I think finding something delicious to cook for dinner midweek is one of my biggest challenges. I love these coconut chilli prawn noodles because the basic recipe can be adapted to suit so many different tastes. If you’re a meat eater, you can swap the prawns for chicken, and if you’re a veggie you can leave them out and add things like mushrooms, sliced peppers and sliced green beans (of course, you can still do that anyway). That’s the beauty of this dish. It’s also fab for using up leftovers as you can basically bung any old thing in and it will still taste delicious. It’s also one of those recipes where most of the ingredients can be kept in the cupboard and/or freezer for when you’ve got nothing in. When I buy red chillis, I’ll often freeze any that I think I won’t use and you can basically grate them straight into the dish. The same goes for ginger too. Here’s the basic recipe:
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed since becoming pescatarian is that it’s made me a lot more creative when it comes to choosing what’s for dinner. No more shoving chicken breasts in the oven (which I was guilty of – albeit with different coatings – at least twice a week). I’ve been enjoying reading cookery books and blogs and getting loads of inspiration, and as I’m a pie lover, I thought I would have a go at a more summery version using some smoked haddock I had in the freezer. I’m not usually a cheese with fish fan (I have a long standing debate with a friend about a particularly noxious prawn and feta dish that he loves but I think smells like vomit – sorry), but this haddock and cheddar tart is an exception: the sharp cheese works well with the smoky fish.
So, this week I told you about all the thoughts swirling around in my head about eating meat and why I’m pondering becoming a pescatarian (I haven’t eaten any meat since then, but I still feel that I could forget and go into a restaurant and say ‘I’ll have the steak please’ without even thinking twice). The upside of all this angst is that I’ve been searching around for delicious meat-free recipes to share with the family and I have to say, this one is delicious. In fact, Charlie made my day by saying ‘wow, this is the first time in my whole life I’ve wanted to ask for more cauliflower’! All I did was dip cauliflower in egg and roll in flavoured breadcrumbs, exactly as I would chicken, and then served it with our favourite barbecue sauce (if you can’t be bothered to make the sauce, you could just serve it with bottled sweet chilli) but honestly, whichever way you serve it, it’s a life changer.
Last week, I was on board Celestyal Olympia cruising the Greek islands on assignment for Cruise International. You’ll be able to read my article shortly in the magazine (when I’ve actually finished and submitted it), but one of the things I was really impressed with was the food. We all know that the Mediterranean diet is super healthy, with the emphasis on good fats, fresh vegetables, beans and pulses and of course, all that fabulous fish, and I was bowled over by Greek food. I spend the week eating huge Greek salads, fat olives, fresh fish and vegetables and actually came home 2lb lighter without even trying. I was also fascinated by an article by Sali Hughes that recently appeared in The Pool about her decision to turn vegetarian in her forties. Many of Sali’s reasons echo my own feelings, so as a little experiment, I decided to give up meat while I was on the cruise. And honestly, now I’m really pondering becoming a pescatarian full time.
You may remember a little while ago, I told you about my favourite little gadget, the Breville Blend Active Pro. It’s perfect for smoothies, purées and sauces because it’s small and neat, but I’ve often thought how nice it would be to have a bit of a bigger receptacle (is that the right word?) so I could use it for soups and stuff like that without having to haul out my enormous blender/liquidiser. Well, happy days are here, because there’s now a fab new Blend Active accessory pack which includes a whole bunch of attachments that allow it to do loads more stuff: whip cream, process larger amounts of food, grind herbs, and even juice fruit! Breville set me a little challenge to come up with a delicious hummus recipe using the Blend Active Pro and new accessory pack, and I had great fun playing with flavours. I think you’ll like this Moroccan spiced hummus with spiced roasted chickpeas – and I’m still thinking about ways to make it even more delicious (see notes at the end).
