Friday, 29 April 2011

Salad does not have to be boring...

Or how to get your family to eat vegetables without complaining.

Now you might be lucky and your family might be happy to tuck into their five-a-day without objecting, but veggie lovers like Morris (see left) are few and far between. So here's some ideas of how to increase their consumption wthout a battle.

Interesting dressings
The other night Uncle K decided to be helpful and bring home pizza for dinner. 'Nice', you're thinking. But it was a chicken tikka pizza. So to stay in keeping with the flavours I made a couple of Indian themed salads:
Coronation lettuce
Shred up whatever lettuce you have - I used a little gem. Mix some low-fat mayo with a little curry powder and lemon juice. Dress the lettuce with the mayo.
Chop up some cucumber. Chop up some fresh mint or coriander (or both - that works too) Chop up a garlic clove very finely. Mix them all together and smother in some plain yoghurt.  (This is almost the same as the stuff you dip your poppadoms in at the Indian restaurant).

Chinese dressing
Mix equal amounts of sesame oil and soy sauce. Add some sesame seeds if you have them and a few chilli flakes. Serve over cold cooked veg such as mange tout peas or baby sweetcorn (like you'd get in Thai or Chinese food)

Disguising vegetables
You think they always notice?  No they don't.
(Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a simple recipe for basic chilli.)
Serve it with side dishes to increase the veggie goodness.
(DIY wraps. Put everything in bowls on the table and let them help themselves)
Mango salsa
Chop up some fresh mango and add chopped fresh chilli, lime juice and fresh coriander. This also works well with tomatoes, pineapple, nectarines or practically any fleshy fruit.
Squash up a ripe avocado. Add crushed garlic, finely chopped chilli and lime juice. You can also add finely chopped onion if you like and some finely chopped tomato (take out the seeds before you chop the flesh) Dress with shredded coriander leaves.
Flash-fried peppers
Slice up some green or red bell peppers very thinly and a small onion into similar shaped pieces. Get some oil VERY hot in a wide frying pan (not too much) and fry the strips very quicky, just long enough to make them go a bit floppy and start to brown on the edges.

Stir fries
You can add any kind of veg to a stir fry and if you make the meaty/fishy bits big enough it all goes down together. Onions and mushrooms are a good bet. They seem to be less offensive to most people (except those with allergies). Tinned sweetcorn is good too. They don't seem to see that. 

Make soup with vegetables and a good chicken stock. Blend it to a uniform colour then add meaty bits. (leftover chicken, bacon strips etc) They won't notice that the base is vegetarian!

How to make a basic chilli
Serves 4
Start with 250-300g minced turkey (low fat and much healthier and cheaper than beef)
Two large onions
One or two green chilies (chopped. leave out the seeds if you don't like it too spicy)
Two garlic cloves (chopped)
Tin of tomatoes
Squirt of tomato purée (optional) 
Tin of cooked pulses (red kidney beans is traditional but any old beans will do. Even baked beans make a good chilli)
Chicken stock or water
Salt and pepper
Cooking oil
Seasonings - any or all of: worcester sauce, tabasco, chilli powder, nam pla (fish sauce), more pepper

Chop your onions finely. Throw about a tablespoonful of oil in a pan and fry the onions till they start to go transparent. Add the chopped chillies and garlic. Stir it round a couple of ties then add the mince. Fry until the mince starts to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tin of tomatoes and the tomato purée if you're using it. (It helps the colour)  Stir it in and then add stock or water to bring the liquid level up just to cover the meat. Put a lid on the pan, turn the heat down low and let the mixture bubble gently for 20 minutes or so.

By now it should be looking sort of like chilli. If not, check there's enough liquid in the pan and adjust accordingly, give it another stir and put the lid back on and leave it bubbling for another 10 minutes.

Add the tin of beans. If you're using kidney beans or similar, rinse them first. If it's baked beans just chuck the sauce in as well. Stir and taste. At this stage you can add any or all of the seasonings so that it tastes how you want it to.  Just keep adding stuff and tasting till it's how you want.

And voilá.  The finished product contains a good portion or portion and a half of vegetables each and I promise they won't realise as they tuck in. With side dishes it becomes three or four of the five-a-day in a single meal!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Cocktail jellies

For something a bit different why not make your favourite cocktail into a jelly?
Auntie Anne's favourite is a raspberry daiquiri.

