Monday, December 23, 2013

Home Sweet Home

One of the best things about being at home for the holidays is of course getting to spend time with my family.  But aside from that it's great because I can use an oven!  So, you may not be able to make the next few recipes in a student kitchen, but hey, it's Christmas!

The first thing I cooked once home was baked potatoes for my family.  It may be possible to make them in a microwave but they just aren't as good.  For one thing it's impossible to get the skin nice and crispy.  Baked potatoes are really simple, all you need are some large potatoes (suitable for baking) - one per person - some olive oil, salt and your choice of toppings.  I made tuna mayonnaise for mine but cheese or baked beans are also easy alternatives.  To serve you'll need some butter and salad.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5 and while it heats up prepare the potatoes.  Wash them, dry them, rub them in some olive oil and salt (not too much) and pierce the skins so that they don't burst while baking.  Then place them on a tray and bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours (check after 45 minutes and turn them if necessary to make sure they don't burn and that they are evenly baked).  In the meantime prepare your topping of choice, mix a can of tuna with a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise and some sweetcorn, grate some cheese or heat some baked beans in the microwave.  When the potatoes are done take them out of the oven, put them on plates, cut them open and melt some butter in each - this makes them a little less dry in texture.  Serve with your choice of topping and some mixed salad if you fancy something green.  There you have it, a super-simple and really delicious dinner.

Baked potato with tuna mayo
The next recipe I tried is one I got from the December issue of the GoodFood Magazine.  I made chicken and leek pot pies for my family and they were very yummy.  The recipe makes four small portions, however, I wanted to cook this as a main meal so I doubled the ingredients and used slightly larger ramekins.

For 6 portions you will need:
50g butter
6 small leeks, washed and sliced (Or one large and one small leek)
700g tub fresh cheese sauce (or you can make one from scratch*)
Bunch chives, chopped
400g cooked chicken, torn or cut into bite-sized chunks
6tbsp milk
2tbsp Dijon mustard
440g pack ready-rolled shortcrust pastry (or make some yourself**)
plain flour, for dusting
1 large egg, beaten

* Cheese sauce
40g butter
40g plain flour
570ml (1 pint) milk
75g (extra-)mature cheddar cheese

** Pastry
330g plain flour
Pinch of salt
25g softened butter
25g softened lard

As I had a lot of time I decided to make everything from scratch.

It is best to make the pastry in advance in order to leave it to chill before you roll it out.  I made a little too much pastry so that the rest could be used for mince pies, but you can always make slightly less.  Sift 330g plain flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl.  Weigh out the lard and butter and cut them up into cubes.  Add the fat to the flour and gently rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture has a crumbly consistency.  Add a tablespoon of water and start bringing the dough together with your hands.  Continue to add liquid a tablespoon at a time (to make sure you don't add too much) until the pastry sticks together to form a ball.  Wrap this in cling film and place it in the fridge for 30 mins to chill.

In the meantime heat the oven to gas mark 5 and put the chicken in for 25 minutes.

While the chicken was in the oven I made a cheese sauce.  To make a roux (a paste) which is the base of the sauce melt 40g butter in a saucepan and, once it has completely melted, stir in 40g plain flour, making sure you beat out all the lumps.  Then add milk to the roux little by little making sure it is fully combined before adding any more.  Once you have added about half the milk you can begin adding it in larger quantities, but continue to make sure you mix everything thoroughly so that your sauce isn't lumpy.  Leave the sauce over a low heat (continue to stir occasionally) to thicken while you grate the cheese.  Once grated stir in the cheese and continue stirring while it melts into the sauce.  Once the sauce is thick and fully combined set to one side.

Next you will need to cook the leeks.  Melt the butter in a large pan, add the chopped leeks, cover and leave to cook for 10 mins until they are soft.  Remove them from the heat an stir in the cheese sauce, chives, milk, mustard and the chicken (which should be cooked by now).  Don't forget to shred the chicken using two forks before adding it to the leeks.  Mix well and spoon into small dishes or ramekins (another advantage to being at home is that you have the right equipment and dishes!)

Now sprinkle some plain flour onto a flat surface and roll out the pastry until it is about 3mm thick.  Cut out circles for the pie tops (make sure they are a little larger than your dishes/ramekins).  Place the pastry on top of the ramekins and trim to fit, crimp the edges and brush with egg to glaze.

