I’m the first to admit that I cook too many risotto and pasta dishes especially during the week, as they are so simple and I know I like them. Every now and then I decide it’s time to try something new and this was one such week. I still like to cook simple, quick and healthy meals most of the time and this week I decided to go down the Chinese food route. I got a copy of Ching’s fast food (Ching-he Haung) for christmas and decided it was about time I tried cooking something from it.
We have an electric ceramic hob which are not suitable for cooking with a wok unfortunately. This has always been my excuse for not cooking Chinese food before (my husband loves his Chinese take aways and has been trying to get me to recreate some of his favorite dishes at home for years). Both the char siu pork and the egg fried rice recipe can be cooked at home without a wok. I cooked the egg fried rice in a frying pan and we had no complaints so don’t let not having a wok or a hob suitable for wok cooking put you off making your own egg fried rice any longer. Continue reading
We had a rare, weekend with no plans last week. The weather on saturday was gorgeous, so after a lazy start to the morning we took a walk in to town. We came home with a ham hock from the butchers and a dressed crab from the fishmongers along with a few bits of veg. Saturday evening I used the crab to make a crab linguine and set about preparing the ham hock for sunday lunch. I found a delicious sounding recipe using ham hocks in Nigella’s latest book Kitchen, in which she devotes 11 pages to it. There is the base recipe for ham hock in cider, a recipe for leeks in white sauce to serve along side it and lots of information and recipe ideas for the leftovers. These include using the stock to make a cidery pea soup, using any leftover ham and leeks to make pies or pasties and a ham hock and soya bean (or broad bean) salad. I love the fact that she has a whole chapter on cooking meat on the bone (and mostly the cheaper cuts) where the emphasis is on effortless, slow cooking and really making the most of the meat you buy.This recipe is a perfect example, the ham needs soaking overnight and then all the ingredients are combined and cooked on the hob for 2 hours whilst you’re free to read the sunday paper (or recipe books if you’re anything like me).
The ham hock we bought cost only £2.30 and produced easily enough meat for the two of us for sunday lunch. I served it with a leek and potato mash and some carrots. We both enjoyed our somewhat frugal sunday lunch. The meat was tender, falling easily off the bone and had bags of flavour.
The stock left over from cooking the ham was put to good use following Nigella’s recipe for cidery pea soup producing 4 good-sized portions. The soup is too simple to even require a true recipe. Sunday afternoon, once the stock was cooled, I strained the stock in to a large container and left it in the fridge overnight. The following lunch time I removed the stock from the fridge (to satisfyingly find a jellified stock), scraped the fatty layer off the top and heated the remaining stock on the hob. Added a 900g pack of frozen peas and boiled until the peas were cooked (approximately 5 minutes). I then blitzed the soup, seasoned to taste and served. Nigella also adds the juice of a lime but since we didn’t have one in I didn’t bother. The soup was full of flavour, with subtle hints of ham & cider coming through, not sure how we’ll go back to this pea soup made with vegetable of chicken stock cubes!
Ham hocks in cider
Serves 6 (we only used 1 ham hock and I halved all the other ingredients and it comfortably served 2)
2 ham hocks (just over 1.5kg each – didn’t weigh mine so I can’t tell you how this compared to Nigella’s recommendation)
1 litre dry cider
2 sticks celery, halved
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 or 3
4 small onions, halved, skin left on
stalks from fat bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 x 15ml tbsp black peppercorns
1 x 15ml tbsp fennel seeds
1 x 15ml tbsp dark muscovado sugar
- Soak the hocks overnight in cold water in a cool place, to de-salt them. Alternatively just under an hour before you plan to cook them, put the hocks in a pan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, drain and then proceed normally with the next step.
- Drain and rinse the hocks, then put them in to a pan with all the other ingredients, add cold water to cover the hocks, and bring to the boil.
- Simmer the hocks for about 2 hours, partially covered with a lid, by which time the meat should be tender and coming away from the bone. Take the hocks out of the stock and let them cool a little on a carving board before you slice or chunk up the meat, discarding fat, skin, cartilage and bones. Leave the stock to cool in the pan while you eat.
