Monday, 27 May 2013

Keepin' it Simple Paella

Paella is one of those dishes that tastes exquisite when cooked traditionally, in a huge pan with loads of different sea food and complex, rustic flavourings. I also think it can be bloody delicious cooked nice and simple with a few key ingredients.

For me, a chorizo and prawn combo captures the typical flavour of the dish, so I don't bother/can't afford to add in all the mussels or even chicken! This is a fairly quick recipe, and when you've got all the ingredients in, you can kind of just leave it to bubble away and soak up the stock. I actually chop one ingredient, throw it in the pan, then chop the next and so on, so there's not much prep involved! These quantities (only rough guides as normal) made enough for me and my boyfriend - he eats A LOT so it is probably enough for three! Here I have also used risotto rice, which makes it more creamy than you would get in Spain, but is yummy anyway!!  Enjoy!


small white onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or grated
1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
salt and black pepper
100g chorizo, chopped
half red pepper, chopped
1 chicken stock cube
risotto rice (2 portions as indicated on the packet)
6-10 king prawns (I like to remove all of the shell to avoid faff when eating, but whatever your preferences are!)
a handful of frozen peas
a small handful of fresh parsley, chopped


Boil the kettle ready for the stock.

In a large frying pan (I actually used a wok!), fry the onion in a dash of oil until it starts to soften. Add the garlic, chilli, a healthy sprinkle of paprika and seasoning.

Fry for a minute or two, then add the chorizo.

When the chorizo begins to brown a little, add the chopped pepper.

Make your stock by mixing the cube with the boiling water in a jug, measuring out the water. The stock will need to cover all the ingredients and more... usually about double the quantity of rice (follow the instructions on the rice packet), but I always end up adding more water as it seems to soak it up like crazy!

Stir the risotto rice in with the chorizo and other ingredients, making sure it is all coated nicely in the red colouring. Fry for a couple more minutes.

Then you can add the stock, prawns and peas, mixing it all together.

Then this can just bubble away for about half an hour, until all the rice is soft. You will need to keep an eye on it, give it a stir every now and again, and add more water if needed... but pop an episode of Friends or Big Bang Theory on and kick back for a bit!

Finally, stir most of the parsley into the paella, dish up, and then sprinkle a little on top of each plate with a quick twist of black pepper. Simple!


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Nana and Grandad's Diamond Wedding Feast

This week is my Nana and Grandad's Diamond Wedding Anniversary - 60years married - amazing that they've put up with each other for so long! And yesterday we had a big party for them at my parents' house, with all the family, and extended family, and family friends, and family you didn't even know you had family... It was absolutely lovely and my grandparents had a great time. My Grandad's speech certainly brought a tear to the eye!!

Homemade Buffet Feast

My fantastic mum and auntie, along with help from Nana's butcher (ham and beef, a couple of homemade quiches and pork pies) and a couple of others, made an amazing feast for the 60guests. I could go on about how delicious each thing was individually, but it would take all night! So here are some photos for you to drool over... well done mum, even catering for 60 doesn't stop your culinary genius!!!



I didn't get home until Friday evening, so unfortunately didn't make very much of it. But I made four tray fulls of sandwiches Saturday morning which I had to include because every buffet needs a load of egg, prawn, and cheese sandwiches!

Nana & Grandad's Feast cont.



This was my plate full... and I'd only literally picked one of each!! Absolutely delicious though!


Now there were some beautiful deserts as well, but unfortunately by the time I got to them with the camera...

So there you have it... a yummy homemade feast for 60people!!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Anjum Anand's Light Cumin-Flavoured Chicken Curry

Anjum Anand 'I Love Curry'

This colourful curry book, published by Quadrille, has gorgeous full page photographs for every recipe. I'm quite a visual person so I like to see what my dish is (hopefully!) going to look like, and I often pick to cook recipes with a photo over those without.

The dishes all sound delicious, and I think I picked one of the least exciting ones (not out of choice, but down to the stock left in my Sainsbury's local at 7pm on a Tues!) - I certainly plan to cook my way through most of these.

With sections on 'To Start: Bites', 'The Curries' and 'Accompaniments', this book offers an easy meal plan as I always love to make a starter if I'm cooking for someone or for an occasion. And the curries and accompaniments are then broken down into several different chapters, so you can pick to suit ingredients you may have already got in the fridge.

I often whip up a curry with one of the Pataks curry pastes and either some chopped tomatoes or coconut milk... and this produces a consistently tasty curry. But this is a lovely, well laid out book, that I can see myself using every time I want to spend a bit more time over making a curry and fancy some more interesting flavours. (I should just say that I'm really not a fan of the cover - I think the colour combination makes the book look cheap and in-authentic, which it's not - but under the dust-jacket is a plain mint green that looks much much nicer!!)

