Monday 22 December 2014

Spiced rice pudding with banana

We occasionally have bananas that go over ripe and no one wants to eat them and they turn black. Usually I make a banana bread/loaf/cake, but today I fancied something comforting and creamy.  I recalled that my mother and grandmother used to feed me milky rice with mashed banana when I was unwell (dudu, bhathu, kola) so I thought I'd see if I could make something a bit more complex but similar. 
I got Big to mash the bananas in a bowl (very cathartic) and into a milk pan, I put put 50g flaked rice, a bit under a pint of semi skimmed milk, about 3 tbs whole milk powder, about 50g ground whole almonds and the seeds from1 or 2 cardamom pods, ground. (I buy big bags of almonds cheap in supermarkets in the Indian aisle or in Indian supermarkets, then I just grind a few in the Bamix when I need them. They are more nutritious with the skins anyway. So I added the seeds to the almonds and blitzed both together.)

I heated this to a boil, simmered (stirring lots) until thickened and then I mixed it into the mashed bananas. 
I allowed it to cool a little (while we ate supper) and then we tucked in. Unbelievably creamy, really easy, and super nutritious. 
The ground nuts aren't necessary, or desiccated coconut or ground rice could be substituted. 
This also works with soya milk, omitting the milk powder, but doesn't work with rice milk, it never thickens, unless you use cornflour or custard powder as well. Flaked rice makes it really quick and easy but pudding rice or risotto rice would also work but would need about 20 mins simmering and stirring. 

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Meatball pasta bake

I often get a pack of meatballs in one of the 3for£10 deals but as the family appetites have increased, a pack of 12 really doesn't go very far! One day a week I feed only myself and the 3 kids but even then 3 meatballs per person isn't always enough!
I was looking for a way to make them go further and it occurred to me I could adapt the wonderful chicken and ham pasta bake from Gill Holcombe's excellent first book, thereby also saving me from the bit of cooking I for some reason really dislike, which is boiling and draining pasta!


Fry a pack of meatballs in a wide shallow pan (if you have one which is oven-safe you can save on washing up too!)
Once they are browned on all sides, add a finely chopped onion and sliced garlic if liked.
Add a handful of sliced chestnut mushrooms if you wish also.
Now open a litre carton of tomato juice and pour out a glassful. Save this for a Bloody Mary or just a refreshing drink later. Now pour the rest of the carton into the pan and stir in about half a pack of cream cheese until it is all melted in. You may wish to add any herbs or Marigold powder or other seasoning as wished.
Now add uncooked pasta shapes, about a handful per person, or premeasured if you prefer. Mix well. Then either pour into a baking dish, or if the pan is oven safe just put it straight in the oven at 180°C for 25-30 minutes, top with grated cheese and maybe some crushed crisps. Bake for another 10-15 mins and the pasta should be perfectly cooked. Serve with a salad or a cooked green veg.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Thali meal of joy

I realise it has been a little while again, mainly because I have reached a core of good regular recipes I use, but also because I simply have less time to blog when I do do something new.
But I still add pics to my various social networking sites, and when I get lovely feedback, it impels me to update this blog. 

I had a really good time making supper yesterday, having been through a bit of a slump of lack of inspiration and tiredness, and with Godpapa's suggestion of serving the meal on thalis, the meal was just perfect and all three kids ate with much pleasure.

It was a very simple meal, really, and only took under an hour to prepare, but it was a really good compilation.  It was the pickled prawn curry which I have blogged before here, along with a very simple cauliflower and pea curry, a mix of Basmati, brown and wild rices, and some quick and easy but crunchy and tasty hake fish pakoras.

 The smaller kids have little thalis which are less intimidating.

Inside a fish pakora. Batter should be crispy and the fish should be fully cooked but still moist inside.

The cauliflower was very easy and I put that on to cook first.  

