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Chapatis, cupcakes and crème brulees!

22 Sep

This is a bit of a random update as I’ve been away from the blogging scene for a while. I finished my 3rd year medical exams, travelled around Uganda, went home to Holland and have now commenced my penultimate year of medical school (the holidays seem such a distant memory already!). I have only recently managed to get back in the kitchen and I’ve been cooking up some rather random experiments. Here are a couple of little odds and sods which I thought I’d share….

Chapatis

I’ve always wanted to know how to make chapatis as I am a massive fan of a good curry. For some reason I always thought they would require a lot of effort. I am happy to report that this assumption, my friends, is nonsense. Never again will I buy a chapati! It is literally a few handfuls of flour, a pinch of salt, a little cold water and a splash of olive oil to bring it all together to make a dough. You don’t even need to measure things! Knead the dough into a good happy place, and let it sit and rest for 20 minutes, then roll out your pride and joy into little round circles to be thrown into a hot, hot, hot pan and dry fried each side for a minute. Don’t roll them too thinly or they’ll come out crispy, and don’t cook them for too long or they’ll also come out crispy. They’re fantastic with a home made curry, and it’s an easy, easy choice to impress your mates with your impeccable culinary skills (they don’t need to know they took a few minutes to prepare!).

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Creme Brulees

I’ve always wanted to try to make creme brulees. They are my mum’s absolute favourite dessert and the look of disappointment on her face when we go out for dinner and the creme brulee doesn’t crack when she drops her spoon onto it has spurred me on to get busy trying to make them. In my head I thought these would be really tricky to do, especially as everyone I speak to about anything remotely custardy reacts with a sharp intake of breath, and whispers of ‘curdled custard’ haunt my dreams for days. It was a Saturday afternoon and having made a monster of a pavlova for the night before I had a load of yolks to use up. Now, just a quick tip – the creme brulees don’t actually require you to make custard, but if you want to make custard, do it over a low heat, whisking constantly and heating very slowly. As soon as it starts to thicken take it off the heat and whisk like your life depends on it. No longer will you be haunted by ‘curdled’ and ‘custard’, and scrambled egg will be a thing of the past.

The creme brulees are easy (although no, not healthy).

Recipe (makes 2)

225ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
25 grams caster sugar
2 egg yolks
4 tsp brown caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 170 C (fan).

Pour the cream into a pan, and carefully slice the vanilla pod in half (length wise). Scrape out the seeds with the back of the knife and add to the cream; heat gently to simmering for a few minutes, then take of the heat and leave the vanillary goodness to infuse into the cream for about 10-15 minutes.

In a clean glass bowl, beat the egg yolks with the white caster sugar until pale and well mixed. Carefully add the cream mixture to the yolk/sugar mixture, whisking to ensure it is all well mixed.

Pour this mixture into two ovenproof brulee moulds, then put these into a roasting tray. Once your tray is in the shelf of the oven, pour in water until it comes up to around halfway up the sides of the moulds (essentially a bit of a home made bain-marie). Bake these in the oven for 30 minutes.

Once baked, take them out of the oven and allow to cool. If you’re making them for a dinner party, they can sit in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready to scatter a couple of tsp brown sugar over each and blow torch them (being careful not to burn the sugar). If you haven’t got a blow torch you can stick them under the grill, but I found that the grill didn’t get to the edges of the creme brulee, so the final effect would be better with a blow torch. Serve immediately. They should be crisp and crackable on the top, and lovely silky smooth custard underneath.

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Red Velvet Cupcakes

….a staple of mine. I just added this one because I think it’s pretty. I had a load of black fondant left over so I cut out little hearts from it (this would be a heck of a lot easier with a heart cutter, I assure you), coated them in a little edible glue and then sprinkled some red glitter over them. They make a very cute gift, or a good girly cupcake to enjoy with a cup of tea (read: wine) when someone needs a bit of cheering up 🙂

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Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki

18 May

Daps and I have been really busy recently it seems. Studying, working…partying……a bit more partying…..ahem.

It has left minimal room for ‘proper’ cooking! Over one of the two days of summer we have had so far (grr), we decided to make the most of it and have a BBQ, but with little time it needed to be something easy.

One of the most relaxing holidays we’ve had was on a trip to Hydra; not far from the Greek coast, this little island has no cars but lots of donkeys, mountains, green, fresh air and……LOTS of souvlaki! I had never had proper souvlaki before I went to Hydra, and since then I’ve been searching for somewhere that makes it just as wonderfully. We thought it might be a nice idea to have a go ourselves. I failed a previous attempt at pita breads (I’ll post up another try soon), and as we were pushed for time we went for some simple wraps from the supermarket which actually worked really well.

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It’s fantastically tasty, really rather healthy and wonderfully nutritious!

