Sunday, April 30, 2017

Stir fried rice

A special twist on rice to accompany any Chinese style dishes.

Cook plain long-grained white rice as per normal instructions. If we're having rice with something else, we'll sometimes do extra and set aside for a stir-fry later on in the week.

Crack open and lightly beat three or four eggs. Pour the eggs into a large frying pan with a little oil. Stir gently, spreading the eggs thinly over the pan until they start to cook. Allow them to cook in a thin sheet, then scrape up into  bowl and set aside. This is basically scrambled eggs, but rather than scrambling them to a light and fluffy mass, you want to end up with thin layers.

Prepare whatever "extras" you want to add to the rice. If you're cooking anything, like finely-diced pork, do this now in the same pan. We usually go for a handful each of shrimp, peas, and sweetcorn which only needs defrosting rather than actual cooking.

Add the rice to the pan and heat through. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the toppings and stir in, breaking up the eggs into smallish pieces.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Beef stroganoff

Although many of the recipes here mention beef, many of them involve ground beef and in practice we often substitute turkey. In a typical week we eat far more poultry and fish and very little red meat. However, this is one tasty meal we do enjoy that is unashamedly red and carnivorous!

Fry a chopped onion in a large saucepan. Add sliced steak - a reasonably good cut to make it tender, or just simmer for longer if using a cheaper cut. Once the meat is browned, add a spoonful of beef stock, a generous sprinkle of paprika, a squirt of tomato ketchup, and a good dash of brandy. Mix well and simmer for about 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally to make sure the mix doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. Near the end of the cooking time, stir in a dash of cream and continue cooking to thicken.

Separately, fry a sliced red pepper and some sliced mushrooms. You can add these in to the pan early on instead, but we like to do these separately and mix in at the last minute. They hold their individual crunch and flavor better that way.

Serve with rice and a nice Chianti  :)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fish cakes

There's a bit more preparation for this dish that makes it more suitable for when you have a bit of time and patience, but home-made fish cakes are delicious any time of year.

Quantities (as always) depend on how many people you want to feed, but I reckon on using two small tins of salmon (200g/8oz size) to feed four people. You then want enough potatoes to end up with somewhere between two and three times the amount of potato to salmon.

Boil the potatoes until mashable, and mash with an egg and a knob of butter. You want the mash to be fairly dry at this stage because it will get liquid from the fish, and you don't want it ending up sloppy.

Drain the salmon and remove any bones. Mash into the potatoes.

Where you go from here depends on taste. You can make the cakes plain (just potato and salmon) but we zing it up with the following: A bunch of spring onions (salad onions/green onions), a bunch of coriander (cilantro) and we used to include a couple of red chilis but nowadays found a tablespoon of pickled ginger instead adds a wonderful flavor. Chop everything very finely and mix in.

Form the mixture into patties, flour, and fry until the outside turns golden. This is where you don't want the mixture too moist or the cakes will collapse when you try to turn them in the pan!

Serve with salad and relish.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hot dogs

This is hardly a recipe, more like a simple menu idea when you want something light and easy.

We like to "gourmet" our hot dogs by frying Bratwurst sausages and putting them in fresh sub buns rather than standard wieners and hot dog buns. Slap on some fried onions, mustard, relish etc. and serve with coleslaw.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Couscous

A great alternative to rice or potatoes with many dishes and salads.

In butter, fry a small very finely-chopped onion and a handful of flaked almonds. Keep to one side.

Measure out the required amount of couscous and keep to one side - I usually use about 2oz per person.

Measure the same amount of water into a saucepan. I don't often bother with measurements, but the ratio of couscous to liquid is moderately important or it will either not cook properly or come out mushy. There is some leeway though. Whether you measure by volume or weight doesn't matter too much.

Add to the water a spoonful of chicken stock (dry or paste, or you can simply use liquid stock or broth instead of water), a spoonful of dark soy sauce, and a tablespoon of olive oil.

Bring the liquid to the boil, add the couscous, stir, cover, and remove from the heat.

Leave to stand for 5 to 10 minutes. The liquid should be absorbed and the mix not too dry. Add a knob of butter and stir in, breaking up any lumps. Put back on the heat, stirring in the onions and almonds.

