Sunday, 23 April 2017

Roast Pepper Sandwich

I love a "different" sandwich.  My son, sadly, gravitates towards ham whenever he's given a choice but sandwiches can be as boring as white bread with wafer thin ham or as interesting as this little beauty.

This is a delicious but messy sandwich; have napkins nearby.  If you'd like to eat this with more decorum and less goats cheese on your chin, use cold bread and allow the peppers to cool before assembling.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Food Myths

A quiet Easter weekend got me thinking about some food myths which seem to persist however many times they are debunked.  I've discussed some here but please add your own or comment and take part in the debate!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Fruit Kebabs

An unashamedly childish recipe here.  I used to have a blog Mamacook all about food for kids and this was one recipe I made loads but never got round to blogging.  There are loads of ideas out there for healthy and fun foods for kids and one of them is fruit kebabs.  The downside though is the stick.  What is the fun in the boring stick and if you use a skewer it's a bit risky for younger kids too, you don't want sharp wooden sticks going in their mouths...

Well I have an answer I came up with a few years ago and it is so simple!

Monday, 3 April 2017

"Lack of exercise kills as many as smoking"

This was a quote someone said to me recently when she was talking about a mutual friend she'd been trying to encourage to exercise.

It's a shocking statement.  We all know that smoking kills you and while, hey, we all have to die of something, smoking kills you earlier than you would have died from perhaps something completely unrelated.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

White Chocolate, Irish Cream and Coffee Cheesecake

A delicious cheesecake recipe made even cheekier by a touch of Bailey's and subtle coffee flavour from the base.

I found myself at a restaurant recently and, unusually for me, I found myself not interested in any of the dessert options.  Had this been on the menu however, I would have jumped at it and probably asked for seconds.  This is a pudding to make for a loved one but only if they've been really lovely to you.  (Don't tell them how easy this is, there could be major brownie points!)

What's in season in April

How is it April already?  There is blossom on the trees and it genuinely feels as though spring is here and summer can't be far away.  Spring is such a great part of the year, lighter evenings, the promise of warm weather to come, summer holidays may be months away but they feel measurably closer than a few months back.

The shelves of the shops start to change too and by the end of the month greenhouse soft fruits become more common and more flavourful.

Here are my pick of the ingredients to cook with this month.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Chicken with Haricot Beans

I love haricot beans, pulses are a great way to contribute towards your 5 (or 10 a day) while also getting a great source of energy, a fantastic alternative to pasta, rice or potatoes.

This recipe is not exactly healthy but it is delicious and reheats surprisingly well.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

What I love about London

Last week a man took a car in a part of London I know well and drove it into the crowds.  He then stabbed a police officer to death.  This was near where I'd been only days before along with the millions of other people who pass through Westminster every day.

If this is all you read it may make you fearful or lacking in hope.  For me, it didn't.  Last week was a fantastic example of the spirit of London and of British people.  It took me years to "get" London.  When you only travel at rush hour, it can feel cold and unfriendly.  It's not all that surprising because if you have your body pressed up against strangers for an hour, it's not the most pleasant feeling.  It would be wrong though to see London and Londoners as unfriendly, it's not true.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Ultimate Steak Sandwich

This morning I went on a 6.5 mile training run.  I had a plan for a healthy lunch but in the supermarket there was a beautiful looking fillet steak which was reduced so this was my delicious lunch.

Yes, this is indulgent, no way is it healthy but this is all about one of the greatest sandwiches you'll eat.  It's a bit messy to eat so have a napkin nearby.  Cucumber and tomatoes are optional, some rocket leaves would be lovely as well.

This is also a great way to pad out a small steak.  If you served this with one or two side dishes this would be a great meal for two.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Spring Forward

The clocks go forward this weekend.  I mentioned this to a member of staff in my local supermarket called Anne.  She had said to me.

"Oh it's getting dark already!"
"Yes but next week the evenings will be much lighter, isn't that great?"
"Oh the clocks going forward?  So we lose an hour.  I hate that"

Monday, 20 March 2017

Sherry Trifle

People who know me well know I hate trifle.  I've even ranted on this blog on why trifle is so wrong.  Why don't I like it?  It's sludgy like babyfood but with a whack of sherry.  I tend to prefer food which requires my teeth!  People often use really cheap ingredients into a dish which is basically assembly rather than cooking and expect the finished result to be great.  This is a dish where no ingredient can hide.

So I challenged myself, is it possible to make a trifle I would enjoy eating?  Well it turns out that yes, it is and this is it!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Vanilla Cupcakes

I love vanilla.  It is a much underrated spice.  Vanilla is associated with "plain" or "not exciting".  I think it's time to give it more love.

Vanilla is the flavour people leave in a Neopolitan pack it equates with "no flavour" which is wrong... well I think it deserves more than that.  It is the delicious fragrance of patisserie.  It's time to rediscover it.

Friday, 17 March 2017

10 a day. What have I learned?

First of all, I've learned never to do another stupid challenge like this!  Seriously.  Anyway, I put my body through this so you can see what it's like kind readers!

Day 10 of 10 a day

The last day of this ridiculous challenge!

