Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

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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Finally, a pad thai recipe I’m happy with!

Hubby and I love Thailand. We’ve been with each other about 3 times, and I’ve been probably about 7 or 8 times in my life. We’d go more often if we could afford it. In fact we’d live there if we could get decent jobs.

For me, it’s nostalgia. We used to go there on holiday when I was a kid. And before you start thinking my parents are globetrotting millionaires (although, ironically that’s not far off the mark!) we lived in Asia (various countries over the years) and it was the equivalent of going to Spain for those that live in the UK. Holidays are always happy times and for me, Thailand represents the best of my childhood and my happiest memories (despite getting extremely horribly sunburnt one time and attacked by a jellyfish another!). For hubby on the other hand, it represents pure escapism from life in England. From rules and regulations, high cost of living, from planning and organising (that’s not England, that’s just me – but I don’t plan in Thailand!). You just buy a ticket, get on a plane, turn up on Khao San road and begin an adventure that involves good cheap beer, fantastic food, beautiful locations and wonderful people – what’s not to love!

And nothing quite epitomises Thailand, or at least the Thailand of holidaymakers and backpackers, than Pad Thai. It’s a favourite the world over. And try as I might, I can’t make it the same as it is in Thailand. But then neither can the Thai restaurants here. Maybe you need some humidity and extremely hot gas burners (I do use gas in the kitchen but it’s probably turned down according to the rules and regulations!) – maybe it somehow affects the food and how it’s cooked. But, after years of trying, this recipe is one I’m satisfied with. And weirdly, doesn’t involve any tamarind paste whatsoever. Which I found a bit dissapointing, but there you go.

The recipe starts, as always, with another recipe. This is where I started http://orangecook.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/pad-thai/

But, of course, I couldn’t stick to that! It has ketchup in it for starters, and that’s just not done! Although, if you don’t have any tomato puree, ketchup is a good substitute. And also, I’m really not a fan of tofu. It comes from being a child in China in the ’80s and being made to eat is – it’s just associated with too many bad memories! So I left that out. Besides, in Thailand, you put whatever meat or meat substitute you like in it – prawns, seafood, chicken, pork, beef, tofu, whatever really – you don’t put all of it in! Most Thais couldn’t afford to eat like that.

So here’s my version. And it’s been hubby approved, and he is a proper Pad Thai obsessive. So you can rest assured, it’s very good.

Mrs Jackson’s Pad Thai

Serves 2

  • 150g thin flat rice noodles
  • 1 tbsp oil (vegetable, sunflower, peanut, sesame)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely sliced (if you have shallots, use 2-3 of these instead)
  • 1 carrot, julienned (finely sliced) (use any vege here – green beans, mangetout, sugar snap peas etc)
  • 1 pepper, finely sliced
  • a small knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 red birds eye chillis, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 14 raw king prawns (grey) – or any other meat.
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dried shrimp paste (you can get this in most good Chinese supermarkets, I used a Burmese one – Balachang)
  • large handful of beansprouts
  • handful of chopped, fresh coriander
  • 1 lime, juice of half and other half quartered to serve
  • 50g roasted peanuts, chopped
  1. Soak the noodles in very hot, but not boiling water until softened. If you find that they are not fully softening after about 10-15 minutes, you can put them in a sieve pour boiling water over them and then remove them after 90 seconds, and run under cold water to prevent further cooking. Over cooking will make them gooey and slimy.
  2. Meanwhile, prep everything else – once you start cooking it’s very fast.
  3. Heat the oil on high heat in a wok until it starts to smoke. Add the garlic and fry very quickly until it starts to brown. Then add all the other vege except the beansprouts. Fry quickly for a minute or two until they start to soften. If using other meat, slice it very thinly and add it after the garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes until it starts to cook and brown before adding the vege.
  4. Then add the chilli and ginger. Mix quickly for a few seconds, then push the vege mix to one side of the pan and pour in the beaten egg. Let it cook for a bit before breaking it up with your spatula and pushing it into the veges.
  5. Next add the prawns, stir and mix well for a couple of minutes until they start to turn pink.
  6. Then tip your prepared noodles into the wok and mix well to combine.
  7. Next add the tomato puree, fish sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and shrimp paste. Stir well to mix and combine.
  8. Now add the beansprouts and the coriander. Mix again to combine and remove from the heat.
  9. Squeeze the half lime over the noodles.
  10. Serve in bowls with the peanuts on top.
  11. Enjoy the beautiful noodliness 🙂
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Quick and healthy lunch: vietnamese prawn noodle salad

