Saturday, 31 July 2010

Testing, Testing: Fruity Beef Curry (& Dessert!)

those who
follow me on twitter might've noticed me post this last night. a tweaked version of this recipe, as posted on the guardian website last week - here are there weights and measurements, and you can of course find my tweaks and method below, as well as the all important taste test...

Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Number of servings: 4

Nutrition information per serving:
Calories: 455
Sugar: 32g
Fat: 9g
Saturates: 3g
Salt: 1g

2 onions
400g of lean diced beef
1 tbs of curry powder
1 apple
100g of sultanas
2 tins of chopped tomatoes (400g each)
4 tbs of low fat yoghurt
1 tbs of olive oil
160g of brown rice, uncooked weight
i can't speak for how my tweaks effect the calorie intake and such, but i made 2 small portions (one for tonight!) with:
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
a portion of beef, with the fat removed, and cut into chunks
half an apple, chopped into chunks
a handful of raisins (for i had no sultanas)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons of natural yoghurt

1 heaped teaspoon of garam masala, and a sprinkle of curry powder
a sprinkle of coriander, salt and pepper


add the rice to boiling water in one pan.
in another* brown the beef in a little olive oil, then leave to one side.
add a little more oil to the pan, and cook the onions and garlic until soft, then add the herbs and spices and fry for another minute or so.
add the beef back into the pan along with the apple, raisins and tomato. let it simmer until the tomato juices reduce, then add the yoghurt.
the rice should be ready now (20 mins, ish), so serve up and enjoy!

i had a mini garlic+coriander naan, too, which went under the grill for a minute or two, so make sure to heat the grill up if you're also having a naan. shop bought, but one day i will get around to making my own naans, as i keep saying about pasta. i have the recipes!

* if you don't already have one, get a non-stick wok. i use it for EVERYTHING - omelettes and pancakes come out perfectly shaped, and you can throw everything into it without fear of the bottom bits getting stuck in stir frys and curries. great for things like shallow fried chips too - again, no sticking (clue's in the title)

this is a wonderful curry - the apple is great, but the raisins were perfectly sweet and soft in the mixture. i don't know if sultanas would have had the same effect, but next time i'll definitely add more raisins than the small handful i added this time.

and for dessert?
well, i had to do something with the other apple half!

sweet fried apples with ice cream:

(serves one!)

thinly slice half an apple.
heat up butter in a frying pan, and add the apple segments.
sprinkle sugar over the apple and fry for a minute or so.
turn the apple over and sprinkle sugar on this side - add more butter if you need to!
when brown on both sides, add to a plate with vanilla ice cream (mine is haagan daas, ofcourse) and drizzle with honey.

they should be sweet and crunchy but soft on the inside, and a great accompaniment to curry (but especially this one!)

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Testing, Testing: Thai Style Chicken

of the couple of food blogs i follow, or recipes i come across that make me go "YES. I AM TRYING THAT." i very rarely actually get around to making them.
this one is different.

thai style chicken legs, from smitten kitchen:

pic from smitten kitchen

aka the first time i ever used fish sauce, a sentiment shared by Deb of SK.

the ingredients listed?

5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or flat-leaf parsley if you are cilantro-averse)
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (I accidentally doubled this and can only advise you do the same)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
8 whole chicken legs, split, or 8 drumsticks and 8 thighs (about 5 pounds total)
Thai sweet chili sauce, for serving
of course, i am but one person, so i took one chicken thigh and added it to a dish which had 1 finely chopped garlic clove and significant splashes of fish sauce, olive oil and hoisin sauce, plus large sprinkles of coriander, salt and pepper. i rolled the chicken around in the sauce and whacked it in the oven for about half an hour (until the juices ran clear when poked), occasionally taking it out and splashing the sauce over it a little more.

verdict: delicious. i'd recommend fish sauce and might look for more recipes involving it, cos it has a nice taste and isn't overly fishy. you can find it in supermarkets, but i got mine from one of the asian stores in town on a whim. really delicious, and perfect for a summer dish.

tips: keep the dish covered or the sauce will burn a little. leave the chicken to marinade overnight if you have the time.

serving suggestion: SK had hers with mango coleslaw (of which there is a recipe on her blog), but i had me with potato... cubes? (boiled for a little while then fried in shallow oil. essentially, chips, but in cube shapes) and with mixed pepper and onions, fried, and with the excess sauce added. delish.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Murder Mystery - A Meal.

