Quick and Easy Risotto

My daughter loves risotto, but I rarely make it as it is a bit of a faff.  I came across this recipe while browsing the BBC Good Food website and thought I’d give it a go …

(Risotto is not very pretty, but I can’t have a post without a picture, so here it is!)

The original recipe can be found here.  My amendments are noted below, as usual!

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Ingredients

(this serves 4 – I halved the recipe as it was just me and my daughter at home)

  • 2 tbsp mild olive oil or sunflower oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 onion, cut in half, coarsely grated (I can’t be dealing with grating onions!  I used a red onion, finely chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated (I just smushed mine!)
  • 250g arborio rice
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 250g cooked chicken, cut into small pieces (I shredded mine)
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 75g Gran Padano cheese
  • 25g butter (I didn’t bother with this)
  • black pepper
  • I added the juice of 1 lemon and a sprinkling of dried mixed herbs

Method

Start off with frying the onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes, until soft.  Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains with the oil.  Pour in the wine and let it bubble for a minute, stirring all the time.  Then, and this is the good bit, just pour in all the stock at once.  Stir well and bring to the boil, then let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When rice is almost tender and creamy looking, throw in the chicken and peas.  Cook for another 5 minutes, until the rice is cooked to your liking.  Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese, season and serve!  (I cooked up some mushrooms separately as my daughter doesn’t like them, and added these to my serving).

We both thought this tasted lovely – there was no discernible difference between this method and the ‘ladle full of stock at a time’ method, and it was much easier to cook – I could get on with other bits in the kitchen, just stirring occasionally.   I will definitely be making this more often!

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

srilankancurry

In my quest to broaden my reading horizons, I decided to extend the challenge to cooking as well.  I love to cook, although my family are all really plain eaters and so I have become very unadventurous in the kitchen.  To remedy this, I decided that I would cook a dish from each country as I read my way around the world.  First up was Sri Lanka (you can read my book review of Brixton Beach by Sri Lankan author Roma Tearne here).

Googling Sri Lankan recipes will make you hungry and I had trouble deciding what to cook!  Everything I found looked delicious.  However, many recipes called for exotic ingredients that aren’t easily available in my little town 40 minutes from London, and I was impatient.  So I settled on a chicken curry recipe as this would hopefully appeal to my fussy husband too!

I found this recipe on an Australian website, here, and I will note my amendments below!  The video on the website is very helpful!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil (I used vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (I couldn’t find seeds, so I used ground fenugreek)
  • 10 curry leaves on the stem (I had run out and so had my local supermarket.  My mum had a packet of small dried curry leaves so I stole that and added a generous handful)
  • 2 large onions (I used red onion)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel (I couldn’t find ground fennel, but smashed up some fennel seeds instead)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp salt (I only used about 1 tsp)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (I wasn’t sure what sort of vinegar to use, so ended up using regular vinegar for chips!)
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped (life is too short to peel tomatoes!)
  • 6 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
  • 1 pandan leaf, folded (I couldn’t get this so googling told me to use a couple of bay leaves and some dried basil)
  • 1.5kg chicken thighs on the bone (we don’t do chicken on the bone in this house – I used 3 chicken breasts cut into chunks)
  • 250ml thick coconut milk (I bought this and then forgot to add it in at the end!)
  • lemon juice (optional) (I didn’t)

Phew.  That’s a long list of ingredients.  As you can see, I’m not very good at following recipes and like to improvise.

Method

Heat the oil and fry the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves until the leaves start to brown (as my leaves were so small I fried for a couple of minutes – didn’t want them to burn! I added my fennel seeds at this point, along with the cardamom pods which the original recipe doesn’t mention!).  Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry gently until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the ground spices, lemongrass and panda leaf, then add the chicken.  Stir to coat the chicken in the spices, then cover and cook over a low heat for 40-50 minutes.  Stir in the coconut milk (don’t forget!) and add a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

The Verdict

Even without the coconut milk (!), this was delicious.  Hubby agreed.  It was very easy to cook and smelled delicious.  I served it with plain fluffy white rice and a tomato and onion sambol, which provided a lovely crunch and zing!  I would definitely make this again!

500 calories – day 1!

So, it is 6.30pm and I have eaten my 500 calories for the day. I woke up hungry (actually, I went to bed hungry last night :() but had a cup of green tea. Youngest child was ill in the night, so I was tired and my plans for ‘fasting’ at work were scuppered as I had to take the day off to look after him.

By 11ish I felt a headache coming on, so I ate my Graze box ‘love mix’ (98 calories) which was tasty and staved off the hunger pains for a short while. By 12.30 I was hungry again so had another green tea. By 2pm I was feeling a little light headed and was very hungry, so I had my Hairy Dieters Minestrone soup with one Ryvita Thin (135 calories). This was very tasty but didn’t fill me up for long and I was counting down the hours until I could start cooking dinner … At half five, dinner was on, and all consumed by 6.10! I was surprised at how much 40g of dry couscous grows to (267 calories).

Now I have to get through the rest of the evening, with just a cup of green tea to look forward to!

Overall, today has been easier than I thought (I know I still have a few hours to go!). I’ve already learnt that the hunger pains come in waves, and I can get through the dull, empty feeling for quite a while! 

Tomorrow, I eat 🙂

 Here’s what today’s calories looked like:

Dusting off the cobwebs!

It’s been a while.

I have created no art.

I have read a few books.

I have cooked a few meals and baked a few cakes.

