Good evening good evening good evening
Even by my standards, my freezer has started to look a bit on the daft side. I’ve been saving meat bones like there’s some kind of world shortage, and eventually got fed up of trying to pack “real food” around them, so I decided to finally make up the stock yesterday. As I didn’t really have enough of any type of bones, the resulting stock was made in the slow cooker from a combination of chicken, lamb, ham and beef bones, along with a couple of carrots, some celery and some rosemary stalks. I was dubious as to what would result, but pleasantly surprised by a delicious smelling, relatively gelatinous stock (click here for some fairly fool-proof stock instructions, adaptable for any type of carcass).
The fridge, on the other hand, is incredibly sad-looking. Quite a variety of salad veg, a load of carrots and not much else. Given that I really couldn’t be bothered to go shopping, I decided to make some carrot soup and concluded that the coconut cream leftover from the other day’s curry probably ought to be used up too, resulting in this slightly tangy version of carrot and coriander soup. Nice and simple, and fairly quick to make. Hopefully I’ll regain inspiration later in the week and start cooking exciting things again!
Carrot and Coconut Soup
I'm trying out a slightly more artsy style of photography. What do you think?
Lots of carrots, diced small
1 green chilli, seeds removed and chopped finely (top tip – don’t rub your eyes unlike some silly cow did this evening…)
Good quality stock (use meat stock if you like, or vegetable to make it vegetarian/vegan)
Half a carton of coconut cream
Fresh coriander leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
- Heat a little olive oil in a fairly deep pan. Add the carrot and stir. Shake in quite a lot of ground coriander and a smaller amount of cumin and onion powder. Add the chilli and stir everything well.
- Add enough stock to cover the veg, topping up with water if necessary. Stir through the coconut cream and turn the heat down to a slow simmer. Cook for at least half an hour, until the carrot is really soft. You don’t have to worry about boiling out all the goodness, as that’ll stay in the water, which will be whizzed up with the soup later!
- Once the carrot is soft, blend until smooth, adding more stock or water if necessary. Stir through the coriander and serve with crusty bread. A good tip if you have some bread rolls or a baguette or something which is starting to go a bit stale is to sprinkle some water over it and warm it through in a medium-hot oven. Voila! Fresh(ish) crusty bread 🙂
I’ve had a lovely day with A Man today. The sun has been shining away and we mushed over to Frome this afternoon to complete a murder mystery trail given to me by a friend for my birthday. I wanted to cook something summery for tea – there was no way I wanted a stew or something after this weather! Paella isn’t something I cook very often, but it’s nice and simple as it pretty much cooks itself and there’s only one pan to wash up which is ideal! If you have a ‘proper’ paella dish, it’s great to serve it at the table and for people to dish up their own, but any type of wide, flat pan will do the trick.
If you like, you can use different meat, and really the rice should include some saffron but that’s not a spice I keep in the cupboard due to its expense, so I made do with just adding some extra paprika. According to the packet, this much rice should serve 4 but if you have salad with it, it will stretch further. Add some fresh parsley right at the end if you have some, too.
Chicken and Chorizo Paella
Around 100g chorizo, diced
4 chicken thighs, boned and cut into bitesize pieces
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced
300g paella rice
1 litre hot chicken stock
Cooked prawns, defrosted if frozen
Large handful frozen peas
- Fry the chorizo in a dry pan on a medium-low heat so that the fat starts to run. Fry the chicken with the sausage for a few minutes so that it starts to brown.
- Add the onions and garlic and stir well. Fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the pepper, paprika and rice and stir well to ensure all of the ingredients are well distributed.
- Pour the stock over the rice and turn down to a simmer. Check the pan every few minutes to see how cooked the rice is and to ensure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. The rice should be cooked once all of the liquid has been absorbed, but if it’s not quite done add a little more hot water to the pan.
- Just before serving, stir through the prawns and peas. Take the pan off the heat – you just want them to be warm through rather than cooking them as such, and the residual heat of the rice should do this.
- Serve with a well dressed salad and lots of lemon juice over the rice. The paella can be frozen, but it must be cooled quickly after cooking and defrosted thoroughly in the fridge for around 24 hours before reheating.
