Sunday, 29 September 2013

Lucious, Luxurious Lamb and Lentils

I have been looking forward to this soup since  I decided to make it, earlier this week. It is one I have made before at home, and I multiplied the quantities by one and a half to make seven portions, which is enough for my week of meals. The name of the recipe is Lamb, Lentil and Chilli Soup, and there aren't really many more ingredients! Just celery, carrots, onion and stock. Oh, and ground cumin and coriander. But that still isn't many.

What looks like industrial quantities of vegetables!

My lovely browned lamb. I'm glad I took the time to brown it properly in batches, I do think it's worth it. This may not look like a lot for seven people, but the lentils and vegetables more than make up the amount so it does go quite far. I browned the lamb in chilli oil as the only chilli in the original recipe was the garnish. I'm not sure that it made a huuuuge amount of difference, but it's been quite a while since I made it so I don't know. Oh well, I'll just have to make it again soon with plain oil to conmpare...

The vegetables softening.

So. Close!

About half way through cooking.

Garnished with parsley, a blob of natural yoghurt and a blob of chilli paste.
I love this soup. As it simmers for an hour and twenty minutes, you occasionally give it a 'mash', so it is pretty much smooth by the time it's done. But, there is the lamb, and of course, you can probably see in the photo that not all the lentils are mashed. I wouldn't want it to be totally smooth anyway, the bite of the lentils is good. Next to the tender lamb, and the velvety spiced pureé of the smooth vegetables, this really does make for a very special dish. 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Crisp and Crunchy?

This is my last noodle post, I promise... For a week at least, anyway ;-) I said in this post that I wanted the noodles to be crispy, and that I had some ideas of what to do tonight to make them crispy. I have to say, it kind of worked! Again, the noodles weren't all crispy, but it was much closer to what I wanted so I can't be too unhappy. This is what I ended up with.

All I did was to tip the noodles on to a baking tray, add some peas and stick it on the top shelf of the oven. The edges of the mixture-spread-thingy did go really crispy, which was exactly what I was aiming for. The middle, not so much, but I actually really enjoyed it anyway. The dish changed in other ways as well, in terms of the vegetables. The peppers went quite soft and tasted even sweeter. The mangetout dried, and went crispy at the ends. And the peas which I just added this time, sort of dehydrated and had a more chewy inside but a slightly crisp outside. I would eat them like that as a snack! I've never had peas like that, and I'm pleased I found a new way of eating them. I also looked in the cupboard for something to drizzle on the top, and instead of the usual Chinese garnish of soy sauce, I went for oyster sauce. As the main taste of the noodles was quite mellow, the ever so slightly sharp oyster sauce really complimented them. Yes, it looks like a mess, but I was happy with it and that is what matters!

Freestyle Friday #16

Sorry if you're getting sick of posts about noodles... but I'm not. Especially ones with peanut butter in! Anyway, for Freestyle Friday with my noodles, I only needed to add one extra ingredient, which was an egg! I had only bought the eggs that day, but as I hadn't planned on using them for Freestyle Friday, it still counts. Well, I think it does!

What I made was an egg noodle... thing. I can never think of names for my dishes! Let me explain, and it will hopefully become a little bit clearer. To start with, I heated the noodles in the microwave to make them a little bit mroe malleable, so they would be easier to mix in the egg and shape. While that was happening, I heated a frying pan, and beat one egg. Then I just mixed the egg into the noodles and tipped the whole lot into the pan!

You can see that I rather messed it up getting it out of the pan, but it still tasted good! I wanted the noodles to go crispy originally, but I think the reason they didn't was because either because the pan wasn't hot enough, or the mix wasn't spread thinly enough. Or maybe both.
I have one more portion of noodles left, so I have another crack at getting them crispy. I have two ideas in mind, so I will try one of them tonight and let you know how it turns out...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sumptuos Sesame and Perfect Peanut Noodles

Last week, I had a pretty firm idea of what I was going to cook as my meal for the week. I was going to do a beef stew, for no other reason than that I really wanted one! But then I got to thinking. I am going to be transporting this to work in a plastic tub four days out of the seven. As the tubs I'm using aren't 'click-lock' ones, there is slight potential for sauce leakage. Which would mean a smelly, wet bag, and wasted sauce. Neither of which are good. So I decied to wait until after work finishes, in four weeks time. The way the meals I want to make are stacking up, I'll have planned them until Christmas soon!

I am a little disappointed about the beef stew, but I did make something equally delicious. It is a recipe from the Kindle app I have on my ipad. I made a point of looking through them the other day because I always forget about them when I do my menus! I bookmarked all the larger serving recipes that would be good for my week-long meal plans as well. One that I came across was Sesame Peanut Noodles. It was a Nigella Lawson recipe. But you probably could have guessed that...

