I figured that if it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver and his 15 minute meals, it’s good enough for Miss Friday’s midweek meals. I’m talking about Uncle Ben’s Express Rice; I had a pouch of his Wholegrain Tomato and Basil Rice with Quinoa lurking in the back of my cupboard, which was the inspiration behind tonight’s dinner. Of course I had to pimp it up a little.
I’m a huge fan of short cuts, and I make no bones about it either – especially during the week when time is tight, or for those evenings where you’d rather not be slaving over the hot stove all night. Yes, even I have days like that.
So, using what I could find in my fridge (a few random left over vegetables) and store cupboard (herbs and spices) I created a speedy midweek meal that also happens to be wonderfully healthy. I had some jumbo king prawns to use so I decided to make this delicious spicy rice dish. It reminded me of a jambalaya, now I realise the ingredients are quite different, but you’ll appreciate what I mean from the picture.
Uncle Ben’s Express Tomato and Basil Wholegrain Rice
225g cooked jumbo king prawns
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, small dice
1 red onion, small dice
1 courgette, small dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Knorr herb infusion stock pot
600g chopped tomatoes
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp spicy smoked paprika
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and garlic, cook for about 10 minutes stirring until the vegetables have softened. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Then add the chopped tomatoes, stock pot, and vinegar, allow to cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the sugar, paprika and chilli flakes.
Meanwhile, heat the rice in the microwave and add it to the pan, mix well to incorporate all of the vegetables.
Finally, add the jumbo king prawns and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
There is something truly wonderful about this time of year.
The beginning of September marks the turning of the seasons into autumn and brings with it all the promise of crisp blue skies and the changing colours of nature. Not to mention that September is also the month in which I celebrate my birthday AND it’s the month in which I get to meet my baby. My little bundle really could arrive any day now, so I’ve been nesting and preparing things in anticipation.
One thing I was adamant about was ensuring that my freezer was fully stocked with meals. I’ve had friends tell me that having meals prepared in those early weeks really is a life saver, so as a first time mum I decided to take their advice on board. I figured the more prepared I can be the better… roll on those sleepless nights!
I’ve probably made enough meals to see us through at least the first four weeks of parenthood. Everything from chicken and lamb curries to stews, casseroles, cottage pies and meatballs. I found Pinterest to be a great help when deciding on suitable meals to freeze. I’m hoping I’ll have time to post a recipe link-up to these freezer meals… that’s if the baby doesn’t decide to make an appearance in the next week. My due date is only three days away!
You may recall me mentioning that throughout my pregnancy I’ve struggled with sickness and nausea and a real lack of appetite. The first few months I found it impossible to eat without being or feeling sick, but the second trimester bought some much welcomed relief as I regained my appetite.
Well, that relief was short lived as much to my disappointment, my sickness returned about five weeks ago.
I finally decided that I’d had enough of feeling so groggy and needed to see the GP and have anti-sickness medication prescribed. Let me tell you, these little pills really have been my savour. I’ve been able to enjoy cooking and eating again, so much so that I decided to celebrate the return of my appetite with a delicious steak dinner.
Essentially this recipe is for the creamed spinach and mushrooms as I’m assuming most of you know how to cook steak and potatoes to your own liking. I opted for a nice piece of ribeye, roasted herbed potatoes and this side dish which I’ve made a few times before but never shared.
This recipe makes a beautiful side dish for steak. The combination of mushrooms and thyme is utterly delicious. The earthy flavour of the mushrooms really works harmoniously with the woody essence of thyme.
I once read that mushrooms and thyme are true kindred spirits (The Flavour Thesaurus), which is so evident when you taste this dish. You’ll never look back – I honestly don’t think I can cook mushrooms without thyme any more, they’re just not the same.
If you’re a foodie and do not have this book in your cookery repertoire, I strongly suggest you rush out a pick up a copy – it’s a real cook’s bible, helping you to understand flavour parings and why they work.
I also feel it’s really important to use white pepper and not black in this recipe.
