Sunday, 31 August 2014

Quick Fish Stew

Fish is something which is fantastic for one.  So much great fish is available frozen, it's quick to defrost, tasty and a great source of Omega 3.

Quick fish stew

This uses raw prawns and fresh mackerel fillets (bought frozen).  Mackerel can be a tough sell for some people because of it's inherent 'fishy' flavour, especially if bought less than super fresh but the joy with buying frozen is it is always fresh and mackerel can stand up to robust flavours.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Insalata Caprese was the inspiration for this dish but this is not really a faithful recreation.  I rarely have a pot of basil sat on my shelf, (hugging it in wistful melancholy or otherwise.*)

Pesto, however, I do have, as I love tomato and pesto soup and it is great as a short cut to basil flavour with a slightly longer shelf life (try stirring it into pasta sauces for depth).  Or perhaps I don't possess Isabella's green fingers for keeping basil plants alive (or interesting fertilising techniques).

Insalata Caprese

Monday, 25 August 2014

Sticky Chicken and Peanut Salad

I seem to be inspired a lot by Asian food recently.  I was wondering why but then realised what I'm craving is quick, easy to cook tasty food.  What part of the world does that better?  Also the takeaway I always crave are Asian foods.  While driving home tonight I was tempted to drive onto the takeaway but then decided to make something instead.

This is a dish more inspired by ingredients than authenticity.  The result was a delicious mix of sweet, sticky chicken with a hint of spice with crunchy vegetables and the ultimate in fast cooking noodles.  It took less than 10 minutes to cook, there is no way I could have ordered a takeaway quicker and felt fresh and healthy.

Sticky chicken salad

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Baked Feta

Feta cheese is one of my favourite cheeses.  It's great both raw and cooked but cooked is different.  It somehow enhances the salty, tangy flavour.

Many years ago, when in Greece I had a starter of baked feta cheese.  It arrived pretty much like this and I've always wanted to recreate it at home but have never found a recipe.  This is off the top of my head, trying to remember flavours from 15 years ago so, probably very inauthentic.  It does feel like a celebration of the last dying days of summer.  Great for when you would really love a barbecue but the weather is not encouraging and it would be great as part of a buffet.

Feta cheese doesn't completely melt but it does soften.  You're looking out for a softer, almost spreadable consistency, it won't go like a fondue.

Baked feta

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


Laksa is a spicy soup popular in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.  A very long time ago I went travelling in that part of the world and it still brings back warm memories.

There are as many different types of Laksa as you like.  Some have more curry flavours, some more spicy, garnishes vary from egg, to coriander, to pineapple!  My version is simplified and easy to make from ingredients you can find in a UK supermarket, although when I do next go to a Chinese supermarket I'm going to try some shrimp paste in the mix and try galangal rather than ginger.

You don't have to include turmeric, not all recipes do but for me it reminds me of Singapore, that meeting point of so many foods and cultures where the Indian influence merges with Malay, Chinese and European.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Chicken Tray Bake

Tray bakes are I made this for my son and I.  If you're hungry this is a decent portion for one, alternatively, cut any leftover chicken off the bone, then reheat the mix and serve with couscous for lunch.

Chicken Tray Bake

There is something lovely about chickpeas and chorizo.  Maybe I'm harking for Spain?  Anyway, if you like the look of this, also have a gander at my fish with chorizo recipe which is another cheeky little dish.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Tomato Salsa

Tomato salsa from a jar is perfectly fine but it has been made in a process with lots of heat treatment meaning nutritionally it's not quite as good as fresh.  Tortilla chips and salsa feels like a treat, like something naughty but if you make it from fresh you have lime juice, tomatoes, peppers; all great sources of vitamin C, vitamin A, fibre (there is a massive amount of vitamin C in sweet peppers for example, more than citrus fruits.)

So effectively rather than having something with a sweet spicy sauce that's devoid of anything good, you're effectively having your tortilla chops with a fat free salad, except it doesn't feel that way and that's kind of cool.

I do have to apologise for my photo.  We are getting to that time of year that unless I cook and eat early in the evenings, I'm restricted to artificial light.  Boo hiss.  Not my favourite way to take photographs at all and always a compromise.  Still, I am sure this will become a new staple food so I will be making it again and photograph it during daylight hours when I have the chance.


This makes a ramekin full which was just right for me and the fresh flavour of it is better properly fresh.  If you do have any leftover, keep in the fridge, the next day, lay some tortilla chips out on an oven proof plate, top with the salsa and cheese and grill (keep a close eye) until the cheese has melted for some awesome nachos.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Prawn and Chilli Linguine

I love prawns.  It might seem decadent to cook raw prawns 'just' for yourself but you can get some pretty good value raw prawns in the freezer section.  Look out for when they're on offer and they're a great thing to have as a standby meal which feels anything but a standby; it even feels pretty luxurious.

