Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Crammed Cookies, Quinoa and Pantry Putanesca

I have been busy in the kitchen today! The first thing I made was some cookies for my colleagues, as my placement ends on Friday. I like to think they'll miss me. Not least because this is the third batch of cookies I've baked for them. They were a variation on a recipe I've made before, and here is where I'd usually link you to the post about them. But could I find it? Nope. Feel free to trawl back through previous posts if you're that bothered though! The first time I made them they were normal chocolate chip cookies. This time I replaced 25g of the flour with cocoa powder, and used some leftover white chocolate for the chips (I cut it into small chunks). I also cut up a Yorkie bar for chocolate chips as well. I had one, and I wasn't going to eat it. It made up the weight of chocolate chips to the exact right amount. Meant to be, obviously. I didn't have one, but they look and feel exactly how cookies should, chewy and soft in the middle, slightly crisper around the edges. Now, if they were biscuits, that would be all wrong. But that is a topic for a different day.

Look at these bad boys!
Thing two (this is turning into Dr Seuss!). Tea for tomorrow and Thursday. It may seem early to do it, but I like to be organised and prepared. I called it pantry Putanesca as most of the ingredients are likely to be things you will already have in your cupboard, which makes it good for a quick meal. They are: spaghetti (I used fettucine as I already have some. I think tagliatelle or similar would also work- anything long and ribbony!), tinned tomatoes, olives, anchovies, capers, garlic and an onion. All you have to do is fry the onion and garlic until soft, then add everything else and simmer for ten minutes. You can make the sauce while the pasta is cooking, so it really takes no time at all. I tasted a little bit of the sauce, and I have to say, I can't wait to eat it! I love the depth of flavour the anchovies bring to the sauce. It is more than just saltiness, there's an actual flavour there as well. I really don't think you could replace the anchovies with salt. It just wouldn't be the same.
You may observe that there aren't any capers. That may be because I forgot to add them... I'll have to remember to add a sprinkle in each tub before I leave the house!

All ready.

The last of my kitchen quests today was Quinoa Tabbouleh, which is the recipe I actually purchased the quinoa for- although I also used it for  salad. I actually took the time to very carefully chop the vegetables into teeny chunks. Usually I can't be bothered, but I enjoyed it this time as I had plenty of time and didn't feel the need to rush. I liked the dressing as well, as it was slightly unusual. A finely chopped shallot (I used a small segment of onion as I had half a one in the fridge- waste not want now!), lemon juice and cinnamon. I may pinch it for other salads and the like. This time, the quinoa was cooked with a little bit of a chicken stock cube; I cooked it in water last time. I think it did need to be cooked in stock this time otherwise it would have just been lost under the strongly flavoured dressing. However, I will continue to experiment. As well as water and stock, I have an idea of my own...
Look carefully at how neat they are chopped- it may not happen again for a while...


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Beautiful Biryani

I have a great love of Indian food, and this biryani is no exception. I came across it on one of my frequent looks through one of my cookbooks, and instantly decided that it had to go on my menu.

It may seem like a lot of ingredients, which may make it look complicated, but honestly it's not. As long as you are prepared, it's easy. And this particular dish was done in 40 minutes, including vegetable chopping and getting everything out. I actually think I could cut down on the time even more, as the vegetables were very soft. Now, I LOVE overcooked vegetables (strange? Maybe...), but in the biryani they could perhaps have done with a little more bite- but just a little. And not that this detracted from the deliciousness of the dish in any way.

The vegetables I used were sweet potato, courgette, broccoli and cauliflower, but you could use any 'quick cook' vegetable really. The suggested vegetables were courgette, mushrooms, peppers (and perhaps some others that I can't recall!) I also think butternut squash would work well, and I'm sure there are many other vegetables that would as well. Peas were also on the ingredients list, if you can spy a few in there and are wondering why I haven't mentioned them!

The rice and vegetables simmering in water.

This is onions and korma paste, which went on the top. I think this is what everybody thinks Indian cooking should smell like.

I just about managed to get a photograph before the steam overtook the lens! This is after the water had all been absorbed, and sultanas, toasted flaked almonds and yoghurt stirred in. The recipe actually says to use cream, but I didn't use a whole tub, and this way I have lots of lovely yoghurt leftover to eat

I have this again tomorrow- shame!

The final result. It is not what I would call a traditional biryani, but it was mighty tasty nonetheless. The onions in korma paste really stood out amongst the soft, warm pile of rice and vegetables- I would probably do more of them next time! This is the second vegetable biryani I have made, to a different recipe this time. I will make the other one again soon and write about it, then you can see which you prefer...

