Saturday, 31 January 2009

Home Cooking

As I have not done a lot of cooking from scratch this week, I thought I would share with you what I have been eating. This week has been busy, more due to social outings rather than work. On Tuesday evening I went out with colleagues from work for Liz's leaving do, we went to the Crown Tavern in Clerkenwell Green, which does really good food. I tried the Lentil and Spinach Burger, which came with blue cheese and a field mushroom and was really delicious, it was also really good to mix with people outside of work as I haven't done up to now.

I also went back to the Real Greek in Covent Garden with my father for dinner on Wednesday and we had the Souvlaki sharer, which was a chicken kebab, a pork kebab, and a lamb kebab with chips. This was also really tasty. I really should remember to take photographs in restaurants!

The only meal that I really did any cooking for this week was on Thursday. I had a Beef and Ale Pie from Tesco out of the freezer, and then made Goats Cheese and Mashed Potato Gratin from the Food Network to go with it. This really complemented the flavours of the pie and was really easy to make. I had one unfortunate problem though, as the goats cheese I had is covered in ash, the potato went a little grey when I added the goats cheese! It still tasted good though!

Friday's dinner was not exactly a success! I went to the Cinema with friends to see Frost Nixon which was really good. We were originally going to Frankie and Bennie's for dinner, but when we got there we were told we would have to wait 35/40 mins for a table, so we decided to try McDonald's, we were desperate, and it was closed. We eventually ended up in the Cinema Foyer where I selected a Large Hot dog, this is what arrived:

It had us in stitches for ages and was definitely a challenge to eat. I also had some Nachos with Cheese Sauce, and just the fact that the cheese sauce stayed melted even when cold, kinda scared me! I'm not sure I'll be trying it again.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Nigella's Sesame Noodle Salad

I had a lovely day yesterday, this week is Liz's last week at work as she starts a new job on Monday, so we treated ourselves to lunch in China Town. We went to one of the All You Can Eat Buffets and it was really nice. I love being able to try a little bit of everything.

I seem to have been eating a lot of Asian food recently, on Saturday I tried Sesame Noodle Salad from Nigella Express, and it was delicious. I'm not sure that Noodle Salads actually exist anywhere in the Far East but its definitely a good invention! I didn't have any bean sprouts, so I used green beans instead, and the recipe called for garlic oil, which Nigella makes herself, so I substituted vegetable oil and a crushed garlic clove. It still worked well and tasted really good.

Sesame Noodle Salad (adapted from Nigella Express)

1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
100g/3½oz smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp lime juice
1 garlic clove, chopped

For the salad
125g/4oz mangetout
125g/4oz green beans
150g/5¼oz beansprouts, rinsed
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into small strips
2 spring onions, finely sliced
550g/1lb 3½oz ready-cooked egg noodles
20g/¾oz sesame seeds
4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

For the dressing, whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a bowl or jug.
For the salad, place all the salad ingredients into a bowl.
Pour over the dressing and mix thoroughly to coat everything well.
To serve, sprinkle over the sesame seeds and coriander.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Baked Risotto with Lemon, Prawns, Courgettes & Basil

This risotto didn't go quite according to plan. It is a very simple recipe but I always find risotto a challenge. The basic recipe is from Olive Magazine and I added some raw prawns to it as they needed using up, but I didn't add enough liquid. The original recipe was for 12 people and I found it really difficult to estimate how much to make for one, so unfortunately some of the rice burnt slightly and stuck to the bottom of the pan. It was still tasty, just not very creamy, and made a huge mess of my pan!

Baked Risotto with Lemon, Courgettes, Prawns & Basil (adapted from Olive Magazine March 2008)
(Serves 6)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
250g courgettes, sliced
250g arborio rice
30 raw prawns
600ml vegetable stock, simmering
1 lemons, zested and juiced
50g Gran Padano, grated
a small bunch basil, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Heat the oil in an ovenproof dish with a lid and fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Stir in the prawns, courgettes and rice, coating everything in oil and cook for a few more minutes. Add the stock, lemon juice and cheese, cover and bake for 30 minutes.
Serve sprinkled with the lemon zest and basil.

