Monthly Archives: December 2011

Sesame, Ginger and Spring Onion King Prawns


Hot on the heels of my attempted vindication of brussels sprouts earlier this evening, I’ve shredded some into tonight’s stir fry and damn did they taste good!  In fact, I was really pleased with this meal in its entirety, despite it not quite coming out as anticipated – it was significantly less gingery than I’d thought, and more on the fragrant citrusy scale (which initially I attributed to the lemongrass, but now think it was down to the spring onions).  Really rather pleasant!  Be prepared for a lot of washing up though…

If you’re a semi-serious cook, and have never tried a mezzaluna then I’d highly recommend it!  Not that we use A Man’s very often, but when we need it, nothing else will do.  It’s a crescent-shaped double-handled knife which is perfect for chopping things into tiny pieces.  If you can find one, I’d also suggest you get one with a board with an indentation, which keeps all your goodies together.

Love love

Gemma xx

Sesame, Ginger and Spring Onion King Prawns

Raw King Prawns (defrosted if frozen)
Jumbo Spring Onion
Large piece of Root Ginger
1 ball of Stem Ginger
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Stick Lemongrass
Sesame Seeds
Toasted Sesame Oil
Fish Sauce
Stir Fried Vegetables
Egg Fried Rice (see below), plain rice or noodles

A Man's full plate. Even after all of that, he still nicked some of my rice on a prawn cracker! Can't have been too bad then 😉

  1. Chop your marinade ingredients into small pieces, leaving some of the spring onion in slightly larger pieces.  Mix together in a pestle and mortar.  There is no need to make a homogeneous goop, but some consistency is good.
  2. Coat the prawns and marinade for up to 24 hours.
  3. Heat a dry frying pan on a moderate hob and add the prawns (there is no need to oil the pan due to the oil in the marinade).  Stir regularly to ensure that the heat is evenly distributed.  Remove from the heat once all the prawns are pink through.  Be careful not to overcook your prawns – you want them to be juicy and sweet, not dry!
  4. Serve with stir fried veg, prawn crackers and egg fried rice.  I make my egg fried rice by heating some toasted sesame oil in a frying pan or wok, adding some cooking basmati rice and stirring well until well coated with oil and sizzling, stirring through sliced spring onions and defrosted garden peas, then finally mixing in one or two eggs and removing from the heat after a few seconds, the egg to cook in the residual heat of the rice.  It’s a brilliant way to use leftover rice, and can be eaten cold as a salad dish too.

Embrace your Sprouts! Brussels are for Winter – not just for Christmas!

Hello hello hello

I know what many of you may be thinking; you hate brussels sprouts.  They’re soggy and bitter and the bit of your Christmas day lunch that your mum always forced you to eat “because it’s tradition”.  And because it’s tradition and you got some for Christmas day, you’ve got loads leftover (possibly raw, because you could only buy an enormous sack full of them).  I, on the other hand, am a big sprout fan.  This does not, however, stretch to enjoying the standard mass-produced chain-pub Christmas-party-menu sprout with which we have become (unfortunately) all too familiar.  You have to treat sprouts with respect, and they’re easy to cook, providing you follow some simple rules:

Just in case you've never before seen them before they were packaged in a plastic bag...

  1. Choose little sprouts.  They’ll cook more quickly, and are younger and sweeter than the big ones.
  2. Don’t boil them for 500 years until all of the taste and vitamins have disappeared into the water.  Small, fresh sprouts only need a max of 5 minutes on the stove top, so leave them to the last minute before serving.  I have to confess to having failed in this aspect when I cooked for our friends a couple of weeks ago, owing to gravy-related stress, but suggest that you do as I say, not as I do 😉  Besides, they were still fairly nice because I had followed rule two…
  3. Peel your sprouts.  My friends laughed at me for this.  Surely you just tip them from the packet into a pan, or at the most put a cross in the bottom (this is another story entirely)?  But you wouldn’t eat the skanky old leaves on the outside of a cabbage, so why do so with your sprouts?  Take off the dark green outside leaves, which are the bitter part, leaving you with the pale green yummy inside bit.  As the sprouts are now smaller, they’ll also be even quicker to cook.
  4. If you’re bored with them, jazz them up.  Tons of chefs now advocate frying them in butter with bacon or chestnuts or even (I shudder at the thought of this) peeling off each individual leaf to blanch them!  There are more ways to eat sprouts than sitting next to your turkey, so be a bit adventurous.  Think about how you’d use cabbage, and take inspiration from that – you can even have them raw, as a salad vegetable if you so desire.  People do all sorts of things with other veggies, but often seem stuck in a rut with sprouts.
  5. Cross the bottoms if you like, but it’s not necessary – just chop off the little stalky bit where they attach to the plant.  The idea is that the inner leaves cook quickly so that they don’t have to stay in the water for as long, but this can just as easily lead to them becoming waterlogged, and if you’ve chosen little ones (and peeled them too) you don’t need to worry – they’ll cook nice and quickly anyway.
  6. The best way to store sprouts for any length of time is attached to the stalk – they stay fresher (and therefore yummier) this way. It’s become increasingly simple to buy them this way, even in supermarkets – all you have to do is snap off your baby cabbages just before prepping them.

