First day back at work and the veggie as daddy day care..we made it..
So it’s been a long time since I’ve posted something on the blog. Since my last post, I’ve had a baby, renovated our flat and after a 7 month maternity leave, I am back at work. The veggie is now at home looking after the little monster aka as baby Willow as we have shared our parental leave. What we have found about meals….you have to be prepared as there is never enough time like it was pre-baby. I found what is useful is actually to prepare meals the day before. The veggie finds preparing food in a slow cooker in the morning for the evening meal helps. We are also on the fun journey on baby led weaning and will share some of our recipes on here. It’s not easy juggling baby food, non-veggie and veggie meals all at the same time. One thing we have learnt – keep things simple.
I find weekday dinners the hardest part of my weekly work week. I’ve decided to create a section of my blog for speedy weekday dinners which are healthy. This meal can be ready in 22 minutes if you are super organised and is really easy and healthy. I’m not sure about you but the thought of coming home and cooking after a busy day can be exhausting and I’m trying to find healthy and quick cheat ways to make delicious meals. I recently went for a medical check up and thankfully all is okay but I wanted to make sure I kept my nutrition in check as I get older. I started seeing a doctor who is a nutritionist and through a few lifestyle changes I managed to not only lose 4kg without compromising on lifestyle but I am much healthier for it. I thought I’d share a few of the recipes and tips and tricks that helped me. I’ve found this meal always helps jump start my routine on a Monday or Tuesday night.
4 skinless deboned chicken thighs
1/2-1 tablespoon of Res El Hanout
- Sprinkle 1/2-1 tablespoon of Res El Hanout spice onto the chicken thighs
- Wrap in foil
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes
- Serve with whatever you want – salad, steamed veg, rice, cous cous, bulgar wheat
Chicken wrapped up in foil ready to go in the oven
It’s that simple. What I tend to do is whilst the chicken is cooking is prepare some rice (in my picture I’ve cooked rice with buckwheat) in my mini rice cooker and by the time the chicken is out of the oven, all you need to do is plate and serve. It’s up to you but you can pour the juices over the chicken or just serve up. As theveggie won’t eat meat, I tend to eat 2 chicken thighs for dinner and take the leftovers for work the next day. Theveggie usually eats the same as me but fries up vegetarian sausages or halloumi as his protein for the evening.
Dinner is served – 2 chicken thighs with buckwheat rice
The weather is definitely changing now in London. The autumn leaves are starting to pop out and there is rain…..lots of it.
You may have seen in a previous post of mine about the concept of healthyish, that is, trying to be healthy most of the time, but you can indulge sometimes (as frankly life is too short to be super good 100% of the time). I’m hoping this recipe combines a bit of healthy and not so healthy – as I’ve tried to make the dhal a healthy soup and I have added barley for some wholegrain goodness (but it’s not so healthy if you eat it with Malaysian roti canai bread).
Living a busy corporate life in London also makes it hard for theveggie and I to cook something up quickly during the weeknights that is vegetarian friendly and filling. This soup freezes beautifully, so suggest you double the portion and freeze and also keep some bread rolls in the freezer. That way, you will not have an excuse to spend yet another £20 on deliveroo for two out of sheer exhaustion.
Time to cook: About 45 minutes
2 medium sized carrots diced
1/2 a celery diced
3/4 cup red lentils
1/2 cup barley
1/2 tsp cumin power
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 an onion diced
5-6 curry leaves (I’ve used dried curry leaves from the supermarket, fresh leaves are of course better)
1 large tomato chopped into quarters or 6-8 cherry tomatoes
1 vegetable or chicken stock cube
800ml – 1 litre of water
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt to taste (depending how salty your stock cube is)
Coriander to garnish
Bread to serve – healthier option is a wholemeal bread roll, frozen roti canai the more ‘Malaysian style’
Snapshot of the ingredients needed
- Add 1/2 cup of your washed barley to 3 cups of water and let it boil on a medium heat for 30 minutes, then rinse in cold water and leave aside. (This can be done earlier in the day or the day before).
- Whilst the barley is cooking, dice the onion, carrot and celery. Set aside.
- Add your stock cube to 500ml of boiled water and leave aside.
- Add the oil to your soup pot, then add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Cook for a minute until the mustard seeds start to ‘pop’.
- Add onions and brown until semi soft.
- Add the carrot and celery and stir for about 3-4 minutes. If the consistency seems a bit dry and your pot is getting too brown, add a bit of the stock to braise the vegetables.
- Add your tomatoes and stir for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the dhal with the 500ml of stock and simmer for 15 minutes on a medium heat.
- After 15 minutes is up, add the barley that you have cooked earlier as well as an additional 300ml of water. If you prefer a more watery soup, you can add 500ml at this point.
- Simmer for another 20-25 minutes on a low to medium heat.
- Serve up, garnish with coriander and enjoy with your bread of choice.
