I was brought up with the notion that when you cook it is always better to make too much than not enough. This explains the fact that when I need to cut down, I end up reaching for the ready meals. They are always in the correct quantity, calorie counted and the pictures on the top of the packets look really appealing. I am lucky that with the amount of exercise I do I don’t have to rely on the really low calorie options. I have had many bad experiences with all supermarket varieties and anything I can do to avoid those the better.
This week’s options have persuaded me to cook large batches of things and freeze in ready meal sized portions. If I was prepared to spend over £4 a meal I would be singing a different tune but now I am watching every penny I begrudge spending £2.99 for a plastic carton full of pasta with a splodge of a red sauce with bits in. Granted, it was nicely flavoured and there isn’t much you can do to make a black plastic carton full of pasta look appealing, but still, there has to be a better way.
Therefore, the challenge I have given myself this week is to go through my recipe notebook and calorie count all my favourite dishes and then freeze them in proper portions… what is the betting that half way through the exercise I go back to the ready meal option?
If you are going to all the trouble to make a pizza base then it is a shame to use a sauce out of a jar. This is a recipe that I seem to make on a monthly basis and freeze in potions.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper (small twist of each)
For this recipe you need a smallish pan with a lid.
Put the oil and finely chopped or grated garlic in the pan on the lowest heat possible for a few moments, until you can just start to smell the garlic. The oil should not be bubbling and the garlic should still be white, not tanning in any way.
Pour the rest of the ingredients into the pan and stir thoroughly.
Place the lid on the top of the pan at an angle so that the steam can escape. There is method to my madness here. The tomato sauce will bubble during the cooking time and if you are not careful it will try its best to decorate your hob. I have found that just resting the lid on the top stops all of the cleaning up afterwards.
Now leave for about an hour, stirring regularly until you have a nice thick sauce.
Just remember to leave to cool before putting on your pizza bases.
These cookies were a result of one day being very hungry and very bored. I didn’t want to go shopping for snacks so I raided the baking section of my kitchen cupboard and created these. I hope you enjoy these as much as my family did.
250g salted butter
100g caster sugar
30g maple syrup
30ml double cream
250g plain flour
125g rice flour
100g white chocolate chunks
150g macadamia nuts (roughly chopped)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade or equivalent.
Cream together the sugar and butter in a large bowl till light and airy and then beat in the maple syrup and double cream.
Sieve the plain and rice flours into the bowl and mix till just combined. Do not overwork.
Pour in the chocolate and nuts and mix gently until all the bits are evenly distributed.
Use a 1 tbsp measuring spoon to measure out balls of the mixture and put on a lined baking tray. These will spread a little during cooking so make sure there is at least 1 ½ inches between each cookie.
The timings for these vary but I normally put a batch in for 12 mins, check to see that they have tanned slightly and if not put them back in for another 2 mins.
Leave to cool for at least 20 mins then eat.
If I was going to have to name this dish then it would have to be called Mike… for all of you new to my naming system I name things alphabetically after people as I am bored of naming things after cooking methods.
1 pack pre rolled puff pastry
1/2 – 1 jar caramelised onions (or make your own from 750g red onions)
400g mixed mushrooms – roughly chopped up
8 slices of smoked streaky bacon – roughly chopped
1 hour in advance
1 – over a high heat, melt the butter and then fry off the bacon until starting to colour.
2 – throw in the mushrooms
3 – cook until the mushrooms, stirring regularly until they have reduced in size by ½.
4 – leave to cool
½ an hour before dinner
1 – Preheat the oven to the temperature recommended on the puff pastry packet. This is normally 180-200 degrees Centigrade.
2 – Take the puff pastry out of its packet and cut into whatever size portions you want. You can even leave it whole if you want to.
3 – Place each portion on a baking tray and cut a border about 1-2cm from the edge (pressing down to half way through the pastry with your knife). The edge is the bit that is going to puff up in the oven so the amount of border is up to you.
4 – Spread the caramelised onions into the centre section, then pile on the cooled mushroom mixeture.
5 – Crumble blue cheese all over the top.
6 – Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 mins until golden brown.
There are days that make you wish that you had never gotten out of bed. Last Saturday was one of those days. Everything that I attempted to make turned out to be a disaster. These are things that I have made dozens of times before without any issues all turned out wrong.
Let me start from the beginning. It has been a long time since I had made any treats for the family and since it was the birthday of a good friend of mine I thought it would be the perfect excuse to spend the day in the kitchen. On the agenda was chocolate fudge, salted caramels, millionaire’s shortbread and peanut butter cookies. Plus, we were almost out of bread so I had to make a loaf.
Firstly, I wasn’t paying any attention to the bread dough in the mixer as I was staring at a sugar thermometer so that ended up way too dry. So, rather than a light and airy loaf, I ended up with a brick.
Secondly, I was trying out a new millionaire’s shortbread recipe. The caramel just wouldn’t get up to soft ball temperature but the consistency and colour were both perfect. Instead of using my common sense and trying a drop onto an ice cube or the equivalent or even reading the instructions, I carried on heating it. Suffice to say that the caramel set rock hard.
Trust me when I say that the rest of the day didn’t get any better.
My grandmother used to say that you should never make pastry if you are not feeling well. I am going to widen that; I should never set foot in a kitchen if I am feeling unwell. I wonder if I will remember that for next time.
I had to take a short break from looking for the perfect biscuit as my families waistlines were expanding due to too many tastings… not good. I will continue this in a few weeks, don’t worry.
In the meantime, there are a couple of store bought biscuits that are worth a try:
1) Waitrose own double chocolate chip cookies (4 pack not the singles)
2) M&S honeycomb cookies
This isn’t exactly a recipe as there are only 2 ingredients and all you do is heat and stir, but, the result is so tasty that I had to share it.
750g red onions
1 tbsp olive oil
Peel and finely slice the onions and put in a large non stick frying pan with the oil. Put the pan on the lowest possible heat. Now, patience. Leave the pan there for around an hour and a half, stirring them every so often so they don’t catch and burn.
The end point really depends on what you want to do with them. I like them really dark and sticky for burgers or slightly lighter when I am making red onion tarts with goats cheese.
The choice is yours.
Below is a picture of my last batch. I used a 1kg mixture of red and white onions and very slowly cooked them over 3 hours. The resultant mixture was put into my open mushroom, bacon and cheese tarts. That recipe will be put on at a later date.