And if all of the above fails, I guess I’ll just have to resign myself to the fact that some people just don’t like them, in the same way that some people just don’t like chocolate.  But that’s no good excuse not to eat them!  According to this website they could be a cancer-curing superfood and after all, it is tradition…

Lots of love,

Gemma xx

As if we’d not eaten enough Roast Dinners in the past two weeks…


I hope everyone had an excellent Christmas and is looking forward to the New Year.  My Christmas Day of double dinner was very successful – I managed to eat a little bit of everything without completely overstuffing myself (including some of the incredible beef cooked by my parents, roasted rare, from a 7kg rib joint).  I took the big Christmas pudding round to A Man’s grandparents’ as my contribution to dinner, and it turns out that it is possible to overdo the alcohol feeding…  Less rum next time I think – who’d’ve thought it?!

We came back on Tuesday night, and were planning on going food shopping after A Man came home from work yesterday, so dinner had to be made up of things we already had in.  There was an onion squash and an apple in the cupboard and the rest was freezer food, and it was pretty successful even though I say so myself.  Something I would definitely do again, and a good compromise on a roast dinner using pork steaks if there are only a couple of you.

Love love

Gemma xx

Miniature Pork Roast Dinner

1 Pork Shoulder Steak (or Boneless pork chop or Chicken Breast) per diner
1 Good Quality Sausage per diner
Mashed Squash (see below)

It does look quite a lot like a school dinner, but was actually a really tasty storecupboard meal.

  1. Flatten the pork steaks out.  The best way to do this is to butterfly them – cut through the steak until almost halved and open the sides out so there is twice as much surface area.
  2. Squeeze the sausagemeat from the skins and add any flavourings you wish.  This depends on the sausages – the ones I used were already fairly full flavoured with herbs and caramelised red onion chutney, but I added some eating apple diced small.
  3. Spread the sausagemeat mix over the steaks.  Roll the pork and wrap tightly in foil.  You could also wrap them in prosciutto or bacon, but I decided this would be meat overload for me.  Place on a baking tray with any other veg you wish to roast (I took some of the roast potatoes we had left over out of the freezer and we had those, but do whichever sides you like) and place in a preheated medium-high oven for around 30 – 40 minutes until the pork is cooked through.  Remove the foil for the last few minutes to brown the outside of the meat.
  4. To make the mashed squash, place peeled diced squash in a microwavable bowl with a little butter and microwave on high until soft right through (5 – 10 minutes depending on the size of the squash pieces).  Mash with a fork and stir through some sage.  Heat in the microwave for a couple of minutes before serving.
  5. To serve, slice one mini pork joint onto each plate, with sides and lots of gravy.

Twenty-one Sprats, One greedy supermarket employee

Well well, A Man is going to be pleased not to be at home tonight!

He’s at his work Christmas do, and is staying at a colleague’s for the night, so I have the house to myself.  What better excuse to cook a mountain of little fishies?  I had some sprats in the freezer, so had them with a nice salad for my tea and may possibly have made the house smell like fish…  Oh well, he won’t be home till tomorrow night!

Sprats are small oily fish with a fairly mild flavour.  They’re sustainable and almost criminally cheap when in season.  You can eat them whole; head, bones and all but I filleted these ones as I had so many that it seemed a shame to fill myself up on the jumpy bits.  I think next time I’d probably grill them rather than fry, as they’re oily enough that the flour would turn to batter whilst the oil cooked out, but they still tasted very good – you’d especially like it if you’re a fan of whitebait.  No photo of the cooked sprats – they looked more presentable when raw 🙂  This was a really quick meal to cook – the time was in filleting the fish, which (as I’ve stated) is far from necessary, and only took around 20 minutes anyway.  Great news for someone who’s spent 7 hours sitting behind a cash desk today!

If you’re interested in eating fish sustainably, have a gander as the FishFight website.

Love love

Gemma xx

Sprats and Salad

  1. Cut the heads off the sprats if desired, and remove the guts through a slit along the belly.  If you have the time and inclination, you can also remove the spine.
  2. Season a plate of flour (I used salt, pepper and tarragon) and coat the sprats in the flour.
  3. Make up a salad before you cook the fish as they don’t take very long.  I had lettuce, cucumber, pepper and the leftover braised red cabbage which was brilliant to cut through the oily fish.
  4. Heat up some oil and fry the sprats in batches, or cook under a medium grill, until the fish is cooked and the batter has crisped up.
  5. Serve with the salad and something to dip them in (I had leftover dips from the weekend – sour cream + chive and onion + garlic dips worked very well.

