Posted in Food, Health & Wellbeing, Recipes

Dinner All Wrapped Up

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

Lately my family have gone off meat finding pork bland, lamb fatty and steak tough. So I decided to turn to the ocean for meal inspiration. As a child the humble fishfinger was the extent of my fish eating. Now I love fish, influenced by the abundance of variety available in Mediterranean fish markets.

Image by Mark Williams from Pixabay

Fish has a range of health benefits. We should be eating at least two portions a week including oily fish. White fish are extremely low in fat. Oily fish are a good source of vitamin D which aid the bodies absorption of calcium, and enhances the immune system. It is also rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers. Consumption of oily fish also improves vision and memory. Pregnant and breast feeding women should include a portion a week of oily fish, because it helps the development of babies nervous system. However no more than two portions a week are recommended, because they contain low levels of pollutants called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins, which build up in the body and can affect foetal development. Dioxins are toxic. Humans exposure occurs through animal products, including fish. Extreme exposure can cause skin lesions and damage to the immune system. Most fish contain traces of mercury so consumption should be limited.

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

Fish in Foil

Preheat oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Peel and thinly slice 1 red onion. Deseed 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green bell pepper and chop into quarters. Peel and crush 4 cloves of garlic. Grate a 1cm piece of ginger. Share the vegetables and ginger between 4 sheets of foil and top with a fish fillet of choice. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and fold into parcels. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Alternatively these fish parcels are great cooked on a barbecue or open fire.

Image by Karsten Bergmann from Pixabay

Posted in Food, Recipes

Nuts About Bananas

Image by Bruno /Germany from PixabaA

A bunch of bananas were sitting in my fruit bowl turning ripe and brown. My new years resolution was to have less food waste. I normally would give them to my mum who happily eats them turning black and syrupy, but lockdown makes that impossible. Banana bread it is then.

Bananas are associated with a number of health benefits. One of the most prominent is blood pressure. They are a good source of potassium which helps maintain blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular strain. Combined with their fibre, folate and antioxidant properties bananas are a great food source for all round heart health. A high fibre diet can help lower blood sugar, which may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Bananas are linked to preventing certain types of cancer. A carbohydrate binding protein called lectin occurs in bananas. They act as an antioxidant, helping to remove free radical molecules from the body. Cell damage can occur with a build up of these molecules. This cell damage can lead to cancer cells developing, in particular leukemia. Their vitamin C content may also play a role in this. Finally bananas are considered beneficial to good digestive health because of their high fibre content.

NutrientAmount in One Medium BananaApproximate Daily Adult Intake
Energy Calories1051,800 – 3,000
Carbohydrate (g)27 (14.4 are sugars)130
Fibre (g)3.125.2 – 33.6
Protein (g)1.346 – 56
Potassium (mg)4224,700
Magnesium (mg)31.9320 – 420
Phosphorus (mg)26700
Choline (mg)11.6425 – 550
Vitamin C (mg)10.375 – 90
Beta Carotene (mcg)30.7No Data
Alpha Carotene (mcg)29.5No Data
Selenium (mcg)1.955
Folate (mcg DFE)23.6400
Nutrition in a medium sized banana

Low Fat Banana and Walnut Loaf

Ingredients

  • 250g Plain All Purpose Flour
  • 55g Butter
  • 30g Fat Free Yoghurt
  • 110g Soft Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 5 Medium Ripe Bananas
  • 50g Walnuts
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/356°F/Gas Mark 4 and lightly grease a 900g loaf tin and line with parchment paper.

Beat the butter, sugar and yoghurt in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy and pale in colour. Mash the bananas with a fork and crush the walnuts in a food processor, or using a pestle and mortar. Add eggs and banana to the butter mix and stir until combined. Fold in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and walnuts.

Pour the mix into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 60-65 minutes. Use a skewer to check if loaf baked. To avoid burning crust, cover loosely with parchment paper for first 40 minutes of cooking.

Posted in Food, Recipes

Fluffy Homemade Marshmallows

Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

Christmas is essentially cancelled as the the south east of England wades into stricter tier 4 lockdown restrictions. All that is left to do is eat, drink and get through the festive period as best you can. Keeping sweet I decided to make homemade marshmallows today. Before you start a cooking thermometer and stand electric mixer are essential.

Ingredients

  • 4 Medium Egg Whites
  • 2pkts Powdered Gelatine
  • 700g White Castor Sugar
  • 11/2tbsp Liquid Glucose
  • 1tsp Vanilla Extract

Method

  1. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites until they form soft peaks and set aside.
  2. Mix the gelatine with 200ml of cold water and the vanilla extract.
  3. In a large saucepan stir together the caster sugar, liquid glucose and 300ml of water. Heat over a medium-high heat until the sugar syrup reaches 130°C. Remove from the heat and carefully add the gelatine mix. Sugar syrup is really hot and this process can bubble up so be really wary. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Returning to the egg whites. With the whisk on low add the sugar syrup and gelatine mixture. Then slowly turn the speed of the mixer up to high speed. Whisk for 8-10 minutes until the marshmallows thicken.
  5. Meanwhile line a deep sided tin with clingfilm and then coat with a little sunflower oil. Add the marshmallows to the tray, flatten with a knife and leave to set for a minimum of 2 hours.
  6. Once set remove from the tray and cut into squares. Dip the squares in desiccated coconut and drizzle with melted chocolate.
Posted in Food, Recipes

Red Kickin Chicken

Feeding a family with all their various likes and dislikes is a juggling act. I once met a woman who cooked different meals for her kids so they were all happy.

