Monday, 16 January 2017

Spicy Chicken Salad

This dish is something I've been making and tweaking for years.  It started off as a Vietnamese chicken salad with poached chicken breasts and a spicy dressing.  Over the years the recipe evolved to using thighs and baking the chicken then using the dressing as a marinade and here is where I am now.

Nothing authentic about it; in a way it's like a Vietnamese chicken salad meats caramel chicken mash up; sorry for the mish mash of influences.

Most of all though, it tastes great.  The harshness of the garlic and chilli are mellowed out by them being cooked.  The chicken thighs are much juicier and flavoursome than the poached breasts but benefit from the oven cooking to give them flavour and cook out some of the fat.  The freshness is still in the dish from the salad.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Venison and Chestnut Stew

When the weather is chilly outside, I often look to my slow cooker for something delicious, hearty and filling.  Venison may not be the most obvious choice but I bought some wild venison from my local supermarket.  Some people get very squeamish about eating it presumably because deer are prettier than cows?  I don't.  We have several deer parks in the UK and deer are a pest in many areas, especially Scotland.  I also can't see a better life to lead than a completely wild one.

That said, venison is a lean, delicious meat but not a cheap one.  This is why I bought cheap pieces of venison for slow cooking and also had the idea to include chestnuts.  I've included chestnuts once or twice in stews before and if you've not tried it, I urge you to.  They add a textural difference and a delicious, sweet note, they also make 300g of expensive venison into 3 portions.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Chicken and Vegetables with Sticky Honey and Ginger Sauce

I decided to do a chicken and vegetable stir fry which was more veg than chicken.  Sometimes it's great to have a small amount of meat in a dish, it's a great way to make it a bit healthier and count towards your 5 a day.

This dish contains a whopping 170g of lovely vegetables, more than 2 of your 5 portions a day.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Quick Cassoulet

Ok, ok, natives of the South of France will be hollering and calling me names, saying this is "inauthentic".  I know, I know but this was inspired by trying to make something with all the delicious flavours of cassoulet but without slaving away at it for hours.  It is meant to be something possible to make at the end of a work day for 1 or 2 people not the "feeding of the 5000" that a good batch of proper cassoulet can be.

And do you know what?  Part of me is feeling pretty robust about this because it tasted bloody good.  So good in fact that I ate the whole lot (oops) but it does reheat pretty well if you can resist...

I don't suggest the duck or goose fat to be obtuse, it's a nod back to the duck or goose confit you would have in a traditional cassoulet and adds a really lovely flavour.  I also have loads of goose fat in my freezer from Christmas dinner, I mean loads.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

What's in season in January?

So the Christmas decorations are finally down.  The festive food is away.  There is no need to be downcast though because there are lovely ingredients in tip top condition right now.

Monday, 2 January 2017

So you think you can't afford to exercise?

I used to say this to myself when I was younger that "exercise is expensive" and something I couldn't afford.

This is one of many excuses people give for not exercising and it's a really bad one.  Here are 14 top tips to keep down the cost of exercise.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Prawns with Quick Pickled Cucumber

I hadn't made quick pickled cucumber for a while but it is absolutely delicious in a salad like this or accompanying a stir fry.  This is a sensational, light starter but you could make it more substantial by adding more vegetables or noodles.

I love the mixture of the soft, tangy pickled cucumber, the gentle spicing from the pickle and sweet chilli sauce and the hot prawns and crunch of peanuts.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Leftovers Soup

When I was a child, I used to really look forward to having turkey soup a the end of the Christmas celebrations.  My Mum used to make stock from the bones and it would just taste fantastic.  I never realised she was being thrifty.  I tend to have my leftovers soup a little earlier in the Christmas period but it is still just as delicious.

I've included chestnut stuffing in mine but you could include any sausagemeat based stuffing or miss it out completely.  Of course you could go the whole hog (sorry, bad pun) and use leftover vegetables as well.  I don't because leftover vegetables aren't quite so nutritious and if there is any soup left they won't be pleasant after another reheating.

Friday, 23 December 2016

20 Ways to save money on food

Christmas is nearly here and before the credit card statements come through, I wanted to share some frugal tips which don't feel all that frugal and may be worth keeping in mind over the holidays.

Make the most of your leftovers!

Poultry like chicken or turkey are brilliant to use up as leftovers.  I always make stock from the carcass and often make a pie in the days to come out of the leftover gravy, stock, meat and some vegetables.  It's also fantastic in curries.  Another top tip is to freeze the cooked meat in gravy or thickened stock to make a pie later on.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Slow cooked lamb curry

This is a cracking frugal recipe which you could adapt to what you have available.  It makes the most out of quite a small amount of lamb.

If your lamb is on the bone, cook it in the curry bones and all and take them out later (if you like) as this improves the flavour.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Chestnut and Mushroom Soup

I'd recently bought some cooked vacuum packed chestnuts and I had some chestnut mushrooms in my increasingly dwindling fridge stocks so an idea came to life to combine these most seasonal of ingredients.

The flavour of mushrooms is great but the slippery texture in a soup isn't ideal unless you combine it with something starchy.  I'm not a fan of potato in soups but I love using other vegetables to thicken soups and stews and why not chestnuts?

Chestnuts are a bit of a faff to prepare from raw which is why I used pre cooked ones here but they are bang in season and make this delicious, filling and thick soup which is a delight of wintery flavours and also smooth as silk.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sea Bream Rice Bowl

Christmas and all of its rich food is approaching.  I think it's great at this time of year to be a bit more pared back in our food choices, perhaps not so many fatty meats and deep flavours so we appreciate the tastes of Christmas all the more when they come?  In some cultures it is traditional to fast until Christmas Day, I'm not proposing this as an idea but eating fish with spiced flavours does feel "right".

There is something I love about raw Asian style dressings like this added after cooking, the flavours are so fresh.

If you prefer you could cook fish fillets instead of baking the fish on the bone but personally I always think fish cooked on the bone is a bit better in flavour.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Stopping to rest before Christmas

I've had an imposed time of rest and reflection over the past few days.  After working too hard, sleeping too little and having a few issues at home, I eventually fell ill.  What at first seemed like a sudden and severe cold, led me to the out of hours GP seriously unwell.  Before I get jokes, no it wasn't Tinsel-itis.  Groan.

Christmas stress

When the GP handed me my prescription and told me to "rest and stay indoors." I admit there was part of me that thought  "Ok, well maybe a little bit of rest..." but soon realised I had no choice I was in so much pain and exhaustion.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Eat Your Greens Soup

Even with the addition of bacon, this soup is far too green to not be doing you some good.  This was an invention to use up a pack of spinach and baby kale which was approaching its use by date.

And a delicious invention it was!  Normally in spinach soups people add potato for some body but the only body and thickness in this lovely soup comes from the huge amount of leaves blended up.