 You will need:
A tin of raspberries in juice
Lime jelly  (jello if you live in the US)

Drain the raspberries and reserve the juice.
Make up the pack of lime jelly according to the instructions but include the juice in the 'cold water' stage.
Divide the raspberries between four cocktail or wine glasses, Pour a single measure of rum over each portion.
Top up with jelly and leave to set.
For a bit of extra fun, add a cocktail umbrella.

Alternative cocktails
Irish coffee - Pour a measure of irish whiskey into four glasses. Use packet gelatine to set a pint of strong, sweetened coffee and divide between the glasses. Once it's set, top with single cream.

Mojito - Use white rum and lime jelly. Stir in chopped mint.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Presentation is everything

So all you have to serve up are a few simple ingredients? Well don't make them look boring and emphasise the fact - go for the pretty option. It takes just as long to slam them on a plate any old how as it does to lay them out nicely. And I promise that they'll taste better this way. Eighty per cent of eating is done with the eyes and another ten is done with the nose.

So there you have it. Blueberries, yoghurt and maple syrup. But made pretty.

Monday, 18 April 2011

A week by the sea

Auntie Anne has recently returned from a self catering holiday and it seems like a good idea to let you know what was packed for the trip - and why.  We always take a hamper with us so that we don't have to
worry too much about finding something to eat in an area we haven't got to know yet.
The trip was for a week at the seaside and we checked before we went that there would be a good supply of seafood. Sorry to anyone who doesn't like ocean fodder - this will be a distinctly fishy post!

The supplies box contained:
tin of tomatoes
bottle of easy drinking red wine
bottle of dry white wine
small bottle of olive oil
small bottle of cooking oil
small bottle of white wine vinegar
dried mixed herbs
curry powder
dried chilli flakes
'longlife' orange juice  (aka UHT)
pack of dried spaghetti (or other pasta shapes if you like)
jar of cockles
tin of olives with garlic
'longlife' milk
jar of marmalade
jar of home made chutney

We also checked what was left in the house that wouldn't last the week. So there was some fresh food in
the box too. We took an onion and a couple of tomatoes and the remains of a head of garlic with us.
There was also a carrot or two and a large courgette.

On the journey we found a grocer's and bought a bunch of flat leaved parsley, a large lemon, some
cucumber, button mushrooms, loaf of bread and some fresh fruit.

First night we were there we hadn't found the local pub yet (and it didn't serve food when we DID find
it) so we made spaghetti vongole.   You can buy proper vongole with their shells still on if you like but you don't have to.  In a smallish pan put some finely chopped onion and a bit of cooking oil, a crushed garlic clove or two and a pinch of dried chilli flakes. Sweat the onion until it starts to turn transparent and throw in a couple of chopped tomatoes. stir it round a bit and add a good glug of white wine. Drain and rinse the cockles then chuck them into the mix.

Meanwhile boil some pasta. When it's done, pour it in the pan with the rest of the mix and stir it round a couple of times. Turn into a couple of large, warm bowls and sprinkle it with chopped parsley,

The following morning, breakfast consisted of a fresh fruit platter with coffee and toast and marmalade.

That day we visited the local fish market and came back with big raw prawns, small smoked prawns, a couple of scallops, roll mops, potted shrimps and a crab. So dinner was easy. Seafood selection. Fry the big prawns in butter and garlic. Clean and slice the scallops crosswise to give you flat disks of meat. (The fishmonger will clean them for you if you don't know how.)  Fry with sliced mushrooms and some garlic.
Smoked prawns in a dish. Crab on a plate. Roll mops on a plate. Potted shrimps warmed up and served in a small heatproof dish. Chunks of bread, butter, tomato salad, cucumber salad. Lemon wedges. Help yourselves.

Leftover crab
There was some crab left. So I bought a small pot of cream and another bottle of white wine. Chop half an onion and boil it in a good slug of white wine to remove the alcohol and reduce to about half the volume. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of curry powder then lower the heat. Stir in the crabmeat - don't let it boil now. Finish it with some cream and a sprinkling of parsley.  Chunks of bread and butter. Yummy!

The carrots ended up being grated and turned into a salad to accompany some local cheeses. The courgette was sliced thinly, steamed for a few minutes, plunged into cold water, drained, then dressed with a vinaigrette made from olive oil, white wine vinegar and a pinch of dried herbs, salt and pepper.