another day, another meal for 8 people.
we played a murder mystery game called 'the champagne murders' which i decided meant something classy with a hint of 'france' about it.
menu+pics+recipes, PLUS tips for cooking for a large group of people, you ask?
step this way...

potato and courgette fritters with hot red onion relish

no pics of the starter - apologies - but this was so easy. as with most of the menu, a lot of it was prepared beforehand - all relish ingredients were chopped and stored ready to chuck in the pan, and the potatoes and courgettes for the fritters were pre-cooked and left to cool in the fridge. AND the batter was mixed ahead of time.

for the fritters - serves 8
8 small/medium potatoes, mashed
2 courgettes, chopped into small batons
bicarbonate of soda
herbs and spices: basil, salt and pepper

for the relish
2 large red onions, chopped into long strips
one box of cherry tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped finely
2 small chillis
half a tin of chopped tomatoes
herbs and spices: salt, pepper, coriander
extras: heaped teaspoons of honey, worcestershire sauce, ketchup


cook and mash the potatoes, and fry the courgettes in butter until soft. mix together, throw in the herbs&spices, and leave to cool.
mix a little flour and water in a bowl until smooth but quite thin, then add 2 level teaspoons of bicarb and mix again.

when it comes time to serve, throw all the relish ingredients apart from the tinned tomatoes into a hot pan with oil in it (i use olive oil). you'll need to stir this mixture every couple of minutes - don't forget or it might burn, but you can turn the heat down a little. its good to get someone to stir for you....
also, add plenty of oil to a separate pan. keep the oil handy for topping this pan up!

with your hands, mould the potato and courgette mixture into coin-shaped pieces, dip both sides in the batter, and plonk them in the oil in the empty pan. they can be any size you like, but i made them approx 2 inches (??) in diameter and they ended up serving 3 fritters per person, which is pretty good.

fry for around a minute on each side, then transfer to another plate (we put them all on one big plate which was warmed through to keep them hot, and dished them up once they were all cooked. highly recommended.)

when there's only a little mixture left (meaning you're probably on the last batch of fritters), add the tinned tomatoes to the relish and stir in. this should mean both are ready at the same time.
plate up the fritters and the relish - we choice to put all the relish in one big bowl and let people help themselves. which was a good idea, because some people LOVED it and though I thought this might be too much for 8 people, it was just right.

creme fraiché chicken + creamy mash + broccoli

again, serves 8
8 chicken thighs*
one large tub of creme fraiché

9 medium potatoes, with skins on, mashed
double cream
one large head of broccoli


*chicken thighs are, IMO, the perfect cut of chicken. they aren't too big, they're easy to cook, and they're CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP! (or, £1.50 for 4 in Morrisons). they're on the bone, of course, but they have the wonderful taste of chicken quarters without being as big or fiddly. AND they have the skin on. yumyumyum.

before the party: brown the chicken thighs in a grill pan, then put them in a shallow tray for the oven - sprinkle a little olive oil on them, plus the coriander, salt and pepper, than pour the whole tub of creme fraiche over them and leave in the fridge.
you could also chop the potatoes and the broccoli and leave them in pans ready to cook, but you should keep water in the pans so they stay fresh.

this is such a simple main, though - once the party is going, all you need to do is bang the chicken in the oven and set the veg off to cook when needed. i recommend turning the oven on to warm up as you serve the starter, as the chicken takes about half an hour to 40 minutes to cook.

the chicken can then be plated up, one to a plate. we poured the sauce left in the tray into a jug for those who wanted extra sauce.

the butter, double cream and salt and pepper just need to be chucked into the pan with the potatoes and mashed until smooth. again, we served the veg in large dishes for everyone help themselves. we also served a jug of gravy...

note: a little more mash (10 potatoes worth?) and more veg (either 2 medium instead of one large head of broccoli, or perhaps a packets worth of baby carrots) wouldn't have gone a miss, according to our guests. although i thought my portion was just right, given that we had a 3 course meal!

crème brûlée with strawberries dipped in chocolate

easier than it sounds, honest. but, a cooking torch is advised. i got mine from ebay (plus butane gas from amazon) for under a tenner....

i cooked ours in one big cake tin and cut it into smaller portions before creating the caramelised sugar topping - because we didn't have any ramekins, let alone 8. if you have them, or have more time to collect small tins*, then i recommend that. purely because it doesn't matter if the crème sticks to the pan/tin foil, then...