Over the weekend, hubbie and I went to the Pie Fest 2017 in Melton Mowbray – home of the pork pie. There were many suppliers on display (both from Melton Mowbray and other areas) and of course it was a taste fest. Below are a couple of pictures of pork pie producers which I thought were delicious. Sorry for those that are not based in the U.K. One wonderful discovery is we found a vegetarian pork pie option. So in true veggieandi fashion, both of us were able to enjoy ourselves.
The pork pie, or shall I say the famous Melton Mowbray pork pie, has an interesting history. If you want to read more about the history, please see link here. In a nutshell, the Melton Mowbray pork pie came about as a by-product of a thriving dairy industry in the 1700s where the whey from cheese making made it conducive to raise pigs on dairy farms. This then led to the development of the pork pie to help use up surplus pork meat. This pie pie became popular for foxhunting in the Melton area where fox hunters could carry these delicious pies with them whilst out and about chasing the foxes and the pie remained intact and easy to transport.
In order to be a proper Melton Mowbray pork pie, it must meet certain criteria, such as the pork pie must be made within a 10.8 square mile zone around Melton Mowbray, it must use uncured British reared pork, and cooked without any support (e.g. not in a baking tray). It must also have certain ingredients in the pie and cannot use artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
My personal favourite pork pie is Mrs Kings pork pie but it is a family debate. My father in law insists Nelsons pork pies are the best. I think the only thing for you to decide is to try them all…
Lately I’ve been inspired by American magazines in my cooking philosophy – namely Saveur and bon appétit.
One of the new things launched recently by bon appétit is their new healthyish range of recipes and insights. Now you may wonder, what on earth does healthyish mean, is it some new form of marketing jargon to deal with yuppies and health freaks who frequent Whole Foods (by the way I have to admit I am a Whole Foods fan so please don’t judge me). The principle about it is really about knowing where our food comes from and who made it and what ingredients go into the food. It’s also a philosophy about eating healthily most of the time with tasty food and not feeling bad if you do indulge – i.e. if you had a massive meal one night then have a salad for lunch the next day. Don’t count calories and obsess about health effects. Sounds sensible, no?
I began to think a lot about this concept with a few other things. A Japanese family friend of mine once said that you should only eat until you are 80% full and that your meal should have colours – red, white and green. I understood this to be rice, a bit of meat and vegetables. Again, common sense, a balanced diet sounds about right. My husband is also an amazing cook and will do everything from scratch and it often has led to us having a late dinner or lunch in his pursuit for perfection. I reflect back to my memories of my grandmother who would tirelessly prepare her cantonese-Malaysia style of miss en place – chopping the garlic, ginger and raw ingredients to then spend 5 minutes at the end making a perfect stir fry or cooking a Chinese herbal soup for 4-6 hours for 3 gulps of pure delight. Then I reflect on today when hubby and I decided to go to the garden centre to buy some plants to make our balcony look nice but also to buy some veggie plants so we have our mini interpretation of ‘urban farm to table’ as we enjoy our evening meals on the balcony as the weather gets warmer in London.
It has made me realise I want to have my own interpretation of what I want with my life and food and this blog – I want to celebrate food, from different ingredients stemming from different cultures, I want to make things that are accessible to the every day, but create things that are spectacular when I just feel like it. I also want people to feel that it doesn’t matter what kind of cook or foodie you are and I want to be healthyish – I want to be good most of the time with a structure in my weekly work life but enjoy my food with full fat cream, ghee and pork crackling when the occasion calls for it. But most importantly, I want to write about food that tastes good and I’m not interested in food fads and diets. My two cents.
I discovered quinoa a couple of years ago at an Ottolenghi restaurant in London. I was instantly baffled by this ingredient – it was so tasty, so filling and I felt ever so virtuous that it was considered a superfood. In my quest to find the perfect way to prepare a quinoa salad, I’ve come up with this recipe which has been a hit with both my Asian family and British/Australian family and friends. I was pretty chuffed when mum told me she liked the salad, she’s an incredibly tough food critic and when I heard she started making this for her friends I knew I was onto something. What I also like about this recipe is that it can be made veggie, gluten and dairy free and it is delicious.
This salad is fabulous at a BBQ in summer or for a home meal this goes really well with baked salmon or grilled halloumi. What I like about this is it kills two birds with one stone, you don’t need additional potatoes or some form of carbohydrate with your salad as the quinoa is this magical ingredient that is both protein and carbohydrate.
1 cup uncooked quinoa (white)
I cube of chicken stock (vegetarian stock cube for the vegetarian option)
I bag mixed salad leaves
1 packed cup of parsley and coriander
3 tablespoons of Asian fried onions to sprinkle on top (optional)
2 tablespoons cashew nuts to sprinkle on top
1 punnet vine ripened cherry/plum tomatoes – chopped into halves
1/2 a large cucumber cut into slices and then quartered
2 tablespoons thai chilli sweet sauce
1 tablespoon soya sauce, or tamari if you are gluten free
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon mirin
- Soak the quinoa for 15 minutes and then rinse thoroughly through a sift well. This is an important step. The skin of the quinoa has a kind of chemical that is bitter and also it can cause a reaction and cause allergies if not cleaned properly for those that are ultra sensitive.