I’ve been down to stay chez parents again this weekend, and as it was mother’s day today I cooked a meal for my (unfortunately poorly) mummy. She had said a couple of weeks ago that she wanted to try my crispy lamb so that’s what I did, almost exactly as before, although I slow-cooked it in the week, poured about a pint of fat off of the top and froze the meat and broth separately so that there wouldn’t be too much prep involved today.
I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough to feed everyone, as my family is made up primarily of boys who like their food (a lot!) so I made a chinese-style soup served in tiny china bowls as a starter. I must admit, I was bloody pleased with it and everyone commented on how nice it tasted 🙂 It’s good to make the stock the night before the soup, so it has a chance to set. I had really wanted corn on the cob, but it’s out of season and the tinned stuff worked brilliantly.
Youngest brother was in charge of dessert and made an old-style steamed syrup sponge with custard. It was beautifully light and melt in the mouth; the recipe came from a Good Housekeeping cookery book which had belonged to my mum’s mum and so it seemed fairly fitting to use it today. Although sponge pudding is really quick and easy to make in the microwave, it’s worth taking a couple of hours to tie a muslin round the basin and steam it over the hob as the quality is much much better.
I hope all the mums reading this were suitably spoilt by their offspring today!
Chinese Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup
Crappy phone-photo makes it look really unappetising, but I promise it was yummy! And probably really good for Mum as you're supposed to eat chicken soup when you're not feeling well, right?
1 small free-range chicken
Large tin of sweetcorn (try and get some that is just canned in water with no added salt or sugar)
Handful of spring onions
- Joint the chicken and remove the meat from the bones (see here for a tutorial on portioning poultry). Chuck the bones and jumpy bits into a pan and cover over with cold water. Bring the carcass to a boil then turn down to a low simmer to make a stock. If possible, you want the stock to be quite gelatinous, so it needs to be cooked for quite a long time. Cool the stock once it’s cooked.
- Cut the chicken into very thin strips and refrigerate until required.
- Remove the carcass from the stock. Strip any cooked pieces of chicken from the bones back into the stock and cool completely (hopefully until the stock sets). Discard the carcass. You can keep the stock in the fridge for a day, or freeze it if you don’t plan to make the soup immediately.
- Chop the spring onions into small pieces (scissors work well) and stir through the stock. Add the sweetcorn (you can add the water too, if it hasn’t had sugar and salt added), 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of chilli flakes. Stir well.
- Mix around 3 heaped dessertspoons of cornflour with cold water. Add this and the chicken to the cold stock.
- Just before serving the soup, heat everything through on a medium-low heat. You should only need to cook it for a few minutes, until the strips of chicken have poached and are cooked all the way through. Before serving, taste the broth and add more soy or chilli to taste. Add more cornflour and water if the soup is not thick enough.
It turns out that I lied on Monday. Despite saying that all I’d be eating this week would be ready-meals, I opened the freezer this morning to discover that I Only had some chilli in there. Lots of other stuff in the freezer including tons of different types of meat, so I decided to use up some chicken breasts to make a lasagne.
Chicken lasagne is much lighter than its beef mince counterpart, and the layers of spinach in this one gives the added bonus of having an extra vegetable. I also had some mascarpone in the freezer, hence the cheaters’ cheese sauce. I decided to replenish my freezer by making two and saving one for a later date – a great idea in principle, except I underestimated how little pasta I had! Therefore, my final layer had no lasagne sheets but I don’t think that really made too much of a difference.
I served it with garlic bread and peas. My dad always says that you have to follow “the pea law” when you eat lasagne, and I always feel like I’m disobeying him slightly when I have salad instead 🙂
Chicken and Spinach Lasagne
I'd have preferred narrow and deep, but wide and flat worked reasonably well... And before people are outraged by the size of my portion - that's a side plate!
2 chicken breasts
3 large mushrooms
Any other herbs you fancy – I used a few grinds of an Italian herb Mill which A Man got for Christmas (shhh! Don’t tell him!)
