I found this recipe in my favourite Clean & Lean cookbook and it tasted absolutely wonderful! I slightly tweaked it to ‘Sally It Up’ but the fundamentals are there. It’s also pretty healthy and low calorie, working out at about 350 calories per portion (including the crispy onions I lobbed on top), with lots of ‘good’ fats from the coconut cream. Plus, it’s wheat and dairy free. And, as always with a coconut based dish, make sure you serve it up with a big squeeze of lime and lots of coriander.
Ingredients - Serves 2
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 x 150g packet of raw prawns
1 green (or red) chilli, finely chopped with seeds
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 small thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, finely chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
40ml Coconut cream (half a small tin)
75-100ml boiling water (you want to keep the sauce quite thick)
125g vermicelli rice noodles
Small handful of chopped coriander
Optional: Crispy onion flakes
Heat the oil in a wok over a low-medium heat. Gently fry off the garlic, chilli, ginger and lemongrass until soft (about 5 minutes), stirring often. Add the coconut cream and water and mix together, keeping on a low heat. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce and prawns and cook for a few minutes until they turn pink - be careful not to let it boil. Meanwhile, cook the noodles per packet instructions. Taste the sauce and add anything you think may be lacking. When the prawns are done, divide the noodles between the bowls and serve the prawns on top with the sauce. Garnish with lots of coriander, a squeeze of lime and some crispy onions.
Rachel Khoo has been going on about her little Paris kitchen, so I thought I would tell you about my equally tiny Balham kitchen and how I stock it with some essentials to make cooking in such a small space stress free and enjoyable.
1. Planted Herbs: I’m loving this new addition to the usually dreary vista. We’ve got two boxes but my favourite is the one with rosemary (all things roast), chives (all things salad) and sage (all things Italian). I’ve been warned off parsley and coriander and these herbs are growing wonderfully in these cold and wet conditions - I almost feel slightly maternal watching them grow and survive such tough climes!
2. Good Knives: Frank treated us to a set of Global Knives which have transformed my chopping skills and noticeably reduced prep time. I tend to use the big Cook’s knife the most, followed by the smaller chopper. But I do also love my peeler and bread knife. If you ever see these on offer, please get them - you will have them forever.
Also, my Kuhn Rikon chopper and tomato knife are rarely not in use, along with various Microplanes.
And remember, any good knife requires a really good quality chopping board.
3. Pot Rack: This seems pretty obvious but I’m always surprised more people don’t have these. By hanging them up on the wall, you’ve got so much more room for yummy food in your cupboards.
4. Spice rack and wooden counter top: This area was previously just the fireplace - completely unused and a real waste of space. We put in a thick wooden counter on top of the fireplace which makes the perfect home for all of our spices. Essential to any kitchen are: paprika, ground cumin, coriander seeds, tumeric, curry powder, saffron, dried chilli flakes, dried oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and sumac (but the list goes on).
4. Oils: Make sure you have a good selection of oils - they are essential to almost every dish. I make sure that I always have some low calorie cooking spray (for when I want to keep things really light), some light & mild oil that you can cook on a high heat such as groundnut or vegetable, a couple flavoursome oils like sesame and hemp, and a really good extra virgin olive oil. I’ve also just started using coconut oil which is great for stir fries.
5. Electrical: My favourite piece of electrical equipment is definitely my blender. I use the little mini blenders for my shakes, curry pastes and sauces and the hand blender for soup. Franks uses the whisks and seemingly all other parts for his baking.
I’m also very partial to my drip coffee machine (and coffee grinder), the popcorn machine and my DAB digitial radio.
6. My store cupboard essentials are: pasta (spaghetti and rigatoni), rice (brown, basmati, bomba, alborio), rice noodles, soba noodles, porcini mushrooms, pesto, stock cubes (vegetable and chicken), tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, quinoa and various pulses (chickpeas, cannellini, & kidney).
7. For the freezer: I always make sure I’ve got fish fingers & fish cakes, a couple packets of mince, straight to wok prawns, frozen herbs, peas & petit pois, and some of my roast potatoes.
