Spring Kitchen – Salads, Soups and Stews.

Spring has sprung and the clocks have gone forward. We’ve even started glimpsing sunshine some afternoons. But my kitchen, like my wardrobe is in a conundrum… 

Is it going to be bright and breezey, dark and miserable, who knows? 

So this week has been quite the mixture – crunchy green salads during the day and warming soups and stews at night. 

One particularly unfriendly evening this week I went for something really comforting and filling, Sausage Casserole with Mashed Potatoes. I’m still watching my weight so all together the meal came to approximately 400kcals but I was still more than satisfied.

  • 4 Sausages (Aldi Reduced Fat)
  • Handful Chestnut Mushrooms 
  • 2 carrots 
  • 1 Onion 
  • Tbsp Flour
  • Stock
  • 400g Potatoes
  1. Slice the onions and add to a frying pan on a medium heat to soften.
  2. Chop the sausage into bite-sized chunks and add to the onions with the flour. Cook until browned.
  3. While the sausage is cooking chop carrots and mushrooms into around 1cm chunks (or smaller, the thinner the carrot the quicker your stew will be ready!)
  4. Add to the pan with the stock and some pepper (according to your taste) *side note: I used chicken stock so I also added some Soy sauce for colour, but you could use gravy granules or browning.
  5. While your stew is now simmering ( pop a lid on it) peel and Chop your potatoes into small cubes. Add to the pan and bring to the boil. 
  6. After 10 minutes your stew should be thickening – just give it an occasional stir – if it needs more liquid go ahead. Your potatoes should be nearly cooked. 
  7. After 5 more minutes (I used this time to chop up some Greens to have with my stew and wilt them in another pan) if your potatoes are soft you can drain them for mashing and turn off your stew. 
  8. Mash your potatoes the way you like them! I’m a splash of milk, knob of butter and pinch of salt kind of girl. 
  9. Plate it, eat it! 

Quick, filling and it hit the spot (without hitting my waistline). 

What do you think? 

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Potato, Pea and Spinach Curry – comfort food for the work weary! 

I don’t know about you folks, but when I’ve had a long day I come home, and want to eat everything in sight! 

One of my favourite go to weekday dinners is a veggie curry, it’s great for using up whatever is in your fridge, it’s filling, and actually really healthy! 

I started using Abel and Cole recently, to introduce a bit more variety to the vegetables I eat on week to week basis (it’s a weekly home delivery subscription for fruits and vegetables mainly). This week it included among other things, potatoes and baby Spinach so I opted to for Potato, Pea and Spinach Curry with Cauliflower Rice. (I still had half a cauliflower from the previous delivery, so why not!) 


Recipe as follows:

  • 2 medium white Potatoes
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 handfuls of Spinach (baby in this case but whatever you have)
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 1 white Onion
  • 200mls coconut milk
  • Fresh ginger 
  • 1tbsp curry powder
  • 1tsp Chili powder 
  • 2tsp garam masala 
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 Ltr Vegetable stock 
  • Salt 

Finely slice your onions.

Grate or finely mince around 2cm of ginger

Sautée together in a medium pan til onions soften. (I just used a small knob of butter).

Chop the potatoes (both kinds) into big chunks (2/2.5cm cubes).

Add spices to your onions cook and stir through, cooking gentle for 1 more minute.

Add the potatoes and half the stock, cover and simmer fir 10/15 minutes.

Check your curry periodically, if your pan starts to become dry, add more stock to keep the sauce gently bubbling (it doesn’t need to cover the potatoes).

Once your potatoes seem to be getting soft (around 15 minutes) you can add the peas and coconut milk. 

Pop the lid back on, it will need another 10 minutes(ish)

In the meantime I was preparing my cauliflower rice, this would be great with chapattis or regular rice as well though. (I whizzed up half a head of cauli, minus the leaves) lightly sautéed again with minced garlic and then dropped a little hot stock – maybe 1/2 tablespoons -and popped the lid on and let it steam through for 5 minutes.

Your curry is ready when the sauce looks rich and thick and the potatoes are soft all the way through.

