Friday, 18 October 2013

King Prawn and Mango Red Curry

Following on from my last post about easy suppers, here is another one for you.

It's a sure fire crowd pleaser and a recipe I wack out again and again whenever I have people round. The best thing about it is that it is super easy and quick and it can be both vegetarian and meaty so you don't have to worry about making different things. If your making the veg version just change the chicken stock for veg and leave out the prawns or chicken.

I reckon this recipe can feed 6 people or 4 with second helpings. It's great reheated too if you have left overs.

King Prawn and Mango Red Curry.

You will need:

3 spring onions
2 sweet potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 butternut squash (peeled and diced)
1 can of coconut milk
250ml of chicken stock (or veg)
1 and a 1/5 tbsp of fish sauce
2 ripe mangos
Half a jar of red curry paste
The juice of 1 lime
King prawns or chicken

In Sainsbury's you can usually buy bags of ready peeled and cubed squash and potato. If they have them, I always buy 2 of them for this and makes it even more of a speedy meal. If not then make sure you chop the squash and potato into similar sized cubes so they cook at roughly the same rate.

Throw your sliced spring onions into some hot oil in a heavy based pan, such as a Le Creuset and fry for a bit.

As they begin to soften add your red curry paste. Now my measurement isn't very accurate here as I like a strong and hot curry, so I add more paste. If you don't like yours so hot don't put as much is. Frying the paste makes it release all its aromas properly. You should do this with all spices when you use them.

Next add the coconut milk and stir. The lumps you see is the cream that sits on top of the coconut milk in the can, don't worry these will melt away.

Add the fish sauce to this mixture and give it a little taste. Add more curry paste if you want or fish sauce. You don't really need to salt this as the fish sauce is salty enough and acts as a seasoning. 

Now throw in the squash and potato and add the stock. 

Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer and wait. If your making a chicken curry put the diced chicken in now. The hard part is over you just need to wait for the squash and potato (and chicken) to cook which probably takes around 20 mins. If you are leaving it veggie then thats it. Supper is practically ready. 

At this point I would now put on the rice to cook. 

The evening I was cooking this I actually had a sous chef, so you can leave them to watch over it for you.

Clifford's very attentive. 

Once the veg are cooked throw in the prawns. I use either raw, cooked or frozen depending on whats on offer. This time it was 2 packs of cooked king prawns for a fiver. Bargain. 

Prawns take hardly any time even if they are raw and you never want to over cook them as they turn rubbery and gross. So always leave them until last moment. 

The final touches are the mango and the lime juice. 

Mangos are a little bitch to peel and slice and all the rest of it. You usually end up covered in juice and sticky but no longer! I have a fool proof mango slicing and dicing trick. Cut the slides off the mango round that annoying stupid stone, I'm not even sure what shape that stone is, its so annoying. Anyway cut of the sides and then grab a glass. Your'e going to use the glass to take all the mango away from the skin. Like so....

Push that glass all the way along keeping close to the skin and your come out with a perfect oval of mango, mess free (the excess juice goes in the glass).

 The slice into chunks. SOOOOO EASY. 

Put this in the curry along with the juice of one lime and voila, dinner is served. 

Serve up into bowls with rice and try to ignore the weirdo staring at you, silently begging for a smidgen...

To demonstrate how easy and quick this was, all I'll say was; I left work at 7, went to the shops to get everything, was home by 7.30, cracked open the wine and welcomed the Bru's to the humble abode and we were eating dinner by 8.45. I didn't even buy the cheat packs of veg as they didn't have them. Now hows that for a speedy dinner party?

I apologise for the quality of the photos in this post. Not some of my finest work. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

An Easy Monday Night Dinner

One of the hardest things is getting home from work, tired and then facing having to cook food. It's even worse in the winter when its pitch black and the house is cold. Thats partly why I have an awful addiction to eating out. Someone makes you the food and your usually with friends. Winning combo. (Spot the girl who lived by herself for 6 months...)