 

Recipe – serves 4; make a Greek salad to make it go a little bit further

Marinade

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 1 tbsp lemon juice

– 2 garlic cloves, minced

– 1 tsp dried oregano

– 1/4 tsp salt

 

Souvlaki

– 2 large chicken breasts

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– Yellow pepper

– Red onion

 

Tzatziki

– Half a container of plain yoghurt

– 1/2 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded and grated

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 1 tsp white wine vinegar

– 1 clove garlic, minced

– pinch salt

– pinch paprika

 

 Method

  1. Make up your marinade by mixing everything together in a ziplock bag. Chop the chicken and place in the bag with the marinade, and leave for a couple of hours for the flavours to develop.
  2. Chop the pepper and red onion into sizeable chunks, and arrange with the chicken onto 4 wooden skewers (best to soak these for an hour or so before use).
  3. Get your BBQ on, and get them cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, make up the tzatziki. Once you’ve grated your cucumber put it onto a couple of pieces of kitchen towel and squeeze out all of the juice.
  5. Mix the yoghurt, cucumber, white wine vinegar, salt, oil and garlic in a bowl, then sprinkle the paprika on the top.
  6. When the chicken looks as though it’s nearly cooked, stick your wraps onto the BBQ for about 30 seconds each side to warm up.
  7. Take the souvlaki off the skewer and serve atop the warmed wrap along with some tzatziki and green leaves, and a lovely summery Greek salad on the side.

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Bircher Muesli

6 May

I had never heard of Bircher muesli until I met Daps, and now it’s a firm favourite breakfast choice. It’s easily digestible, wonderfully tasty and superduper healthy – what’s not to love? Now that summer finally seems to be arriving, there should be loads of lovely summer fruits available to make this a beauuutiful breakfast!

Recipe (for 1)
1/2 to 1 cup oats (I prefer jumbo oats)
Splash of apple juice
Splash of water
Low fat natural or greek yoghurt (watch the sugar content of ‘low fat’ – sometimes the full fat varieties are actually better for you!)
Teaspoon honey
Half an apple, grated
Load of scrummy berries

1. Place your oats in a bowl and pour over some apple juice and water. You only want enough to be able to see the water at the sides, not so much that you’re drowning the oats! Give it a stir and cover with clingfilm to leave in the fridge overnight – the oats will soak up the juice.

2. Take your oats out and give them a stir, if they look like they need a bit more moisture add a tad more juice.

3. Add your grated apple and stir until well incorporated.

4. Plonk a couple of generous tablespoons of yoghurt onto your oats, sprinkle with your fruit and drizzle with the honey, then sit outside in the sun and feel suitably smug that you’re starting your day off so healthily!

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Tom yum

18 Apr

After fighting off viruses and all sorts of dodgy winter bugs valiantly for months, four days before my surgical placement began my body gave up fighting and succumbed to a nasty laryngitisy viral infection. Typical! My body was aching, I struggled to get up the stairs let alone get to the gym, I couldn’t sleep very well and my throat was not happy. Now normally when I’m sick (which, knock on wood, isn’t very often) I go into hibernation mode and eat whatever I want, press on through, and generally end up still worse for wear dayssss later. This time, I changed my plan of attack. I stuck to my healthy eating, kept well hydrated, took a day off to rest and Dapsy whipped up an incredibly nutritious and bug-busting Tom Yum soup. Three days later I was feeling better, four days on I was back at the gym (gently!), and a week on and I’m almost back to normal (although now my poor man is very ill, maybe I need to make him some Tom Yum too!).

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This soup is absolutely chocabloc with amazingness.

  • Lime leaves are said to aid in digestion and help to ‘cleanse’ the blood (okay, so I’m not entirely sure of the scientific basis behind the blood ‘cleansing’, but I’m going to roll with it…). IMG_2743
  • Ginger keeps cholesterol levels under wraps, soothes tummy aches and has a lovely warm-you-from-the-inside-out effect which helps everything to relax, improving blood flow to muscles and reducing those horrible fluey aches. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory and an anti-viral (perfect).
  • Chillies help to fight the inflammatory process (for those scientific minds, the capsaicin acts to reduce substance P, thereby reducing pain signals associated with inflammation) with fantastic anti-oxidant properties. They’re also high in vitamin C (which has been proven to contribute to viral infection bashing). They’re also wonderful for clearing out the ol’ sinuses, of course.
  • Lemongrass is (surprise, surprise) ALSO an anti-inflammatory agent! It’s also an anti-microbial, which means it acts like a sort of natural antibiotic, and has wonderful calming and soothing effects too.
  • Coriander is commonly used as a calming agent, is great for soothing aching muscles, and much like lemongrass has it’s own anti-microbial properties.
  • …and if you’ve made it yourself, chicken stock is packed full of great vitamins and minerals which give your poor overwhelmed immune system a jolly good boost.

So…essentially this is wonder-soup. Healing-soup. Amazing-soup.

