Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Wednesday's Dinner: Butternut, Chickpea & Spinach Curry

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This is another healthy recipe that I have adapted from one I found on I tend to play around with things, adding a bit here and there and substituting ingredients to fit what I have in or what I like. Most of the time it works out quite well thankfully. The original recipe called for kale and didn't contain any brown mustard seed, I also sauteed the onions for longer until nice and soft, that's why I have posted my altered version below.

We had it just as it was with some Garlic & Coriander Naan Bread, but it'd be nice served over some Basmati or Pilaf Rice as well. I'm already looking forward to having some of the leftovers for lunch at work tomorrow and D. can cook himself some rice to go with the rest for dinner while I'm out with the girls.


The recipe makes a large amount, I think if you served it with rice and naan you could probably feed 6 people.

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch fresh ginger, grated (it’s easiest if you freeze it first and grate it when frozen)
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
½ a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 medium- large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp Patak’s Korma or other mild curry paste
1 can coconut milk
250ml vegetable stock
3tbsp natural smooth peanut butter
100 gr spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup frozen green peas
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a large heavy based pan. Sautee the onion over a low heat until soft but not browned.

Add the garlic, ginger and mustard seeds and sautee for a further 2 minutes. Now stir in the curry paste and fry for another minute or so, until it becomes fragrant.

Add the butternut squash, potatoes and chickpeas and stir until all the veg is coated.

Add the veg stock, coconut milk and peanut butter and stir until well combined.

Bring to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes and squash is tender. It depends on how big your veg cubes are, but should take about half an hour.

Stir in the spinach and peas and cook for another five minutes, until the peas are hot and the spinach has wilted.

Sprinkle with chopped coriander.

You can serve this just as it is with some naan bread or chapatti or serve it ladled over some rice.

Tuesday's Dinner: Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Sauce with Tortellini

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I found this recipe originally in a Weight Watchers Pasta Cookbook that I picked up from a charity shop years ago. The best thing about this recipe, rather than being fairly low in calories (well at least if you don't overdo it with the pasta), is that it's so quick to make, which makes it ideal for those nights where I get home from work late and don't really feel like cooking. You can have this on the table in 20 minutes.


It's okay to leave out the pine kernels, but their sweet nuttiness really make this recipe. The sauce is quite thick, unless your spinach is quite wet, so if you prefer it to be a little thinner add a little bit of milk or vegetable stock at the end. According to the cookbook this serves four people, but then we're talking Weight Watchers, so we usually finish it between the two of us.

Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Sauce for Pasta

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh thyme
1lb spinach, washed, coarse stems removed and roughly chopped
150gr ricotta cheese
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
2-3 tbsp pine kernels, toasted

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the chopped onion. Sautee over a low heat until the onions are soft and golden, but not brown.

Add the thyme and the garlic and fry for a further two minutes or until you can smell the garlic. Make sure it doesn't brown by stirring continuously.

Add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted.

Stir in the ricotta cheese, mix well and heat through.

Season liberally with nutmeg, salt and pepper and serve immediately over your favourite cooked pasta. Sprinkle with toasted pine kernels.


Monday's Dinner: Salmon Fishcakes

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Sticking to the meal plan I made on Sunday we had Salmon Fishcakes with homemade Potato Wedges and a mixed green salad for dinner on Monday.

I adapted the recipe to my liking from one posted by Wendy's Kitchen on Recipezaar. I had never made any fishcakes that didn't contain potatoes, but gotta say they were really quite good and the best thing about it is that they used up a can of Salmon I've had in my kitchen cupboard for yonks.


This is what I did with the recipe, it made five fishcakes:

Healthy Salmon Fishcakes

1 large can of salmon
1/4 cup of porridge oats
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg white
2tbsp fresh chives, chopped
2tbsp fresh corriander, chopped
1 tsp dill
1 tsp chili flakes
1 1/2 tbsp sweet chili sauce

In a mixing bowl mash the salmon, ricotta, oats and egg white together.

Add the herbs, chili flakes and chili sauce and mix well.

Shape into fishcakes and fry over medium heat in a little olive oil until golden brown on each side and heated through. Be careful when turning them, so they don't fall apart.

Depending on the size of your egg or how well you drain your salmon you might want to add a few more oates if the mix is too wet.

