Archive for Food

Bacon & Leek Quiche

quiche

This weekend, I felt the need to do something different. I wanted to eat something I haven’t eaten in a while. Feel the satisfaction of making something special from scratch. So, after having a quick look through the fridge, finding bacon cubes, a leek and lots of eggs, I decided on baking a quiche. My first quiche baking experience was thanks to Odzer, who taught me how to bake a Spinach & Bacon Quiche.

Bacon & Leek Quiche

Pastry:

100g Butter (salted)

100g Flour

Pinch of salt

Put all of the above into a bowl, then cut the butter into small cubes, you may use a pastry blender or whatever you have at hand. It is important that the butter is cold when you do this, you do not want soft butter or your pastry dough will turn greasy!

Rub the butter into the flour, using your index finger and thumb. Keep doing this until the mixture resembles crumbs and both are properly combined. (Don’t leave crumbs of solid butter in there or while baking you’ll get holes in your pastry dough!) Now, add a little bit of water, just enough so that the dough sticks together and holds together while kneading. Knead for around 5 minutes, until the ingredients are nicely combined.

Wrap in foil and keep in the fridge until needed.

Filling:

1 pkt Bacon cubes (250g)

1 leek – sliced

1 onion – sliced

1 tsp Salt – reduce if your bacon is very salty

Pinch of black pepper

Fresh herbs of your choice – I used fresh rosemary, crushed

4 Eggs

125ml Milk

In a frying pan or wok, fry the bacon until it leaves fat and turns golden brown at the edges. Then add the leek and onion, keep frying until all is cooked. Season with salt & pepper and herbs. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and the milk together until combined. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Take out the pastry dough and roll it out on a clean floured work surface. The base of the quiche should be approx 1/4 inch thick. Spread a little oil over the pastry case of your choice – either one big one; approx. 6 inches across, or multiple smaller ones. (In case you’re making small quiches, roll the pastry dough out a little thinner. Now line your case with the dough. I used a cake tin; putting a 10 inch diameter round of pastry dough into my 6 inch case. Press the dough into the corners so no air bubbles remain, and make an even edge all across the side of the case, roughly 2 inches in height.

I was left with some pastry dough after doing this, so I kept it aside for using as a lattice top later on. If you followed my pastry dough recipe using 100g butter and 100g flour, you probably have exactly the right quantity for a normal sized pastry case.

In a preheated oven, bake the case empty for approx. 10 minutes, until it starts looking half cooked. You can tell when it’s cooked enough by waiting until the dough is no longer shiny and greasy, but turns matte and a little flaky. Now put the bacon/leek/onion mixture into the case, pour your whisked egg/milk over the top and sprinkle with some grated cheese (optional). If you had pastry dough left over, put it over the top as a lattice shape or however you prefer. Bake at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes, or until the egg is no longer runny when pricked with a knife. Enjoy the quiche hot or cold!

A satisfying treat – Egg Parantha’s

It would surprise people, how often Indian food is made at my house – especially since I’m not Indian myself! Although usually comfort food are those things which you have nostalgic childhood memories of, sometimes a dish comes along later on which is extremely easy to warm up to – before you know it it’s high up on your Comfort Food favourites list! One of these dishes for me is Egg Parantha’s. I learned how to make them shortly after moving to India, even though they are not generally a staple of the average Indian home… Maybe they should be though!

So let’s start with what they are – Parantha’s as many of you know, are fried or baked unleavened breads, which generally have multiple layers. You achieve this layered effect much in the same way as with puff pastry; after kneading the dough, you roll it out thin and spread some oil over it, folding it over, repeating this process multiple times until you end up with a square shape. I explained and illustrated this process in a previous post; Spinach Mania – why does it have to come in such big packets? which outlines how to make Spinach or Hara (green) Parantha’s. The process is the same for Egg parantha’s, obviously leaving out the spinach. Then while cooking, the parantha’s are filled with egg (beaten and seasoned like for omelette).

Note: I don’t want to discourage anyone, but this recipe is unlike most of my previous ones – it requires a significant amount of skill to get it right. More often than not do my parantha’s end up half empty! Also in order to feed multiple people, expect to spend some time in the kitchen! That being said, even if they’re not perfect, they’re still tasty!

