Sunday, 28 September 2008

Aubergine & Sweet Potato Curry

Hello, this is Ryan's fiancée! So tonight was my turn to cook! Now this doesn't happen very often, I am usually only allowed to do the pudding but today I made the main course. I was flicking through my Weight Watchers magazine (in a bid to try and shift a few pounds before the wedding) and saw this recipe and thought it looked yum! Just my type of meal - full of veggies. Now for those of you who know about weight watchers, the recipe was 1.5 points per serving! Wow! However this is not actually many points (most people can have at least 18 points a day) so we doubled the ingredients to give a hearty 3 points per meal (although Ryan had a slightly bigger portion, as he is not watching his weight - the opposite in fact). The below recipe is enough for 4 portions so we could save some for tomorrow night.

Below is a photo of the ingredients. The funny looking thing at the front is garlic grown on my parents allotment! The onions and spinach also came from the allotment too.

I misted a saucepan with low fat cooking spray (a key ingredient for Weight Watchers but Ryan isn't keen on it!) added 3 diced onions and sautéed for 5 mins until the onions had started to soften. Next I added 4 cloves of crushed garlic, 3 tbsp of medium curry powder and 4 tsp of whole cumin seeds and continued to fry for 2 mins stirring all the time.

Next I added the veg - 1 large aubergine diced, 1 huge sweet potato (a spudzilla from our local Tesco!) diced, one large courgette from our garden diced, 1l of vegetable stock made from 2 stock cubes and some seasoning. All this was put in the saucepan (by the way the saucepan needs to be huge!) and brought to the boil. See picture.

Once boiling the heat was reduced, pan covered and left to simmer for 20 mins until the vegetables were tender.

Whilst this was happening I boiled an egg, as the receipe required a hard boiled egg on top but I don't like eggs so just did one for Ryan.
Once the vegetables were tender I added 400g of diced spinach, stirred to combine the flavours and then cooked for a further 2 mins until just wilted.
This was then divided between 2 bowls with half left over for tomorrow nights dinner. Topped with 1 tbsp of low fat natural yogurt, a sprinkle of fresh coriander and the hard boiled egg. It was very tastey and low in fat - perfect!

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Saturday, 27 September 2008

Satay Sauce

This is a favourite of ours from Thai restaurants and so my lady keeps asking me to cook something similar. This is my take on satay sauce. It is quite versatile, and can be used as a sauce for dipping, for stir fries or for serving with grilled meats like chicken.


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-2 dried or fresh chillies (depending on how hot you like it)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (I am using crunchy type, and yes it is Tesco value but it has the same ingredients as the standard peanut butter, just a cheaper looking label and half the price)
  • 1 teaspoon hot curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 tablespoon soya sauce
  • ~150 ml water
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan, and fry the garlic and chilli.

Reduce the heat to very low, and add the peanut butter to the pan.

The peanut butter will start to melt very quickly.

Add the water and soya sauce to the pan and mix well (you may need to add more water later on, as the sauce tends to thicken up, but appears quite runny initially on adding the water, if that makes sense). Now add the curry powder, ginger, and a little salt and pepper to taste.

Heat for about 10 minutes on a very gently hob, stirring frequently. You may need to add a bit more water to get the consistency you want (or more peanut butter if you like it thicker I suppose).

We served the sauce over some grilled chicken, with rice and some stir fried garlic spinach and courgettes. Very nice!

By the way, I put two chillies into my sauce, and it was pretty spicy, hot enough to be sweat inducing, so depending on how spicy you like your food you may want to add a bit more or less chilli!

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Friday, 26 September 2008

Curly Kale and Bacon

Curly Kale is in season at the moment, and we were lucky enough to be able to harvest some from my fiancees dad's allotment yesterday. It is a pretty cabbagey type vegetable, so I decided to cook it up with some bacon, similar to a recipe by Delia Smith.


  • Curly Kale - lots of it (see first picture)
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Nob butter
  • 250 g bacon

First of all wash the kale well, and check for insects (depending on where you got it from - my one was full of flies and caterpillars). Next, remove the harder stalks from it, and chop the leaves up finely - about 5 mm thickness is good.

Chop the onions finely, and chop the bacon into lardon size pieces. Melt the butter in a large wok (you need a really big pan to start with, but the kale reduces down quite a lot), and fry the onions and bacon until the onions are softened.

Next, add in the garlic cloves (finely chopped) and fry for a further couple of minutes.

