Tuesday 20 December 2016

easiest ever salmon with variables

Monday evenings are hectic to say the least. Big'Un goes out before 5pm to help with our local Rainbows pack. She's a young leader and working towards her Queen's Guide award.
Little'Un then goes to Brownies which runs straight after the Rainbows at 6pm, and  sometimes Big'Un stays to help.  Especially in the winter, I walk back and forth with the girls to the church hall for each club, and everyone in the house needs to be fed - and all at different times!  This is the only day when I will make different meals for each person, and as Littl'Un is allergic to most fish, this is the day that the rest of us often indulge in a fish-based meal.  As all 3 kids now have a hot meal in school, I don't feel too bad about giving them sandwiches or something cold, especially Big'Un who needs to eat as soon as we get in from school at 4 in order to be ready! She usually makes herself a sandwich or a Chinese noodle packet or pot, and then has another snack later.

Tiny is really fond of salmon, and as Papa sells fish, this is our usual go-to choice.  We used to get the skinless fillets in the oven cook bag, often with a flavoured butter, but this started to get boring after a while.  I then stumbled upon a 3 ingredient recipe page, and saw this very simple suggestion, cooked it in the halogen which gave deliciously charred and crispy bits, and then I tried variations so we don't get bored.  Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.  If you don't have a halogen oven, obviously you can use a standard oven, but a grill might give a better result as the recipe states.  I make half this amount - one each for me, Papa and Tiny.  You could always marinade the full amount, and cook half one day and the other half for lunch the next day.

  • 6 x 6 oz salmon fillets, skin on or off
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce, divided
  • 2 - 3 tbsp spring onions, chopped
  • Cooking spray 

  1. In a large baking dish, lay down salmon fillets in a row. Each fillet - sprinkle with a pinch of salt and top with 1 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce. Brush or rub with your fingers to coat fish with sauce evenly on top, bottom and sides. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight is the best (up to 24 hours).
  2. Turn the grill to High and position top oven rack 5" - 6" below the heat source. Line large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper, spray with cooking spray and place salmon fillets skin side down (if any). Coat with remaining marinade from the dish (if any).
  3. Grill for 8 minutes, rotating baking sheet once. Remove from the oven and brush top of each fillet with 2 tsp of Thai sweet chili sauce. Return to the oven and grill for another 5 minutes or until salmon has caramelized. Serve hot garnished with the spring onions, extra sauce (if desired) with brown rice or quinoa on a side, and maybe some steamed green veg.
  4. Storage Instructions: Refrigerate covered for up to 3 days.

My even simpler variation was to just use Franks Buffalo Wings Hot Sauce, (I didn't even leave it to marinate) and serve with steamed rice and greens. You are limited only by the sauces in your fridge and pantry though.  Go to town with your favourite sauce!

Thanks to http://ifoodreal.com/ and Buzzfeed for the inspiration.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Every week easy chicken

So it's all change round here once again. This Mama is now in full time paid work! But I'm incredibly lucky to have a fabulous job where I work from home with split hours so that I work around my kids and am still here for them as needed. Holidays are tricky, but they are great kids and we juggle life, and manage.
So meals are simpler so that I can help the kids with their various after school needs - reading eggs, coding practice, home-learning, colouring, and more.  I do judiciously use prepared ingredients a few times a week, the meals are still very reasonably priced and unprocessed; as good as from scratch, and healthy and nutritious.  I don't feel guilty for helping myself with occasional shortcuts, and spending that saved time with my kids.

have made this particular meal pretty much every week since I first tried it out, and it's a huge hit. It's so easy and tasty and low maintenance, try it out and I'm sure you'll add it to your regular list too.

My plateful
You will need:

1kg pack of chicken thighs, or a mix of drums and thighs, or leg portions would also be fine.
2 packs of ready prepped cubed sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Other prepped roasting veg would work too, or if you have more time to hand then feel free to peel and chop your own choice of veg. 
500g baby potatoes 
Some green veg as desired. 
Spray olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 deg C.
Line a roasting tray with either a nonstick baking mat/silicone mat, or oil sprayed foil and spread the roasting veg over it.  Season the chicken with the salt and pepper and place it skin side down onto the veg. 
Spray it all with the oil and pop it into the oven for 25 mins. 