However there are lots of things that are really easy, tasty and don't take forever. Yes, I know I sound like Jamie Oliver but the guy has a point (even if he uses too much olive oil). Having said that, his 30 minute book is a total ball ache to use. Seriously Jamie, what is up with those instructions.
NO ONE REALLY WORKS LIKE THAT. The first time I tried one of the recipes it took me like, 2 hours. 30 mins my ass. However, once you've made the recipe a couple of times, you don't need the book and you can ad lib a bit more, make it your own and in the end just get your dam supper on the table.

This is what I love about cooking so much. You can have a recipe, but it doesn't mean you have to stick with it. Unless you're baking, thats a science, don't mess with that. I have so many cook books but I rarely stick to a whole recipe, I mainly just read the books to get ideas and look at the pictures.

So here's a recipe that we made on Monday night when Lucy decided to drop round as a certain TV program was starting again. I won't embarrass all of us by telling you what it was...

Pesto Chicken Risotto

You will need....

Risotto rice, we went for arborio
Chicken breasts
A Stock Cube
An Onion
Some wine (thats if you don't drink it all before you start cooking, at the same time its also not essential)

Chop your garlic and onion fairly finely. We used red here as we had a whole bag of them but you can use whatever you wish.

Tip: The best way to get an even dice on your onion is to cut it in half through the root but leave the root attached. The slice length ways down the onion and then across. By leaving the root in it keep it all together and everything is roughly the same size.

Heat some oil in a relatively high sided frying pan and chuck in the garlic and onions. You don't want the onions or garlic to brown as it will make the risotto look a bit grim, so sweat them gently as opposed to frying them. Chucking in some salt at this point will draw the moisture out of the onions which helps them sweat.

The pour in the rice, I can't give you a measurement as I guessed, but I think this was about 3/4 a 500g box of rice....

Give it a good stir round to get it all mixed in with the onions and oil and let it fry a little. Make up the stock at this point, about 500ml, again I didn't measure anything, its a guessing game. When the rice has turned slightly translucent pout in a bit of the stock. 

I actually used porcini stock I discovered in Italy, thanks to Harri. It's amazing in risottos, I have never seen it here and I have a cheeky supply from Italy but when that runs out I'll have to hunt it down. If you don't have a supply of italian stock cubes, chicken or veg will do.

Now here is where risotto ideas can differ. Some people stay to stand at the pan, to attention and continuously stir and caress the risotto with love an affection and drizzle the stock in slowly. Others say stir once and leave and only stir when you put in the stock bits at a time. I say life is too short to caress risotto and I just stir it when I want so I know it's not sticking to the bottom of the pan and I dump in the stock, usually in 3 batches. Sometimes if I'm feeling super lazy I dump it all in and wander off and come back every now and then. 

While your risotto is simmering away on a low heat, chop your chicken.

Cook off in another pan. Again I didn't really allow this is fry because I didn't want the colour on it. Season! 

Now if you havn't already, crack open the wine and pour some in the pan...

and a glass for yourself. You're doing all the hard work after all. 

In fact at this point, make someone do something useful, like Maddie, who made the salad. She even peeled the cucumber, how posh. 

If you are not sure how far along your rice is, try a bit, if its still too crunchy add some more stock or if you have run out, just add some boiling water. 

If its pretty much done, season the rice well

and add the chicken 

Now for the fun.... pimping time as old Jezzy O would say.

A good old grating of parmesan 

and a big dollop of pesto 

Mix all together and taste. Add more pesto or cheese depending on what you want, not what a recipe book says. It's your dinner after all. 

Dish out into 3 bowls and serve up. From start to finish, with a lot of chatting in between I reckon this took 45 mins max. See, hardly complicated and no staring at cook book. 

Remember this could be anything. Bacon and Pea risotto. Butternut Squash and Goats cheese. Mushroom.

All you need for a basic risotto is risotto rice, stock, onion, garlic and parmesan. Then add in your flavourings. Simples. 

Let me know what you come up with!! 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Very, Very Long Dinner: The Chop Shop, Haymarket

A very good friend of mine has recently returned to London and so we set a date for a long dinner and a much needed catch up.

The Chop Shop opened last month and is a meaty heaven for carnivorous people. It sounded right up my street so I booked us in.

