Asian Style Pork

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I was recently invited to the Taste of London Festival to sample a 4 course menu developed using Lee Kum Kee’s new sauce range. My favourite dish of the night was easily the sticky BBQ pork dish, and the best bit is, you can buy their sauces and whip up this tasty meal at home.  Compared to the other supermarket brands, Lee Kum Kee’s sauces taste more authentic, and are still reasonably priced. For example, their Premium Oyster Sauce (used in this recipe) is sold at most supermarkets (it’s £2.75 at Tesco).

I’ve adjusted this recipe slightly from the original, as I’ve found this method to be a bit more user friendly when you’re pressed for time, and you still get the same great flavours.  Don’t eat pork? I’ve also tried substituting the pork for salmon or chicken and it works really well too.  The recipe below uses a barbecue, but feel free to pan fry or grill your pork instead. I’ve tried all methods and they all work well.

Prep and cook time required: 20 minutes (plus marinade time)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

500g thinly sliced pork belly
2 tablespoons soy sauce
thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Char Siu Sauce 
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce

Method:

  1. Marinade your pork. Place your pork belly into a bowl and coat in the soy sauce and the ginger. Leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  2. To cook, light your barbecue.  If you are using charcoal, make sure it is fully lit and all the flames have died down, as you want your barbecue to be as hot as possible.
  3. Put the pork slices on to the grill and cook for 2 minutes before turning.  Repeat this process for approximately another 4-6 minutes, or until almost cooked.
  4. At this point you want to add your Char Siu and Oyster Sauce to the pork and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until charred on both sides. Serve with any remaining glaze.

Cooking with Comté

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I was recently invited to a cooking class at L’atelier des chefs on comté cheese.  The class began with some wine and a little introduction to comté and it’s production methods. Comté is a French cheese originating in a fairly remote region in the mountains of Eastern France where there are over 2500 family farms dedicated to producing the raw milk that is used to create comté.  The cows used for producing the milk are only fed with natural feed and their milk has to be processed within 24 hours so it’s extremely fresh.  It is then taken to one of the 150 small village cheese dairies in France that specialise in producing comté, where it is looked after for at least 4 months, and is regularly turned, salted and rubbed in a cheese wheel with brine solution.

It’s a hard cheese that’s from a similar family to gruyère cheese and has over 83 natural flavours that can be detected when tasting it, making it a very versatile cheese that can be added to loads of dishes.

We then had the opportunity to taste three different ages of comté.  In general, the darker the cheese is, the older it probably is, and the older it is, the saltier it is.  Our cheese tasting was followed by a demonstration by chef Laura Pope, of two dishes that she has developed using comté.  First we had the freekeh salad with charred pears, rocket and comté and for the main she made bubble and squeak with melted comté and a fried egg (the recipes can be found below).  We then split off into groups and had a go at making (and eating!) the dishes ourselves.

Freekeh salad with Comté, charred pears & cinnamon, rocket & toasted pecans

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Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes
Serves 4

The freekeh salad was honestly one of the best salads I’ve ever tried! There are so many flavours and textures involved, the freekeh itself has a delicious smoky, earthy flavour, the pecans offer a crunch, the pears a sweet twinge and the lemon a citrusy element.

Freekeh originates in the middle east and is green durum wheat that has been roasted, rubbed and then cracked.  You can buy dried freekeh and prep it yourselves, but we actually cheated slightly and used ready made freekeh by Merchant Gourmet to save time.  It was really delicious and I’d probably buy it again in future because it cuts down prep time but still has a great flavour!  Laura mentioned that we could substitute the freekeh for bulgur wheat or quinoa if required.

