Friday, 29 October 2010

Beef Mince Stir Fry

Hands up if you would come home from school in the late 70s and early 80s ravenous, only to find it was boring old  'mince and tatties' for tea again. No wonder microwave pizzas were so alluring when they came on the scene around the same time!

Tonight I have eaten those same two main ingredients, not under the guise of a northern England delicacy, but as part of a Thai dish - Laab neua. Those familiar ingredients were magically transformed using Thai staples of fish sauce, lemongrass, lime, and fresh herbs of mint and coriander.


But the reason this recipe stood out, and what aroused my curiosity, was the requirement of a tablespoon of dry roasted rice! Sounds a little unappetizing I reckoned, but as the recipe was from a reliable and trusted source, I placed my faith in his hands. I was right to do so too. The rice had a distinct dry, salty taste - very similar to salted popcorn - with a real crunchy bite.

Fresh crisp lettuce leaves filled with a combination of sour, hot, salty, and zingy flavoured meat was a real delight. Added to the plate were simple seasoned potato wedges and a bowl of hot chilli sauce for dipping.

Serves 2
Cost per Individual Serving   £0.97

250g Beef Mince   £1.00
1/2 Iceberg Lettuce, leaves separated   £0.25
2 Lemongrass Stalks, peeled and sliced   £0.43
1 Green Birds Eye Chilli, thinly sliced   £0.10
3 Shallots, peeled and sliced (home grown)
Splash of juice from 1/2 Lime   £0.15
Splash of Fish Sauce (to taste)  *
Handful of Mint and Coriander, chopped (home grown)
1/2 Tsp Dry Chillies, chopped   *
1 Tbsp Roasted Rice (see below)
1 Tsp Vegetable Oil   *

* denotes store cupboard items

1. Dry roast your rice in a wok/pan on medium heat for a few minutes until turning brown. Keep shaking pan
2. Put rice into mortar and pestle and grind until a mix of powder and broken smaller pieces
3. Heat oil and fry mince in wok/pan for a couple of minutes on medium-hot heat, stirring constantly, until
    brown and cooked to personal preference. Drain fat and put mince into a bowl

4. Stir in all other prepared ingredients and mix well
5. Arrange lettuce on plates and spoon mince filling onto them. Roll up and eat
6. I served mine with potato wedges and chilli sauce

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Lemon Sponge Cake

If you like your cake filling, moreish and moist then this is the one for you.

The lemony syrup gives it a nice zesty kick too !





Serves 12 - 15

For The Cake
225g Unsalted Butter, room temp
350g Caster Sugar
350g Plain Flour, sifted
3 Tsp Baking Powder, sifted
Zest 2 Lemons
120ml Milk
4 Large Eggs

For The Lemon Syrup
Juice 4 Lemons
6 Tbsp Icing Sugar, sifted

For Decoration
6 Tbsp Icing Sugar
Handful of Smarties

1.   Line a 22cm round, deep, loose-bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper
2.   Preheat oven to 180C (160C Fan Oven)
3.   In a bowl or processor mix the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
4.   Add flour, baking powder, pinch of salt, and mix well
5.   Add the lemon zest and milk - mix in well
6.   Add eggs one at a time; mix well; then add the next; and so on until well combined
7.   Add mixture to cake tin; bake for 50-60 min until risen and firm to touch. If a skewer comes out nearly clean
      from cake centre it is ready. Leave to cool for an hour or so
8.   To make the syrup mix the juice of lemons with the icing sugar
9.   Make little holes all over the top of the cake with a skewer, then pour the syrup all over - it will sink into the cake
10. When cake is totally cool remove from the tin
11. To make icing, mix the icing sugar with a little water until thick but runny. Drizzle over cake as desired and add smarties

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

White Wine Gravy

I never thought I would see the day when I cooked a full-on Roast Chicken dinner just to test out a recipe for a gravy !!

But White Wine Gravy is the first recipe in my challenge to cook my way through the entire Good Housekeeping Cook Book.

Was it worth it ?   Oh Yes !!!!

I always thought a gravy's purpose was to take away the dryness and blandness of your meat and vegetables. I never considered it to be anything more. But this gravy ended up being the jewel in the crown, an additional ingredient in itself, binding together and complementing the meat and vegetables in a fantastic way.

