Tag Archive | Food

Jamie Oliver burnt chicken san fran salad

This was the best salad ever. I’ve never been a fan of the quinoa (not only because I can’t say it, but because the few times I’ve had it, it has dominated the salad or been used in a salad so sparse in other ingredients and so bland, it has been boring and gluggy.)

I was given the Jamie Oliver 15 Minute book and DVDs years ago but have never got around to cooking anything. A chance watching on free to air TV, had this recipe featured. I had to give it a try. 

I’ve also never been a fan of smoky paprika, preferring the sweet, so if it wasn’t for the show on TV, I never would have cooked this. 

The flavours, the colours, the smells. Heaven. 

When I had started preparing the salsa and put the spices on the chicken, Dreamer came in and said the smells were making him hungry. The smell was divine!

I’m not going to list the steps if the recipe as I largely followed Jamie Oliver. But here’s some pointers. 

Of course it doesn’t take 15 minutes. But that’s OK. It really wasn’t that long, though I can’t say exactly how long. I didn’t time it as I prepared some bits before my guests arrived and, as luck would have it, had a power outage for two hours just before the guests came and then I was socialising while cooking.  You do need a food processor to moosh up the baby spinach, coriander, mint and spring onions. This spread through the quinoa, makes the quinoa edible. My salsa was a bit dry to I added a teeny little bit of water.

I used chicken thigh fillers not breast because they were on special. Also being smaller, they were quicker to cook and I am always worried about under cooking chicken. 

No cress in our fruit and veg shop, so I used snow pea sprouts instead. Like them better than the peppery cress anyway. 

Didn’t use chilli because one friend doesn’t eat it. 

I served some limes on the side, for extra juice. I didn’t have enough avo because they were not ripe so could only use half a large one which is a shame as more avo would have been better. 

The salad doesn’t really last or maybe we were left with too much quinoa. Anyway, it is nicer when the chicken and capsicum are warm. So eat it up quickly. 

Truely, this is a great one to serve with friends. It looks so impressive. I’ll be putting this one out again this summer before the mango season finishes. 

Is soup dinner?

I don’t write often about my offspring (their lives; their choice if it gets plastered over the web) but one, the younger one, (let’s call him Dreamer) has provoked some thinking. 

I served up an interesting dinner the other night. (No photos. It just wouldn’t pass the visual test.)

Dreamer said, “This looks like all the dinners we had this week.”

“Well spotted. It is.”

Rice, vegetable and chick pea curry, a sort of boiled chicken and veg stew thing. Mmm, appetising. 

The chicken thing came from the chicken soup I had made the day before. I scooped out the chicken and veggies, leaving the broth for my lunch. 

While Mr S and I tucked into the dinner with gusto, Dreamer pushed his fork around his bowl. 

Dreamer looked up and made a pronouncement. 

“Brother and I came to a ruling last night at the pub. Soup is not dinner. And we we won’t be having it for dinner anymore.”

Laughter from Mr S and me. Given the rarity of cooking by Dreamer and Brother, their votes have little chance of being acted upon by this administration. 

I really love homemade chicken soup. I thought it was complicated. Turns out it is easy. Mr S and I really enjoyed it this week. Served with thick slices of a dense sour dough. I love my pumpkin soup even more. Mr S loves his ham and split pea soup and his seafood chowder. 

All great winter fare. 

But is it dinner? A meal on its own? Or must soup come with a main course?

What do you think?

Where do you stand on oysters?

I love them raw. With a squeeze of lemon. 

Had them with a yummy champagne topping once but can’t remember much about it. 

Today I had a dozen with Tetusya sauce – sweet and salty flavour. 

Only problem, I eat them too quickly. 
Don’t like them mornayed. Too cheesy. And warm oysters. Yuk. 

I’m still hungry. My sister-in-law says Ai needed the cheese. She’s not hungry. And more butter on my bread. 

(The celebration continues. Having oyster  and champagne, a spot of shopping -oops bought three lipsticks – and cocktail in the city.)

Chicken Tikka Masala*

I will start with the main message. Chicken Tikka Masala IS the same as Butter Chicken. Simple. 

Now for the longer post, complete with digressions. 

I read a little while ago that Chicken Tikka Masala was Britain’s favourite dish. (It’s recently been overtaken by stir fry, apparently.) And was often served at pubs. (I remember on my first trip to the UK being served a curry with chips – as in fries – in a flash pub and thinking, replete with my early 20s sophistication, what uncouth barbarians these English are!)