Heat the oven to gas mark 5 and bake for 45 mins (covering the ramekins with foil for the first 15 mins and removing for the final 30 mins).  Serve with vegetables of your choice (I used carrots, broccoli and peas).  You could also freeze these pies before you cook them for up to 2 months and cook for 15 mins at gas mark 7 then 45 mins at gas mark 5, once again removing the foil for the final 30 mins of cooking).

And here's the result:
Chicken and Leek Pot Pie
This recipe was a lot of work, however, if you don't have as much time just buy ready-made sauce and pastry.  These pies made for a great family dinner.  It's good to be home!

The final recipe I'm going to tell you about in this post is from the January issue of the GoodFood Magazine.  This macaroni and cheese recipe is a little different as it includes tomatoes and chipolatas.

To serve 6 you will need:
12 chipolata sausages
Either 300g pack semi-dried tomatoes, drained (reserve 1tbsp oil for the sausages) and roughly chopped or 2-3 roughly chopped normal tomatoes
400g macaroni (or other small pasta shapes - but I think macaroni are this best)
75g butter
bunch spring onions, chopped
75g plain flour
1 litre semi-skinned milk
200g extra-mature cheddar, grated
50g parmesan, grated
6 rosemary sprigs, chopped plus a few small sprigs to finish (alternatively use dried rosemary)
Salad to serve

Heat the oven to gas 6.  Put the chipolats in a baking dish (approx 30 x 25cm - this will hold your pasta later so make sure it's big enough), drizzle with the oil and cook for 25 mins.

Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in a large pan of boiling water (according to the instructions on a packet), then drain.  While the pasta cooks make the sauce in a large pan, melt the butter, then add the spring onions.  Fry for a couple of minutes to soften.  Stir in the flour and mix with the butter to make a paste.  Continue cooking for 30 secs, then add the milk, a little at a time, stirring continuously, until the sauce is thick and smooth.  Add the cheddar and parmesan (reserving a handful for the top), half the semi-dried tomatoes, the resemary, seasoning and macaroni, then stir everything together.

Remove the baking dish from the oven, transfer the sausages to a plate and pour away any oil from the dish.  Tip in the macaroni, nestle the sausages back in, pushing them in so that they are half exposed, then sprinkle with the remaining cheese, tomatoes (if using whole tomatoes then place several slices on the top) and rosemary.  Bake in the oven for 25 mins.  Serve with a salad.

Mac & Cheese
This recipe was perfect for a cold winter evening - good comfort food, to be enjoyed with friends or family.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Next time I post it will be 2014!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A very Mexican Christmas gathering

I had a few friends over the other night for a Christmassy evening with dinner, mulled cider and Love Actually.  My Grandpa got me subscription to the GoodFood magazine for Christmas and I have been drooling over the recipes ever since the first issue arrived so I decided to use my friends coming over as an excuse to try out a couple of the recipes.

I cooked a Mexican chicken stew with rice and beans which is perfect for when you've got a group of people over, the number you can cook it for is really only limited by the size of your pan.  Luckily for my friends, I have a large pan!

The recipe says it serves 4-5 people.  I made it for 5 however, one of my friends was vegetarian, so if you are cooking for more people make sure you have enough meat.  It took me about an hour to make but half an hour of that was just leaving the rice to cook (as I only have one hob).

Mexican chicken stew with rice and beans

You will need:
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped into large chunks
3tbsp chipotle paste
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
4 skinless chicken breasts
140g long grain rice (or whatever rice you prefer, I used brown rice)
400g can pinto beans, drained (I used kidney beans as I couldn't find pinto beans - any red bean will do as a substitute)
small pack coriander, most chopped, a few left whole for garnishing
juice 1 lime
1tbsp sugar
natural yoghurt to serve

As I only had one hob I cooked the rice first, however, if you are lucky enough to not have this problem then you can save yourself some time by preparing it at the same time as the chicken.

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry the onion and peppers for a few mins until softened.  Stir in the chipotle paste for 1 min followed by the tomatoes.  Add the chicken breasts, with up to a tomato can-full of water to cover them, then gently simmer, turning occasionally for 20 mins until the chicken is cooked through. (To test this take a chicken breast out of the pan and cut open through the thickest part, the chicken should be white, not pink.  It doesn't matter if you do this as you will be cutting the chicken up later anyway.)