Taste it for salt/spice, add your spinach leaves and stir ’til wilted. 

Then serve and devour! 

I found the sweet potato to add an extra dimension with it’s creamy texture and (obvious) sweetness. And potatoes for me are a great carrier for the layers of flavours in curry dishes. It was rich, filling, not oily and had a gentle but not overpowering heat.

Overall it was what I wanted, so I will chalk it up as a success. This was unintentionally vegetarian and vegan friendly, so a good one to remember if you are not veggie yourself but are ever cooking for someone who is, it’s filling and flavoursome for everyone!

Do you have any curry concoctions I can try? 

Or any suggestions to improve this one! (if I had fresh chillies in the house I definitely would have tossed one or two in)

I hope you enjoy 😄

Finding Refuge in Food.

Happy weekend foodies all! 

Normally my days off are spent cooking food (and there has been plenty of that too!) But this Saturday there was time to squeeze in a girly lunch as well.

My lunching partners and I all live in different places so we have a little rotation, and this time we were in Manchester – My friend recommended newly opened The Refuge by Volta (in The Principal, formerly The Palace Hotel).

It was a lovely setting, blending the modern and quirky Manchester vibe with the pre-existing grandeur and art deco features.

The Winter Garden is where I met my friends, a light and airy atrium with comfy sofas, rattan chairs and trees (alas artificial, but still a nice touch) it’s the ideal spot for gin drinking or afternoon tea.

We were shown to our table in the restaurant by cheerful staff, and our waiter was throughout pleasant and solicitous but quite genuinely so. 

After a lot of deliberation (there were far too many mouth-watering options) we went for the following from the Voltini (small plates).

Smoked Feta and Beetroot Dip

Crispy Lamb Shawarma with Harissa 

Radicchio and Orange Salad

Seabass with Pine Nuts

Mutabal with Flatbread 

Broccolini with Garlic Crumbs

I can tell you now, it was delicious. The lamb was possibly my favourite light and succulent with just the right heat coming through the harissa. The Mutabal and Beetroot Dip were moreish and vibrant.

Even the Seabass which I typically don’t love was perfectly cooked and had me helping myself to more.

Naturally after a very successful first course the only option was to give the desserts a try (we had shared six plates between three, they recommend three per person so although I felt that was enough to satisfy, I did have a little room to squeeze in something sweet). 

We ordered the Pear Tarte Tartin with Espresso Crème Anglaise and the Orange Blossom and Honey Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Ricotta.

Perfection. The Tarte Tatin was crisp, the pears golden with that slight caramel chew and the Crème Anglaise was complimentary not over-powering. The Polenta Cake was moist and flavoursome, a good blend of textures, the citrusey hints an excellent way to round out the meal.

I will definitely look forward to going back again and recommend the place to anyway who is wanting a place to enjoy with a fellow foodie. 

Last but not least I feel like I need to give a little shout-out to the Espresso Martini we finished with, it was spot on, rich, smooth and not too sweet. 

Where have you eaten recently? Let me know your recommendations as I’m super excited to try somewhere as good :).

Ramen Burgers….don’t mind if I do! 

I saw these on a cooking channel, (Hayley Duff has her own food show apparently??) and since A) I love fusion food and b) my boyfriend won’t eat bread…how could I pass up the opportunity?!

Step 1. Make the ramen buns.

Pretty straight forward as it turns out, cook up the noodles (sans flavouring) once cooked, drain off and allow to cool slightly.

You need to beat and egg and mix with the warm noodles, a pinch of salt at this stage won’t hurt, and once thoroughly coated press into a mould – I used cookie cutters. 

Pop in the fridge ’til cold I left them for a good half an hour or so – before you cook your burgers pop them in a fairly hot frying pan to cook through and get a nice crisp golden outer.

Step 2. Additionals

For this recipe since I was going for the Asian theme I made a few garnishes or additions to round it out. First up was wasabi mayo (as easy as it sounds) then a satay inspired sauce made from crunchy peanut butter, brown sugar, chillies and fish sauce (I do love a bit of texture!) and some pickled cucumber (finely sliced cucumber with sugar, salt and rice wine vinegar left to marinate while prepping everything else). 

