Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Mixed Bean Chilli

I love chilli, I particularly love vegetarian chilli, slow cooked meat chillis, frankly I just love the heat.  What is great about this chilli though is as well as being vegan, it also contains mostly store cupboard and "likely to be in your fridge" ingredients.  It's so cheap as well and freezes brilliantly making it the ideal recipe for when the month is nearly up and your bank balance doesn't look quite so healthy.

You could mix up the beans in this; I would have used pinto beans if I'd been organised enough to soak and cook them (I couldn't find any in cans in my local supermarket.)  Of course you can use dried beans here which would make this even cheaper, just soak and cook them first as I find cooking them with something acidic like tomato if they're not already cooked through makes them a little tough.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Excuses You're Telling Yourself Not To Exercise

I know what you're thinking.  There are reasons why you don't exercise.  I used to have reasons up to the age of 34.  Here are my reasons and why I now realise they were all excuses.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Nuoc Cham

Nuoc cham is a dipping sauce served as a condiment in Vietnam.  It is frankly delicious and sums up that sour, spicy, salty, sweet combo which is so great.

I will give you the recipe here for how to make nuoc cham yourself and also give you a couple of ways it can be used.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

What's in season in February?

February is that time of year UK farmers used to call "the hungry gap".  The season when there was little fresh produce.  Indeed at this time of year, there is little UK grown seasonal vegetables on the shelves.

For the ethical consumer this does provide us with a quandary; of course buy what UK produce there is but with the advent of new farming methods including heated poly tunnels and imported foods, there is still a lot of variety on the shelves.  It's tricky because the environmental consequence of importing foods is not the same for different products.  Some fruits and vegetables can be transported by boat, others have to be air freighted.  The difference in environmental impact from air freighted produce to home grown but in heated poly tunnels to boats.  It's a tricky balance to strike but by boat certainly seems to be the more logical answer.

But before we think of importing foods, there are two great things on my shopping list this month.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Steamed Syrup Sponge Pudding

My son is a fan of a traditional pudding, (he's a middle aged man in a 6 year old's body.)  His favourite things include dishes like apple crumble, sponge puddings, lemon surprise pudding etc. Anyone who wants to steal his heart when he grows up just needs a traditional British recipe book!

In any case, I bought some syrup sponge puddings recently from the supermarket then after we both had one, agreed that I'd forgotten traditional British puddings are actually fantastic, I thought I'd try to make some myself.

Traditionally steamed puddings would be just that, steamed over a pan of water for a long time but this is where a microwave comes in and works a treat.  Obviously you must use microwave safe cooking bowls.  I saved them from the puddings I bought but ceramic ones would also work (but would be harder to turn out, butter them well.)

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.