Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Thai prawn, ginger and spring onion stir-fry

Stir-fry is a great dish when you are really hungry but want something really quick AND healthy.  This stir-fry takes a little bit more time to prepare than others because of preparing the sauce, but it's still ready in less time than it takes to have a takeaway delivered and its a lot tastier too.  I came across this recipe on BBC good food - my favourite foodie site.  I have slightly adapted the recipe/method from the original as my other half isn't keen on coriander so the whole bunch suggested would have ruined it for him.  As it is, the amount I put in complimented the other flavours rather than overpowering it.  Coriander is one of those ingredients you either love or marmite, but it goes so well in this dish that I would feel confident in saying that even those who don't like coriander would have to agree that its pretty darn tasty! And for those who do like their coriander..sprinkle a bit more over the top at the end like I did.

We tend to have our stir-fry's with loads of vegetables and no rice or noodles.  For those on Weight Watchers this is 5 pro points per serving and the recipe serves two.  Add extra points for rice or noodles.  To make the dish you'll need the following:

  • 200g of raw tiger or king prawns
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • Fresh coriander - I used about a tablespoon once chopped, add more if you both like coriander
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (don't smell it before hand!!)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • stir fry vegetables of your choice - e.g. beansprouts, water chestnuts, bamboo, sweetcorn etc

To make the sauce, put the chilli, garlic, coriander, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, olive oil and ginger into a mortar and crush/mix all the ingredients with a pestle.  Alternatively if you don't have a mortar and pestle you can use a food processor.  

Put the prawns in a bowl and add about 2 tablespoons of the sauce then leave it to marinade for a few minutes whilst you prepare your chosen vegetables.  

Add the prawns and the vegetables to a wok or a pan with the remaining sauce and fry until the prawns are cooked.  

In the words of Gordon...done!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Delicious Beef Stir fry

I've only just started to eat Chinese food recently, it's never been a cuisine that's appealed to me but I'm starting to be more adventurous and trying a few different dishes to ease me in.  Maybe it was all the greasy looking, really sweet smelling dishes that I've seen people eat from the takeaway and the number of people that have complained about getting ill after eating one! 

On Christmas Eve my mam rustled up a lovely beef stir fry in her new wok for us and it was so delicious that I had to get the recipe.  Thing is my mam just chucked some stuff in a bowl and made it up but there was a very similar recipe in the Ken Hom stir fry cookbook that Santa brought her the next day so she sent me the recipe, although I've changed it slightly.

The key here is marinating the beef before stir frying it.  The longer you can leave it to marinate the better but if you haven't got time to let the flavours soak in you can use it straight away.  Now if I had smelt the oyster sauce used in marinating the beef I don't think I would have touched it, but it does make it taste really nice.

For those of you on Weight Watchers the stir fry itself is 5 ProPoints but if you are having it with rice or noodles then it'll be extra.

The recipe below serves two but just add extra beef and veg if you are serving more.

To make the stir fry you will need:

  • Steak cut into strips - I used rump steak but you could use sirloin or fillet.  I'm not sure how much steak was used as I just asked the butcher for enough for two people, but I'm guessing about 250g
  • Vegetables - it's up to you what you use, this particular time I used peppers, pak choi, onion, peppers, spinach, peas, beansprouts, carrots and broccoli because that's what I had in the fridge.  Again there isn't a specific measurement for this I just cut up what I estimated to be a good amount for two people.
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce - alternatively you can use a fresh chilli and a pinch of sugar
  • 1 and a half tablespoons of oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp of light soy sauce
  • 1 large clove of garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp of fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar (you could use dry sherry as an alternative)
  • Black pepper
1) Marinade the beef in the garlic, ginger, sweet chilli sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce.  Add a bit of black pepper to season.  You could add salt if you wish but I found it was salty enough with the soy sauce.  I kept mine in the fridge for a couple of hours whilst it marinated, but be warned my fridge still stinks of chilli and garlic 24 hours later!

2) When you want the stir fry, remove the beef from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.  Fry in a large pan or a wok if you have one for a few minutes on a high heat.  Once the beef is cooked you can either remove from the pan and set aside and then stir fry the vegetables in the juices left over from the beef or you can chuck it all in together, which is the method I went for! Add this stage you may also want to add more oyster, chilli or soy sauce - it's dependent on your tastes.  Again stir fry for a couple of minutes on a high heat so the veg is still crunchy.

3) Serve on its own or with some rice or noodles.  All ready in a flash!

My boyfriend calls it a Triumph!! I say its absolutely delicious..but my mam's still had the edge! :-)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A new blog about my ProPoints experience

I'm conscious of the fact that I have weight watchers ProPoints recipes on the blog and obviously not all my followers are on the ProPoints plan so probably couldn't give two hoots how many points are in a recipe and enjoy the blog for the tasty recipes.   

