Friday, 4 September 2009

Frugal and fabulous

I recently picked up a copy of "Delia's Frugal Food" from the local library. I'm always interested in ideas for creating cheap, nutritious meals and I enjoyed flicking through it and pulling out a few recipes, although a lot of the book did not conform to my tastes and Australian ingredients (oh yeah, I moved back to Australia btw).

Anyhoo, I tried the "Potato Soup with Bacon" on page 25 of the book, leaving out the turnip, and it turned out pretty nice! Very cheap and cheerful.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Asian-style chicken salad

After a two month hiatus, my comely ways are back again.

I haven't written for so long because:
a) I'm a lazy so-and-so;
b) I've been trying to diet and therefore eating crud;
c) I'm moving country and incredibly busy in my preparations.

Nonetheless, I found a recipe for something that even lazy, slightly pudgy and frantically busy people like myself can handle - a fresh and tasty chicken salad with Asian flavours.

This recipe is another one from my favourite website (oh, what would I do without thou?): www.

I usually don't like raw cabbage, therefore I'm not a coleslaw lover, but this salad just tastes yummy!

I didn't change too much, except for the dressing. I replaced the sugar and chilli with 1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce. It's a simple and delicious dressing with no oil.

I also scattered a few chopped peanuts on top for extra texture and taste.

It's a winner!

Asian-style chicken salad

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Because sometimes I couldn't be bothered cooking

One of the best things about living in Japan is the abundant, cheap and delicious seafood.

In particular, the sashimi and sushi is not to be missed!

I live in the lovely port town of Shimizu, where fish is always super fresh and readily available.

This is a picture of some sashimi that I bought at a local pub-style joint. It was delicious eaten with some soy sauce and fresh wasabi.

Salmon sashimi
But of course, it's so easy to prepare at home, too. Just pick up some sashimi-grade tuna or salmon, slice it across the grain, and enjoy the night off from cooking!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Bite-sized crab cocktail

This is a fabulous idea I got from watching one of Nigella's TV programs, although I can't remember which one it was (yes, I'm a little bit obsessed with Nigella).

I was waiting for an opportunity to make these, such as when I would be entertaining, but then I thought, why not just make them for myself?

This would be a great appetiser or entree for a dinner party, but I just ate the whole lot as dinner on a nice spring evening :) I don't need a special occasion to stuff myself with delicious food. What's better is that The Boy doesn't eat seafood, so I didn't have to share! Hooray!

Making a traditional shrimp or crab cocktail is very easy, but I think this is even easier! Plus there's less washing up, which is always a good thing.

First, you need some nice fresh lettuce leaves. I just used plain old iceberg lettuce, but I think it would be nice to get some kind of tiny fancy lettuce, too. Anything that kind of makes a cup.

For the filling, I used fresh crab meat and avocado. You could replace the crab with shrimp.

For the sauce, I mixed equal parts tomato sauce (ketchup) and mayonnaise - about a tablespoon of each. I also added a splash of lemon juice, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and some black pepper.

I mixed the sauce with the crab and avocado in a bowl,then filled the lettuce leaves with the mixture.

To eat, just roll it up and stick it in your mouth!

Bite-sized crab cocktails

Monday, 30 March 2009

I feel like chicken tonight, like chicken tonight

Chicken breast, while being cheap and very versatile, can sometimes be very bland and somewhat dry. But I picked up a little tip from Nigella a while back which helped deal with this problem - marinate it in natural yoghurt (or buttermilk). It really makes even the driest meat succulent and tasty.

You can just marinate the meat then fry or bake it, but I think it's nice to coat it with breadcrumbs to make an easy chicken schnitzel. This is a great way to bypass the mess and hassle of the traditional flour/egg/breadcrumbs route but still get a great result. Here's what I did:

First, I took a large chicken breast and sliced it through the middle lengthwise to make two thin pieces of chicken. To thin them out a little more, I put them between two pieces of cling wrap (or you could use a freezer bag) and bashed them with a potato masher (you could also use a rolling pin, mallet or any bashing tool of your choice).