Haymarket is just off Piccadilly Circus and we got caught in the hell hole that it is on a Friday night. After eventually finding the right road, almost getting hit by a bike, and going round in circles we burst in the door 20 mins late. I was worried, as it was a friday night and the restaurant had only been open a month that they would have given away our table, but they hadn't. Huzzah.

The entrance was cool, judging by the name Chop Shop, thats the theme they were going with. I liked it.

We were shown downstairs to the main restaurant that was fairly empty, which was a bit of a worry, but it was unfounded as it filled up around 45 mins later. We were just the early birds! The tables were rustic wooden ones of various sizes, there was a big party of boys behind us and napkins were a bit like butchers aprons, a lot of thought had clearly gone in all of the decor.

Tilly (a human one, I didn't go for supper with my dog, I'm not that sad quite yet) and I perused the menu and got a little confused over the the starters. There were bites, and jars and platters. We asked the waitress and she threw us some suggestions. In the end we opted to share a jar and a bowl to start off with. A jar of duck liver pate and a bowl of meatballs.

The pate was divine. So rich and buttery and it came with a little apple something something on the side which was just beaut. The bread had been chargrilled instead of toasted which is not something I'm usually a fan of but Tilly and I decided the smokiness was a good accompaniment. 

I think the meatballs were actually made of pancetta and they didn't have a huge amount of taste against the tomato sauce which was a shame. It was pleasant but I'd recommend you give something else a go on the menu, like the wings. 

For mains we opted for the hanger steak. Although it was the cheapest option its actually a really tasty cut of meat, so it was almost a double bonus. A hanger steak, otherwise known as an onglet steak is a french cut of beef from below the rib. Due to the way it's cut (along the grain as opposed to with it or something like that), its best cooked rare and certainly no more than medium rare as it becomes tough as boots. Most chefs wont cook this above medium rare due to how tough it can become. 

The steaks come with a choice of sauces but nothing else, so you need to order a side. A tad cheeky perhaps? 

Hanger steaks, cooked rare with a red wine bone marrow sauce and a creamed horseradish sauce. 

Really well cooked, tasty bit of steak. However, we both said as it was put down in front of us, why was it sliced? Are we children? No, we are capable of slicing our own steak. LEAVE. IT. ALONE. 
I feel strongly on this, also you begin to doubt how much steak you are receiving out of the whole steak... if you know what I mean. 

That aside, it was really good. The sauce was divine. 

For sides we ordered mash and chips. 

The mash was awesome. I love mash, and this was good mash. Creamy whilst still having lumps of potatoes and skin in it with a big dollop of sour cream on top. I wonder if they mashed the potatoes then stirred extra skin and lumps into it. Either way, it was bloody awesome. 

The service wasn't particularly speedy but that was ok as we had plenty to catch up on and were not in a hurry but it might be a little more annoying if you wanted a quick bite to eat though. We had to ask for water at least 3 times before it arrived but they were prompt on the wine which was much more important. 

They do do a range of house cocktails but none of them particularly tickled our fancy so we skipped them out. If they had a bar menu with other options I may have been tempted but I find it can be a risky and expensive business just ordering cocktails. At £19 for a house bottle of wine and £9 for a cocktail a bottle of wine was defs a better bet. 

All in all. I would go back. Despite my niggles, and its just me being really picky, we had a great meal and they allowed us to sit there until 11.15 which is far longer than the usual 2 hrs they allow you for a table anywhere. Big thumbs up for that. Plus I'd like to eat more of what they have to offer. 

Well done Chop Shop. Ill be seeing you again. 

Square Meal

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Decadent Friday at the Botanist

The other Friday, Mum was up in town for work and as she had a free afternoon (and so did I, all my afternoons seem to be free) we decided to go for lunch. The rain was pretty miserable so we needed something to cheer ourselves up.

We nipped over to Sloane Square in the car and ducked into my first choice, 'Colbert' which is the latest offering by the REX group, who own The Wolseley and The Delaunay. Unfortunately everyone else thought it would be good to get out of the rain for lunch as well and there was an hour wait for a table. I don't mind waiting usually but today was not a 'waiting for a table' kind of day. So we left and headed across the road to my second choice 'The Botanist'.

