Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Christmas eve dinner party: Crispy duck with plum sauce

I did a dinner party for Christmas eve for my friends who were staying for a few days.  I was actually more excited about doing this than Christmas day because it was something different and Christmas day is really just an elaborate roast dinner.  Probably why I wasn’t so focused on it and it definitely could have been better!

But the dinner party was delicious.  I did the mussels in white wine sauce for starter, crispy duck in a plum sauce for mains and tarte tatin for dessert.  The starters and dessert I’ve already blogged about and you can find them here:

https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/food-favourite-moules-frites-or-mussels-chips/

https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/autumn-pudding-perfection-tarte-tatin/

I made the mussels without fries this time  as they were a starter and served with pittas (as that’s all I had!) but a french baguette would be nicer I think!  I think the three courses worked really well together despite being inspired by different continents – because it was very much a fusion menu.  And it seemed very luxurious without being too much to eat.  The tarte tatin was beautifully caramelised and perfect after the rich and sweet duck.  And everyone just loved the mussels.  They were a perfect light and not too filling starter.  I did 1.5kg between 4 of us.

The duck was just delicious, if a little undercooked!  I did it for the stated time but because our duck breasts were very thick they needed an extra 3-4 minutes and they were still very pink. They were also quite large so I did half a breast per person and served with creamed cabbage.   Normally I’m not a huge fan of cabbage and neither was anyone else at the table but one arrived in my Christmas vege box and there were loads of recipes suggesting it with duck so I thought I’d give it a go.  And actually everyone loved the cabbage – creaming it with creme fraiche gives it a totally different flavour and texture which was very tasty.

The duck recipe came from here http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/crispyduck_89265

And the cabbage from here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/duckwithpotatocreame_80882

I didn’t serve with any carbs as it was a three course meal and I thought we were probably already eating enough.  But you could easily add some mash or some haselback (hedgehog) potatoes.  Or even just some steamed baby potatoes.

Crispy duck with plum sauce and creamed cabbage

Serves 5-6

  • 6 small duck breats, or 3 large ones with skin on
  • 4 tbsp Groundnut, sesame, or sunflower oil

For the marinade:

  • 10cm piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 tbsp shaoshing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 4 tbsp schechuan peppercorns, ground
  • 9 star anise
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • For the sauce:
  • 5 plums, quartered and stones removed
  • 100g dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 5 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • juice of 2 limes

For the cabbage:

  • 1 savoy cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • knob of butter
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche (you can used reduced fat)
  1. First, put all the marinade ingredients in a shallow dish, mix well to combine.  Add the duck breasts spooning over the marinade so all sides are covered.  Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinade for about 25 minutes.
  2. Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  3. Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Put the plums, apricots and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  4. Add the sugar, honey, cinnamon and star anise.  Cook on a medium simmering heat until its reduced to a sticky sauce.
  5. Whilst the sauce is reducing, make the cabbage.
  6. Blanche the cabbag and carrot for a couple of minutes (ie boil for a short period of time) and drain.
  7. Heat the butter in a pan.  When it’s melted and bubbling, add the cabbage and carrot and stir fry for a few minutes.
  8. Add the creme fraiche and season to taste.  Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes to reduce.  Keep warm.
  9. Your duck should now be marinaded.  So heat the oil in a wok or frying pan until its smoking hot.
  10. Place the duck skin side down in the oil and cook for about 4-5 minutes on a very high heat until the skin is crispy and burnt.
  11. Turn the duck into a baking dish or pan skin side up and put in the oven for about 4 minutes (this will do small breast pink) to 6 minutes (more well done) or about 9 minutes (pink) to 11 minutes (well done) for large breasts.  (When they come out, it’s the perfect time to shove in the tarte tatin!)
  12. Serve with a cabbage bed on the bottom, the duck on top, skin side up and topped with the plum sauce
  13. Enjoy with a nice bottle of red wine 🙂
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Friday night fakeaway: Chinese lemon chicken

This is utterly delicious, and so easy to make, you won’t be tempted to the takeaway at all.  Plus it saves money, is lower in calories and actually tastes better than the average chinese takeaway.  Make with my schezuan crispy beef https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/spicy-crispy-beef-szechuan-style/ (consistently one of my most looked at recipes) and some egg fried rice and you’ve got yourself a friday night chinese feast!