There was a lovely fruitiness to the sauce from the jelly and the wine, and it was so thick and silky in body I just had to pour a second helping over. 




This gravy would also be amazing with pork, turkey, or any other similar type meats.  It is definitely being added to my Xmas dinner list.

Roll on the next savoury sauce on my mission - Rich Red Wine Gravy

Serves 4 People

2 Tbsp Plain Flour
250ml Chicken Stock
75ml Dry White Wine
1 Tbsp Redcurrant Jelly
Salt and Ground Black Pepper

1. When chicken is cooked, skim the fat from the juices in the roasting tin.
2. In a bowl mix 2 Tbsp of the juices with the flour to make a paste.
3. Add the stock, wine and jelly to the roasting tin, and scrape the tin base with a wooden spoon, and mix
4. Pour into a pan, whisk in the flour, and bring to a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Season with salt and pepper, and pour into your serving jug

Friday, 22 October 2010

Chicken Nuggets

This inspiration for this recipe came from another website - ZestyCook. He has some fantastic looking food there, and I would recommend anyone to go and have a browse.

Because the chicken is oven baked it is less fatty than if it was fried, but still has a nice crisp 'batter' than seals in the juices of the chicken, leaving it succulent and tender.  Next time I make this recipe I am going to substitue the chilli flakes for cajun spice as that particular spice is also a heavenly match with chicken.

Excellent finger food - perfect for a Friday night. 

Serves 4
Cost Per Individual Serving   £0.96

3 Chicken Breasts, cut into strips/shapes   £3.33
1 Organic Free Range Egg   £0.30
3 shakes of Hot Chilli Sauce  *
Paxo Natural Breadcrumbs, enough to evenly cover a plate's surface   £0.21
3/4 Tbsp Water
Plain Flour, enough to thickly cover a plate's surface  *
Sprinkling of Crushed Chillies, to taste  *
Salt and Pepper  *

* denotes store cupboard items
1. Heat oven to 180C Fan Oven
2. Season plate of flour with salt and pepper
3. Beat together the egg, chilli sauce and water and put into dish
4. Sprinkle chilli flakes onto plate of breadcrumbs
5. Coat chicken pieces first in the flour, then the egg; finally the breadcrumbs. Kepp adding more flour
    and breadcrumbs as necessary
6. Place onto baking tray lined with greaseproof paper
7. Place in oven for approx 25-30 min (turn over halfway) until outside is crisp and chicken is white and fully cooked inside
8. Serve with either a salad or wedges, and a sour cream and/or sweet chilli sauce dip

TIP - take out the tray after around 10 min and check no pieces are sticking to the paper, before returning to oven

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Chocolate Chip Muffins

A LOVELY BIT OF MUFFIN

This recipe will hopefully prove popular with all of you muffin lovers (you know who you are) as my Blueberry muffin recipe is, to date, the most popular on my blog. You all obviously have, like myself, extremely good taste!!

Before we get on with the recipe at hand, take 2 minutes to enjoy this hilarious clip, all based around "a lovely bit of muffin" from Ricky Gervais's Extras.



As it seems such a long time since I baked any kind of cake I decided to try my hand at Chocolate Chip muffins today. These will appeal to the chocolate lovers - they are a slightly drier alternative to the juicy fresh blueberry muffins previously baked by myself.

Makes 12 Medium Size Muffins
225g Plain Flour, sifted
2 Tsp Baking Powder, sifted
100g Caster Sugar
1 Medium Egg
125g Plain Yoghurt
125g Whole Milk
150g Milk Chocolate Chips
Pinch of Sea Salt
75g Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled a little




1. Put your cases into your muffin tray; preheat oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4 (160C Fan Oven)
2. In a large bowl lightly whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together
3. In another bowl mix the egg, yoghurt, milk and butter liquid together.
4. Add the above wet mix to your dry flour/baking powder/sugar/salt combination
5. Mix very very lightly until combined - it will resemble a thick Ready Brek and milk paste 
6. Carefully add your chocolate chips and combine until evenly mixed
7. Spoon mixture into your cases (around 2/3 full) and bake for approx 30 min until golden
8. Once cooked remove for 10-15 min to cool slightly, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Honey and Five Spice Turkey Noodles

If you like your stir fry's to be slightly sweet as well as spicy then this little dish will not fail to disappoint.