Theses are the salad ingredients; beansprouts, mangetout, red pepper, spring onion, coriander and sesame seeds...

...and noodles! I think I need to get bigger saucepans and bowls if the ratatouille and these noodles are anything to go by.

Even though the dressing has quite a few ingredients, quite a few of them you'll probabaly have in the cupboard already. Well, I do anyway! I have had very similar dressings before, and it is one that I really like- it has the whole sweet and salty thing going on. In this case, there was also a really great kick from some chilli paste. Plus, it had peanut butter in. And anything with peanut butter in can only be a good thing, right?
Even though it wasn't in the recipe, I added some tinned tuna. I knew I wanted to add something to it, and toyed with several ideas (sausages and chicken amongst others!) and in the supermarket I went for tuna. To be honest, you don't need to add anything, the noodles were yummy on their own, but the tuna did go very well. I have to say, I am really looking forward to this for the next week.
You may have read about the calzone I had for Freestyle Friday #15. Well, I did indeed have it for tea on Friday. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was quite handy to eat at the train station as I didn't need any cutlery and I could hold it in one hand while I got on the train! So if you find you have to eat on the go and still want to enjoy homemade food, calzone or a pasty could be the way to go. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Freestyle Friday #15

I know this is a bit in advance, but I thought that as I've already made the meal, I may as well tell you about it. I had a pizza base in the freezer, as I quite often do, and I decided to use it in a slightly different way to normal. Instead of making a normal pizza, I made a calzone. If you don't know, a calzone is a folded over pizza... it is a bit like an Italian Cornish pastie really! Inside I had tomato pureé, a little mozzarella, some jalapenos, and slightly more unusual, turkey mince and capers. I have had pizzas with turkey mince and capers on, but never together. But you never know. It could be the best combination I've ever had. Oh, and I also added one each of a shredded cos lettuce and iceberg lettuce leaf, and some peas, just because I like a bit of vegetables/greenery with all my meals if I can! The turkey mince was a portion I had cooked previously and frozen, but the peas I just put in from frozen, as they don't take much cooking at all... and I could see through the hole that they are cooked so it was clearly the right decision...

Yes, it's a bit messy, but I don't mind (too much!). It was okay until I streched the half without the filling on over the top of the filling to seal it. Maybe it was a bit overfilled, but at least it will be filling, and I didn't want to have all crust and no filling. Saying that, I like a large crust margin on my pizzas, and I always eat the crust at the end! I didn't know how long to cook it for, but I just trusted my instinct and took it out when it was this lovely golden brown colour. As the meat was already cooked I wasn't too worried, but I didn't want the dough to be raw. I know the dough is cooked, as I had to break a corner off to fit it in my tub! It smelled lovely when it came out of the oven, very pizza-like- I can't believe I have to wait until Friday to try it! 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Ratatouille is Ready for the Week!

So I said on Friday that I was doing something different with my menu this week. Well, my menu is actually not very different this week! I am having the same thing every day. While I am at work, I don't have that much time in the evenings to prepare my food for the next day, so only having to prepare lunch instead of two meals will hopefully make things that little bit easier. And it is cheaper too! Now, I'm not saying I'll do this every week from now on, but certainly for the next five weeks while I am at work. My first experiment of mass cooking for a week is ratatouille.

Aside from a bit of chopping at the start, ratatouille really looks after itself. I have quite a few recipes for it, but this one served six, which is just how many servings I wanted. Some of the recipes were oven baked, but this one was cooked on a hob.

All this to chop!

All my vegetables chopped and ready to go. The tomatoes had to be skinned but even this didn't take up much time as I nicked a cross in the bottom of them and covered them with boiling water before I started chopping everything else, and just did them last. 

They only just fit in my saucepan! This created a bit of a problem at the start as I couldn't stir it very well, but once the bottom layers had cooked down a bit it was much easier. And all the pieces were evenly cooked, which I was glad about.

Everything is just about mixed in at this point...

See, it worked!

The recipe itself contained herbs (basil, parsley and thyme), and I decided to rip up some more to go on top as I had quite a bit left over. It was quite chilly here yesterday, and a piping hot bowl of this for tea was just right!

All ready for the next five days.
I was a little bit dubious about doing this as I like to get as many new recipes as I can ticked off in my recipe books, but like I said earlier, I don't have to do it every week. And I have a lifetime to try them all, so no need to rush!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

This Week's Wonders

Again, due to my shift pattern, I haven'thad much time to blog so I'm now going to do a run down of what you've missed this week.

I made a nut roast for the first time last week. I loved nut roasts, even though I'm not a vegetarian. I know nut roasts might seem like the 'token vegetarian dish', but if done right I think they can be really nice. This is what I did to make mine.

 I dissolved some Marmite in water...

...and then added chopped mixed nuts (Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans and almonds)...


...chopped onion...