The original recipe is here http://blairsboys.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/lemon-chicken/.  I kept to it more or less, although I actually found the amount of sauce that was suggested here for 6 servings, did very well just for 2!  So I used the full sauce portions and reduced the amount of chicken and veges accordingly.

Chinese takeaway lemon chicken

Serves 2

  • 200g chicken breast, very thinly sliced (I find this is 2 supermarket sized breasts or 1 large breast from the butcher)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour plus 1tsp for the sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil (sesame, groundnut, sunflower, etc – not olive)
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (deseed if you don’t want too spicy)
  • knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar (or use white wine vinegar if you don’t have rice vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • handful of chopped veges – I used mangetout, but anything ‘chinesey’ is great – spring onions, sugar snap peas, baby corn, chinese greens – or a mix of them
  • handful of toasted and chopped peanuts or cashews
  1. Put the cornflour (reserving the tsp for the sauce) with some salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add the sliced chicken to it and mix well to coat the chicken.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or high sided pan and when it’s very hot, chuck in the chicken.  Fry until it starts to go a golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel.
  3. Mix the sauce.  Combine the remaining cornflour, honey, vinegar, chicken stock and lemon juice into a sauce.  Set aside
  4. Add the onion, garlic, lemon zest and chilli to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until the onion is softened.  Add in the sauce, mixing well and allow to bubble and reduce slightly.
  5. Add the chicken back into the sauce and cook for a further 30 seconds.
  6. Add the veges and cook again for another couple of minutes.
  7. Serve with the nuts on top and some rice or soft fried noodles.
  8. Enjoy your very own made chinese takeaway!
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Chicken satay noodles

These are delicious and healthy – what’s not to love!  I used leftover chicken from a whole roast chicken, but you could use fresh chicken breast instead or any other meat, seafood or tofu or just leave out for vege friendliness!

It’s so easy to do as well and the ingredients for the satay sauce are things that many people will have in their cupboards anyway, so it’s not complicated at all and you don’t need to buy special things.  Great for cooking on a budget and for whipping up something quick midweek.

I used chow mein noodles for this, but any chinese style egg noodles that are medium to thick in width would be fine.   Even straight to wok would work too.   You can use any veges too really – mangetout, baby corn, carrots, peppers, courgettes, onions of any variety, green beans, chinese cabbages or greens, beansprouts – whatever you’ve got – it doesn’t matter.  Just slice thinly and you’re good to go.

I got my original inspiration from this recipe, but, me being me, it got adapted!  I can’t get the original link to work at the moment, so here’s a cached version but hopefully if you go to that link you’ll be able to find the ‘live’ page again.  http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:pTPj3oIRZtsJ:family.daltons.info/cooking/recipes/toms_satay_noodles.html+satay+noodles&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-a&source=www.google.co.uk

Although the mix for the satay sauce is pretty similar to other recipes online, I liked that this one used other spices to marinade the meat.  I read recently that by just adding a bit of turmeric, cinnamon or paprika to food, you reduce your risk of heart diseases by up to 30%.  And considering hubby’s family has a history of heart diseases, I thought this couldn’t be a bad thing!  I don’t think it even has to be very much – just half a teaspoon or something – you probably wouldn’t even taste it.  As the chicken I used was already cooked there was no point marinading it, so I just chucked in the spices after adding the veges and chicken and it worked really well.