Now I use my halogen for the potatoes - I prep them the same way: spread on a foil lined tray, spray with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, then baked for about 20-25 mins in the halogen at 175 deg, but you could do them on a separate shelf in with the chicken for slightly longer. I don't try this as my oven is very old and variable and I don't think the potatoes would cook properly. 

After the first 25 mins, turn the chicken pieces over and shuffle the roasting veg if needed, and cook for another 20 mins or so until crispy and cooked through. 

Serve with the potatoes and the steamed green veg of choice. 

Tiny's portion

Thursday 28 July 2016

Using up biscuit type cereal and using up bananas too

Well, it has been a while, because I or Godpapa have been doing almost all the cooking from Slimming World recipes, and so far, since March I have managed to lose 11.5 lbs, and so I'm extremely happy, and hardly ever hungry. I'm not going to explain the SW ethos or method, it is easy enough to sign up online or join your local club!

However, I do crave a little something sweet from time to time, and obviously home made is far better as you know what's gone into it, and I've even been known to sit and CALCULATE the Syn value of every ingredient in a cake, add them up, then divide that by how ever many portions we've served and usually it's a perfectly decent number. On the SW plan you are encouraged to have between 5 and 15 Syns a day, and that makes it much easier to not feel deprived!

Anyway,  thanks to my Dad, we recently discovered a super new gluten free biscuit cereal  - Nutribrex -  and I really enjoy it, however, it isn't on the list of "allowed" breakfasts, tho each biscuit is only 3 Syns, so I sometimes have one as an included treat snack just before bed-time.

Today I had some bananas which everyone was refusing to eat, and I stumbled upon this lovely recipe from the Australian blog The Organised Housewife, so it seemed like a super plan.
I suddenly remembered that Australian cup measurements and tablespoons are different from American and UK ones, (US cups are based on the imperial 8oz cup volume, and the Aussie cup is based on the metric 250ml volume.) If you want exact conversions, feel free to google it and weigh the flour out, but I just used my American cups and heaped them a little!

Now, the beauty of this recipe is that it can be converted so many ways!
Using the Nutribrex, and if you use Doves Farm (or any other) gluten free flour, you can make this a gluten free treat very easily. Using Pure and a non-dairy milk you can make this dairy free. Using actual Weetabix (or shops own variation) and sweetener, and low fat spread, you can easily make this a very low Syn treat (if  using the biscuit cereal as your HEb) Anyway, however you make it, MAKE IT, it is easy, delicious and fun for the kids to help with too.

You will need:

3 bananas (over ripe and mushy is perfect) mashed up
4 Weetabix style biscuit cereal bix.
3/4 -1 cup of milk
80g butter/margarine/low fat spread
2 eggs
1.5 cups self-raising flour
2 tbs brown sugar
a handful of choc chips (obviously we used white choc, the original recipe calls for milk choc)

I would have added cinnamon but Big'Un says she no longer likes cinnamon. I'm glad I didn't tho.

Heat up the oven to 180-200 degrees. You know your oven.
Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin papers.

Get the kids to crush up the cereal biscuits in a medium sized bowl. They will LOVE this. Or do it yourself and get some anxiety out!
Add the bananas, and then the milk. Mix well and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

In a LARGE bowl, beat together the butter/marg with the eggs. Don't worry if this is a weird texture like you sometimes see in the clouds on summer evenings, it will work.

Add the banana mixture, and fold it through. Add the flour, sugar and then the choc chips and mix until just combined, and spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin cups.

Bake until golden and a skewer comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the muffins. We found it actually made 12 cakes, we never get the amount stated in the recipe, but this was SPOT on.

Really tasty, and a lovely texture.  And I wouldn't have a problem serving them for brekkie really either!