Meanwhile boil a pan of water, add the rice and cook according to the instructions on the packet, add the beans for the final minute.  Drain well and stir in the coriander and lime juice, then season.  Cover to keep warm before serving.

Lift the cooked chicken out of the pan and onto a board/plate and shred using two forks (if the chicken is cooked properly then this will be easy as the chicken will just come apart).  Stir back into the tomato sauce with the sugar and season.  Serve with the rise, scattering the stew with the leftover coriander leaves just before you serve.  Eat with a dollop of yoghurt sprinkled with black pepper.

After the meal we chatted over glasses of mulled cider.  This took about half an hour, I simply put 2 1/2 pints cider into a pan with 400ml apple juice 1tbsp dark brown sugar and a ready made sachet of spices (plus an extra cinnamon stick broken in half and a couple of cloves).  If you don't have a sachet the recipe I have (once again from GoodFood magazine) recommends using: the zest of an orange, pared into strips, 4 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks broken in half and tbsp allspice berries.  If you want to make your mulled cider a little more alcoholic then you can also add some calvados/brandy, however I decided that was a little extravagant for a student who doesn't really like brandy!  Once you've put all the ingredients into a pan gently heat to mull it (don't let it simmer/boil).  Keep at a low heat for 20-30mins then serve.

Some of the recipes I have written about, including the Mexican dish, may seem a little fancy for a student, especially if you are on a budget.  However, I'd like to share with you how I make things go further.  The stew itself didn't cost the earth, between 5 of us it was about £3 per portion, however, as I'm about to show you, some of the ingredients lasted for more than just one meal.

The following day I made myself a delicious lunch from leftovers in my fridge.  I fried up half an onion I had left over from another day and added some of the leftover chipotle paste.  I then added a half-can of chopped tomatoes which I'd kept along with some water.  I seasoned it and left to simmer and reduce.  As there was a lot of rice with beans left over from the previous night I put a portion onto a plate and heated it up for a minute in the microwave.  I served with some leftover coriander sprinkled on top, a dollop of yoghurt and some salami which needed eating up.  And there you go, a quick and easy way to make sure leftovers don't go to waste!

Leftovers lunch
By planning your meals and buying all the ingredients in one go at the start of the week you can save yourself a lot of money but still eat delicious and exciting food.

Thanks to my friends who came over the other night, I had a lovely evening!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Simply the Best

Today is my first truly free day in a couple of months.  I had my last supervisions yesterday and term is not officially over.  I decided to celebrate my (temporary freedom) by cooking brunch, something simple, but delicious.  Bacon-wrapped asparagus, fried with a couple of soft-boiled eggs and toasted soldiers.

Bacon-wrapped asparagus with soft-boiled eggs

I wrapped each stick of asparagus in a rasher of streaky bacon before frying until the bacon was cooked and the asparagus was softened (but still retained some of its crunchiness).  I then brought a pan of water to the boil and soft-boiled my eggs by leaving them in there for about 3mins and I toasted some bread at the same time.  When the eggs were done I put them into cold water (to stop them from cooking too much more so that they remained soft-boiled) and I quickly reheated the frying pan and tossed the sticks of asparagus and bacon again over the heat just to warm them up again (this meal is easier if you have two hobs as you can cook the eggs and asparagus simultaneously).  I buttered the toast, cut it into soldiers and sat down to enjoy this really simple but delicious brunch.

You may have notice from the picture that my egg is in an espresso mug.  I don't have egg cups, so I made do with what I do have, these cups were small and therefore idea for propping up my soft-boiled egg, however, any mug/cup would do.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mushroom Paprikash

So my posts at the moment are a little like buses, you don't get one for ages, then three come along at once.  Essentially, I've found some time to cook and write about it (at last) so I may as well do it before work/festivities take over again (personally I hope it's the latter).  Anywho, I had a little spare time this evening and decided to try a new recipe as my grandpa got me a subscription to the Good Food magazine for Christmas and the first issue arrive the other day.  So here it is the very quick and simple mushroom paprikash.