Serve warm or cold.


Moroccan lamb

This lamb curry follows the general instructions for Whatever You Want Curry

The specifics for this variety are as follows:

Use lamb pieces for the meat. When adding spices, be especially generous with the cumin - a couple of table spoons. I find that lamb tends to tone down the spices so you can afford to be generous to avoid the dish ending up bland. Once the onions are soft, the spices are in and the lamb pieces are nicely browned, add a couple of large chopped tomatoes. These should provide plenty of liquid to cook the dish.

Cover and simmer on a very low heat for at least an hour.

Add a generous handful of green beans, and stir in a cup or so of cream. Continue cooking for another half an hour. Long and slow is the trick with this dish.

A few minutes before serving, thicken the sauce with ground almonds.

Serve with couscous.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Seafood pasta

Quick and simple.

Fry a small onion very finely chopped. Add some diced white fish and a chopped tomato. Add a generous quantity of cream and a dash of tomato ketchup. Bring to the boil and simmer to cook the fish and thicken the cream. Add some peeled shrimp.

Separately, fry some finely-cut slivers of bacon until crisp, and cook your pasta of choice (penne, fusilli, linguine, macaroni ...).

Serve the seafood sauce and bacon over the pasta.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Yorkshire pudding

A traditional British accompaniment to roast beef.

The trick with these treats is to have a very hot oven. This can cause logistical problems if you only have the one oven and it's already in use at a lower temperature for the rest of the meal. In this situation, timing is everything. You can get meat and potatoes pretty much cooked and then crank up the temperature. Put the puddings in and take the other things out to carve and keep warm and start serving. If you're a slow worker like me, the puddings should be risen and ready to serve last minute. If you have the luxury of separate ovens then it's a lot easier.

Put about a cup of plain flour in a mixing bowl, and add a teaspoon of salt. Break three eggs in and mix into the flour. It will be too thick at this stage to mix properly - don't panic! Slowly start mixing in a 50/50 mixture of milk and water, whisking out any lumps. Add enough liquid to make a thin batter.

Add a small knob of lard to each well in a cookie tray - depending on how many puddings you plan to make. This approach makes muffin-sized individual puds. Alternatively you can drop a spoonful of lard into a small baking dish and make one large pudding.

Put the tray into a hot oven (approx. 430F) until the lard is melted. Pour the batter into the dish. Put back in the oven and leave to rise, usually about 20 minutes.

If you need to open the oven door while cooking, do so very gently. Any influx of cold air will cause the puddings to collapse. If you have a glass-fronted door to monitor progress without opening the door, so much the better. When the puddings have risen and browned on top, take them out and serve immediately.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pork with apple and ginger

This is a dish we haven't done in a while. It used to be a regular before the kids came along, but not so much in recent years. Definitely something to do more often, because this evening it got scarfed down with relish!

Fry a finely-chopped onion. Add in a good measure of grated or finely-chopped ginger (anything up to 1" cubed, depending on how you like your ginger). Once the onion and ginger are softened, add a clove or two of chopped garlic and some pork loin chops. Turn them over until browned. Add a peeled and chopped apple, and enough apple juice to cover the ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer until the meat is tender. A few minutes before serving, thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch.

Serve with rice, fries, or mashed potatoes, and veg or salad.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Burritos

A quick meal, with a bit more oomph to it than sibling dishes like tacos and fajitas.

Fry a chopped onion, then some ground beef or turkey. Once the meat is cooked and thoroughly broken up, stir in a can of refried beans, a packet of burrito seasoning, and a dash of water. Cook until the mix is thickened.

Serve on flour tortillas with your choice of toppings - sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, grated cheese ...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Chicken noodle soup

A very easy yet satisfying recipe.

Fry a finely-chopped onion until soft, then finely-diced chicken until browned. Add some finely-diced carrots and 2 or 3 sticks of chopped celery. Add chicken stock and salt and top up with water so the ingredients are well covered. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 1/2 hour, so the veggies are cooked.

About 5 minutes before serving, throw in a couple of handfuls of Chinese style steam fried noodles (the ones that look like short pieces of curly spaghetti) and if necessary add more liquid so that everything is covered. The noodles will soak up some liquid so you need plenty.