I cook this time and time again as it has everything going for it:
  • fast to prepare and cook
  • extremely healthy
  • tastes amazing.
No one ingredient overpowers the rest, mingling together in equal harmony. You get the sweetness of the honey, the lovely fresh taste of coriander leaves and spring onion, the saltiness of the soy sauce, and underlying heat of the red chilli and ginger. Integrated amongst all of these is the familiar five spice. It really is an explosion of taste.

In my humble opinion this Chinese recipe brings out the best of the accompanying medium egg noodles, as opposed to the straight to wok varieties that are so popular.

As always, once the first set of ingredients hit the sizzling wok there is little time to breathe before you are plating up, so to enjoy this at its best please prepare all of your ingredients before beginning.

Serves 4
Cost Per Individual Serving   £0.93

3 Turkey Breasts (430g), thinly sliced   £2.50
3 Layers Medium Egg Noodles   £0.60
2 Red Chillies, deseeded and finely chopped   £0.25
Thumb-sized piece Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely chopped  *
3 Tbsp Runny Clear Honey  *
4 Spring Onions, finely sliced   £0.35
Good Splash of Light Soy Sauce  *
3 Tsp Chinese Five Spice  *
Two handfuls Fresh Coriander Leaves, chopped  *
3 Tbsp Groundnut Oil  *

* denotes store cupboard items
1. Prepare noodles according to packet instructions, and drain (have them ready to go into wok)
2. Heat wok on a hob at highest setting; add oil when hot
3. When oil is sizzling hot, add turkey, chilli, and ginger; stir rapidly for thirty seconds
4. Add five spice; stir until turkey fully browned
5. Add honey, soy sauce, and spring onions; keep stirring (nearly there!!)
6. Add noodles and coriander to the wok; give a really good stir so that the noodles mix well with the sauce
7. Plate up and enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Classic Spaghetti Bolognese

This is a more traditional version of Spag Bol to the previously posted recipe on my blog.

Classic Spaghetti Bolognese
This recipe is very versatile - the basic spaghetti bolognese is fine to eat with pasta. However, add a dash of chilli powder, together with red kidney beans, heat through, and you have an instant chilli.  Alternatively, you can add a ladle full of meat sauce into a deep ramekin, top if off with cheesy mash and cook it in the oven for an instant mini cottage pie.  I will be preparing both of these options in the near future as I work my way through the frozen batch I prepared from the below ingredients.

Makes approx 10 Servings
Cost Per Individual Serving   £0.64

1 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
900g Beef Mince   £3.00 (Special Offer)
150ml Dry Red Wine  £0.80 (leftovers from bottle - add an extra 150ml Beef Stock/water if not using wine)
450ml Beef Stock, made from Knorr gel tablet    £0.27
2 Large Onions, peeled and finely chopped   £0.34
2 Carrots, peeled and finely chopped   £0.14 approx
2 Celery Sticks, finely chopped   £0.30 approx
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and crushed
250g Closed Cup Mushrooms, chopped   £0.86
2 Tins of 400g Chopped Tomatoes   £0.66
2 Tbsp Tomato Puree
Good Shake of Dried Oregano
Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

150g Dried Fusili Pasta   £0.35

1. Heat oil on medium heat in large pan. Gently fry the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until softened - stir now and then to prevent sticking
2. Add mushrooms and fry for a couple of minutes until starting to soften
3. Add the mince, turn the heat up, and cook until meat is browned. Keep stirring and turning to prevent sticking
4. At this point drain all the excess fat from the pan that has been produced
5. Add the wine, stock, tomatoes, tomato puree, dried oregano and salt and pepper. Stir together and bring to boil
6. Cover, turn the heat right down and simmer gently for an hour or so, until meat is cooked through
7. Cook pasta as per pack instructions and serve with your bolognese sauce, grate parmesan over if required

Monday, 18 October 2010

Thai Chicken Lemongrass Soup

Ingredients


At last - a use for that leftover meat from the Sunday roast that doesn't involve just sticking it into a sandwich for your lunch on Monday.