So I planned to have a chicken tikka masala when I got here. Unfortunately, Britain has moved on. There’s a tonne of gastropubs (gastro is the new gourmet, though gastro means something entirely unappetising to me) but none serve curies. Comfort food seems in. And the Indian restaurants seen to have gone “authentic”. 

But luckily we found an “old-fashioned” curry house. (Doubly luckily, it was the cheapest place at which we ate and was yummy so we went twice. Half the price than most places so comparing taste for money it was the best.)

So I ordered Chicken Tikka Masala. 

When it arrived it looked suspiciously like the dish I always order when we go to an Indian restaurant in Australia. 

Butter Chicken. 

In fact, so often do my sons and I order it, and we always get two because we don’t want to share, we earn the ire of Mr S. But for us Butter Chicken is not only our dish of choice, it is the only main course we really enjoy. And for us it defines the restaurant. Butter chicken no good? Well we won’t return. Suffice to say, I am a Butter Chicken expert. 

Not only did the Chicken Tikka Masala LOOK like Butter Chicken, it tasted like Butter Chicken. 

Could it be the same by another name?

When we got back to our accommodation I googled it. Most agree it is. One pompous Indian writer said they were different dishes. That the Tikka Masala was developed from England based on Campbell’s Tomato Soup while the Butter Chicken came from fresh tomatoes in Indian. 

Clearly she hasn’t heard of convergent evolution. 

They are the same dish. 

Variations between restaurants will be greater for each than any variation between the two “different” dishes. 

At least my sons and I can eat at Indian restaurants in the UK content in the knowledge we will get our dish. 

* a rose by any other name. 

Do you menu plan?

Time for a post on frugal living. The need for this will become more obvious in a future post. (Oh, dear readers, I’ve been bad!)

The expenditure that households can save the most money on is the regular grocery shopping.

How so?

Well, we waste so much food. Buying too much and letting it rot before cooking or eating. Cooking more than we need, putting the left-overs in the fridge until the mould growth makes you feel OK about tossing it. Even a very little bit too much leftover adds up over the year. Dishing up servings that are too large is another way we waste food.

There’s plenty of information on food waste. Google and be shocked. Here’s one report.

And food waste is definitely not good for the environment. All that water and energy used in growing produce and raising life stock; processing; transporting.

My first step in reducing the waste, and hence my grocery bill, was menu planning for the week. It also helped as Mr S and I both work, so knowing what we were to cook at night, and whose turn it was, reduced the stress of the evening. We always had a couple of “catch-and-kill-yourself” evenings, otherwise known as left-overs. There was always leftovers in our house, because of cooking too much. And as my boys got older, they asked for left-overs so they could eat them as snacks or for lunch.

Our menu planning wasn’t strict, in that we always had some tins of things and other staples for quick meals, if we didn’t feel like our planned meal or ran short of time. (Cowboy cooking, Mr S calls it. Throw in a tin of this and a tin of that with some chopped onions and some meat and some curry paste or the like.) And we move the meals around depending on evening schedules. I actually use to only write 1 to 7 to make sure I had enough meals.

Once you’ve menu planned, the next step is to write out the shopping list for what you actually need.

These simple steps cut our waste and grocery bill significantly.

After a couple of years of this I made the next jump to fortnightly supermarket and butcher shopping.

How does this save money?

Going less frequently to the supermarket means you are not tempted to buy so much junk and all the impulse buys that jump out at you. And knowing you’re not going to buy more biscuits or other junk the next week, means you make them last a little longer rather than gutsing them in one go. For some reason instead of buying double biscuits, I bought the same amount (who wants to go through the checkout with more than 10 packets of biscuits?) My family didn’t notice, and definitely didn’t feel deprived. Really we were buying and eating too much junk.

And just recently I have lasted three weeks between supermarket visits. Mainly because we have eaten out a bit but also by using up things in the fridge and pantry. My family are so used to having excess in the pantry that a normal pantry looks empty to them. “You better go shopping. There’s nothing to cook.” Oh, just watch – as I made several more dinners. And now with adult children, there will be nights they are not home so dinner for one night becomes dinner for two nights.

All round menu planning is a time saving, money saving, environment saving, sanity saving hint. We also like dishes that can be cooked in double quantities so you get a night off!

