Special Fried Rice

Trying to find time to cook when you have a baby can be quite taxing. I’ve found I now try to make double the amount of something, and put half in the freezer. I made a double batch of the lentil loaf yesterday and I’m looking forward to an easy go of dinner for a couple of weeks!

This special fried rice is an economical take on the perennial favourite Chinese take-away.

The budget-busting key to this, is frozen vegetables. I buy the broccoli-cauliflower-carrot mix in 1kg bags, and separate them, so they’re more usable – I tend to find them good as ingredients, but not so good as a side dish! Just get all the veg out of the freezer in the morning before you go to work; they’ll be defrosted beautifully by the time you get home, and throw in a wok. I tend to split the florets of broccoli and cauliflower down a little further so they’re more bitesize.

Ingredients:
100g cooked chicken, pork or beef
150g rice (dry weight), cooked and cooled
50g frozen broccoli
50g frozen carrots
50g frozen cauliflower
50g frozen peas
50g frozen/tinned sweetcorn
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove
2-3 tbsp soy sauce or oyster sauce
1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water

Method:
1. Microwave the egg in a ramekin for 90 seconds on medium. Turn it over, and microwave for a further 30 seconds. Leave to cool before chopping into half centimetre dice.
2. Heat a wok or large saucepan to a medium high heat, and add the vegetables, garlic and egg. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the vegetables are hot and then add the rice and soy or oyster sauce.
3. Stir-fry for a few minutes longer until the rice is heated through and the sauce is even distributed.
4. Serve hot with extra sauce or chilli sauce is desired. Makes two large portions.

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Chicken, Chickpea & Butternut Squash Tagine

Apologies for the hiatus: having a child appears to swallow more time than I had really noticed! This tagine is quite quick, easy to eat with couscous and if you dice the chicken and butternut squash to about the same size as the chickpeas, easy to eat with a spoon and one hand! (If, like me, you find that your offspring requires food usually at the same time you do!)

Ingredients:

1 chicken breast, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced
10 pitted green olives
8 dried apricots, chopped
500ml chicken stock
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger

For the couscous:
150g couscous
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

Method:
1. Add all the ingredients apart from the stock to a large casserole pot and dry fry for a few minutes.
2. Add the stock and bring to the boil, stir well and turn the heat down to a simmer.
3. Let the tagine bubble away gently for 40 minutes until reasonably well reduced and serve over the couscous.
4. For the couscous: Pour boiling water over the couscous until just covered. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to stand for 10-15 minutes. Fluff up and add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Nanny’s Rice Pudding (Or, Something Approaching A Close Approximation In My Mind..)

My Nan’s rice pudding sits firmly in my memory as something my Dad can’t replicate. He speaks ever so fondly of it, and how she would basically throw the ingredients into the baking dish without measuring, and it always came out thick and stodgy with a marvellous skin on top, a burnished bronze of milk and sugar, caramelised into chewy scrumptiousness.

To my mind, rice pudding should always be stodgy and thick. None of this runny rubbish. I want to be able to cut it into pieces the next day, and eat it with my fingers. If hot and fresh from the oven, I want to put a blob of jam on top and squish it into the tightly packed rice grains.

This is not my Grandma’s rice pudding. That, was runny, and gloopy, and done in a double-boiler. And is also precisely what my mother thinks rice pudding is. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was as a child, when Grandma said we were having rice pudding for pudding, and I had visions of Nanny’s rice pud in my mind. When the bowls appeared from the kitchen, it was runny and thin. I was quite addled: I had no idea what it was, really! It certainly didn’t seem to be what I knew rice pudding to be. Twenty-odd years later, I still can’t stand runny rice pud. I like it thick and stodgy, not too sweet, with a few sultanas/raisins studded in it, speckled with cinnamon and nutmeg.

 

Nanny’s Rice PuddingΒ (Or, A Close Approximation Of)

Ingredients:
7.5oz or 9oz pudding rice (depending how thick you want the pud!)
2.5 pints milk (I use skimmed, but feel free to use whichever you prefer)
5 tbsp artificial sweetener (I use sucralose, as I don’t like the taste of aspartame)
2.5oz sultanas/raisins (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 150C.
2. In a large, deep baking dish, place all the ingredients. Stir well.
3. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 2-2.5hrs, depending how stodgy you want the pudding. Stir after the first half an hour and keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Serves 4-6, depending on your innate ability to scoff rice pudding! πŸ˜‰

Turkey Chilli

turkeychilli

To me, turkey mince is highly underrated. It is quite versatile, as well as being relatively inexpensive (for meat, that is). We don’t eat a lot of meat in our household: I was a vegetarian for 7 years and still don’t really enjoy eating much of it, and it is quite expensive. That, coupled with the sketchy provenance of the meat we can afford leaves me feeling slightly queasy. That said, having shopped at one of the discount-end supermarkets for more than a couple of years, their meat does all come with the Red Tractor symbol, which does make me feel slightly more reassured.