On this occasion I have made a basic 'make it up as you go' soup from a mix of my fridge and cupboard stand-bys. Served up with some Tesco Premium range Thai Fishcakes bought when on offer from my local supermarket (boy are they good!), and a hot chilli sauce, I have a meal for 3 ready with a minimum of fuss - and washing up!

The amounts of lime juice and zest, red chilli, and fish sauce were purely based on my taste preferences - they are not written in stone so do adjust to your palate. For myself, the pure exciting taste of the combined flavours of the coconut, salty fish sauce, and zesty lime, together with the heat from the fresh chilli, and the subtle but so essential lemon grass are a winning combination, and are so appetizing and satisfying.

To make a hearty meal from the soup just cook a layer (or 2) of your  favourite Thai noodles, and stir in to the soup. Add extra vegetables instead of chicken - savoy cabbage, oyster mushrooms, sweetcorn - with vegetable stock for a vegetarian option. Whatever you fancy, stick it in.

Thai Chicken Soup
Serves 3
Cost per Individual Serving   £0.64

Large handful leftover Roast Chicken Breast and Leg meat
2 Sticks Lemon Grass, peeled and sliced as thin as possible   £0.68
400ml Tin Coconut Milk   £0.55
450ml Chicken Stock, made from Knorr Chicken Stock Gel sachet   £0.25  (or any other chicken stock) 
1 Red Chilli, deseeded and chopped   £0.13
Zest and Juice of 1 Lime   £0.30
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce (or to taste)

1. Pour stock and coconut milk into pan on hob and heat on medium until begins to simmer
2. Add the rest of you ingredients. Stir in and bring back to simmer; cook for 10 - 12 min; Serve up !

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Beef Stew

The day I cooked this stew there had been a new food delivery arriving at my home. I was keen to get some of those fresh ingredients cooked to free up storage space in my fridge as I had overspent as usual, and my fridge was at bursting point.

Thanks to my at times obsessive pre-planning, this stew was on my 'batch cook and freeze' to do list. I thought 'no time like the present'. 

I eat this meal in many ways - with a few nice slices of fresh bread, with green vegetables, with rice, or on top of a jacket potato. I'm even contemplating putting a couple of dollops inside some pastry and making a pie-cum-pasty. This allowed me to freeze it in various size portions - every extra meal squeezed out of fresh ingredients represents greater value for money.

Please note that I cooked approx 8-10 servings with the below set of ingredients. They just about all fitted into my huge casserole pan, so please please only prepare enough for 4 servings if you are unsure if everything will fit into your cooking pot !  On this occasion by the time I had all the ingredients prepared it was 9pm so I erred on the side of caution and cooked it for 3 hours. I had visions of falling asleep in front of Question Time (perfect cure for insomnia) and waking up in the early hours with a smoke filled kitchen and the smoke alarms beeping furiously, but I managed to stay awake until midnight when the stew was ready to remove from the oven.

The great thing about this stew is that you can swap the ingredients around with other veg or beans - its versatility is the beauty of it.

Serves 10
Cost Per Individual Serving:   £0.95

1.6kg Stewing or Casserole Steak, cut into small cubes   £5.49
1.4kg Floury Potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes   £0.30
2 Tins of 400g Cooked Chickpeas, drained   £0.96
4 Tins of 400g Plum Tomatoes   £1.24
4 Red Onions, peeled and chopped   £0.50
4 Carrots, peeled and chopped   £0.20
5 Sticks Celery, washed and chopped   £0.87
2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp Ground Cumin
Sea Salt
Ground Black Pepper
3-4 Sprigs worth of Picked Rosemary Leaves, chopped
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil

1. Preheat oven to 140C (125C Fan Oven) /275F/gas 1 to cook over 6hrs or 180C (165C Fan Oven)/350C /gas4 to cook
    over 3hrs
2. Add oil to very large casserole pan and turn up hob to a medium-high heat until pan oil hot
3. Add onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, rosemary, paprika, and cumin and stir for 2-3min. Don't let veg stick to pan !
4. Add your meat, tin tomatoes, and chickpeas. Stir well
5. Lightly season; add water to pan until everything is just covered and bring to boil
6. Place lid on pan; put casserole pan into oven. That is it !!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Ciabatta Burgers

I'm really treating myself tonight. Following my delicious home-made Carrot Soup, I am having Beefburgers and crispy, warm ciabatta bread.