This is a great side dish for steak, but it would work equally well with chicken.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp thyme leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
300g closed cup mushrooms, sliced
200g spinach, washed
100ml double cream
1 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and seasoning, keep it moving with a wooden spoon until the onion is slightly browned. Add the garlic and thyme and fry for another minute.
Add the balsamic vinegar and cook until this has evaporated at which point you can add the mushrooms - cook these for a couple of minutes, they will soak up all the flavours in the pan and take on a nice colour.
Add the spinach and mix well to combine. It will seem like too much, but give it a minute and the leaves will wilt down.
Add the double cream and mustard and simmer on a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time to ensure it doesn't stick.
This recipe is my entry for the Maille Culinary Challenge. I was invited to participate in the challenge to create a mouth-watering recipe including at least one Maille product. They were kind enough to send me two of their delicious products free of charge and I was able to pick from a rather extensive list including many delicious ingredients. Rather than just including one of the ingredients, I decided to use both; I figured this would ensure I really thought hard about a recipe with different components. I quite often create recipes with one star piece, either the meat or fish and the sides will be fairly simple – such is my style of cooking. However, seeing as this was a culinary challenge it was only right that I challenged myself and created a dish where each element bought something special to the recipe. I chose the following ingredients:
The red cabbage worked beautifully with the balsamic glaze; it brought an intense sweetness to the dish that truly was delicious, whilst the mustard has a woody earthy flavour that compliments the shitake mushrooms wonderfully.
Fingers crossed my recipe goes down well. The first prize for the Maille Culinary Challenge is a “Food Lover London Tour” worth £390, and two runners up will receive a luxury Maille Gift Box with accessories valued at £150. Yes please!
Start by finely slicing the red cabbage and red onion. Place in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of butter, the garlic, balsamic glaze and water; season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat for about 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, peel and chop the potatoes, boil for 25-30 minutes, until soft. Remove from the heat and drain well, return the potatoes to the pan. Add 2 tbsp butter, chives, cheese, white pepper and a splash of cream, roughly mash. Don’t worry if they are a little lumpy, a bit of texture works well in the croquettes. Allow the mashed potato to cool slightly.
Whilst the mash is cooling, line up three bowls, fill one with the flour, one with the egg and a tbsp of water and the other with the bread crumbs. Take a small amount of the mashed potato in your hands and roll into a small ball, slightly smaller than a golf ball, roll in the flour, shaking off any excess. Then roll the ball in the egg and finally the bread crumbs. Place aside and repeat until you have used all of the mash, set these aside while you prepare the sauce.
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan. Slice the shiitake mushrooms, place in a pan with the remaining butter and season, fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes, once softened add the mustard and cream; heat through while you cook the steak and fry the croquettes as below.
Season the steak and fry in a little oil for the desired length of time, depending on how you like your steak cooked. I had fairly thick Sirloin that I like rare, so I fried for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Once cooked, set the steak aside and allow to rest. This is very important as it lets the fibres in the meat relax and allows the juices to flow, meaning you’ll end up with a much tastier steak.
Fry the croquettes in batches for about 30 seconds, they will brown very quickly. Remove from the oil and place on kitchen towel to drain off any excess oil.
Slice and serve the steak, topped with the mustard sauce and some snipped chives, three croquettes and some red cabbage.
With the festive season well and truly upon us, I am growing increasingly excited about my Christmas dinner and all the other delicious food I’ll undoubtedly consume over the next week or so. Indeed, there could be no better time for a foodie than Christmas and I can’t wait to get stuck into my festive menu. This year I’ll be making curried parsnip soup, turkey with all the trimmings and a panettone bread and butter pudding. That said, the week leading up to the big day has inspired me to try and be a little healthier, so I opted for a homemade fishcake, with my favourite yellow fish, dyed smoked haddock. If you are not ordinarily a fan of fish, I urge you to try it smoked; it boasts a whole different flavour.
This recipe is certainly a gathering of some of my favourite ingredients, and there is nothing better than the wonderful liquid gold of a softly poached egg spilling out onto your crispy delicious fishcake with a generous pile of steamed green beans. This dish can be prepared ahead (the day before) and is certainly an attractive one, which I think makes it perfect for a dinner party.
