Blimey, it’s been a while! Back at the start of Lockdown (have we seriously been doing this since March???) I was buzzing with creative energy and had the full intention of knuckling under and making the most of being holed up at home for the foreseeable. I had plans, man. Big plans. I was going to finally sit down and write the book I’d been researching and planning during February, I was going to redecorate and reorganize half the house, I was going to whip up a storm in the kitchen and create lots of new and exciting recipes… and yeah that didn’t really happen, the reason being – among a couple of other things – that I thoroughly underestimated how hard being isolated from the world and “normality” (whatever that is going forward) would be. And while I’m luckier than most in that I’m not really alone – I’ve had my husband and Bungle for company – and a garden where I’ve been able to enjoy the hot weather (I honestly can’t remember the last time Wales went without rain for so long), and I’ve been able to see my Mum and Dad every week when I drop off their shopping, being stuck at home for weeks on end hit my mental health in a way I really wasn’t expecting. In between some really positive, productive days where I’ve reorganized the kitchen cupboards, mucked out in the garden, learned to cook proper chips and revamped some IKEA Billy shelves, I’ve done my fair share of moping around on the sofa and binge-watching box sets (if you’d told me at the start of Lockdown that my crowning achievement was going to be watching seven seasons of Mad Men in less than three weeks then I’d have been pretty bummed given all my grand plans). And with each week that dragged by where I felt like I’d accomplished absolutely nada, I became harder and harder on myself – and that didn’t do my mental health any favours either. In fact, it made things even worse.
Then, a couple of weeks ago I decided to give up on my grand plans and just go with the flow – to enjoy the sofa time (that I’m probably never going to get again) and the down time and to just take each day as it comes and this weird pause in “normal life” for what it is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how you’ve spent the past few months – or what you’ve accomplished or not accomplished in that time – what does matter is that you’ve made it through this far. And if your way of making it through has involved a lot of sofa time, then that’s absolutely okay.
Anyway, now that there seems to be an end (of sorts) to Lockdown on the horizon I’m feeling a lot happier and a bit more myself, and have been back in the kitchen experimenting. 🙂 If there’s one thing I’ve really enjoyed during the past few months, it’s been lunch time. Having a little bit more time in the middle of day meant that very early on Sunny and I decided to switch our main meal to lunch time. We’ve had some amazing lunches out in the garden in the sunshine, and then snacked our way through our favourite TV shows at night. A definite winner that emerged from this new and improved meal routine was definitely this very easy recipe for Sticky Miso Chicken. Sweet and salty, and perfect served up on some steaming egg fried rice – it’s one of those dishes that can be prepped ahead of time, then cooked and plated up in under 20 minutes (plus, the marinade makes for some cracking BBQ kebabs). I’ve been making up the marinade and rice after breakfast, then by the time lunchtime pounces, all I have to do is cook it all up in a hot wok. Yum!
Sticky Miso Chicken
2 chicken breasts, diced
Handful of chopped spring onions
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Chopped parsley to garnish
Sesame seeds to garnish
Egg fried rice to serve
For the marinade:
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp white miso paste
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine
1 tsp chilli flakes
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl to make a sticky, runny paste – then stir in the uncooked chicken, coating evenly. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to marinade for a couple of hours.
When you’re ready to cook, gently heat your wokwith the vegetable oil then add both the chicken and the marinade. Cook the chicken on a medium heat until cooked through, then crank up the heat right up at the end for five minutes to create a caramelized, sticky finish.
Take the chicken off the heat and stir though the chopped spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve up with egg fried rice and fresh parsley.