“When I’ve cooked you get what you’re given: eat it or go hungry.”

I choose balance throughout the week: meals that cater for everybody. My daughter likes chicken, but the man in my life only likes it processed and fried in batter or breadcrumbs. I have been on a mission to tempt him with marinades and flavours. This variation got a moderate reception and my daughter mopped the plate clean, so it will definitely be on the menu again.

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper
  • 2tsp Paprika
  • 1/2tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1tbsp Sunflower Oil
  • 1tbsp Butter
  • 1tbsp Plain All Purpose Flour
  • 6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thigh (or breast)
  • 1 Pint Chicken Stock
  • 1tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • Double Cream
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Fresh Parsley

Method

  1. Peel and slice the onion, deseed and slice the yellow bell pepper. Heat the sunflower oil over a medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the onion and pepper, season and fry until soft but not brown. Stir in the paprika and cayenne pepper.
  2. Add the flour to the pan, stir until it combines with the fat and evenly coats the onion and pepper. Allow the flour to cook for a minute or two before adding the chicken stock in batches, stirring constantly so it thickens evenly without lumps. Add a dash of white wine vinegar, to offset the bite of the spices.
  3. Halve the chicken thighs and add to the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes while the chicken cooks.
  4. Stir in a dash of cream. Season with salt and pepper and add a handful of chopped parsley. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes and a choice of cooked vegetables.

Images with thanks by: naobim, Steve Buissinne, Lola Gloger, Ajale, solucionindividual, Manfred Richter, congerdesign, tookapic, Gundula Vogel from Pixabay

Posted in Food

Pulled Pork and Fennel a Delicious Combo

I must confess I have given in and had the heating on. Only for an hour first thing when I wake. But it has made me acutely aware the long summer days are well and truly behind us. This whole weekend has been a grim and grey affair, perfect weather to fire up the oven and get in the kitchen. I have made a delicious homemade soup and white chocolate fairy cakes. Pulled pork is turning tender in the slow cooker and potatoes are baking in the oven.

Time to prepare the fennel, which in my opinion comes into its own slow roasted. Earlier I chopped off the leaves and added them to my soup so as nothing is wasted. Now all I do is slice the bulb into approximately half centimetre slices (no need for a ruler), season with salt and pepper, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil, and roast for an hour in a pre heated oven at 160°C/Fan140°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Trust me mouthfuls of this crisp, sweet, aniseed send the comfort levels through the roof.

Back to the pork I prepared earlier. Now there are many accessible pulled pork recipes, some better than others. My idea of good pulled pork is a hint of barbecue which doesn’t decimate the wonderful flavour of the meat. Below is what I did.

Ingredients

  • pork shoulder
  • 3tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tbsp barbecue sauce
  • 1tbsp Worcester sauce
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • 1tsp mustard powder
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 50ml cider
  • 50ml chicken stock
  • 25ml apple cider vinegar

Method

Add all the marinade ingredients into the bowl of the slow cooker and mix until combined. Add the pork to the pot and coat in the marinade. Cook for 5 hours on slow or 4 hours on high.

The meat should fall apart with a fork when ready. Remove meat from the slow cooker and shred with 2 forks. Add as little, or much of the marinade as you desire.

Posted in Food

Chocolate Pecan Pats

I must confess I can take or leave the crispy, crunch of a traditional biscuit preferring, soft and chewy cookies. Chocolate and pecans go together like: crackers and cheese, fish and chips, or strawberries and cream. The recipe I am going to share with you today was discovered a few years back when my daughter was offered the occasional catering contract by a close friend of mine, baking for her colleagues in the respiratory department at the Royal Derby hospital. They cover every want in a cookie, sweet chocolate combined with the mellow nuttiness of pecans, the perfect combination of soft and chew in every bite. They were an instant hit, despite jokes about looking like mini cow pats, and have been aptly named Chocolate Pecan Pats.

Ingredients

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 110g plain flour
  • 100g butter
  • 70g soft brown sugar
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g pecan halves plus 12 extra
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

Heat oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease 2 large baking sheets.

Add the butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg to a bowl and mix until smooth. Melt 100g of the chocolate in the microwave, or over a bain-marie (a bowl over a pan of simmering water). Fold the melted chocolate into the butter mix and stir in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Chop the remaining chocolate into small cubes and add to the mix with the pecan halves, leaving 12 aside.

Heap 12 spoons of the cookie mix, spaced well apart on the baking trays (6 on each tray). Add a pecan to each cookie. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Leave to cool before storing in an air tight container.