8 large potatoes, such as desiree
2 dyed, smoked haddock fillets
3 tbsp freshly chopped chives
1 finely chopped green chilli
Pinch of nutmeg
200g fine green beans, trimmed
2 slices of slightly stale bread
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the over to 180⁰C
Break two eggs into a flat dish and whisk. Place the bread in a blender and blend until you have crumbs, place the breadcrumbs into another flat dish and set the two dishes aside.
Boil and mash the potatoes, adding a splash of milk and a pinch of salt and pepper, set aside while you poach the fish.
Pour the milk into a large pan; add the fish, nutmeg and half of the chives, season well. Allow the fish to poach gently in the milk for about 5-6 minutes. Remove the fish from the pan and flake onto the mashed potatoes with the chilli and zest from the lemon, mix well to combine. At this point add two tablespoons of the hot milk from the pan and the rest of the chives.
Allow the mashed potato mix to cool enough to handle then shape into fishcakes, dip each fishcake into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs. Once you have completed all of the fishcakes heat a little oil in a frying pan and brown them on each side. Transfer the fishcakes to the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, steam the green beans and poach the eggs.
Serve each fishcake topped with a poached egg and sprinkled with chives. Add the green beans and a wedge of lemon for squeezing.
A great flavour combination that makes for a super quick supper for a weeknight. The honey gives the dish a lovely sweetness that is offset by the saltiness of the soy. You can pack this stir-fry out with fabulous healthy vegetables, the more colourful the better, and you really don’t have to stick to the recipe, use up whatever you have lurking about in the fridge. It’s the colours in this dish that I love most, sure enough to brighten up any dinner table.
1 rump steak
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp runny honey
1 nest of egg noodles
½ red pepper, sliced
½ orange pepper, sliced
Handful of mange tout
Handful of baby corn, halved
Handful of coriander, freshly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 ½ cm of ginger, minced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Slice the rump steak thinly and place in a bowl, add the sesame seeds, oil, soy and honey and allow to marinate whilst you prepare the vegetables.
Add a little oil to a wok, fry the garlic, ginger and chilli for 2-3 minutes, add the vegetables and stir fry for 4 minutes. Add the beef and marinade, allow to cook for a further 2 minutes (for rare beef, a little longer if desired).
Meanwhile boil the noodles, drain and add to the work. Stir well. Serve with freshly chopped coriander.
A super simple supper that’s packed with flavour and goodness; what’s not to love? The simplicity is what I adore about this quick mid-week meal. It’s also something that is immensely healthy; with not a carb in sight it’s a good recipe to help you achieve that bikini bod. Unfortunately for me, I’m a little late, I’ve been on my holidays and never did establish that super trim tummy in time… but it’s never too late to try. I’ve pledged to get back into my running shoes next week, after a whole year off! God help me, I’ll regret all that paella I ate on holiday. However, all is not lost, with a few more meals like this one in the bag I’ll get there in no time.
Prawns are really the key here, because they have such a low calorie count, 100g of prawns has 105 calories, compared with 164 calories for half of a small chicken breast. Yes, I said half. If you are really not a lover of fish/ shellfish, why not try Quorn style chicken pieces, you can have 100g for just 89 calories. The trick is in creating a recipe that is stacked with flavour, but still manages to be low in calories and fat content. By skipping the noodles you’re saving around 200 calories, and trust me, with a recipe this delicious, packed with enough vibrant vegetables, you’ll hardly even miss them.
So, how do we create a tasty stir fry base? Simple, place your prawns into a dish, cover with the oils, soy, chopped chilli, garlic and basil. Refrigerate and allow the flavours to mingle for as long as possible, I suggest an hour or so, but if you’re in a hurry 15 minutes should suffice. You can add any stir fry vegetables to this recipe, the more colourful the better. I opted for sweet peppers and mange tout purely because it’s what I had in the house, but baby corn and spring onion would also be great flavours in this recipe. Be wary of using red onion, it would over power the delicate flavour of the prawns. Adding a large handful or bean sprouts would also be a nice addition.