Chicken satay noodles

Serves 3 (ish)

  • 150g chinese egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp sesame, sunflower or peanut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 carrot, finely sliced
  • 1/2 a head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4 pak choi, chopped
  • handful of mangetout
  • 2 small red chillis, finely chopped
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 200g pre cooked chicken off the bone, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • handful of beansprouts
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander

For the satay sauce:

  • 65g crunchy peanut butter
  • 50ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  1. cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, or prepare if pre-cooked one.  Drain, refresh in cold water and set aside until needed.
  2. Mix all the satay sauce ingredients together.  Add some extra water if it’s too thick.  You want  a fairly thick sauce.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan.  When it’s hot, add the garlic and fry quickly until browned.  Then add the onion, carrot and brocolli (or other hard veges) and cook for a couple of minutes, stiring frequently.
  4. Then add the softer veges such as the pak choi and mangetout for a minute before adding the cooked chicken.  If using fresh meat, cook this first, after the garlic.  Stir quickly, then add the ginger, chilli and dried spices.  Stir again to mix and then add the noodles.  Stir again to mix well.
  5. Then add the satay sauce, stiring well to mix before topping off with the beansprouts and coriander.  Stir once more and serve immediately.
  6. Enjoy your speedy healthiness!
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Spicy crispy beef – Szechuan style

Aldi’s fresh meat options seem to be improving. I used to only buy their specially selected dry cured bacon and sausages. And then they started having free range whole chickens and I’ve done a couple recipes on here with them. But now they’ve expanded to have free range chicken breasts and british specially selected beef. So I bought some frying steak that they had to try it and I must say, I was quite impressed.

Don’t ask me why, but somewhere in the course of looking for a recipe, I got it in my head that I had to have crispy beef. I found some szechuan recipes for it but they all involved five spice, aniseed, star anise, hoisin sauce or black bean sauce. And hubby hates aniseedy tastes, most of which those have. And I hate proper (Szechuan style) black bean sauce. I don’t mind the rubbish takeaway stuff, but really, what’s the point?

So I found a more cantonese style recipe, but just added Szechuan peppercorns and chilli to it to make it spicier and more Szechuan-stylee. So it’s not true Szechuan, but regardless, it’s extremely tasty and definitely husband approved. This is one of those takeaway meals that you can make really easily and cheaply at home and will taste so much better and have less calories and other nasties like MSG in it.

If you don’t have Szechuan peppercorns, don’t worry. Just leave them out. It’ll still be delicious. And if you’re afraid of chillis, leave them out too – you may want to put in some star anise, black bean sauce or hoisin sauce though instead to add to the flavour.

The original recipe I used (and adapted) is here http://www.cookchinese.co.uk/cookchinese/Crispy-shredded-Beef.html

And here’s mine:

Szechuan style spicy crispy beef

Serves 2

  • 180-200g beef steak (I used frying steak – no point in getting prime sirloin steak for this!), very finely sliced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp cornflour
  • Lots of oil for frying (not olive – vegetable, sunflower, groundnut, peanut, sesame)
  • 1 carrot, julienned (sliced very thinly)
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • Handful of green beans, topped & tailed
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)
  • 2 large red chillis, de seeded and finely shredded
  • 10 szechuan peppercorns, lightly bashed in a pestle and mortar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5-2 tbsp rice vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you don’t have)
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  1. Make a batter with the corflour, salt and egg by putting the flour & salt in a medium bowl, making a well in the middle and cracking the egg into it. Whisk the egg well to beat slowly incorporating the flour until you have a fairly thick batter (you wouldn’t want to make pancakes with it). Add you beef strips to it and coat well. I then stuck in the fridge whilst I prepped the vege.
  2. Using a wok or high sided frying pan (or a saucepan even), pour about 3-4 inches of oil into it and heat until smoking. When it’s very hot, add the beef and batter (taking care as it may spit) and deep fry. I found that this instantly turned into some kind of weird beef pancake thing. When it was crisp on one side, I turned the whole pancakey thing over to fry on the other side. When it had started to go crisp on that side I used tongs to quite forcefully pull the beef apart. As I did this, I tried to make sure that the parts that weren’t golden brown were fully in the oil. Fry until crisp and golden brown all over. Then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen towel.
  3. Pour away all but about 1-2 tbsp of the oil and fry the onionin it on a high heat until it starts to soften, then add the carrot and beans. Fry these quickly for a minute, then add the ginger, garlic, chillis and peppercorns. Mix well and fry for a minute.
  4. Then add the sugar, vinegar and soy sauce. Mix well to blend then add the beef and mix well again to ensure all the beef is coated in the mix.
  5. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with boiled rice or soft fried noodles.
  6. Enjoy the tastiness of the takeaway made in minutes all by yourself at much less cost.
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Good intentions lasting 5 minutes: mango and banana pudding

So much for not eating dessert for the next 2 weeks! That lasted all of about a day! I blame it on the vege delivery company – they gave us a mountain of bananas – I didn’t know what to do!

