Sunday, 28 July 2013

Back in the saddle.. Hello to Meal Planning Monday!

I can officially say back in the saddle on three counts this weekend!

1) My boyfriend has been rubbing my painful feet with some wonderful cooling gel. That's from South Africa. And when I checked the label was for Equine use. Their website has a disclaimer saying its not conducted human trials...

2) I spent yesterday being 'horsey' for my friends two children who deemed I make an excellent 'horsey'! Goodbye spine....

3) I made a batch of my banana breakfast bars on Friday - with oats in....

Starting to form a scary picture here...neigh...

Anyway! Its nearly Monday! And my meal plan has started forming whilst the dearest gets his weekly fix of Topgear...

Monday - Gammon from the freezer, most likely turned into pasta bake with a gifted courgette from friends veg patch

Tuesday - Boyfriend is cooking his chicken dish..has peppers in..

Wednesday - Dad's over. Going to thaw a big topside beef joint I was sent a while back, marinade Chinesey ingredients and serve with rice and greenery.

Thursday - This is subject to change but most likely an omelette alla fridge surprise to use up any veg needed eating!

Friday - Going to revisit an old Jamie O recipe for leftover stew risotto, using leftovers from Wednesday night

Happy week everyone!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Sweet Chilli Gammon Noodles - Credit Crunch Munch

Cooking a gammon joint at home is so easy and can be reclined into many more meals, making it very good value too without compromising on taste. I love using up leftovers and always inventing up new recipes based on what we have in the cupboards and what we fancy eating. These noodles were delicious hot for our dinner but also I am told cold the next day, as B had a tub for lunch the next day and has asked for this again already!

Over the past few years, my own financial situation has changed considerably following redundancies, prolonged ill health, housing costs, petrol costs going up, relationship changes etc... Fortunately things are now a lot more settled, another recent house move was stressful but its a lot cheaper than the previous room so in the long term is worthwhile... I also don't drive to work anymore, so I have cut costs there...However over this time the cost of food shopping during all this has considerably increased and I've been looking at what I spend on food a lot more than before, and have become rather thrifty when it comes to stretching out meals. Now I budget for the two of us, as the house move also meant moving in with the boyfriend, and so the budget is a little more flexible but I always am a firm believer in that if you look after the pennies, the pounds look after themselves!

My gammon joint came from a cheaper supermarket, at £4.99 and has so far done five meals, and there is another bagful in the freezer. I think there might have also been a sandwich or two made as well.. far better value and taste than buying packets of pre-sliced watery ham!

I'm also sending my recipe over to Credit Crunch Munch, headed up by Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All, and the host for this month is Fish Fingers for Tea

First time around it was simply boiled up with bay leaves, then sliced up and served with a fried egg, potato wedges and courgettes fried with tomatoes in Christmas butter that's been lurking in the freezer! And it was gorgeous!

My poshed up ham, egg and chips:

So Monday night came around, I had just finished two exhausting night shifts and a bit zombie-fied, needing something quick, easy and delicious to eat. Fortunately in the fridge was some of the leftover gammon, a quick rummage through the cupboards found 3 nests of noodles, a courgette in the salad draw that needed eating and half a pepper, leftover from something else. Oh and a permanent stand by - a bottle of Thai sweet chilli sauce! One thing I couldn't live without is garlic and ginger paste - often found in the 'world food aisles' or in specialty shops.

The noodles were gorgeous, full of sweet spicy meaty flavours, this recipe will be a definite keeper!

Serves 3, well
Fridge to table - 10 minutes


1 tsbp sunflower oil
3 fine egg noodle nests
1 onion, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp garlic and ginger paste
1 courgette, cut into half moons 
180g leftover cooked gammon, chopped into chunks
1/2 yellow pepper, sliced
3 heaped tsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
1 chicken stock cube

1) Cover the noodles in boiling water, add the stock cube and bring to the boil and cook as per packet instructions. Drain, reserving 250ml of the water.