How many pairs of boots is too many, would you say? Especially for someone living in Wales where on the rainy scale it’s anywhere from mildly damp to soaked through to your knickers soggy for at least 9 months of the year. I’ve got three pairs and according to my husband, that’s two pairs too many. Oh, and that’s not including the wellies (whole other category, I think you’ll agree) that I trudge around in every single day on the dog walk. I mean, they’re an Autumn staple right? They’re brilliant because they’re easy; throw on a pair and you’re good to go. No fuss, no muss. And you know you’re going to need at least a few different pairs bashing around at the bottom of your cupboard to cover every single weather situation and occasion that Autumn/Winter slings at you. I mean, they’re kind of the fashion equivalent of a slow cooker or casserole recipe; cosy, reliable, minimal effort.
It’s about that time of year that – along with your boots – you’re probably fishing out your favourite crock pot out of the back of the cupboard (hopefully you don’t keep both in the same cupboard, that would be weird…). Friendly reminder; the clocks are going back this weekend, and yep, it’s the good one. You know, the one where you get an extra hour in bed on Sunday. The one where you utter the words, “Bloody hell, it’s really dark outside” when you tune into the new Attenborough documentary at six-ish (…Honestly, the penguin episode of last year’s offering almost broke me – I don’t know whether I can handle a second helping…). The one where you realise that the extra hour was actually totally pointless when you wake up an hour too soon on Monday morning. Pfft. It’s going to start getting a lot gloomier in the evenings and – like me – I’m sure you’re going to start hunting down a few easy, one pot, just “bung it in the oven” kind of recipes to see you through the winter.
I love a good curry this time of year, but honestly? Sometimes I just can’t be bothered with all that faffing around on the hob cooking it up. Well, here’s a way to whip up a very simple, very tasty veggie curry in the oven (or the slow cooker, if you’ve got one). 🙂
Roasted Butternut Curry
Creamy and warming, the perfect curry for a cosy night in…
First, grab a casserole or roasting dish and set your oven to 160°C. Pour the vegetable oil into the dish, along with the garlic and ginger paste, ground coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric and curry powder. Mix it all together to make a paste.
Pour in the chopped tomatoes and chilli flakes, and then stir everything together to create the curry sauce. Next, throw in the butternut squash chunks, sliced onion and diced pepper, and then stir well to coat them with the sauce.
Pop the dish in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Take the dish from the oven and pour in the coconut milk – stirring until everything is well-combined. Season with salt and pepper, then return the dish to the oven to cook for 10 minutes.
Scatter with chopped, fresh coriander and serve with basmati rice. 🙂
Seriously, how many pairs of boots is too many? I’m curious!Have a great weekend! 🙂
We’re wellies deep into Autumn now, aren’t we? I mean for a start, there hasn’t been a single dog walk in the past week where I haven’t trudged back soaked right through to my knickers (note to self: stop lusting after extra af fur coats and buy an unfashionable, dorky anorak instead…), and I keep waking up in total darkness every morning thinking that it’s 3am only to discover that – oh no! – it’s 7am and waaaay past time to get up. I sound like I’m complaining, but actually, I love dark and dingy Autumn weather. For a start, it’s an excuse to hole up at home with the central heating whacked right the way up, and also it’s finally the season to scoff plenty of roasts, pies, puddings and crumbles with custard. Finally! You see, pies and roasts tend to go on a bit of a hiatus over the summer in my house because they’re just a little bit too hot and heavy, and although they make a spectacular comeback when October rolls back around, I still can’t eat them everyday and I have to mix things up midweek with something a little lighter and a little bit spicier. And this very, very easy Thai Yellow Curry really hits the spot.