I'm joking but of course this has been a challenging thing.  Eating 10 different fruits and vegetables a day for 10 days in the quantities recommended by "official guidance" has been a challenge for my body, my mind and my wallet.  So I would be lying if I said I wasn't happy to be on the last day.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Teriyaki Salmon with Salad

I used a pre made Teriyaki sauce for this recipe and it was brilliant.  It made the fish delicious and juicy.  It's also great cold if you want to cook two pieces and save one in the fridge for the next day.

Day 9 of 10 a day

On the home stretch and today I feel fantastic.  It's like I've gone through the lull and come out of the other side.  I woke up at half past 5 with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Day 7 of 10 a day

7 days.  I swing between feeling this is an easy challenge and a really difficult one.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Day 6 of 10 a day


Learning from my experience so far, I went all out for 3 portions today.  80g pineapple, 120g melon (which still only counts as one portion) and 40g each of strawberries and grapes.  Surprisingly filling and satisfying and exactly what I wanted today.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Slow Cooked Chinese Style Pork

I had some pork belly strips in the fridge and wanted to treat them so they'd end up in a sweet, sticky and spicy glaze.  This is what I came up with, with the crunchy vegetables it turned out to be a delicious feast.

Day 5 of 10 a day

Yesterday was tougher than I expected and part of the reason was starting the day with only one portion at breakfast rather than two.  The key to getting 10 portions in a day is definitely to have no fewer than 2 with every meal, 3 is even better.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Day 4 of 10 a day

Day 4 of eating 10 a day.  I can't believe it's already day 4.  It's been a challenge so far.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Cauliflower and Pea curry

Pulses are great in curries, I often make them with chickpeas which are great but I wanted to make something different.  I have to admit the substitution of carbs and meat for cauliflower somewhat passed me by.  I tried cauliflower rice and it was disappointing.  The idea of "cauliflower steak" also doesn't appeal so it was with some trepidation I made a curry with no meat, no pulses and as cauliflower with the main ingredient.

I needn't have worried.  This is delicious.  The great thing about cauliflower is it's like a flavour sponge, it just sucked in all the gorgeous flavours from the sauce.  Did I care or even notice this dish is vegan?  Nope.  Did I miss the meat?  Not at all.

Day 3 of 10 a day

Three days in and the 10 a day is still not easy but becoming routine.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Day 2 of 10 a day

I started the day with one of my breakfast bowls.

This is a great way to get more fruit into your breakfast and you can easily fit in two portions, even three if you're really hungry.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Edamame Bean Salad

I love edamame (or soy) beans.  I had a delicious dish recently of some edamame beans in chilli sauce at a Japanese restaurant, they were utterly addictive.

This salad is less messy but no less tasty.  What's great as well is despite being all vegetables, the dressing brings it all together to make it taste like more than it is.  Super healthy.

Day 1 of 10 a day

Wow, what a day to chose to start this challenge; a day when I was eating away from home for two meals.  I do like to make life hard!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

10 days of 10 a day

A while back I gave myself a challenge to eat 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day for 7 days.  A recent review of research by Imperial College however, has now suggested increasing this to 10 portions is where we need to be.

Now this is a challenge when you consider that even the most positive survey (which I doubt) proudly proclaims "A third of us are eating at least 5 a day!"  Which also means two thirds, i.e. the vast majority in the UK are not.  I also have the sneaking suspicion the Daily Mail only published that article because we were better than the German's at something.  #Justsayin'

So my plan is to eat 10.  Yep, 10 portions a day.  Twice the amount the NHS recommend currently.  There is a quote I love from Michael Pollan, he's not a dietitian but a journalist, his quote sums up what these next few days will be all about.

So the challenge is, can I do it?  For 10 days can I eat 10 portions of fruits and vegetables?

Monday, 6 March 2017

What's in season in March?

March, the hungry gap continues.  March is a difficult month for the seasonal eater, especially if you would stick only to UK produce.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Beef Pot Roast

Pot roasts.  Gloriously, flavourful, delicious, falling apart beef gorgeousness.  Are you with me yet?

Is it pretty?  Not really unless you love hunks of meat (sorry veggies, sometimes I do, everything in moderation).  Does it taste great?  Absolutely.

I have to get my disclaimer in first.  There is no making a pot roast for one.  There, I've said it.  So why am I posting this recipe?  Well despite the fact I made this in my weeny household, I did seriously cook 1kg of beef and it was so blooming tasty I certainly didn't mind eating leftovers for a few days but see tips towards the end for more on that.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Mixed Bean Chilli

I love chilli, I particularly love vegetarian chilli, slow cooked meat chillis, frankly I just love the heat.  What is great about this chilli though is as well as being vegan, it also contains mostly store cupboard and "likely to be in your fridge" ingredients.  It's so cheap as well and freezes brilliantly making it the ideal recipe for when the month is nearly up and your bank balance doesn't look quite so healthy.

