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.