2) Meanwhile heat the oil in a wok or large saute pan, cook the onion for 3-4 minutes, stir in the peppers, courgettes and garlic and ginger paste, and cook over a moderate heat, keep stirring so they don't burn. 

3) After a further 4 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened, stir in the gammon, reserved cooking water and the sweet chilli sauce, reduce the liquid slightly and stir through the noodles, warm through and serve.


Monday, 22 July 2013

Date Night Steak with Potato wedges and Spicy Peas

Spending time with your loved one and balancing a relationship around working patterns can be a little bit of a challenge, I work shifts around the clock and my boyfriend does more regular Monday to Friday pattern, and often we are eating separately or very late at night, not ideal on tummies and a bit of a romance killer! When doing nights I often don't even see him for a couple of days, we pass like ships in the night, as the saying goes!

I think its vital to spend quality time together, and once a week we make sure we clear our diaries and have a 'date night', making sure we have a good film lined up to watch, get something nice in for dinner and then pull out the futon and cosy up together and chill out for a few hours just the two of us.

Ones of the perks of blogging about food is getting sent nice things in the post, and last week we had a treat for our date night - some very tender steaks from Heggies of Hereford and a packet of 'New York Steak Rub' from Bart, part of their new Smokehouse Barbeque range. My B is a committed carnivore and he was more than happy to also 'test' out the latest arrivals!

The New York Steak Rub is one of five rubs available, and their main beauty is that they are mess free thanks to their clever little cooking bags! Less time washing up, equals more time together, win! This version is 'A classic American inspired blend with mustard, garlic and pepper' according to their website and it worked really tastily with our steaks, adding the spicy mustardy heat and delicious garlicky flavours that we both love!

Alongside our steaks, I made a tray of potato wedges - a mix of white and sweet potatoes, simply tossed in rapeseed oil, salt, pepper and  few twists of my garlic and chilli grinder, then roasted in a hot oven for 45 minutes. Our oven is however ancient - yours may take less time! The spicy peas were simply boiled for a couple of minutes, drained all bar about 50ml of liquid, and mashed up with a teaspoon of horseradish and a little oil from an empty jar of marinated garlic cloves.

The rubs are designed to be used, then cooked on a barbecue, but I just cooked them in a griddle pan as where I live there is a communal bbq and a bit big just for the two of us! Make sure your kitchen is well ventilated - we have no extractor fan and the kitchen got a little smokey with the spices cooking...

Step one - take two nice steaks of your choice, place on kitchen paper ideally 24 hours before cooking and leave uncovered if possible in the fridge. This helps the meat to dry out in a good way!

Step two - open up your little spice parcel

Step three - place the steaks inside the marinade bag, sprinkle over the spice mix - note it is for four steaks - I used just over half the spice mix and drizzle in a little rapeseed or similar cooking oil

Step four - seal the marinade bag using the tie twist provided, and massage the mix onto the steaks. You can also if needed at this stage bash them a little to flatten out without getting messy :) Having moved house I had no idea where the rolling pin was but the solid wooden chopping board did a fine job! Leave them in the fridge for about 4-5 hours to infuse but remember to take them out about half an hour before cooking!

Step five - Remove the marinated steaks from their bag, and griddle or bbq to your liking. If griddling on cast iron, make sure your pan is searing hot before using, and don't turn them until they readily come away from the bars. I cooked mine for 2.30mins each side and they were medium. I don't often use sirloin, and must admit I prefer ribeye but the timing was just right for both of our tastes. Rest them in a warm place for a couple of minutes before serving.

Step Six - Make sure your peas and mashed and your wedges cooked through and serve alongisde your steaks

Sit back, relax and feast with your date!

Many thanks to Heggies and Bart

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Rum & Chocolate Chunk Bread and Butter Puddings - in under 10 minutes!

Like spiced or dark Rum?
Like Chocolate?
Like puddings?

Short on time?

Excellent stuff.

Say hello to my Rum & Chocolate Chunk Bread and Butter Puddings!!