Now you need to add the kale into the pan. It will take up quite a lot of room, but don't worry, it will reduce down once it cooks. Put a lid on top of it for 5 minutes.

Remove the lid, and you will see that the kale has steamed a bit in the pan, and should have reduced in size. Stir it now to mix in all the bacon and onions, then cover and leave for a further 5 minutes.

It should look something like this, and the kale should be nice and soft. If it is undercooked, it tends to have a slightly bitter taste, but this will go once it is ready.

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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Special "What's Left In The Fridge" Fried Rice

Before going on holiday for a week recently (we went to Ibiza, the weather was good, plenty of wine, a bit of clubbing, thanks for asking!) I had to use up everything left in the fridge. What better way than in a wok, with a special fried rice theme to it. And luckily I had some rice cooked and cooled from the night before too. I have given the ingredients that I used here, but that is just a guideline - you get the idea - just mix up whatever is left in the cupboard, or that you think will go well in the wok.


Rice - cooked and cooled
2 eggs
2 chillies
3 slices turkey
Ratatouille leftovers

Assemble all the ingredients you are going to use. It might look something like this, or it might be a different set of ingredients altogether. You need at least some rice, onions, garlic and chilli and a bit of oil. A bit of meat, some vegetables, and something to add a bit of sauce to it are probably essentials too.

First of all fry up the onions, garlic, chilli and carrots (all finely chopped) in a little oil in a wok. Fry until the onions are softened and translucent.

Chuck in the rice, and stir fry for about 2 minutes or so, keeping it moving all the time.

I had a bit of courgette ratatouille left over in the fridge, so that went into the wok as well.

I scooped the rice off to one side, as shown below, and heated the ratatouille through before mixing it into the rice.

You can see in this picture a handful of cheery tomatoes have been added, along with the chopped up turkey slices.

Next, some eggs. I beat these first, then scooped the rice off to one side to make some room. In with the eggs, and I cooked them like an omelette before breaking it up into little pieces and stirring it through the rest of the rice.

Make sure the whole lot is piping hot before serving immediately.

Oh yes, it is probably not a good idea to re-heat this dish again as the rice has already been re-heated once already. Just eat it all up straight away whilst it is hot!

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Monday, 22 September 2008

Roasted Courgettes (Zucchini) and Thyme

Here we have some more lovely courgettes. If, like me, you are always on the lookout for different ways to cook a glut of courgettes, then this is a nice easy one.
Take the courgettes and slice them thinly long ways. Place in a baking tray.

Coat with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, garlic and thyme.

Roast in a hot (200 C) oven for about 20 minutes, turning half way through.

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Thursday, 11 September 2008

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble

Hello, I am a guest writer (Ryan's fiancée). Today I made rhubarb and apple crumble! Ryan doesn't really like making desserts so I usually have to make them.

To start with I chopped up 4 sticks of rhubarb (fresh from our garden) and placed them in the baking dish.
Next I peeled and chopped 2 apples (fresh from Ryan's parents garden - his Dad was hoping his apples would make an appearance on the internet!) and placed them in the bowl.
I sprinkled the fruit with a little bit of white sugar to sweeten it up and mixed everything together.
Next I made the crumble using 6oz of self raising flour (self raising flour makes the crumble a bit fluffier than plain flour) and 3oz of butter (at room temperature). I rubbed these together through my fingers (the traditional way - not using Ryan's food processor!) until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs. Then I added 3oz of white sugar and again rubbed the mixture through my fingers until it was all mixed and there were no large lumps.
Then I put the crumble on top of the fruit and pressed it down. Sprinkling it with a small amount of brown sugar to make it a little crunchy (that is how Ryan likes it).

I put it in the oven at 180degrees C for about 45 mins (until the fruit just beings to bubble up through the crumble, which should be golden brown and a bit crispy).

Serve with plenty of custard for an old school dinners style pudding.  Delicious!

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Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Potato and Three Bean Chilli Con Carne

This was a making-it-up as you go along kind of a dish, but it seems to be fairly healthy with plenty of beans and not too much fat. It is all in one pot so saves on the washing up and there is no messing around with rice or side dishes. As the "summer" comes to an end, it is already starting to get dark, cold and wet, so this spicy warming dish is just the ticket.