Sometimes I have wanted to blog about my experience of weight watchers or new products that i've come across or celebrate losing some weight but this blog isn't the right place for it, so I've started a blog especially about weight watchers and my experience with the propoints plan.  So if you've got an interest in weight watchers then head over to my other blog Jayne's ProPoints Experience and take a look.

I'm not going to stop blogging about delicious recipes (some of which will be weight watchers friendly but are just as tasty if you aren't following the plan) so don't abandon me!! I have lots of tasty recipes coming up in 2012.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Butterfly cakes

Because my Grandma was, and my mum is very good at making cakes, scones, etc I thought it was about time I got more in to baking to carry on the tradition, and so that when I have children I can teach them how to bake.  I've been inspired by the Great British bake off and thanks to Mary Berry I now make totally gorgeous butterfly cakes..well you have to start somewhere! So here is the foolproof recipe for making beautiful butterfly cakes that you can make with your kids or just when you fancy a little bit of a treat.  

The recipe makes 12 butterfly cakes and if your doing weight watchers then that is equivalent to 7 pro points each...seems a lot but just have one and feed the rest to your friends and family.  They are totally worth 7 points though!  

Before I tell you the recipe though there are a couple of things that I think have made all the difference to these butterfly cakes and ones I have made before although it could also be because it is a better recipe.  Firstly I used Lurpak butter - its rich and creamy and you can really taste it in the cakes ...not so good if you don't like Lurpak but I love it! Secondly I used silicone cupcake molds in a cupcake tray - I have found that the cakes are more moist with silicone cases than paper ones, and they are still really moist three days later! 

To make 12 butterfly cakes you will need:

  • 250g of softened butter (these are not skinny cakes!)
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 100g of self raising flour
  • 150g of icing sugar
  • 1 level teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
1. Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees (Fan 180 degrees) or Gas Mark 6.  Place the fairy cake cases in a 12 hole bun tin to keep a good even shape as they bake.

2.Whilst the oven is pre-heating, mix 100g of the softened butter with the caster sugar, self raising flour, baking powder and eggs in a bowl.  Beat the mixture until it is smooth and well can either do this the hard way and beat it by hand like I did or do it the easy way use your magi-mix or equivalent.  Add two teaspoons of the mixture into each mold.  I gently tapped the bottom of the case against the worktop to distribute the mixture more evenly.

 3. Bake the cakes in the oven for 15 -20 minutes (mine take about 17-18 minutes but all ovens vary) until they are well risen and golden brown.  Once cooked lift the cases out of the tin and place on a wire cooling rack (but leave them in the cases).

 4. While the cakes are cooling, make your butter icing.  Combine the rest of the butter with the icing sugar in a bowl and mix well...don't worry if it all looks a bit lumpy at first it will get smooth!

5. Once the cakes are cooled, cut a circle out of the centre of the cake to make a hole in the middle - I like to make quite a deep hole so that you get more butter icing! Cut the circle that you take out of the cake in half and keep to one side.  Fill each hole with the butter icing - either pipe it in or spoon it in.  Place two of the half slices on the top of each cake to make the wings and dust with a little icing sugar to finish.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that they are less cakes on the plate than were on the tray..that's because we ate a few before I remembered I needed to take a picture!! Yummy! 

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Thai inspired noodle soup

I LOVE Thai food!! Although I've only started eating it in the last two years...what a shame I didn't discover all the beautiful flavour combinations earlier! This recipe is Thai inspired and is based on a Nigel Slater recipe from his simple suppers collection..and it's exactly that..simple!  It's warming and comforting and if you use reduced fat coconut milk..not totally fattening either! 

The recipe below serves 2 people.  To make the Thai inspired soup you'll need:

  • 1 good knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 red chillies, seeds removed (optional), roughly chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 stalks of lemongrass (tough outer layers removed), roughly chopped
  • 1 handful fresh coriander, a few sprigs reserved and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • prawns 
  • Rice noodles (or if you cant get them use fine egg noodles)
  • oil for frying

Firstly blend the ginger, chilli, lemongrass, garlic and coriander in a food processor.  Alternatively if you are like me and have left your food processor 105 miles away until you move into your new house permanently then you can use the jars or tubes of already ground up chilli/lemongrass/ginger paste, grate your garlic cloves and finely chop your coriander. It works just as well.  I used a generous teaspoon of the lemongrass, ginger and chilli pastes and stuck with the amounts above for the garlic and coriander.  Either way, add your "paste" to the pan with a little bit of oil and cook for a few minutes to release the aromas. Mmmmmmmm!!!!