Whilst making dinner the other night, I remembered my lovely B had bought some scotch pancakes reduced the day before (oh how I love a good yellow sticker!) and the mind started wandering.... it wasn't the easiest of wanders... Having moved house last month, half of my kitchen stuff is still in storage boxes, its semi-organised into an old storage unit but not brilliantly accessible either...I nearly twisted my ankle finding the ramekins but was worth the challenge!! Maybe it could be a future task for the Crystal maze?!! I had nothing to hand either to put the cream in but think my mini jam jar's make a novel pouring tool!

The oven in my new kitchen, to put it bluntly is crap. Nothing seems to brown in a hurry, its possibly older than me and as I live upstairs and the kitchen is downstairs, with my wonky knees going up and down every 5 minutes to check on things is not so good! Also dinner was about 15 minutes from being ready so I needed to make something fairly quick and easy.. I had experimented last year with microwave cakes, with some pretty good results so thought why not try with good old b&b pudding! I gave them 3 minutes, but next time I think I will do at 2.30 minutes for a slightly softer pudding..a lot will depend on the dish size and how powerful the zapper is!

Serves 2
Requires grill and microwave


4 scotch pancakes
butter for greasing/ spreading

1 egg
5 tbsp milk
2 tbsp dark spiced rum
1 heaped tbsp milk chocolate chunks (mine were from Dr Oetker. Some may have got hurt during the testing process...)
1 heaped tbsp vanilla sugar + a sprinkle to finish

Pre-heat grill if particularly ancient to medium-hot

Depending on the size of the ramekins, grease them and then butter the pancakes and cut into 4/ 5 pieces, assemble in dish tightly, scattering the chocolate chunks throughout the layers.

Beat the sugar, egg, milk and rum together, pour over the puddings to cover evenly and stand for a minute. Sprinkle over a little sugar

Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until just cooked - use a skewer to test. Transfer to the grill and brown to a desired shade.

Stand for a minute or two before eating - they will be very hot!!

These little puddings were great! Their texture was pretty similar to the more traditional oven baked variety and smothered in cream sauce were delicious!

As my puddings used up cheap ingredients, and were quick to cook I have put them in this months Credit Crunch Munch created by Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food for All and the host this month is Fish Fingers for Tea

Many thanks to Dr Oetker for the chocolate chunks :)

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Bloggers Fart Too....

I have just come home from an incredibly hot (31o at its peak), long busy day at work (Yes it is Sunday! Joy of the health service...) and I had intended to do a more serious blog post. Well not serious, but at least a little professional...however I've just finished dinner, not very glamorous tonight sorry - curry flavour instant noodles, which are my guilty pleasure, though tarted up a little with a scattering of red pepper, spring onion, chestnut mushrooms and cashew nuts! I won't tell you what I had for pudding. Needless to say I do need to exercise tomorrow! ...There's always tomorrow right?!

But then I stumbled across the latest post of one of my favourite blogs - A Thrifty Mrs and just had to post this instead! See the above shot? Not too shabby really, could do with a bit of cropping but otherwise reasonable...

Though that shot was one of ten. TEN! My life is not perfect. And I don't know anyone with a perfect life. I am sitting writing this in a overly hot lounge, that gets far too much sun, in my pj's with my feet up behind me at a weird angle on the futon that shortly I will no doubt regret, watching Stella on TV that I recorded in the week. See not very glamorous at all me!

Look at this bad boy:
Oh and him too: Completely out of focus. Not worky no no no.

We as humans seem to have this 'keeping up with the Jones's desire to always want more, all that upmanship crap really bugs me. You need to be content with what you have. There is always someone far worse off, and we take so much for granted. Life is short, painfully short at times and we really should embrace living for now! Its hard, I need to remember this always, especially when the dark clouds of old circle. By storing up good times, it shows the bad ones the door and makes them unwelcome.

Life is not perfect! Never! Ever! So embrace your weirdness, enjoy the good times, appreciate the bad times, Its all practice. Not that practice makes perfect mind but at least gives you an idea of what makes you tick!