I also had a delicious breakfast on Sunday morning, this week it was Scrambled Egg with Smoked Salmon on an English Muffin.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Menu Plan Monday

This weeks Menu Plan Monday is basically ready prepared food from the freezer, so there is not much cooking from recipes involved. I am also going to my parents at the weekend where my Mother will cook! I am slowly emptying out my freezer but its a long process! I never realised how much food you could pack into such a small space!

Lunch: Scrambled Egg, Smoked Salmon, English Muffin
Dinner: Courgette, Lemon, Basil and Shrimp Risotto, Garlic Bread

Lunch: Celeriac and Apple Soup, No Knead Bread
Dinner: Thai Fish Cakes, Noodles in Oyster Sauce, Veggies

Lunch: Cheese and Onion Quiche, Salad
Dinner: Out for Liz's leaving do

Lunch: Out, Lunch in China Town
Dinner: Out, Dinner at The Real Greek

Lunch: At a conference with Lunch Provided
Dinner: Beef and Ale Pie, Goats Cheese Mash Gratin, Cabbage and Veggies

Lunch: Pasta Salad with Pesto, Sun dried Tomatoes, Feta, Garlic and Cracked Pepper
Dinner: Out, Mexican I think

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Indian Salmon Cakes

Yesterday lunchtime I received a call from my sister asking if we could make dinner that evening instead of tonight. My sister and I usually make dinner for each other, or go out for dinner on a Sunday night. This is mainly because its the one night of the week where we both wouldn't usually do anything and it means we can meet up and have a chat. So it was a good job I had made four of these Indian Salmon Cakes.

I left them in the fridge overnight to harden as I have had huge problems in the past with fishcakes falling apart as they cook and these were perfect, just the right amount of spice. We had crisps and dips to start with and she had my last Lemon Souffle for pudding and I had an Apple Tarte Tatin. As I knew we would be having a starter and pudding, I didn't add any carbohydrate to the main course, but they would be nice served with basmati or pilau rice.

Indian Salmon Cakes (adapted from Olive Magazine March 2008)
Serves 2

1 large sweet potato, about 300g, peeled and cut into small chunks
Indian curry paste (I used Balti paste, about 1 tbsp.)
180g tin skinless and boneless red salmon
a large handful breadcrumbs
a small bunch coriander, chopped
4 tbsp natural yogurt

Boil the sweet potato for 5 minutes then rinse in cold water. Drain really well and mash with the curry paste. Flake the salmon. Add to the potatoes with the breadcrumbs and half the coriander, mix and form into 4 cakes. Chill for 30 minutes or overnight.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the cakes for 3 minutes each side until golden and warmed through. Sit 2 cakes per person on some wilted spinach or watercress and serve with natural yogurt.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Lentilles-Saucisses a L'Ancienne

I decided after the week I had had, that I would treat myself yesterday evening. So on my way home from work I popped into Marks and Spencer and bought a bag of hand cooked crisps, some tzatziki and two lemon souffle. For the main course I had chosen something lovely and warming, Lentilles-Saucisses a L'Ancienne or Toulouse Sausage and Lentil Casserole. I had a bottle of Rioja already waiting for me at home.
The sausage and lentils were a delicious combination. I buy my Toulouse Sausages from The Ginger Pig at Borough Market, and they are really meaty, you can see the chunks of pork in them, as well as having the perfect amount of garlic and fat and with the tomatoes and lentils this was just what I needed.

Toulouse Sausage and Lentil Casserole

400g can green lentils
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp tomato puree
200 ml red wine
400 ml water, approximately
6 Toulouse or other favourite sausages, weighing about 750 g in total
large bunch of flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oven to 200°C
Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish, add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes.
Add the thyme leaves (stripped from the stalks), bay leaf, tomatoes and puree, mix together and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat, add the lentils and red wine, stir well, then pour in enough water to cover. Place the sausages on top, cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
Stir in the parsley just before serving.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Hoisin Pork Stir Fry

Yesterday was chaotic to say the least. On my way to work there were problems with the tube, this led to a half hour walk in the rain and I was 25 minutes late for work. We then had a class of 11 year old kids with learning difficulties in to look at maps and photographs and they ran riot! With staff shortages and other problems I didn't have lunch until 2.30pm! So by 5.30pm I was exhausted and glad to be going home, especially when I knew I had Hoisin Pork Stir Fry waiting for me.
The recipe came from Cory at Culinary Cory, and I took his advice and marinated the pork first so it took on more of the flavour. I also used red pepper instead of green as that's what I had, used sugar snaps instead of celery as I don't like it, and I left out the chilli sauce as I didn't have any. I served it over a bed of egg fried sticky rice and it was delicious, definitely a recipe to use again later.
I try and use chop sticks whenever I eat an Asian meal, even if I'm at home. The practice is always useful so that I don't embarrass myself when I eat out! I was amused to read Maki's post at Just Hungry on chopstick etiquette and I think I am definitely getting better.