I hope some of this can help you make the most out of your little kitchen. Happy cooking!
Foods to Love is an exciting new website stocking some of my favourite healthy products. I’ve noticed how incredibly easy it is to go into places like Wholefoods with good intentions but find yourself having either spent too much on things that you’ll never use or become flustered by the choice and end up leaving with some green tea and a nut bar.
Enter: Foods to Love. Jenna, the (vegan) founder of the website, has tried and tested all the products to give you a concise and considered range of products that can become a staple of your cooking and not just another thing to collect dust in the cupboard. She suggests recipes for how to use them and explains why they are so good for you from a nutritional standpoint. She also sells her wonderful range of Upcakes, which I adore when I fancy a sweet treat other than a strip of dark chocolate (Lindt - always).
Here’s a few of my favourites from my recent buy - click on the links to get them for yourself!
Almond Milk - As a total dairy lover, I’ve been mixing this calcium rich alternative in with my morning shakes. I absolutely love it… just not in my tea!
Kale & Spirulina Crackers - A bit of an acquired taste but just check out the ingredients and you’ll see how good these are for you: kale, celery, parsley, basil, spinach, courgette, onion , chive, pumpkin seed, leek, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sundried tomato, flax seed, spirulina, and Himalayan salt. I like mine with a little bit of hummus.
Nutritional Yeast- It sounds odd but this has become a slight addiction as a topping on my salads. It’s full of energy giving B vitamins as well as protein, zinc and folic acid.
Shelled Hemp Seeds - Jenna says these are ‘possibly as nutritious as any food can be’. They’re full of Omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium and iron, and are a complete protein. Incredibly versatile - I shake them onto just about everything!
Upcake Chocbites- Just like a brownie but free of wheat, dairy, sugar and eggs. What’s not to love?
This recipe evolved from an Ottolenghi favourite. It really packs a punch and can be served by itself for lunch or with roast chicken or lamb for dinner. The original recipe uses rocket and grilled halloumi instead of little gem hearts and feta but I think this somehow makes it more ‘salady’ and slightly less rich. Saying that, I don’t think it really matters what you use as long as you give everything the same treatment. Fennel, aubergine and green beans could all work fabulously here. If you’re lucky (which I wasn’t), you’ll have some crusty bread to mop up all the beautiful tomato and feta infused basil oil with.
And I promise you, whatever the weather is doing outside, this recipe will make you feel like Summer is just around the corner.
Ingredients - Serves 2-4
1 Bunch of Asparagus - cut off the ends and trim if necessary
1 Courgette - peeled into ribbons (as thick as possible)
A punnet of cherry tomatoes (or any other ripe tomatoes)
2-3 little gem hearts
1 garlic clove
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Black Pepper
For the basil oil: Blitz the basil and garlic in a blender with the juice of half a lemon, 1 tbsp water, a pinch of salt and pepper and about 50ml of olive oil, until it’s quite runny. Taste and add anything you think is lacking.
For the salad:
1.Preheat the oven to 170 C. Halve the tomatoes (or quarter if larger) and toss lightly in 1 tbsp olive oil and season. Cook in the oven for about 50 minutes, until they’ve become incredibly sweet and concentrated. Leave to cool.
2. Par boil the asparagus in salted boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain and rinse well under very cold water, until cool.
3. Either heat a large griddle pan or your oven grill until hot. Toss the asparagus in 1 tbsp olive oil and season. Cook for 6-8 minutes until lightly charred and then do exactly the same with the courgette.
4. Take a large plate and divide up the little gem hearts. Layer the asaparagus and courgette and nestle in the tomatoes. Drizzle with the basil oil and crumble the feta on top. You might want to add another dash of olive oil to serve but that’s optional .