Mushroom Paprikash
I was sceptical when the recipe said it would take 5 minutes to prepare and 15 to cook but it turns out (even with only one hob) this was the case :)

For 2 portions you will need:
1/2 tsp caraway seeds (I didn't use these as I forgot to buy them in my hurry)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion (sliced)
100g cup mushrooms (quartered)
1 large green pepper (deseeded and cut into chunks)
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (or just normal paprika but put in double the amount if that's the case)
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
4tbsp soured cream
chopped parsley (to garnish)
Pasta - whatever tickles your fancy!
(other suggestions include serving with a jacket potato which you can cook in the microwave or garlic bread)

While you prepare the veg bring a saucepan of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
Then heat the pan and add the caraway seeds if you're using them, lightly toast before adding the oil.  Tip in the onion, mushrooms and pepper and season with salt.  Cook (stirring well) for 6-8 minutes until the veg has softened and the onions are turning golden.
Stir in the paprika, tip in the tomatoes, stock and half a can of water and leave to simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly.
Top the portions with the sourced cream and parsley and serve over pasta (or whatever you've decided to eat it with).

It really is that simple and tastes delicious :)  Enjoy!

Merry Bridgemas Everyone!

This post may seem a little premature to some but in Cambridge term is coming to an end and Bridgemas is being celebrated.  However, the highlight of my week was not the Christmas dinner in Formal Hall, rather the evenings I have spent with friends.  I love sharing food with other people, it's far more fun than just cooking on your own and I'm really glad to have had friends to cook with.  From the yummy vegetable risotto to the delicious curry which were cooked for me by friends (you know who you are!) there's nothing better than sitting down to food with friends.  So that's the theme of this post, food with friends.

This time last year I was preparing for Christmas in Germany, where I spent a year studying abroad.  Not only was there mulled wine being served on the street corners and Lebkuchen galore I was also treated to a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner by my American friends!  I'm thinking of you guys and this year I'm thankful that I met you all and here's hoping that I'll be able to come and visit some of you next summer.

So this week I went over to a friend's house to cook dinner.  I know my blog is normally about how to cook food without an oven but there are some things which you just can't do without one and roast chicken with roast vegetables is one of those things!  We stuffed the chicken and prepared roast potatoes (new and sweet) with roast peppers and courgettes.  We even had stuffing, peas and gravy to go with our beautifully cooked, crispy-skinned chicken (is your mouth watering yet?)  Three of us sat down to a lovely roast dinner with mulled wine and Christmas crackers.  It was a lovely evening with good food and good friends!  Thanks guys!

Our beautifully roasted chicken 

Last night I carried on a Christmas tradition of mulled wine and mince pies with friends.  Loads of people came over and I spent a very happy evening eating, drinking and chatting, while we also tried to construct a gingerbread house.  I photographed the result, which was surprisingly good (even if I do say so myself), given how hard it was to pipe the icing!  I am so pleased to have such artistically gifted friends!  Anyway, here it is, the gingerbread house:

All we need now are Hansel and Gretel!
I have to admit that it only looked like this for about 5 minutes as I couldn't resist eating some for much longer!

As for the mulled wine, I have to admit I cheated a little.  Rather than making my own I bought some ready-made bottles as it is a lot quicker.  I did buy some spices (dried orange, cinnamon stick, cloves and some berries) in order to add to one bottle of red wine, however, although it tasted nice, I discovered that it is hard to make proper mulled wine on induction hobs as (even on the lowest setting) they get too hot, meaning it is difficult to gently heat the wine without it simmering too much.  I have to say it's at times like these when I really miss Germany with its wide range of mulled wine (Glühwein) and stands selling it throughout the town centre (at least that was the case in Bamberg where I was living).  As a result of all the mulled wine (and the oranges we stuck cloves in) my room smells lovely and Christmassy this morning!

As this has been a somewhat nostalgic post I thought I would include a couple of photos from a similar endeavour last year.  It has to be said the gingerbread house kits which you can get in German are rather superior to those in England.  I have some great memories of the evening we built this house last year, thanks for the wonderful evening guys, ihr fehltet mir gestern!

All that remains to be said is a huge thank you to all of my friends for such as wonderful year, season's greetings to you all!

Sag aloo

I know it's been ages but Cambridge finally got the better of me and I have spent the past couple of weeks writing one essay after another.  But as promised here is a post about a delicious chicken sag aloo I made courtesy of the free recipe cards Sainsbury's have been giving out :)  Apologies for the lack of a more imaginative title but most of my brain power this weekend is being used on my final essay of term.