So life got in the way again and this recipe is later than planned. It’s worth the wait though, as it is a delicious use for left over roast lamb. I’ve made shepherd’s pie a number of times before but always with minced lamb. This recipe uses left over roast lamb (in my case it was slow roast shoulder of lamb but roast leg would work equally well) and was a delicious alternative.
1 tbsp oil
1 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped into discs around 1cm thick,
Leftover roast lamb, chopped in to bite size pieces
1 tbsp plain flour
Handful of frozen peas
200ml lamb stock
1 tsp tomato puree
Good splash of Worcestershire sauce
Mashed potato to top (For two I use two good-sized baking potatoes and prepared in the usual way)
Salt and pepper
- Pre heat the oven to 200C (180 fan).
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Once hot add the onions and carrots and saute until the onions are soft and the carrots have softened.
- Add the lamb and cook for a few minutes.
- Add the flour and stir through.
- Add the stock, peas, tomato e, Worcestershire sauce and seasoning. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add a little more water if the mixture is too dry or flour if the gravy needs thickening. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired.
- Transfer the mixture in to an oven proof dish and spread the mash potato on top. Scratch the surface of the potato with a fork.
- Bake until the potato is browned and the gravy is bubbling round the edges (around 30 minutes).
I don’t know about you, but one of the things I love most about cooking is that moment when the stress and worries of the day just melt away. Whether it be in the therapeutic stirring of a risotto or just the shear concentration and enjoyment of following a new recipe. For me there is something therapeutic about food and cooking. There’s nothing more relaxing than curling up with a new or old favorite cookbook, getting lost in the kitchen in the cooking process and the smells or sitting down with a warming bowl of comfort food.
After repeated talk of chickpea and chorizo stew on twitter I decided it was about time I tried it. I had also just purchased Joanna Weinberg’s How to feed your friends with relish, which includes a recipe for this dish. The only down side is that the recipe in the book serves 25! However I discovered that Essex eating has scaled the recipe down on his website to feed 4-6 – find it here. I cooked the recipe tonight after a particularly hectic day at work and was not disappointed. The smells of this stew bubbling away on the stove were divine and the taste was literally bursting with flavours. We have half the recipe in the fridge ready for a quick meal tomorrow night and I have been led to believe that the flavours will improve! If you haven’t tried this dish by now (& provided you like chorizo) I urge you to give this recipe ago.
It’s night like these that leave me feeling inspired and determined to try new recipes more often. Maybe some time soon I’ll scale down the recipe in the same book for cottage pie with chorizo, which feeds 40!
Do you have two blackened bananas sitting in your fruit bowls just crying out to be turned into banana bread? Yes, then this is the post for you.
Every year in the UK we throw out 6.7 million tonnes of food, most of which could have been eaten. 40% of this is fresh fruit and vegetables (and bananas are in the top 5 fruit and veg we throw away). These facts are just a few of the facts on Love food, hate waste campaign website. The website is jam packed with ideas and tips for reducing waste and saving money as well as lots of great recipes for using up leftovers.
I’ve blogged in the past about some of the ways I reduce waste which as a nice side effect also saves money. For example making the most of a chicken, meal planning and using this as a basis for a shopping list and freezing leftovers. There are also a growing number of cook books on the market about making the most of the food we buy. The basic principle most of these book encourage is buying the best quality food you can afford and making sure you get the best out of it and don’t waste any. One such book is The new English Kitchen by Rose Prince which is full of tips and recipes to help you get the most of the food you buy. It covers everything from baking your own bread, making your own stock, cooking with cheaper cuts of meat and the principle of making food in to more than one meal. Another similar book is The thrifty cookbook 476 ways to eat well with leftovers by Kate Colquhoun. These two books aren’t full of mouth watering colour photographs of the recipes but instead they are packed full of great advice and recipe ideas and the authors passion for food and making the most of it are evident.
The other day I had a very sad looking fruit bowl, a couple of blackened bananas and a few apples that had seen better days. So I decided to turn the bananas in to banana bread and the apples combined with a few cooking apples I stewed and turned in to a crumble. For the crumble topping I used a mixture of the left over topping (stored in the freezer) from making the blueberry muffins, porridge oats and broken up pecan nuts. The crumble was delicious served with some natural yogurt. The banana muffins were also very tasty and a great nutritious treat to add to our lunch boxes. Kate gives a basic banana cake recipe in her book and lists a few variations. I have adpted the recipe by halving the amount of sugar in the original recipe. I like mine with mixed spice and chopped nuts to give it plenty of flavour and the nuts give a bit of texture. I have made it as a loaf and as muffins and I love both. Two delicious treats from one neglected fruit bowl.