Light Cumin-Flavoured Chicken Curry

... in my case it was a turkey curry, but that's because I was making it on a budget! I think it would have been much more flavoursome with the chicken on the bone, as recommended in the recipe, but hey, it was pretty good anyway!

I also chose to add green pepper, because I wanted to bulk it out a little and so that we had a bit of variety as I was simply doing this with naan bread as a late dinner for me and a friend.

It's a long recipe so I won't write it out, but basically marinade the chicken/turkey in a mixture of plain yoghurt, garlic, ginger, ground cumin and ground coriander... and leave (for much longer than the 10mins I did!)

 Fry off the onion and cumin seeds, then add garam masala, chillies (and pepper).
 Add the marinaded meat.
 Add water and simmer. Add fresh coriander (which Sainsbury's had unfortunately run out of!) and serve.

Anjum Anand words it much better than that, and there are a lot of details that I have missed out, but this is the general idea!  And the result was good - maybe not 'the best Indian curry I'll ever cook' - but light, simple and tasty. A definite one for the future.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Quick Mid-Week Meal

Chorizo, Mushroom and Onion Omelette

Just a quick, easy, on-the-go meal but a really yummy one. I love omelettes because you can put just about anything in it and it will taste great. This one is not so adventurous, but will give a great result.


1/4 of an onion, chopped
handful of mushrooms, sliced
2 eggs
splash of milk
few chorizo pieces (this version is done with sandwich chorizo, not the good sausage stuff)
black pepper
cheese, grated (optional)


Put your chopped onion in a frying pan with a small amount of butter. When it is starting to soften then add your mushrooms.

While these are fying, crack both eggs into a jug and add the milk. Whisk 'em up good and proper with a fork. I always add a healthy sprinkling of black pepper in here, and mix that up as well.

When the mushrooms are looking a bit brown and giving off that great smell, add the chorizo. Shortly after, pour in the egg mixture and turn the heat down a tad.

Leave it a couple of minutes to cook through - not turning too brown underneath, but until it is starting to look less runny on top. Add the grated cheese.

Give it a little while more, then use a spatula to loosen around the edges, folding it in half, then serve!

Easy peasy, yummy scrummy, cook me an omelette, I'm in a hurry!!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Birthday Meal at Thai Square, Covent Garden

The restaurant

My favorite food is Thai... Thai curries, Thai spiced fish and meat, Thai veggies, Thai everything! I love the fresh zingy flavours and the fact that you can absolutely stuff your face and still feel reasonably healthy!

So I was extremely pleased that my lovely fella took me to a Thai restaurant for my birthday Saturday night. We ordered far too much food and ate all of it, and I think my only real negative for the evening was where we were sitting... because the food was fantastic!

The picture above (taken from Thai Square website as I forgot my camera! doesn't really show how richly decorated the place is inside. And unfortunately, we couldn't really appreciate the decor from our seats either. We were sat right at the front of the restaurant, not the very first row of tables so you're sat next to the window, but the next row back kind of tucked away in a corner. This was mildly frustrating as we booked way in advance, knowing it was a Sat night in London, and we were hoping to be right in the middle of all the atmosphere towards the back of the restaurant. But hey, we stopped caring as soon as we had a glass of white wine and Singha beer in front of us!

The Food

We always always have the sharing platter if there's an option; both love to taste a few different things for a starter/ can never pick which dish we want to try more! I can honestly say that this was the best Thai sharing platter I've ever had... the chicken satay was rich in flavour with the right amount of crunch; the Thai fish cakes were flavourful yet delicate... and just yummy; the duck spring rolls had a beautifully crispy filo pastry with plenty of stuff in the middle; the prawn tempura was so juicy with the lightest batter... probably my favorite one of this dish; and the Thai Dim Sum dissolved into flavour in my mouth. So off to a fantastic start, I wish I had a photo for you! The only thing that it was maybe missing was a funky shaped carrot so I could mop up the different sauces!!

For mains we had a monk fish green curry from the chefs specials, which was delicious. I very often go for a green curry and every time after ordering I think 'damn it I should have had something different'. And then it comes and the taste is just that good, that I know I'll order it again next time! Having monk fish was a special treat though, and it was seriously good, flake in the mouth stuff!

We also had beef Pad Kee Mao - spicy noodles... And damn they were spicy!! It does warn on the menu and normally we're both pretty good with hot flavours, but wow, I think we over estimated our love for hot food here. We both continued to eat it and the beef was delicious, but there were several rather large chunks of chilli that were blow your head off hot, and kind of stole away from the other flavours. Definitely did not ruin the meal though, and gave us quite a giggle at how bad we were at picking dishes!

