because then it would have just tasted of sesame oil. It needed something like soy sauce to give it some saltiness and flavour. We ended up pouring lots of ketchup manis (sweet soy sauce) all over our meal to give it some taste! I won’t be making this again!

 

  • Serves: 4

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 5cm piece root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
  • 300g chicken thighs, skinned and cut into bitesize pieces
  • 100ml Shaoshing rice wine
  • 50ml pure sesame oil
  • 300g jasmine rice, washed well

 

Directions:

  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for about 20 mins. Drain them and cut into small dice, discarding the stalks.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over a high heat and add the oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 1 min, then add the mushrooms and cook for 30 secs. Add the chicken and stir-fry until starting to turn opaque, then add the rice wine and sesame oil and cook for 2 mins. Season with about ½ tsp salt.
  3. Add the rice to the pan, mix well and then add 500ml water and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 mins. Allow to stand for a few mins, then fluff up the rice (a bit difficult when it’s soggy!) when ready to serve.

Devilled Mackerel with potatoes and spinach

Devilled Mackerel

 

MUNCH RATING: 4/5

 

We got two whole mackerels in the weekly shop so I searched for a recipe on the BBC Good Food website and found this one.

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I halved the recipe as I was only cooking for myself and Steve. I stuck to the majority of the recipe, except I fried the potatoes on their own for about 10 minutes to get them nice and brown, then I added the chopped onion. I also used an ovenproof pan instead of using a roasting tray.

 

TASTE TEST:

We really liked the dish except Steve wasn’t too keen on the bones in the mackerel! He would have much preferred fillets of fish as it took him so long to pick out the bones that his fish went cold. I would definitely make the potatoes and spinach again as it made a quick and easy side dish.

 

I had to gut the fish myself and Steve’s Mum asked if they had any roe inside. I said one had soft roe and the other one had hard roe. She was a bit gutted (no pun intended!) that I’d thrown them away as she loves eating the hard roe! So I must remember to save them for her next time!

 

  • Serves: 2
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 mackerel, cleaned, gutted and heads chopped off
  • 2 tbsp curry paste (I used Patak’s Rogan Josh)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g potatoes, cubed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 large handfuls of spinach

 

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C. Make a couple of slashes in both sides of the fish and rub with half the curry paste. Heat the oil in an ovenproof frying pan/roasting tray, then fry the potatoes for about 10 mins until starting to brown, then add the onion and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  2. Stir the remaining curry paste into the potatoes, then sit the fish on top and roast for 20-25 mins (I cooked mine for 20 mins as they were quite small) until the fish and potatoes are cooked.
  3. Lift the fish onto plates, then place the potatoes back over a high heat. Add the spinach to the pan and cook for 1-2 mins until completely wilted. Scoop out and serve with the fish.

 

COOK’S NOTES:

  • If using fillets of fish, roast the potatoes for 15 mins before adding the fish, then roast for 10 mins more.

April 8, 2010

Banana and Walnut Loaf

Banana and walnut loaf 1

 

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

 

I’m not a fan of Gregg Wallace, but when I saw his recipe in the May issue of BBC Good Food magazine for Banana and Walnut Loaf I just had to try it as it looked so nice.

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I used my silicone loaf tin (as there was no need to grease or line it) instead of a lined greased loaf tin.

 

I used 100g instead of 140g of caster sugar as I wanted to cut some calories and I thought it would be sweet enough with the 4 very ripe bananas.

 

I added some freshly grated nutmeg and ground cinnamon to the recipe as I like those spices in banana cake as I think they compliment the banana flavour. I was quite conservative in my measures and I couldn’t really taste the spices, so I would add maybe 1 tsp instead of ½ tsp of cinnamon, and ½ fresh nutmeg instead of ¼ of a whole seed.

 

Due to a slight ‘error’ in the recipe, I omitted the milk. It was listed in the ingredients, but it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the directions, so I missed adding it to the mixture. However, the cake batter looked perfectly alright when I poured it into the tin, so it was a good consistency without the milk.

 

I also changed the method very slightly so that more ingredients are added together and therefore less mixing is involved, resulting in a better textured cake. I’ve also added my own tips to the method. The original recipe should be posted on the BBC Good Food website next month and I will link to it then.

 

TASTE TEST:

Well I have to say this was the lightest, fluffiest banana cake I’ve ever tasted! I’m not sure how much difference the milk would have made, but I won’t even bother adding it next time because the cake was perfect as it is.

 

Steve and I ate it whilst it was still warm from the oven and it was delicious! Gregg Wallace suggested serving it with vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate sauce, which sounds like a great dessert.

 

  • Makes: 1 loaf that cuts into 8 slices
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • Oven shelf: middle
  • You will need: a 2lb loaf tin, greased and lined with baking paper or a silicone loaf tin

 

Ingredients:

  • 100g softened butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 225 plain flour, sieved
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ – ½ of freshly grated nutmeg seed
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 50g walnuts, chopped (original recipe said 85g)
  • 50ml milk (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the butter, sugar and egg with an electric handheld mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Using a spatula gently fold in the flour and baking powder until they are half mixed in, then add the bananas, walnuts and milk (if using) and carry on gently folding in until all the ingredients are combined – do not overmix or the cake will be tough and heavy.
  4. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and then bang the tin on your counter to get rid of any air bubbles.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack before removing from the loaf tin.
  7. The loaf can now be wrapped tightly in cling film and frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost and warm through before serving.