Would you believe me if I told you that this recipe came back with me from Florida? Yep, from Florida. There’s a fab Thai restaurant that Sunny and I love hitting up when we’re out there. It’s a tiny place and looks nothing special from the outside, but inside – as is the case with most unassuming restaurants – they serve up some of the tastiest food I’ve ever had. This year, my father-in-law ordered a sizzling chicken platter that had everyone salivating over the table because it came in the most stunning yellow sauce that was unlike anything any of us had ever tasted. After twenty minutes of stealing spoonful after spoonful and scraping the plate trying to suss out the ingredients, I had to ask the waiter what the sauce was and exactly what was in it because there was absolutely no way I was leaving Florida without a shopping list. Turns out, it was a Thai Yellow Curry Sauce – which I’d never heard of before, and has a completely different flavour to its Red and Green counterparts – the ones you can easily buy pastes for in your local supermarket. It’s much tastier and warmer, with that particular takeaway curry sauce flavour that you’d expect from a Chinese Curry or Singapore Noodle. It’s sweetened ever so slightly with the addition of Palm Sugar(the only ingredient that’s a little bit trickier to come by, but you can pick up a jar online from Amazon) – and that adds a unique flavour by itself. As soon as I got back home, I set to work trying to come up with a workable recipe for whipping up a Thai Yellow Curry from scratch, using (mostly) basic ingredients from my kitchen cupboard – and I finally came up with a winner. This Easy Thai Yellow Curry is the perfect recipe for gloomy Autumn nights in; it’s not going to win any prizes for its looks, but it’s easy peasy to make and takes less than half an hour from wok to table. It’s tasty and warming, with plenty of texture from the added fresh greens and crunchy cashew nuts. Plus, that bright yellow sauce is bound to put a smile on your face… even after a soggy dog walk. 😉
Easy Thai Yellow Curry
A little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, a little bit of what you fancy…
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 a white onion, sliced
1 tsp turmeric
4 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp chilli paste
250g chicken breast, diced
400 ml coconut milk
2 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 lemon grass shoot, sliced finely
1 green pepper sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
50g cashew nuts
rice to serve
Get your wok smoking hot (on a medium heat), then add the oil, turmeric, curry powder, ginger paste and chilli paste. Sweat the onions, then add the diced breast.
Once the chicken is cooked on the outside, pour in the coconut milk and stir until it takes on a creamy yellow colour. Stir in the palm sugar, salt and sliced lemon grass. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and leave everything to simmer for 5 minutes.
Just before serving, throw in the cashew nuts, green pepper and spring onions.
You know me, I’m a big fan of fresh and fuss free mid-week meals, but then isn’t everyone? Whenever I sit down to do my meal planning for the week and ask Sunny if he’s got any requests when it comes to dinners then 9 times out of 10 I’ll get that super specific but mostly unhelpful answer, “I don’t know, *shrugs* something with rice?” So we tend to eat a lot of curries and a lot of stir fries – and d’you know what? I’m not even mad about that because they’re so quick and easy to whip up, especially in the middle of the week – and they’re (mostly) pretty healthy.
But, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut cooking the same two or three things each week. So. I’ve slowly been upping my “homemade takeaway game”. I make a mean plate of Singapore Noodles and – more recently – a cracking bowl of Thai Noodle Soup and now I’m bringing this super satisfying (and stupidly simple) plate of Mango Chicken to the table. It’s as easy as opening a jar of Mango Chutney! Sweet and sticky and perfect if you fancy a change from your usual Sweet and Sour Chicken. You can even switch out the chicken for battered cod or scampi if you fancy. Boom! 😉
Cheat’s Mango Chicken (serves 2)
300g jar of mango chutney
150g diced mango
1 yellow bell pepper
a handful of chopped spring onions
250g of battered chicken breast meat (if you want to make things easy, then buy it already battered – if not, I’d recommend giving this recipe a go; it’s not as tricky as you think!)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Pour the vegetable oil into your wok and get it smoking hot. Stir fry the pepper, mango and spring onions for five minutes.
Pour in the contents of the mango chutney. Pour the water into the jar and swill it around to collect the dregs, then pour into the wok – stirring to combine.
Let it bubble for five minutes and reduce down, then stir in the battered chicken.
Serve up with egg fried rice. Yum! 🙂
What’s your favourite kind of midweek meal? Let me know in the comments – I’m always trying to find new favourites! Have a great week! 🙂