This is also a great way to use up leftover turkey after Thanksgiving or Christmas. It's become one of our regular post-turkey traditions a few days later, also using the last batch of rich stock from the carcass (we always make stock and freeze it for use over the coming months).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cajun chicken salad

A tasty spicy treat, especially for summer (which this isn't) or to serve as a starter.

Sprinkle some chicken pieces with Cajun spice mix and fry in olive oil & butter until cooked.

Make up your salad of choice. It's good to include some sweet ingredients such as dried cranberries or diced apple to offset the spice, and some slices of red onion also go well. A cool creamy dressing such as Ranch or Caesar is a good choice.

As a main course, serve with either potatoes - e.g. baked or fries - or rice or couscous.

Tuna pasta bake

Cook some macaroni until just about ready to eat.

Briefly boil some finely chopped broccoli - just a couple of minutes.

Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan. Add some very finely chopped garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Add flour to make a dry paste and cook for another couple of minutes. Slowly add milk, whisking to remove lumps until you have a Roux sauce of pouring consistency. Drain a couple of cans of tuna and mix into the sauce.

Place the pasta and broccoli into a casserole dish. Pour the sauce over. Top with a mixture of breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan. Bake in the oven until the topping is crunchy.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stuffing

Either used to stuff chicken or turkey, or to accompany pork.

Rough quantities to stuff a small chicken. Scale up as needed.

1/2 small onion, very finely chopped.
1 cup breadcrumbs.
1/2 cup sausage meat.
Chopped herbs (e.g. sage, thyme, garlic) and salt & pepper to season.
1 egg.

Mix all the dry ingredients then mix in the egg to bind. If the mix is too dry to hold together, you can add in a dash of olive oil.

Tip: We save crusts or leftovers of bread, whiz them through a blender to make breadcrumbs, then store in a ziplok bag in the freezer to take out as needed.

Roast

Nothing quite beats a traditional Sunday roast. You need time for cooking, but it is a very easy meal to prepare.

Meat of choice - beef, lamb, pork, chicken, or on special occasions - turkey. The basic approach is the same. Place the meat in a roasting dish in about 1/2 inch of water. We use water rather than fat because it's healthier, preserves the flavor of the meat, and keeps it moist. Cover and cook in the oven for roughly 2 hours.

Timing depends on size. If cooking a turkey we use the "1/4 hour per pound plus 1/4 hour" rule of thumb as a rough guide, but nothing beats experience and occasional checks on the roast.

Potatoes: Boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. The outsides should be going soft but nowhere near ready to mash. Drain and place in a baking dish and drizzle a small amount of oil over the top. They should need no more than a spoonful per piece. Cook in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours, until the outsides are crisp and golden.

When the meat is ready to carve, lift from the roasting dish. Keep the liquid for gravy. If your dish can go on the hob you can make gravy right there, otherwise decant into a saucepan. Mix a spoonful each of cornstarch and gravy browning (we use Bisto) with cold water to make a thin paste. Pour slowly into the stock whisking to ensure it doesn't go lumpy. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you need more liquid, drain some off from whatever veggies you're cooking alongside.

Vegetables: Whatever you want. For simple meals we boil carrots, beans, peas, corn. They should only cook for a few minutes - nothing ruins a roast more easily than soggy veg!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ratatouille

A great accompaniment to steak.

In a saucepan, fry a finely-chopped onion until soft. Add diced courgette, pepper, and tomatoes. Stir in a spoonful of Italian seasoning and tomato ketchup. Simmer gently for about 1/2 hour until the courgettes are cooked. Timing depends on whether you like them crisp or soft.

Steak & mushrooms

One of our occasional luxuries. This is hardly a recipe, more like a recommendation (for meat lovers, anyway)

Go for the best quality steak you can get hold of. If you can find a good supply it's worth it, because the results at home can easily rival or beat most restaurant experiences.

Sear the steak in a grill pan until done to your liking. I can't tell you how to do that, you know your own tastes :)  but if you've got a decent steak please don't commit the sacrilege of over-cooking it. It should be at least pink in the middle, if not red.