Egg Parantha – Flat bread stuffed with egg

Chapati Flour (Hindi: Atta)

Water

filling:

1 egg per person – beaten with all seasonings as per below

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Red Chilli powder

1/4 tsp Turmeric powder (Hindi: Haldi) – OPTIONAL

Some oil for cooking – in a small bowl with a spoon for convenience

Make a dough with the flour and water; it should resemble bread dough. Not so sticky it will coat your hands, but not tough and dry either. Best is to sift 3 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl, then add water little by little, combining it by hand, until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl and you can knead it as one big ball. On a clean and dry work surface, knead your dough for approx. 10 minutes. Keep it aside while preparing the egg mixture.

Then heat a griddle on the stove, medium to high heat.

Start rolling your first parantha – follow the instructions of my Spinach Parantha Recipe (NOTE: before the first fold, throw a tiny pinch of salt over the oil you’ve just spread on your rolled out dough. This in case the egg mixture doesn’t distribute evenly, at least the empty bits of your Parantha are not bland!).

Put the completed square parantha onto the griddle and cook it at low heat until the colour turns darker, then turn it around and cook the other side until the layers of the parantha start to separate and fluff up. If need be, gently press it from the sides to build up pressure inside which makes the layers fluff up completely, without leaving parts of the parantha flat. This is something which will take some practice, skill, and/or talent!

Take the griddle off the flame and pick a side of the parantha where the layers are recognizable; separate the top and bottom layer from one another. Quickly pour 4-5 tablespoons of the egg mixture into the parantha, trying to make it spread evenly on the inside. Press the opening together to close the parantha again.

Put the griddle back on the flame. Quickly spread a teaspoon full of oil along the sides of the parantha so it gets poured underneath. Also spread a little bit of it with the back of the spoon along the edge where you cut your parantha especially as well as over the top of the rest of it. Turn the parantha over, taking care not to spill the egg. Cook it until the egg inside fluffs up and remains firm (that means it’s cooked).

Repeat process for remaining paranthas – those who are really skilled can roll another parantha while the previous one is getting cooked…

Enjoy hot with some pickle, chutney, or just by itself!

Fun with beef – Shammi kebabs Hedonist style

Throughout my time in India, I desperately missed having good quality meat. I craved beef, duck and anything that wasn’t chicken or the largely useless quality of mutton that was available where I stayed. Now, in the UK, to some extent I still miss good quality meat. I tend to stay away from pork because I’ve never liked it much to begin with (Bacon & sausages are exceptions). And British beef is very “aromatic”… No idea why. The same is true for lamb; I don’t buy much of it for that reason…

Anyway, I have figured out that buying Irish beef is a solution to the problem; at least it doesn’t smell. And for certain preparations, such as these Shammi kebabs (deep fried meat balls), even though they are meant to be made with minced mutton, they turn out great with lean beef as well!

However, one warning before trying this recipe out yourself: get yourself a decent grinder! I have one of those cheap “Magic Bullet Blender” knock-offs, which works great for normal every day needs, but starts to screech and smoke trying to cope with the recipe below…. This hasn’t stopped me though, grinding small portions at once seems to be the key.

Shammi Kebabs

500g mince – use lamb or beef, whichever you prefer

1/3 cup split Chickpeas (chana dal) – soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes

1 small onion – chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic – chopped

2 green chillis

1 whole dried red chilli

3 cloves

2 green cardamoms

some freshly ground pepper, or 3 pepper corns

1 1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Garam Masala

1/2 tsp Chat Masala – if unavailable, replace with a little bit of cumin powder, and lemon juice

Some water

Combine all ingredients in a pan and boil it until the Chickpeas are relatively soft; approx. 20-30 mins. Keep stirring to avoid sticking. Once done, reduce the water completely; you do NOT want this mixture to be wet at all. Cook all the moisture away, until the mince becomes crumbly and separated. Try to retrieve the whole spices from the mince and throw them away; they are difficult to blend and would make for a nasty surprise if found in the end product. Now, blend the mixture to a fine pulp. The idea is that your chickpeas are completely crushed, as well as the other ingredients.