This made two generous portions and took about 40mins (including preparation and cooking time)
For this delicious meal you will need:
Olive oil (for frying)
1/2 red chilli, washed, deseeded and chopped
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cube frozen ginger (or a couple tsps grated fresh ginger)
15g (1/2 pack) fresh coriander (chopped)
2/3 tbsp Balti paste (or more depending on how spicy you want it)
200g chicken breasts cut into chunks
200g (tin or carton) chopped tomatoes
1x560g tin peeled new potatoes in water (drained and halved) - saves having to par-boil them first
100ml water
Black pepper to season
A bag of baby leaf spinach
25 low fat natural yoghurt
(naan bread if desired)

I found this recipe really simple to make.  Simply heat the oil in a large pan (saucepan or frying pan), add half the chilli along with the onion, ginger, coriander (but save some to garnish) and the balti paste, cook over a medium heat, stirring, for 4-5 mins until the onion is soft and starting to turn golden.
Then add the chicken and stir fry until browned.  Then added the tomatoes, potatoes and 100ml water.  Season with black pepper and simmer, uncovered for 10 mins.
The recipe recommends using 4 portions of Sainsbury's frozen chopped spinach but as I don't have a freezer I bought some fresh baby leaf spinach.  This worked well.  Although I used the whole bag you could use more if you really love spinach!  Add the spinach to the pan bit by bit (letting it wilt down slightly as you go).  Then cover and heat through for 5mins, stirring occasionally.  Simmer uncovered for another 5mins, make sure the chicken is cooked through and that the sauce has thickened.
Divide between two plates/bowls and garnish with the remaining coriander and chilli.  Serve with a dollop of the yoghurt (and naan if you fancy).

Chicken sag aloo
So there you have it, one delicious sag aloo.  If you're a vegetarian then you can always leave out the chicken and add more spinach and onion, I'm sure it will still be delicious!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rabbit food

Sorry I haven't posted for a while - I had a lot of essays to write!  The theme of this post is salad and I'm going to start off with a combination that I discovered this year and have fallen in love with, warm chickpea and feta salad (apologies for the poor quality of the picture, I took this on my phone).

Warm Chickpea and feta salad
I posted a picture of this on twitter when I made it and here's the recipe:
For 2 portions you will need:
1tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
100g spinach leaves
1 red pepper (de-seeded and sliced)
1 red chilli (de-seeded and sliced) or chilli flakes
4 spring onions
100g cherry tomatoes (halved)
400g can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
40g feta (or similar cheese)

For the dressing whisk 1tsp olive oil, lemon juice, smoked paprika and a pinch of salt and pepper.  (If you prefer you can leave out the paprika although personally I really like it.)  Divide the spinach evenly between two plates or bowls.  Heat the rest of the oil in the frying pan and stir-fry the pepper for 5mins over a high heat until starting to caramelise at the edges.  Add the chilli (or leave it out if you're not keen on spicy food), spring onions and tomatoes and stir-fry for another minute.  Stir in the chickpeas and dressing and cook for one more minute.  Spoon the hot mix onto your spinach and you're good to go!  This takes very little time to prepare and is absolutely delicious!

If you want a salad which is a little less faff (although really 15 minutes isn't long), then this is the perfect lunch for you.  It is a super-simple mozzarella, tomato and basil salad with some added rocket to make it a little greener!  Simply slice a tomato and a ball of mozzarella (about 125g) then sprinkle over some dried basil (of course if you have fresh basil then this is ideal but I tried keeping one of those alive at university and it didn't go well)!  Place the rocket in the middle of the plate and dribble over some balsamic vinegar, season to taste and there you have it, one quick and easy lunch.  This dish is probably more appropriate for summer but I do still enjoy it now if I want a light lunch.

Tomato, mozzarella, basil and rocket

Now, I realise that omelettes aren't technically salads but I think they fit in with the whole 'light lunches' theme.  Omelettes are, like salads, super simple to make.  Simply whisk 3 eggs (or more if you're quite hungry!) in a bowl, melt some butter in a frying pan over a medium to high heat and pour in the eggs.  You then let it cook, while shaking the pan back and forth and using a spatula to ensure the mixture doesn't stick.  You can essentially add anything to an omelette (my favourite is mushrooms which I fry before making then omelette).  The one below contains mushrooms, cherry tomatoes (halved) and parsley.  Essentially tip your choice of ingredients onto one half of the omelette then, once the egg is cooked (make sure it is still moist in the middle) flip the other half over.  The picture below doesn't demonstrate this very well as it broke in the process but scrambled omelette ultimately tastes just as good!  Omelettes are a great way of using up leftovers and if you're worried about them being a little bland simply season with salt, pepper or any other herbs you may have lying around or grate in some cheese (a strong cheddar works particularly well!).