Cheeky Chicken Salad

I called this chicken salad cheeky, because it wasn't a recipe from a book, but one that I made up. I usually make up a recipe on Friday, but this one cheekily slipped in on a Saturday! It came about because a colleague at work had a big pot of Onken peach wholegrain yoghurt for her tea one day this week, and said that peach was by far the best flavour. Of course, this made me want to try it, so I asked my mum for any recipes she knew that used peach yoghurt. She came up with chicken salad with peach yoghurt dressing, and I came up with the actual ingredients and recipe. The supermarket didn't have the Onken peach yoghurt, but they did have Yeo Valley peach and apricot, so I got that instead. This is what I came up with.

For the chicken element, I just baked a mini breast fillet and shredded it. For the salad part, I had a bag of mixed crunchy salad, and added my own extra to it- dried chopped apricots to tie in with the apricot in the yoghurt, and a big stalk of choped celery. I also cooked some quinoa to add as well. I actually got it for a recipe that I will be having next week, but as I have never had it before I really really wanted to try it. I just cooked it in water this time, as I thought I like to have new ingredients plain the first time I use them as a benchmark for future variations! I'm happy to say, it was very nice, a bit nutty tasting, and the texture was like little pearls popping in your mouth. An odd way to describe it, but it's the best I can do! Anyway, back to the salad. To garnish it, I used the peach and apricot yoghurt, and some flaked almonds which I quickly toasted. I was going to add some things to the yoghurt to make a proper dressing, but when I licked the lid, it was so nice I decided to leave it!

The salad-y bits and bobs.

It just seems to be saying, 'fill me in!'

The quinoa cooking and puffing up nicely

Quinoa close-up. You can see, that just like other grains such as couscous and rice, what at first looks like a rather measly portion, puffs up into something much more substantial.

Just to prove that I did mess it up before I ate it, as usual!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

An Ode to Oats and The Great Gado Gado

If you read yesterday's post, you will know that I promised you a photo of my breakfast. So here it is.

It is Voluminous Oats (you may know them as overnight oats), with sultanas, apricots and toasted flaked almonds. If you search the internet, there are many versions of voluminous oats (which I usually just call vol oats to save time! The one I use cooks the oats, some don't and there is, literally, a thousand different toppings out there. You basically cook the oats in double the amount of liquid ou usually would, and then leave it in the fridge overnight. And if all goes to plan, the oats should swell up and give you a multiplied bowl of porridge! I am curious to try it without cooking the oats, but I can't stop making this combination at the moment, purely because it is so, so filling! I eat mine cold, some people warm their's. Like I said, a million combinations. So Google it and give it a go!
On to The Great Gado Gado. Yes, I had another salad for tea tonight! But they are healthy. It's hot. Why wouldn't you have a salad? Whilst I was eating it, the thought crossed my mind that it would be best described as a fusion salad. The main body of the salad is quite like a traditional English picnic salad: lettuce, cucumber, carrot and boiled egg. But the dressing is sort of Thai/Asian inspired: crunchy peanut butter, soy sauce, honey and lime juice. It doesn't sound like it will work, but trust me, it does. The recipe said to add half to one tablespoon of honey; so to taste, basically. I was going to start off with half and then add more if I wanted, but for some reason I added the whole amount straight away! Not that it mattered. I like the sweet/salty combination in other places- salted caramel, sea salt chocolate etc- so I liked the sweetness of the honey next to the saltiness of the soy and peanut butter. And the zingy lime cut through all of that!
I must confess something though... mine didn't have cucumber in. Oh, I had cucumber in the fridge, but it was from last week and had gone a little but mushy. I was going to buy another on this week's shopping trip, but didn't see the point if I already had some, and didn't take into account the fact of how old it would be by the time I made this salad! To make up for the lack of greenery, I separated a few lime segments from the remaining lime and threw them in. Nice as it was, I'll try and stick to the recipe next time!
My base, sadly cucumber-less.

Even though the eggs were only supposed to be cut in half, I cut mine into segements as it was only for me, and you can't really arrange two halves around a bowl! Plus, it is easier to 'spread out' when you are eating the salad!

I would like to pretend that this is how the salad stayed, but right before I ate it...

... this happened! More variety in each mouthful, that is my excuse!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Fantastically Fruity Couscous

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I am a tiny bit of a dried fruit fanatic. I am also pretty fond of couscous. So I had pretty high hopes for this meal. It is quite simply called, Couscous with Fruit and Nuts.