Ingredients:

  • 250g freekeh (either ready made or cooked according to the packet instructions if cracked)
  • 2 to 4 just ripe pears (depending on size – you want about 400g in total)
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 50g rocket leaves
  • 100g pecan nuts (without shells)
  • Zest of ½ lemon and juice of 1 lemon
  • 45ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g 12-14 month aged Comté, cubed

Method:

  1. Toast the pecans: heat oven to 160℃ fan / 180℃ normal and lay the pecans out on a baking sheet, then toast for about 10 minutes, until they give off a rich aroma – but do not let them burn. Let them cool, remove a handful to leave whole and then roughly chop the rest.
  2. Add the freekeh to your salad bowl.
  3. If the skin of the pears is rough and thick, peel them – if not, you can leave it on. Cut them into eighths and cut out the cores. Toss the pears in the oil, cinnamon and a little salt and black pepper. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat for a few minutes and then char each side of the pears so that they have griddle lines and are warm all the way through – you don’t want to overcook them or they will fall apart. Chop half the pears into cubes and leave the rest for later.
  4. Mix the lemon zest, juice and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper. Mix this through the freekeh and mix in the rocket leaves, the chopped pecan nuts, the cubed pears and most of the Comté. Lay the pear slices on top and scatter over the remaining Comté and pecans.

Bubble & squeak with melted Comté and fried egg

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Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes (depending on whether you have leftover mashed potato)
Serves 4

Bubble and squeak is a great way to use up leftover potato and vegetables.  It’s also warming and comforting so is the perfect meal for winter (or most of the year if you live in the UK!!) We added cavolo nero and comté which tasted delicious melted! We topped the dish with a fried egg.

Ingredients:

  • 400g cavolo nero
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, for frying
  • 900g cooked mashed potato
  • 8 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 200g 18 to 24 month aged Comté, coarsely grated
  • 4 eggs

Method:

  1. Cut out the central rib of each leaf of cavolo nero and discard, then cut the leaves into wide strips. Melt 30g of the butter in a saucepan and add the cavolo nero, a splash of water and season with salt and black pepper. Turn heat up high and stir the cavolo nero to coat it in the butter, water and seasoning, then turn the heat down to medium, cover the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, until it is wilted, giving the pan a shake every now and then. Drain off any excess liquid.
  2. Heat the remaining 30g butter and about ½ tablespoon oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, then tip in the potato and spring onion and fry. As it cooks, you want it to brown and char slightly – make sure to spread it out over the base of the pan and keep breaking it up and scraping the bottom of the pan so that the lovely, crunchy brown bits are mixed in.
  3. Mix in the cavolo nero and then the Comté and turn the heat down to medium. When the Comté starts to melt, stop turning the mixture over – just press it down every now to flatten the surface and cook over a low heat until it is golden brown on the bottom.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil and fry the eggs over a medium heat so that the whites are set but the yolks are still runny – season each egg with a little salt and black pepper as they are cooking. Place the four fried eggs on top of the bubble & squeak and serve in the frying pan for everyone to help themselves.

I was sent home with a slice of the comté cheese wheel and have been adding it to salads, pastas and several other dishes, it’s such a versatile cheese and I’m glad I discovered it!  If you want to get your hands on some comté, it is sold in several cheesemongers and supermarkets in the UK (such as Waitrose). See their website for more details at www.comtecheese.co.uk

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes 

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Prep time:  10 minutes plus overnight refrigeration
Makes 6-8 medium sized pancakes  

Pancake day is right around the corner! So I felt it was only right to share with you a new pancake recipe I discovered at a pancake making workshop last week, these really are the best American style pancakes I’ve ever tried, and the secret seems to be in the buttermilk, as well as the fact that the batter should be refrigerated overnight before cooking. Yes, it’s a bit of a faff, but totally worth it when you taste the finished product. So get prepping tonight, ahead of the big day!

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Ingredients: 

  • 360g buttermilk
  • 180g whole milk
  • 6g vanilla essence
  • 380g self raising flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 12g baking powder
  • 3G bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g melted butter

Method: 

  1. Weigh out all of the wet ingredients (besides the butter) in a large mixing bowl, followed by the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a whisk until it’s not lumpy, then slowly add in the melted butter.
  3. Mix again until all combined and the batter is ready. Refrigerate overnight/at least for 2-3 hours.
  4. When you’re ready to cook, add a dash of oil to your pan (you don’t need a lot if you have a non-stick frying pan) and leave to heat up slowly.
  5. Once the pan is hot and the oil starts to sizzle, pour in your batter according to whatever size you’d like your pancakes to be. You can even buy one of these pancake rings if you’d like your pancakes to be perfectly round!!
  6. Once one side of your pancake has browned (you’ll be able to tell as it will lift off the pan with a spatula), flip it so the other side is cooked through.
  7. Stack and dress your pancakes with whatever toppings you like. My go to toppings are maple syrup and chocolate chips. But you could also try berries, whipped cream, Nutella, bananas, crushed nuts or even a savoury option like bacon.

Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

These chicken wings are so good! They’re oven baked, and end up super tender, so are perfect for anyone trying to eat healthier in the new year.  They’re also so quick and easy to prepare, with very few ingredients required, so they are great for weekday dinners.
Warning: you will need a napkin after eating!

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 50 chicken wings
  • 50g plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Thumb sized piece of finely sliced ginger
  • 10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 100ml water
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 6.  Coat each wing in flour, and shake off any excess, and place onto a baking tray.  Drizzle olive oil so all the wings are coated, you might want to toss them.
  2. Cook for 20 minutes and in the mean time prepare your honey garlic glaze.  Combine the soy sauce, water, chilli flakes, garlic and ginger over a low heat for 5-7 minutes.  You should notice the liquid reduce.
  3. After 20 minutes, flip your chicken wings over and cook for another 20 minutes.
  4. Drizzle your glaze over the chicken wings so they are fully covered and put in the oven for a final 20 minutes.

 

Chicken Soup – Three ways 

Chicken soup has long been recognised as one a health boosting dish, some even swear by it as a cold and flu remedy.  It can clear sinuses, and the lean protein in chicken and nutrients from added vegetables work to bolster your strength when your body is feeling drained of energy.  Its super warming in the colder months, and the chicken makes it more filling than other types of soups.  If you’re feeling run down and overstuffed after the Christmas indulgence like I do, these soups are great for detoxing.

My recipes are made from scratch, and are packed with loads of vegetables and nutritious herbs, making it extra healthy.  I’ve outlined my three favourite ways of making chicken soup, the thai style is great for asian food lovers, and the creamy chicken soup is really hearty and has similar flavours to a chicken pot pie. YUM.  All these soups can be made in a large batch and reheated, just keep them in the fridge for 3-5 days.  I usually take leftovers to work as a packed lunch!

Thai Style Chicken Noodle Soup

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 150g noodles (you can use rice or egg noodles)
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped into small chunks
  • Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 closed cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 75g spinach leaves
  • 1 stick of lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika powder
  • 1 shallot (if you’re allergic to onions like me, you can sub this for half a leek!)
  • 1 leek
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • juice and zest from 1 lime
  • 1 medium spiced green chilli, chopped
  • 1 pepper, chopped

Method:

  1. In a food processor, blitz your shallot, coriander, 1 tablespoon olive oil, turmeric, lime juice and zest, chilli, ginger, paprika, garlic and lemongrass until a paste forms.  This should take around 1 minute.
  2. For this next step, use a wok or deep pan as you don’t want your soup to overflow.  Pan fry your chicken breast chunks, leek, carrots, mushrooms, pepper for 5-7 minutes on a medium heat in the remaining olive oil until cooked through.  Add in your washed spinach leaves at the end as they only take a few minutes to cook.  Reduce to a low heat and mix in the salt and pepper.
  3. Prepare your chicken stock according to the instructions and pour into the pan over your chicken and vegetables.  Leave to simmer on a low heat for 5-10 minutes so all the flavours come together.
  4. Meanwhile, cook your noodles according to the packet instructions.  Once cooked through, add to your soup.

Traditional Chicken Soup

Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 small chicken breast, chopped into small chunks
  • 100g orzo
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 6 closed cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 leek
  • 75g spinach leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

  1. Use a wok or deep pan as you don’t want your soup to overflow.   Pan fry your chicken breast, carrots, mushrooms, leek, garlic and celery on a medium heat in olive oil for 5-7 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Add in your spinach leaves at the end as they only take 30 seconds to cook.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Prepare your chicken stock according to instructions and pour into the pan.
  3. Pour your orzo into the soup and leave to boil on a medium heat.

Creamy Chicken, Leek and Sweetcorn Soup

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 small chicken breast, chopped into small chunks.
  • 75g double cream
  • 100g sweetcorn
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

  1. Use a wok or deep pan as you don’t want your soup to overflow.   Pan fry your chicken breast, sweetcorn, leek and garlic for 5-7 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Add in salt and pepper.
  2. Prepare your chicken stock according to the instructions and pour into the pan.  Then, add your cream.
  3. Leave to simmer on a low heat so that the mixture thickens and the flavours blend together.