One of the challenges that many students seem to face when they first move away from home is finding inspiration for decent, cheap meals. It’s not just inspiration that’s the problem either: obviously they’ve got a limited budget and they’re probably not used to supermarket shopping either (let alone on a budget), so they’re overwhelmed with the price and choice of food and end up sticking to the same two or three things that they know how to cook (or blowing a week’s budget on Domino’s then eating beans on toast at the end of the month). I promised Charlie I’d start to write up a few simple, quick and – most importantly – healthy recipes that he can refer to, so I came up this easy veggie lentil chilli for him, but honestly, we liked this one so much I’ve been making it about once a week. I serve it with brown rice and top with a handful of salad, sour cream or avocado. It’s also delicious served with sausages (veggie or otherwise). Read more
As Charlie goes off to university very soon (sob), and as we all know, being a student means living on a pretty limited budget. I want to make sure that he has loads of recipes that he can refer to here so that he can make himself a few decent meals without resorting to expensive takeaways. For a Friday night treat, is there anything better than pizza? It’s horrendously expensive to buy, but incredibly easy – and much cheaper – to make at home. Step forward my favourite essential Waitrose range which stocks all the products you need at great prices (and great welfare standards) without compromising on quality. Charlie loves halloumi, so I’ve created this pizza especially for him, piled high with all the ingredients he likes: here’s how to make my halloumi, olive and mint pizzas at home:
Ages ago when I was on Nick Coffer’s Weekend Kitchen at BBC Three Counties radio, a lovely lady called Polly had this delicious recipe for this fresh and crunchy winter slaw made with shredded sprouts that was such a lovely mix of textures and flavours: fresh and crunchy, spicy and sweet.
I promised you a while ago that I’d give you an update on my favourite lentil curry recipe. This is our absolute fave – a really simple, healthy one pot dinner. I’m always messing with it – adding leftover roast chicken, or a tin of chickpeas, or some veg that’s a bit past its best: sweet potato, cauliflower, etc. I’ve always listed the ingredients separately before, but now I actually make the spice mix up in bigger quantities and it’s much easier to spoon into the curry.
Ahhh summer is finally here. The garden’s like a jungle, the washing basket is overflowing, but I don’t care – there’s a sun lounger in the garden and that’s where I’ll be if you need me. Summer is also salad central, but I don’t know about you – I get a bit bored of leafy salads. The Death Wish Child won’t touch them with a barge pole either, so I have to get a bit creative on the salad front: something fresh and lively, but without the leafy element.
Happily, then, Apetina has challenged me to create a leaf-free salad, and this one will do you very well. We’re a bit addicted to Apetina (I used the classic cubes for this one), the slight saltiness goes well with the sweetness of the pear and the creaminess of the avocado. Add in olives and cherry tomatoes and it’s a colourful, healthy summer delight. Here goes, then:
You will need:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lime, juiced
1 red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped
Handful of herbs: mint and oregano are perfect, chopped
1 ripe avocado
Couple of handfuls of black olives
Small punnet of cherry tomatoes
1 pear (slightly under ripe is fine), cored and chopped
To prepare the salad:
Crush the garlic cloves with a little pinch of salt and pop the resulting paste into a jug along with the lime juice, chopped red chilli, chopped herbs and a couple of big glugs of rapeseed oil. Mix it all up and leave to one side.
Next, take your salad bowl and pop in the Apetina cheese, sliced avocado, black olives and cherry tomatoes. Lastly add in the chopped pear, then quickly pour over the salad dressing and toss gently.
And that’s it! Serve with crusty bread and a final sprinkling of fresh herbs. Delicious.
If you love this recipe, pop along to the Apetina recipe challenge on Facebook where every week Apetina will be featuring four salads and vote (for me, preferably, but hey, check out the others too). You could win a picnic hamper or – on the final week – a BBQ.
We LOVE lentils. The texture is almost creamy, satisfying in that way that only a big dollop of mashed potatoes is usually satisfying, plus of course they have the added bonus of being VERY good for you and low fat too. This recipe is one of our favourites – I often make double and blend the leftovers with stock the next day to make soup. It’s best, though, served with some big, fat, meaty sausages: our favourites being the ones from Jimmy’s Farm. Nommers.