I was starving and needed something quick and easy to make for lunch. Nothing was quite coming to mind and then I thought of this recipe I found in Elle magazine years ago. It was their weight loss recipes (pre beach thing) but I used to make them a lot and they’re delicious. I started off by doing the recipe as it said and then, as I always do, started improvising about half way through and it changed somewhat! But it’s still the same idea. And it’s delicious, low calorie, low fat, and fills you up (also helps if you eat Florentines afterwards, but probably not so much if you are on a diet!).

Probably the biggest change I made was because my prawns were raw (i.e. grey not pink), so I fried them in the garlic and chilli with some olive oil and the onions. I did the onions because I’m not a fan of raw onion and as I had the pan on, it made sense. But if you have cooked prawns (pink) then put the chilli and garlic in the dressing, toss your prawns in the salad and leave your onions raw. And if you’re vege, just do the same but leave out the prawns. And voila!

Also, put in any veges you like really. I just used what I had in the fridge. The recipe suggests beansprouts and peanuts too which I didn’t have so left out.

This is a perfect quick spring/summer salad, and could be a lunch box salad as it’ll keep fine (probably improve the flavours too if it rests for a while).

Vietnamese prawn noodle salad

Serves 2

  • 100g thin rice noodles
  • handful of sugar snap peas
  • handful of mangetout
  • 1 carrot thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely choppped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you don’t have)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • juice of half a lime (1 tbsp if using bottled)
  1. Soak the noodles until softened in very hot but not boiling water. If, after 10 minutes they aren’t properly softened then pour boiling water over them for 90 seconds then drain and refresh in cold water. Set aside until needed
  2. Blanch the mangetout and sugar snap peas for a few minutes.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and fry to infuse the oil. Then add the onion and fry until it starts to brown.
  4. Next toss in the prawns and fry until they turn pink. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. To make the dressing mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
  6. Combine the veges and coriander with the noodles and the prawn mixture in a large bowl (tongs/chopsticks are quite helpful for this to get a good mix).
  7. Pour the dressing over the noodle mix and toss well to combine.
  8. Serve with some lime wedges on the side
  9. Enjoy and feel the healthiness as well as the tastiness!
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Amai Udon – Japanese version of pad thai

I have been in a noodle mood recently – as I’m sure you can tell! But they’re quick and easy and filling – so what’s not to love?! I was flicking through my wagamama cookbook looking for something quick and simple that I could do with the contents of my fridge and found Amai Udon. From the ingredients it seems very much like Pad Thai, but the cooking of it produces a very different flavour.

I don’t know whether I’d necessarily cook it the way the recipe said, again, although it did taste nice. But you lost the scrambled egg effect which I like, so I think it would do it a bit differently. But this is the original recipe, which is what I made – if I make it again but differently I can always post that too!  Despite wanting to cook it differently next time, I did really enjoy this. It’s very tasty and very quick to make – great for when you come back starving from the gym.

I used to be a bit scared of the wagamama cookbook – all the different strange ingredients, all the different sauces you had to make from scratch, but really, it’s not hard at all.  Don’t be scared like I was.  This is such a simple recipe.  The sauce is easy to make (you can even use something like worcester sauce instead of tamarind if you don’t have any), takes about 5 mins max.  And then basically you mix everything together for the dish and flash fry it in hot oil for a few mins – chuck it in bowls, sprinkle over some peanuts – and voila – dinner in minutes.

