Thursday, 5 September 2019

Some kind of fried rice thing

Life has been crazy hectic recently. Both my elderly parents are unwell, one in critical care in hospital, and I’m running in circles to support them both and also keep the kids fed and watered.

Meals have to be quick to put on the table, but nutritious and filling and satisfying. 

On my way home I asked Papa to chop up some mushrooms which had been languishing in the fridge and once home I took a pack of bacon lardons and a bag of sliced kale which had been bought but not yet used, and created a sort of improvised fried rice.

I cooked 2 cups of rice in the microwave (I have a sistema microwave rice steamer currently, but I’ve used microwave rice cookers for as long as I can recall.)

While that cooked, I fried the bacon in a very hot wok.  When starting to crisp, I removed the bacon using a slotted spoon and then I proceeded to fry the chopped mushrooms in that oil. I then added a handful of frozen chopped onion and a shake or two of frozen chipped garlic.  Not the purée or paste, but the roughly chopped garlic so as to keep the flavour at the correct level.

When these were nicely softened and cooked, I added the bag of chopped kale.  Of course at first it looked like it wouldn’t fit in the pan, but it soon “melted” down.  

By this point, the rice was cooked and I added it to the wok, breaking up any lumps and mixing everything very thoroughly so that no clumps remained.  I then added the bacon back along with a little black pepper. 

We all enjoyed this dish. Some added a little soy sauce and some added hot sauce of choice, but everyone enjoyed it!

Ingredients used:

1 large pack of lardons
1 bag of sliced kale
1 punnet brown mushrooms
1 onion, finely chopped, or a handful of frozen chopped onion
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.
Ground nut oil if wished
Salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, 12 August 2019

foraged foods - blackberry cake

Not-so-Littl'Un loves to pick our blackberries, but I never feel I know what to do with them these days. I don't have time or energy or spoons for jam making and there aren't always enough berries for a crumble or a pie, and a blackberry fool is a VERY decadent thing!  I don't always cope with too much decadence!

My parents were coming over for supper, and I was just making a very simple pot roast chicken, so I wanted something different for pudding.

I did a bit of googling and managed to find this blackberry cake recipe from The Happy Foodie, because one of the kids won't eat cakes made with ground almonds and LOTS of summer fruits cakes use ground almonds.  That same kid later decided to announce that they don't like cake other than fruit cake (don't get me started on the difference between a cake with fruit in, and a fruit cake) so I needn't have actually hunted!!!

Anyway, it then turned out that I don't have a 23cm cake tin, let alone a springform one, but I DO have a 19cm one and a 25cm one.  I decided more is more, rather than less is more, and I thought I could have a go at scaling up the recipe.  I had more than enough extra blackberries to scale up with anyway!

The biggest thing to remember with this is not to wash the berries, this can be tricky when they are handpicked, but if you wash them, they become soggy and the cake will be too wet and not rise properly.

Here's my scaled-up version.

350-400g blackberries
175g unsalted or slightly salted butter
4 medium eggs
150g caster sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling.
2 tbs demerara sugar (or sugar crystals for coffee which is what I used, as I don't have demerara and I wasn't about to buy a bag just for 2 tbs!)
300g plain flour
1.5 rounded tsps baking powder
150ml semi-skimmed milk

25cm springform cake tin (min 6cm deep)
non-stick baking paper
cake mixer or electric hand whisk


1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Line the cake tin with the non-stick baking paper.  If you only have greaseproof, make sure you use the dregs of the melted butter to grease the paper.  

2. Check through the blackberries for dirt or wildlife, and put to one side. Melt the butter, and set aside.
3. Put the eggs and the sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a balloon whisk (not the flat beater or its equivalent) attachment and whisk until pale and fluffy; alternatively use a hand-held electric mixer.
4. Add the flour and baking powder, and mix until incorporated (I switched to the normal cake beater for this.) Pour the melted butter and milk into the mix, and whisk again.
5. Sprinkle a handful of the blackberries into the bottom of the prepared tin. Pour about half of the cake mix over the top of the blackberries. Sprinkle half of the remaining blackberries over the cake mix, then add the remaining cake mix. Finally, sprinkle the remaining blackberries over the top and sprinkle with a little caster sugar (or vanilla sugar if you have some).
6. Put the cake tin on a flat baking sheet (to catch any potential spillages) and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until the cake is golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin, before popping the spring open and transferring to a cooling rack.  

