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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First ever nomination : The Liebster Award

28 Mar

I’m so excited to have received a nomination from amazing Amy at ‘Pass the mixing bowl‘. It’s nice to know that my little blog gets read from time to time. From reading Amy’s blog, I understand that this award is for blogs with under 200 followers. A bit of a boost I suppose, to give people a bit of impetus to keep going!

I’m a bit new to this, but it looks like there are some rules:

The Rules of the Award:

1. Post eleven facts about yourself.
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you and create eleven questions for people you’ve nominated.
3. Choose eleven people (with fewer than 200 followers) to give this award to and link them in your post.
4. Go to their page and tell them.
5. Remember, no tag backs.

So here goes!

Eleven facts about me:

1. I’m a medical student.
2. I grew up in Taiwan and Holland, and came over to the UK to study when I turned 18.
3. I love fitness…
4. …but I love cake and food so much that you can’t often really tell.
5. My first degree was in Neuroscience, and I’m a bit of a geek.
6. I’d love to live in Australia at some point. Sunshine!
7. I recently started PoleFit (not the stripping kind, the fitness kind!) and it’s a LOT of fun!
8. I’ve jumped out of a plane by myself.
9. I find baking relaxing.
10. I worry too much what other people think.
11. Espresso martinis = bliss!

Answers to Amy’s questions:

  1. How many hours sleep do you get, on average, each night? seven-eight
  2. Savoury breakfast, or sweet? savoury; poached eggs any day!
  3. Where would you like to be at this specific moment in time? on a beach somewhere hot
  4. Current profession? medical student
  5. Pastry, cake or biscuit – which would you prefer to eat now? cake!!!
  6. What would you like to have achieved by the end of the year? pass my medical exams and go on holiday
  7. What would you consider to be your comfort food? ben and jerry’s cookie dough ice cream
  8. If you could have 5 people, dead or alive, at your dinner table, who would they be? mother teresa, stephen fry, jessica ennis, michel roux junior, albert einstein 
  9. Dinners or puddings? ooo, that’s difficult. Dinners.  
  10. Favourite place you’ve ever been to? Thailand.
  11. What would you say was your favourite dinner? Thai food.

Questions for my nominees to answer:

1. What’s your fondest memory?
2. What’s your favourite flavour ice cream?
3. If you could be anything in the world what would it be?
4. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
5. What is the most difficult thing you have ever cooked/baked?
6. What has been your proudest moment?
7. Summer, winter, autumn or spring?
8. Beach, adventure, snow or cultural holiday?
9. What’s the most interesting place that you’ve ever been to?
10. White, milk or dark chocolate?
11. What would you cook if money and time were no object?

My nominees (I appreciate that some of these blogs have over 200 followers…but I love reading them and I haven’t yet quite worked out how to find new blogs…!!)

1. The Earnest Baker

2. Emily Clarke Food

3. The Cooking Chook

4. The Dessert Spoon

5. Handmade or the Highway

6. Leagrizel26

7. Cook With Molly

8. Chez Catey Lou

9. Emily Cooks Vegan

10. Bakingblonde’s Weblog

Button cupcakes

28 Mar

So…the reason we were going a bit button-happy with the old fondant was because my lovely housemate Hannah had a bit of a bake off at work, and the theme was ‘collections’. I’m sure a lot of you all have that little box under the stairs with random odd buttons which don’t really match anything, big ones, small ones, that odd cracked one which is still there because, well, it just belongs in the button box. No? Just me? I used to love rummaging through my mum’s button box. The lovely noise that the buttons make when they clip against one another, and the wonderful feel of the cool little shapes when you trickle your fingers through them…(simple things!).

Anyway! So buttons were to be the ‘collection’ item, and we tried to recreate some of that magic of the button box with fondant. The cupcake recipe was a straightforward chocolate sponge from the hummingbird bakery cookbook, with a vanilla frosting (which I can wholeheartedly recommend after Hannah left me one this morning…..I was going to be good and only have a little nibble and a healthy breakfast, and save the rest until later, but it was so good, it lasted all of about five minutes. Whoops!).

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It is such a simple idea but is so colourful and pretty (and tasty!). It turns a very simple cupcake into something much more fun and creative. Yum!

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Battenburg

25 Mar

My goodness, I can’t believe I overlooked posting this recipe! A couple of months ago Pat challenged me to make something a bit different, and as I’d always wanted to try out a battenburg I thought I’d give it a go. It really isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, although my mathematical measurements weren’t entirely accurate after a glass or two of wine (*ahem*), so my trusty (very-good-with-problem-solving) housemate was on hand to make sure I measured out the right size of marzipan. Ha!

I used a standard square cake tin and made a divider using silver foil and greaseproof paper, with a little butter on the bottom to make sure it stuck. Take a bit of time getting this perfect, and it’ll make measuring out the cake that much easier later! You can pretty much use any standard sponge recipe, and add a few drops of pink food colouring to half of it.

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Recipe

  • 175g butter or margarine
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g SR flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • A few drops pink food colouring
  • 6-7 tbsp apricot jam
  • 500g marzipan

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan), and grease the square tin. Cut a strip of silver foil the same length as the tin, and fold it to make a vertical fold (check out my ‘how to prep a Christmas pudding’ pictures to get an idea) which stands up in the tin to divide it into two equal parts (make sure it’s as high as the tin edges!). Continue to line the rest of the tin with greaseproof paper.

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric whisk, then add the eggs one at a time with the vanilla essence. Fold in the sifted flour, and then place half the batter in one side of the prepared tin. Add a few drops of food colouring to the other half of the batter – it doesn’t need to be hugely dark, as the baking process will bring out the colour (and too much colouring will give your sponge a dodgy aftertaste). Place the pink batter into the other half of the tin, and bake in the preheated oven for around 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on them; they want to be spongy and light, not dry! Turn them out to cool on a wire rack.

Now for the fun part!

If the sponges are a bit dome shaped, I can’t recommend the use of a cake leveller enough. They are so easy to use and they ensure that the cakes are exactly the same height! If not, a sharp knife will do, just to make sure they’re pretty symmetrical. Divide each sponge rectangle into two equal long pieces. If you’re a bit of a perfectionist like me, you can get a ruler out just to make sure they’re all the same length/width.

Warm your jam in the microwave for a bit until it is nice and runny and sticky, and stick the four sponges together.

Roll out your marzipan (you can use a bit of icing sugar to make sure it doesn’t stick) into a rectangle, making sure that it will be long enough to go round the WHOLE cake. It doesn’t need to cover the ends. I ended up rolling mine quite thinly as Pat doesn’t like marzipan too much (and, err…I had nibbled through quite a bit of it by the time it came to assembly…).

Brush some of the left over jam onto the centre of the marzipan, and place your assembled sponge onto the jam. Continue to brush all of the sides of the cake with the jam, then carefully bring the marzipan up the sides of the cake, pressing gently to ensure it sticks, and make a join in the centre of the cake. Carefully flip the cake over so that the join is on the bottom. To tidy things up (aka have an excuse to sample the cake, obviously), trim off a slice from each end. You can crimp the sides a little by pinching between a thumb and finger to make it a little prettier.

Voila. Beautiful, impressive baking, which really isn’t too difficult – and is a lot of fun to make!

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