If you want to share your weirdness too - blog..facebook... do some sort of social media that floats your boat and use the hashtag #bloggersfarttoo !

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Trout and Horseradish Fishcakes

Whilst I love fish, I really can't stand the bones! Silly I know but the thought has me gagging! I have slowly learned to enjoy cooking and eating Seabass on the bone and got fairly adequate at removing the flesh cleanly, and when my boyfriend spotted two whole trout with a yellow sticker on, we nabbed them for the freezer and had similar thoughts... I hadn't really eaten Trout before, apart from trying a teeny piece of my aunt's in a restaurant so was looking quite forward to trying it out at home..

On the previous night, I had thawed the trout and stuffed them with a mixture of fried pancetta, garlic, rosemary in butter and then baked them in the oven, and served up with mashed potato. Unfortunately I found the trout so bony it put me off eating it, but not wanting to waste anything, I let it cool down then painstakingly removed all the bones and popped the leftover fish into the fridge whilst deciding how best to reinvent it! In all honesty too I wasn't wowed by the trout, and not sure will buy it again but the fishcakes were an excellent end to my fishies journey!

The idea of fishcakes came to mind as purposely I had made extra mashed potato also the previous night, and that I am rather partial to homemade fishcakes, and with my darling being also open to the idea, assembled them along with a few odd bits from the fridge. I always think of myself as a bit of a magpie with cooking, borrowing ideas from here and there and often store up ideas, because I am really not quite sure what prompted me to use horseradish but it worked a treat, adding a nice little kick!

A new toy I recently got sent was also the making of the dish - my 'Masha'! Oh where have you been all my life?! I really loathe certain kitchen tasks, grating being one but my main is mashing potato! All that effort gaining popeye like muscles and ending up with lumpy mash has resulted in me very rarely making it! In fact if it wasn't for the boyfriend asking for mashed potatoes I could have carried on quite happily never mashing potatoes again! Fortunately fate stepped in with the arrival of my Masha, and I am now more than happy to make mash!

You may be somewhat skeptical, a bit like me as to whether one can really justify more kitchen tools but I actually sold my blender to make space for this. Perfectly smooth potatoes, literally in seconds. Apparently it does lots of other clever things too, including pastry, houmous and cakes. The magic part is that is doesn't have blades to reduce your ingredients to smoosh, it works by literally pushing for example the potato through small holes, thus not breaking up the gluten, and making the equivalent of wallpaper paste! I had left the skin on my potatoes when boiling, so was even more of a test of the machine but it coped perfectly, not to mention more nutritious too!

The resulting fishcakes were delicious, the nice spicy kick from the horseradish gently warms the tongue without ruining the flavour's of the trout. We recently moved house, and my dear neighbour and long time friend Ces happened to pop in whilst I was finishing making them and I gave her two for her husbands dinner, which apparently went down so well she now has to make them again! Though this time I have volunteered to do the mash!

Makes 6, serve 2 per person

Mixture:360g cold mashed potato
70g leftover cooked trout finely flaked
3 tbsp soft cheese or similar ingredient
1 spring onion finely chopped
S&p to taste
1 tsp lemon juice (from a bottle is fine!)
2 tsp creamed horseradish

Coating:1 beaten egg
Bowl of fine breadcrumbs
Pinch of s&p

Start by preparing a foil lined tray

Gently combine all the mixture ingredients until its thick but smooth enough to shape. Form a large ball into a 'cake' shape, toss in the egg and gently pat on the breadcrumbs and repeat to make a total of six fishcakes, spray with a little cooking oil. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Now with regards to cooking, you can oven bake or grill. My 'new' oven is actually an antique and they frankly just would not brown, and after a good 30 minutes got grilled to give them a firmer crust and better colour. However my lovely neighbour has a fan oven, and after less than 30 minutes in a hot oven, her two were perfect!

Alongside the fishcakes, I served honey roasted sweet potato chunks, braised cabbage and topped with a fried egg. And it was all delicious!

Many thanks to Dianne Kenyon for my Masha!
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