Hoisin Pork Stir-fry (adapted from Culinary Cory)

1 ½ cups egg noodles, uncooked
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 – 1 ½ lb pork, thinly sliced
1 cup red peppers, cut into strips
1 cup sugar snap peas
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, Hoisin sauce, ginger, chili sauce and garlic until well combined. Add the pork and marinate for an hour or overnight.
Bring the vegetable oil to medium high heat in a wok or high-sided fry pan. Saute the pork, while stirring constantly, in the oil for 4 – 6 minutes or until just undercooked.
Add the sugar snaps and red peppers to the wok, and cook for an additional 2 – 4 minutes.
Reduce the temperature to medium heat and add the Hoisin mixture to the wok. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.
Serve on top of the egg noodles or rice.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Spinach and Wensleydale Pasties

This week has been hectic so far, so quick and easy meals have been called for. On Wednesday evening I used one of my freezer staples, Spinach and Wensleydale Pasties. This recipe was given to me by an ex colleague when I had some puff pastry I needed to use up after making pies. The recipe is really simple, but it makes for a deliciously filling meal. I haven't put any measurements as I do the whole thing by eye.

Spinach and Wensleydale Pasties

Wendsleydale cheese, or you could use feta or Cheshire cheese
nutmeg or black pepper
puff pastry
1 egg or some milk

First wilt the spinach, either in a pan with a tiny bit of water in the bottom of by pouring a kettle of boiling water over the spinach in a colander.
Then squeeze as much of the water as possible out of the spinach and mix with crumbled cheese.
Grate nutmeg or grind some black pepper into the spinach mixture.
Lay out the puff pastry and cut into a largeish rectangle, I use jus-rol's ready rolled puff pastry and cut the sheets in half to make one two puffs, and spoon the mixture on to half of the strips leaving a border around the mixture.
Brush the egg or milk around the border and fold the rest of the pastry over so that the filling is covered and the border sticks together.
Egg wash the tops of the pasties and put them in the oven for 15 mins at 200C or until golden brown and serve with salad.

I have also been out for quite a few meals this week. On Monday my Mother came down to London to help me look at flats, so we went to Yo! Sushi in St Pancras Station for lunch as she really wanted to try the restaurant with the conveyor belt! We had a really good meal and for pudding we shared a cheesecake which was to die for, seriously it was really good, so good I had to take a picture. She also really enjoyed the sushi and the seaweed salad which we tried.

In the evening we went to The Real Greek in Covent Garden for dinner before the theatre, which was also really good, we shared some meze to start with and then had kebabs, chips and salad. We went to see Carousel at the Savoy Theatre, which I definitely recommend it was funny in parts but also very weepy and moving as well. I also went out for Pizza on Tuesday night, so all in all its been a busy week so far!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Menu Plan Monday on a Tuesday!

Menu Plan Monday again! As I had lovely day out yesterday I didn't have any time to Blog, so its Menu Plan Monday on a Tuesday! This weeks cook book recipe is the Noodle Salad from Nigella Express which I failed to have last week.

Lunch: Eggs Benedict, Salad
Dinner: Being cooked for by my sister

Lunch: out with my Mum
Dinner: out with my parents

Lunch: Tartiflette and Salad
Dinner: Out with my Father before the Theatre

Lunch: Lunch provided
Dinner: Spinach and Wedsleydale Pasty, Salad

Lunch: Pasta Bake and Salad

Lunch: Quiche and Salad
Dinner: Indian Salmon Cake and Rice

Lunch: Noodle Salad (Nigella Express)
Dinner: Toulouse Sausage and Lentil Casserole

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Swordfish Curry

Whilst I don't think this is strictly a Malaysian dish, it did come out of a Malaysian cookbook and it was really flavoursome. Yesterday was basically a write off, I felt very ill after going out the night before, and whilst I had a really good night out, and gained a copy of Eddie Izzard stand up (Thank you Paul!), I was definitely paying for it the next day!