Let it cool down a little in a bowl, then add the following:

1 egg

3 tsp white Cornflour – more may be required if the mixture is very sticky

Some fresh coriander leaves – chopped

1/2 tsp Lemon juice

Combine all ingredients properly into the mixture; you will probably need to use your hands, which is just as well because the meat balls will need to be shaped by hand also. Now form portions of this mixture into walnut-sized balls, flattening them slightly to look like thick mini-hamburgers. Heat oil in your favourite deep frying contraption; I use a very small wok, less than 6″ in diameter. The oil should be around 1 1/2 inches deep at least. I guess you could easily use a deep fryer, but I’m not sure how well the oil will keep after your done frying the Shammi kebabs. Putting in as many balls at a time as comfortably fit, fry them for around a minute on each side on medium heat. They will turn a nice shade of dark brown – however take care not to burn them!

Serve with your favourite dip; Hot & Sweet ketchup, Coriander chutney or whatever.. They also taste great just sandwiched between some white bread. Or you could add salad, dressing and stuff them into a pita bread like you would do with falafel.

Easy South Indian Food Pt. II

So, when time is lacking, hunger is great, and there’s a lot of left-over rice in the fridge – I’ve already shared one recipe perfect for such situations. However, as one may notice, eating Lemon Rice over and over just isn’t that interesting. One needs variety, a different flavour. But it should still be easy to cook, and comforting….

Tomato Rice (South Indian Style – Hedonist Variant)

1 small onion – finely chopped

1-2 tomatoes – finely chopped

1 green chilli – finely chopped

1/2″ cube of ginger – finely chopped/grated

1 whole dried red chilli – (optional – for those who like it hot!)

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt – (or to taste)

1/2 tsp Garam Masala –(or to taste)

1 tbsp Tomato puree

some Water –  if needed

3-4 cups of boiled rice – preferably straight from the fridge, the colder the better

2-3 tbsp peanuts/cashew nuts – if you  like, you can also add some split chickpeas (chana dal)

4-5 Curry leaves – preferably fresh, but dried will do too.

First of all, heat some oil in a wok, you should use around a tablespoon or more. Fry the nuts in this, also the dal if you choose to use it. (I leave it out because a certain someone doesn’t like how crunchy it gets….)

Let the heat be fairly high, so the oil starts to splutter and the nuts get properly roasted. When they are nice and aromatic, add the mustard seeds, cumin and the red chilli. Turn the heat down so it doesn’t burn. Immediately add the ginger, green chilli and onions, stir fry until the onions are starting to turn light brown. Then add the curry leaves, tomatoes, salt, garam masala. Cook this mixture until the tomatoes turn very mushy. You want everything to look a bit like pasta sauce in terms of consistency. If your sauce gets too dry, add a bit of water to make it more liquid. Also, depending on how flavourful your tomatoes are, you might want to add some tomato puree to give it a nice deep red colour and tomato aroma. Optional: sprinkle a little sugar to reduce the sourness of the tomatoes, or if the tomatoes are not sour enough for your taste, add some lemon juice. At the end, put in the rice, combine everything so the rice is evenly coloured red – taste to check seasoning. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with raita or plain yoghurt.

I suppose you could eat this rice as a side dish with other South Indian food, however I really enjoy it on its own as well.

Hopefully I will be able to add a photograph soon, considering I do make this dish quite regularly. Enjoy!

Homemade beef burgers

All this weight loss talk is making me hungry. Time for some comfort food!

burger

500g Beef Mince – I used extra lean. You could also use any other type of mince you like, need not be beef

1 egg

1 small onion – finely chopped

1 clove of garlic – finely chopped

1 green chilli – finely chopped

2-3 tbsp breadcrumbs

1 1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Garam Masala

Black Pepper – to taste

Red chilli powder – to taste

Combine all the ingredients until they’re evenly mixed. Form the mince mixture into round patties, approx. 2cm thick. How big you make them would depend on your preference, or what buns (if any) you intend to eat them with. For best results use a non stick pan; on high flame. Fry the burgers in very little oil first one side then the other until properly browned. Then turn the heat down and keep cooking them until done. This will take approx. 10-15 mins depending on how thick your burgers are. Test if they are done by pricking them in the middle with a knife. If juices run clear, your burger is done.