I fried some cumin seeds and turmeric powder in a little oil until the cumin started to pop.  Then I tipped in half a bag of frozen cauliflower. Obviously fresh would also work, but this had been taking up much needed space in my freezer and I wanted to use it up.  I tossed it about to coat it, and sprinkled on some garam masala.  My home made spice mix, which I make mostly according to a Vicky Bhogal "recipe". (Looks like I have never blogged it, so I will in a separate post.)
I then chopped in a few wrinkling tomatoes and a splash of water, and a little of the tinned tomatoes I was using in the prawns. (I also added some chopped wrinkly cherry tomatoes to the prawns.)  About half a teaspoon of salt sprinkled over, then lid on and left to simmer for a few minutes.
At the very end I poured in a cupful of frozen peas, and switched it off. The residual heat heats the peas and you want them fresh and vibrant green, not grey green and shrivelled.

Meanwhile I made the pakora batter in a bowl and Godpapa helped me by kindly cubing the hake fillet up.

About a cup of gram flour, also known as chickpea flour or besan, a tablespoon of sesame seeds, a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of ground cumin, and half a teaspoon of ground coriander.  Mix evenly, then slowly add about a third of a cup of cold water. I also remembered I had an open bottle of cheap value basics savers type fizzy water, so added a little splash of that as an afterthought a la Ready Steady Cook.  The batter should be thick not runny, I suppose slightly thicker than pancake batter.

I then put the fish pieces into the batter, and gently deep fried them in my karahi.  If you have a deep fat fryer, this would be much quicker. I had to do it in several batches.  I don't fry often, especially not deep fry, I'm not going to justify it, or even explain in detail how to do it, as you kind find that info anywhere online if you have never done it before.  Though I will say, if it helps, make sure the oil is hot enough by dripping a drop of batter into the pan. If it sizzles and pops straight to the surface, the oil is just right.  Don't do too many at a time, and drain on kitchen paper.

The rice cooked itself in the rice cooker, I used a Waitrose brown and wild rice mix, and cut it with basmati which I buy in big bags when it is on offer around Eid and Diwali.

To make things look nice, I spooned the rice into little ramekins and turned it onto the main thali spaces, which amused the kids as that is how Masala Zone serves their thalis.

Even Big'Un who normally won't eat prawns ate 3 helpings of the prawn curry, and Littl'Un who has only recently started eating fish again had 2 pakoras.  Tiny also ate all he was given and had more, though the rice was on the chewy side for him it seems.  Brown rice can be a bit too filling for little tummies, which can mean they don't get enough protein or veg, so I cut back their rice servings accordingly and it went better.

The pakora batter is useful for all sorts of things, incidentally! Veggies, small pieces of chicken, onions (of course!) and some people make "bread pakora" as a snack, where squares of bread are sandwiched with a thin layer of ketchup, dipped in the batter and deep fried.  It can also me made into a sort of pancake which is more reminiscent of an omelette, useful for vegans and anyone allergic to eggs, especially as it is very protein rich.

Have fun, and remember to present food beautifully when you can!

Friday 4 April 2014

breakfast bite flapjack morsels

Another end of cereal packet recipe.

You may recall I pour the dregs and crumbs and powder of a pack of breakfast cereal, be it muesli, granola or branflakes, into a medium lock and lock and store until I can use it.

I often bake a little something on a Thursday evening for the Friday morning playgroup I host, but as Littl'Un had no school, we had a little extra time on Friday morning itself, so I threw these together and ate my brekkie while they baked. Mixing took no more than 5 minutes.

I poured about half the amount I had collected, I'd say about 4-6 ounces, into a bowl, added a large squirt of liquid marg, a glug of squeezy golden syrup, a tablespoon or 2 of sugar (depending on the cereal dregs in use) and about a 100ml boiling or warm water. 

I then stirred this all together until it was clumping and sticking together. 

Then I lightly oiled the cups of my lovely silicon mini muffin tray (which was a Christmas pressie from Papa) and gently pressed a teaspoonful of the mix into each.

I then baked this for 15 mins at 180 deg C.

I then left it to cool a little in the tray before popping the little bites out of the cups and leaving them to cool completely.  These are chewy, crumbly, crunchy and very economical to make! Yours will be unique, relying upon your own cereal library input.  Each batch will even differ.  Have fun experimenting!