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Teriyaki Chicken Thigh Fillets with peanut garlic kale

After a busy day of running errands, and visiting family, we needed a quick, easy and tasty supper.

First I set the oven heating up to 200 degrees, and then I brushed a foil tray with oil and laid out a pack of boneless skinless chicken thigh fillets - unfolded so they were flat, and smooth side down - and then covered them over with a small bottle of Blue Dragon teriyaki marinade.  I had planned to make my own, but I ran out of time, and this was my back up.  If I'd had time, I would have left this to marinade for an hour, but I didn't have this luxury, so I  drizzled on about a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and popped it in the now hot oven for 20 mins.

Meanwhile, I followed the packet instructions for a bag of sushi rice, up until the point where I cooked it in my rice cooker.  No fuss no muss.

After the 20 mins were up I turned the fillets over and sprinkled on some sesame seeds, then put them back for another 15-20 mins.

Now I finely chopped some spring onions and fried the white part in a lightly oiled wok.  I then added some chopped garlic.  When both were soft and fragrant, I chucked in a bag of prepared kale.  Big'Un isn't great with kale always and found it tough chewing (she's always had an issue with tough leafy foods) and her little brother kindly suggested that next time maybe we could try cavolo nero.  I nearly choked for laughing at his terrible "overheard in Waitrose" comment!!

Once the kale was properly mixed with the aromatics, I then added some soy sauce and about a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter, thinned with a little hot water.  Basically, I had an almost empty jar which I didn't want to waste, so I swished it out with boiling water and poured it all into the pan.  This did a nice job of thickening the sauce and also adding a subtle flavour and texture to the kale.  Finally, I sprinkled on a few sesame seeds.

Once everything was ready, I put the green parts of the spring onions out to be used as a garnish for the chicken, and I sprinkled the rice with mirin before serving.  I also put packets of Tanaka Gohan sushi rice spice mix for sprinkling on the rice.

There was also plenty of lovely sticky teriyaki sauce for the rice.  The whole meal was a huge success.

We also brought some sushi rice ball makers to the table for a little fun, and these were great too!  We used these ones.  Tiny hasn't always enjoyed sushi rice, but this way he definitely did!  This was a definite "please do make this again Mama" meal!

Monday, 25 March 2019

Cheesey smoked haddock

Mondays are what I call our revolving door days.  The girls help at Rainbows and Brownies, both now being too old to actually attend either, and our pack doesn't have enough call for a Guides section.  Tiny usually helps if I'm helping too, or he hangs out with Papa for a change.  He's the only of the 3 kids who is a fish fan, so I often cook some salmon or some simple white fish for Papa, Tiny and myself to share, and the girls have mini pizzas and veggies which they cook when they need them in the halogen. 

Today we had a surplus of milk though, and Tiny wanted in on the pizza action, so Papa brought 3 mini pizzas home and I made a simple ordinary cheese sauce when I got home from work - with my usual touches of malt vinegar and mustard powder, of course.

Once we were closer to our mealtime - we usually try and fit in our supper during the longer Brownies' session - I laid some undyed smoked haddock in a buttered dish, and poured the cheese sauce over it.  I grated on some hard Italian cheese and then I baked the whole shebang for 20 mins at 200 degrees.

I served this with some steamed green beans and some soft white rolls to mop up the tasty cheese sauce.  It was simple but satisfying!

Monday, 28 January 2019

Express Vegan Noodles

We have been using discounted Hello Fresh boxes recently, and one recipe for express noodles with chicken had me actually wishing it hadn’t had any chicken. I’m not a fan of chicken breast and I felt by increasing the amount of nuts and veg, this could be cheaper and yet tastier. 

And it turned out to be very easy to make it vegan, so I did. For fun.  Here’s what I did.


1 bunch of spring onions
2 handsful of unsalted cashew nuts
2 handsful of salted roasted peanuts
150-200g sugar snap peas
150-200g baby corn
Approximately 500g noodles of choice - I love fresh ones for speed
60ml ketjap manis
30ml soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Oil for frying
Vegan stock powder

First split the cashews and set aside.
Then finely slice the spring onions and set aside.
Then crush the peanuts very roughly. 

At this point, cook the noodles if required and set aside after taking precautions to avoid sticking together as detailed on the packet.  If you start them as you start frying the problem shouldn’t arise.

Heat a wok and add a little drizzle of groundnut oil.  When hot, add most of the spring onions and stir. After a minute or two, add the halved cashew nuts and continue to stir.  Now add the veg (sugar snaps and baby corn) and keep stirring. 