Having a healthy week

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Inspired by Amanda at Little Foodies I made a dinner plan for this week. I used to make meal plans every summer when I used to work as an Associate Lecturer, as I wouldn't get paid over the summer break and really needed to budget. I have no idea why I stopped doing them, laziness I guess if I'm honest. Obviously they save money, because I shop accordingly and won't waste as much money by throwing out food, but being organised like that also means I'm less tempted to order some food in cooking balanced meal instead.

I have also known for quite a while that I want to cut down on the amount of meat we eat. It's quite strange as D. used to be vegetarian , but now he is an even bigger carnivore than me. So here is this weeks dinner plan, which has two meat dishes, one fish dish and three vegetarian meals:


Monday - Healthy Salmon Fishcakes with homemade Potato Wedges and a mixed salad
Tuesday - Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Sauce with Tortellini
Wednesday - Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry
Thursday - I'm meeting friends for a meal and a couple of drinks
Friday - Souvlaki
Saturday - Nutty Bean Burgers with homemade Balsamic Oven Chips and a mixed salad
Sunday - Roast Chicken with Roast Vegetable Couscous

Friday, 25 January 2008

Let them eat soup!

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As everyone who has been watching the UK news at the beginning of the week will know (well most people in the UK will actually know from their own experience), it has been raining and raining and raining here in Yorkshire.

Well, I have to say it has been hideous and I certainly didn't feel like singing. Maybe if Gene Kelly had been around to accompany me I would have burst into song and dance, but as that wasn't the case the only remedy I could think of was to wrap up warm, light a fire, make soup and of course eat it!


When I was in New York in December I had a wonderful Chicken and Corn Chowder, so now my quest is to come up with a recipe to match it. I haven't quite perfected it, but nevertheless this was pretty good and in my opinion well worth posting. I took the Sweetcorn Chowder recipe from 'Nigella Express' as the basis and added and adapted a little here and there to come up with this. It served two of us, plus one portion to take to work for lunch the next day.

Quick Chicken and Corn Chowder

500gr frozen sweetcorn, defrosted
2 spring onions, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 small clove of garlic, peeled
35gr cornmeal or semolina
1 litre hot vegetable stock
1 chicken breast fillet, cooked and shredded
1 pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 red chili, seeds removed and finely chopped

200gr lightly salted tortilla chips
some grated cheddar

Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas 6/400F.

Drain any liquid that might have collected while defrosting from the sweetcorn and place it in a food processor together with the spring onions, garlic, cornmeal (semolina) and blend until mushy.

Scrape the mix into a heavy bottomed pan, add the vegetable stock, stir and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with cayenne, salt and pepper.

Lower the heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the soup is simmering spread your tortillas on a baking sheet and sprinkle with as much or as little cheddar as you like, warm them through in your oven until the cheese has melted. It should take about 5 minutes

Add the shredded cooked chicken to the soup (I fried mine on low heat while the soup was simmering, but you could use left over roast chicken as well) and heat through.

Fill some bowls with the soup and top with a few of the tortilla chips and sprinkle with chili.

Serve the rest of the tortilla chips on the side.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Did I mention that I love potatoes?

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At the end of last week I caught the dreaded stomach bug that's going around. So by the time it got to dinner time on Monday and I was starting to feel myself again, I wanted some comforting but not too spicy or complicated food. Rooting through my cupboards I found some baking potatoes and can of the old favourite and well trusted Heinz Baked Beans (all be it the new reduced salt and sugar version). So that quickly made up my mind as to what to make.

I started making Jacket Potatoes when I was student and have never grown tired of them, which I can't say about all the other meals I made while I was at University. It took quite a few years to perfect them though, as my first experiments included only a microwave and of course didn't yield the crispy outside that I so love and later moving to the use of an oven instead I was often confronted with potatoes that were still a bit hard in the middle.

Well, this is how I make them these days and to me they seem perfect: brown and crispy skin and a soft fluffy middle. Just add some butter, salt, pepper and your favourite topping and they make a great lunch or even dinner.


Perfect Jacket Potatoes

2 baking potatoes
1 tsp olive oil
coarse salt

Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas 6/400F.

Wash your potatoes and dry them well, prick the skin with a knife or fork.

Microwave them for 12 minutes on full power (add six minutes per potato if you are making more).