I think using turkey instead of beef (or lamb) lifts this potentially heavy meal and brings it nicely into Spring. It’s healthy and packed full of vegetables - each serving is about 200 calories plus the pasta. This recipe serves five (for various moot reasons) but could easily be stretched to six which would reduce the calories to 170. It’s the perfect thing to make on a Sunday to see you through the first few days of the week and satisfy any of your bolognese cravings (which I find myself having quite often…).
Since I didn’t have any Parmesan, I lightly tossed the linguine in some pesto which added a delicious salty layer.
Ingredients - Serves 5
500g turkey breast mince
1 white onion, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1-2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 courgette, roughly chopped
100g washed spinach
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes (FYI I’ve started buying slightly more expensive brands and can really taste the difference in sweetness and texture)
1 chicken stock cube (reduced salt)
1 small glass dry white wine
Salt and Pepper
Heat up a large casserole dish with some cooking spray and fry the turkey until lightly browned, breaking it up with the back of your spoon. Remove from the pot and set aside. Heat some more cooking spray in the pot and gently fry off the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and courgette for about 8-10 minutes, until soft. Add the turkey back in and mix through. Add the tomatoes along with one tin’s worth of water and the wine. Throw in the chicken stock cube and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook with the lid on for one hour, stirring occasionally, and then with the lid askew for another hour. After two hours, give everything a really good stir and decide if it needs to be reduced any more, as well as tasting for seasoning. If you’re happy with the consistency, add the spinach, toss through and cook for another 15 minutes with the lid off. I like to then turn off the heat and let it cool a bit before serving but if you can wait until the next day, that’s even better!
I actually think it’s pretty hard to cook a roast for two. Supermarket portions are generally for four and you can be lumbered at the end with a load of leftovers that you don’t necessarily want or need. Also, warmer weather calls for a rejig of the traditional roast… personally, I don’t want a roast potato or Yorkshire pudding when it’s warm outside and I’m drinking rosé.
This dinner has all the ritual of a roast but is lightened up for Spring and can easily be done for two (or four!). You will probably have some leftover roast chicken but that’s always a bonus in my mind.
Keep things casual and follow your instincts: if you don’t like fennel, substitute with artichoke or spinach and if you don’t like porcini, fry off some chestnut mushrooms in garlic and butter before mixing with the rice. This sort of cooking is all about combining the flavours you really like. It should all be served at room temperature.
For the rice and porcini salad: Cook 80g-100g of whole grain basmati rice in some stock per packet instructions. Meanwhile soak 20g of porcini mushrooms in hot water. When the rice is cooked, put into a large bowl and mix with a very large handful of chopped parsley, the (drained and chopped) porcini mushrooms and a couple tablespoons of the porcini soaking liquid, the zest of one lemon, and a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and season with salt and pepper.
Ingredients: whole grain basmati rice, porcini mushrooms, parsley, extra virgin olive oil or hemp oil, lemon zest, sunflower seeds, salt and pepper.
For the fennel, parmesan and rocket salad: Finely slice half a large bulb of fennel (or one small/medium fennel) and reserve the fronds. In a large bowl, toss the fennel with the chopped fronds and a 70g bag of rocket. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of one lemon - toss thoroughly and season lightly. Shave a generous chunk of parmesan into the salad and gentle toss. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Ingredients: large bulb of fennel, bag of rocket, extra virgin olive oil, 1 lemon, parmesan.
For the sage roasted chicken: Stuff the chicken with half a lemon and half a small bunch of sage. Rest the chicken in a large roasting tray on top of the remaining sage. Rub with olive oil and season very generously with salt and a little pepper. Cook for the first two-thirds covered in foil and then for the final third without foil, allowing it to brown and gently crisp. When done, leave to rest on a carving board. Meanwhile, remove any excess oils from the roasting tray with a spoon. Place the tray on a high heat and deglaze with a glass of dry white wine and a squeeze of lemon. Add 1 tbsp plain flour and cook until fully absorbed, stirring constantly. You want a thick zingy sauce - not a gravy. Drizzle over the chicken and serve.
Ingredients: 1 whole chicken, bunch of sage, 1 lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper, white wine.