I love to make my own burgers as I never make them the same way twice - whatever catches my eye in the store cupboard I will add. Today I have opted for some good old English mustard to give the meat a real kick with a capital K. Casting an eye in the fridge I spy a thumb sized chunk of parmesan cheese. Immediately I have the makings of a real tasty feast.

You could just as easily feed a family of four/five with this recipe, possible adding some potato wedges with your meal. This would reduce cost per serving to well under £1.

Serves 2
Cost Per Individual Serving (2 1/2 burgers each)   £1.10

225g Beef Mince   £0.75
1 slice white bread, blitzed to breadcrumbs   approx £0.05
1/3 beaten egg   £0.16
1/4 Onion, finely chopped   £0.04
1/2 heaped Tsp English Mustard (more if prefer stronger taste)
Thumb nail sized piece of Parmesan, grated (or any other cheese)
Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper to season
4 Ciabatta Rolls   £1.19

1. Gently fry onion for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Leave to cool
2. Put mince into a large bowl; add onions, breadcrumbs, mustard, cheese, and egg. Season well
3. Shape into preferred size burgers - I made 5 medium sized ones
4. Put on greaseproof paper and place in fridge for an hour or so
5. Heat oven for ciabattas and heat hob with griddle pan on top to medium-high
6. Cook ciabatta to pack instructions - usually 6-8 min
7. Place burgers on griddle and cook 5-6 min each side until nicely cooked
8. Place in ciabatta breads and add preferred salads, and sauce

Home-Made Carrot Soup

I had so many fresh vegetables that needed to be used up that I decided to make this soup, with the intention of consuming some portions immediately, and batch freezing the remainder.

As I was peeling all those carrots I had a brainwave - make two very different soups from the same set of ingredients.

At the end of cooking I took out two large ladles of the chunky vegetables and put them to one side. I then proceeded to liquidize the pan to a lovely silky smooth soup. Half of the soup I intend to use just as it is, but upon reheating I will grate in some fresh ginger to taste. This will give it some mild heat and a nice added twist.

To the other half of soup I added the chunky cooked vegatables. Immediately I have a half decent minestrone, perfect to eat as it is or made more substantial when reheated with some small pasta shapes or maybe a tin of cannellini or butter beans.

This satisfactory conclusion made all that peeling and chopping worthwhile after all !!  Equally pleasing is the fact that I am beginning to think for myself more in the kitchen, not just following recipes to the letter of the law, and discovering that it is possible to produce a recipe that, indeed, is all yours.

This is one of those soups that is nearly 100% fresh vegetables, so don't feel too guilty adding some nice sea salt to improve the taste. I also added ground black pepper - it really reacted well to the taste of the carrots.

Serves 9
Cost Per Individual Serving   £0.26
1.2kg Carrots, peeled and chopped   £0.51
600g Potatoes, peeled and cubed into small pieces   £0.30
5 Sticks Celery, washed and chopped   £0.87
4 Onions, peeled and chopped   £0.67
Sea salt and Ground Black Pepper, to taste

1. Place all the prepared vegeatables into a large casserole pan, and put on a medium-high hot hob
2. Add approx 2L of water until all the vegetables are covered, season, and bring to a gentle simmer
3. Simmer uncovered for around 40-45 minutes. Keep checking the veg for tenderness. Smaller chopped veg cooks quicker.
4. When cooked liquidize your contents, season again if required, and enjoy, or freeze in convenient sized portions

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Sweet Tangy Chicken Noodles

I don't know if it is just my taste buds being used to freshly-made oriental cuisine, but on the very odd occasion I find myself eating chinese food I know contains a shop bought sauce, it is invariably a bland experience.

Today I made a chinese sauce to go with chicken breasts and egg noodles. It was quite mild in terms of 'heat' from the chillies and ginger, with a pleasant sweet tangy vibe from the combination of peppers, tomatoes and sugar.

I heartily recommend that the soy sauce is not forgotten at the end of the recipe, as I found the saltiness raised the taste to a much higher level by offering a balanced contrast to the sweetness from the other ingredients. 

This is a sauce I have made extra batches for today in order to freeze, so that whenever I am pushed for time I can defrost this beforehand and make a very quick meal with chicken.