I had originally planned to have this curry on Friday night but ended up eating out. I had ham, egg and chips, and so instead this became Saturday's dinner. I am not very tolerant of chilli in food, so I lowered the amount of chilli from 6 chillies to 2, and used ordinary green chillies instead of Thai red ones, and with hindsight it could have done with maybe one more green chilli, but the mixture of spices worked really well. This is also my cook book recipe this week.

Swordfish Curry (adapted from Australian Women's Weekly Malaysian Favourites)
Serves 4

6 fresh red Thai chillies, chopped coarsely
2 cloves garlic, quartered
10 shallots (120g), chopped coarsely
1/2 cup (2) sticks of fresh lemongrass, coarsely chopped
5 cm piece of galangal, quartered
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 2/3 cup (400ml) coconut milk
1 2/3 cup (400ml) coconut cream
2 cups (400g) jasmine rice
4 swordfish steaks

Blend or process the chilli, garlic, shallot, lemon grass, galangal, curry powder, coriander, turmeric and half of the oil until the mixture forms a paste. I added more oil as it took more to form a paste.

Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan; cook paste, stirring, over a medium heat about 3 mins or until fragrant. Add fish sauce, coconut milk and cream; bring to a boil, reduce the heat an simmer uncovered for about 15mins or until the mixture has thicken slightly.

Meanwhile cook the rice in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender.

Cook swordfish in a griddle pan until browned on both sides and cooked as wanted.

Divide the fish amongst plate and top with the sauce, sprinkle some spring onions or crispy onions over the top if desired.

I have been asked this week why all my recipes are serves 4, when I only cook for myself. This is mainly because I either make more than one serving and then freeze the rest, or because I estimate quantities from larger recipes and really have no idea how much I use!

I also would like to share this morning's brunch. I went to a Pilates class this morning and came back absolutely starving, so I made Eggs Benedict which was absolutely delicious.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

A Trio of Curries

Yesterday after a busy afternoon of flat viewings I wanted something flavoursome for dinner, so I got out my cookbooks and tried to decide on a curry to cook. I live in a very multicultural area of London. There is a huge mix of Eastern European, Afro-Caribbean, Asian and Turk and Cypriot populations, this is fantastic for me as it means that all I have to do is walk for about 5 minutes in any direction and I can find shops selling all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients, plus they seem to be cheaper than the supermarkets. It is one of the things I love most about living in a capital city.

So I popped round the corner last night and came back with 5 Naan Bread, which actually resemble the Naan Bread you get in a restaurant, a tin of Ghee, and some Gram Flour in anticipation of dinner. I decided on a combination of three curries.
The first was Bombay Potatoes, I already had a spice mix for this which came out of a packet made by the Bhaji Man, and I added some tomatoes for some extra colour.
The second was Fried Okra with Garam Masala, which was pretty much the same as I had last week with lentil curry.
The third was Malai Chicken Curry from my Slimming World Curry Feasts book, which sounds like a travesty but I tend to ignore the slimming aspect and it really does have some good recipes in it. This was all served with one of those yummy Naan Breads.

Malai Chicken (adapted from Slimming World Curry Feasts)
Serves 4

1 tsp crushed cardamom seeds
2 tsp mild curry powder
700g Chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp tomato puree
150g pot of natural yoghurt
150ml chicken stock

Melt some ghee in a saucepan on a medium heat. Add the cardamom and curry powder and fry for 10-15 seconds.
Throw in the chicken and fry on a high heat for 5-6mins. Add the chilli powder and turmeric and season well.
Mix together the tomato puree, yoghurt, and stock and pour into the pan. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook gently for 15mins or until tender.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Merguez Sausage Baked in a Bag

I have recently been reading a book called Cooking for Mr Latte by Amanda Hesser, it is a food critics memoirs, and answers the question what do food critics really eat, as well as telling some amusing stories along the way. At the end of each chapter there is a collection of recipes, some of which sound really interesting. The first one I tried out was her Beans and Tomatoes with Vinaigrette, I teamed it with celeriac mash and merguez sausages baked in a bag with mushrooms and courgettes. Despite my worries about hot and cold on the same plate, and the sauce from the sausages with the vinaigrette it actually went really well together.