Sprinkle about half to 3/4 of a teaspoon of veg gan stock powder onto the veg and add a splash of water, mix well.  Cook until the water has evaporated.

 Now you must add most of the peanuts, reserving some for later.

When the contents of the pan are well mixed, add the noodles and the sauces.  Stir well and mix with tongs or cooking chopsticks.

When it is all thoroughly coated, and piping hot, serve with the reserved spring onions and peanuts for sprinkling on top at the table.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Emergency Banana Cake

Our lovely church playgroup has been the joyful participant in the FareShare scheme and a local Tesco Express branch donates pastries and breads most weeks which Papa goes to collect and we share with playgroup and church members, with any left over being taken to a local homeless shelter - so there really is no waste!

However, the Tesco we receive donations from has apparently had a broken freezer for a few weeks, and the repair is not likely to be swift.  So when I received the text to inform me that there was no donation this week, I decided to use some black bananas to whizz up a cake for playgroup instead.

I used to bake every Thursday once upon a time, when our playgroup was a small circle of parents and carers, but since beginning online advertising, we've had far higher numbers and I just can't cope with the volume each week!

But just this once, I wanted to.  Besides, those bananas were going to go to waste otherwise!

So I looked for a quick and easy recipe online using the right amount of banana, and then of course I slightly tweaked what I found because it was too high in sugar for my preferences.

Here is what I did, I'm afraid I mix and matched the measurements because the original recipe was a "cups" recipe, and while I like that for liquids and powders, I don't like it for things like butter.  Just try it, you won't be sorry.   At least 7 people asked me for the recipe...

Emergency Banana Cake

4 oz butter 
3/4 cup sugar. I used a mix of dark brown soft and golden caster sugars
2 eggs
4-5 mashed bananas
2 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 Preheat the oven to 180˚, and line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.  I also used 3 silicone muffin cups as all the mixture didn't fit in the loaf tin.

2 Cream the butter and sugars together until smooth.  Beat in the eggs, then the bananas.  Add the flour and bicarb, and just stir gently until just combined.  Do not over mix.
If you are doing the creaming and egg mixing in a machine, stop and use a spatula to fold the flour and bicarb in by hand.

3 Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins.  Remove the smaller cups and turn the loaf around.  Cook for another 15 mins and you should find that a toothpick comes out clean by then.  Turn out and cool.  Slice and share and eat.  Sit back and accept the adulation for very little effort.

HINTS AND TIPS:  The recipe suggests using a 9" x 5" pan. I didn't have anything in even a vaguely similar size so I improvised. It suggested using one whole cup of sugar.  I reduced this to three quarters, and would actually happily reduce the sugar further than I did already.  It also suggested cooking for 1 hour, but I felt my cake was done perfectly, but I do have a new fan oven.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

another courgette disguising trick - cheesy green sludge

Friday afternoon and I couldn't think what to make.  The veg drawer contained mainly carrots, courgettes and mushrooms.  Deciding not to take too many risks, I avoided the mushrooms and decided to see if I could do something new with the courgettes.

First I wanted something different with the carbs also, and we've had a lot of pasta and rice, and we don't often have a lot of bread in the house, so I got out the bag of red potatoes and using my Bamix SliceSy I made thin slices of potato.  I steamed them in the microwave for 5 mins and then tipped them into a baking dish.  I got not-so Littl'Un to spread them out, season with salt and pepper, cover with milk and cream and dot with butter.  We then put them in a preheated oven and let them cook while we got on with the courgette transformation.

Now I chopped up half a pack of streaky bacon and got that frying in a pan.  I finely chopped a couple of shallots (because I had them from earlier than the onions - one onion would have been fine also!) and added those to the bacon once it had started browning.

Swapping cutters, I got Big'Un to grate the courgettes in the SliceSy and once the bacon and shallots were cooked the way I like (brown and almost crispy bacon, soft and translucent shallot) we tipped in the grated courgettes, seasoned it all with black pepper, and stirred well.  I lowered the flame and allowed it to simmer with the lid on until it eventually turned to almost mush.  At this point, I added the thicker cream which was still stuck to the pot after adding the liquid double cream to the potatoes, and a good dollop of butter.  Finally, just before serving, I chucked in a good handful of grated cheese and waited for it to melt completely, after stirring it through.

The whole meal was a masterpiece!! Everyone wanted more, and even Tiny didn't patronise me when I called it "cheesy bacon vegetables" - he didn't seem to clock that it was courgettes this time!!!