Next, add the juice of half a lime, the turmeric and some vegetable stock.  Nigel recommends a "small jug", I didn't have a measuring jug or a kettle (again 105 miles away!) so I boiled a little water in a pan and added the stock cube.  I would estimate I probably added about 300ml of stock.  What is a "small jug" anyway? I like Nigel's style of set measurements, just a bit of a guess, go with it and make it to your taste..I suppose that's what makes it simple, not having to measure everything out perfectly.  Anyway, I digress... simmer the stock/paste mixture for a few minutes.

Whilst the stock/paste mixture is bubbling away put your noodles on to cook.  Add a can of coconut milk to the stock/paste mix and bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer it for a few minutes.  Once it has simmered away for a few minutes, add your prawns (if cooking from raw then to cook for a few minutes, or to reheat if you have bought pre-cooked ones.  I prefer raw ones, but hey sometimes you cant always get them so go with what you prefer/have to hand)

When the noodles are cooked, drain them and add them to a couple of nice deep bowls and ladle the soup/prawns over them and serve straightaway.  I added a little extra coriander to the top of mine too.  Nigel says that this recipe also works well with chicken, scallops or mushrooms as an alternative to prawns.  Whatever you choose to put in it, it's flippin' tasty! It's like a great big hug in a bowl and all in under 20 minutes, perfect!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Normal service to resume soon!

If you follow the blog or even just happen to come across it you'll know I haven't posted for a while. I have lost my enthusiasm for cooking new things in the last couple of months as there has been lots going on but we have just got the keys to our very first home - no more paying for someone elses mortgage - yeah!

One of the things im looking forward to is getting back in to the kitchen and cooking new things not just the same old stuff. I am also looking forward to not having to cook by a rubbish lamp light because the kitchen light fitting is broken, having new pans and plates and mugs, glasses, whisk, wooden spoons etc etc! Needless to say over the last couple of months I have built up a collection of new recipes I want to try out in my new kitchen. I've also started baking which I haven't done for years (mainly because I'm not very good at it) but I've been inspired by the great British bake off and thanks to Mary Berry I have mastered a few cake recipes.

So stay tuned I promise normal service will resume shortly! Jayne x

Friday, 10 June 2011

Too much salt??

Recently I found out that my blood pressure is bordering on being high and when I say bordering I really mean it; a healthy person should have a blood pressure of 120 over 80 (120/80).  High blood pressure (or hypertension) is anything over 140/90.  Last time I went to see the nurse my blood pressure was 139/88 and this is classed as pre-hypertension.

High blood pressure puts extra strain on your heart which can lead to a stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and other health problems...scary right? It's particular scary for a 27 year old who doesnt smoke and rarely drinks and up until that point didnt consider herself to be totally unhealthy - I have seen people with much worse diets than myself!

There are a number of things that can cause high blood pressure including being overweight, not enough fruit and vegetables, stress, smoking, drinking and eating too much salt.  Now I can rule out the smoking and the drinking as a cause since I have never smoked and only drink if i go out (which doesn't happen all that often!).  I am tackling the weight issue - I have lost a stone so far although I still have at least another stone to loose.  I am going to the gym twice a week and I now have a job where the car park is 10 minutes walk from the office so i walk at least twenty minutes 5 days a week (and that's if I don't have meetings off site - one meeting off site adds another twenty minutes to that).  I have started increasing the amount of fruit and veg I eat although there's never been a lack of fruit and veg in my diet...well maybe fruit but not veg.

The stress...well i do have quite a stressful job, and I also suffer from "white coat syndrome" - just being in a hospital or a doctors surgery will raise my heart rate - not great for someone who works for the NHS, although I am getting used to that hospital smell. So that leaves salt.  I never used to add salt to my cooking till i met my other half 4 years ago but he loves salt and so I just started adding it in and putting it on my food.  To me this seems the most likely cause of my raised blood pressure as im sure i never had a problem with high blood pressure before i started adding extra salt in to my food. 

Salt makes your body retain water and if you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure.  A lot of foods contain salt so you cant cut it out altogether but there are foods which are high in salt that you can avoid and you can use herbs and spices in your cooking to replace the salt.  You shouldn't be having more than 6g salt a day which is equivilent to just a teaspoon! The NHS have produced a guide about Salt, those foods to avoid and how to reduce your salt intake.  You can find it here

Coming up on the blog in the next few weeks I am going to share a few low salt recipes i have come across for those of you who want to reduce your salt intake so keep checking back. Sorry for the boring blog post but hopefully it might make you stop and think about how much salt you are eating and the problems this could cause in the future.

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