It may seem quite small for an entire meal, but for some reason, I haven't really been hungry all day! Which is VERY unusual for me. Must have been the amazing breakfast I had. I'm having the same thing tomorrow, and I'll make sure to get a photograph of it. But I digress. The couscous was 'cooked' with vegetable stock, which made for a nice savoury contrast to the sweet fruit. I say 'cooked', because all you're really doing is pouring boiling water (or in this case, stock) over the couscous and leaving it. I love the way that what seems like such a measly amount of couscous can swell into a nice, filling portion of yum! The fruits I used were sultanas and dried apricot. I got a bigger bag of apricot than I planned, but this bag was the same price as a smaller one, and the apricots were already chopped. More apricots to eat, better value for money and less washing up. Can't argue with that! The nut element was toasted flaked almonds. I got untoasted flaked almonds and toasted them myself, because untoasted ones are cheaper. Toasting them didn't take that long, and I saved money again, so it was definitely worth it.
From this...
...to this!

My goodies all weighed out and ready to be added.

The bowl of 'yum' ;)
If you don't like any of the ingredients here, you could easily substitute the sultanas and apricots for other dried fruit and the almonds for other nuts. Even though I like all of the ingredients, I'll still be playing around with substitutions! The one thing I will probably keep the same is soaking the couscous in stock, as it really is a good contrast to the sweet fruit. Maybe I'll vary the stock. Maybe I'll pretend I never typed that and use water anyway like I usually do... no guarantees, but guaranteed to taste good, I'm sure!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Freestyle Friday #14

I think this is the first Freestyle Friday dish that I can actually call a 'dish', or 'recipe'. As in, it isn't just assembling a load of things to make a salad or something. And while that is always good, I am quite proud of this one. Once again, the original vision in my head had totally changed by the time it got to the table, but I don't see this as a bad thing anymore! I would tell you how I got from my orignal idea to what I actually ended up eating, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to be sitting here for hours...

So anyway, this is what I ended up with. A rather nice hash of couscous and red lentils, mixed with my Spicy Banana Chutney, lemon juice and an egg. Garnished with onion crescents. I had planned to serve the egg on top, so after I had cooked the lentils and couscous in chicken stock, in a saucepan, I just broke it on the top and put the saucepan lid on to cook it. Then I remembered I hadn't mixed in the chutney or lemon juice. Whoops. While I was pondering what to do, I realised that when I scooped the mixture out of the saucepan into a bowl, the egg would probably break up anyway. Or at the very least, it would end up skewiff and sideways and not perched neatly on the top. So I mixed it in with the chutney and lemon juice. It was quite nice to come across bits of egg through the spicy chutney and fresh lemon. The best way I can describe the end result, is that it reminded me of pease pudding. Which, as pease pudding is made from mashed lentils, not totally off the mark.

Some more of the motley crew of ingredients.

Just how I wanted them- in the end. Originally I was going to thiny slice and sweat them for a long time. But hey, if you can't try something different on Freestyle Friday, when can you?!

This is what happened when I tried to take a photograph of the egg cooking! You have to be extremely quick to take photos of things that are hot, it must be done before the lens steams up! I got one of the onions though, so I wasn't a total failure.

Hearty and filling, but still summery. Delicious.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Smooth Soup, A Cool Dish from Cuba and A Satisfying Salad

Although the soup I had for tea on Monday and Tuesday wasn't the prettiest dish, what it lacked in looks it certainly made up for in flavour. Especially for a peanut butter freak like myself. The soup really was smooth, even the onions were grated and sauteed with flour to a smooth paste. There weren't many ingredients, basically just onions, milk, stock and smooth peanut butter, so it was quick to prepare. Also, unusually for a soup, it was quick to cook. I didn't time it exactly, but about twenty five minutes start to finish I think. It's therefore perfect if you want a soup on a weekday after work! I love peanut butter, so I was sure I'd like it, but even if you're not as mad on it as I am, I reckon its still worth a try.

Actually, I've changed my mind, I think it looks fabulous. Like a giant bowl of melted peanut butter. Which can only be a good thing.
Tonight I went to Cuba for tea. But only in my head (unfortunately!). I don't cook much Cuban food, so I was keen to give this a go, especially when I saw it had bananas in. The banana was cut into chunks and fried, and then added to cooked rice along with some onions. A fried egg perched on top completed the meal! I don't usually cook fried eggs, as a huge amount of oil is usually needed, but I recently saw a method where a lid is placed over the egg so the yolk and top of the white is cooked by steaming! I brushed the pan with a minimal amount of oil, so while technically it's a fried and steamed egg, I would definitely do it again. The egg was cooked perfectly as well, the white was completely cooked but not overdone, and the yolk had just set a little round the edge but was still runny inside. The combination of the runny part of the egg yolk and the banana was quite strange, but not in a bad way. To be honest though, I like pretty much everything I put in my mouth. I can't think of a single food that I won't eat. I will admit, it is perhaps not for everyone, but if you are feeling adventurous... 