Onwards. Turkey chilli. This has joined my growing repertoire for turkey recipes. I maintain that you can swap chicken for turkey in pretty much everything, as long as you’re aware that sometimes turkey can taste, well, very turkey-ish, if that makes sense but swapping beef for turkey is something that’s taken me a little longer to adjust to.

I got the inspiration for this chilli from Life As A Strawberry. With a few tweaks according to what I had in the cupboard, and personal preference, and we had a Slimming World-friendly chilli that was really quite terrific. I’m skeptical of turkey in chilli, having had it fail quite spectacularly before, but I think we’ve overcome our differences to make something really quite tasty.

Turkey Chilli

Ingredients:
450g/1lb 5% fat turkey mince
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup sweetcorn – frozen or tinned
1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chilli powder
salt and pepper to taste
boiled/steamed rice to serve

Method:
1. In a large saucepan, brown the mince until it is starting to brown and catch on the bottom of the pan. Given the lack of fat in this, it’s a good idea to get some caramelisation going to deepen the flavour of the chilli. Once the mince is sticking a bit, and browning, add the onion and garlic and turn down the heat.
2. Add the cumin, coriander and chilli powder and stir well. Add the tomatoes, sweetcorn and kidney beans, and stir.
3. Bring to the boil, bubble for a few seconds quite furiously and then turn down to a simmer. Place the lid on the saucepan and leave to plop away happily for at least half an hour, stirring every now and again.
4. Serve with piles and piles of fluffy rice if you’re on Slimming World; or with anything else you fancy if you’re not constrained by dietary issues. Also, cheese is quite tasty on top, too. πŸ˜‰

Red Lentil Dal

So, I’m sort of back. Again. Had to take a few months out as I was adding to our family! Little Tommy was born the middle of November, and has taken up much time and lots of love. πŸ™‚ Just about getting back on my feet now, and thought this would be appropriate for a ‘Return to Cooking and Hopefully Blogging’ post.

Red Lentil Dal

1 cup red lentils
3 tbsp coconut milk powder (mixed with the three cups of water below)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
5 nuggets frozen chopped spinach
3 cups (750ml) water
1 cup (250ml) water extra
(If you don’t have coconut milk powder, use three cups of thin coconut milk)
Lemon juice to taste


Add everything but the last cup of water to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or longer (6-8 hours on low), depending how broken down the lentils are. Add as much or as little of the extra cup of water as you like to thin the dal. Salt to taste.

Excellent as a soup – just add a quarter of a cup of extra water to each portion.

Greek-Style Spinach & Lemon Rice

Greek-Style Spinach & Lemon Rice

Ingredients:
6oz basmati rice
6 ‘nuggets’ frozen spinach
Β½ onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 lemon wedges
12 fl oz boiling water
Β½ tsp salt
pepper and nutmeg to taste
1 tsp olive oil

Method:
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and soften the onion and garlic. Add the spinach until it defrosts.
2. Add the rice and coat with the spinach and oil and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the nutmeg and/or pepper as desired.
3. Add the water, salt and lemon wedges and stir well.
4. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer with a tightly fitting lid for 10-15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
5. Leave to stand for 5 minutes off the heat with the lid on and fluff before serving.

Sweetcorn, Bacon and Potato Chowder

Another bank holiday weekend. Another excuse for lazy lunches, long line-ins and scrumptious food. I think this has become one of The Spouse’s favourite recipes, so much so that he has in fact made it by himself in recent weeks. I was most impressed (he enjoys food, but not cooking it!).

This is a bit of a cheats recipe. It tastes far too nice to be this easy. And it is easy. I like things to be uncomplicated with maximum flavour for very little money. And it is really very diet-friendly.. which is to be praised after the week I have had shovelling almost anything into my mouth with very little regard for what it is. This shall change, come Monday..

Ingredients:
450-500g potato, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
250g sweetcorn, frozen or tinned (drained)
125g smoked gammon, fat trimmed off and diced into 1cm cubes
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock

Method:
1. In a large saucepan fry off the onion and diced gammon with a little of the stock.
2. Add the potato, sweetcorn (if frozen) and the rest of the stock.
3. Bring to the boil; turn down and simmer on a medium-low heat until you can mash a piece of the potato against the side of the pan. (If using tinned sweetcorn, try and add it about 5-10 minutes before the potato-smashing stage!)
4. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then use a hand blender to blend approximately a third of the soup – or to personal preference.
Serves 2 for large lunches in food flasks and an extra bowl; or serves 4-6.
For vegetarians: replace the gammon with with veggie bacon or red pepper and a teaspoon of smoked paprika.

Fish Finger Tacos

Goodness.. I’ve been absent longer than I had hoped. I blame this cold I’ve had for the last week; it makes it very difficult to have any inspiration regarding appetite and food. Thankfully, I’ve recovered somewhat, and this evening, in a fit of laziness and nostalgia, decided to have fish finger sandwiches.