Step 3. Burgers

My burgers were lean pork with a touch of grated carrot for a bit of sweetness and to keep them moist and most importantly juicy :). Topped off with smoked mature cheddar (I add it in the pan to let it melt through for gooey goodness). And then I layered it up like there was no tomorrow! 

Et Voila! 

Step 3. Plate it up.

A couple of fresh sides to cut through all that cheese and peanut butter – grilled courgette ‘crisps’,  fresh ‘slaw’ (as they call it in the trendy restaurants these days) and the burgers were ready to go. 

Step 4. Eat!

I was pretty happy and have definite plans for further experimental variations (the fact that I will be using this as a shameless excuse to eat more burgers is completely beside the point). 

What would you put on your Ramen Burger? Let me know! 🙂 

Polish Inspiration

There wasn’t a great deal in my fridge today, and I was home alone, so using up whatever was there seemed the order of the day. 

What I did have in abundance was cottage cheese (7 pots to be exact) my partner is well known amongst our friends for eating a pot a day, but I figured he could spare me some. I also had a small amount of dough left from what I’d made the night before (just a flour and water mix, nothing special) I have a tendency to shove everything back in the fridge thinking that I’ll find something to do with it, and this time it panned out.

Anyway, what came to my mind was Pierogi, which if you don’t know are little Polish (or generally Slavic/Eastern European) dumplings which come with a variety of fillings. One of the most popular? Pierogi Ruskie which has a cottage cheese and potato filling. I understand that the cottage cheese traditionally used is not quite what we mean when we say cottage cheese in the UK (if anyone can explain the difference I’d be interested, I think it’s something to do with the curd size?) but I’m sure it’s similar enough to get away with it. 

Long story short is, a boiled and mashed potato later, I mixed a couple of spoons of the cheese with potato, salt and pepper and crimped up in a few little discs of the dough. 

When I’ve been served Pierogi before it usually came topped with some softened onions or with bacon bits and sour cream, but I didn’t have any of these so I sliced up a bit of smoked ham, and then a little cabbage and mushroom for good measure (another filling for Pierogi by-the-by) and after a quick trip in boiling water and the frying pan. Lunch was served. 

I don’t know how they measured up to the Pierogi your Babcia used to make, but at least they hit the spot (and I didn’t have to go out).

More for my money…

In this instance see calories for money. 

(Although I highly approve of saving money wherever possible too!)

Sometimes when you come home, tired, hungry, you just want to see a huge mound of food on your plate. Not ‘enough’ food, but more than enough. Times like these you have to get your thinking cap on. Normally I advocate for soup, it looks big, feels filling and the excess is made of water (win/win right?) but you can’t have soup all the time.

Now I don’t particularly subscribe to the low-carb ideology, although I do know people who have definitely benefitted from it, I generally feel what works for you, works. Sometimes though it is useful to steal a few ideas…

I really wanted to use up some smoked mackerel and settled on a fish curry, but as an oily fish it was going to take a serious bite out of my 400kcals I aim for with each meal. The other biggest contributor in this dish? The rice. I was slightly loathe to compromise as rice is 100% my favourite carbohydrate, if I could only have one again I would gave rice  breakfast, lunch and dinner. This time however, I opted to for the oh-so-trendy cauliflower rice since I didn’t feel like looking down at a pitifully sized portion.

I have to admit I got a lot of bang for my buck. I wouldn’t replace rice permanently but the cauliflower was pretty complimentary. The curry was made with butternut squash, spinach and potato and the mackerel flaked in so the slightly sweet, slightly nutty cauli wasn’t half bad. And I got an extra veg towards my 5 a day (bonus points). Downsides…curry and smoked fish? Don’t keep your coat in the Kitchen while you’re cooking.

If you have calorie ‘saving’ tips to share I’d love to know! Or suggestions of how you’ve served your cauliflower rice :).

Back in the Kitchen

It’s been a while!

After a super busy year in my ‘9-5’ and getting engaged I am finally returning to the love of my life – food.