But…it may be sweet and bad for you, but it’s sooo delicious, plus it has fruit in it, so it’s at least 2 of your 5 a day, so it can’t be all bad! And, just for you, I did the calorie counting on it – there’s 291 calories in it. So it’s not as bad as brownies. If you want to calculate the calories (and other things) in your recipes, you can do it here, on this very handy site. Mostly it’s very good but it’s American so remember the US version of things or it’ll get confused, plus it’s got some weird ideas on how many calories are in chickpeas – I just use the tin for that one!

http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php

But back to pudding. I found this recipe on the Asian Food Channel website, although I wouldn’t say it was particulary Asian tasting – not sweet enough for that! I pretty much stuck to the original recipe, except I used granulated sugar in all instances instead of what they suggested. Can’t tell you if it tastes different but it certainly tasted good regardless of which sugar you use. this is a super simple recipe. I’ve always been a bit scared of custard and I think if you’re making Creme Anglaise then there’s a good reason to be scared but this kind of custard was super simple. You could even do it with a fork or hand whisk instead of an electric one – it felt like I was over doing the equipment to be honest!

One thing they got massively wrong, and I suspect is a typo, is the cooking time. It says 4 minutes. I think it should be 40. But I’d keep an eye on it browning from about 25-30 mins and just take it out when it looks done. It most definitely wasn’t 4 minutes and I had the oven pre-heating for some time before it went in so it wasn’t that!

You can find the original recipe here http://www.asianfoodchannel.com/recipes_details.php?urlname=mango_and_banana_custard_pudding

But just for you, I’m recreating it here.

Banana and mango pudding

Serves 4

  • 3 bananas, chopped
  • 1 mango, thinly sliced
  • Juice & zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 45g plain flour
  • 40g sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 12oml milk
  • handful of chopped flaked almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 22o degrees celsius. Butter a medium sized baking dish.
  2. Place the banana in the bottom of the dish and sprinkle over the lemon juice & zest, followed by the tbsp sugar.
  3. Then put the mango slices over the top of the banana.
  4. Next, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.
  5. Whisk in each egg, one at a time until just combined.
  6. Heat the milk until almost boiling and add to the egg mix until combined and an even texture (you really don’t want to be doing much mixing at this point).
  7. Pour the custard over the fruit, place in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the custard is very set and browned on top. Half way through sprinkle with the almonds.
  8. Serve immediately to smiles all round!
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The first bbq of the year

I’m sorry, I’ve been absent this week.  It’s not that I’ve not been cooking, its just I’ve not cooked anything I’ve not already blogged about, and so many things to see and people to do this week this is the first time I’ve had any time to sit down and write.  And to be honest, I don’t want to.  I want to be outside in the sunshine but I can’t get the laptop to work – plus I’m dying my hair!

This weekend we’ve had truly gorgeous spring weather.  Well it’s been warmer than spring, for England in any case.  Not quite the dizzying heights it reached at our wedding but not far off.  So out came the spade and the trowel and the compost and things got pruned, and weeded and mown.  And then we went to B&Q and got some plants to replace the ones that didn’t survive the winter.  And it was just lovely, chilling in the garden, doing the gardening, enjoying the sunshine.  And what could be better than a bbq.  So I hurriedly marinaded some meat that was in the freezer (having defrosted it, of course!) and we had the impromptu bbq.  It was very good, if I do say so myself!

We had jerk pork, sticky chinese chicken drumsticks, red cabbage coleslaw and baked potatoes.  Yummy.