for one large but relatively thin crème brûlée, which just about serves 8...
5 egg yolks (i used the whites to make a white chocolate mousse)
one tub of whipping cream (300ml?)
double cream (about 150ml, i think)
200g sugar (of course, i didn't weigh this out)
one vanilla pod
sugar for topping

one punnet of strawberries
50g-ish of milk chocolate


i prepped this first, because it need to cook and then cool in the fridge.

separate your eggs (the whites, if you're keeping them for mousse/meringues/whatever, can be put in the fridge...) and beat the yolks, then add the cream and the sugar and whisk until smooth.
slice the vanilla pod sideways and scrape all the seeds into the bowl. warning: they will get everywhere. i had them under my nails for hours. at least they smell nice. (note: i've lost the recipe i used, but the bbc site recommends cooking the mixture first and adding the vanilla case to the pan then straining all sounds very complicated, but you could read that method either by clicking the above link)

done! see how simple? pour into a lined cake tin and cook in a medium/low oven for about an hour and a half, or until you can stick a knife in the middle and it comes out clean.

as for the strawbs, melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then dip the bottom of each strawberry in it and leave to cool in the fridge. simple, but delicious.

when it comes to serving, remove the crème brûlée from the tin (as best you can**), cut into desired portions***, and sprinkly with sugar until unleashing your shiny-magic-torch-gadget on them.
thumbs up from our dinner guests!

** i lined my tin with tin foil, and it got well and truly stuck to the brûlée, which is, of course, not ideal. maybe try lining with baking paper next time?

*** yes, you CAN make a large brûlée and cut into smaller portions. i looked all over for an answer to this question before committing to it anyway, but i'd recommend not caramelising until afterwards because the top will crack when you cut into it. purely aesthetic reasons....

and * i'm currently collecting small tins (i.e. the single portions of baked beans, kidney beans, etc. small, quite thin, about ramekin sized, y'know?), washing them, and taking the top and bottom off them. i reckon they'd be a great, cheap way of making ramekin sized food without the ramekin, or forming 'stacks' for nice presentation. you know, like on 'come dine with me' when they make seafood stacks, or something.

also something i made: candle/old wine bottle table pieces. pretty, simple, and they don't take up too much room on your table!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Noodle Soup.

so the other night i fancied noodles, but not a stir fry.
soup, that's what.

for two small-ish, but very filling portions, you'll need:

- one portion of noodles (i use sharwood's rice noodles which are perfect cos you can snap them in half for smaller noodle pieces, whereas an egg noodle nest is harder to break into smaller pieces...)
- half a carrot, peeled and sliced into really long, thin pieces.
- a handful of spinach
- an onion, sliced into biggish chunks
- a handful of frozen broccoli

- a handful of beansprouts
- one vegetable stock cube
- sprinkles of salt, pepper, chilli powder, ginger, worcestershire sauce and coriander
- a knob of butter*
- water


in a large pan, melt the butter and fry the onions until soft.
add the carrots and then add some of the water and all of the herbs and spices, and the stock cube. then chuck in all the other ingredients (snapping the noodles in half so you have smaller chunks!) and cook until the soup thickens up a bit - add flour if necessary.

SO easy; and very tasty.

* or a dairy free alternative for a vegan dish!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Lemon Slices.

iphone pics are decent enough, right?

so, cake recipes aren't my forte, but that's mostly cos i gave up on weighing ingredients ages ago. and yknow? my cakes always turn out moist and delicious, so it's all good.

these are dairy free, cos i used soy milk and soy butter. just fyi.

sieve self raising flour and sugar into a bowl, then add an egg and some butter (i use about 1/5 of a tub of butter...) and stir in. add a few teaspoons of lemon juice (as lemony as you'd like!) and keep adding milk to the bowl as you whisk until you have batter - you want it thin, but not too thin. if the batter is too thick it won't be moist!

cook at a low-ish heat (our oven was on about 150 and it's a fan oven) for about 20-25 mins - i cooked these in a rectangular tin, which isn't as deep as a cake tin but deeper than an oven tray, and it wasn't brown on the top but was cooked all the way through. perfect.
if you don't know, cakes are done when you can stick a knife in the centre and there's no batter on it when you take it back out.

i let them cool for a little while (while i ran to the shop for icing sugar), then mixed up some icing sugar and water to a thick consistency and poured it over the top; let it set a little; then made some more (a little thinner) and added yellow food colouring, drizzling that over the top too.