 

 

Tips For Perfect Cakes

  • Use butter and eggs that are at room temperature to prevent your mixture curdling. If this happens, add a tablespoon of flour with the eggs and then continue.
  • After you’ve added the flour don’t overmix as this will stretch the gluten and result in a tough cake.
  • After you’ve filled your tin with the cake mixture, tap it on the counter to remove any air bubbles.

April 5, 2010

Tempura batter (for pork, chicken and squid)

Sweet and Sour Battered PCS

MUNCH RATING: 3/5

 

For some reason the original pork/chicken ball batter that I’d previously used and really liked has not produced good results on all the subsequent occasions that I’ve made it. So I decided to try using John Torode’s batter, which is basically a Japanese tempura batter as it contains cold (sparkling) water.

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I decided to batter a selection of things: 1 pork chop, 1 chicken breast and 3 pieces of squid. We didn’t cook the squid for as long, so they are the smaller, paler balls in the photo. The pork and chicken were cooked for about 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally.

 

The amount of batter was sufficient for this amount of meat and seafood. However, I ran out of cornflour for dusting the pork, so I just used plain flour instead and it was fine.

 

I got Steve to make the Sweet and Sour sauce from the original recipe we like, as we know it’s a winner! I’ve rewritten the sauce recipe below.

 

TASTE TEST:

Well the pork and chicken balls were lovely as the meat was moist and succulent. I never normally use chicken breast as I find it dry and lacking flavour. So Steve was very surprised when I told him it was breast and not thigh. Unfortunately the squid tasted very fishy, so I suspect that the frozen squid I used has spoiled, either before or after I bought it.

 

The batter was nice and crispy, but it was a little bit greasy. It might be because we didn’t drain them well enough. Or we perhaps didn’t have the oil hot enough when we dropped the battered meat/squid in, so the batter didn’t create a barrier against absorbing more oil. I still thought the batter was really nice, but Steve said it just wasn’t the same as the take-away ones! So as a batter it is very nice, but it doesn’t get as high a Munch Rating as it’s just not spongy enough in the middle for Steve’s liking.

 

So we’re still looking for the perfect recipe. I’m going to look into why the original recipe we liked hasn’t worked since the first time I made it. I think I might have converted the quantities incorrectly when I downsized the recipe.

 

I have also asked my Dad to ask his friends who own a Chinese take-away for their recipe. Hopefully I will learn some insider secrets!

 

I now have almost a whole bottle of soda water to use up. I could make up a nice drink with it, but I’ve found a recipe for pancakes which uses soda water as it apparently makes them really fluffy. So hopefully I’ll get around to experimenting with that recipe before the water goes flat!

 

  • Makes: 6-8 pork balls, 6-8 chicken balls, 12-15 squid rings

 

Ingredients:

FOR THE BATTER
  • 100ml soda water, chilled
  • 100ml cold water
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt

 

  • selection of skinless, boneless meat/seafood, cut into chunks
  • 25g cornflour
  • sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

 

Directions:

  1. Line a baking tray with kitchen paper and turn on the oven to low.
  2. Fill a large pan 1cm deep with oil and heat until shimmering.
  3. Mix the soda water and cold water into the self-raising flour with a little salt (but don’t overmix as it’s OK to have lumps in tempura batter to keep it light)
  4. Tip the cornflour onto a plate and dust the chicken/pork/squid with cornflour shaking off the excess, then dip into the batter. One at a time, lower into the hot oil (about 5-6 every batch). Turn up the heat to keep the meat frying, if needed, and cook for 5-6 mins, turning once.
  5. When cooked, drain on the tray, and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining meat. Stack onto a plate with the warm sauce on the side.
 
FOR THE sweet and sour SAUCE:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) tomato ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (100g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (45g) brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon corn flour
  • 1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) cold water

 

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan combine the first 6 ingredients and bring to a boil whisking constantly.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer stirring for 2 minutes.
  3. In a small cup dissolve the corn flour in the cold water until smooth, then add to the simmering sauce stirring constantly.
  4. Cook for another 3 minutes stirring until bubbly and thickened.
  5. I served this at room temperature. You can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for probably about a week or you could freeze it.

April 2, 2010

Blog Revamp!

I'm currently in the process of revamping my blog with a new template, so please bear with me as things will be all over the place over the next couple of days! It's a bit of a nightmare as the formatting is really messed up, but it means I have to brush up on my HTML skills - it's all coming back to me now!

Freebies

  • In the May issue of BBC Good Food Magazine they have included a packet of Rocket seeds and a packet of Pepper seeds, worth £3 in total. I’ll definitely be sowing the rocket seeds, but I won’t bother with the pepper as they take too long to grow, especially with the pathetic summers we have in the UK!
  • Simply Beef & Lamb are holding a free prize draw to win kits that contain 1 pack of herb seeds and 1 pack of vegetable seeds, plus a recipe book.
  • The BBC are giving away free seeds again. This year you can get:

- basil

- carrots

- courgettes

- mixed leaves

- French beans

    Just apply here. I already have loads of seeds so I won’t be applying for any this year. They were pretty quick to send them out last year though. The info on the website is very useful though as you can watch videos and print out growing guides too.

  • I got a leaflet with my latest issue of BBC Good Food magazine from Which? advertising their free vegetable growing guide. I got one from them last year and it’s quite helpful. You just need to call freephone 0800 533 035 and quote the reference VEG48F.
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