27 June 2017

Prawn & Pineapple curry - mmmnn, fruity!

Somehow or another, we've wound up with several little bits of things left over from dishes that either didn't happen, or where ingredients have been too much and a portion of them were put into the freezer "for another day".  One such is a tin of pineapple.  Somehow or another we've managed to accumulate two of them in the tin cupboard, which really is just one too many.

So I set my mind to pondering on what could be done with said pineapple. What it was supposed to be, was part of a salad.  However, England being what it is, the "too hot for anything but salad" days have gone for now and left me with a pineapple glut.  The obvious answer was to bake a pineapple upside down cake - and I wouldn't rule out the second tin being disposed of that way - but I'm afraid I just couldn't justify two cakes in quick succession.  No, I felt sure there was a savoury context I could use a tin of pineapple in - it was just a matter of deciding what.  Once again, the obvious is a sweet and sour chicken dish, but son & heir really isn't keen on that.  Which led me to thinking about the curries that involve fruit.  Our local Indian takeaway does a curry with pineapple and lychee, so I knew it was possible.


What goes well with pineapple, then?  Coconut.  Yep, that's perfect.  Chicken, or fish?  Prawns!  Yes, I believe I've seen salads with pineapple and prawns, so they have to be nice together.  A coconutty, pineappley, prawney .... um .... tomato?  Yes, that'd work, oh and I've got my new tamarind sauce, I could use some of that too!  Coconut cream would thicken it nicely and a combination of curry powders would provide depth of flavour.  And so, the delicious prawn & pineapple curry took form in my mind - and this evening, in my kitchen.

It really proved to be as good as I'd thought it would be.  To my taste buds, it was slightly frisky with chilli heat but for hubby and son & heir, they could have taken it a lot hotter so maybe next time I'll add a few red chilli flakes to just up the heat ante a little.  I could still taste the prawns (which was, for me, a desired result) and the pineapple juice as well as the tamarind sauce gave the curry a delicious acidity, together with - oddly - a degree of sweetness which a handful of peas helped along.

Now as for Cook's Tips, I have just the one which is to make sure that you add the cooked prawns at the very last minute, when you are just about to serve. They only take a twinkling to heat up and you definitely don't want them simmering in the sauce for longer than it takes for them to do that, or you'll have pink curls of prawn flavoured rubber - and nobody likes those in their curry.


So there you are!  The curry took me around 35/45 minutes to make, so it is a good one for an evening when you've not a lot of time or energy.  I really liked this curry and am looking forward to the next instalment of it!  

PRAWN & PINEAPPLE CURRY   (serves 3)

Ingredients :

1 heaped tbsp solid coconut oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
3 tsp medium curry powder
1 tsp tandoori curry powder
half a tsp ground coriander
quarter of a tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 large vine ripened tomatoes, cored and diced
pinch of sea salt
quarter of a tsp ground black pepper
110g tinned pineapple pieces, with juice
120ml hot water
1 tsp fish stock powder (or a low salt fish stock cube)
1 tbsp tamarind sauce (or 1 tbsp mango chutney)
15g coconut cream
a small handful of frozen peas
15g butter
250g cooked, peeled, cold water prawns.

Method :

Gently heat the coconut oil in a deep frying pan and add the onion and garlic. Fry, stirring regularly, until the garlic is a light golden colour and the onion has turned transparent.  This should take up to 10 minutes.

Add both the curry powders, coriander, cinnamon and turmeric and stir to combine.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until all trace of dry powder has gone.

Add the chopped tomatoes and stir well.  Cook until the tomatoes are beginning to soften, adding the sea salt & black pepper along the way.

Add the pineapple pieces, pineapple juice, water and fish stock and stir to combine.  Bring to a lively simmer and simmer to reduce the liquid by at least half.

Add the tamarind sauce (or mango chutney) and coconut cream and stir through until the coconut cream has dissolved and combined.

Add the frozen peas and butter and stir through.  You can now either simmer until the sauce has reduced to your liking, or add a little more hot water to thin the sauce to your liking.

Finally, add the prawns and stir through.  Continue to simmer until the prawns are heated through properly and serve in warm bowls with steamed white basmati rice.

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21 June 2017

Chicken Satay Salad - a long way from ordinary!

We're currently going through something of a heatwave here in the U.K. - June 2017 - and salads are definitely in. However, because I wanted to try and make salad eating something good as opposed to something yawn-inducing (oh come on, you know it can be!), I've been experimenting with some rather out of the box kinds of salads and this one is by far the best we've tried (so far!).