I’m a very reluctant baker, mainly because I don’t want to eat anything I bake. My thinking is that if it’s not there, I won’t eat it. But Frank is brilliant at baking and makes all sorts of delicious sourdough and spelt breads (with our own starter, of course), and lemon meringue pies and rhubarb crumbles. For Easter, he made these incredibly yummy banana oat cookies that I don’t think are too unhealthy. The chocolate chips are essential. Here’s his recipe (which he nicked from Mumsnet):
Ingredients - Makes 26 (or as many as you want, lard boy)
8oz porridge oats
2 ripe bananas
8oz brown sugar (WOAH THERE - see details below)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4oz margarine (or 2oz butter + 2oz oil, or 3 of butter + 1 of oil)
1 beaten egg
(optional - 1 oz dark chocolate chips)
The whole thing is a movable feast. I stuck in a big handful of chopped nuts (I found a bag in the back of the cupboard, no doubt several years past their sell by date). And my ounce of entirely non-optional chocolate chips was probably more like two. Just go free.
Preheat the oven. My original recipe said moderate - which I guessed was about 170 degrees. Just keep an eye on them.
I chopped up the bananas real nice. Small bits. Now here’s the key to the entire recipe. WEIGH YOUR BANANAS (without the skin, obviously). Mine were about six ounces. Then top up that weight to 8oz with sugar. That’s the sugar requirement (I actually used a natural fruit sugar syrup thing from Waitrose, because I’m smug and healthy). GOT IT? The sugar in the bananas is almost enough to sweeten these muthas.
Now chuck in all the other dry ingredients and mix it up thoroughly. The banana will go a bit mushy and help start to bind everything together (and the acid in the fruit will kick-start the baking powder to give a small rise when they cook. Science).
Now melt your margarine/butter/oil (I used the extra low-fat Lurpack stuff). I just stuck it in a bowl in the pre-heating oven for a couple of minutes whilst I mixed the dry ingredients together.
Bung in the melted butter, mix thoroughly. It’ll start coming together into a batter, smelling pungently of banana. Mix in the egg (I used just egg whites out of a carton in the fridge. Try them, they’re the future of eggs). And you’re done.
Now take a spoon and drop blobs of the mix onto a baking tray - it’s best to use a layer of greaseproof paper, because: (a) they won’t stick and (b) you won’t have to do any extra washing up. Once you’ve made all the blobs relatively even and licked the back of the spoon, bake in middle of your moderate oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown, like little rock cakes.
Allow to cool on a wire rack. Seriously, because otherwise they’ll fall apart in your hands (the cooling provides a bit of structural integrity). Then eat them all, preferably in front of the final round of the Masters.
My Brother-in-law (BIL) made this Bill Granger recipe for me and I loved it so much that I was straight on to Amazon the next day ordering the book (click here). Lots of cucumber and fresh mint make it a perfect dish for Spring.
IMPORTANT: Due to a major shortage of vermicelli rice noodles in Balham, I had to use my thicker store cupboard essentials - but try to use the thinner ones if you can… I think they take on more of the flavour.
Ingredients - Serves 4
For the Chicken:
3 tbsp fish sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large red chillies, finely chopped
2 tsp sugar
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
For the Cucumber & Cashew Salad:
4 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp caster sugar
200g vermicelli rice noodles
2 cucumbers, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp cashew nuts, roughly chopped
For the Chicken: Mix the fish sauce, pepper, garlic, chillies, and sugar in a bowl. In a large bowl, marinade the chicken with half the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minute (put the rest of the marinade to one side). Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the chicken in batches for 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are lovely and golden and cooked through.
For the Salad: While the chicken is cooking, cook the noodles per packet instructions. When ready, rinse under cold water. Add the lime juice and sugar to the rest of the marinade, whisking until the sugar has fully dissolved. Mix with the noodles in a large bowl, along with the cucumber, mint, spring onion and cashews. Toss thoroughly (use your hands!) and serve with the sliced chicken on top.