You will need:
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, diced
1 leek, finely chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
150g red lentils
500ml chicken stock (or I often use leftover gravy from a roast dinner topped up with water)
Salt and pepper
So heat up the oil in a big saucepan and bung in the chopped onion, carrots and leek (any old veg will do, really). Give them a little sprinkling of salt and a quick stir around then leave them on low for a good ten minutes to soften. A little sprinkling of dried chilli flakes wouldn’t go amiss at this stage either.
After that you can just bung everything else in, really. Leave it on low, pop a lid on and go and do something else for half an hour. Oh and don’t forget to pop your big, fat sausages in to the oven – they’ll take about 30 minutes too, at 200 degrees/gas 6.
Check the seasoning and away you go. I’ll warn you, it’s very moreish, so it’s best that you make double.
So, after promising you a couple of healthy recipes, I then buggered off and promptly forgot all about them. Sorry.
Anyhoo, here I am, back live and a week into my alcohol free month. It’s going well. It’s going really well. I feel fab – and after the amazing facial, my skin’s feeling fab too. I’m drinking much more water (Katy told me that your body often mistakes thirst for hunger) and one of the biggest changes for me has been lunch. I’ve switched from a sandwich and a packet of crisps, to a bowl of soup, and it’s made an amazing difference.
Why switch to soup?
Well, firstly, if you make it yourself, you know exactly what’s in it. You can pack it full of veggies (great for that half a butternut squash left in the fridge, or a half packet of green beans that got forgotten) and it’s really low fat. If you’ve got leftover chicken or beef in the fridge, you can add that in too. Do what I do and make a great big vat of the stuff and store it in the fridge so it’s easy to grab and stops that lunchtime dithering thing that can see you reaching for a lump of cheese and a box of crackers (or is that just me?). And remember, lentils are your friend.
Lentils are, and I don’t use this word lightly, a real superfood. They’re full of fibre and loads of other fab stuff like iron and B vitamins and are great for providing that protein kick you need at lunchtime to see you through the day. They also have the advantage of being a great thickener, so if you’re trying to eat healthily they’re an excellent addition to soups and stews. They absorb flavours really well and have a mild, almost nutty taste themselves.
A good rule of thumb when making soup is to make sure you have lots of different colours going in there. Different coloured veg generally provide different vitamins and minerals, so bung in some carrots or butternut squash, then choose something green (freeze a bag of spinach so you can grab a handful) and maybe, say, a red onion too. Here’s a quick recipe, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be making a different variety every time and you’ll never get bored.
Vary your seasoning
Think past salt and pepper. Sweeter vegetables like parsnips and carrots go really well with a bit of earthy spice… tomatoes go well with chilli… have an experiment.
Lentil and vegetable soup
There are no hard and fast rules here.. add what you like and leave out what you don’t.
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
Variety of veg, peeled and chopped (three or four double handfuls should do it). I used:
3 large carrots
1 large parsnip
1/2 butternut squash
1/2 bag watercress and rocket salad
Thick slice of savoy cabbage, chopped
2 litres chicken stock (or veg stock – cube is fine)
About 150 – 200g red lentils
So heat up the oil in a very large saucepan. Add in the onion and fry until translucent. If you’re adding spice, add it now – stir it around with the onions and oil until you can really smell it (I know that sounds weird, but it works). Now, add in all your prepared veg, then pour over the stock. Add in the lentils (use less if you prefer your soup thinner). Simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender, then blitz with a stick blender.
I’ve been writing on Ready for Ten recently (I would link to it but it’s not published yet – patience, grasshopper) about the age old dilemma of getting the kids to eat enough fruit and veg. I make this sauce a lot (I use it as soup as well) and although it’s got plenty of green veg in, it still looks like plain ol’ tomato which puts paid to ‘ewww – what’s that?’ – my most favourite dinnertime question. Plus, of course, there’s the satisfaction of getting one over on your kids, which is always a bonus.