Thursday 12 May 2016

All a-Twitter about cherries!

So last night on Twitter, a friend with a much more well known austerity food blog posted a pic of  Lidl's sour cherries in syrup, and I replied how much I LOVE these, (I lived in Germany for a while and enjoyed them a lot there, so I love that I can get them (and other Germany-cravings) in Lidl in the UK.)

So then we had a bit of a food-porn convo (and yes I was more than a little fan-girl about this at the time) about what to do with them, which Lidl's Twitter account picked up and commented on and so I promised Lidl I would share with the Lidl community.
I thought it might also be nice to share these brainstorming results with my bloggiverse...

So, obvious things are -   eat them with Quark, or over good vanilla ice-cream, or drain and dip in dark chocolate and freeze. Reserve the liquid for cocktails/mocktails/drink with soda water like a cordial.

For a simple but effective tray bake, make and split a sponge cake mix in 2, and add cocoa to one half.  Spread the cocoa half roughly in a lined brownie pan - don't smooth it down - and press some of the drained cherries in. Then top with the vanilla mix. Bake as per standard recipe for a quick and easy "Donauwellen" (Waves of the Danube) cake.

Not to forget that a very simple and quick Black Forest Gateau fix can be made with a Dairy Milk chocolate mini roll, (or any brand, but it has to be the kind with the chocolate creme, not the white creme) cut into pieces and drizzled with some of the liquid from the jar. Then dollop on some thick or whipped (or even squirty) cream and top with a few cherries.

We also came up with lots of savoury options. Simmer the whole jar until soft, and serve with pork, gammon or duck. Veggies might enjoy adding some cherries to a channa daal recipe, as my friend suggested something curry with the cherries. This flavour suggestion then got me thinking that Persian food uses sour fruit a lot, and so then something involving all or some of ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, split chickpeas, cumin and sumac would work very well with the cherries, perhaps served with some grains.

Basically, experiment and try things, and don't let your imagination hold you back! 

Saturday 2 April 2016

time for change

As we lost our pooch last summer, and life and time have inevitably been marching on, I have recently realised that my waist has been gradually increasing, and as you may recall, when I was pregnant with Tiny, I suffered from pregnancy diabetes which puts me at a far higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes any way, but the waist increase, weight gain and general family history and tendency have basically led me to take the decision to join a weight loss group a couple of weeks ago.  I have always considered myself to be health-aware, but the group and the literature has been a revelation! I'm very conscious that I don't want the kids to lose valuable calories or nutrients, but I want to minimise my unnecessary calorific intake and increase my activity levels too. It will be a learning curve, but I've learned some great tweaks and tips that don't impact flavour or ease.
So far what it hasn't been is cheap, but I'm planning to try to use this blog to record the "credit crunch kitchen" versions of the healthy living/weight loss recipes I find or devise.

The first really GOOD adaptation of home food I've done was a homestyle masoor daal. This red lentil dish has always been a favourite comfort food, and as yesterday was the first anniversary of my very beloved (and complete foodie) Uncle's death, I wanted to make something he loved. However on a "Year's Mind" (death anniversary) we usually keep a vegetarian "fast", so daal was clearly the way forward.

I "measured" the lentils (split red lentils, or "masoor") as I always do, 2 cupped handsful per person, but I have small hands, and don't mind leftovers. I would say 300g would feed 4-5 people with rice.

I then added 1 tsp of ground coriander, and optional tsp of ground cumin, and a pinch of turmeric powder.  Then add a teaspoon of salt.

Cover with water so that there is about an inch of water showing above the level of the lentils. Now either put a lid on and boil and simmer until the lentils are soft (20-30 mins), or if using a pressure cooker: lid, bring to pressure and cook for 7-10 minutes.

While the lentils cook, spray a non-stick frying pan with Frylight (I used the coconut one) or up to 7 sprays of proper olive oil spray and fry the following in this order, leaving a few minutes before adding the next:
half an onion, finely SLICED
half and onion, finely CHOPPED
a cube of frozen grated ginger, or a teaspoon of finely chopped/grated ginger.
2-3 sliced cloves of garlic.
Allow plenty of time and a low flame to let these all soften well.