This is perfect for a quick tasty, healthy, mid week dinner (or even lunch!). I used the udon noodles as this is what I had, but I think it would probably work just as well with normal egg noodles. I put prawns in mine, but I left out the tofu as I didn’t have any. But if you wanted a vege toption you could add the tofu, or just have with veges.

The original is from the Wagamama cookbook by Hugo Arnold. You can get a copy on amazon, here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wagamama-Cookbook-Cookery-Hugo-Arnold/dp/1856265102/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1298837372&sr=8-3

This recipe also uses leeks, which I left out. But you could put in, instead of the onions, or use spring onions instead as well. If you’re using tofu – cut into cubes and fry first before adding the rest of the ingredients.

The key to this dish is the sauce, which is Amai sauce. I don’t know if you can buy it in supermarkets – but if you’re adverse to making it yourself, I’d have a look as a lot of the larger supermarkets stock many of the wagamama sauces. I made it myself as the recipe was also in the cook book and it was pretty simple. And you’ll see from the ingredients why it seems similar to Pad Thai – with the soys and the tamarind. Plus you chuck in beansprouts, peanuts and lime juice! But trust me, it does taste different!

This recipe also doesn’t have any chilli in it. I actually made it without, for once, but if you’re in a spicy mood, just chuck in 1-2 fresh ones, chopped, with all the rest of the stuff.

Amai sauce
makes about 75-100ml (I just put all the sauce I made in the dish)

  • 1 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • pinch of salt
  • 1.5 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 tsp tamarind paste
  1. Gently heat the vinegar, soy sauces and sugar in a pan until the sugar has disolved. Remove from the heat.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients and set aside to cool.

NB – for info on tamarind paste please see this blog post https://mrsjacksoncooks.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/bargain-yumminess-potato-cakes-with-sausages-in-a-tamarind-sauce/

Amai Udon
Serves 2

  • 400g udon noodles (I used frozen)
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 75ml amai sauce
  • 1 onion, finely sliced, or 1 leek finely sliced, or handful of spring onions finely sliced
  • 12 raw king prawns (grey ones – you can use cooked but it will be more rubbery), shelled
  • handful of beansprouts or mangetout or sugar snap peas (or all of them!  I also added a finely sliced pepper)
  • 1 tbsp oil (I used sesame)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
  1. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  2. Put the egg and amai sauce in a large bowl and add the onion, prawns, beansprouts (or other vege) and noodles. Mix well to combine.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan until smoking hot (add tofu here, if using). Add the contents of the bowl and cook until the egg is cooked and the onions   are softened (and the prawns turn pink) – about 5 minutes.
  4. Serve in large bowls with the peanuts scattered on top and with a squeeze of lime juice.
  5. Enjoy the slippery slurpiness!
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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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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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What to do with squash – make curry, of course!

Well Thai red curry, to be precise.

As anyone will tell you, I currently have a bit of an obsession with discount vouchers.  One of them recently was 2 weeks of fresh vegetables delivered from a farm in Wigan.  And the first of the 2 weeks was delivered the other day and included some odd looking squashes.

Now, I’m not against squash per se.  Not overly keen on pumpkin, although I’ll eat it, but I do quite like a nice butternut squash.  I don’t tend to buy squashes that often though – it just doesn’t really occur to me.  However, I think that’s what’s so great about having a vegetable delivery which is local – it’s seasonal vege at its best and you don’t have to think about what vege you want, you get what you’re given and in the process find some great new recipes!

Now, of course there’s squash risotto, squash soup, squash casserole – the possibilities are endless.  But at the time Thai curry seemed like a good idea.  I found the recipe on the BBC’s good food website here

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2631/thai-squash-and-pineapple-curry

I think possibly I was attracted to it because it had pineapple in it, and I had half a can of pineapple languishing in the fridge that needed using.

Red curries are one of the milder Thai curries, although I am using ‘milder’ generously as Thai’s don’t really understand food without lots of chili in it.  But compared to green curries, reds are definitely milder.  Yellows are milder still.  If you’re worried about the level of spice, use less curry paste and exclude the fresh chillis.  If you like spicy food, then go for it, but do be careful with the paste – especially if it’s from a chinese supermarket, they’re pretty strong.