I love the smell of cooking onions, one of my top kitchen smells.

Just beginning to turn golden brown, nearly there...

I would eat this on it's own...

The mixture of rice, onion and banana keeping warm whilst the egg cooks.

My large saucepan lid was perfect, it fitted the frying pan and didn't touch the egg!

The finished product.

You may well know by now that I like a salad, and will eat them even when it's freezing outside. And salad is what I have for tea tomorrow. With the temperatures reaching into the early thirties, I think that it is a sensible choice! Apart from boiling an egg, there isn't any other cooking, just assembling- grating carrots, and then mixing with mustard seeds, olives, lemon juice and the boiled egg. Simple as. The original recipe serves four, and needs 800g of grated carrot. I was getting bored grating my 200g. I think if I ever did a larger amount I would be looking for a willing kitchen helper!


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Tantalising Textures

I haven't had a baked potato in a while so I was quite looking forward to tonight's evening meal. It is perhaps a slightly unusual combination of ingredients, but, being the adventurous cook I am, I had to try it/ It is, quite simply, a baking potato baked (obviously!) in the oven, topped with avocado and crumbled bacon. The sweet, fluffy baked potato, the salty, crunchy and chewy bacon and the creamy coolness of the avocado made for an interesting and extremely satisfying meal. My avocado is in weird sort of slices, as I thought I was going to be mashing it, but on reading the recipe again I realised it said cubed! I would definitely cube it next time, as some of the smaller slivers got a little lost in the fray.

So next time you pick up that can of beans or spaghetti hoops, that block of cheese or tub of butter to go with your baked potato, consider this recipe. I'm sure you won't regret it.

By the way, this recipe, along with the other jacket potato recipes, was listed under the snack section. It is perfectly substantial as a meal on it's own, with no accompaniment! Saying that, some days I do get really hungry...

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A Perfectly Planned Ploughman's

It is 28 degrees here today. I love the hot weather. Luckily, I had an appropriate tea for such weather planned, a Ploughman's. But not just any Ploughman's. A 'Hot Ploughman's'. You may ask why I would want a warm meal on a hot day, but it just worked somehow, especially with my little salad bits on the side. I use the term salad loosely, as it was just tomato and carrot! The recipe book version used a 'small, uncut loaf' to serve four people, but I just bought a nice crusty-ish roll to serve one. It worked out pretty well, as the twenty minutes it was in the oven was just the right amount of time for me to shower and wash my hair and cut the vegetables. I love it when a plan comes together.

Fresh out of the oven- it smelled so good; a combination of baking bread, sweet pickle and cheese!

Look. How could anybody not want that?!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Freestyle Friday #13 and Saturday's Salad

Sooo, it's here again, Freestyle Friday number 13! Friday the 13th, unlucky for some... but not for me because I had a rather nice salad for tea. I had originally thought of an idea a few days ago, but then I realised I would have beansprouts that needed using so I changed my plan. And anyway, it's not really freestyle if you plan, is it?! I will keep my first idea under wraps, I may yet use it another day...

As is the case on most weeks, my idea stemmed from one ingredient that needed using, in this case the beansprouts. I would usually do some sort of a stir fry, but I have had one for the past two days for tea. And although I really love stir fry, I thought I'd have something different today! And so came the salad. I named it Rollercoaster Salad, because it is so random you don't know where it will take you next, just like a rollercoaster. With the beansprouts, I put (takes huge breath)... white cheese- both grated and cubed-, avocado, bacon, a hard boiled egg, a few black olives and some toast croutons. I also mixed a little dressing of equal parts of English mustard and honey, plus a splash of water to loosen it up a little. I don't really know what to say about it to be honest! Some of the egg yolk sort of mushed into the dressing a little bit at the end, which was nice. It tasted good... so, yeah. Here's some pictures!

Imperfectly shaped (the shell cracked!), but perfectly boiled.

Nearly burnt to a crisp, just the way I like it!

The rollercoaster of randomness itself.


This is part of tomorrow's lunch. I was going to say it is a similar salad, but it's not really... Well, it has cubed cheese and avocado in, and a hard boiled egg, but that's all really! The other components are bulgur wheat, cucumber, grated carrot and raisins... I think that's it! No dressing. I had originally planned to use cous cous, but didn't think I had any. I then found it in the cupboard whilst looking for something else. Oh well. That's the way it goes sometimes!