Pour the olive oil into the palm of your hand and rub the potatoes all over, careful they are hot.

Rub some coarse salt all over the skins.

Place on a tray in the middle of the oven and bake for about 1 hour.

Pierce them with a sharp knife, they might need a little longer if they are really big.

Serve them with butter, salt, pepper and your favourite topping.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

A day of cleaning

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I’ve had a bunch of bananas lying about for days now that really needed eating. So, today after I did my kitchen spring clean, which involved emptying out all the cupboards, fridge and pantry and washing them inside and out before re-organising them, I decided to quickly make a banana bread.

The problem was that my favourite recipe calls for two eggs and I only had one left in the fridge, so I went looking for a recipe that used only one. I finally found one and combined it with my usual recipe, to come up with this.


I hope you’ll like it as much as we did! It came as a nice treat after all those hours spend going through cupboards and cleaning stuff. I found quite a few things that I had forgotten about and of course those things you pick up on travels and at special markets that you are just fascinated by and have to buy even though you really have no idea what you’re gonna do with them. Well, they are at the front of my cupboard now and I’m planning to use them over the next couple of months before they go off.

I only had to chuck out some rather soggy wheat-a-bix, some black treacle and nori, as well as getting rid off some never used storage containers and salt & pepper shakers. Usually, I’m embarrassed to say, my once a year clear out unearths more things that have gone beyond saving.


Nutty Banana Bread

1 ½ cups of flour
¾ cups of sugar
75gr shortening, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
1 egg
3 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4/375F.

In a large bowl mash your bananas.

Add all other ingredients except from the walnuts and mix using a wooden spoon.

Add the toasted walnuts and mix into the batter.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 50-60 minutes. It’s done when a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Note: To toast your walnuts, spread them on a flat baking sheet and place them in the oven for about 5 minutes.

Monday, 14 January 2008

One Pot Chicken with Beans

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I took some chicken breast fillets out of my freezer on Saturday and then, I'm embarrassed to say, we ended up having a dirty take away instead. After eating it I so wished I had cooked, just like 90% of the time when we order some food in. I really should know better, but I just felt too lazy. Anyways I still had the defrosted chicken left to use up last night.

Whilst visiting my family in Germany over the holidays, I bought a new cookbook like I always do. It's full of tasty looking and sounding one pot meals and this is one of the recipes that caught my eye whilst looking through it the other day.


Instead of using the chicken pieces called for in the recipe, I used the fillets and just decreased the cooking time, especially the initial frying time. I also added some garlic (essential in my kitchen) and some extra chili and scaled the recipe (serves 6) down for just the two of us. We both really enjoyed it and thought it was well worth sharing.

One Pot Chicken with Beans (Hühnereintopf)

3 1/2lb bone in chicken pieces with skin
2tbsp paprika
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 (400gr) can chopped tomatoes
200ml dry white wine
500ml chicken stock
1tbsp Worcester Sauce
¼ tbsp Tabasco
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 of a chopped red chili, seeds removed
1tbsp freshly chopped parsley (I used basil)
1 (350gr) can sweetcorn
1 (400gr) can butter beans

Season the chicken pieces with salt and the paprika.

In a large, heavy based pan, heat the oil and butter. Fry the chicken pieces over a medium heat until they have turned golden brown. This should take about 10-12 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions and bell peppers to the pan and fry on a low heat for about 5 minutes until the have softened.

Add the tomatoes, wine, stock, Worcester sauce, Tabasco, garlic, chili and parsley (basil). Stir together whilst bringing it to a simmer. Add the chicken back to the pan, cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.Add the sweetcorn and beans and allow to simmer for a further 30 minutes, keeping the pan only half covered.

You might want to thicken the sauce a little with a cornflower/water paste.

Garnish with some more freshly chopped parsley (basil).

This is great served just as it is with some crusty bread, or you can serve it over rice.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Potato Wedges

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I love potatoes. I could eat them everyday for a week and never get bored of them as they are so versatile. Mashed they are one of my favourite comfort foods, roasted they are a guilty pleasure but perfect with any Sunday dinner, baked and combined with my favourite fillings they make a great dinner and I could go on and on.