As the pre-wedding dress panic is setting in I’m reminded that it’s a constant balancing act to eat food that satisfies your literal needs as well as giving that same enjoyment and satisfaction.

So I will be endeavouring to share my forays into this, most perilous of journeys, to stuff my face with yummy delights and come out of it healthier than when I went in.

First case: Grapefruit halves. The classic dieters breakfast, allegedly kick-starting the metabolism and giving a daily dose of vitamin C.

Dusted with brown sugar and cinnamon I did like it – but I have a particular fancy for sour things, if you don’t, this maybe too much for you. I sliced up the other half with mango and chopped walnuts so might be more palatable for those with a sweeter tooth!

Well that’s breakfast out of the way, and I had better get busy – we’ve got catching up to do :).

Getting Ahead

So the weekend is over and it’s back to the proverbial daily grind. Eating healthy is tough, especially when you work in the City Centre and there are lots of others around you, tempting you to stray…

I bring my lunch from home for two reasons, the first being it’s way more cost effective (I have a budget of £40 a week to feed two of us, breakfast, lunch and dinner) and also it’s easier to make the ‘right’ choice,  when there’s already a healthy lunch sitting in your bag, as opposed to the sad looking 310kcal tuna and cucumber sandwich with a few bland apple slices in the meal deal.

I actually tend to steer clear of cold lunches, sandwiches, salads etc, as it’s really easy to eat them when you get that 10:30/11am twinge that tells you “I could be hungry” when most of the time if you’re like me, you’re probably in need of a big drink of water. Generally I eat quite a high carb – low fat diet, not everyone approves of this but it works for me, I have a guideline for myself of 1200-1400 calories a day (don’t get me wrong, there are days I do go over) so breakfast, lunch and dinner are set at 400Kcals, and I want to feel full!

Sunday is my prep day normally, I used to make my lunch the night before, however I got pretty lazy and everyday was chicken, rice and cabbage – so I decided to spend an hour or so each Sunday making a few different dishes and freezing them for the week to come.

I do have a few certain meals that I know freeze pretty well, take little effort to prepare and so I tend to make them on a rotation, with the occasional inspiration or whim leading me to add something to the menu.

This week will be quite standard for me, I did see some Peri-Peri Chicken Sausages during my weekly shop and decided to give them a try as they are about 90Kcals each which is not too shabby so they haven’t usually been in the line-up, but maybe they’ll become a regular feature.

So first up to prepare was Bulgar Wheat with said Sausages and Roast Vegetables (in this case peppers, courgettes and aubergine) a bit of tomato, chilli, and seasoning and we are good to go on that one.

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Next is Pasta with Spinach ‘Pesto’, Chicken and Green Veg – this does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, I wilt the spinach with some garlic, salt and pepper, add a little milk and whizz it up to the high heavens, cook my pasta, blanch a few peas, broccoli and leeks, toss it all togetherand there you have it, a vibrant green and filling lunch.

photo 3photo 1

Fried-Rice this one is an all-time easy and I have been eating this one since, well forever,

photo 5I get some peas, carrots, sweetcorn, diced chicken (or actually turkey breast in this instance) in the non-stick frying pan with some soy sauce and fish sauce, add some cooked rice (day old rice, if you haven’t heard already, is ideal) stir it up and voila!

My last dish this Sunday was pasta again, for those of you who may have noticed that only adds up to four I did double up the rice to allow for two days (my excuse is that I didn’t get home ’til 8:30pm and I just couldn’t get my brain to stretch that far) so it was Pasta with Spicy Sausage and Tomato Sauce. I do like to save time, so as you can see this was was easy after the others. Sausages? Already cooked. Pasta? Already cooked. Vegetables? You guessed it, I threw in the same mediterranean vibe that I roasted up for the bulgar, so all I had to do was simmer a little sauce while everything else was cooking, some tomatoes, chillies, salt, pepper, sugar, what ever my little hands could reach and then stir it through for the grand finale.photo 4g

Maximum time from opening the fridge to completion – probably an hour and a half. Time saved from stressing throughout the week, immeasurable!

Let me know how it compares to your lunch time habits – what do you do to stay happy and healthy for lunch?