1 tin tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
Fresh raw spinach
Lasagne sheets (dried or fresh makes little difference)
100g garlic and herb cream cheese (I used Le Roulé which was hanging round in my fridge)
100g grated hard cheese (I used a combination of cheddar and grana padano)
- Slice the chicken into thin, inch wide chunks and set aside.
- Wash and slice the leeks. Fry in a little olive oil on a medium-low heat. Chop in the mushrooms and pepper. Peel and core the parsnip and chop that in too. Fry until the veg begins to soften.
- Chop the sage finely and stir the herbs into the veg. Add the tinned tomatoes, purée, sugar, a good slug each of balsamic and worcestershire and some salt and pepper. Taste the sauce and adjust as necessary.
- Stir the chicken into the sauce and cover with a lid. Depending on how big your chicken pieces are, it shouldn’t take very long to cook through until white in the middle – mine was less than 10 minutes. Remove the lid to reduce the sauce slightly to your preferred thickness.
- Mix together the mascarpone, cream cheese, half of the grated cheese and the egg. Build the lasagne by first spreading a layer of the chicken mix on the bottom of the dish. Follow this with a layer of pasta, a thin layer of cheese sauce, a layer of raw spinach leaves and another layer of pasta. Repeat until your ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of cheese sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese. Because I didn’t have enough pasta, my top layers were chicken – spinach – cheese with no pasta between them. Whoops!
- This can be baked immediately, chilled and baked the next day or frozen and baked whenever you need it. You can cook them from frozen, but it’s difficult to estimate a time-frame without knowing the size of your dish…
- Cook at 180OC/350OF/Gas mark 4 for around 30 – 45 minutes, or until piping hot in the middle and golden brown on the top.
Excuse me while I go back in time a couple of days…
Happy Chinese New Year everyone!
Yes, I realise I’m a little slow off the mark on this one, but with good reason – my pineapple wasn’t ripe 🙂 I’ve not done home-made sweet and sour for ages and that’s a travesty because it’s a) very easy to make and b) much much tastier than jar stuff and many (though not all) takeaways. This doesn’t have the neon colour that you may have come to expect, but does pack lots of yummy flavour, so is well worth a go if you fancy the slight indulgence. Adjust the sauce ingredients to suit yourself.
This recipe is adapted from the one my mummy makes on occasion. I have a memory (one of those really vivid ones which she won’t remember at all!) of a night when I was around 10 years old, and Mum made chinese food – sweet and sour included. I stayed up until gone midnight with Mum, Dad and the oldest of my 3 little brothers eating Chinese, playing Mahjong and watching films. That was the first time I saw Highlander and Sleuth. See – very vivid memory!
Add whichever ingredients you like – water chestnuts are particularly good for the crunchy texture they add, and cashews are good in this too. It works well with chicken too.
I love Chinese food! What are your favourite recipes?
Sweet and Sour Pork with Stir Fried Veg Noodles
An errant strip of carrot attempts to escape the noodles...
1 small or 1/2 large pineapple (you can use tinned pineapple, but it will be incredibly sweet)
Toasted sesame oil
Fresh root ginger
Chinese 5 spice powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
200 ml orange juice
50 ml vinegar (rice or cider vinegar are good)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato purée or ketchup (I used ketchup)
2 tablespoons cornflour
- Remove the skin from the pineapple and chop into fairly small pieces, discarding the core. This can be a pretty messy job, as ripe pineapple is JUICY!
- Slice the onion and pepper into fairly large chunks and stir fry in a little sesame oil. Peel the fresh ginger, and slice thinly. Add to the veg with ground ginger and 5 spice to taste. Stir well.
- Add the pork to brown, followed by the pineapple and juice. Fry on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Mix together the sugar, juice, vinegar, soy sauce and tomato. At this point, taste the sauce and add more of whichever elements you feel it needs. Add to the wok and turn the heat down low. How long you have to cook this for depends on the type of meat you’re using – if it is lean, then it won’t need very long. I used diced pork shoulder which is fairly fatty and needs long cooking, so I put it in the slow cooker on ‘low’ for a couple of hours.
- Slice the carrot into thin strips, or ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Slice the sprouts and mushrooms thinly to, and stir fry in sesame oil with the sesame seeds.
