Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Curry #1: Chicken and Mango

A couple of weeks ago, I said I'd never tried to make curry before and probably wouldn't because it had so many ingredients. A bit of a defeatist attitude - and the scientist in me loves an experiment. So here's my first attempt at making curry, from a recipe on BBC Good Food with a couple of tweaks.

 And yes, it was delicious (sorry to ruin the ending)! As a novice I made it look harder work than it really was - not substantially more difficult than spaghetti bolognese.

6 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, chopped (I had to de-bone mine, started cooking it and then realised the skin was still attached and had to fish it off. D'oh!)
1tbsp oil
2tsp turmeric
2 brown onions
2 mangoes
6tbsp korma paste (will be quite dominant in the finished product so pick a good one)
Lump of ginger
2tsp cumin
200g coconut milk (half a can - and half what the recipe suggested it, but it's high in fat)
500ml chicken stock

200g rice

Serves 6

1) Fry the chicken in the oil and 1tsp of the turmeric until cooked (25 mins) in an enormous casserole dish
2) Whilst the chicken is cooking, chop one of the onions into quarters. Peel one of the mangoes, and hack off as much flesh from the stone as possible. Tip the mango and onion into a food processor, and whizz with the korma paste, cumin and the rest of the turmeric
3) Cut the brown outside off the ginger, slice, add to the food processor and blend
4) Chop the other onion finely, and add to the chicken. Fry until soft
5) Then add the mango/ginger/korma mixture to the dish and stir
6) Heat on medium for 5mins and boil the kettle for the stock. Start boiling the water in a new pan for the rice
7) Make up the stock. Stir in the coconut milk to the dish, then add the stock with stirring
8) Add the rice to the boiling water and heat on low
8) Cook the curry for 25 mins on low-medium heat
9) While it's cooking, peel the remaining mango and slice it (no. 5 on this website). Tip the slices in for the last 5 mins of cooking
10) Drain the rice and serve

*Great with naan bread and mango chutney

Chicken = £4
Oil = 2p
Spices = 6p
Mangoes = £2
Onions = 30p
Korma paste = 70p
Ginger = 15p
Coconut milk = 75p
Stock = 7p
Rice = 25p
Total = £8.30, £1.38/ person (more than usual, but it was a treat)

Homemade Hummus

I was clearing out the cupboard this week and found a kilo of dried chickpeas at the back. Rather than chuck them out, I thought I'd try an experiment and make some hummus out of them. Delicious with pitta bread or breadsticks!

55g dried chickpeas (these will double in mass to 110g when they've been soaked, which is the correct amount. Not 220g as I discovered)
5tbsp tahini paste (ish - it's pretty hard to get it out of the jar)
3 cloves garlic
3tbsp olive oil
2 lemons
2tsp cayenne pepper or paprika
1tsp salt

1) Soak the chickpeas in water overnight (leave about 6cm water above the top of the chickpeas because they will expand)
2) Boil the chickpeas in fresh water for 1.5-2h over a low heat with a pinch of salt
3) Blend the chickpeas and garlic in a (large) food processor until they look more like a paste
4) Add the tahini and olive oil and blend
5) Juice the lemons and add the juice, followed by the spices, and blend again. Keep going until it's smooth

Serves 4 

Chickpeas = 20p
Tahini = 50p
Garlic = 10p
Oil = 5p
Lemons = 30p
Spices = 5p
Total = £1.20, 30p/ person what to do with the remaining 890g??

Sausage Vegetable Pasta Bake

Back from sunny Italy now - at least it's still warm here so the cultural shock's not too much!

I've been busy since we got back, but I've also been suffering a bit from writer's block - so I'm turning to a family favourite to get things restarted. Here it is - a tomato-y pasta bake.

Half-eaten (and scraped clean!) 

250g pasta (I like fusilli because it holds the sauce well)
800g of tomato-based products (I like half/ half passata and tinned chopped tomatoes)
8-12 leftover (i.e. pre-cooked) sausages (feel free to economise the more vegetables you add)
Many vegetables - I used carrots, peas and sweetcorn here because that's all we had left, but I'd recommend broccoli (cauliflower too if you're into that), peppers, mini corn, beans etc.

Serves 6-8

1) If your sausages aren't being used up from another meal, you need to cook them first (180 deg C, about half an hour). Skip this step and go to 2) if they are
2) Boil water for pasta, then start cooking the pasta. Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C
3) Prep the veg (if they're frozen, don't bother defrosting them first but just get them out the freezer)
4) Chop the sausages into slices
5) Pasta should be done by now (about 12 mins) so drain it but keep the cloudy water for later
6) Take a large dish and tip the pasta in to make the bottom layer. (I normally discover I've made too much at this point, but then it just becomes tomorrow's lunch)
7) Tip in half the tomato stuff and stir the dish contents to coat the pasta. To speed the cooking time up, you could heat the tomatoes on the stove until it's bubbling before doing this
8) Now add the sausages
9) And finally the veg
10) Add the rest of the tomato stuff and stir (carefully! It might be a bit overflowing by now). Add a splash of the pasta water if there's not enough and stir in
11) Cook in the oven for about 30-40 mins (about 45-50 if you didn't heat the sausages first)

Pasta = 35p
Tomato stuff = 90p
Sausages = £1.50
Veg = £1.20
Total = £3.95, 60p/ person

*Heats up well the next day for a hearty lunch
 - Take out the sausages and replace with more vegetables for the vegetarian version
- Also great with a couple of tins of tuna instead of the meat

Friday, 2 August 2013

First Tomatoes of Summer

I'm off on holiday tomorrow so there will probably be a brief hiatus from me.

To celebrate travelling to Italy, here's a photo of the tomatoes I picked from the garden this evening:
I pomodori


Jar sauces are not all evil - Butter Chicken

It's been a pretty hectic week for me, and so I haven't done as much 'good' cooking as I'd like to. But I thought I'd share one of my better meals this week with you.

I used a jar of 'butter chicken' sauce. Not sure exactly what's in it (tomato, cream and coriander at a guess) but it's a mild curry sauce that I found at the back of the cupboard. It got me thinking about the other jar sauces I sometimes use - for example, I've never made a curry from scratch (too many ingredients, for starters) but I'd never buy one of the Italian sauces. Since my sweet and sour sauce discovery, I wouldn't buy that one either. In terms of value for money, I've done a quick analysis of what you're getting for your money in a typical Italian sauce:

Dolmio Original Bolognese Sauce (500g)
£1.80 for the jar

Here are the ingredients, and how much you'd pay for them if you bought them individually:

10 chopped ripe tomatoes - £1
Finely sliced fresh onion - 10p
Chopped basil leaves - 4p
Crushed garlic - 4p
A good splash of Italian olive oil - 4p
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice - 2p
Spoonful of sugar - 3p
Touch of aromatic herbs - 3p
Seasoning to taste - 2p
Total = £1.32, saving 48p

Anyway. I digress.

Here's how I managed to cram some more of our 5-a-day into a quick and easy tea.

I fried some chicken, and then added some chopped green pepper and carrot (feeling lazy so I didn't do the carrot diagonally). Then I tipped in the sauce and heated it up.
I served it up with leftover reheated mashed potato - not very classy I know, but the sauce tasted good with the potato. 

Chicken = £4
Carrot = 15p
Green pepper = 50p
Sauce = £1.50
Potato = 50p
Total = £6.75, £1.35/ person