Serves 4 (generously)
Cost Per Individual Portion:   £1.48

FOR THE SAUCE

6 Garlic Cloves, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 inch piece Fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 Red Chillies, deseeded and finely chopped   £0.15
1 Red Pepper, finely sliced   £0.50
3 Tomatoes, chopped   £0.44
7 Tbsp Water
3 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup  
1 1/2 Tsp Soft Light Brown Sugar

REST OF INGREDIENTS

3 Chicken Breasts, sliced   £3.33
180g (3 layers) Medium Egg Noodles, cooked according to packet instructions   £0.64
1 Courgette, thinly sliced   £0.37
1 Red Pepper, thinly sliced   £0.50
Splash of Light Soy sauce
1 Tbsp Groundnut Oil

1. Place all the sauce ingredients into a food processor and blend to a paste
2. Add oil to a  hot wok and stir-fry chicken for 3-4 min until browned
3. Add the red pepper and courgette and continue cooking for 2-3 min, until red pepper soft and tender
4. Add sauce and bring to boil - a matter of seconds if wok is hot
5. Add cooked noodles to wok and mix everything together well
6. Add a good splash of soy sauce and serve

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Quesadillas and Guacamole

Tonight's tea-cum-supper witnesses a culinary first - making my own guacamole!

Another plus is that the moody teenager of the household ate 3/4 of her share. Not bad going as the quesadillas were quite filling.

While our quesadillas had a distinctly cheesy aspect to them, I will be experimenting with other fillings as this is, in effect, a Mexican toastie ! I can see this being a typical fast and simple to make tea on a Monday evening in the future, using up the spare meat from the Sunday roast, and any other spare veg in the fridge.

For 3 People
Cost Per Individual Serving   £1.58

Guacamole
1 Avocado £1.09
2 ripe Tomatos, deseeded and chopped  £0.26
1 Red Chilli, deseeded and chopped  £0.10
2 Spring Onions, peeled and sliced   £0.23
Salt, to taste
Squeeze of Lime Juice
Handful Coriander Leaves (home grown)

Quesadillas
250g Red Leicester Cheese, grated   £1.75
6 pack Tortilla Wraps   £0.49
4 Spring Onions, peeled and finely sliced   £0.47
1/2 Red Pepper, finely chopped   £0.25
1 Red Chilli, deseeded and finely chopped  £0.10
Handful Coriander Leaves (home grown)

TO MAKE YOUR GUACAMOLE

1. Scoop two-thirds of the avocado flesh, 1 tomato, your chilli and spring onions into a food processor
    with the coriander and blend to a smoothish paste.
2. Pour into a bowl, adding the other tomato, the remainder of the avocado, chopped up, and a pinch of salt.
3. Give it a blast of lime juice and mix well

TO MAKE YOUR QUESADILLAS

1. Mix all your ingredients in a bowl
2. Spread the mixture over one of the tortillas and place the second tortilla on top, as if you were making a sandwich
3. Once the required number of tortillas are prepared, heat a griddle pan and cook each quesadillas on a high heat for
    approximately 2 minutes on each side. The cheese should be nicely melted and gooey
4. Slice into quarters and serve with your freshly made guacamole

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Beef Sirloin Steak Wraps

It is not very often we eat Sirloin cuts of beef - they are most definitely a treat.

For such a simple meal, I love this as there are a variety of flavours all combining to produce an explosion of flavours. Today I had some lettuce to hand. On other occasions I have added diced cucumber, spring onion, red pepper instead of tomato, rocket instead of lettuce, red or white onions. The options are endless. What binds them all together nicely is the soured cream and houmous.

Out local supermarket sells thin cuts, hence they are so much cheaper than a standard sirloin. But as the cuts are not so chunky, our children find them really easy to eat. Add to the fact they are not as tough to chew as rump or frying steak, and taste delightful, it is no surprise that everyone fights over it at the dinner table !