The original inspiration came from the good old BBC Good Food website, as very often happens.  Their version of the salad can be found here and from that you'll be able to see that I've added a little and taken away a little from the original, but it is still very close.  


Yes, it requires a little bit of work before time with marinating the chicken but I also recommend that you wash your lettuce and put it in an inflated freezer bag in the fridge to crisp up.  Doing this makes all the difference to a crisp, crunchy salad.

When you get down to preparing dinner, it really is just a matter of chopping and building the salad, then spending a moment or two grilling the chicken, slicing, garnishing and hey presto - dinner is on the plate.  It really is as easy as that.

I've divided the recipe up into three sections, to make it easier to see what should be used for what.  I hope that proves helpful.

As for Cook's Tips, the only recommendation I have for you is that you chop up the salad before cooking the chicken.  You can always put the salad back into the fridge while the chicken is cooking, so as to keep everything fresh and crunchy.  Then, once the chicken is done it can rest and cool a little while you quickly plate up the salad items.


I can see that this is going to be a regular fall-back salad for blisteringly hot days.  My menfolk thought it was delicious and professed themselves keen to see it again very soon!

CHICKEN SATAY SALAD   (serves 3)

Ingredients :

For the chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp curry powder of your choice (I used a medium)
half a tsp of ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 tsp runny honey.

For the sauce

1.5 tbsp peanut butter (crunchy or smooth, it's up to you, but a sugar free version is good)
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
juice of 1 lime
cold water, as required.

For the salad

a selection of salad leaves (I used Romaine and Iceberg lettuces)
a large vine tomato, halved and sliced
cucumber, sliced thickly and halved (two slices/four halves per person)
small seedless green grapes (5-6 per person)
half a red onion, sliced finely
cooked beetroot wedges (four per person)
mustard & cress
fresh parsley, chopped
3 tbsp dry roasted peanuts.

Method :

At least one hour before you are due to begin cooking, marinate the chicken.

Place the soy sauce, curry powder, cumin, garlic and honey into a large bowl and mix well.

Taking each chicken breast, run your knife horizontally through from the thickest end to the thinnest, creating two thin fillets.  Plate the fillets into the marinade and stir well, to ensure every little bit is coated.  Cover with cling film and refrigerate until required.

When it is time to cook, begin by mixing up the satay sauce.  In a medium sized bowl, add the peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce and lime juice and stir together.  Continue to stir, adding small amounts of cold water, until you have a dropping consistency.  Set aside.

Next, build each salad onto the plate starting with the salad leaves.  Create a small mound of these in the centre of the plate.

Divide the slices of tomato between the three plates, placing the tomato around the outside of the leaves.

Dot the salad leaves with cucumber half slices, then the grapes, then sprinkle the red onion over.

Add the beetroot wedges to the side of the plate.

Sprinkle everything with the mustard & cress.

Next, lay each fillet of chicken onto a foil lined baking sheet and cook under a hot grill (or broiler, if you're in the USA) until just cooked.  Turn the chicken over and cook the other side the same way.  This should only take 6-7 minutes each side.  Check the chicken is cooked through, by cutting into the thickest part and if you can see any sign of pinkness in the juices, put it back under the grill until the pinkness is gone.

Slice the chicken and lay it on top of the salad, while the chicken is still warm.

Drizzle spoonfuls of the satay sauce over the chicken and into the salad - be generous, as the sauce is divine.  

Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and the dry roasted peanuts.

Settle down somewhere cool - and tuck in!

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10 May 2017

Prawn Pad Thai - my new favourite thing!

And when I say "my new favourite thing", I'm talking about it being right up there alongside Nasi Goreng and Shepherd's Pie. Now THAT is high praise indeed.

I don't mind admitting that I was a wee bit intimidated by this recipe.  You see, I had attempted a Pad Thai a very long time ago - before I started blogging, so around seven or eight years ago - and it was a singular failure. Having just cooked the dish again, I can see that first go didn't work because I didn't understand the first thing about any of the ingredients. However, without the benefit of getting a good one under my belt, I was a bit worried that it would fail again.

Coming out the other side of having completed an outstandingly successful rendition of Pad Thai, I now haven't a clue what I was worried about as it was incredibly simple to make.  However, you do need to have your mise en place done before you begin to cook, as you cook at such a pace that you really have no time in which to turn around and chop a spring onion, for instance.  That, and overcooking the noodles in a big way, are much of the reason why the first one didn't work.