We picked very well for our third and final main course dish, however... a dish they call Drunken Duck (battered marinated duck topped with home-made special whiskey sauce). It was unbelievably good - a teeny bit fatty as would be expected from duck, but the crunch of the batter was enough to keep the texture from feeling stodgy. But the flavour... oh the flavour... it somehow reminded me of American food, but only the stuff we love about American food, and having the fresh, zingy flavours of Thai food stopped it from being, well, y'know... American! There was something very satisfying about the mixture of traditional Thai green curry and this dish, that I wouldn't have immediately recognised as Thai, but that was quite simply, yummy!!!

So after all of that, we were just too full for any dessert and had to waddle back home. It was a lovely meal, slight shame about the setting, but I'd certainly go back. The menu was vast and had a load of other dishes I'd love to try, like the chef special Goong Fai Dang (Prawns with Whiskey) and some of their salads, so a definite one for the future. There are also several Thai Square retaurants dotted about London, so maybe next time I'll try a different one to mix it up!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Made-up Make-Me-Better Salad

So tonight I wasn't feeling my best - probably just overtired from my exciting weekend (which I will write about tomorrow), and a nasty sore throat making itself apparent. So I wanted a quick, easy, healthy dinner that would make me better! My mum always used to say that oranges would cure any sore throat, so I was determined to use oranges of some kind! I also had a couple of pork medallions and some feta left over from last night which I wanted to use. So I had a fumble in my fridge and decided on this...


Pork Medallions
Splash of Fresh Orange Juice
Generous Dash of Balsamic Vinegar
Pinch of Sugar
Mixed Lettuce Leaves
Red Onion
Feta Cheese


Sear the pork for a few minutes on each side, then continue to cook it on a lower heat.

Add the satsuma segments, orange juice, balsamic and sugar to the pan when the pork is starting to look cooked.

Prep the salad. (I love red onion so had a good portion!) Crumble or chop the feta into small pieces.

When the pork is cooked through, add to the salad and pour the sauce over.


This was exactly what I fancied tonight, and for a bit of a concoction, it was fairly good! The recipe definitely still needs some tweaking, so any suggestions would be most welcome! I added the sugar to try and avoid it being to tart, but it still had a bit of a twang (actually quite nice to spark some feeling into my numbing throat!) So it's an idea I'll revisit when I next need a Make-Me-Better Salad!

Cooking for a Friend

Hoisin and Garlic Pork Medallions with Feta and Coriander Stuffed Sweet Potato

My friend came for dinner last night and I created a bit of a concoction, borrowing from a couple of different recipes. Everyone had been chatting about pork at work, so that was my starting point - pork medallions from the Tesco Finest range (on offer obviously!) My sauce was actually inspired by the recipe on the back of the pork pack, and adapted to use ingredients I already had. The sweet potato recipe is a variation of one of my absolute favorites from Jamie's 30minute meals - he mashes sweet potato and normal potato with feta, chilli and coriander (and it's delicious!). My friend isn't keen on chilli so I ditched this part and decided to bake the sweet potatoes as a change. It all took me less than half an hour, and received great reviews from my friend!


Pork Medallions
Hoisin and Garlic Sauce (I used ready-made because I already had some, but would be nicer homemade!)
Dark Soy Sauce
Garlic (fine chopped)
Ginger (grated or fine chopped)
Spring Onions (rough chopped)
Sweet Potatoes
Feta Cheese
Veggies (carrots and broccoli for me!)


Put the sweet potatoes on a baking tray into a preheated oven (about 180degrees).  They need about 20-30mins depending on the size of the potato.

Sear the pork in a hot pan for a couple of minutes each side, then put to one side.

Get a pan of water boiling for your veg.

Mix the hoisin and garlic sauce with a few dashes of soy sauce in a bowl. Fry the garlic and ginger in a drop of olive oil until just turning golden, then add the sauce.

Put the pork into the pan with the sauce and keep the heat on fairly low to cook through for 5-10mins.

Put the veg in your boiling water, or better steam it if you've got the right utensils (which I don't unfortunately!)

Take the potatoes out of the oven and cut in half. Cut slices through the inside of the potato, not cutting through the skin.

 Chop the feta and coriander together to mix all the flavours.

Then use your knife to push the mixture into the gaps you've just cut into the sweet potatoes. Pop back in the oven for a few minutes.

Then voila! Dish up, sprinkle the spring onion on top of the meat...