Adapted from The thrifty cookbook
2 bananas, past there best, the blacker the better. Mashed with a fork.
130g Self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
55g very soft butter
50g caster sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 tsp mixed spice
- Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line a small loaf tin, about 22x12cm. Lining with parchment paper to make the cake easier to remove.
- Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix together and combine well with a fork. Depending on how mushy the bananas are, you might need to add a dessertspoon of warm water or milk to give the mixture a thick dropping consistency.
- Put the whole lot in the loaf tin and bake for 35-40 minutes. If the cake gets too brown on top, you might need to cover it with a piece of foil for the last 5 minutes or so.
- When a fine metal skewer or piece of raw spaghetti poked into the centre comes out clean the cake is done. Let it cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen them and turn the cake out on to a wire rack to cool.
- Alternatively, you could spoon the mixture into a muffin tray lined with paper cases, in which case reduce the cooking time to 15-20 minutes.
I’ve been meaning to make a roast chicken (leftovers from Sunday lunch) and pesto pizza for some time and tonight I finally got round to it. It was definitely worth the wait! Sorry about the poor picture of one lonely slice but in our eagerness to try it I forgot to take any pictures until it was nearly too late! Pesto makes a delicious pizza sauce and a nice change from the classic tomato sauce.
Chicken and pesto pizza
For the dough
makes 3 pizza’s or 1 pizza and a focaccia to go with it
325ml warm water
5g dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil (I usually use extra virgin for breads/pizzas)
500g strong white bread flour
1-2 tsp salt
For the topping
shredded leftover roast chicken
ball of mozzarella cheese
- Place all the dry ingredients in a food mixer (if using) and fit the dough hook to the mixer head.
- Put the mixer on low speed (2 for KitchenAids – consult the manual for other mixers) and slowly add the liquid ingredients to the bowl.
- Once all the ingredients are combined leave to knead for 3-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and springs back when prodded.
- If you don’t have a mixer place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the liquid to the well and use a wood spoon to mix until it is too difficult and then use your hands. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and springy.
- Leave to rise until doubled in size (around 1 to 1.5hrs).
- Preheat the oven to 250C or as hot as the oven gets.
- Gently knock the air out of the dough.
- Remove a third of the dough and on a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into the desired shape size.
- Spread a layer of pesto over the dough, leaving a 2cm boarder around the edge.
- Scatter over the shredded chicken pieces.
- Top with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in a hot oven for around 1o minutes or until the crust is golden.
I’ve wanted to cook a chicken noodle soup for some time. As I’ve mentioned before though I don’t cook a lot of oriental dishes. A few things have put me off cooking a noodle soup before, such as believing the recipe would involve a lot of oriental ingredients that I would have to buy for one dish (fish sauce, pickled bamboo etc), that it would take me ages to cook and then I wouldn’t like the end result (I didn’t like the noodle soup I chose in wagamam) and I don’t like coriander! However I am glad I tried this recipe that I found in Leith’s Simple Cookery. I think it is a little over simplified so any suggestions to make it more authentic without over complicating it (or involving pickled bamboo or coriander) would be welcomed. I’m thinking along the lines of replacing the sweetcorn with some other veg but not sure which. The soup element of this dish does have a really nice taste with a bit of a kick to it (from the chilli and the ginger) so I don’t think I’ll play around with that too much. All in all a simple week night dish (which in my house at least is a bit different to the usual pasta I serve!).
Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from Leith’s Simple Cookery
800ml Chicken stock
1 tbsp root ginger, finely grated
1 red chilli, finely chopped (I used a dried chilli as that was all I had).
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 portions of vermicelli noodles, cooked according to the packet
cup of frozen sweetcorn
100g cooked chicken, shredded
1 tbsp soy sauce.
1/2 tbsp thai fish sauce if you have it (or if not available use extra soy sauce – as I did & as recommended by the original recipe).