Meanwhile, fry up some mushrooms in a dash of butter, stir in some cream. Bring to the boil and simmer to thicken.

Serve the steak and pour the mushrooms and cream over the top. Serve with fries, saute potatoes, or rice, and salad or veg of choice.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Cottage pie

One of our regular favorites:

Boil some potatoes until soft enough to mash. Mash them with a knob of butter, an egg, and add enough cream to produce a soft consistency.

Meanwhile, fry a chopped onion and ground meat - either beef, turkey, or lamb. Once the meat is cooked, add a can of baked beans, a couple of finely-diced carrots, and optionally a spoonful of beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, and either brown sauce or tomato ketchup for flavor and body.

Decant the meat sauce into a casserole dish, spread the mashed potatoes over the top, sprinkle with grated cheese and pop under the grill until the cheese is melted and browned.

Barbecued chicken wings

Nowadays this is a popular accompaniment to pizza, but also great with a salad or just as a snack.

We used to buy ready-coated chicken wings, but these days I buy raw chicken wings and make up my own sauce.

Sauce is equal quantities (about a tablespoon each) of honey, Hoi Sin sauce, and Thai chilli sauce. Mix and coat the chicken. Spread out on a baking tray and bake in the oven until the chicken is cooked.

Pizza

Another quick & easy meal to plan into the menu whenever we know we're going to be busy with other things. Also our son's absolute favorite. No need to ask what he wants when we plan the weekly menu - it's pizza!

Either ready made frozen (just follow the instructions) or home baked on store-bought pizza shells.

Just spread the tomato sauce over the base, add toppings of choice, finish off with grated mozarella and cheddar, and bake in the oven until the base is cooked.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spaghetti bolognese

A very quick and simple dish when you're in a hurry...

Fry a chopped onion, then ground beef (we often substitute turkey for beef in many recipes) until browned. Add a jar of tomato pasta sauce and simmer until the meat is cooked thoroughly.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add spaghetti. Cook until soft. If you have problems with the pasta sticking you can add a spoonful of olive oil to the water.

Drain the pasta and serve with the sauce, and grated Parmesan.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lamb hotpot

A good heartwarming dish for a chilly evening.

Fry a chopped onion. When it starts to soften, add some lamb pieces and fry until browned. Place the lamb and onions into a casserole dish, add some chopped carrots and optionally a drained can of white kidney beans or Romano beans. Add enough gravy to cover the mixture - I use a packet of mushroom gravy mix for flavor. Top with sliced potatoes, cover and bake for an hour or so, until the potatoes are cooked through. Sprinkle with grated cheese and continue cooking with the lid off until the cheese has browned.

With only about 20 minutes preparation time, this dish can also be done in a slow cooker, so you come home to a complete ready-made meal.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fajitas

This is a dish that's quick & easy to prepare and a favorite with the kids.

Fry up a chopped onion until soft. Add some finely-diced chicken and fry until browned. Add a jar of salsa, and a thinly-sliced pepper.

Spoon onto flour tortillas along with a spoonful of sour cream.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pilau rice

A rice dish to accompany curry.

Heat a spoonful of oil in a saucepan. Fry a few whole black peppercorns, cloves, and some slices of onion until the onion is golden. Stir in a teaspoon of turmeric, followed by basmati rice. Cook for a few seconds, and then add salt and water. In my experience you want roughly one-and-a-half times as much water as rice.

Bring to the boil, then cover and turn off the heat. Leave for 1/2 hour, then it is ready to serve.

This assumes cooking on an electric hob. Leave the pan on the ring after turning off the heat and there will be enough residual heat to steam the rice. If cooking on gas, once it's up to the boil turn the gas down low for 15 minutes then switch off for the remaining time. Do not lift the lid while cooking to keep the steam in. Just trust that the rice will come out perfectly cooked every time.

Dhal

A tasty side dish to accompany curry, courtesy of Jamie Oliver.

Basic tarka dhal recipe

Curry

My wife and I are both curry fanatics. Here is a versatile curry recipe posted on my main blog a while ago. With variations in meat, spices, and liquids it yields a multitude of flavors.

Whatever you want curry
 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Salmon & rice

A really easy and tasty dish.