The jerk seasoning I had in a bottle that’s been lurking for years in the fridge ever since we brought it back from Jamaica – but it wasn’t mouldy, didn’t smell or taste bad so I slapped it on the pork chops.  But if you don’t have any in your fridge, you can get some from the supermarket (the reggae reggae sauce is popular, but not one of my favourites) or you can make your own, which is what I was going to do until I realised I didn’t have half the ingredients.  But if you did, then here’s a recipe you could use:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/11811/jerk-spiced-ribs

I marinaded them for about 1 hour, and really you should do them longer but even in this short time they tasted really good.  I do recommend scraping off the seasoning before bbqing or eating as it was quite overpowering.

The sticky chinese marinade for the chicken, I found here

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/19062/sticky+sesame+chicken+legs

I didn’t do all of it – I didn’t bother with the sesame seeds as I thought they’d just fall off in the bbq and I just used the marinade bit and didn’t bother with the rest.   They were really delicious – sweet and sticky and the perfect antidote to the jerk pork, which was lovely and full of spiciness.

The coleslaw was the same as the one I used with the falafels, which you can get here

https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/healthy-vege-lunch-options-falafels-with-red-cabbage-salad/

This time I left out the onion and added in carrot and sweetcorn and it was as lovely as ever.  Baked potatoes, well if you’re doing a full bbq you can just wrap them in foil and stick them in the coals, but as we only had a mini one, with it just being hubby and me, I did them in the oven – whack it on full heat, and shove them in for about an hour. Or if you’re lazy, prick them a few times on each side, stick them in the microwave, 5 mins on each side, then put them in an oven on full heat for about 15-20 mins to make them all crispy.

In any case, as the sticky chinese marinade was the only thing that was both new and made from scratch – I’m reproducing it here for you.  But if you needed any excuse or proof for an impromptu bbq, then look no further – very easy to do and even if you only marinade for an hour, it’s still delicious.  of course, you can put any meat in the marinades, this is just what I did.

Sticky chinese style marinade for bbqs

Serves 2

2 chicken drumsticks, skin on

2 chicken thighs (or 2 more drumsticks), skin on

  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp runny honey
  • 4 tsp rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small knob of ginger, peeled and grated.
  1. Mix the soy and the honey together in a medium sized flatish dish.  Then add the wine, garlic and ginger.  Mix well.
  2. Then add the chicken a piece at a time, squidge around in the marinade on both sides and repeat with all the chicken until coated in the marinade.
  3. Place in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably overnight, to marinade.
  4. Remove, and place on the bbq – ensuring its cooked all the way through.
  5. The honey will make it burn and go crispy, but that’s what makes it so tasty!
  6. Enjoy with a G&T or white wine spritzer and feel all summery 🙂
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The ultimate in comfort: chicken noodle soup

I love chicken noodle soup, adore it. But I rarely make it because it seems like a ‘waste’ of chicken so I only make it when I’ve done a whole roast chicken and have leftovers. Happily, I had roasted a chicken, so I made chicken noodle soup – with proper stock as well – look at me! Now I’m not opposed to stock cubes, in fact, I use them regularly, but if you’ve got a whole chicken you may as well make stock from the bones. Seems like a waste otherwise, really. And I know chickens aren’t the brightest but it lived for me to eat it, so its really only fair to make the most out of it.

Making the stock is the bit that takes the longest amount of time. Making the soup itself is very quick as there’s no real cooking of anything or blending. So another easy, gadget free, friendly recipe (not for the vegetarians though). And if you don’t want to make your own stock or can’t be bothered (or haven’t got any chicken bones) then by all means use some stock cubes or some fresh ready made stock.

But, chicken noodle soup is just great, especially at this time of year when we’re all feeling sorry for ourselves and sniffling into tissues. This recipe is full of chilli, ginger and garlic – full of germ fighting anti-oxidants and metabolism boosting to burn off calories quicker, if you’re still trying to loose weight. Me personally, I’ve abandoned that. Life’s too short for diets. But if like me, you’ve gone from dieting to drinking then this is good for boosting immune systems and reducing the effects of hangovers.