Serves 2 adults and 2 children
Cost per Individual Serving   £1.45

Thin Cut Sirloin Steak 250g, thinly sliced   £3.33
6 pack Tortilla Wraps   £0.49
1/4 Iceberg Lettuce, washed and sliced   £0.12
1/4 Beef Tomato, sliced   £0.12
Houmous 200g   £0.88
Soured Cream 150ml  £0.55
Juice of a Lemon   £0.30
2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Black Pepper, ground

1. Heat a pan until really hot
2. With a sharp knife, score both sides of the meat and rub with the olive oil
3. Sprinkle the paprika over the meat and season to preferred taste
4. Cook steaks to your preferred standard; slice thinly once cooked
5. Put the lettuce and tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice and the extra virgin oil
6. Cook tortillas according to packet instructions
7. Grubs up !  Serve with the houmous and soured cream

Friday, 8 October 2010

Sweet and Sour Cambodian Beef Noodles

My Friday night food treat tonight is a trip into the unknown - Cambodian.

In my pre-Amateur Chef days, only five or six years ago, I would have baulked at the mere idea of eating a Cambodian dish, never mind attempting to cook one. But today I am an enlightened human being, and this dish is so fast to prepare and cook. Any dinner guest will be impressed with this, especially when you tell them you are making Lort Char, to give it its authentic name !!

Please, dear blog reader, give this dish a try and tell me what you think - it is so simple, healthy, and tastes great.  I may even choose this as my first YouTube recipe to cook and post on my blog.


The trick is to have everything ready to go into the wok when required as you don't stop stirring !!

Serves 3 People (or a greedy 2) Total Cost £3.39
Cost Per Individual Serving  £1.13

300g Rump Steak, sliced into very thin strips   £2.40
Fine Egg Noodle 120g (2 layers)   £0.40
150g Baby Leaf Spinach   £0.34
100g Bean Sprouts   £0.25
2 Tbsp Hot Chilli Sauce (more or less to taste)
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
1 Tsp Light or Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Cornflour
2 Large Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1. Cook noodles according to packet instructions and drain
2. Mix together the chilli sauce, fish sauce, sugar and cornflour, together with 3/4 Tsp water
3. Heat oil in wok to high heat; add steak and garlic and fry, stirring constantly until the beef browns. Literally a
    couple of minutes only. This prevents the meat becoming too tough and stays tender
4. Now the fun part - add the noodles and sauce misture and toss well for 1 minute until nicely coloured
5. Add the bean sprouts and spinach - mix well for 1 minute until spinach begins to wilt
6. Get it served up and enjoy

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Chinese Hoisin Roast Crackling Pork

I had a spare pack of pork belly left in the freezer and found inspiration from an amazing recipe that I had in my folder - it had been ripped out of an old sunday newspaper supplement a couple of years ago. I left out some of the ingredients and added some of my own, as well as the amounts to suit my taste.

If you are a fan of pork crackling in your standard Sunday lunch, and a fan of chinese food, then this will be right up your street. Their are some really interesting flavours going on in this dish, the nice sweet and sour balance of the honey and lemon, together with with saltiness of the soy sauce and hoisin is intriguing, but boy does it work.

Serves 2 Adults and 1 Child
Cost Per Serving:  £1.14

450g Boneless Pork Belly Strips   £2.00
200g Purple Sprouting Broccoli, cut into short pieces    £1.00
100g Basmati Rice, cooked according to instructions   £0.10
Juice of 1 Small Lemon   £0.30
3-4 Tsp Chinese Five-Spice
1 Tsp Sea Salt
3-4 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
2-3 Tbsp Clear Honey
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1. Stand pork skin side up on plate in fridge a few hours before cooking to dry skin out
2. When ready, preheat oven to 220C (Fan Oven 200C)
3. Rub Five-Spice and Seal Salt all over pork skin and flesh
4. Standing pork up on roasting tray, cook for an hour
5. After an hour, turn oven down to 200C (Fan Oven 180C) and cook for up to 30 min. How long depends on how 'crackly'
    you prefer your pork.
6. Just before your pork is ready, heat the Vegetable oil with 3 Tbsp water in a wok until bubbling
7. Add broccoli, cover with a lid, and cook for 5-6 min, or until nice and tender. Keep checking if more water is needed
8. Tip in the rice, add hoisin sauce and soy sauce, and stir well until mixed and rice warmed through
9. Serve rice into bowls, chop up the cooked pork belly into slices and place on top of rice
10.Mix the lemon and honey together and drizzle over the pork

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Pork, Hoisin and Spinach Stir Fry

The aroma of Hoisin sauce is one of those magical ingredients in Chinese cooking. Its distinct salty and sweet taste is one that you either love or hate.