- In a saucepan bring to the boil the stock, ginger, garlic and chilli. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- add the cooked noodles (drained), sweetcorn and chicken to the pan. Add the soy sauce, thai fish sauce (if using) and season with salt and pepper to taste. (I only added pepper as soy sauce and the chicken stock have enough salt in for me). Return to a simmer for a few minutes.
- Ladle in to bowls to serve.
As promised below is the first of the two dishes I cooked to using up leftover chicken. I only started roasting whole chickens sometime last year, so I have fairly limited experience and so far the leftovers have been turned into nacho’s or mixed with pesto and pasta (both great weeknight meals). Nacho’s are a rare treat so pasta and pesto usually won out, so I felt it was time I expanded my range of recipes.
I often thought of adding the chicken to a risotto but never quite got round to it. After reading Donna Hay’s Simple essentials Chicken, I decided to try a risotto inspired by one of her recipes (Baked chicken, lemon and pea risotto). Her’s used uncooked chicken breasts and was baked in the oven, however I have tried a baked risotto before (a Bill Granger recipe – one of my favorite chef’s no less) but it failed to win me over. A baked risotto takes roughly the same amount of time as the usual method but has the convenience of not requiring you to stand over it stirring. However for me the end result is not as good and I’ve grown to quiet enjoy the stirring! and it’s quiet therapeutic too. I’ve been known to ring my mum and catch up whilst cooking a risotto before! After a particularly hectic day at work on Monday – 30-40 minutes in the kitchen (and all that stirring) was exactly what I needed to unwind. The finished dish was delicious and very spring like.
Chicken, Lemon and Pea Risotto
Inspired by Donna Hay
small onion, peeled and thinly diced
stick of celery, thinly diced (optional)
1 garlic glove, peeled and thinly chopped
zest of half a lemon
150g Arborio rice
Good splash of dry white wine
Approximately 600ml Chicken stock
Good handful of frozen peas
100g shredded cooked chicken, white, brown meat or a mixture
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
handful of parmesan cheese
- Heat the stock in a small saucepan.
- Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot add the onion and celery and sweat (with the lid on), stirring occasionally until soft but not brown (5-10 mins).
- Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for a few minutes, again stirring frequently.
- Add the rice and turn up the heat. Stir to coat the rice (from here on you need to stir much more frequently to stop the rice sticking or burning and also to release the starch to make it deliciously creamy).
- You should notice the rice become translucent and at this point you need to add the wine and continue to stir.
- Once the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add the first ladle of stock and turn the heat back down to medium. Keep stirring.
- Once this ladle of stock has been fully absorbed by the rice, add another ladle, stir and repeat until the rice is cooked (try it – is it soft with a little bit of bite left? Yes – then move on to the next step, No – add more stock).
- Add the frozen pea before the last couple of ladles so they have time to cook.
- Once the rice and peas are cooked, remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and chicken. Stir to mix well, season to taste.
- Scatter the parmeson (and a few small knobs of butter if you like) over the top, replace the lid and leave to become oozy/creamy ( few minutes).
- Once the cheese and butter(if using) have melted, stir well and serve.
Over the next couple of days I plan to post the 3 meals I have made from one 2kg free-range chicken.
I love chicken for many reasons –
- Its incredibly versatile and there are no end of different type of dishes you can produce.
- It is a healthy lean meat – so long as you don’t eat the skin!
- It’s easy to cook in a variety of ways and doesn’t take hours to prepare.
- Cooking a whole bird is really economical – I got 3 main meals and 2 lots of sandwiches for 2 adults from a 2kg bird that cost £8.
- I simply enjoy the taste!
This weekend I roasted the chicken quiet simply – I squeezed the juice of half a lemon over the bird and put the 2 halves of the lemon in the cavity and roasted the chicken. We were out walking the day I roasted the chicken and got back later than planned, so I kept the accompaniments simple – frozen veg and mashed sweet potato – but when time permits I love roasted potatoes, carrots and parsnips.
I have used the left overs to cook 2 main meals – Sunday – chicken, pea and lemon risotto (inspired by a Donna Hay recipe) and tonight I made a simple chicken noodle soup (from Leiths Simple Cookery). We also had chicken sandwiches yesterday (flat breads with pesto chicken) and today (simply on wholemeal bread).