Having everything chopped, squeezed, measured out and ready to go is essential.  You almost need to put everything in order, the cooking goes that quickly.  However, once you've got everything ready, the cooking is fabulously simple and the results spectacular.

I've seen lots of different Pad Thai recipes, some ask for tamarind, some for coconut milk.  This one doesn't ask for any of those things, it keeps things clean and simple with just fish sauce, oyster sauce and gorgeous lime juice to stitch all the other flavours together.


I used John Torode's recipe from BBC Good Food as the guide for this recipe but several things are different and because of that things happen in a slightly different order, so I decided to blog the recipe so as not to lose it. The original recipe is here if you are curious.  I think my version just simplifies things a little bit further.

The only Cook's Tip I have for you is what I have already stated - get your chopping, peeling and squeezing done before you start cooking!

So, onwards to major, serious, deliciousness and clean, wholesome eating.

PRAWN PAD THAI   (serves 2-3)

Ingredients :

200g rice noodles, the white, vermicelli style
2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
2 eggs, beaten
pinch of sea salt & black pepper
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 large lime, juice only
6 spring onions, sliced diagonally
1 red chilli (leave the seeds in for additional heat)
200g beansprouts
15g coriander, chopped to include the stems
250g cooked coldwater prawns, drained
100g dry roasted peanuts, chopped slightly.

Method :

To begin, set a saucepan of water to boil.  Once boiling, add the rice noodles and remove from the heat.  As soon as the noodles have softened, but before being fully cooked - around a minute and a half - drain well and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Set aside to drain fully.

Add a pinch of sea salt & black pepper to the beaten egg and stir through. Heat the oil in a wok over a moderate heat and once the oil appears to shimmer slightly, add the beaten egg and stir gently to form an omelette. Reduce the heat to low, so as not to burn the underside of the omelette and once formed and set, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon so as to keep the majority of the oil in the pan, onto a plate to keep warm.

Still over a gentle heat, add the chopped garlic to the wok and stir fry it very gently until the pieces have turned a gentle golden colour.  Don't rush this process, or the garlic will burn and become bitter.  Slow and steady wins the day.

Next, add the sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce and lime juice, along with the spring onions, chilli, beansprouts and three quarters of the coriander. Increase the heat to moderate and stir regularly as the onions soften and cook.  This should take no more than around 4-5 minutes.

Add the cooked prawns, the drained noodles and a third of the peanuts and stir and toss to combine and heat through.  Keep the contents of the pan moving, so that nothing catches on the underside and the noodles combine well with the other ingredients.

Once well mixed, serve into warmed bowls and garnish with the remaining peanuts and chopped coriander.

Tuck in and enjoy!

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22 March 2017

Red lentil, butternut squash & chilli soup

Red lentil, butternut squash & chilli soup. Get your fix of beta carotene here, orange coloured food for the win. LOL You certainly know you've eaten something by the end of a bowl of this - and all for around 300 calories, which can't be bad. Of course, the crusty bread and butter blows the calories out of the water, but it's good to start low!

When I dreamt this soup up, I was after a main course soup that didn't involve much meat but that tasted like it did. Because of my predilection towards developing gouty painful feet from time to time, it is useful to have a few mainly vegetable recipes to lean on during these periods. Now I know there are those who would tut heavily and announce that lentils are incredible bad for gout - and I know that. However, not with me. They most definitely are not one of my gout triggers, whereas meat very often is - and pork (not bacon, interestingly!) can often be a prime trigger.

Well, I certainly scored with this soup as it is hearty, wholesome and would fill you up on a chilly winter's night. The chilli gives it a nice friskiness that helps to keep your tongue interested, while the butternut squash and lentils give it that heartiness that satisfies. Oh and of course, discovering a piece of bacon every so often will reassure those carnivores amongst us that there is, in fact, some meat in their dinner and they haven't had a vegetarian dish sneaked onto their plate.

Now, where Cook's Tips are concerned, the top one for today is that it is really important to use low sodium stock cubes for this soup. Ordinary, salty, stock cubes will spoil the soup with salt overkill so it is way better to use a low salt stock powder or cube and have to add a little extra salt at the end, rather than the alternative.

As you will see from the recipe, I recommend using a potato masher a few times to break up the vegetables a little and so thicken the soup. Now, you can use a stick blender and whizz the lot, but you will lose a lot of the lovely interest from the texture and of course, you will lose the bacon pieces. However, if that's not important to you and you prefer a more pureed texture to your soup, then whizz away.