It’s also great for lunchbox lunches at work – just take some bread with you (or not, there’s noodles in it already so it’s not really needed). And when you’re busy at work, and it’s cold and miserable outside, this is the perfect pick me up.

Chicken stock

Makes about 800ml

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot finely chopped

2 celery sticks finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

chicken bones with any meat scraps on them (without skin – skin makes the stock very fatty). Remove any leftover meat that’s easily removeable first, for the soup.

2 bay leaves

10 whole peppercorns

salt

1.2-1.4 litres water

  1. Put the vegetables and garlic in a large saucepan with the bones. Cover with enough water to cover the bones and bring to the boil.
  2. When it’s boiling add the bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Stir well, reduce to a simmer and cover.
  3. Simmer on a low heat for about 1-1.5 hours, topping up with water to ensure the bones are fully covered.
  4. After this amount of time, seive the contents of the saucepan, reserving the juice. Return the juice to the pan and simmer again with the lid off to reduce the quantity by about half – this really intensifies the flavour of the stock.
  5. With the bones and veges – these can be discarded, once you’ve extracted out all the meat. This should be relatively simple to do as most of it will have fallen off the bones and any still on the bone will come off easily. I find using a pair of kitchen tweezers/pincers is the easiest way to do this.
  6. Add the chicken you get off the bones to the leftover meat you removed before – this will all go in the soup.
  7. When the stock is ready, remove from the heat and set aside until needed. It can been kept in the fridge for about a week or it can be frozen.

Chicken noodle soup

Serves 4 (ish)

1 tbsp sesame or other oil

1 onion, finely chopped (or use spring onions instead)

1 red chilli, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

a knob of fresh ginger, peeled & grated

veges – mange tout, bok choi, sugar snap peas, carrots (julienned) etc – whatever takes your fancy

roasted chicken pieces (de boned and skinned)

800ml – 1l chicken stock

70g chinese egg noodles, cooked according to instructions and cut into pieces (scissors is easiest)

1/2 tin sweetcorn

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp nam pla or fish sauce (or add extra soy if you don’t have this)

1 tsp sugar

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. When it’s hot add the onion and fry until golden brown. Then add the garlic and chilli and fry for a further minute.
  2. Next add in any fresh vege and the ginger and fry for a further minute or two until softened.
  3. Chuck in the cooked chicken and stir well to mix.
  4. Then add in the stock (adding extra water if necessary)
  5. Add in the noodles and the sweetcorn
  6. Finally stir in the soy sauce, nam pla and sugar. Stirring well to mix. Taste and adjust as necessary.
  7. Pour into large soup bowls and serve with chinese spoons and prawn crackers.
  8. Perfection 😉
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Sweet and sour prawns (and not an orange goopy sauce in sight!)

I must admit, I did make this back in January, right before all the travelling, I just didn’t have time to write about it. I do love sweet and sour. But I absolutely loathe the sauce they use in takeaways and that you get at the supermarket. It looks wrong, it smells wrong and it’s just so goopy! And nothing like what real sweet and sour tastes like… and I do happen to know what I’m talking about here.

Now, this recipe, probably isn’t authentic, in fact, its not, but it’s a lot better than the ready made stuff and better for you – no msg lurking in it. In terms of the veges in it – just put whatever’s in your fridge in. It doesn’t really matter. And you can substitute for just about any kind of meat. The original recipe is for pork but I didn’t have any so I used prawns instead. I got it from my Leith’s Simple Cookery book, but I’ve changed it from the original.

I must confess, I have had rave reviews on this recipe. So you can use it, in total confidence that it is completely yummy. It’s also very quick and pretty healthy too, especially to a take out alternative. A perfect friday night dinner infront of the tv with a bottle of wine.

Sweet and sour prawns

Serves 4

  • 24 raw king prawns, peeled.
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots finely sliced
  • 2-3 bok choi bunches, sliced
  • 200g tin water chestnuts, drained
  • 3-4 tinned slices pineapple, cut into chunks, or about 2 handfuls of pineapple chunks.