Home-made Hampers


Just a quick post with a little photo of the bits I plan to put in the little hampers I’m making up for a few family members.  I love these little collections of home-made goodies, and they’re all being packaged wrapped in lots of tissue paper, in gold and silver boxes with patterns on.  The ramekin is symbolic – I plan to make some more paté, but clearly this can’t be done too far in advance or it won’t last.  I have also considered making some mini mince pies, but I’m debating whether they’ll survive the trip home or will end up crushed.  So currently, each little box consists of:

  • A small bottle of either mixed fruit vodka or raspberry and honey whisky
  • A jar of home-made apple chutney
  • One of the mini Christmas cakes I recently iced
  • A small ramekin of duck paté

Anyone else making Christmas presents?

Love love

Gemma xx

Bonus Christmas tree in the background to try and make the photo look festive 🙂

Duck and Smoked Bacon Chowder


Despite having said yesterday that I’d blend the pork ‘n’ stuff pie into soup today, A Man enjoyed it so much that he requested that I didn’t do that.  We’ll finish it off tomorrow, I expect – but for tonight, there still is soup, only it’s been made with a view to emptying the cupboard and fridge.  We’re Christmassing chez parents (both sets of parents – Christmas day involves double dinner…) and therefore I didn’t want any sad veg lurking in the salad drawer when we get back next week.  I have to admit to buying a packet of smoked bacon to finish the soup off, as I felt it needed something, but otherwise it was a store-cupboard meal.  I made a ton – around 2 thirds of it is in the freezer for later occasions (though, had I thought about it, I would have left the cream out – cream unfortunately doesn’t freeze all that well).  Again, this is definitely a meal open to very broad interpretation – more or less any veg can make a good soup, it just depends on what your personal favourite flavours are, and the process is perfect for Christmas dinner leftovers – make a stock from the meat carcass, whatever that meat was, and add your leftover gravy and veg; be it carrots, parsnips, cauliflower cheese, sprouts or whatever.

This soup was a lovely combination of sweet and savoury, and pretty full-flavoured.  I wonder whether there was a little liver attached to the carcass, as there was a somewhat “dark” element to the soup (no clue if this makes any sense!) but it worked brilliantly with the other flavours.

Love love

Gemma xx

Duck and Smoked Bacon Chowder

Yes, I attempted to make it look more attractive with a sprig of parsley. Please forgive me.

Duck stock (from Saturday’s frozen carcass, made up with a load of parsnip peelings and rosemary) and the meat stripped from it
New potatoes
Frozen sweetcorn
Smoked bacon, diced
Single cream

  1. Dice the veg and fry if off in a little olive oil.  Add the sweetcorn straight from the freezer once it has started to soften and put a lid on the pan for it to steam.  Stir occasionally.
  2. Once the veg is soft, pour over the stock and blend until fairly smooth (it doesn’t have to be completely puréed, unless that’s the texture you like).
  3. Fry the bacon in a dry pan and add the duck meat.  Continue stirring, and cook until browned.
  4. Add the meat to the soup – blend if desired.  Add cream and season to taste.

Leftover Pork (or Turkey) ‘n’ stuff Pie

Evening, all.

Having eaten leftover roast dinner last night, and still owning copious amounts of leftovers from Saturday night’s Christmas dinner, I had to conjure up something appropriately different for tonight.  I’ve written before about A Man’s obsession with “pork ‘n’ stuff” and this therefore seemed an appropriate way to use leftover pork and…stuff…  We have what seems like gallons of cream and a large amount of cider left, both of which go beautifully with pork – the ingredients can be altered to suit your own leftovers (this would also go very well with turkey or ham and wine could be substituted for the cider), and the pork in sauce goes well with new potatoes, ordinary mash or pasta, if you don’t fancy adding the mash to the top.  There are also leftover duck fat roast potatoes (which have, of course, been stuck in the freezer.  Aunt Bessie eat your heart out!) and red cabbage, which is delicious cold in sandwiches.  We didn’t finish this pie tonight, so plan to give it its final farewell in Christmas dinner soup tomorrow.

What are your favourite ways to use leftovers?  Or do you get fed up with eating the same thing night after night?

Love love

Gemma xx

Pork ‘n’ stuff Pie

Red onion, sliced
Apple, diced
Leftover roast parsnips, diced
Leftover roast pork, diced
Leftover bacon, diced
1 dessert spoon wholegrain mustard
Scrumpy cider
Single cream
Herbs (I used tarragon, chives and sage which I happened to have)
Mashed potato (mine had been mixed with leftover carrots and sprouts for bubble and squeak yesterday, otherwise they’d have gone in the sauce)

  1. Heat the onion, apple and parsnip in a pan.  Add a drop of olive oil if necessary, but I found that the parsnips still had enough on the outside to fry in.
  2. Add the pork and bacon and stir well.  Fry for a few minutes, especially if the meat is slightly fatty, to melt down the fat.
  3. Add a splash of cider to the pan and heat through for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the mustard and add some cream.  Continue to add cream and cider until the sauce is of the desired consistency and flavour (this is entirely up to you.  I probably added around equal amounts of each).  Mix in herbs and season to taste.
  4. Place the pork in an oven-proof casserole dish and spoon mash over the top, forking the surface to ensure crispy bits.
  5. Cook in a medium-hot oven until the mash has browned.
  6. Serve with green veg and a glass of cider.