There are lots more recipes in the book that I want to try, and as it is set in New York it has given me some ideas of restaurants to try and lovely food shops that I can stare in the windows of, when I am there in February, even if I can't bring any of the food back with me.

Beans and Tomatoes with Vinaigrette (from Cooking for Mr Latte by Amanda Hesser)
Serves 4

Sea Salt
1 pound green beans
3 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper

Fill a medium saucepan with water. Season generously with salt. Bring to a rolling boil, and add the beans.
Cook until tender on the edges but still quite crisp, about 4 mins.
Drain and rinse under cold water. Dry on a towel. Cut the beans in half, then combine in a bowl with the tomatoes.
Whisk together the mustard and vinegar then add the olive oil a little at a time until it thickens. Pour the dressing over the beans and tomatoes and toss. Season generously with black pepper and toss again.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Nasi Goreng

As part of my Christmas present my Mother made me up a huge food parcel full of foodstuffs that I either, usually can't afford, can't find, or interesting and unusual things she found in various shops.
One of the items was a box of the dry ingredients for Nasi Goreng, the box included: rice, herb paste (bumbu), ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce) and fried onions, and this I made for my sister when she came for dinner on Sunday night.

It was really simple to make, the only fresh ingredients it needs are 2 diced chicken breasts, 1 chopped leek and 1 diced red pepper. I added some courgette and some okra as they were slowly going off in the bottom of my fridge, and basicaly you just boiled the rice and chucked everything in a wok. The box says that it serves 2-3 people, this is, I suspect, if you are serving 2-3 very large rugby playing men! We had enough leftovers for both my sister and I to take for lunch the next day.

A Trip to the British Museum

On Sunday I felt like something satisfying for lunch after running errands in the morning, and to prepare me for the British Museum in the afternoon, whilst I love the British Museum, it is huge and a bit daunting. I settled on Beans with Cheese and Basil. I have had this recipe bookmarked for ages and never seem to have got around to making it. I didn't have any canellini beans so I used butter beans instead, I think that I probably needed to adjust the cooking time as butter beans are bigger and they weren't as soft as they could have been, but over all it was a very filling meal.

I then wandered to the British Museum, where I specifically wanted to look at the Roman galleries. Unfortunately the Roman Architecture gallery was closed but the Roman and Greek Life gallery made up for this. The gallery had a section about household implements, and I was surprised to discover that many of the cooking implements that they had we would recognise in out own kitchens today, including a muffin tin.

They also had some beautiful mosaics in the gallery, one of the ones that stuck out was this fish and shellfish design.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Wiener Schnitzel and Polenta with a Tomato Sauce

Saturday was a fairly quiet day. I was at work all day and then I went to the new Tesco Metro near Highbury and Islington Station to buy a few bits. I found some interesting things there, as they have a lot of ranges that are usually restricted to the larger stores. I managed to get some Lemon Grass Krupuk, which are Indonesian Prawn Crackers to go with last night's dinner. and some creamed coconut from the Cook's Ingredients Range, which also includes lots of obscure ingredients not usually found in such a small store.

For dinner I wanted to try out the Polenta I got from the Farm Shop a couple of weeks ago. I have never tried Polenta before so I followed this Creamy Polenta recipe from The Merlin Menu and it was, ok, it had sort of solidified whilst I was taking the pictures, so I wonder if I didn't add enough water or if that's just what it does! It went well with the wiener schnitzel and tomato sauce and I had loads of leftovers which I have put in the fridge and am going to pan fry and have tonight with prawns and asparagus. I then served it with ribbons of carrot and courgette which I lightly sauteed.

The basic tomato sauce is a really simple but delicious recipe that I got from my ex-boyfriend, who cooked really good Italian food. I add cream or creme fraiche to it as I like the extra flavour it gives.

Basic Tomato Sauce
(Serves 2)

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cans of chopped or whole plum tomatoes
2 tbsp of cream or creme fraiche

Sweat the onions over a low heat in a frying pan and when they have softened add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the tomatoes and turn the heat down and leave it to cook, stirring occasionally for about 20mins.