For the sauce

  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 4 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp rice or wine vinegar
  1. To make the sauce, mix the cornflour with the water and then add the sugar, vinegar, tomato puree, juice and soy sauce. Mix well to form an even consistency sauce.
  2. Dry the prawns and toss in the cornflour.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the prawns and fry quickly until pink and golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain onto kitchen towel.
  4. Add the onions to the pan and fry unti softened. Then add the chilli and fry for a further minute.
  5. Next add the carrots or other hard vegetables, followed by the bok choi or soft vegetables, as each starts to soften
  6. Finally add the tinned vegetables, followed by the prawns.
  7. Pour over the sauce, mix well to combine and cook just until the sauce starts to thicken.
  8. Serve over boiled rice in a huge bowl and some chopsticks.
  9. And pour yourself a glass of wine, just thinking of all the calories you’ve saved by not going to the takeaway.
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Quick mid-week dinner: vege satay noodles

Oooh, I’ve come over a bit self-obsessive – I’ve been checking out my blog stats and the numbers of people reading it is going up! Well, to thank you all for reading, and especially to Tom, who seems to be my biggest fan, here is a scrummy and super simple and super quick recipe that you can literally eat within 10 minutes of starting.

I came home from work, all cold and fed up with January-itis. This dinner really hit the spot. If you’re feeling the same way, I’d definitely recommend some yummy peanuty noodles.

I found it here via another blog – onewhitetulip.wordpress.com:

http://www.katheats.com/the-big-kahuna/

Scroll past all the weird photos and stuff on gyms and playing ball to the bottom, where there is a great noodle satay recipe. Or, if you can’t be bothered, I’m re-creating it here specially for you. Of course, I didn’t do it exactly as the recipe said – I made it my own way! So if you want to make the original recipe, you will have to go back to the Kath Eats blog.

She uses peanut butter (no idea what sunflower butter is – do you – please tell me!) but as this is essentially a satay dish, I decided that I might as well use some satay sauce, and as a result, I didn’t add any more garlic because the satay sauce already had them.

I also used udon noodles instead of soba ones, mostly because that’s what I had. I had bought some frozen udon noodles ages ago and forgot all about them, but in reading this, I remembered them and thought I might give it a go. It worked really well. But to be honest, you can use any noodles you like, except not rice ones, that might be odd.

Also, I don’t have molasses, so I used black treacle instead, but if you have neither, I reckon 2 tbsp of dark soy and a tsp of sugar should sort it.

This is a totally fabulous recipe – very healthy, low(ish) in calories, vegetarian and vegan, super quick and super simple.

Vege satay udon

Serves 2

  • 2 bricks of udon noodles – fresh or frozen.
  • 1 tbsp oil (I used sesame)
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 3 heads of bok choi or some greens
  • 2 carrots finely sliced
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)
  • 50g peanuts, roughly chopped

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp satay sauce (or use peanut butter instead)
  • 1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp molasses or black treacle
  • (you may want some warm water if you use peanut butter)
  1. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and set aside until needed.
  2. Make the sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mixing well.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok, on a high heat until the oil becomes fragrant (if using sesame). Add the vege and stir fry for a couple of minutes until softened.
  4. Chuck in the chilli and stir well.
  5. Add the noodles, stir again before adding the sauce. Mix well and cook for a further minute.
  6. Serve into bowls and top with the chopped peanuts.
  7. Eat with a sense of satisfaction.
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Nasi Goreng with prawns

I’ve run out of clever (or what I think are clever anyway) titles for this blog, so it is what it is. But don’t think that my lack of imagination here, suggests that Nasi Goreng is boring or unimaginative. To be perfectly honest, it’s just fabulous. No other word describes it better. I’ve no idea if this recipe is authentic, as I got it off the wonderful Ravinder Bhogal and have never been to Indonesia so have no real knowledge on the subject. But regardless, it’s extremely tasty and well worth trying.

It’s a tad ‘faffy’. Probably wouldn’t come under the heading of ‘simple’ or ‘for those without kitchen gadgets’. But you could probably make it a lot simpler and lose the kitchen gadgets, if you’re able to find something like Indonesian shrimp sauce or Nasi Goreng paste or something along those lines – this would avoid you making your own that this recipe relies upon. With pre-made paste/sauce this recipe is a doddle.