I LOVE this soup.

Recipe (slightly adapted from Bill Granger’s recipe – honestly, get his book, his recipes are just fantastic!)

NB: this recipe is so easy to put together but the most difficult thing is sourcing some of the ingredients. Find yourself a local Asian whole foods store and buy a big bag of lime leaves and lemongrass, you can store them in the freezer and whip some out whenever you need them. If you’re around London comme moi, ‘Wing Yip’ in Croydon is where we get all of our bits and bobs. 

  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 red chillies, halved
  • 3 cm peeled ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste (if you haven’t got tamarind, substitute with worcester sauce OR equal parts lime juice to brown sugar)
  • 200g rice noodles
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • Left over chicken, shredded with a fork
  • Small button mushrooms, halved
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bashed around a bit
  • Fresh coriander (optional, to serve)

Put stock, lime leaves, lemongrass, chillies, ginger, fish sauce, tamarind, mushrooms and 500ml water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Once its boiling, reduce the heat to medium and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.

Boil your kettle and stick your noodles in a glass bowl, then submerge in boiling water for about 3 minutes.

Add your tomatoes to the soup and leave on the heat for 1 more minute (you only want them warmed through, not so hot that they explode like little angry volcanoes in your poor mouth).

Drain your noodles and place into serving bowls. Ladle over some of your delicious cold-busting soup mix, top with your shredded chicken, chopped chilli and coriander leaves, and find a nice quiet place to enjoy some much deserved soupy R&R!

Healthy Ice Cream??!! Yes please!

16 Apr

Anybody who knows me knows that my absolute food weakness in life is ice cream…I love the stuff. Patrick physically has to remove the tub from my hands otherwise I am more than capable of sitting there and eating my way through the entire thing (this has occurred numerous times). I’ve been reading a little bit about freezing bananas and whizzing them up to make ‘ice cream’, but I was hugely sceptical that it would actually work. I am therefore huggggggggggely excited to tell you that it does actually work! (I appreciate that ‘chocolate’ is possibly not the best choice for the photo opportunity…ahem).

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Take two small/medium bananas or one large banana, peel and freeze in a bag overnight. Chop into slices about as wide as your finger, place into a food processor with a dash of milk and three tablespoons of cocoa powder and whizz up until it looks like ice cream. It really works. I actually did a happy dance. Do keep whizzing – it will go through a stage where you wonder if it is actually going to come together, but it will! Just keep going. If it’s a bit too runny just stick it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes and give it time to harden up a bit. I also tried it with our mint-choc protein powder for an added protein kick, but I think the banana I used was a little too overripe and I’m really not a fan of ripe bananas so it had the very sweet aftertaste which I wasn’t so keen on; next time I’m going to try the plain cocoa one with a dash of mint essence. You could, of course, make it non-dairy by using a milk substitute (or you may not even need the milk).

Such a great healthy alternative to ice cream – bananas are superduped with potassium (essential for well, everything in our body really, especially blood pressure, heart function and ensuring our nerves work properly), they’re good for keeping you regular (not sure I should mention that with the above photo, errm…), keep you full for longer than high GI foods*, and they’re high in vitamins and minerals. They are still quite high in natural sugars though, so don’t think you can go eating hundreds of bananas! Compared to high fat cream and refined sugar however, they make a fantastic alternative to your shop-bought ice cream.

Definitely one of my top experiments! Yum!

*Just a note for you super health conscious keen beens, the riper the banana, the higher the GI, so don’t let the banana get too ripe before you freeze it. 

Fish and Chip Friday

12 Apr

I love fish and chip Friday, but the reality is that getting fish and chips from the local chippy can rake up nearly 1000 kcal (and that’s before the mushy peas and glass of wine!), and can provide nearly half of your daily saturated fat intake in one meal. With a nation of ever expanding waistlines, it’s time for us all to take a lot more responsibility for what we put in our mouths. There’s a show on TV called ‘Secret Eaters’ (it isn’t the best, I’ll admit), but it never ceases to shock me that there are so many people who are in such denial about the number of calories they are consuming, and the types of food that they’re eating.

Come on people, it’s time to put health first! It’s not complicated, although it does take discipline and willpower.

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This is my version of fish and chips which is a bit healthier, and generally uses things you might already have at home. I’ve done a bit of reading and think that this version comes in around 550-600 kcal. If you want to be fully angelic, you can forgo crumbing the fish and grill it or oven bake it instead of pan frying, but I love the crunch that you get from shallow frying. As I rarely fry any food, this is my one exception!