Then, I let them sit in some yoghurt in a ceramic bowl for about an hour.

Next, after shaking off the excess yoghurt, I dipped them in some crunchy breadcrumbs, pressing them in well to make sure they were properly coated.

Finally, I fried them in some oil for a few minutes on each side, until crispy and browned on the outside and just cooked on the inside. I served with mashed potatoes, peas and gravy. Very delish!

Easy chicken schnitzel with mashed potatoes, peas and gravy

Monday, 23 March 2009

Mustard pork chops

This meal is very loosely based on Nigella's Mustard Pork Chops recipe, from her totally awesome book "Nigella Express". I changed it because I can't find cider here in Japan and I don't like gnocchi very much (or maybe I'm just not very good at cooking it). Moreover, I find the one tablespoon of mustard that Nigella calls for is just a bit too much for my taste.

So, here is my Nigella inspired pork chop recipe, which serves two:

2 pork chops (or however many you want to eat)
2 Tbs apple vinegar*
4 Tbs pouring cream
1 tsp grainy mustard
baby potatoes

Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until tender.

In the meantime, fry the pork chops in a non-stick pan and a little olive oil until nicely coloured on the outside and just cooked on the inside. Remove from pan.

In the same frying pan, over low-medium heat, add the vinegar. This will make a lot of noise but that's part of the fun. Now, add the mustard and cream. Mix. Taste. Adjust ingredients if needed (maybe a little more cream, if the vinegar is too strong for your liking). Let it bubble up and thicken for a minute or so.

Serve the pork chops with some of the sauce on top. Throw the drained boiled potatoes into the pan containing the mustard sauce to coat the potatoes with the leftover sauce, before serving along side the pork.

*If you don't have/like apple vinegar, use cider as Nigella suggests, or use white wine.

Mustard pork chops with baby potatoes

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The most dangerous cake recipe

Although I try to be healthy most of the time, sometimes what one really needs is chocolate. Lots of it. In the form of rich, gooey cake. And here is the perfect, quick recipe!

I was hesitant to bake a cake in the microwave, but I don't own an oven so sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Anyway, it is so delicious that you wouldn't guess it was cooked in the microwave. Don't believe me? The proof is in the pudding!

At this stage I'd like to send out a big thank you to Danica Gallagher for sharing this recipe with me (I'll be sending you the Jenny Craig bill shortly).

This is what you need:

4 tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 egg

3 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)

a small splash of vanilla extract

First, put the dry ingredients into a bowl. Attack it with a wire whisk for a moment or so; this will break up any lumpy bits and it's quicker and easier than sifting.

Next, add all the wet ingredients and whisk again until the batter is combined and there are no lumps.

Finally, stir in the chocolate chips with a spoon (if using).

cake batterNow, pour the batter into a microwave safe dish of your choosing. The original recipe states that you can use a large coffee mug. I chose to use a small ramekin, which I greased with butter to be on the safe side, because I didn't want it to stick!

uncooked cakeAs you can see from the photo on the right, the batter came right to the top of the ramekin. I was concerned about mess in the microwave, but it turned out alright!

Microwave for about 3 minutes for a 1000W oven or 4 minutes for a 650W oven. The cake will rise, but don't be alarmed! To test if it is done, insert a dry piece of spaghetti (or a skewer) into the middle. It should come out clean. If it comes out with batter on it, pop in the microwave for a little longer.

cooked cake

And this is what it looks like when it comes out of the microwave.

This is enough to feed two. In fact, this cake is VERY rich, so it is best served with cream (my choice) or ice cream. My cake was especially rich because I used good quality cocoa and dark chocolate chips. You could definitely leave out the chocolate chips, in my opinion, to lighten this up a little.

I think it's nice to decorate the cake with some chocolate shavings. You can make these by shaving a chocolate bar with a vegetable peeler.

Why is it the most dangerous cake recipe? Because now we can have one of the world's most fattening desserts in less than 5 minutes!

the finished product