You could mix up the beans in this; I would have used pinto beans if I'd been organised enough to soak and cook them (I couldn't find any in cans in my local supermarket.)  Of course you can use dried beans here which would make this even cheaper, just soak and cook them first as I find cooking them with something acidic like tomato if they're not already cooked through makes them a little tough.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Excuses You're Telling Yourself Not To Exercise

I know what you're thinking.  There are reasons why you don't exercise.  I used to have reasons up to the age of 34.  Here are my reasons and why I now realise they were all excuses.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Nuoc Cham

Nuoc cham is a dipping sauce served as a condiment in Vietnam.  It is frankly delicious and sums up that sour, spicy, salty, sweet combo which is so great.

I will give you the recipe here for how to make nuoc cham yourself and also give you a couple of ways it can be used.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

What's in season in February?

February is that time of year UK farmers used to call "the hungry gap".  The season when there was little fresh produce.  Indeed at this time of year, there is little UK grown seasonal vegetables on the shelves.

For the ethical consumer this does provide us with a quandary; of course buy what UK produce there is but with the advent of new farming methods including heated poly tunnels and imported foods, there is still a lot of variety on the shelves.  It's tricky because the environmental consequence of importing foods is not the same for different products.  Some fruits and vegetables can be transported by boat, others have to be air freighted.  The difference in environmental impact from air freighted produce to home grown but in heated poly tunnels to boats.  It's a tricky balance to strike but by boat certainly seems to be the more logical answer.

But before we think of importing foods, there are two great things on my shopping list this month.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Steamed Syrup Sponge Pudding

My son is a fan of a traditional pudding, (he's a middle aged man in a 6 year old's body.)  His favourite things include dishes like apple crumble, sponge puddings, lemon surprise pudding etc. Anyone who wants to steal his heart when he grows up just needs a traditional British recipe book!

In any case, I bought some syrup sponge puddings recently from the supermarket then after we both had one, agreed that I'd forgotten traditional British puddings are actually fantastic, I thought I'd try to make some myself.

Traditionally steamed puddings would be just that, steamed over a pan of water for a long time but this is where a microwave comes in and works a treat.  Obviously you must use microwave safe cooking bowls.  I saved them from the puddings I bought but ceramic ones would also work (but would be harder to turn out, butter them well.)

Monday, 16 January 2017

Spicy Chicken Salad

This dish is something I've been making and tweaking for years.  It started off as a Vietnamese chicken salad with poached chicken breasts and a spicy dressing.  Over the years the recipe evolved to using thighs and baking the chicken then using the dressing as a marinade and here is where I am now.

Nothing authentic about it; in a way it's like a Vietnamese chicken salad meats caramel chicken mash up; sorry for the mish mash of influences.

Most of all though, it tastes great.  The harshness of the garlic and chilli are mellowed out by them being cooked.  The chicken thighs are much juicier and flavoursome than the poached breasts but benefit from the oven cooking to give them flavour and cook out some of the fat.  The freshness is still in the dish from the salad.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Venison and Chestnut Stew

When the weather is chilly outside, I often look to my slow cooker for something delicious, hearty and filling.  Venison may not be the most obvious choice but I bought some wild venison from my local supermarket.  Some people get very squeamish about eating it presumably because deer are prettier than cows?  I don't.  We have several deer parks in the UK and deer are a pest in many areas, especially Scotland.  I also can't see a better life to lead than a completely wild one.

That said, venison is a lean, delicious meat but not a cheap one.  This is why I bought cheap pieces of venison for slow cooking and also had the idea to include chestnuts.  I've included chestnuts once or twice in stews before and if you've not tried it, I urge you to.  They add a textural difference and a delicious, sweet note, they also make 300g of expensive venison into 3 portions.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Chicken and Vegetables with Sticky Honey and Ginger Sauce

I decided to do a chicken and vegetable stir fry which was more veg than chicken.  Sometimes it's great to have a small amount of meat in a dish, it's a great way to make it a bit healthier and count towards your 5 a day.

This dish contains a whopping 170g of lovely vegetables, more than 2 of your 5 portions a day.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Quick Cassoulet

Ok, ok, natives of the South of France will be hollering and calling me names, saying this is "inauthentic".  I know, I know but this was inspired by trying to make something with all the delicious flavours of cassoulet but without slaving away at it for hours.  It is meant to be something possible to make at the end of a work day for 1 or 2 people not the "feeding of the 5000" that a good batch of proper cassoulet can be.

And do you know what?  Part of me is feeling pretty robust about this because it tasted bloody good.  So good in fact that I ate the whole lot (oops) but it does reheat pretty well if you can resist...

I don't suggest the duck or goose fat to be obtuse, it's a nod back to the duck or goose confit you would have in a traditional cassoulet and adds a really lovely flavour.  I also have loads of goose fat in my freezer from Christmas dinner, I mean loads.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

What's in season in January?

So the Christmas decorations are finally down.  The festive food is away.  There is no need to be downcast though because there are lovely ingredients in tip top condition right now.

Monday, 2 January 2017

So you think you can't afford to exercise?

I used to say this to myself when I was younger that "exercise is expensive" and something I couldn't afford.

This is one of many excuses people give for not exercising and it's a really bad one.  Here are 14 top tips to keep down the cost of exercise.