Tonight I'm making oven potato wedges to have with a salad and some grilled chicken breast fillets. You can experiment with any combination of seasoning, whatever tickles you're fancy should work. It doesn't matter if you use a ready bought mix or use different herbs and spices, until now whatever I have tried has worked out just fine. You can also add things like lemon juice, balsamic vinegar or tabasco, there really are no limits. Preparing them this way makes the wedges crisp and golden on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

This makes enough for 2 people, but you can easily increase the recipe to serve more.


Savoury Oven Wedges

2 large baking potatoes, cut into wedges
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Italian or steak seasoning
salt, to taste

Once you have cut the potatoes into wedges, (8-12 depending on the size of the potato) place the wedges into a large bowl of cold water for thirty minutes to an hour. You can leave them in longer or even overnight if you like. This washes out some of the starch and guarantees a nice crispy outside.

In a large, strong food bag, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix into a paste, by rubbing it all together.

Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas 7.

Drain the potatoes and pat them dry with a paper towel. Now add them to the large food bag. Hold the top shut and shake the contents about until your wedges are evenly coated with the spice paste.

Spread them out into a single layer on a non-stick oven tray. You won't need any additional oil, the oil from the paste is enough.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden and done. They need turning once after about 20 minutes.

They make a great side dish or serve them with some sour cream as a wonderful snack.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Another Late Holiday Treat

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I meant to share this recipes before Christmas but obviously never got around to it. Every year since we have lived in our current house we have a pre-Christmas 'Glühwein Party'. Having grown up in Germany, mulled wine has always been an essential part of the holiday season for me, especially to warm you up during the run up to Christmas. It's still nice to have now though, in particular when you have been out for a long walk at the weekend, coming in and craving something to really warm you up.

We invite all our friends round and I make a large pot full of wonderfully hot, spiced wine. We also get the BBQ out to grill German sausages and simply serve them in a bread bun, like you get on the German Christmas markets that are happening all over the UK now.

The recipe makes a large amount, but you can easily scale it down and make a small portion. You could also try adding some cranberries and maybe a couple of star anise. You can't beat the smell that your house becomes filled with.


Glühwein/Mulled Wine

2-3 oranges, quartered
8 cloves
3 litres of red wine ( I usually use a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot)
1 litre of orange juice
1/3 litre dark rum
1 apple, cored and sliced
2-3 cinnamon sticks
brown sugar, to taste

more rum, amaretto or cointreau to serve

Stud the orange quarters with the cloves, that will stop the cloves from floating around in the drink and ending up in somebody's cup.

Place all ingredients into a large slow cooker. You can also use a large heavy based pan, but I prefer the slow cooker as it allows for all the flavours to really mix and develop.

Set the slow cooker to medium or high and check after a couple of hours, you don't want the contents to boil as it would make the alcohol evaporate. Once the contents are properly heated, reduce the setting to low to keep the wine warm for as long as needed.

If you use a large pan just try and heat the wine as slowly as possible and avoid it boiling.

Add sugar to your liking, stirring until it's dissolved.

Serve in mugs with an extra shot of rum, amaretto or cointreau.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Fabulous Fudge

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I usually don't do the whole resolutions for the new year bit, as they just get forgotten, but well this time I did and that's to update this blog more often than I have been doing.

It might have been more fitting to post this recipe before the holidays as it makes a great home-made present (in fact I made it as a Secret Santa present), but who says that fudge is only for Christmas. I could eat this at anytime of the year. Using good quality dark chocolate (I use Green & Blacks) means that it is very rich and chocolaty. I found it hard to resist.

This is a recipe from Nigella Lawson's 'Nigella Express' book, therefore it is quick and simple and you won't need to fuss about with a sugar thermometer.


Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

350g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped roughly
1 (397g) can condensed milk
30g butter
pinch of salt
150g pistachios, roughly chopped or bashed with a rolling pin

In a large heavy-based pan, melt the chocolate together with the condensed milk, butter and salt. Keep the heat low and stir continuously.

Once the chocolate is melted and has mixed with the other ingredients stir in the pistachios and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a 23cm square foil tray or a tray lined with baking paper. Smooth the top.

Let the mixture cool and then place it in the fridge until fully set. Once it is hard, turn it out onto a chopping board and cut into small pieces.

You can keep the pieces of fudge in the freezer and don't even need to defrost them before eating.