As this is a vegetarian recipe I was wondering what to do to get some protein in the dish.  I considered chickpeas and lentils but decided they were more Indian than Thai, and then I thought – what do Thai’s do for protein (apart from tofu)?  Eggs, of course!  Now, I could have made a fried egg to go on top, but I decided that was a little unusual for a curry, so I scrambled an egg and tossed it in the rice instead.  Now, if you’re vegan, that’s not such a great idea and maybe in the circumstances chickpeas would be a good option but if you’re not vegan than eggs are a great option.

You could also add toasted cashews or chopped toasted peanuts.  That would add protein.

I used a whole can of coconut milk, only because when I use half a can the remaining half tends to go mouldy in the fridge before I get round to using it.  But if you’re being healthy, then use half and try to get low fat as coconut milk is very high in fat and calories and add in the stock as suggested in the original recipe.

This however, is the recipe as I adapted it.

Thai Red curry with squash and pineapple

Serves 2

1 tbsp oil (I used chilli oil)

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp thai red curry paste (or make your own).  If using chinese supermarket brands (eg suree or may ploy) then 1 tbsp is enough.  If using normal supermarket or sharwoods or similar then you may want 2 tbsp.

1 squash, of about 300g

1 can (400ml) coconut milk

75g green beans (or approximately a large handful)

1/2 can pineapple chunks or rounds cut into pieces

2 red chillis sliced (de seed if you don’t want to spicy)

handful of chopped fresh coriander

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok.  When it’s hot, add the onion and fry until browned.
  2. Add the paste to the pan and fry until softened and combined with the onion.
  3. Add the squash and fry for a further couple of minutes, before adding the coconut milk.
  4. Turn the pan down to a low simmer and cover.  Keep checking the curry isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  5. After 10 minutes, add the green beans, pineapple and chillis.  Add a bit of water if the sauce is becoming too thick or dried.
  6. Continue to cook until the squash is cooked through – about 20-25 minutes.
  7. Throw in the coriander, stir well and serve on a bed of rice or noodles (rice is better in this instance I think), possibly with added egg!
  8. Enjoy!
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On a noodle trip

I have a small obsession with noodles.  I think they are amazing.  They are so quick and easy to cook and always taste great (providing you don’t glue them together!).  I’m not fussed – rice, egg, wholeweat – I’ll eat them all.  If you’re hungry and want to eat quickly they are just perfect.

So here are a couple of noodle recipes I made this week.  The first one, was so quick to make and we were so hungry, I didn’t have time to take a photo – before I knew it the plates were empty!  But I do have a photo for the second one.

They’re also quite cheap and good things to have in your cupboard for when you’ve run out of food.  So they make excellent food for when you’re skint.

The first recipe is vegetarian, although, with the egg it’s not vegan, but you could just leave that out.  The great thing about this recipe is the colours of the vegetables, and somehow, don’t ask me how, Ravinder Bhogal manages to combine seemingly unlikely things like mild curry powder and sweet chilli sauce, into something delicious.  Of course, its a Ravinder recipe – who else?!  The second recipe I made with lamb although the original recipe was for beef and you could just as easily do it with fish or chicken too.

In the first recipe, I suggest some vegetables, but really you could substitute them for anything – the more different colours the better really.  Baby sweetcorn, corgettes, all make good options.  Just go with whats in your fridge.

Vege noodle stir fry with cashews

Serves 2

2 bricks of egg noodles (about 100g)

1 tbsp oil (I used chilli oil)

handful of cashew nuts

1 onion, finely sliced

1 carrot, julienned (finely sliced into batons)

1 red pepper, finely sliced

handful of green beans chopped in half

handful of sugar snap peas

Green leaf (like bok choi) roughly chopped

2 eggs, beaten

1 inch knob of ginger peeled & grated

2 red chillis finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)

