Sunday, June 30, 2013

Recipe: Port Braised Lamb Shanks with Herby Roasted Gnocchi

11 Days since my last post- it has been a while! I do however, have a valid excuse- I have been on holiday recently, firstly a couple of days in Penzance with the boyfriend, and then off to good old Glastonbury Festival! In the coming week I will be writing a festival foodie review of Glastonbury, so keep your eyes and taste buds peeled! This dish is a little bit special (and by that I don't mean.....simple!). I've never cooked lamb shanks before, nor tried roasting pre-prepared gnocchi, but I gave this idea a whirl and it was a resounding success! Some larger lamb shanks may need a longer cooking time- basically you know when it's done if the meat comes nice and easily (pretty much falls) off the bone.

Port Braised Lamb Shanks with Herby Roasted Gnocchi (serves 2)

2 lamb shanks
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
200ml port
300ml beef (or lamb) stock
1 garlic clove, bashed
1 tsp herbs du provence
½ orange, diced up
30ml Worcestershire sauce

400g fresh gnocchi
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp freshly finely chopped mint
1 tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat, and add the lamb shanks. Season the lamb with salt and pepper, and sear the shanks on all sides for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the shanks to a small casserole pot, with all the other ingredients. Put the lid on, and cook for 2 and a half hours (removing and basting halfway through cooking time).
3. Meanwhile, put the gnocchi on a roasting tray with all the other ingredients. Mix these ingredients all together, making sure the gnocchi is all coated with the oil and herbs. Bake in the oven (200C) for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.
4. Meanwhile, remove the lamb from the oven. Remove the lamb from the bone, set aside, and strain the cooking juices. Boil the strained cooking juices for 6 minutes, to create a concentrated lamb jus.
5. Serve the warm lamb and roasted gnocchi, with the jus poured over, and some buttered green vegetables if desired. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Recipe: Spiced Marinated Chicken Drumsticks

These were lovely! Pretty cheap to make, and a bit of a cupboard use-up of all those jars and things in the fridge and cupboards. I prefer to take the meat off the bone (the second method) so it's a little easier to eat, but the marinated drumsticks are great to bring to a picnic- just make sure you bring plenty of napkins for your sweet sticky fingers! I served this with my apple, celery and pecan salad- yum!

Spicy Marinated Chicken Drumsticks (serves 3/4)

12 chicken drumsticks
50g ketchup
50g Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp crushed ginger
1 red onion, finely diced
2 rounded tsp Dijon mustard
20g raspberry jam
¼ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper

1. Put the drumsticks in a large ovenproof dish. Mix together all the marinade ingredients, cover the chicken drumsticks, and leave in the marinade for at least half an hour, or preferably overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Roast the drumsticks in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven. You can either eat the drumsticks on the bone, with the excess  marinade in a bowl for dipping, or-
3. Remove the drumsticks from the marinade and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.  Get the chicken off the bone, mix the meat back in with the marinade, and serve!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Recipe: Apple, Celery and Pecan Salad

This is basically a "Waldorf salad", but with pecans instead of walnuts. Because it's scrummy and that's the way I like it! A nice summery salad and a great dish to bring to a barbecue/ party. I served this alongside my spicy marinated chicken drumsticks, a recipe that should follow next after this one in the next couple of days. If you aren't a huge fan of mayonnaise, feel free to use Greek or natural yoghurt, that works pretty well too.

Apple, Celery and Pecan Salad (serves 4 as a side dish)

2 apples diced
2 celery sticks, diced
80g pecans, roughly chopped
100g red grapes, halved
250g light mayonnaise

1. Mix together all the ingredients well, and serve!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Recipe: Turkey Meatballs with Tomato and Basil Sauce

These meatballs were so scrummy, my Italian and Spanish house mates were asking ME for the recipe! Kudos indeed! As you guys know, I love turkey. The key with turkey is not to overcook it, that's the only reason people think it's dry, its just people cooking it for too long! I love the tomato and basil passata they have at Sainsburys, and I've found out recently that passata or creamed tomatoes are cheaper than tinned chopped tomatoes. Dunno why??