Nasi Goreng is essentially the Indonesian version of special fried rice. But tastes infinitely better and much less greasy than the version you get from the local takeaway. It’s a great way of using leftover boiled rice, and is also good when you’re a bit skint and haven’t got much in the cupboards. I have substituted, at different times, pretty much everything in this recipe, bar the rice and the paste. And once you buy some shrimp paste from the chinese supermarket – it lasts forever in the fridge so it’s something you’ll have hanging around when there’s not much else in there!

This recipe is also pretty healthy, low in calories and full of the good fats and nutrients, and your antioxidants – and using sesame oil, as I did, makes it even healthier than it might be. If you’re feeling vege – whether that’s part-time, full-time or occasionally, just leave out the prawns.

You can, of course, substitute prawns for pretty much any other meat – white fish chunks, squid rings, chicken, beef, pork, whatever really. I wouldn’t go with sausage or bacon – that might be confusing your continents a bit too much!

I buy my prawns in bulk at the chinese supermarket. You can get big bags of frozen raw (i.e. grey not pink) king prawns for a fraction of the price you would anywhere else. They’re good quality too. My fishmonger sells the same ones but at double the price! I buy about 4 bags and stick them in my freezer. Then, if there’s no other meat or eggs or anything, there’s pretty much always prawns available. You can buy the cooked ones too at the supermarket but if you cook with these they go rubbery because they’re cooked twice, so unless you’re making salad, raw prawns are usually better.

The fried egg on top isn’t essential but it’s a lovely addition and it’s actually what Thais (and I’m assuming Indonesian’s too!) do when they’re skint, to make a meal go further and get some protein.

Nasi Goreng with prawns

Serves 2

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 red chillis, roughly chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)
  • 1/2 tbsp shrimp paste (I actually prefer the chinese prawn noodle paste to the Indonesian shrimp paste in this!)
  • 1 tsp oil (sesame, chilli, sunflower etc)
  • 1 tbsp sesame (or groundnut) oil
  • 50g green beens, chopped into 1inch pieces
  • 50g baby sweetcorn, cut in half
  • 3 spring onions, chopped into short lengths (I didn’t use these – but you can add pretty much any kind of vege here – carrots, peppers, brocolli, mange tout, bok choi – whatever you have in the fridge)
  • 12 (ish) raw king prawns
  • 150g boiled plain rice
  • 1 egg, beaten plus 2 for frying
  • handful of beansprouts (again, leave out or substitute if you don’t have)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  1. If you don’t have your rice already boiled, start by doing this – it can be cooking whilst you do everything else.
  2. Blitz the onion, garlic, chillis, shrimp paste and 1tsp of oil in a food processor to make a rough paste. If using the proper Indonesian shrimp paste it will turn out looking grey-ish. If using the chinese prawn noodle paste, it will come out looking orange.
  3. Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large saucepan or frying pan with high sides. When it’s hot, add the paste you’ve just made and cook out until it turns a crimson colour. It takes about 8-10 minutes. Don’t fret, it will turn properly crimson/burgundy in colour regardless of the paste you use.
  4. When it’s cooked, turn the heat down slightly to prevent it burning and add the harder vegetables (green beans, sweetcorns, carrot etc) and fry for a minute or two to soften. Then add the prawns and fry just until they start to turn pink.
  5. Next add the rice, stir well to coat in the paste and then push the mixture to one side of the pan and pour in the beaten egg to the other side. Allow it to set slightly, like an omlette, then mix up to scramble and push into the rice. Mix everything well.
  6. Then add the soft veges like spring onions, bok choi or beansprouts. Mix well again and remove from the heat.
  7. In a separate frying pan, heat some oil and fry the remaining eggs sunny side up, or cooked but with the yolks still runny. Remove from the heat.
  8. Squeeze the lime juice over the rice, serve into warmed bowls and top with an egg.
  9. Eat and savour its fabulousness.
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