For Mushroom-Cream gravy: In case you intend to eat your burger without a bun, it is nice to have a tasty gravy with it. Finely slice 4-5 mushrooms (of your choice, I used Chestnut mushrooms but you could use regular button mushrooms as well) and half an onion and a small clove of garlic. If you’re as sloppy as me, some onion pieces will fall off of the burgers while cooking anyway, so you may use those and not chop any more onion for the gravy. If using a non stick pan, fry up these vegetables with your burgers. If you keep the heat high enough, there will be some meat juices coming out of the burger and making a nice brown coating on the mushrooms. After your burgers are done, take them out and keep them aside. Add a bit of water and 2-3tbsp cream to your mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce is too runny for your taste, add plain flour, while stirring the sauce well to avoid lumps. You may season the sauce with any condiments of your choice, ranging from mustard, to red wine (use very little!) or even ketchup if you prefer. In my case I thought it was fine as it was.

Serve your burgers with gravy and fries and enjoy! (Or put them in burger buns with lettuce, ketchup/mayo, pickle and anything else you fancy.)

Weight loss for simpletons – Hey it worked for me!

After settling into your first job, the old days seem so far away, your old clothes from High school & college don’t even fit anymore; you look in the mirror while buying a new pair of jeans and your reflection looks fat and old. Who doesn’t recognise this situation? I certainly do.

After I left school, it just took me two years of mindless living to gain around 15kgs. I was two sizes larger than before, and looked much older than just those two years could’ve done to me! Sitting down on a chair, with my arms crossed, all of a sudden there was an inbuilt arm rest there! Needless to say, it had to go, I wasn’t old yet and wasn’t ready to look old either!

Anyone who’s read other posts on this blog can probably tell, I love food! Preferably the rich, creamy, heavy type. I’m a sucker for junk food and sweets, and could replace any or all my meals with cake, should I have some available.

Because of this, I wasn’t ready to just go cold turkey and give up on all my beloved food either! So I devised a plan….

The 5 golden rules

Rule 1. – If I’m not hungry / too busy to remember, there’s no point in eating. I realise it’s not healthy and doesn’t suit everyone, but desperate times called for desperate measures. I made sure I had lots of work to do (at the time I was freelancing, and on the go half of the day). Make sure your fluids are topped up though; if it’s hot outside, or you’re feeling low/tired, have some fresh juice, water or low calorie drink to keep you going. Also, reduce your portions whenever you eat a meal. Eating less food in one go shrinks your stomach, making you feel full more quickly!

Rule 2. – Food = Food therefore = a meal. If you cannot resist the temptation and do buy that big chocolate bar, finishing it off within an hour, don’t fool yourself into thinking that “Oh, it’s just chocolate, so technically I haven’t had lunch yet!”. Hell, you wish! That chocolate has the same, or probably more calories as a meal would. So you HAVE had your lunch! Enjoy the fact that you could eat it without feeling guilty. And that euphoria is all you’re getting for hours to come. No seconds in this dieting plan!

Rule 3. – Exercise is very important. The only thing is, I hate exercise, just as I suspect many of you out there do too! So you find something you enjoy, and you do it LOTS. How convenient that when I needed to lose weight, I had just started a new relationship. And what you may ask was the exercise I enjoyed and could do lots of…? Yes, exactly. Have lots of sex! Then take a nap, you’re even allowed a snack, and do it again! And ladies, don’t just spread and lie there, get on top and do some work also, otherwise the whole point of it is missed. You can only burn calories if you get out of breath!

Rule 4. – Have fun. If you’re depressed, you’re more likely to eat crap. So you keep yourself entertained. Get a new videogame if need be to fill up alone time at home. Get a new hobby. Whatever it takes to keep your mind off food.