Well, I hope I've given you a few ideas for some light lunches.  If you want to learn how to make caesar salad then check out my Keeping it Simple blog post.  Next time I'll tell you about the yummy chicken sag aloo (or Indian chicken with potatoes and spinach) which I made the other day.  Happy cooking!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I realise that this isn't the post about salad which I promised, but I couldn't let Halloween pass me by without trying some seasonal recipes.  So here goes, a very pumpkin-filled post!

For starters, here is my attempt at pumpkin carving, it is meant to be my college's crest being held up by yales (the mythical creatures which traditionally support our crest).  Unfortunately my pumpkin was a little small to reproduce the rather complex design, but nevertheless it was fun to make!

So on to dinner!  I decided to make a simple but delicious pumpkin soup.

For two (large) portions, you will need:
1tbsp olive oil (for frying)
500g pumpkin flesh (I bought 2 small pumpkins which was just about enough)
350ml vegetable stock
70ml double cream
salt and pepper to season

The first thing you need to do is scoop all of the flesh out of the pumpkin (this was difficult, not sure whether it was due to the size and ripeness of the pumpkin or my technique).  Then chop the onion finely (this is particularly important if you don't have a blender).

500g pumkin flesh

First, you need to fry the onion for 5 minutes to soften it, but don't brown it.  Then you need to add the pumpkin flesh and cook for another 8-10 mins until it is soft.  Add the 350ml vegetable stock, season, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins.  The pumpkin should now be very soft.  Add the double cream and bring to the boil.  If you don't have a blender, don't worry, the texture won't be great but the soup will taste very nice as it is.  If you do have a blender then blend the soup to give it a lovely thick texture.  Alternatively you could use a potato masher, not perfect, but it will do.  Season to taste and enjoy!

We enjoyed our soup with some crusty bread.  We also thought that it would have been nice had we caramelised the onions before adding the pumpkin flesh, or with a sweet onion chutney dolloped on top.

We finished off the evening with pumpkin mug cake!
Like the mug cakes I have tried previously this was super-simple and took just minutes to prepare.

Mix 4 tbsp self-raising flour, 2 tbsp caster sugar, 2 tbsp pumpkin puree (mash up 2 tbsp pumpkin flesh), 2 tbsp milk, 1 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil and 1/4 tsp of either cinnamon or nutmeg.  Put in the microwave for a minute on high (maybe a little longer if your mug is slightly larger).  This produces a yummy cake, if you really want a strong taste of pumpkin then you'll need to add some more pumpkin flesh but make sure you use a little less flour if you decide to do this.

I hope your Halloween is as full of tasty treats as mine has been!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

One-pot wonder

As the title may suggest, all you need for this is one (large) pan (preferably a frying pan but a saucepan will also work) and a hob.  The vegetables you put in are up to you, I've included what I used but that doesn't mean other things won't work just as well.

Ingredients (2 portions)
sunflower oil (for frying)
1 onion
2 large/4 small chicken thigh fillets cut into chunks
4 tsp curry paste (I used Thai green curry but a red curry paste would work just as well) - if you like your food a little spicier then just add more!
2/3 mug rice (I used brown rice so I cooked it for 15 minutes beforehand)
1 mug (plus a little) chicken stock
Veg (use as much as you want depending on how hungry you are), I used carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, sugar snap peas and spinach (the veg can be fresh or frozen just remember that frozen veg will need longer to cook)

If you're using brown rice then cook the rice in simmering water for 15 minutes.  Put aside (in a bowl or on a plate).  Then heat the oil in your frying pan and fry the onion for about 5 mins until softened, add the chicken and fry for another couple of minutes, stir in the curry paste and add the rice.  Cook for another minute.  Add the chicken stock and larger pieces of veg, bring to the boil and lower the heat so it is simmering before covering with a lid (if your pan doesn't come with one then use a plate).  Cook for 10 mins before adding the rest of the veg.  If you're using spinach add this last but don't stir it in (otherwise it may disintegrate), just scatter it on top.  Cook for another 10 mins until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is cooked (if you run out of stock before the rice and veg are cooked then simply add some more - boiling water will also do if you've run out of stock).  Stir, season with salt and pepper (and some more curry paste if it's not spicy enough) and serve.