Spicy nut snack

I have been trying to lose a little weight and so have been aiming to have fewer carb-heavy meals, and up my veggies to fill me, which isn't all that easy on a budget. I don't want to skimp on snacks and I want something flavourful so I feel satisfied easily.  Nuts are a really good and healthy snack, although commercially produced nuts can contain very high levels of salt.  Plain raw nuts are better, but can get boring, and some types taste quite sweet which is not satisfying if, like me, you tend towards savoury snacks.

I had recently discovered an American brand of pretzel pieces which come in varying flavours, and had become a little addicted to the Hot Buffalo Wings flavour, so I wondered if I could add a little of that zingy sour flavour to some raw nuts to make them a bit more interesting.  So this post is not really so much a recipe, as a snack idea.

Firstly, do not buy almonds or cashew nuts or similar from a supermarket, unless it is close to one of the Asian big religious festivals, and your supermarket has a big World Foods section.  Try and find an Asian shop and get a much better price.

Next, pour about a jar's worth of the chosen nuts into a bowl.  I used a mix of almonds and cashews.  Redskin peanuts would work, not sure what else.  Some people make things like this with canned chickpeas which have been rinsed and left to dry a litte.

Add 1-3 tablespoons of hot sauce.  I used Encona original, I'm planning on trying Frank's Hotsauce and maybe ordinary Tabasco at some point. 

Now sprinkle on maybe half a teaspoon of salt.  Mix really well.

Line a baking tray with foil and spread the nuts out over the tray.  Try to separate them well.

Bake at about 150 deg C for about 10 minutes.

Remove and leave to cool on tray.  Pour into jar or other airtight container, and remember to scrape up any dried hot sauce and pour it over.

Don't eat too many at once!!!!!

Thursday 6 February 2014

Thermos overnight porridge

So I've been following and feeling inspired by the wonderful Girl Called Jack blog lately. She's done a few posts about porridge and other oat based breakfasts. Big'Un has been using her Berry Bircher (Starbucks-alike) pot recipe for a few months for her early morning starts. She makes enough for 2 days at a time in the evening and it is all soaked, creamy and plumptious by the morning. 
Papa has a couple of 5am starts a week, and he has been taking those "just add boiling water" instant porridge pots, but the cost of those quickly adds up, even if we buy them on offer! 
I looked into slow cooker porridge but it seemed to be very fraught, so I carried on searching. Then I saw a couple of very interesting posts from the lovely Jack about instant porridge and so we decided to give her method involving milk powder and oats and the kettle a go. However this seemed very heavy when made with ordinary oats, (and I didn't want to use more processed quick oats) and Papa felt very uncomfy after this. We also tried the microwave version but it also wasn't quite right. I looked again at more slow cooker methods, and even found there are multicooker machines which will cook porridge on a timer, ready for the morning. Yes, I know both hob top or microwave porridge don't take long to make, but they do take a while to cool down, and that is a problem unless we start getting up yet another half hour earlier.
Eventually, I found a few posts discussing thermos cooking. I was intrigued. I gave it a go.
Wow I'm so glad I did!!  Here's how:

So first we made the Girl Called Jack oat/milk powder mix and stored it in a cereal container. Papa had added ground ginger and lemon sugar to flavour his. 
I then boiled a kettle and preheated a proper metal thermos flask. Then I refilled the kettle and boiled it again. Once the kettle came to the boil again, I emptied the flask out (into the washing up bowl, so as not to waste it) and using a jam funnel, I put in one mugful of the oats mixture. I then quickly added 3 mugsful of the fresh boiling water. I sealed up the flask, shook it around, and then left it on its side overnight.
The next morning we had gorgeously creamy, smooth, cooked, warm porridge!! The perfect consistency and the perfect temperature. There was at least enough there for 4 people, in a 1.5 ltr flask. We had to mix it up as there was thin liquid on top and stodgy lumps at the bottom, but it evened out. That was a huge food flask, so I'm trying it again with a standard 1ltr drinks thermos. I will report back on how it works out. 
Seriously, try it! You will love it!! You could try adding cocoa to the mix for a change, the flavours you could add are endless.