Rule 5. – Persistence. Don’t think that doing this for a week will get you anywhere. If you want a long lasting result, you will have to put in lot’s of time. Think months, maybe a year. For me, it took around a year to get back to how I wanted to be (around 15kgs less). If you do it right, the weight will stay off also, as long as you don’t go back to your nasty old habits of stuffing your face with candy right before dinner time every night… Good luck!

And that’s it!

Kill da wabbit!

Ok, touchy vegetarians stop reading now. Because I’ve been whining about my dinner plans for Christmas Eve for weeks now, I might as well tell you how it turned out 🙂  

The Rabbit – Marinated for 24 hours in Red Pesto.

rabbit1

 Slow Roasted for around 2.5 hours at 100 degrees celsius. Afterwards simmered in its own sauce.
Basically I was happy trying to  cook a new type of meat, but not ready to try a new type of marinade/ sauce so I stuck with what I do with roast Chicken. (Just refined it a little with some Rose wine before putting it in the oven).  

The Side – Potato Gratin

potato  This side dish is very simple to make, yet extremely tasty. Probably because it is so sinful. You peel and slice around 4-5 large potatoes, then put them in a small pot, pour 300ml Single cream over them, add milk until the potatoes are somewhat covered. Add salt, black pepper, ground nutmeg to taste. Simmer for at least 5 minutes (until the potatoes are half done). Then take the potatoes out (don’t discard the cream!) layer them in an ovenproof dish and pour only so much of the cream mixture over them until all except the top layer of potatoes are covered. If you like, add some grated cheese over the top. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees celsius for 30 minutes. If you like your gratin more firm, add an egg, or in my case, I had an egg yolk leftover from the dessert I made, so I put it into the cream mixture before pouring it over the potatoes.  

The Dessert – Coffee Trifle with Chocolate Sauce

trifle
Well if every single thing we ate on Christmas Eve already had cream in it already, the dessert couldn’t be far behind. For making this type of dessert, you need to have three different components: sponge cake (can be purchased or home made. You could also get sponge biscuits), some type of sauce to soak the sponge cake with, creamy mousse which will make up the bulk of the trifle. 

For the sponge cakes, I just did the lazy person’s thing; bought some trifle sponges from the supermarket. 

Then I made chocolate sauce by heating a little bit of double cream and melting dark chocolate in it. I also added some sugar. Make sure to whisk the sauce properly or the sugar will not combine with the cream fully. You’re looking for a sauce of fairly thin consistency so it can be absorbed by the sponge cake. Put the cake into the sauce and let it absorb it while making the cream.

The Coffee flavoured cream was made by combining extra thick (double) cream (approx. 500ml) with some icing sugar. All flavourings were added to taste, because I didn’t follow any recipe. Plus tasting the cream is most of the fun of this dessert anyway. I boiled some water, and dissolved Nescafe in it (just 50ml of water with 1.5 tea spoon of nescafe or more if you like. Added the concentrated coffee and some vanilla essence to taste, to make the cream get a subtle taste of coffee. Whip the cream until it is fairly stiff. Then beat an egg white and softly fold it in. 

Now start layering your trifle in a freezer proof bowl. First some sponge cake, if need be pour more chocolate sauce over it. Then little less than half of the cream, then the rest of the sponge cake and chocolate sauce, and the rest of the  cream over the top. Even out the top of your trifle and dust with some cocoa powder. 

Depending on how firm your cream turned out (depends on the type of cream used and amount of flavouring you put in), either refrigerate it or freeze it. This dessert, being so creamy, is very tasty when its almost frozen, but still soft. If you made it a long time in advance, you may need to take it out of the freezer an hour before it is to be eaten. 

A break from the ordinary

Even though the idealist in me wants to reject it, Christmas holds dear memories and sentiments that I would like to hold on to. As a child I would be excited for weeks leading up to Christmas eve, could not wait to see what presents would lie under the Christmas tree. And the tree was special too. Being asked in office whether my family was a “real tree” or “fake tree” family, I proudly proclaimed “real tree with real candles!”. And I’m not exaggerating. There would be a pine tree, carefully chosen to have firm branches, full, yet widely spaced enough to allow real candles to be put on it, without burning the top branches off. Real little candles, either white or red (the whole tree should be coordinated in one candle colour!) in little metal clip on candle holders which could be golden or silver in colour.