I do have a picture of this dinner, although I have to apologise for the presentation, something which I really need to improve on!

One-pot chicken pilaf

My next post will be about a couple of delicious salads, not very seasonal but I can at least try and pretend it's still summer!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Let them eat cake!

Here it is, as promised, the post in which I tell you how to make cake without an oven.  Unfortunately I don't have any photos of my mug cakes yet as they generally get eaten before I remember to photograph them, but I will update the post later when I do take some!

The best and most effective mug cake is the basic chocolate one.  All you need to make this is a mug and a spoon and a microwave (or a hob and saucepan - but more on that later).

You will need:
4 tbsp self-raising flour
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp sunflower oil
3 tbsp choc chips/grated chocolate

- Add dry self-raising flour, caster sugar and cocoa powder to the large mug, then add the egg and mix well
- Add milk and oil, mix well
- Add choc chips and mix well
- Cook in microwave for 3 mins on high (this is usually enough but if the cake isn't cooked then pop it back in for a few more seconds)

Traditional sponge: instead of cocoa powder and chocolate chips add an extra couple of tablespoons of flour and sugar.
Oreo cake: replace the chocolate chips with several crushed oreos
Nutella cake: add 3 tbsp Nutella instead of chocolate chips
Banana cake: This tasted good, however, I couldn't get the consistency right, hopefully this amended recipe will work better when I try it.  Mash up a ripe banana and mix it with 4 tbsp self-raising flour, 4 tbsp caster sugar, 1 egg, 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp milk.  Pop it into the microwave for 3-4 mins on high (or until baked)
Syrup sponge: N.B. This MUST be eaten fresh, otherwise it solidifies.  Make the traditional sponge mix in a separate bowl.  Pour a couple of tablespoons of golden syrup into the bottom of a mug and pour the cake mix on top.  Cook in the microwave as normal.  The syrup with rise up into the middle of the sponge creating a gooey centre.

If, like me last year, you don't have a microwave don't despair!  There is a way of making cake, you just have to be a lot more patient.  Mix the ingredients in a mug (as you would for a microwave cake) and cover the top of the mug with some baking paper (cut out a circle that is larger than the top of the mug and use an elastic band to secure it in place).  Then bring a pan of water to a gentle simmer (when you put the mug in the pan the water level should be just over halfway up the mug).  Once simmering place the mug carefully into the pan and leave for about 2 hours (give or take half an hour depending on the size of the mug and temperature of the water).  To check to see if the cake is ready carefully remove the mug from the water and peel back the baking paper so see if the mixture is cooked.  Make sure the water does not boil!  You don't want the baking paper to get too wet or for water to get into the mixture.

I hope you found this post helpful!  If you have any requests for other flavours of cake please post them below and I will let you know how I get on!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Keeping it simple

I'm quite pleased as I have managed to cook a couple of different things since my last post.  As the title suggests, none of them were very complicated but that didn't make them any less yummy.

The first recipe I'm going to tell you about was one of my go-to lunches last year.  It's quick, easy and is perfect if you want something a bit different to a sandwich.  So here goes, the recipe for Sweetcorn and avocado wraps.

This is quite a flexible recipe but here's how I normally make it (quantities are for approximately one portion)
Mash up 1/2 an avocado with a fork (I used my blender on this recipe for the first time, but I actually prefer the avocado when it's a bit lumpier).  Next, squeeze in some lime juice (a little less than half a lime), stir in a couple of teaspoons of tinned sweetcorn (add as much or as little as you fancy).  I then like to add some chilli flakes, but they're not essential.  Finely chop a spring onion and add to the avocado along with some basil (fresh or dried) - once again as much or little as you like - and you can even add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Spoon the mixture onto a wrap and top with rocket, roll up the wrap and enjoy!

If you want more filling you can also dice half a tomato and add that to the avocado or a quarter of a red onion.  This turns it into more of a guacamole and is a bit more filling.  If you don't fancy rocket then other lettuce works just as well, but I must say that the rocket and avocado combination is yummy.

Sweetcorn and avocado wrap

My next recipe is not as tried and tested, in fact it was the first time I've tried it.  This is mainly due to the fact that it's a lamb dish and in Germany it is remarkable difficult to find lamb, so I saved this for when I got back to England!

I do have a set of scales but I have also got quite used to approximating quantities based on how much is in a packet.  I cooked this for Dave and myself and it turned out very well for a first effort.