Place a layer of salmon fillets in a baking dish.
Mix equal measures of mayonnaise and tomato ketchup and spread over the salmon.
Bake at 380F for approx. 1/2 hour, until the salmon is cooked.

Serve with rice (or saute potatoes) and veg or salad.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Stir fry

Quick and easy, with flavor.

Fry up:
   Onions
   Meat of choice - usually chicken or prawns, maybe pork
   Finely-sliced veggies of choice - carrots, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, baby corn, pineapple
If using chicken or pork, make sure it's cooked through. If using prawns, leave them until last as they only take seconds.
Stir in a jar of sauce - sweet & sour, or ginger.

Serve with fried rice or noodles.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Chili

A warming, spicy dish!

Fry up a finely-chopped onion. Add in ground meat (traditionally beef, but we often use turkey instead) and fry until browned. Add a very generous (i.e. a tablespoon or so) heap of cumin, a spoon of chili powder, a dash of hot chili sauce and a generous squirt of tomato ketchup. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Add a couple of chopped tomatoes and a drained can of red kidney beans. Leave to simmer for an hour or so.

Serve with rice, and bread or corn tortillas.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fish pie

No list of ingredients today, just directions. This is supposed to be a quick & easy reference, after all.

Make a roux sauce (melt butter, add flour to make a thick paste, cook for a few minutes over a low heat then slowly add milk whisking out any lumps to make a thick sauce). Optionally add a spoonful of chicken stock paste and a pinch of garlic powder to add flavor. Add in diced pieces of white fish, shrimp, and any other seafood you fancy (scallops, squid...) and stir them in to cook.

Boil and mash potatoes with an egg, a knob of butter, and cream or milk.

Pour the fish sauce into a baking dish and spoon the mashed potatoes over the top. The sauce needs to be thick enough to allow you to spread the mash over the top - too thin and dollops of potato will sink and float around like icebergs :)

If you want to get fancy, you can use a fork to make pretty patterns on the top.

Sprinkle grated cheese over the top and pop into the oven until the topping is nicely browned.

Serve with veg or salad, and lashings of chilled white wine.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lasagna

A family favourite!

Ingredients:

Meat sauce -
   Olive oil
   Onion, finely chopped
   Ground beef (or turkey)
   Pasta sauce

Cheese sauce -
   Butter
   Flour
   Milk
   Cheese

Lasagna sheets

Method:

Meat sauce: Fry the onions in a dash of oil until golden. Stir in the meat until browned, break up the pieces as fine as possible. Stir in the pasta sauce.

Cheese sauce: Melt the butter. Stir in the flour to make a thick paste and cook gently for a few minutes. Stir in the milk a bit at a time, whisking out any lumps. Add enough milk to thin down to a good coating consistency. Melt in the cheese.

In a baking dish, layer the sauces and pasta sheets. Start with 1/3 of the meat sauce on the bottom, then pasta, then 1/3 of the cheese sauce, pasta, meat sauce etc. Finish off with cheese sauce. Place in a moderate oven (350F) for about an hour or until the cheese on top is golden brown and bubbling.

I hear a glass of red wine calling ...

Monday, April 3, 2017

Thai curry

Something to tingle the tastebuds. All sorts of variations are possible depending on the mood and what's in the larder ...

Ingredients:

Onion - finely chopped
Meat of choice - usually chicken or prawns
Veggies of choice - thinly-sliced carrot, sliced pepper
Sauce of choice - yes, we cheat and buy a cooking sauce, usually a Red Thai sauce, maybe satay

Method:

Fry the onions
Fry the meat - unless it's prawns, in which case you want to keep these out until the last 5 minutes to avoid overcooking - and any "hard" veg such as carrots
Stir in the sauce and simmer
Add any "soft" veg that you just want to heat through

Serve with any kind of noodles or rice


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Beef & barley

A tasty and hearty soup for a winter's evening.

Ingredients:

1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 to 2lb steak - cubed
1 cup pearl barley
1 pint beef stock
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Generous squirt of tomato ketchup

Method:

Fry the onions in a large pan until soft.
Add the steak and fry until browned.
Add the stock and the barley, simmer for an hour or two.
Stir in the sauces.