Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Prawn and butternut squash curry

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I do apologise. I’ve been very absent. I’ve been feeling it too, but life just got away with me! I’ll make up for it now and post regularly I promise. And I’ve got a load of things I’ve cooked recently that were very yummy. So rather than do them in chronological order, I think I might do them in yumminess order, although that’s hard as they were all very good.

This one was an easy contender for number one yummy spot though and a brilliant crowd (or even just husband) pleaser. It’s pretty easy to make and is a good midweek meal. What I did was shove the butternut squash in the oven when I got home from the gym and then went and had a shower. When I got down, it was done and I carried on with the rest of it.

It’s also pretty cheap if you get your prawns frozen from the Chinese supermarket like I do! Butternut squashes are everywhere and very cheap at the moment. The rest is mostly store cupboard/whatever is in your fridge stuff. You could even leave it vege and just have the butternut squash – it’s very good on its own, and that would even keep any vegans happy (that’s for you Alan!).

The recipe came from here and not from BBC good food as it usually does! I adapted it slightly (not least because I don’t measure in US cups!), but not by much.

Prawn and butternut squash curry

Serves 4

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy. You could also use a large chilli sliced into rounds and just added at the end)
  • knob of root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp thai red curry paste (err on the side of caution especially if using ‘authentic’ stuff – it’ll blow your head off!)
  • Veges eg. peppers, chopped, carrots,mange tout, baby sweetcorn etc
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 250ml chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
  • 1 400ml tin coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 24-30 raw king prawns, shelled
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander
  1. Heat the oven to 230 degrees celsius. Place the butternut sqush in a roasting pan with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and some salt and pepper to taste. Roast until cooked – about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a pan or wok. Add the onions, garli, chilli & ginger. Fry until the onion starts to brown. Then add the curry paste and cook out until it softens somewhat.
  3. Add any other veges that you’re using. Fry for a few minutes until they start to soften.
  4. Add the tomato and butternut squash to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes start to break down.
  5. Pour in the stock, coconut milk and fish sauce.
  6. Bring to a simmer and gently cook for about 30 -40 minutes. The gentler and longer you cook this the more the butternut squash flavours will infuse the curry (to be honest, I was hungry and did it for about 25 minutes!).
  7. About 5 minutes before serving, add the prawns and coriander. Stir well and continue to cook until the prawns go opaque and pink.
  8. Serve immediately on a bed of rice and a cold Tiger beer.
  9. Enjoy 🙂
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Pork and pineapple thai style curry

The pineapples were going cheap at the grocers – so I bought two. We like pineapple and I figured we’d eat them but they weren’t ripe so I left them on the window sill and forgot about them. They’re now over ripe! So it’s pineapple every day for this week!

I was wondering what to do with them that didn’t involve lots of sugar and calories, and found this recipe.

It’s for prawns but I had already started defrosting pork so I used that instead. And I had an aubergine that needed eating so that went in as well. And then I thought I’d do it more thai style and add garlic, frying it first. And then an onion too!

I didn’t have massaman curry paste either, so I used penang, but really you could use any thai curry paste. It will obviously alter the taste a bit but these ingredients will go with any really. If you use green or red paste – omit the fresh chilli or it’ll be too spicy, unless you’re actually Thai. We eat chilli all the time, I would leave it out for us as the paste, especially if you get the stuff from the Chinese supermarket, is very strong.

If you can get the small Thai aubergines, these are best for it, but otherwise, a normal purple one will do. I used a normal purple one which I chopped into chunks and sprinkled with salt. If using the Thai baby ones – chop in half or quarters and then sprinkle with salt.

This is not the lowest in calories of curry – with the coconut milk, but if you can find reduced fat coconut milk, it helps. You can use any meat this too – chicken, white fish, prawns would all work well instead of pork. With the exception of Massaman curry, it’s unusual to have beef in Thai curries, but you could use it. And if you’re vege or making for veges – just leave out the meat, and you have a great meatless curry. You could even add tofu as well if you wanted. It’s even vegan friendly!

Pork and pineapple curry

Serves 4

  • 1 aubergine, chopped into chunks
  • 2 tbsp oil (sunflower, vegetable, sesame, peanut, groundnut)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp curry paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 400g unboned pork, diced (most pork will do – I used pork fillet, but it’s not necessary. I’d avoid belly pork as it’ll take too long to cook well).
  • 3 red chilli, finely chopped (also knob of ginger grated, if you want)
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • 1 medium pineapple, peeled and choped into chunks
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • juice 1/2 lemon
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander
  1. Place the aubergine chunks in the bottom of a colander so they aren’t overlapping and cover in salt, pile another layer on top and repeat, if necessary. Continue until all the aubergine is in the collander. Leave on a draining board (or in a sink) for about 20 minutes until the bitter juices are removed. Then rinse well under cold water to remove the salt and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil on a high heat in a wok. When it’s hot, add the garlic, stiring quickly until browned. Then add the onion, frying quickly again until browned. Then add the curry paste, turmeric and sugar, breaking down the curry paste with your spoon or spatula.
  3. Next add the pork (or other meat, except prawns) and stir well to coat in the curry paste. Fry until the meat is browned.
  4. Then add the aubergines, again stiring well to coat in the mix and allowing to cook slightly.
  5. Next add the coconut milk, pineapple, fish sauce, lemon juice and lemongrass. Mix well. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  6. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes or until the pork and aubergines are cooked and the sauce is nicely thickened.
  7. Stir through the coriander and serve with boiled rice.
  8. Enjoy the sweet spiciness 🙂
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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

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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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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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

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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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

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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