I've been cooking more pasta without tomato based sauces recently; like my mackerel pasta.  The great thing about them is they taste so fresh and light.  Perfect for the last days of summer and they're so quick to make, they're ideal for eating after a hard session with an exercise DVD (damn you Bob Harper!)  Let's face it, we're all busy people.  When you have a child to put to bed, exercise to do, the last thing you want to do is spend ages preparing a meal.

By including the courgette, you cut down on the carbs a bit and introduce a vegetable.  The courgette is very lightly cooked so it still has a bit of bite which works well with the al dente linguine.  I like it that way but if you prefer it softer, just cook it a little longer.  The chilli adds a touch of zing without being massively hot and the wine lends a slight hint of acidity.  So all very simple but a lovely balanced flavour.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower cheese is like a great big milky cuddle.  We grow up for our first 6 months of life living on milk and I think there is nothing more comforting than a great big bowl of milky, cheesy goodness.

Cauliflower cheese

Monday, 11 August 2014

Saag Paneer

Saag paneer or spinach and cheese curry is one of my favourite things to eat.  I'm not a vegetarian but forget all ideas on vegetarian curries being only for sandal wearing sack cloth dressed hippies (before I carry on, perhaps I should point out some of my best friends are vegetarian and none wear sack cloth...)  Anyway, there is something uniquely satisfying about paneer in a curry.  It's a great source of protein and it absorbs flavours fantastically.

Cheese in a curry if you've never tried it might sound strange but paneer is not cheddar.  If you've ever tried halloumi, it's a similar idea.  It holds it's shape, doesn't melt and, although I keep meaning to try it but never have, it's even possible to make at home.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Greek salad

Can a salad be a main course?  Hell yes!  Cheese makes a salad and feta cheese is one of my favourites.  It's a great source of vegetarian protein but it tastes great too.

In my post about fish with chorizo, I was harking back to holidays in mainland Spain.  This makes me think of holidays when I was a child.  I love Greek food.  It is much maligned but I don't think any culture has such a natural feeling for how to subtly enhance good fresh food.

It's been a long time since I've been to Greece, maybe 15 years, but making Greek salads is a little bit of my history and happy memories of when I was younger.  Although I can't replicate eating outside in the warm breeze with the sun setting on the beach in the background, that's how I feel when I eat it.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Fish with Chorizo and Chickpeas

This was inspired by memories of Spanish evenings with glasses of Fino or Manzanilla, nibbling away at plates of chorizo spiced mini stews served as Tapas.

I love Spanish evenings, the chat, the warm evenings, the flavours everything.  Here is a little reminder of holidays and a smile in your heart if the weather is less than lovely outside.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Sticky Duck Lettuce Wraps

My sticky duck wraps were inspired by the fact I love Peking Duck but there's no way I'm ordering it from a Chinese for one.  I would eat the whole thing and then probably feel a bit ill!

What I wanted was something tasty, crispy but not deep fried and with a sweet sticky sauce.  You can substitute the sauce for hoi sin if you prefer but the great thing about this sauce is it's from common store cupboard ingredients and, by making it in the microwave, you don't get issues with catching and burning like you would with this quantity in a saucepan.

It is an extravagance putting the oven on for one person but sometimes when the mood takes you, it takes you.  You can always be frugal and cook other things in the oven at the same time and any left over duck is lovely with cold noodles, shredded carrot, cucumber and radish drizzled with sweet chilli sauce for lunch.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Mackerel and chilli pasta

Fresh mackerel is a lovely but much underrated fish.  It's a great source of Omega 3 but unless you get it straight from the sea, it does have a tendency to have that excessively 'fishy' flavour some people don't like.  I have a solution; buy it frozen.  One of the major UK supermarkets does excellent packs of frozen mackerel fillets for a very inexpensive price and if I'm honest, it's the only reason I go in there nowadays for a once a month / two month shop.  Because it's frozen, it will last for ages so you can make this when the cupboards are pretty much bare and also you know it's always going to taste fresh.

I tend to make my pasta 'sauces' more saucy than this but I also think it's really nice sometimes to have something which tastes fresher and lighter.

Parsley is very easy to grow in the garden or in a pot.  Even the 'growing herbs' you can buy in supermarkets do very well transferred to a border.

If you want some vegetables with this, a good seasonal salad of grated or shaved courgette (zucchini) dressed with lemon juice and olive oil would be nice.