Turkey Meatballs with tomato and herb sauce (serves 2)

500g turkey thigh mince
1 celery stick, finely diced
½ onion, finely diced
Big handful chives, finely chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
80g breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil

500g tomato passata with basil
100ml chicken stock
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt, sugar and pepper to taste
200g pasta of your choice
Basil and chive flowers for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Mix together all of the meatball ingredients, season well, and shape into 12 large meatballs. Put a frying pan on a high heat, and fry the meatballs in the oil for about 5 minutes, turning the meatballs occasionally.
2.Put the meatballs on an oven tray and put in the oven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Put the passata, stock and garlic in a saucepan, heat up, and season to taste.
3.Plate up the cooked pasta, pour over the tomato sauce, pop the meatballs on top, and garnish with fresh herbs if desired. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Recipe: Tsing-Tsao Beer Teriyaki Chicken

GAWDD this is the most authentic tasting Chinese dish I've ever made!!! It's got the right, glossy thick texture,  moist chicken, sweet sticky Asian flavours- wow! Bit of a cheat using a packet in the recipe- but I didn't have any ginger in the house and knew I would need something "gingery" to set the recipe off!! As you can see, I have served this with some steamed white rice. A nice dish to serve alongside this is also stir-fried pak choy with fresh coriander, garlic oil and Chinese 5 spice.

Tsing-Tsao Beer Teriyaki Chicken (serves 2)

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 garlic clove, finely diced
6 spring onions
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 packet blue dragon chow mein sauce
100g cashews
200ml tsing-tsao beer (or similar tasting lager)
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
½ tsp toasted sesame oil

1) Fry the garlic, spring onions, pepper and chicken in the oil for 10 minutes on a high heat, stirring often.
2) Add all the other ingredients, and cook on a high hear for a further 10 minutes (or until the sauce is thickened and glossy), stirring often. Season to taste and serve!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Slim Fast: A Dietary Review- Results and opinion

I followed the Slim Fast diet plan for two weeks. Here I will discuss how i found it following the diet, and my opinions on how successful this sort of meal replacement diet could be. I basically maintained my weight (losing less than a pound) over that period of two weeks. This essentially, could be seen as a successful diet, as I am not currently overweight, and like the studies suggested, it is a successful diet for weight loss in overweight/obese people, and for weight maintenance in those within a healthy weight range.

I had a fair few issues with this diet, I must admit. Firstly, the amount of sugar in the shakes/bars are slightly concerning. Most of the shakes/bars have 12-13g of sugar in them, and a woman is recommended not to consume over 25g sugar a day. This means that with consuming two of these meal replacements a day, you will be consuming almost all of the maximum sugar recommended, and of course once adding the fruit as snacks, and the 600kcal balanced meal, that would be considered a very high sugar diet. This is why I do not understand  that in most of the studies I looked at regarding Slim Fast, blood sugar levels and insulin resistance improved in the subjects following the diet- how could they do this on quite a high sugar diet? I suppose perhaps these overweight/obese people were consuming very high amounts of sugar previously (e.g. eating lots of ice cream/ doughnuts/ fizzy drinks/ sweets etc.) and the Slim Fast diet ended up being much lower than their previous sugar intake. 

I found that it was very difficult to follow the diet. I believe that this diet would be good for busy people that don't have much time to prepare food, people who don't cook very often. In the end, i am obsessed with food, and having a meal isn't just about what's on the plate, or the end result- I love preparing food, cooking food, and planning meals for the week. I often spend a while during the day making brunch/ lunch, or in the evening with dinner/ making packed lunches for the day ahead. I felt that the meal replacements, although they were quite successful in filling me up, I missed spending so much time in the kitchen. 

I found that the diet's rules aren't stated as clearly as they could be. For instance, although it says you can snack on Slim Fast snacks/fruit, what about drinks? Coffee, tea, etc? Also is alcohol allowed? It doesn't seem to be mentioned. I think these sorts of diets should have rules properly defined a bit more. 

I feel that overall, although i think this diet would be successful for overweight or obese people, particularly those who don't have much time to cook/ tend to rely on ready meals/ takeaways. I believe that for me to lose weight, I would have to try a more radical diet plan, with stricter rules, and one that involves a bit more preparation of food/meal planning. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Recipe: Spicy Chicken Satay Noodles

Here's a very spicy, but very moreish Asian noodle dish, using juicy chicken thigh meat and crunchy peanut butter to liven it up! These chicken thighs in a chilli sauce were on offer on Sainsburys hence using them, but if you want just use 6 normal chicken thighs and about 5 tablespoons of hot sweet chilli sauce instead. Lager seems an unusual ingredient, but cooking with beer or lager is quite common in Asian cuisine. I seem to always have a can of lager open in the fridge that I hadn't finished from the night before, so this is a good way of using it up.