When most of the liquid has evaporated, tip the sauce into a food processor, blender or use a hand blender to blend the sauce until smooth.

Then add the cream and serve.

You could also add herbs to the sauce if you wanted to.

Menu Plan Monday

I always think Menu Plan Monday comes around really quickly, and I still really enjoy doing it. Thank you so much to Laura of Organizing Junkie, for inspiring me to keep going. It really does work, I waste much less food and save money in the process. I discovered over Christmas how many cookery books I actually own. Let me tell you its a lot, but I never really seem to use any of them, rather I use recipes from the Internet found on people's blogs, on foodgawker and picturing_food etc. So I have made a New Year's Resolution if you like, to use at least one recipe from one of my cook books each week. That's not too hard a task so hopefully I shall stick to it. This weeks cook book selections are Noodle Salad from Nigella Express and Swordfish Curry from Australian Women's Weekly Malaysian Cookbook.

Lunch: Beans with Cheese and Basil, Salad
Dinner: Nasi Goreng with Okra

Lunch: Leftover Nasi Goreng
Dinner: Baked Shrimp Scampi and Roast Asparagus on Polenta

Lunch: Egg Mayonnaise and Ham Sandwich
Dinner: Merguez Sausage Baked in a Bag with Mushrooms, Veggies

Lunch: Noodle Salad (Nigella Express)
Dinner: Curry, Sesame Potatoes, Fried Okra, Naan Bread

Lunch: Fiorentina Pasta Bake, Salad
Dinner: Smoked Haddock Fishcake, Salad

Lunch: Courgette, Feta and Olive Rice Salad (Good Food) with Vinaigrette
Dinner: Swordfish Curry with Jasmine Rice (Australian Women's Weekly)

Lunch: Pasta with Tomato and Mascarpone Sauce
Dinner: Lentil and Toulouse Sausage Casserole

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Quick Cheats Lasagne

On Friday night I was due to go and look at two flats. I am currently in the process of looking for somewhere to buy, as I am so fed up of living in my tiny rented bedsit. It is the most stressful process I have ever been through! Unfortunately one viewing was cancelled before I even got to the Estate Agents and the other one, we arrived and it had no power, so I had a grope around in the dark but couldn't see much, hopefully I am going to go back and see the flats on Wednesday. I also took a trip to Zavvi in Piccadilly, who are going into administration and so are selling off all of their stock really cheaply, and managed to get the complete Morse for £31 and Porridge Series 1-3 for just under £15! I was a very happy bunny and now I have plenty of DVDs to watch!

As I knew that I was going to be late home on Friday I decided to have something quick and easy for dinner, Cheats Lasagne! This came totally out of my head as I had some left over meaty ravioli filling from a cookery course I did ages ago. This I had with a salad and a nice glass of red wine.

Cheats Lasagne

I took the tub of meaty ravioli filling and mixed it with about half a jar of tomato and mascarpone pasta sauce.
I put a layer of the meaty sauce in the bottom of my oven proof dish and covered it with lasagne, I didn't cook the lasagne sheets first as the packet said I didn't need to.
I then put a layer of fresh cheese sauce on top of the lasagne and repeated the meat sauce, lasagne, cheese sauce layers until I filled up the dish and was left with a layer of cheese sauce on the top.
I grated some cheddar cheese on top and put it in the oven on about 200c for about 40mins, until it looked golden on top.

Although I don't usually like lasagne or in fact anything with mince in it, I actually really enjoyed this. I think because the ravioli filling had been liquidized it meant that the meat sauce didn't have the grainy texture that I usually hate about mince.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Green Bean Beef

On Thursday night I had planned to have smoked haddock fish cakes for dinner and then I realised that I was only working until 6.30pm so I could spend more time cooking dinner and so I opted for something more complicated but just as quick (the smoked haddock fishcakes came out of a packet for Sainsburys!). Whilst I was at the farm shop last week I got some stir fry beef with the idea of making some Asian inspired dishes, and I came across this one on Livejournal's community Picturing_Food. The community does what it says on the tin, it is people taking pictures of food and then sharing them with other people in the community. It has provided me with some really good ideas for meals.

This is Green Bean Beef made by Pita of No Sin Sans Sugar. I served it on a bed of egg fried sticky rice, and the sauce for the beef was absolutely delicious, so thank you Pita!