... and seasoning...

...and mixed it all up!

I baked mine in a ramekin as I was only doing the one portion (a mistake, I could have eaten that many times over!), but the normal recipe is done in a loaf tin or oven proof dish. However, even if you are doing this for more than one person, it would be a little but different to do it in individual ramekins. Saying that, I do like it sliced as well... so I'll leave it up to you how you do it!
And Freestyle Friday #17. This week, I had a bit of leftover roasted butternut squash from this recipe. I also had quite a few general salad bits. This is what I came up with.
These are two of the massive leaves you get on the outside of whole lettuces. I have seen quite a few recipes that use various types of leaf to wrap things in so I thought I would do something similar.

I roughly mashed the squash and divided it equally between two leaves so I would have the oppurtunity to do two different fillings.

The two I decided on were crumbled blue cheese, and sultana mixed spice. I came up with blue cheese because there is a dish that I absolutely LOVE called Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese pasta, so I knew the combination would go well. As this type of squash is slightly sweet, I tried a sweeter filling for the other wrap.

To keep them together, I had to wrap them in the clingfilm straightaway, hence the horrible picture! I can promise though, they tasted a lot better than they look here. The sultana spice one I had as a sort of 'pudding' after the blue cheese one. It wasn't too sweet though, just right. I had originally planned to use cinnamon, but I didn't have any, and I think it would have been sweeter if I'd used it. That is a combination to try another day!
I am cooking my meals a little differently this week, and I'll be posting soon about the how and the why...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Beautiful Butternut Squash

I really like butternut squash, but I do not like preparing it. It's hard to peel, and can be quite hard to chop. But I think the end result is very, very worth it. I have some delicious butternut squash recipes up my sleeve, including Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Pasta, and Butternut and Nut Butter Soup. Both of which I would happily eat for breakfast, lunch and tea. But today, I toned it down a little, and simply roasted it, with some honey, oil and seasoning.

The squash just prior to being roasted. Don't worry, I'm not eating all that; there is two portions there!

After being roasted. It doesn't look that much different, apart from being a slightly more mellow yellow than bright orange.

I served it with some ciabatta I had leftover from my Green Goddess sandwich (which I am upset that I forgot to photograph, as it was yummy!).

For the last few minutes of the squash's cooking time, I popped the ciabatta in the oven on the shelf below it, just to warm it through. I don't know exactly how long it was in there, but it was just the right amount of time, as the edges and 'crust' were just going crispy, but the inside was just soft and pillowy and warm. There was a lovely smell in the kitchen whilst cooking this, a kind of sweet roast vegetable smell mingling with baking bread. I defy anyone not to find that smell amazing.

Some of the squash I ate on it's own, some I smooshed into the ciabatta like in the photo above, and some I made into teeny little sandwiches like this one. This was a really nice way to eat it, I'm glad I discovered it. Even though it might seem childish to play with food, sometimes you have to give things a little go.

Whoops, this one fell apart!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

A Nod to Nigella

When I was doing my menu for the week, I was really, really fancying some avocado. So I flicked through one of my recipe books and saw a recipe for guacamole. Problem solved. Now, guacamole isn't a meal in itself (although I could quite happily eat a whole bowl by itself with nothing else!), so I had to then decide what to have with it. One of Nigella Lawson's favourite breakfasts is guacamole on toast with a poached egg smooshed on top, so I decided that this was the way to go.

The guacamole ingredients; tomato, avocado, lemon juice and a sprinkle of chilli powder.

Look how perfect that poached egg is!
You can see that my tomato has ended up in two clumps... In hindsight, I should have chopped it smaller. It didn't detract from the deliciousness though! The guacamole would also be good used as a normal dip, but if you fancy trying something different, why not try this?
I also have some avocado left over. And I have some blue cheese in the fridge. I sense another nod to Nigella coming along with her Rockamole... 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Promised Posts

So, as I promised, here are my meals from my very busy week!
First up is Spring Onion, The Star!

Quite often, spring onions are used as a garnish, or just added to meals such as stir frys and the like, but they are hardly ever one of the main ingredients. So I was pleased to see a recipe for Tomato and Spring Onion Omlette in one of my books. Not that I need a recipe for an omlette, but I liked the idea. It was a folded omlette, so I cooked the omlette first, then added the tomatoes and spring onions and folded it in half before serving it. The spring onion flavour was strong (but not in a bad way!) as there weren't many ingredients, but I really liked it. I'll definitely try to find more ways to make spring onions centre stage from now on!

Next in line is Mushroom Stroganoff. I served this with the traditional accompaniment of rice. This worked quite well, as I could make the actual stroganoff in the time it took the rice to cook. I know there are quite a few methods for cooking rice, but the one I use is to simply pour in water until it reaches a couple of centimetres above the rice, then bring to the boil and cook for however long the packet says- usually about 12-15 minutes. Honestly, it works every time, and it's quicker than working out ratios of rice to water like some methods want you to do!
This is how the rice looks when it's ready; all the water has been absorbed and the surface has little 'pockmarks' in.