Add these to the pan of lentils and stir, return the frying pan to the heat, (using more oil spray if needed) and fry 2 chopped fresh tomatoes, until well collapsed, and then add to the lentils.
Finally stir in a tablespoon of tomato puree. 
If you want this a bit more creamy, you can also add a good dollop of fat free yogurt or low fat fromage frais.

Serve with rice. On this occasion, I cooked a cupful of frozen peas with the rice, to make what I always called "party rice" because we never ate this except on weekends at people's homes at the "share parties" I have described before.

Monday 29 February 2016

One Person Thermos Porridge

Big 'Un has a real fondness for porridge, but with so little time before her early start, she finds fresh, hot porridge too hot to eat. She (understandably) doesn't want to get up even earlier to make this possible, so she usually makes Jack Monroe's Starbucks bircher every couple of days as the portion is 2 breakfasts' worth
But occasionally, especially if we are low on milk, I make this for her. She adores it. Yes, she could easily make it herself, tho our gas kettle is hotnto handle, but I'm her mum and I like doing things for her to make her smile.
I've blogged the thermos porridge before, but that was a slightly different procedure, and didn't give anything as useful as measurements!
Incidentally, the "yellow scoops" are battered old "Taylors of Harrogate" coffee measure scoops, but they are what we have always used for porridge. I haven't worked out what the exact volume is, around 10ml, I think, but the weights should help you to find a volume measure that suits you so you needn't feel you must get the scales out each time!

3 yellow scoops/33g oats
2 tbsp/ 14g milk powder
Flavouring of choice - sultanas, choc drops, butterscotch pieces, cocoa, or just a little sugar. Whatever you enjoy really!
1 x 300ml wide mouthed thermos flask.

Boil a kettle with 300ml water.
Mix up the ingredients listed above in a dry jug.

When the kettle boils, fill the thermos with the boiling water  and screw the lid on and leave to warm. Immediately put another 300ml water in the kettle and reboil.
When it boils the second time, empty the first lot out (use it to wash the preparation dishes!) and pour the dry ingredients carefully into the flask. I use a jam funnel to make this easier. Then pour the freshly boiled water on, screw the lid on well, and shake. Leave overnight to soften and "cook". I find leaving it on its side prevents it from separating too much, but if you're only doing one portion this is less of a problem than with bigger amounts as you simply either decant into a bowl to eat, or just stir and eat directly from flask.

Saturday 20 February 2016

Homestyle Chicken Curry

Now, I know I've mentioned "homestyle" chicken curry in this blog before, but as far as I can tell, I've never actually blogged how to make this.

This is a curry I grew up with, not what you get in a restaurant, or takeaway. Every weekend we would go to one of a handful of "aunty's" and "uncle's" homes (most were not related, but from our community, and so we always remained close) and every family would bring a dish, and we would all share the meal.  The regular dishes were chicken curry, meat curry, kofta (meatball) curry, potato cauliflower or potato peas, and one or 2 daals.  I swear I could always tell which "Aunty" had cooked which dish, just from the smell and taste, but sometimes we would also recognise the casserole set belonging to so-and-so, and that gave it away! 
Everyone cooked the same dishes, but with slight variations. For example, one chicken curry would use cardamom, another would not, yet another would have onions chopped finely, one would have large petals of onion still visible, and so on with the minor variations which had obviously been passed down through the generations within each family. Each child instinctively knew the aroma of their own home cooked food, and gravitated towards that by preference, but I did always have my own feelings about each cook's best dishes.

So when I grew up and developed an interest in cooking these dishes, particularly when my own grandmother had died, and my mother might be abroad for a few months of winter, I had to ask people to explain to me how to cook these things. My beloved sister-in-law is a terrific cook, and she kindly and patiently explained to my westernised brain how to write down a method for some of the foods I loved, and one of my closest Aunties, though slightly mystified, very vaguely described her process for making a few other dishes.