I made far too much sticky rice and so I decided to use the leftovers for lunch the following day in my new Bento Box. I broke my small square snack bento box last week by dropping it on the floor, not a good idea! So I went to the Japan Centre on Piccadilly on Wednesday to try and buy a new one. They didn't have any square ones, so I was seduced by a small yellow and white really cute looking box. It has two layers, and the top layer has a divider and a Tupperware top so I can take just the top layer for my snack on late nights, but I also wanted to try and see how much food I could fit into it. The answer is quite a lot!

The bottom layer has egg fried sticky rice with a pig full of soy sauce, the top layer has three meatballs, and some sugar free carrot kinpira from Maki over at Just Bento, the green chick is some hoi sin sauce for the meatballs and then I have Chocolate and Strawberry Koalas in the side car. This was the right amount of food and kept me full until dinner time, its amazing how so small a box can carry so much food!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Chicken and Tuna

I have had a busy couple of days getting back into the swing of things at work, but yesterday was my day off. I always have Wednesdays off as I work Saturdays and long days on a Monday and a Thursday. I really enjoy having a day off in the middle of the week, it means that I can do things like go to the Bank and Post Office without standing in horrendous queues and, when I went to Oxford Street on Wednesday morning it was practically dead, there were no queues anywhere!

A colleague and I also often meet up for lunch on a Wednesday as well. This week we went to Yo! Sushi, as they have a 40% Off offer on at the moment, and we had a delicious meal, among some of the dishes we tried were Mushroom Miso Udon, Prawn Yakisoba, and Marinated Salmon and Dill, the only dish we were disappointed with was the Crunchy Tofu, which was a bit soggy. But overall this was delicious and cheap with the 40% Off. It was also much better than our last Yo! Sushi experience when we froze in St Pancras Station!

I was due to have noodles for dinner as well, but after eating noodles for lunch I decided that I couldn't face eating another plate full so I went with mash to accompany my tuna steak. I also wanted an Asian feel to my meal and so I came up with Soy Tuna with Wasabi Mash. The recipe comes from BBC Good Food Magazine online which I absolutely love, its such an easy website to use and navigate around, and has some brilliant quick recipes. The sugar snap peas and courgette were stir fried with a little ginger and some garlic and then drizzled with oyster sauce, and made a delicious side dish.

The night before I tried a variation on Pesto Stuffed Chicken Wrapped in Prosciutto With Pesto Cream Sauce, but instead of stuffing the chicken with pesto I stuffed it with cream cheese, and it worked really well, except I didn't really have any chicken juices for the sauce so instead I added some wine before adding the creme fraiche and pesto. The potatoes were also really tasty, I boiled them the night before and then left them in the fridge over night. I then sauteed them in a pan with some oil and then right at the end squeezed some lemon juice over them.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Lentil and Okra Curry

Yesterday was my first day back at work after Christmas and also my first late night. I knew it was going to be a long day and, boy did it feel like it, so I picked something simple for dinner. I had some lentil curry which I made a while ago in the freezer, and to that I added some Okra, and served it with a home made Naan Bread.

When I returned to London on Sunday I headed to China Town and to the Loon Moon Supermarket on Gerrard Street, to pick up some Okra for this dinner. I also came home with some Lemongrass and 12 Okra, for just over £1. I love wandering about in China Town with all the fantastic sights and smells, the amazing array of veg they have outside the supermarkets and the whole crispy ducks hung up in the window. I treated myself to Balance and Harmony: Asian Food by Neil Perry in the sales, and I am really looking forward to trying out some the recipes and spending more time in China Town scouting out ingredients!

The Okra I just cut in half and then fried in some oil with a little garam masala and turmeric, and then added them to the lentils.

Naan Bread (from Leiths Cookery Bible)

450g strong plain flour
1 tbsp salt
15g fresh yeast
1 tsp sugar
90-150ml warm milk
2 tbsp sesame oil
150ml plain yoghurt
1 egg, beaten

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.

Cream the yeast with the sugar, then mix with the milk, oil, yoghurt and the egg.

Mix the yeast mixture into the flour to form a soft but not sticky dough. Knead for 5 mins or until smooth.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Cover with greased cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Turn the dough on to a floured board and knead for another 5 mins.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into an oval measuring about 12.5 x 20cm.