The decoration would consist of various odd ornaments straying as far away from shiny baubles as possible (my mother would think they look cheap.. I can’t say I share her sentiments, but oh well that’s what parents are for). My mother was a fanatic when it came to protecting her own childhood memories and German Christmas traditions, and wouldn’t compromise one bit. So we had straw ornaments shaped like stars, angels and snow flakes, as well as some other bits and pieces, wooden angels, bells and wreaths. No tinsel, no electric lights and certainly no Santa in sight! (Oddly enough we did have lametta which in my book is just tinsel which isn’t tied up. But somehow my mother approved)..  Instead, the traditional decoration was offset by shiny, foil wrapped chocolates or mini wreath shaped chocolates with white sprinkles on them. It was the greatest thing in the world, being able to walk past the tree, and sneakily rid it of one or two chocolates, without anyone noticing (because there were so many!).

So that is my rationalisation, my reasoning for making Christmas a bit special, even if the atmosphere of it has been altered with all the shopping propaganda we get fed. My tree is still real, I bought one in a pot, hoping it would survive in order to be kept and reused (although the label says it will not live because the roots are too limited.. I’m still hoping!) It still has decoration on it which people may find odd; lots of straw. The odd Kashmiri paper mache hand painted painted star, but still some shiny, glittery baubles I could not resist. And electric lighting. I don’t care if candles are supposedly nicer. Electric will do for me.

But the real idea of having a special Christmas is not the tree. It is the company and the food. My company is already taken care of – just the two of us, spending some quiet days without office and other nonsense to worry about.. The food was more difficult. Apparently all of the UK eats turkey on Christmas day. I have nothing personally against turkey, but it just isn’t very flavourful to me. Just a big old bird, that cannot be marinated fully because the meat is too thick. And plus, what are two people going to do with a whole turkey. So it had to be something smaller. Something more special.. Chicken is of course smaller, has better marinating possibilities, but it’s not special to me.. If you’re going to look for special birds, it has to be either duck or goose, something you would not eat every day…

My irrational, short-attention-spanned mind however wanted something much more unusual. Something without wings, yet small enough to have a full animal on the table for just two people. The only possible conclusion I could come to given a limited budget as well as time frame was : Rabbit. For some reason, in this country, rabbit is seen as something odd to eat. Apparently it is budget meat (well I certainly didn’t find that so much while buying it – chicken is much cheaper), and not readily available. But to me, simply because it isn’t that available, and I’ve never cooked it before, it seems exclusive and special. A break from the beef, lamb, chicken and occasional pork we eat every day. Something that lived and grew up in the wild, and is now going to be enjoyed, just one special night this year.

Considering I live in a place surrounded by Halal Butchers that will sell only skinned chicken, lamb and goat, I had to travel a bit and hunt for my rabbit. Although not armed with a gun and surrounded by some dogs… My hunting ground became Borough Market. And I was victorious. My weapon was a wallet with £5 in it. And now my prey is awaiting preparation in my fridge. I will try my best to remember and click some photos while making it.. That shall be the topic of my next post…

I’ve finally managed it! Chicken Fried Rice.

For a long time, I’ve been having problems making Chinese style food. I don’t know why really. I just keep getting things wrong, and it turns out weird. Learning different styles of cooking isn’t that easy. I was brought up in Western Europe; so the standard fare of stews, potatoes, roasted meat, pasta  as well as German style baking etc. is not so hard for me. But then after moving to India, I faced a steep learning curve trying to replicate North Indian recipes. Well although in certain cases people would say otherwise, I think I’ve managed it to some degree. (Although, my chapatis still aren’t round enough! Damnit!).