White fish is a fantastic, lean source of protein, which is incredibly low in fat and high in numerous B vitamins and nutrients. Peas, as many of you know already, are one of my favvvvvvvvvve veggies. Little green powerhouses of fabulousness!  They’re low fat, high fibre, full of antioxidants and high in B vitamins. Sweet potato is a fantastic alternative to standard white potato (although the humble potato does have it’s place too), especially after a hard work out. It contains really high levels of beta-carotene, which studies have found reduces muscle fatigue over the following days. Sweet potatoes are also lower GI than normal potatoes, keeping your blood sugar levels under control. They’re also completely packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D (which loads of us will be lacking due to this horrifically long, drawn out winter…..and which is really important in keeping our mood happy!).

Recipe for 2 

  • 2-3 white fish fillets, depending on size (I keep a big bag of frozen fish in the freezer; its cheaper than buying fresh fish and great when you don’t have time to go to the fish mongers)
  • 1 egg, beaten with a dash of milk
  • Half a cup of flour
  • A couple of handfuls breadcrumbs per fillet (I whizz up any going-stale bread to make breadcrumbs and then keep them in the freezer until I need them)
  • Peas
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes, depending on size

1. Peel your sweet potato and cut into chip sizes. Brush with oil (plus a sprinkling of paprika/chili powder if you so desire) and place on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 200C fan for around 30 mins. Turn them over half way through cooking. They might need a little longer or a little less time depending on how fat you’ve cut them, so keep an eye on them.

2. Put your flour in a dish, next to your beaten egg in a dish, next to your breadcrumbs in a dish, next to a clean plate. Place the fillet in the flour and coat liberally, then into the egg, making sure it’s coated all over, and then into the breadcrumbs and onto the plate. Repeat this process until all your fish is nicely coated in breadcrumbs.

3. Heat a good glug of rapeseed oil in a wide shallow frying pan. You need enough that it coats the bottom of the pan, but no more! Once it’s nice and hot (medium heat), carefully place your fillets into the pan. Depending on size, they’ll probably take about 5 minutes each side. Don’t move them once you’ve placed them in the oil or you’ll risk knocking all the yummy crumbs off. After ~3 minutes gently lift the side of one to make sure they’re going nice and golden, and not burning.

4. In the meantime, get your peas on the go.

5. Once all is ready, carefully place the fish on a piece of kitchen towel to get rid of any excess oil, then dish up and enjoy. If you’re feeling really keen, you could even make your own healthy version of tartar sauce!

Boob cake

7 Apr

Over the last couple of days I have been making a new masterpiece. Boobs. Cake boobs. CHOCOLATE cake boobs. What could be better?! As Pat was celebrating his birthday along with one of his friends Keithy, I thought it the perfect option for two Australian boys men to get excited about on their birthday. After a bit of an easter egg making fail (I tried to temper my chocolate, got a bit impatient, and then the chocolate stuck to the moulds…etc., etc.), I was feeling a little bit grumpy, so I decided to embark on a cake making frenzy on Friday night.

The two ‘boobs’ were made in two small pyrex bowls. It was the first time I’d baked a cake in a glass bowl, but it worked out fine! Just keep your eye on them as the baking time will be longer (and make sure that the bowls are oven safe, obviously). I then baked another cake in a square cake tin, and once everything was cool I started to try to get a good ‘boob-plus-body’ design; next time I think I’ll cut out a bit more of a waist shape. The cake was a basic chocolate sponge from the ‘Hummingbird Bakery’ cookbook, and I used vanilla frosting. In hindsight, I would double the amount of frosting as it really lifts the flavour.

If there is one piece of advice that I can give you at this point, it is this: don’t lick the cake bowl, plus spoons, spatulas, frosting bowls, bits of left over cake, bits of left over cake topped with left over frosting, and bits of left over fondant. You will feel sick. And if you’re anything like me, there will follow an almighty sugar crash, a very irrational sugar-induced-hypo-slump crying tantrum about how your beautiful new jeans aren’t going to fit any more because your bum has obviously gone up at least two dress sizes in the last half an hour because of all the bowl licking. Say what?!! I’m telling you, step awaaaaay from the sugar. I think by this point Pat was wishing I’d just made him a Victoria sponge. Or maybe a loaf of bread.

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Anyway, sugar evils aside, I was going to leave it just as it was frosted and then make a fondant bikini to place over the top, but I like a smooth finish so I ended up covering the entire thing with fondant. The navy blue was bought coloured, the skin tone was made by mixing white fondant with a ‘flesh/paprika’ colouring paste, and the red was white fondant mixed with a ‘poppy’ colouring paste. The pastes really are far superior to basic food colouring, and give a much more evenly distributed and strong colour to the fondant.

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From there it was all just a bit of fun, really! I just cut the fondant to size, and stuck any odd edges and patterns with some edible glue. To get a smoother finish you can always whip out the cake smoothers, but after the cake-induced-emotional-turmoil I was quite ready to get somewhere far, far away from the fondant covered boobs.

It seemed to go down well (boys + cake boobs = winning combination?), it was a great night, and my jeans did still fit!

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