The reason for this blog post out of the blue is that I have become inspired. I am overweight (ok, let’s be honest, health professionals would call me morbidly obese *sob*) and it is time. I had heard about zig-zagging calories (eating many calories one day, few calories the next) some time ago, but didn’t really pay much attention to it. Then one of my close friends posted on Facebook saying she was having a ‘fasting’ day. I queried her sanity. Everyone knows fasting is not good for you, and fad diets never work, right?! She pointed me in the direction of the BBC Horizon programme, Eat, Fast and Live Longer, and I was inspired by what I saw.

I have never before followed a ‘fad’ diet. I don’t believe that diets like Atkins, The Cambridge diet, cabbage soup diets or any of those wacko diets work in the long term and the weight just piles back on when you (inevitably) start eating properly again. I fully believe the only way to lose weight and keep it off is to re-educate your mind about food, eat healthily and sensibly and get a fair amount of exercise.  Easier said than done!  This diet, however, does seem to be different. It has many followers in many different guises. Many spiritual groups follow a feed/fast routine. And the health benefits shown in the BBC programme are astonishing. Do I want to cut my risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimers AND lose weight at the same time? Why, yes, I think I do!

So here’s the plan. Michael Mosley tested a number of different versions of the diet on the programme – fasting for nearly 4 days every few months, fasting every other day, or fasting 2 days out of 7. Guess which one appeals to me the most?! Ha! 2 days out of 7? I think I can do that!

Now, when I say “fast” … it’s not actually complete fasting. I will take in around 500 calories on the fasting days. On the “feed” days I’m aiming for around 1700 calories, though I may tweak this as the weeks go on (see the optimism there?! Yes! I’m talking about weeks ahead!). I’ll be using myfitnesspal.com to track my calories as I know I’ll get lost if I don’t use something! Tomorrow will be my first fasting day. I plan to fast on either Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays, depending on what’s happening with family life, etc.

I know if I am to succeed at this I will have to spread my calories out throughout the day (as there is not a whole lot of research around at the moment, word is it doesn’t make much difference how you consume your calories).  Here is tomorrow’s plan:

Breakfast: green tea with lemon – 2 cals
Snack: graze box love mix – 98 cals
Lunch: Hairy Dieters Minestrone – 98 cals
Snack: cranberry green tea – 1 cals
Snack: cup of bovril – 10 cals
Dinner: salmon fillet with couscous, red pepper and mushrooms – 264 cals
Evening: herbal tea – 2 cals

Total cals for the day: 512

I’m also hoping to get my husband on board with this – he’s in the same boat and I can tell the health benefits appeal to him greatly (he has a fear of developing Alzheimers particularly). Guys get to eat an extra 100 cals on the fast days, lucky buggers!

I’ll let you know how we get on!

Apple cake with honey icing

So, my first recipe for my week of Hungry? …

Apple cake with honey icing

This is a wonderfully fragrant hug in a cake.  All my favourite flavours are in here (well, apart from chips with salt and vinegar, but that would be decidedly odd!) … vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, apple.  It is delicious and light, slightly crunchy around the edges.  I think it would be superb with some whipped cream in the middle, just to cut through the sweetness slightly. 


Serves 8
For the cake
250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
200ml olive oil
seeds from 1 vanilla pod (I used 1tsp vanilla essence)
zest of 1 lemon
1 whole egg
1 egg white
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
For the icing
200g icing sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice (I used 1 lemon)
4 tablespoons runny honey (I only used 2 tablespoons – misread the recipe!)

  • Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/gas mark 4.  Grease and line two 23cm cake tins.
  • Mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla seeds (or essence) and lemon zest.  Then whisk in one of the eggs, and mix in the apples.  Gradually add the flour, mixing as you got, until you have a smooth, quite thick batter.  Set this aside.
  • In a third bowl, whisk the egg white until stiff peaks form.  Carefully fold this into the batter mixture, keeping it as airy as possible.
  • Pour the mixture into the lined cake tins and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Once golden and cooked, allow to cool on a rack.
  • Sieve the icing sugar (I must admit, I didn’t bother to sieve it!) into a mixing bowl.  Gradually add the lemon juice, followed by the honey.  The icing should be quite runny.  Taste the icing now!  Taste a little bit odd?  Don’t fret, it won’t once it’s on the cake!
  • Once the cake is cool, sandwich to the two together with half the icing.  Drizzle the rest of the icing over the top, allowing it to run down the sides of the cake.  Enjoy!

(adapted from Hungry? – a book by innocent)

I haven’t …

picked up a paintbrush in over a week.  This makes me feel sad.  Not sure what the problem is, but it probably has something to do with there not being enough hours in the day!  Hopefully later today my hands will get painty and inky …

This week I have a plan.  I want to cook more, for two reasons – I love to cook proper food and I don’t do it enough, and I want my family to eat better food.  Also I have a groaning bookcase full of cookery books.  (Well, they’re not actually in a bookcase, but if they were, it would be groaning!).  Whenever I sit down to plan a weekly menu I just get overwhelmed with all the books I have and all the different recipes I want to cook and end up getting nowhere.  So I have decided to concentrate on one book a week and cook as many meals as I can from that book!

To kick off this week, I will be using Hungry? – a book by innocent.

Hungry?

The recipes I’ll be trying are:  Banana and Bran Flake Muffins, Surfer’s Pancakes, Frog-in-a-Ditch, Fail Safe Spag Bol, One Mean, Green Fish Pie, Slow Cooked Beef Stew, Mexican Chicken Fajitas, Veggie Burgers and Chips, and kicking off today with … The Best Roast Chicken and Stuffing Ever!
I’ll also be attempting one or more of the following baked goods!  Apple Cake with Honey Icing, Bronte’s Amazing Carrot Cake and Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies!
We’ll see how far I actually get 😀