- You can cook quinoa the traditional way over the stove but I’ve discovered a secret way of cooking it very effectively – cook it like rice in a rice cooker with the appropriate amount of water on your rice cooker measurer and add the chicken/veg stock cube at the same time to cook.
- Whilst the quinoa is cooking, prepare the salad – add the salad leaves, chopped tomatoes, cucumber and herbs.
- To prepare the sauce, mix all the ingredients together. If you prefer the recipe to have more saucy flavour, you can double the recipe.
- Once the quinoa is cooked, cool it down to room temperature.
- Now add the quinoa to the salad mixture and toss in the sauce. Once done add the nuts and fried onions to the top.
- You can now serve this dish with salmon, grilled halloumi or on its own
The good news about this salad is that it keeps well in the fridge and can be made the day before. Just add the cashew nuts and onions just before serving. Leftovers are also great for a packed lunch.
Salmon and quinoa salad
Halloumi with quinoa salad
My entry for the Great Rutland Bakeoff 2016
The genesis of this cake was a competition entry for the family Great Rutland Bakeoff, hosted by my mother-in-law for family and friends over the Christmas holiday period. Trying to be creative, I originally wanted to bake a 20 layer crepe cake (having tried this amazing crepe cake at Madam M in New York recently). However after a disastrous result, I realised that challenge will have to wait for another day and instead I decided to experiment with a basic chocolate bundt cake recipe and added some Baileys to it. The cake turned out incredibly moist with a tinge of Baileys throughout the cake. The Baileys caramel sauce poured over the cake was also a winner.
For the cake
2 cups golden caster sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup cocoa
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
3⁄4 cup butter (170 grams/6 ounces), melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee in 1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup Baileys
(Variation from http://www.food.com/recipe/moist-chocolate-bundt-cake-463246)
Baileys fudge sauce
200 grams unsalted butter, chopped
250 ml double cream
350 grams soft light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Baileys
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
(This sauce was taken from Delicious Magazine http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/chocolate-and-baileys-caramel-bundt-cake/)
100 grams of milk or dark chocolate that can be used for baking
Chocolate popping candy, silver balls or anything you fancy (this is optional)
Cut berries such as strawberries, blackberries and blueberries to fill the centre of the bundt cake
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and flour a bundt pan or spray with cake spray (I find the Wilton Bake Easy non-stick spray very effective) and set aside.
- Make the coffee mixture – adding the instant coffee to the boiling water and let it cool.
- Melt the butter in the microwave for one minute in a bowl or large mug – in 30 second intervals.
- In the large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract and mix through thoroughly. If you have a electric mixer, beat 2 minutes on medium speed.
- Stir in the cooled coffee and Baileys.
- Pour the batter into the bundt pan and back in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes (give and take 5 minutes depending on your oven) and insert a toothpick or satay stick to test the cake is cooked (the centre comes out clean with no cake batter on it).
- Cool the cake for 20 minutes and then remove and cool on a wiring rack.
Once the cake is cooled, it is time to decorate the cake…
Decorating the cake
- To decorate the cake, the first step is to melt the chocolate. There are several ways of doing this – via the microwave in a small bowl or in a small bowl over a pan of boiling water until the chocolate is melted. I’m terrible with melting chocolate so use whatever method works for you. Whatever you do, don’t overstir the chocolate or it will become hard. Once the chocolate is melted, drizzle the chocolate over the cake with a dessert spoon.
- For the Baileys icing, melt all ingredients over a low heat until all melted (about 3-5 minutes). Using a dessert spoon, drizzle the sauce over the cake.
- If you want to make the cake even more chocolatey, you can add chocolate popping candy or any other cake decoration of your choice.
Note: The quantity for the Baileys icing is a lot. My suggestion is to serve some slightly warmed in a small pouring jug and keep the rest in the fridge to serve over ice cream. The sauce should last for 3 days in the fridge but it won’t last from my experience.
It’s winter, it’s cold and there are weird viruses going around. During this time of year, I always try to find something warm and reassuring to soothe a bad cold or it’s great to have just as a feel-good hot drink that is caffeine-free. Here is a little concoction that will hopefully keep you warm and happy. It’s my take on honey lemon tea – I’ve added ginger, goji berries and mint to give this a slight twist.
2 tablespoons of honey (more if you prefer something sweeter)
2-3 slices of lemon
A handful of fresh mint leaves
Sliced ginger – about 1.5 inches long
1-2 tablespoons of goji berries (to taste)
Enough hot water to fill a normal size teapot
Obviously, you can tweak the ingredients list to taste. Hubby prefers more mint than I do and he added some additional mint leaves to his glass at the end.
- Add all the ingredients into a teapot which has a strainer (if you don’t have a teapot with a strainer just add all the ingredients into the the teapot and sieve it out at the end).
- Add freshly boiled water to the teapot (please wait for the water to stop bubbling in the kettle before you pour the hot water in or you may scald the mint leaves) and let it brew for 3-5 minutes.
- Pour into individual cups and add more honey or mint to taste. Voila!