You need to heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan (all the ingredients end up going in so make sure your pan is big enough to start with!)  When the oil is hot fry 325g lamb (remember this is for two people) for 5 minutes until brown.  Chop up an onion and after you've browned the lamb add it to the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes until it has softened.  You then need to add the spices.  Add about 2 teaspoons of ground cumin and 2 teaspoons of ground coriander and fry for another minute (make sure you mix it well to get everything coated in the spices).  Then stir in about 90g of rice (long-grain rice is recommended, if like me you'd rather use brown rice make sure you cook it for 10 mins before you add it).  If you can't weigh out the rice add about a handful per person.  Then add 2 teaspoons of dried oregano and 1-2 tablespoons of tomato puree.  Grate the zest of 1/2 a lemon and add that along with the juice of half a lemon.  Then pour in 425ml of boiling water.  I had a measuring jug but if you don't then find a glass which you know the volume of e.g. a pint glass and use that, or just guestimate!  All you have to do now is stir well, bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes (I would say nearer 25).  I also steamed some veg in the microwave to have with this and just before you serve you can stir in some fresh parsley.

I realise that this recipe uses a lot of herbs and spices, but dried herbs and spices do keep for a long time.  Alternatively share them with a friend or cook for a large group of people, as I discovered last year, that is a very quick way of using things up!

One-pot Lamb with Rice

Finally, I made a chicken caesar salad.  Normally I get the ready-made dressing but this time I decided to make my own!  Once again I made this for two people, as it's always more fun when you're not eating something on your own.

Season two chicken breasts and try them until cooked (my recipe recommends 4 mins on each side but it may take a little longer), if you're unsure just get a sharp knife and cut them in half to check.  Crush a clove of garlic (or chop finely if you don't have a crusher).  In a bowl mash an anchovy (I used a fork to shred it), add the garlic and grace in a handful of parmesan (or equivalent cheese).  Mix in 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 1/2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar (I put in a little more than this).  It should be the consistency of yoghurt, but if it isn't add a dash of water until it is.  Next tear up some lettuce (I used a romaine lettuce but cos is also good, or just pick your favourite).  Shred the chicken onto the lettuce, add the dressing, mix, then grate over some more parmesan and if you want you can buy some croutons to sprinkle over the top.  (You could also make your own but as I don't have an oven I couldn't really do that).

This recipe was far quicker than I was expecting it took less that half an hour to make and tasted a lot better than the stuff you can get out of a packet (in my opinion anyway).

Chicken Caesar Salad

Well done if you've made it this far!  I'm going to try and keep my posts to one recipe in future!  I hope I've encouraged someone to try making something from scratch rather than going for the ready-made supermarket stuff, it really is quick and easy, especially once you've done it once or twice and the good thing about these recipes is that you can make more than you need and have some another day.  Watch out for my next post as it will be all about making cake without an oven (or even a microwave)!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Back in the bubble

Well, my year abroad is officially over and I've been back in the Cambridge bubble for five days, so I thought it was about time I started my blog.  My aim is to show that it is possible to cook yummy things with very little equipment, I have a microwave, an induction hob and a fridge along with basic equipment.  I've already had quite a bit of practice cooking as a student as during my year in Germany I had only a hob in my room, so I became quite good at adapting recipes!

The best way to cook is with friends, so I was really pleased when my friend Helen suggested we make cheese and ham pancakes for dinner!  It was the perfect end to a rather stressful day owing to a German exam I had this morning.

Although not the hardest of things to make I didn't put in quite enough milk, meaning the pancakes came out rather thick, but they were delicious nonetheless.  Pancakes really are quite simple, you need plain flour, eggs, milk (and water), a pinch of salt and some butter.  Although I do have a set of scales we were trying to be quick so I didn't bother weighing out the ingredients (another thing which contributed to their unusually thick consistency).  Just mix the flour, eggs, milk, salt and water together until you have a reasonably runny mixture, then melt enough butter in a frying pan to coat the bottom of it, make sure the pan is hot and add some mixture (not too much or the pancake will be really thick).  Let it cook on one side and then either flip it if you're feeling daring, or if not just use a spatula or knife to flip it over.  Cook on the other side and add the toppings :)  Quick, simple and yummy!

I hope it won't be too long before I find time to cook again, but with a dissertation due in soon and the first week of term just around the corner I'm not going to make any promises!

Not the prettiest pancakes ever but they were warm and tasty :)