- Mix the cornflour with a little cold water and add a little at a time to the sweet and sour, turning the heat up. The cornflour should cook out, leaving the sauce clear rather than milky, and somewhere between thick and gelatinous. Add more cornflour, depending on how gloopy you like your sauce.
- Cook the noodles and fry with the veg.
- This is a great base for a miniature chinese feast if you fancy having a get-together – get everyone to make and bring a different dish. Here are a few ideas of other dishes you could have:
The other day, I was lucky enough to be able to buy an enormous organic chicken from the supermarket, which was marked down to £4 as it happened to be short-date. I immediately chopped the legs off and shoved them in the freezer for future use, and then turned my attention to the rest of the chicken. Technically not a crown (it still had the wings attached), I decided to roast it as if it were. You can do this with a whole bird too, should you so desire.
With a crown, there’s a slight risk of the breasts drying out, hence my slightly over-zealous (but damned delicious) method of breast-moistening. Not only did this produce superior chicken, but some of the best damned cous cous I’ve tasted in a bloody long time. Even if you don’t eat it as ‘stuffing’ with the bird, it’s worth making anyway to accompany salad during the week. I wish I’d thought to get a photo of my lovely chicken before it was sliced – it was beautiful. I’ve got one of dinner on our plates, but it’s just not the same somehow. So instead, make do with a photo of a lemon and some thyme 🙂
Cous Cous Stuffed Lemon Chicken
Lemon and thyme - two classic ingredients brought together beautifully in one roast chicken.
1 whole chicken or chicken crown
Unsalted butter, softened
3 fresh lemons
Handful fresh thyme leaves
A few fresh sage leaves
A little dried rosemary
Salt and Pepper
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 eggs, beaten
- Preheat the oven to a medium-high temperature.
- Zest oneof the lemons and chop the zest very finely with the herbs. Mix the herbs and salt and pepper with the butter.
- Separate the skin of the chicken from the meat. Rub the herb butter between the two layers, taking care not to break the skin.
- Finely slice the zested lemon, and push the slices under the buttered skin of the chicken.
- Gently fry the onion, garlic, sunflower seeds and zest of the other lemons in some olive oil until the onion has started to go translucent. In the meantime, juice the lemons.
- When the onion is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice to warm through. Stir this mixture through the cous cous, adding some hot water if necessary.
- Once the cous cous has steamed through, mix in the eggs and stuff the chicken. Place in a roasting tin in the preheated oven, with any veg you wish to roast. Cook for around 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until the meat juices are clear when poked with a skewer in the thickest part.
- Serve with roast vegetables – we had roast potatoes, parsnips and squash and mashed swede and carrot. Once the carcass has cooled, pick off any meat that remains and stir through the remaining cous cous to eat cold (it’s delicious!). Use the carcass to make stock.
A Man prepared this, and it was stuck in the slow cooker, ready for when he got back from work and I from school. It’s a great way to cook curry, and curry is a great way to cook cheap cuts of meat. I love aubergine in curries, both for the flavour and the fact that they break down in the cooking and thicken the sauce. You could do this with beef, lamb or chicken thighs if you prefer. This is good for leftovers too, particularly roast dinners – add all your meat and veg from dinner, along with any gravy that you’ve got hanging around. I’ve filed this under “speedy” – although it takes ages to cook, the actual prep is minimal and the sort of thing I used to do before lectures when I was at uni.
Pork and Aubergine Curry
Pork, cut into cubes (we had shoulder, but any cut will do)
Fresh chilli, diced
- Fry the onion in some oil on a very low heat. Grind the chilli and coriander seeds with some oil in a pestle and mortar.
- Stir the spices into the onion and fry gently. Add the pepper and aubergine.
- Brown the meat with the vegetables. Take off of the heat and place in the slow cooker pot. Stir in the tinned tomatoes and cook on low for several hours. The aubergines should break down and there should be no need to add any water to the curry.
- When you’re quite close to serving, stir through the cashew nuts (to prevent them going soft). Serve with boiled rice and your choice of Indian accompaniments. We had naan bread (far too much for my tummy!) and natural yoghurt (which I would have made into mint raita, had we had any mint…).