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.
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.
I think I’ve said it before but I’m absolutely bloody useless when it comes to eating lunch. I’m a grab and go kinda girl – and that would be absolutely fine if it wasn’t for the fact that the kind of foods that I usually end up grabbing are doughnuts, a bag of crisps, five custard creams, a yoghurt, a cheeky cinnamon bun… You know? Not great. So, when I sit down and make my meal plan for the week ahead, I’ve started factoring in lunch, and – more specifically – one meal that I can batch-cook at the start of the week that’ll serve me through those grab and go lunchtimes. The provisos are that it needs to be healthy(ish), microwavable and survive in the fridge through to Friday, and this cauliflower and chickpea curry ticks all those boxes.
I absolutely love cauliflower in a curry (my mother-in-law makes the best Aloo Gobi) and Chana Masala is always on the menu if we eat out at an Indian restaurant. So, why not put the two together, eh? It’s a quick and easy meal to whip up, and a damn tasty treat for lunchtimes when you fancy something warm and comforting to eat. Not everyone’s got Indian spices banging around in their cupboard though, so if you don’t fancy cooking the curry sauce from scratch, just cheat and buy a jar of Rogan Josh instead. 😉
Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry (Gobi Chana) – serves two (double up if you’re batch-cooking)
1 can of chickpeas, strained
200g cauliflower florets
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove
1 can chopped tomatoes (fill the empty tin to halfway with water)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp ginger paste/puree
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1tbsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp salt
chopped fresh spinach to serve
Put the chickpeas and cauliflower florets in a saucepan with some water and bring them to the boil. Strain, then set aside.
Set your frying pan on the hob on a medium heat, then add the vegetable oil. Add the diced onion and ginger paste and fry for around ten minutes. Add your ground spices and burn them off for a couple of minutes. Pour in the tinned tomatoes (and water), the chickpeas and cauliflower florets. Pop the lid on your pan and allow the whole mix to simmer for ten minutes.
Season with salt and then serve with chopped fresh spinach and cooked basmati rice. 🙂
Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day! Or, for the uninitiated, Welsh Valentines Day! I went into a little bit more detail on why exactly we celebrate Valentines Day a little earlier than the rest of the world here in Wales in this post(along with a little recipe for Blood Orange Doughnuts 🙂 ) – but it’s basically a Game of Thrones-esque story about a time when Kings had 24 daughters and princesses routinely ran off into the woods and turned their lovers into blocks of ice. As you do. 😉
For me, I celebrate it in much the same way I’d celebrate Valentines Day; I hunt down a non-soppy card and hand it to him first thing in the morning along with something sweet that I’ve baked. This year we’re heading off on a little road trip for the weekend so I wanted to make something bite-sized that we can scoff in the car – so I made these sweet little Palmiers filled with Nutella. They’re as easy to make as rolling some puff pastry and cracking open a jar of Nutella (something I’m very, very good at…) and almost look like hearts… well, I tried! 🙂
Mini Nutella Palmiers
Ready-made Puff Pastry
Plenty of Nutella
Roll out your puff pastry until it’s about half a centimeter thick and then cut off the rough edges so your sheet is shaped like a rectangle. Thinly spread (and rarely do I use the word “thinly spread” when Nutella is concerned…) your Nutella over the sheet, making sure you go right up to the edges.
To roll your palmiers, think scroll; carefully roll each end into the middle until you’ve got what looks like a rolled up scroll. Pop it in the fridge to chill for an hour, and then cut it into rounds about a centimeter thick with a sharp knife.
Spread the palmiers out evenly on a baking tray and then bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 220°.
I think 2018 will be remembered as the year I officially, head over heels fell in love with Thai food. It’s fresh and filling and colourful (I don’t know about you, but colourful food cheers me up this time of year); more importantly, it’s so quick and easy to make! Pad Thai (♡♡♡) and Massaman Curry are my midweek meal saviours, and even though that’s not about to change, I’ve been feeling like branching out a little and adding a few more Thai recipes to my arsenal.
I threw this soup together just before Christmas. I had some Thai Green Curry paste in my cupboard and a can of coconut milk going spare, and, when I reached right to the back I found an old pack of instant noodles. The filthy kind. You know the ones, they cost about 30p (or at least they did when I used to buy them on the way back home from High School) and come with a flavour sachet. So wrong and yet so, so right. I was just going to whip up the curry and have the noodles with it instead of rice, but then as they were boiling away it occurred to me that the flavoured water they were bubbling in would make a pretty good stock. So I poured one pot into the other and wham-bam, here’s your Noodle Soup, maam. It’s vegetarian (as long as you make sure you use vegetable-flavoured noodles instead of the chicken ones, obviously) and perfect for cold and gloomy January nights at home in front of the box. Just make sure you only add the noodles when you’re ready to eat, because they’ll start slurping up that soup before you get a chance to! 🙂
Easy Green Thai Noodle Soup (serves 2)
Thai Green Curry Paste
400ml can of Coconut Milk
2 packs of vegetable-flavoured instant noodles (cheaper the better!)
250ml boiling water
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
Sliced Chestnut Mushrooms
Shredded Red Cabbage
Sliced Spring Onions
Sprinkle of black pepper and sesame seeds
Heat up a deep saucepan with the vegetable oil, then add most of your vegetables – holding some spring onion slices back to garnish with later.
Stir in the green curry paste until it coats the veg, then pour in the coconut oil – stirring until it turns green. 🙂 Bring the boil, then simmer.
Break the noodle block into a separate saucepan, sprinkle in the flavour sachet and then add boiling water. Leave the noodles to bubble until they soften.
Once the noodles are soft, pour the stock into the curry to create your soup. The noodles will soak everything up quickly, so only add them to the soup once you’re ready to eat!
Garnish with the remaining spring onions, black pepper and sesame seeds – then slurp! 😉