So last night was an epic battle against the odds. I wanted to make Chicken Fried Rice. Again. Expecting something or the other to be wrong with it, like it usually is… (Now I’m sure there are people reading this going “What the F*ck?! Fried Rice is so easy!”… ). Surprisingly, it turned out fine…

Chicken Fried Rice

4 cups boiled rice – I used leftover Basmati, kept in the fridge for a few days

1 Onion – medium size, finely sliced

1 clove Garlic – finely chopped

1 Green chilli – finely chopped

4-5 small Spring onions – greens attached

200g Chicken breast filet – small pieces

Little bit of flour

2 Eggs

Salt, Pepper for seasoning

Vegetable Oil

Soya Sauce – any type you like, I used Light Soya Sauce

Splash of vinegar – again any type you like

First you prepare the chicken; after chopping it, you coat it a little bit in flour and salt&pepper. Preferably use a non stick Wok for this dish; or it will stick horribly! Heat the Wok properly, add some oil and coat the wok with it. Then add the chicken. Fry it until it’s done – take it out of the wok and keep aside. Put your wok back on the fire (clean it if necessary) and make sure it’s really hot again. Add Oil and coat it properly. Add the garlic and chilli. Fry for a few seconds. Add your onions. Fry for 1 minute on full heat. Keep moving it around so it doesn’t burn! Add the spring onions, keep frying for 1 minute. Then you break the two eggs on top of the wok, and stir vigorously. Immediately add the cold rice on the top and mix it in properly. Then add the chicken pieces. Season with salt, pepper, soya sauce and vinegar. Cook until egg is done, but not too long or it will burn and get soggy. You do NOT want the spring onions and onions to get soggy! They should be cooked properly, but still be crisp.

Serve immediately.

Variations: If you like your Fried rice with more vegetables in it, you can add anything you feel; mushrooms, beans, peas, carrots, bean sprouts, etc. But: it may be a good idea to blanch them first, because most vegetables take some time getting cooked. The bean sprouts you should just add raw though.

Easy Baked Creamy Bolognese Pasta

I absolutely love baked pasta dishes. Possibly so much so I could have lasagna every single day of the week, and still not get sick of it; if only I could be bothered to cook it every day!

So to satisfy this craving, I sometimes take the easy way out and do a more simple baked pasta; Creamy bolognese style sauce topped over some pasta (Penne or something similar; cooked “al dente”). With a generous load of grated cheese over the top. Baked until the cheese is golden brown.

Baked Bolognese Pasta – For two

250g Fresh Pasta – Penne or similar size/shape

2 Onions – finely chopped

2 cloves Garlic

3 Tomatoes

250g Beef mince – lean is tastier

Large Handful vegetable of choice – finely chopped, carrots/courgette/chestnut mushrooms are nice!

2-3 Tbsp Tomato Puree

2-3 Tbsp Single cream

Salt, Pepper, Red Chilli (if you like it hot), Oregano & Basil

200g Grated cheese – Cheddar or whatever you like

Sprinkle grated Parmesan over the top

Olive OIl for cooking

You start off with the sauce. Heat some olive oil, fry your garlic until it gets aromatic (Don’t burn it!) Add Black pepper, and if using dried herbs, add those as well. Add your onions and cook until they start to get soft. Season with some salt. Add vegetables, cook until their moisture evaporates, then add tomatoes and let them go soft to make a sauce, then stir in tomato puree.

Finally add the beef (You can opt to fry this before the tomatoes also, but it can go tough. If you want your sauce properly combined, the beef goes in when the sauce is wet). Season with Salt, Pepper, Chilli Powder (optional). If your tomatoes are very sour, add some sugar. If you like your sauce more pungent, season with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Cook with lid on until all ingredients are properly soft. This can take around 20-30 mins. If need be add water and adjust seasoning. When your sauce is fully cooked, stir in some cream, cook the pasta. Fresh pasta takes around 4 minutes to cook, so it’s quite quick. Drain the pasta and combine it with the sauce. Put the mixture into an oven dish. Cover with grated cheese, garnish with some grated parmesan (Gives just a little extra flavour to the cheese crust!) and bake in the oven; 180 degrees C, around 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and getting golden.

I love this dish so much, even though we’re only two people, I tend to make twice the quantity and keep a full oven dish in the fridge to enjoy the next day… So, having remembered that I still have a full dish waiting for me at home, perhaps I’ll add a photograph soon!

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