This too, was packed but we had come in a gap and could get a table within 10 mins. Winning.

We were settled into the restaurant and presented with a menu that was filled with so many delights I had a hard time choosing.

We decided that starters were needed as well as mains and to cheer us up, a glass of champagne. 

We placed our order and in swooped the bread platter. Hot, crusty yet soft bread with butter. Probably one of the most irresistible things on this planet to me (then again I find a lot of things irresistible). 


The first course arrived, celeriac soup for Mother....

and steak tartar for me.

The soup was divine, really rich, creamy and warming. Im not usually a fan of celeriac but this really was good. 

The tartar was super rich, which was the raw egg yolk but the salty capers helped to cut through it. Even so, I really couldn't manage it all, I did give it my best shot though. You could have had it as a main and I wonder if they made the starter portions a little smaller it wouldn't have been so much! 

Moving on to the mains and even more rich food (I really went for it in menu choice, well done me)

Cod on wilted spinach and samphire with a mussel volute for Mum

A beautifully crispy skin with flaky well cooked cod underneath. The salty samphire was great with the creamy sauce. I may or may not have dunked a few chips in that sauce.  

Half a lobster with garlic and thyme butter for me... Mmmmmm 

I can confirm that yes, it was as good as it looks. 

Once the tail was devoured I really got down there, cracked the clawed, pulled the poor creature limb from limb and picked his shell clean. 

The meat was so fresh and dripping in butter, the chips providing perfect mopping material to make sure nothing escaped.

We were stuffed by the time our plates were clean. A truly satisfying meal. Perfect to get away from those rainy day blues. 

We finished up with a couple of cappuccinos and some chocolately treats.  

It was such a good lunch however a treat as opposed to an every day lunch spot or even an everyday dinner as it certainly isn't light on the wallet. I recommend it though if you can go, 

I hear the bar is a good cocktail spot as well! I might have to check that out another time...

Square Meal

Monday, 14 October 2013

Adventures in Cream. Part 1.

Cream, what a glorious ingredient. I'm not talking about when it's all sweet mind, but what it can do to things when you cook with it. Mmmmmmm gooey, creamy, decadent heaven. I swear it's a kinda magic when it gets cook. It elevates ingredients to a higher level, its indulgent and above all, it's just so. dam. good.

This is one of my all time favourite recipes. It is so easy and simple. Carbonara.

I can guarantee that you would usually have everything for this in the fridge or at least everything to make a version of it. (This recipe here is for 2 people)

The basics are:


To make it more delicious, add any of the below:

Cream (yesssss almost worth going to the shops to get a pot)
Cheddar (use this is if you don't have parmesan, makes it less of a carbonara and more of a cheesy pasta but ho hum)

Start by putting your pasta on to boil (if you want to add peas, add them just before the pasta is done so they cook in the water).

Next take your eggs, crack them into a bowl and add the cream 

Whisk together and make sure you season it. You know my feelings on salt. 

Fry up your bacon (or lardons as I have here). If have decided to add mushrooms, I would cook them in the pan with the bacon. 

Thats it. Thats literally the majority of the work. Thats is how simple this is, I may or may not have spent a lot of time at the pub before I came home and made this...

Turn off the hob and drain your pasta when it's cooked, then put it back in the pan.

 Put the bacon in the pan with the pasta and pour the egg/cream mixture over the pasta. Stir. 

The beauty of this is that the heat from the pasta cooks the egg and thickens the cream at the same time to get that really rich sauce. If you feel like you're not getting anywhere then turn the hob back on very very low. You need to warm this through really slowly otherwise you'll get scrambled eggs. 

At this point add your parmesan (or cheddar, I only had cheddar this time because when I went to the supermarket I was on the phone and therefore not concentrating remotely)

Et voila. Thats it. Divvy out into 2 bowls and chow down. 

Approximate making time 15 mins. Excellent after too much time at the pub. 

Please never buy a jar sauce again; they taste like shit, are expensive and I can guarantee you will get more out of the ingredients you buy. (Kelly, I'm looking at you)