8-10 shelled raw prawns
Handful of mange tout
2 spring onions
3 baby sweet peppers (red, orange and yellow)
½ large red chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Marinate the prawns (as above). Meanwhile finely chop the peppers and spring onions, add these to a hot wok with a little oil. Once softened add the mange tout and the prawns and spoon in half of the marinade. Cook only until the prawns are pink and cooked through. This will only take a few minutes. I add the mange tout in at the end because i like it crisp to bite.
Season with freshly ground black pepper, easy on the salt, the soy will make the dish salty enough.
I really must spend more Sunday afternoons like this, writing blog posts whilst drinking tea (from a cup with the words ‘His Lordship’ on) and listening to Rod Stewart. Utter bliss. Don’t anybody call me or knock on my door. Today is mine to enjoy.
So, on Friday evening I cooked for the ladies, which meant a delicious Italian feast was in order. Well, I say I cooked; it was more of a team effort. But, boy were we rewarded for our efforts. Now, I don’t mind blowing my own proverbial trumpet every now and again… I don’t confess to knowing best when it comes to food, far from it, but this meal was amazing, it just worked so well. Each element of the dish came together to create a simple yet impressive meal, and it will definitely become a regular in my repertoire of go-to recipes. Just look at those colours, who wouldn’t want to eat that? Ok, I think that’s probably enough revelling in my own self praise for now.
You can use any white fish for this recipe, but I found cod was as good as any, and slightly cheaper than monkfish. And when it comes to the vegetables, just go with your own preference, I went for maximum colour. The best part is that there really is minimal prep work; everything is baked on a tray in the oven, so there’s no tiresome stirring or simmering, or sweating over the stove so to speak. Yes, I can be a very lazy cook at times, but who isn’t.
If you’re not keen on fish I think chicken would work equally well in this recipe.
The vegetables take slightly longer than the fish and garlic ciabatta, we found about 35 minutes for the vegetables was fine, then 20 minutes in we popped in the fish and bread. Naturally we washed it down with a good crisp Pinot.
2 large pieces of cod, each cut into three even sized pieces
6 slices of prosciutto
1 large courgette, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
2 red onions, chopped into wedges
Large bunch of tomatoes on the vine
50g pine nuts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar/glaze
1 bunch of freshly chopped basil
3 tbsp butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 tbsp garlic infused oil
Place the chopped vegetables in a baking tray, cover with the oil, balsamic vinegar and pine nuts. Using your hands give it all a good mix up ensuring the vegetables are evenly coated with oil. Scatter over the chopped basil, season well and place in the oven at 200⁰C.
Meanwhile cut each fillet of cod into thirds (as evenly as possible) and wrap each piece in a slice of prosciutto, place on another baking tray and set aside.
Take the ciabatta loaf and using a bread knife slice at 1 inch intervals, ensuring you don’t slice all the way through the bread. Hold open the slots and drizzle with garlic infused oil. In a bowl mix the butter, garlic and parsley until completely combined, it helps if the butter is fairly soft. Using a knife smear the butter into each of the slices in the bread, then using the left over butter rub it across the top of the bread with your hands.
Once the vegetables have cooked for 20 minutes, place the bread and fish in the oven, cook for 15 minutes, then serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze or vinegar to garnish.
Just lately every time I have Indian food, I look straight for the bhindi bhaji, even before I select my main course. It is, without doubt, my favourite Indian side dish, just love the fresh taste of the okra combined with the subtle spices and onions. I have been meaning to make this myself for quite some time, so here we are.
A fresh batch of okra, cooked right, is simply delicious. And here’s the best part, like most veggies, it is low in calories and packed with nutrients. I think people tend to shy away from okra as it is mostly unknown, but even those who are familiar with it often find they are unsure of how to cook it.
Okra is often referred to as ‘ladies fingers’ because of its long and tapered shape, looking much like a finger. When selecting okra remember the shorter younger pods will be much more tender, and the longer, more mature pods can often be stringy and lack flavour.
200g okra, cut into 1cm pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 banana shallots sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp mild curry powder
120ml chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sea salt
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and spices and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is cooked through.