1 tsp mild madras curry powder

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp thai sweet chilli sauce

juice of 1/2 a lime

  1. Cook the noodles according to packet instructions until part done – normally boiling water for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan until hot, and add the cashew nuts.  Then add the onion, fry for a minute until softened but not browned, then add carrots and any other hard vege (broccoli for instance), followed by softer vege like the peppers and beans (corgettes, sweetcorn etc), followed by the vege that need a light cooking such as the green leaf, mange tout or sugar snap peas.
  3. When all the vege has been added and has started to cook, push it up to one side of the pan and add the beaten eggs.  Let them set slightly before messing up and combining with the vege.
  4. Add the ginger, curry powder and chillis, followed by the noodles and mix well.
  5. Add the soy & chilli sauces and mix again.
  6. Turn off the heat and squeeze over the lime
  7. Serve immediately and feel your hunger deliciously slip away.

This next recipe is slightly more technical, but not much really. It requires marinading first, so it’s not as fast as the first, but once the meat is marinaded, it takes minutes to cook and the marinade makes the meat really tender.

I didn’t have any shop bought teryaki sauce, so I made my own from a recipe out of the Wagamama cook book.  It’s really quite simple and doesn’t take long to do.  This recipe (and the sauce) require sake or sherry.  It’s not the kind of thing you’d just have hanging around but it’s great to get a cheap bottle from a supermarket for cooking.  It lasts ages because you dont’ use much at a time and it’s very handy for Italian as well as Japanese or Chinese cooking.  I normally use a dry pale sherry as a sake substitute and a medium dry sherry for Italian cooking.

Teryaki Lamb stir fry

Serves 2

175g lean lamb steak, de boned and any excess fat removed.

2 bricks of egg noodles (about 100g)

1 tbsp oil

1 onion finely chopped

2 red chillis, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy – or leave out all together)

handful of oyster or other chinese mushrooms, rehydrated and torn up

300g chestnut mushrooms (or button or closed cup)

handful of sugar snap peas or mange tout

For the marinade

55-60ml teryaki sauce

1 tbsp sake or dry sherry

2 tsp dark soy sauce

For the teryaki sauce (if not shop bought) – makes 55-60ml

60g caster sugar (or granulated is fine)

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sake or dry sherry

1 tsp dark soy sauce.

  1. To make the teryaki sauce, combine the sugar and light soy sauce in a small saucepan over a low heat until the sugar is disolved, continue stiring for a further 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened (but isn’t too caramelised).  Remove from the heat and add the sake and dark soy, and mix to combine well.  Set aside.  The sauce will continue to thicken a bit after this, so err on the side of slightly too runny rather than slightly too thick when making it.  And don’t leave it when it’s cooking, or it might burn.
  2. To make the marinade, combine the cooled teryaki sauce with the sake and dark soy (essentially giving it more flavour than the teryaki sauce on its own) and add the meat to it.  Cover and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  3. When the meat is marinaded, cook the noodles until partially done, according to manufacturers instructions, normally boil in water for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan, add the onion and fry on a medium heat until browned.  Add the chillis, and stir well.   Then add the mushrooms and fry until the chestnut mushrooms have browned and al the mushrooms have released some juices.
  5. Remove the meat from the marinade and reserve the marinade.  Chop up the meat (or you can fry as a whole steak and slice after cooking) and add to the vegetables.  Fry until browned on all sides.
  6. Then add the sugarsnap peas or mange tout and the noodles.  Stir well, then add the marinade.  Stir again to mix well.
  7. Turn off the heat and serve immediately with a nice cold beer.
  8. Do your lady and the tramp impression whilst gobbling it all up!
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A fast and favourite thai noodle recipe

One of my favourite Thai dishes is Pad See Ew, or Thai river noodles.  It’s so quick and fast to make, nutritious and calorie light.  You can even eat it for breakfast – Thai’s do.  Now, I’ve never managed to make it quite like they do in Thailand, but Vatch’s recipe is the closest I’ve got to it.   All other recipes involvinng a million ingredients like oyster sauces and marinades and different soy sauces – totally unneccessary and it doesn’t taste right.