It is somewhat similar to the keema I made before in fact.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 chillies (depending on how hot you want it, this can be adjusted)*
  • 1 tablespoon dried coriander
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons hot chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 500 g minced beef
  • 1 kg potatoes
  • 400 g tin tomatoes
  • 400 g tin Heinz Mexican mean beans
  • 400 g tin kidney beans
  • 400 g tin cannelini beans
  • 1 pint beef stock
  • 4 carrots

Chop up the onions, garlic and chillies, and fry in the olive oil until the onions have softened. Meanwhile, wash and cut the potatoes into small cubes or bitesize pieces and peel and chop the carrots.

Add the minced beef and dried spices - chilli, coriander, cumin, cinnamon - and fry until the beef is browned, gently stirring.

Add the potatoes (but not the carrots just yet, although one bit snuck into this picture) and stir fry with all the meat and spices for a couple of minutes until all the potatoes are well coated.

Next thing into the pot is the carrots, do the same as with the potatoes.

Now, pour in the beef stock, bay leaves and the tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes remove the lid and turn the heat up a little. Simmer uncovered for a further 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and drain the kidney and cannelini beans, then add them to the pot along with the baked beans. Add the oregano at this stage too. Stir well.

Simmer gently for 10 more minutes, just to ensure the beans are all heated right through. Serve immediately with some grated cheese on the top.

* I used a lot of chillies in this dish - 2 super chillies and 2 Hungarian Hot Wax, both of which are mighty hot, and also the "hot" chilli powder. It still wasn't very hot for some reason. Next time, more chillies! If you aren't sweating, it is not hot enough!

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Sunday, 7 September 2008

Making Orange Juice (Magimix 4200)

I might have mentioned before that I got a nice new food processor a while back with some money I was given for my birthday... I might have mentioned several times, as it is my favourite thing in the kitchen.

I got round to trying out the juicing attachment the other day. You just pop it on top of the bowl, in place of the usual lid.

Now halve some oranges. Unfortunately the machine can't do that for you.

Juice them! It takes a matter of seconds to squeeze the juice out of one segment.

Afterwards, a lot of the bigger bits of pulp are caught in the juicing bit. You need to rinse these off straight away, as dried on orange pulp is one of the toughest materials known to man. You will need to use a chisel to remove the pulp otherwise.

And this is the juice...

That's it really. Quite effortless juice making!

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Parmesan and Monsodium Glutamate

The other day I had a nice pasta dish, topped as I often do with parmesan cheese. This reminded me about monosodium glutamate (MSG). Parmesan is one of the best naturally occurring sources of glutamate which combines with sodium to make MSG. Other natural sources of glutamate include tomatoes and asparagus.

Perhaps that explains why Italian food is so tasty, as MSG is a flavour enhancer and is described by some as the essence of tastiness. If you ever try some MSG on its own, which can often be bought in Chinese supermarkets qute cheaply, you will understand why. It is the fifth taste, after sweet, sour, salty and bitter and salty.

It was discovered by a Japanese professor who was fed some excellent noodle soup by his wife. He asked what was in it, and she showed him the seaweed. This was the moment that MSG was discovered, and I like the way he calls it the fifth taste 'umami' - a common Japanese word that is usually translated as 'savoury' - or, with more magic, as 'deliciousness'.

You can read more about this at this page which is quite an interesting read, and explains the history of MSG, the rise of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, and other interesting bits and pieces. It is well worth a read. I don't think I will be heading out to buy some "Gourmet Powder" myself, but now at least I know why some foods are particularly unexplicably tasty!!

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Courgette and Lemon Thyme Bread

I don't normally go in for that much baking, but I am struggling to find exciting and interesting ways to eat courgettes in a different manner, so I decided to give this recipe a go. I did it in my food processor, but it can just as easily be done by hand. The resulting loaf is quite rich what with all the butter and milk, but that is not a bad thing in my opinion!


  • 500 g plain flour
  • 30 g fresh yeast (or dried yeast equivalent)
  • 45 g butter
  • 400 ml milk
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 bunch lemon thyme
  • 2 courgettes (grated)
Dissolve the yeast in the milk.

Mix all the dry ingredients - the sugar, salt and flour - together in the food processor with a dough hook by whizzing it around for about a minute.

Add the grated courgette and thyme, and make sure that is evenly mixed through.

Keep the processor running, and add the milk and softened butter. Stop kneading when the dough forms a lump, or wraps itself around the dough hook.

Leave it in the food processor and cover with a tea towel, leave to rise for 1 hour. Knock down the dough by pulsing the processor about 5 or 6 times.

Transfer to a loaf tin and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes, before cooking in an oven at 180 C for about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool a little before tipping out of the loaf tin. As you can see here, you get a very nice moist loaf and the thyme/courgette flavours go really well together.

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