Posted in Food

Perfect Shortcrust Quite by Accident

Photo by Malidate Van on Pexels.com

Pastry making can cause dissension amongst bakers. The only golden rule agreed on, stems from the age old saying ‘cold hands make good pastry’. Keep the ingredients, utensils, surfaces, bowls, and your hands as cold as possible. Work quickly. And rest the pastry between each stage allowing the gluten to relax, preventing shrinkage and a tough finished product.

My grandmother made the most delicious pastry, which sadly has gone to the grave with her. Quite by accident I have discovered shortcrust pastry, that resembles her crumbly melt in the mouth finished product. Pastry chefs would no doubt banish me from their kitchen in disgrace; left to rot in kitchen purgatory. But I don’t care. I have been making pastry this way for some time now, with a crumbly, tasty consistent result.

Ingredients

  • 125g Plain Flour
  • 100g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g Butter
  • Salt
  • Water
  • 1tsp Vanilla Extract (for sweet shortcrust pastry only)

The addition of self raising flour, is the ‘quite by accident’ I am talking about. One day I did not have enough plain flour, so topped the scales with self raising. The result was perfect texture I had never achieved before.

As a child I was taught to rub my flour and butter with my fingertips. A food processor quickly combines the dry and wet ingredients, into a dough which can then be left in the fridge. For a better quality pastry I suggest using a stand mixer.

Method

With a paddle attachment on a low/medium speed combine the flour, salt, and butter until it resembles rough breadcrumbs.

Replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook, continuing on low/medium speed add the water 1 tablespoon at a time (if adding vanilla extract, do so at this stage). The dough will come together when the correct amount of liquid is added (which can vary).

Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover in cling film. Place in the fridge and allow to rest for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Before rolling the pastry wash your hands in cold water. Take the pastry from the fridge, and scatter a work surface and rolling pin with flour. Do not mould the pastry into a perfectly neat ball, which will toughen the cooked pastry. Simply roll the dough, occasionally turning clockwise to achieve the desired shape. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before using.

Posted in Food

Pina Colada Chicken Curry

The joy of experimental cooking combined with a love of bargains, has filled my kitchen cupboards to the brim. I am ashamed to say, I have for some time now headed to the supermarket crying ‘Old Mother Hubbard’, when in fact I have 3 months worth of staples. Enough is enough! No more is going in, until some comes out. This recipe was inspired by the Caribbean, and reduced my cupboard clutter of a tin of black beans, pineapple chunks and coconut milk. It was easy to make and a pleasure on the palate.

Ingredients

  • 8 Chicken Drumsticks/Thighs
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • Tin of Pineapple Chunks Plus 100ml of Juice
  • 400g Tin of Black Beans
  • 400g Tin of Coconut Milk
  • 20g Fresh Coriander
  • 1tbsp Medium Curry Powder
  • 1tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2tsp Corn Flour

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Heat the oil in a large oven proof frying pan and brown the chicken, about 5-7 minutes. Deseed and chop the pepper and add to the pan, with the curry powder.

Combine the corn flour with the pineapple juice, before adding to the pan with the coconut milk and pineapple chunks. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook in the oven for 35 minutes, remove and add the black beans and chopped coriander, return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Serve with rice or noodles.

Posted in Food

Test of Time Raspberry Buns

Every home economics class across the globe, has been scattered with flour and filled with the smell of baking raspberry jam. Raspberry buns are a tasty easy to bake treat, somewhere between a scone, cake, and cookie. I was in year 7 when I first made a batch, returning home from school with nothing but a scattering of crumbs in my tin. These buns remain a firm favourite of mine. I continue to use raspberry jam, but any flavour work. The original recipe contains castor sugar, but I like the hint of caramel of soft brown sugar.

Ingredients

  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g Butter
  • 100g Soft Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1tbsp Milk
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Raspberry Jam

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Fan 180°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and grease a large baking sheet.

Add flour and salt to a bowl and rub in butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

Whisk the egg and milk together and add to the bowl. Form eight balls from the dough and place on the prepared baking sheet. Make an indent in the centre of each ball and add jam.

Place in the pre heated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Honey & Mustard Pork with Soy Sauce

For a quick and easy taste of east meets west try this delicious fried pork dish, served with noodles and fried onions. Cheap, easy and tasty what more can you ask for.

Ingredients

  • 500g Diced Pork
  • 2 tbsp Honey
  • 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Dried Egg Noodles
  • Broccoli
  • 1 Onion

Method

Peel and crush the garlic. Marinade the pork in the honey, mustard, soy sauce, garlic and ginger for a minimum of fifteen minutes or chilled in the fridge overnight.

Prepare the crispy onions by peeling and thinly slicing the onion. Heat a dash of vegetable oil in a frying pan and when hot add the onion. Stirring often, the onion will first soften and turn translucent. It will then turn brown. Keep stirring and do not remove until dark brown and sticking to the pan. Drain on kitchen towel and allow to cool and turn crisp.

Drizzle a large frying pan or wok with vegetable oil and heat. Add the pork and marinade to the pan and fry until the pork is cooked through and the marinade browned and turned sticky, stirring often.

While the pork is cooking cut a head of broccoli into florets and steam or boil for 3-5 minutes. Then add the egg noodles to a pan of boiling salted water to soften.

Serve the pork and broccoli on top of the noodles and sprinkle with the crispy onions.