This chicken curry is one which that Aunty actually explained to Godpapa one time I was pregnant and craving home food, but unable to stomach the smell of cooking anything for myself. I've tweaked it to match up more with the flavour my own mother and grandmother cooked, so I will include both variations.
This is nothing like anything you would find in a "curry house".  That's not a bad thing. Once you try this, you will be hooked.

Use skinless drums and thighs ideally, but skinless thigh fillets will do in a pinch. I tend to use a 900g/1kg packet.
Finely chop an onion and fry gently in a large pressure cooker or saucepan in a little oil.
Once it is light brown (be patient, this is important for flavour) add a teaspoon each of grated ginger and garlic. (Be brave and experiment with the quantities of these. I prefer slightly more garlic and slightly less ginger. Many supermarkets now sell frozen grated/pureed ginger and garlic in very convenient cubes, and even mixed ginger and garlic frozen cubes. This makes life much easier for an occasional cook.)  
Stir them through until the sharp raw scent has mellowed and then add the chicken pieces and fry, stirring, until they are browned in places.
Now add:
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp coriander powder
(1 cardamom pod, slightly cracked - Aunty's version)
(a generous grinding of black pepper - my grandmother's version)
a small dried red chilli. Whole if you want it mild, twisted and crushed if you want a good kick.
You can also add chilli powder to taste if you like at this point.

Fry off the spices but be careful not to let them burn.
Now add either 3-4 chopped fresh tomatoes (Aunty), or a can of chopped tomatoes (my family) and a small splash of water also, and salt to taste, maybe half to one teaspoon.

Now either pressure cook for 15 minutes, or cover and simmer for 40 minutes until tender. If it is too watery, remove the lid and simmer until the gravy is thicker.

Enjoy with pulao rice or chapatis. But that's two whole other blog posts right there!

Friday 22 January 2016

No-macaroni cheese (or chip shop dauphinoise!)

So after a meeting in school yesterday, I stopped at the chippy on the corner and on Godpapa's (hungry) advice, bought 2 portions of chips to go along with the fried eggs and gammon slices (sliced off a slow cooked half price gammon joint from earlier in the week) and peas I had planned as a quick and easy meal.


Of course Godpapa wasn't staying for dinner and we didn't actually even open the second portion of chips.  Big'Un has been unwell all week, (and is finally on her first ever course of antibiotics) and Littl'Un never really eats much anyway, and Tiny hasn't been his usual happy-munching self for a couple of days either.  I blame the weather.

So I found myself with a full large portion of chips today and decided that instead of refrying them or binning them, (or stealthily eating them straight from the fridge) perhaps I would use them to switch up today's intended meal and take it from the standard nursery fare, right from out of left field to a proper Credit Crunch frugal "use up leftovers" meal.

The menu plan was macaroni cheese, and I had intended to fry up some leeks with a portion of sweetcorn in butter as a side dish. I hadn't decided whether to add some little bits of the gammon, but I did get in a larger than usual milk for playgroup to allow for making the cheese sauce.  As my longtime or regular readers might recall, one weird foible I have is a dislike of making pasta.  Yes, I know it is easy and filling and cheap, but I find it boring to boil the water and a pain to drain it afterwards.  So, instead, I spread the cold leftover chip shop chips in the casserole dish, then I spread the finely sliced leeks on top and mixed them through, and I strew some gammon cubes over, and then I poured on a luscious cheese sauce, made the normal way but with a dash of malt vinegar added, and having been witnessed by Littl'Un for the first time ever (yes she loved the magic as the roux turned), then I topped it all off with a bit of extra cheese and then baked it in the oven for as long as we could stand it, and until the top was all golden and crispy.

I'm not going to write a recipe, because I'm not that patronising, and I don't measure my white sauce when I make it, but I will add some pics because it really was delicious and very easy, very satisfying and extremely tasty and comforting!