I had to get some wholegrain mustard for this recipe, which means I now own three different types of mustard. I think I have a problem... 

Third is A Twist on Tuna. This is not your usual tuna sandwich. While I like tuna and sweetcorn sandwich as much as the next person, sometimes it's nice to switch things up a bit, so I tried the slightly unusual combination of tuna, mayonnaise and sweet pickle. I think fans of the sweet and salty combination would like this, as the tuna and pickle together produced this sort of flavouring. And of course, mayonnaise and tuna always works well!

My fourth meal of the week was a stuffed pita bread. I was rather looking forward to this, as I love the combination of feta and tomato. That is really all there is to this, aside from tomato pureé mixed with a smidge of oil. You spoon the feta and tomato into a pita, drizzle in the pureé and oil, and you're good to go. Even though I would be having this cold, I still warmed the pita before I split it open, as it is SO much easier to split pitas when they're warm! If you try and do it when they're cold, the sides just split and and your filling falls out. Which is not good.

My prepared feta and tomato mixture.

And last but not least, Freestyle Friday #16! The base part of #16 was pepper and garlic polenta. I don't mean base as in the main part of the meal, I mean base as in bottom. You'll see.

To make it, all I did was chop some green and red pepper and garlic then mix it with some polenta and boling water. Then I scraped it to the side of the tray to set it before I baked it. I did this part the night before I would need it, then left it overnight to set. I then baked it the next day while I made the top part of the meal!

I can't say I was thrilled with this. It was edible, but there was a strange aftertaste that I just didn't like. The only thing I can think of is that maybe the polenta wasn't cooked enough, or the garlic kind of leached into the polenta overnight. The peppers were nice though, and there were a lot of them, so I did eat it in the end!

The top part was a mixture of mushrooms, white onion and spring onion cooked in a little bit of truffle oil. It ma seem an extravagance to use truffle oil for something like this, but I barely use it and I thought, why not?! I love the subtle taste it brings to whatever it is added to, and it goes so well with mushrooms. There wasn't really a reason not to use it.

When the mushrooms and onion (and rouge green pepper ;-)) were cooked, I added a little bit of crumbled blue cheese and stirred the mixture until it had melted evenly throughout. I have to say, this part of the meal tasted pretty heavenly. Subtle mushroom, slightly sweet onion and tangy blue cheese. Ohmygod. This is most definitely something I will repeat, I promise you that!

As always, this turned out nothing like the first thought I had in my head to do with Freestyle Friday. Garlic mushrooms on toast to this. I wonder what goes on in my head sometimes...

Monday, 2 September 2013

Posts Preview

As I am on long shifts for the next four days, I won't have much oppurtunity to post. Getting up at four thirty in the morning, getting back, cooking tea and making my food for the next day doesn't leave me with a lot of time. So I thought, rather than do several hurried and half-hearted posts, I'd do a proper one at the weekend. To tantalise your tastebuds, I'll give you a sneak preview of what you can expect...

A Super Stroganoff
Spring Onions, the Stars!
A Twist on Tuna
And of course, the ever present Freestyle Friday!

Thank you all for being patient!

Peanut Butter Porridge

I wanted a snack this morning, so I decided on peanut butter porridge. But this isn't porridge as you know it. It is BAKED porridge. There are any number of recipes out there on the internet, with all manner of toppings and add ins, but I went for 'peanut butter cookie' flavour. Now, I generally don't like using internet recipes, but I thought I'd make an exception. I made a single serve recipe as I only wanted a snack, but again, there are many multiple serving recipes out there as well.

I took a chance that the recipe would turn out ok, and made anothe one for tomorrow. This one I flavoured with ground cinnamon and almond extract. It has just occured to me that it is almost snickerdoodle flavoured... I may have to stop myself running downstairs to the fridge and devouring it right now.

This is how I made it:
Peanut butter and oats... salt, bicarb, and baking powder....

...makes this wet and gloopy mixture...

...which makes this little ramekin of deliciousness.

The one on the left is the cinnamon almond one, and the one on the right is the peanut butter one.

Snack time!
You may notice I didn't add any sweetener. Maybe I wanted it like this. Maybe I forgot... Anyway, I actually quite liked the taste without the sweetener (the recipe had honey in it). And I have quite a sweet tooth. I could taste the bicarb ever so slightly, but not enough for it to bother me, and I think that if you added the sweetener the taste would disappear. I ate mine warm out of the ramekin, and I'll eat the one I have tomorrow cold. I turned it out of the ramekin and wrapped it in clingfilm to take with me tomorrow. I'll let you know how it compares!