Place on a greased baking sheet. cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 15 mins or until 1 1/2 times the original size.

Preheat the Grill.

Brush the bread with water and grill on each side for 3 mins or until well browned. Serve warm.

Menu Plan Tuesday

Oh my goodness I am so late with this! No Menu Plan Monday last week as I was at home with my family and I didn't do any cooking, and I have been so busy so far this week that although I've planned I haven't had time to blog about it! This weeks Menu Plan Monday in association with Organizing Junkie:

Lunch: Out
Dinner: Porcini and Thyme Risotto with Salad and Garlic Bread

Lunch: Cheese and Ham Quiche (Weightwatchers) and Salad
Dinner: Lentil and Okra Curry with Naan Bread

Lunch: Greek Pasta Salad
Dinner: Chicken stuffed with Cream Cheese wrapped in Prosciutto with Pesto Cream Sauce (a variation on this)

Lunch: Out at Yo! Sushi
Dinner: Tuna Steak with Noodles and Veg (either Soba noodles with seared tuna & soy mirin dressing or Tuna Tataki Noodles)

Lunch: Soup and a Bread Roll
Dinner: Smoked Haddock Fishcake and Salad

Lunch: Sticky Fried Veggie Rice with Meatballs (Bento)
Dinner: Lasagne and Salad

Lunch: Tortelloni with Pesto and Broccoli
Dinner: Not Decided yet, maybe a Curry or Oriental Night

Monday, 5 January 2009

New Year Mushroom Risotto

I have had a weeks break from blogging as I've been up North with my family. Unfortunately we have no Internet access in the house, so no blogging! I have instead watched a lot of James Bond films, spent way too much money in the sales, finished knitting a scarf for a friend and done some more of my tapestry, which will eventually be a cushion, so I have been busy!

In between all of this I have done some cooking, I made several loaves of bread and completely forgot to take pictures of any of them! I am lucky in that when I go home, my mother does all the cooking for meals, so I get to play around and try new things. I had another go at the No-Knead Bread from the New York Times, which worked much better this time, and I made some more canapes for a lunch party we had last Friday. These were simple again, I made some more Muhummara, with herbed pitta crisps, asparagus wrapped in Parma ham, and hard boiled quail eggs with lemon mayonnaise. They went down very well, and I am definitely getting better at making Canapes.

On our way south we stopped at Moorhouse Farm Shop at Stannington Station to buy meat to put into the freezer, The staff in the shop are always friendly and really helpful. I wanted some beef stir fry meat but they didn't have any out, so the butcher cut a lovely piece of rump steak in to stir fry pieces for me, it will do about 4 portions! I also got 2 chicken breasts and a steak and ale pie, as well as lots of veg, which are so much cheaper than in London.

My first meal when I came back to London was a mushroom and thyme risotto. I didn't really fancy any meat, I think after eating so much meat during Christmas, I had a meat overload so this week, meals are mainly fish and vegetarian. I used to be one of those people who didn't understand vegetarianism, now although I could never become vegetarian (I don't think I could live without bacon sandwiches!), I can see the value of eating vegetarian meals and it is really enjoyable to eat veggie a couple of times a week. This is an oven baked risotto so really easy to make. I had the risotto with a rocket and curly leaf salad and some garlic bread.

Oven Baked Porcini and Thyme Risotto (from Good Food Magazine March 2006)
(Serves 4)

25g pack dried porcini mushrooms
handful of fresh mushrooms (I used button because that's all the supermarket had)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp thyme leaves, plus extra to serve, or dried thyme
350g risotto rice
750ml hot vegetable stock
100ml white wine
handful grated parmesan, plus shavings, to serve

Put the mushrooms in a bowl, pour 425ml boiling water over and leave to soak for 10 mins. Meanwhile, heat the oil in an ovenproof pan and fry the onion for 2 mins until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another min.

Heat oven to 190C. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and chop. Add the mushrooms, thyme and rice to the pan, then stir well. Strain over the mushroom liquid, pour in the stock and wine and bring to the boil.

Season to taste, cover and bake for 25 mins or until the rice is just cooked and all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the grated parmesan, check the seasoning and sprinkle with extra thyme leaves and parmesan shavings to serve.