For all you vegetarians out there the soup is easily converted to being veggie. Simply leave the bacon out, use all vegetable stock and add half a tsp smoked paprika for the smoky flavour the bacon would have brought and you're home and dry.

Okay, well, I think that's it - so onwards to the recipe!

RED LENTIL, BUTTERNUT SQUASH & CHILLI SOUP (serves 3 as a main meal)

Ingredients :

1 tbsp olive oil
6 rashers streaky bacon, cut into lardons
1 red onion, diced finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 large red chilli pepper, de-seeded and diced finely
2 carrots, peeled and diced finely
1 celery stick, diced finely
half a butternut squash (I used the stalk end), peeled and diced
3 large juicy tomatoes, cored, diced and as much juice as possible included
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp low salt chicken stock powder or 1 low salt stock cube
1 tsp low salt vegetable stock powder or 1 low salt stock cube
500ml hot water
150g dried red lentils
sea salt
ground black pepper.

Method :

Use a large sized saucepan and heat the olive oil over a moderate heat. Add the streaky bacon lardons and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is golden.

Add the onion, garlic, chilli pepper, carrots and celery and continue to cook, sweating the vegetables down and stirring regularly until they have just begun to soften - around 10-15 minutes.

Add the butternut squash pieces and give them enough time - stirring regularly - to warm up.

Next, add the diced tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomato puree and stir to combine. Cook on until the tomatoes have begun to break down.

Add the dried basil, the two stock powders (or stock cubes), hot water and red lentils. Stir through until well combined, then cover the saucepan and bring to a lively simmer.

Remember to stir the contents regularly, as red lentils can sink to the bottom and singe if left unstirred.

Once the lentils are almost cooked and the butternut squash is tender, taste to test for seasoning and add sea salt and ground black pepper as necessary.

Continue to simmer the soup until the lentils, carrots and butternut squash are tender, then taking a potato masher, press it through the soup some three or four times to just break up some of the vegetables which will have the effect of thickening the soup. You can, if you prefer, whizz the soup with a stick blender, but I much prefer to have some chunky texture to it - I think it keeps you interested as you eat it.

Ladle into warmed bowls and serve with warm, buttered chunks of bread for dipping.

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18 March 2017

Simple garlic butter prawn spaghetti

Well, this one was a real unexpected surprise.  I wasn't supposed to be cooking this recipe at all and in fact, can't remember why I wasn't cooking the intended one.  Whatever the reasons were - and it could be any number of them! - I decided to go for this because it looked simple and sounded like it could be rather good.

Yes, it's certainly simple - both in number of ingredients, cooking process and method - and as for "rather good", well that's a bit of an understatement.  It turned out to be very good indeed.

The recipe originates with the BBC Good Food website and I could just direct you straight there, however, it occurred to me that if we ever lost that site, I'd lose a very useful and tasty recipe.  So here it is, with thanks to BBC Good Food for the original.

There is only one Cook's Tip for this recipe - and that is, if you are using cooked King prawns (or Tiger prawns), then literally just heat them up in the pan.  Don't cook them, as they are already cooked and will become tough and hard if heated for too long.  They just need to be brought up to a good temperature so as to avoid any risk of encouraging bacteria by half-hearted warming and that's all.


This dish certainly doesn't have big, bold flavours.  However, if you're into garlic butter, lemon and prawns, then you will love it.  The spaghetti gives it that comfort food thing and the lemon prevents the butter from becoming too rich.  I'd have it again tomorrow, I liked it that much!

SIMPLE GARLIC BUTTER PRAWN SPAGHETTI    (serves 2)

Ingredients :

250g dried spaghetti
sea salt
20g salted butter
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
a pinch of ground black pepper
250g cooked King prawns
zest of 1 lemon
15g fresh parsley, chopped.

Method :

Firstly, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the dried spaghetti and cook to manufacturer's recommendation.

In the meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over a gentle heat and add the chopped garlic.  Sweat, as opposed to fry, the garlic ever so ever so gently until the pieces are softened, adding the black pepper along the way.  Then, add the prawns, the lemon zest and the parsley and increase the temperature just slightly, sufficient to heat the prawns through without cooking them and without frying the pan's contents.

Drain the pasta and add to the prawn & garlic pan.  Toss the pasta in the garlicky butter and serve into warmed bowls, sharing the prawns out evenly.

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