I cannot claim this, this recipe is from Vatch’s Thai Kitchen cookbook which you can find here

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vatchs-Thai-Kitchen-Dishes-Cook/dp/1845975847/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287522808&sr=8-3

The only thing I change is I reduce the amount of noodles to 100g per person.   Also I found that the amount of soy sauce he uses isn’t anywhere near enough to equate with what it tastes like in Thailand so I add quite a lot more.  Also, this recipe is with prawns but you can use any meat.  If using beef or chicken – slice very thinly.  Because this is such a fast cooking recipe, make sure you do all your prep first.

With the dried noodles (I used dried, you can get fresh at Chinese supermarkets) you need to soak them in hot (not boiling) water to soften.  This can take a good 10 minutes or so, so do this first before you start prepping.  If by the time you need them they still aren’t soft, I use this trick, but you must be quick.  Put them in a seive set over a bowl.  Pour boiling water over them.  Leave for a few seconds then remove the seive from the water and voila – noodles all ready to use.  If you aren’t ready for them run immediately under cold water to prevent over cooking.

Vatch’s Pad See Ew with Prawns

Serves 4

400g wide rice noodles

3 tbsp peanut oil (to be honest though, I usually use sesame instead but peanut is better)

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 onion thinly sliced

400g raw king prawns

2 eggs beaten

1 inch knob of ginger, finely sliced

250g brocolli florets, or baby broccoli or chinese broccoli

4-5 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon thai fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

2 green birdseye chillis thinly sliced (de-seeded if you don’t want it too spicy)

  1. Heat the oil in a wok, when its hot add the garlic and fry until golden.  Then add the onion and stir quickly.
  2. Add the meat, stir quickly to seal then add the eggs.  Allow to set slightly before messing up with the spatula and incorporating with the rest of the food
  3. Add the noodles and ginger, stir for a minute, then add the brocolli and stir for another minute
  4. Add the soy and fish sauces and sugar, stir again and mix well.  It needs to look properly dark so add more soy if you think it needs it
  5. Turn into bowls and sprinkle the chilli slices on top.

And remember the lovely beach holidays in Phuket or Phi Phi or Phang-ngyan.

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Carbonara: simplicity and glamour

Carbonara has to be one of the easiest and quickest things to make.  It’s so tasty, always pleases and somehow manages to be glamorous and comforting all at once. Its not one for the dieters but you’ve got to fall off the wagon occasionally, and if you use reduced fat creme fraiche it really does reduce the calorie content.  But don’t use weight watchers – it’s like water.

I love it for dinner after work and the gym.  It’s quick and filling and sorts the post workout carb requirement.

This time I went traditional and did spaghetti but really any pasta shape is good.  I don’t put mushrooms in as I feel this actually makes it a different dish but I won’t object if you want to!

I’ve tried carbonara with cream, cream cheese and with yoghurt but I find nothing beats creme fraiche.

The other great thing is, you can get all the ingredients in Aldi.  They’re all good quality and cheaper than elsewhere. I’m no food snob – give me anything so long as it tastes good!

Spaghetti carbonara

Serves 4

300g spaghetti (or any kind of pasta)

1tbsp olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

100g pancetta bacon (or any kind of bacon – use 8 rashers if using other bacon) cut 1inch strips

60ml (or about 4tbsp) creme fraiche

4 eggs

pepper

60g parmesan cheese plus extra for sprinkling.

  1. Boil your spaghetti in salted water until done (however you prefer, you have my thoughts on al dente already!  Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil on a low heat in a high edged frying pan or saucepan.  Fry the onion until softened.
  3. Add the bacon to the onion and fry until crispy.
  4. Beat the eggs with the creme fraiche.  Add lots of pepper and the parmesan.  Don’t add salt because the bacon is salted.
  5. Add the drained pasta to the onion and bacon, mix well.
  6. (now this is the important bit to get right).  Turn off the heat and immediately add the egg mix to the spaghetti and bacon.  Mix well.  The egg will just cook with the heat from the pan.  Leave the heat on and it will all fragment and turn into scrambled eggs.
  7. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of parmesan.
  8. Suck up and enjoy like lady and the tramp (although with carbonara not meatballs obviously!)
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