Sort of.

This is the spiced-up version (although strangely, not with spices!)

These are more of a twist on an old favourite, and whilst everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the orange logs of fish from the freezer, this is probably our favourite these days.

 

Fish Finger Tacos (Soft Tacos)

Ingredients:

10 fish fingers
ΒΌ iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
Soft tortilla wraps (smaller ones actually work better, as opposed to the ones you buy for sandwich wraps)
Mayonnaise
Lemon juice
Black pepper

Method:

1. Grill or oven bake your fish fingers.
2. Smear some mayonnaise on your tortilla (to taste, of course – totally optional!)
3. Layer plenty of shredded lettuce on top, plonk between 2 and 4 fish fingers in your wrap – depending on how hungry you are!
4. Splash a little lemon juice and black pepper to taste and fold in half.
5. Devour quickly, whilst the fish fingers are warm and the lettuce is crunchy.

I am well aware this is more of a ‘how to’ than a recipe, but I thought it bore sharing. Especially as it’s one of our favourites that we don’t have all that often these days due to the dieting! This lot probably should feed 4 with a few extra vegetables in the mix, but in the true fashion of things, this feeds the two of us.. though this evening I was left thinking perhaps I had just slightly overdone it.. πŸ˜‰

Until next time, dear readers..

Spaghetti with Tomato, Caper & Lemon

spaghetticaperslemon

I’ve been quite lazy today. I woke up very early, but didn’t get up until quite a lot later; I gave some gardening a half-hearted effort, and left the rest to my husband; I went and did the shopping, but we didn’t really need much.

I made this pasta, which I really liked, but didn’t really put a lot of effort into. And for something that tasted quite so nice, I think I’m glad I’ve been lazy today. I’m going to spend my spouse-less evening knitting, with my feet up on the sofa and large cup of chai.

One of the best things about The Spouse not being here, is that I get to have dinner that includes pasta. This means a little experimentation. Today, I got some baby plum tomatoes whilst we were shopping as I really fancied something a bit different and they’re like an addictive sweet for grown-ups.

Go and make this. Feel like a kid; feel simple; feel lazy.

Spaghetti with Tomato, Capers and Lemon

Ingredients:

125-150g pasta
100g baby plum tomatoes, halved
2 tsp capers or finely chopped green olives
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 slice/chunk of lemon or 1 tbsp lemon juice (I keep lemon wedges in my freezer for drinks, so one of those 16ths was just right for this!)
10g Parmesan/Italian hard cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Cook the pasta according to your preferences: I cook mine in the microwave for 8 minutes, which cooks it to my liking.

Whilst the pasta is cooking, throw everything else into a small pan on a high heat. Keep it moving whilst the pasta is cooking. If it starts to stick, add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.

When the pasta is done, combine the pasta and sauce with an additional 4 tbsp cooking water. Add the cheese and salt/pepper to taste.

Eat!

Serves 1-2.. depending on how hungry you are.. as always.

Easy Peasy Cheesy Mac ‘n’ Cheese

macncheese

 

Today has been a real mixed bag: I completed a piece of data cleaning at work and finally managed to produce some useful numbers; I successfully navigated my dental appointment with the help of my husband and some tablets from the doctor; and I made this, after a short nap and a perusal whilst lying in bed revealed that macaroni cheese does not have to be complicated, or involve time-consuming flour and butter mixtures that require constant attention.

Easy Peasy Cheesy Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Source: http://www.shemakesandbakes.com/1/post/2012/05/shells-and-white-cheddar.html

Ingredients:
100g pasta shapes – macaroni, penne, whatever’s handy and not too large really!
250ml milk – I used skimmed, as this is what we have at home, and there were no dire consequences of using milk with a really low fat content.
8 tbsp grated cheese – I used mild cheddar, as that’s what I keep in the freezer. Next time I might use Parmesan/Italian hard cheese, but I’d only use 3 – 4 tbsp in that case.

Method:
Put the pasta and the milk in a small to medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat on your stove. Stir reasonably constantly – you’ll need to stir more often as the pasta cooks and soaks up the milk. I thought the change between ‘pasta in milk’ to ‘pasta in sauce’ happened pretty quickly, so don’t take your eyes off it. It should take somewhere between 15 to 20 minutes.

Once the pasta has absorbed the majority of the milk, and it looks like a white sauce and the pasta is cooked al dente, remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese. Stir well to combine until the cheese has melted and you’ve got a pan of creamy, gooey, cheesy pasta.

I added half a teaspoon of mustard and a dash of black pepper, and then topped it off with some garlicky hot sauce.. feel free to add whichever condiments float your boat. It’s your mac ‘n’ cheese.

I’m going to be making this again. Possibly frequently. I married a man that doesn’t eat pasta, so having a recipe like this on hand is an absolute godsend for a pasta-holic like me! I would say this makes a good-sized serving for one person. Or at least, a person with a good appetite.

Enjoy! (I certainly did..!)