Spicy Chicken Satay Noodles (serves 2)

1 x 700g pack Sainsburys Just Cook Sweet Chilli Chicken Thighs
200ml lager
2 stacks medium egg noodles
2 tbsp olive oil (plus a little extra for noodles)
1 carrot, julienned
100g spring greens, sliced
1 tsp minced ginger
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp Thai 7 spice
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
Few drops toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the chicken thighs and the lager in a baking dish, and bake in the oven for 50 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool a little. Remove the thighs from the baking dish, reserving the cooking juices.
2. Remove the skin from the thighs and discard, pick the meat off the bones, and set aside. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, drain, mix with a little oil (to avoid sticking later) and set aside
3. Mix together the reserved chicken juices (draining any fat away if necessary), soy sauce, sesame oil and crunchy peanut butter. Set aside.
4. Put the oil in a wok and put it on high heat. Fry the carrots, ginger, garlic and spring greens in the oil for 3 minutes. Add the chicken and fry for a further two minutes. Add the noodles and sauce, and stir fry for 1-2 minutes, or until everything is hot and well combined.
5. Season to taste and serve!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Recipe: Tortiglioni with a Creamy pesto and Spinach sauce

I had never heard of tortiglioni until the other day, but it was on offer at sainsburys, so now I not only know what it is but also love it! It's basically a pasta similar to rigatoni, but smaller, and with ridges. If you look at the previous post, you can find the recipe for my wild garlic pesto- but if you are unlucky and don't have the wonderful luck of having a serving of wild garlic pesto made, or are not in the short period of time when wild garlic is available, then use any other type of pesto you prefer; typical basil, red pepper, or sundried tomato- there seems to be so many varieties out there these days!

Tortiglioni with a creamy pesto and spinach sauce (serves 2)

200g tortiglioni
150ml chicken stock
180g thick double cream
60g spinach
120g Wild garlic pesto
Salt and pepper to taste
Wild garlic flowers and fresh basil for garnish

1. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Cook the chicken stock and cream in another saucepan for 5 minutes. Add the pesto, cook for another 2 minutes.
2. Add the spinach and cook for a further 2 minutes. Drain the tortiglioni and mix into the cream sauce. Cook on the stove, stirring continuously for 1 minute, until all the ingredients are well mixed and hot.
3. Season to taste, and serve, with wild garlic flowers and basil leaves if desired.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Recipe: Wild Garlic Pesto

Since the weather seems to finally picking up, me and Brendan (the boyf!) went on a lovely picnic the other day (nice and simple- ham, emmental and dijon mustard rolls, fruit and cream, sparkling elderflower! lovely!) and we found out that one of our local parks has a load of wild garlic growing in it! This is great news, as normally i have to trek all the way up to Bath University to pick round their forest, which is a bit of a mission really. As expected, this is a very strong and garlicky pesto- but it's quite fragrant and very delicious too. It's not one of those sort of pesto's that you would eat with chunks of ciabatta, but it's very good mixed into sauces, in marinades, and stuffed into things! I make my "traditional pesto" using the same recipe as this- with fresh basil instead of wild garlic and adding 1 clove of garlic.

Wild Garlic Pesto (makes 6 servings)
200g wild garlic leaves
100g pine nuts, toasted
30g grated parmesan
165ml good olive oil (or more depending on how “loose” you want the pesto)
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

1. Blitz all the ingredients together in a food processor/ with a hand blender. Season to taste, garnish with wild garlic flowers if desired, and serve!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Recipe: Tandoori Lamb Salad

Bit of a cheat recipe, but it's so quick to make, delicious, and super healthy! These "Minted Lamb Kebabs" are 2 packs (with 4 kebabs in each) for £5 in Sainsburys at the moment. Totally worth it! Using the griddle pan reminds me of when in some Indian restaurants, when you order a tikka, tandoori, or shashlik dish, and the waiters come to your table with a big sizzling griddle full off spiced meat and onions- yum! This is definitely a MAN salad!

Tandoori Lamb Salad (serves 2)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp garam masala
4 Sainsburys Minted Lamb Skewers
12 cooked small new potatoes, halved
½ white onion, sliced
¼ tsp garlic salt
140g spinach
12 cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Put a griddle pan onto a high heat with the extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the garam masala over the lamb skewers, and put onto the hot griddle pan, cooking for 2 minutes each side.
2. Place the skewers on an oven tray and put into the oven for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, put the new potatoes, sliced onion and garlic salt straight onto the hot griddle pan, and cook for 7 minutes, stirring often.
3. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until well combined, season to taste and set aside. Place the spinach and cherry tomatoes on two plates. Remove the lamb skewers from the oven, remove the sticks, slice, and put on top of the spinach and tomatoes.
4. Top the salads with the fried onions and new potatoes, drizzle over the dressing and serve!