Of course, even if your family will happily eat their five a day, it’s still a great tea-time all rounder. You can:
- add in other veg, increase the stock and serve as soup with some easy herby bread
- tart it up with 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (put them in at the beginning) and some fried streaky bacon strips
- add basil and pour over pan-fried meatballs
- use in lasagnes and bolognese
- stir into a pack of tortellini (spinach and ricotta is our favourite) and sprinkle with Parmesan
- pour over chicken breasts, dot with torn pieces of mozzarella and bake in the oven
I could go on, but frankly I’m starting to bore myself, but you get the message: it’s incredibly versatile. It has a lovely mellow sweet flavour too. This quantity makes enough to cover pasta for four people and a portion for the freezer too. Ninja costumes at the ready, then:
You will need:
1 large leek
1 large onion
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp salt
1 tin good quality tomatoes (don’t use the cheapo ones, they’re too runny)
The same amount of stock (chicken, veg, bouillon, whatever)
1 tsp sugar
Freshly ground pepper
So slice the leek lengthways and rinse under running water to remove any grit or mud. Chop finely.
Heat the rapeseed oil in a heavy-based saucepan and pop in the leek. Finely chop the onion and add that in too. Sprinkle with the salt and then cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally for a good ten minutes until everything is well softened.
Add in a tsp of sugar and the tinned tomatoes. Fill the tin once more with the stock (if I don’t have any home made I just pop in a stock cube and top it up with boiling water). Add in to the pan.
Now just cover and leave it for half an hour. This bit’s really important – everything needs to be really soft to get the texture right. After that, you can remove from the heat, blend with a stick blender and test the seasoning (add pepper or a touch more salt). You’ll end up with a really gorgeous smooth sauce and – here’s the bonus – no hint of anything green in there.
I love a bit of stealth health. Off you go, then, team…
One of my favourite recipe books is a very old and slightly crusty ‘Curry Club’ book called 250 Favourite Curries and Accompaniments that my Mum bought me years ago. I was searching high and low for it earlier as I’m currently suffering from a glut of courgettes, and knew that I’d seen a recipe for spicy fritters in there. But no, it was nowhere to be seen (it’s since turned up, obviously the ‘where the f*ck has that gone?’ gremlin has finished with it now).
Anyhoo, I had a rough idea what do so, along with the help of the BBC Good Food website, which had a similar recipe for courgette fritters (not quite right, the courgettes were sliced), pretty much worked out how to do them. And here they are (with apologies to the people of Northern India, who will no doubt be shaking their heads at my terrible and not very authentic version of one of their best-loved spicy snacks.
You will need:
Several courgettes (of varying sizes and comically rude shapes, if they’re anything like mine)
1 red onion, halved and finely sliced
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Large pinch salt
2 tsp curry powder (or you can make your own mix of the usual suspects: cumin, coriander, turmeric, chilli, etc)
Chopped fresh coriander (big handful should do it)
150g self raising flour (or, to be more authentic, use half gram flour)*
Grate all the courgettes and place them in a sieve over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and leave for an hour or two.
You’ll be amazed at how much excess water they give up. Discard the water and place the grated courgette into a bowl.
Add in the onion, chilli, salt, curry powder and coriander, break in the egg, then sprinkle over the flour. Stir it all together as much as you can.
Now slowly add cold water, about a tablespoon at a time, until you’ve got a really thick paste (you’ll probably need around 100ml or so, but judge it by eye).
Leave this to one side while you heat up a wok or large saucepan with a good couple of inches of oil (groundnut is fine). Once the oil is hot (for god’s sake be careful here) – you can test this by popping in a little bit of the batter and seeing if it sizzles – just drop in tablespoons of the batter and fry:
When the first side is a deep golden brown, flip them over in the oil and cook the other side:
Drain on kitchen paper and serve with a nice yoghurt and mint dip, or maybe some mango chutney. Noms.
*Gram flour is made from ground chickpeas and also happens to be gluten free. I didn’t have any, but I’m going to use it next time as I suspect it may give an even crisper result.
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