If your opinion leans towards the former, there can be no more better match than pork cooked until tender, wrapped in the sticky sauce of hoisin. Today I made a stir fry consisting primarily of those ingredients. Taste-wise it was exquisite, and far healthier than anything you can eat from your local chinese takeaway.

Like all stir frys, it was incredibly fast to cook, once my wok is smoky hot. The art, in my humble opinion, of a successful stir fry is to have your ingredients all chopped and ready to go into the wok when required. You simply don't have time to be messing around preparing ingredients once cooking commences.

Serves 2 adults and 1 child
Cost Per Serving   £1.00

300g Pork Fillet, sliced thinly   £2.30
1 Red Chilli, deseeded and chopped  £0.12
80g Young Leaf Spinach   £0.17
Juice of small Lime   £0.30
100g Basmati Rice   £0.10
1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
1/2 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
1 large Garlic Clove, thinly sliced

1. Mix together until smooth the hoisin and soy sauce with the lime juice
2. Put your wok on a high heat and add vegetable oil
3. Once oil is hot and smoking stir fry the garlic and chilli for a few seconds; add pork
4. Keep stiring the wok contents for 3-4 min until pork is cooked
5. Add the spinach and sauce mixture; stir for 2-3 min until spinach starts to wilt
6. Ready to serve; ENJOY !!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Miso Tuna Steaks

Tuna is one of the types of fish that is a must have for a healthy diet. Japanese cuisine is one of the most beneficial healthwise in the world, and tuna is a staple food in their diet.

However, tuna can be a tad on the bland side and so has not always been top of my shopping list. However, the miso glaze of this Japanese recipe amazingly lifts this dish to another dimension, with the combination of the salty and sweet sauce complementing the fish perfectly. The steamed green pak choi and the noodles make up a light, but nutritional meal. Low in fat but high in protein - it is a complete winner!!

An added bonus is there are few ingredients to prepare, and it is incredibly fast to make. Of course, at £3.48 for two adult servings, it once again proves that extremely healthy, but exciting food can be prepared on a tight budget.

Serves 2
Cost Per Serving £1.74
2 Frozen Fresh Tuna Steaks, defrosted £1.20
3 Pak choi, separated £1.00
2 sachets Yutaka Miso Paste £0.64
150g Straight To Wok Noodles £0.63
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Mirin

1. In a small saucepan add miso, sugar, mirin; warm gently until sugar dissolves
2. Cook noodles according to pack instructions
3. Steam or boil Pak choi until cooked
4. Grill tuna two minutes on each side
5. Coat one side of tuna with miso mix and grill until cooked to preference
6. Arrange Pak Choi on plate, add noodles; place tuna on top

Saturday, 2 October 2010

TV Food Programmes

It seems that a day doesn't go by at the moment on our TV screens without yet another food-related programme eating up the schedules. Served up for our consumption in the next seven days are all the big guns of cookery. Today we have James Martin's mid-morning Saturday Kitchen, followed by the first episode of Nigella Lawson's new series.

Hot on their tails next week are Jamie Oliver's American Food Revolution, Best Restaurant with Gordon Ramsay, MasterChef: The Professionals, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day.

The viewers appetite for the world of food in all its wonderful dimensions shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon, and it is fair to say that all of the above programmes do not overlap too much in their agendas or styles to warrant a charge of overkill.

Food: What Goes In Your Basket? is one of the newest programmes on the block. Presented primarily by Jay Rayner and Ravinder Bhogal, it juggles with the tricky balance of being simultaneously informative and entertaining. In the main, it is relatively successful in achieving this. A recipe or two is served up by Ravinder in each episode, but the meat in the sandwich is the way in which a range of current food issues are covered, with the primary aim of making us as consumers more savvy and knowledgeable as shoppers.

Hot issues like food sustainability and fairtrade have been regular features to date. Food manufacturers and the main supermarkets have also found themselves under the microscope. Week by week the layers of mysticism of the food industry are being peeled back to reveal what influences what we eat, and what it is we are actually consuming. The tone is non-preachy, serving to merely present the facts as they appear in all matters food, allowing us to make make our own minds up as to how we best make use of the information delivered.