Pour in the tomatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes then add the okra, cook for about 10 minutes until the okra is cooked through.
Season with a pinch of sea salt and serve immediately.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
When cooked okra often exudes a thick, slimy liquid, which is what puts most people off, and it can be problematic if you want to eat it sautéed, fried or steamed. The trick is to keep the cooking time short. Listed below are some other ways in which you can reduce the sliminess of your okra:
Keep the okra whole whilst cooking, not only will this help prevent the nasty sliminess; it will also keep it crisp.
Wash the okra before cooking, but ensure that you dry it straight away with some kitchen towel, and only ever wash your okra when you’re ready to use it.
Add something acidic. Recipes that contain acidic ingredients, such as vinegar and lemon juice reduce the sliminess.
Don’t worry if your okra is a little slimy, this is absolutely normal, and it tastes fine. I understand that some people are completely put off by this and will not eat it at all. I think this is a shame as it really is a little treat if it’s cooked right.
This is a left over soup, but then isn’t that the best way to make soup? Use what you have left over from a roast dinner and you have an excellent base for which to build your soup.
I cooked a delicious roast on Monday (I was off work, so essentially it was Sunday), and decided to boil the bones for stock, which is the perfect foundation for your soup. See my post below on how to make a simple chicken stock. There was plenty of meat left over so I used this too. Be warned, this recipe makes lots of soup, but it’s great for freezing and eating later so I think it’s best to make a big batch.
Left over roast chicken torn
2 litres of homemade chicken stock (see post below)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 sticks of celery roughly chopped
4 carrots roughly chopped (skin on)
2 onions finely chopped
3 garlic cloves grated
1 red chilli
½ tbsp turmeric
½ tbsp smoked paprika
3 sweet potatoes pealed and cubed
Handful or red lentils
Handful of pearl barley
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large pot, add the onion, chilli, garlic, turmeric and smoked paprika. Fry over a high heat for 4 minutes until the onion is soft. Do not allow to burn.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly and add the chicken stock, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, red lentils and pearl barley.
Allow to cook for 10 minutes before adding the chicken, season with Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a further 25 minutes (until all the vegetables are soft).
Using a stick blender, blend the contents to a smooth consistency.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped parsley and crusty bread.
Good afternoon foodies, today i’m demonstrating how easy the perfect stir fry really is, and there are so many reasons to sing about it. It’s healthy, versatile, quick, not to mention mega tasty! Pack it with crispy delicious vegetables, and remember the more colourful it is, the better for you it will be. Red peppers, chillies and onions with mange tout and baby corn are the perfect combination. And, you thought getting your five a day was difficult!
Remember to prepare your meat and vegetables before you begin cooking anything. I like my stir fry with a spicy bite and I’m mad about garlic so I add three chopped finger chillies and probably far too much garlic than is necessary, but this really is a dish you can make to suit your taste.
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or stir fry oil if you have it)
2 tbsp soy sauce
5 cloves garlic
3 fresh red finger chillies
2 tbsp freshly copped basil
1 red bell pepper sliced
1 red onion sliced
1 bunch spring onions chopped into 2cm pieces
1 pack mange tout and baby corn (whole)
2 portions of ready to wok, medium soft noodles
Pack Sainsbury’s hoisin and garlic stir fry sauce
Pinch of salt and pepper
Prepare your meat and vegetables before you begin cooking. Chop the vegetables so that they are of equal size. Finley chop the garlic, basil and finger chillies.
Add the oil to a large wok or frying pan, heat for 30 seconds before adding the chicken, garlic, basil and chillies, cook on a high heat for 4-5 minutes allowing the flavours to develop. Add the soy sauce, vegetables and salt and pepper. Stir fry for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Stirring continuously.
Stir through the sauce and noodles, making sure that the sauce coats all of the noodles and vegetables, cooking for a further 2 minutes. If required add 2 tbsps of water to thin the sauce.
Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve immediately in a deep noodle bowl.
The secret to a good stir fry is a high heat and a watchful eye. The high heat will seal the juices in the meat and keep it really moist.