Here’s the last and our current menu plan stuck on our fridge. They say only two weeks worth, but I generally extended them by a night or two.



Grocery shopping for the busy family

Do you grocery shop every week?

For years I would tromp on down to the supermarket every weekend. It was a habit. One I thought you had to do. We all need to eat, don’t we? So every week we buy the food. And other assorted household stuff.

Grabbing staples, throwing a random selection of ingredients into the trolley. Buying veggies we “usually” use. Stopping at the butchers and buying different meat – beef, lamb, pork, chicken – to work out later what to cook.

In the morning: Chicken tonight? Yep. Take it out of the freezer.

After work: what shall we do with it? Stir fry? OK.

Even worse, the after-work-what-shall-we-cook conversation when nothing has been taken out of the freezer!

Come the weekend, back to the supermarket. Throw out the food going off. Restock the fridge.

After years of this, I hated the waste. Wasted food = wasted money. And the wasted time. So I changed to menu planning, working out what we would actually cook for dinner and buying for that. It cut out food waste significantly. And cut the stress of working out what to cook when we came home tired from work.

A few years into menu-plan shopping, I thought I would take a radical step: not go to the supermarket every week. I was bored with food shopping. I hated grocery shopping taking up a couple of hours of my weekend. Obviously not doing the weekly shopping could be done. Think of those who live in the country! Yet we do things out of habit, mindlessly, because we’ve always done it that way.

Now I spend half an hour working out with Mr Sans what we will cook for the fortnight. We are not strict; we just work out 12 or 13 meals – there’s always left-overs or a “catch-and-kill-yourself” night. (With two growing/grown-up sons at home, we always cook for left-overs so the boys can have food for lunch or snacks.)

Then I roughly plan each week’s menu – don’t want all chicken one week and all pasta the next! Normally the menu for the week is flexible. We swap the dinners around depending on the weather, our moods or if one of us is tired.

If we have evening functions we make sure we have a double meal (cook a double quantity so there is a meal ready to reheat). We also plan for the evenings when one of us isn’t available to cook. As we share the cooking equally but have different dinners we like and different cooking styles, we need to let the other know what night they definitely have to cook. “I’m out on Tuesday and won’t need dinner, so you have to cook.” “I’ll make the green curry then.” “Good, don’t like that one.”

After menu planning, I draw up the shopping list. Supermarket and butchers are visited once a fortnight. The green grocer I go to every weekend. That is why I divide the dinners into each week, so I buy the veggies for that week.

The benefits have been enormous: less stress, less waste, money saved. I have cut our grocery bill by hundreds. Fewer visits means throwing fewer “treats” into the trolley!

Now, my family would probably tell you I go even less than once a fortnight. Sometimes I go “on strike”. There’s food in our kitchen, so why shop? Eat the fruit in the bowl! Just because you don’t feel like an apple but want a banana doesn’t mean I have to go buy you one!

And teenage boys, well mine anyway, think if they have to do more than open a container and put it in the microwave, then there’s nothing in the house to eat. Tough, I say.

So what’s on the menu for the next fortnight?

Week 1
Sat – Mum and Dad are going out with friends for dinner, so readymade stir fry from the butcher’s with Hokkien noodles for sons to cook.
Sun – roast chook, gives some leftover meat for lunches. And I will roast extra veggies for vegetarian lasagne later in the week.
Mon – BBQ lamb kebabs and salad.
Tues – BBQ steaks, chips and salad. (We’re making the most of the end of summer. BBQs on the back verandah.)
Wed – two lasagnes – one beef and one vegetable. Lots of leftovers for lunches and snacks.
Thurs – Hokkien noodle pork stir-fry – double lot cooked for Friday.
Fri – left-over Hokkien noodles

Week 2
Sat – BBQ sausages (real meat ones) with salad.
Sun – Belgium chicken pasta.
Mon – Steak sandwiches. (We’re Aussies so these HAVE to come with tinned beetroot and fried onions!)
Tues – stirfry. Cook extra rice for fried rice later in week.
Wed – fried rice. Cook two lots.
Thur – fried rice.
Fri – leftovers / catch and kill your own.
Sat – roast macadamia and honey chicken roll.

So there you go. We love food and we eat well. A little menu planning and once a fortnight shopping saves time, money, stress and food waste.