Pesto Pasta 5 ways

I recently read an article stating that the average Londoner spends £2,500 a year on work lunches (!!!!!) That is an awful lot of money spent largely on fairly boring sandwiches from Pret and overpriced sushi boxes from Itsu, which are also not particularly nutritious. I, personally, think this is a criminal amount of money spent on lunches, and pride myself on making tasty and cheap lunches for work that work out at no more than £1 a day (A total of £250 a year – so that’s a whopping £2250 saving annually.  To put that into perspective, that could probably get you TWO two week holidays to Bali, Thailand or New York).

Apparently the top reasons most people don’t bring their own packed lunches to work is because 1. they don’t have enough time to cook and 2. they don’t know what to make. So I’m on a quest to help people eat tastier, home-cooked lunches and save money.

The idea behind this is batch cooking. Yes, eating the same meal 5 days in a row can get a bit boring, that’s why I’ve come up with 5 different recipes with pesto pasta as the base, to reduce repetitiveness.  If you still can’t stand eating pasta for 5 days, you can make 5 meals, and freeze each portion for another day, or just give some to your other half to take to work.   The process of making these 5 meals should only take 30 minutes. (Highlighted in bold, because, I’m sure even the busiest of people can find 30 minutes a week). So these can be made on Sunday afternoon and stored in the fridge during the week.

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Ingredients for 5 meals = £5

  • 1 jar (190g) of pesto (98p from Asda – this brand is really tasty and good value)
  • 500g pasta (50p from most supermarkets)
  • A handful of spinach (approximately 10p worth of spinach)
  • 10 washed cherry tomatoes (5p worth of tomatoes)
  • 6 cloves of garlic (5p worth of garlic)
  • 50g smoked salmon (£1 worth of salmon)
  • 1 mackerel fillet (70p worth of mackerel)
  • 1 chicken breast (80p)
  • 5 slices of salami (50p worth of salami)
  • 100g grated cheddar cheese (30p worth of cheese)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Top tip: if you need to buy larger amounts of the ingredients listed, you can freeze extras so they don’t go to waste (always check the storage instructions first).

Method:

  • Start by boiling your pasta in a saucepan according to the instructions. Whilst this is cooking, finely chop your garlic cloves and pan fry in the olive oil for 1 to 2 minutes until golden.
  • Once your pasta has cooked, drain and stir in your pesto and garlic.  This will act as your base for the rest of your dishes.  Separate your pasta mixture into 5 tupperware boxes (I like Lock and Lock because they’re totally leakproof).

1. The Veggie

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  • Panfry your cherry tomatoes and spinach for 2-3 minutes and add to box one.
  • You could also add leeks, onions, mushrooms or peppers according to taste.

2. The Chicken

  • Next, panfry your chopped chicken breast until cooked through and add into the second box.
  • Make sure you stir in thoroughly so the chicken breast is covered in pesto too.

3. The Salami
4. The Salmon
5. The Mackerel 

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  • The next three dishes are as simple as slicing up your salami, salmon and mackerel into small pieces and stirring through your pasta. (Note: if you are going to freeze these dishes, freeze without the salami as most can’t be frozen)
  • Grate your cheese and sprinkle on top of each portion. You could also add some black pepper.
  • Store in the fridge and take to work each morning!

So, it’s really as simple as that. 30 minutes, 5 meals, £1 each.  You’ll save money, and eat better…. and then you can go ahead and book that trip to Thailand!

Mexican Eggs

Overall time needed: 15 minutes

If you’re looking for a healthy recipe packed with protein whilst being super tasty, these Mexican eggs are one to try! They’re really quick to prepare making them a perfect midweek meal idea, and are also vegetarian, so are great for any of you who celebrate Meat-Free-Mondays!

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Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • 3 mushrooms (sliced)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 eggs
  • 10 cherry tomatoes (chopped in half)
  • 50g sweetcorn
  • 100g black beans
  • Few sprigs of coriander
  • Few basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 25g feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

  1. Add your olive oil, mushrooms, sweetcorn and black beans to a frying pan and cook on a low heat for 1 – 2 minutes.  The heat should remain low throughout this recipe to avoid the ingredients burning.
  2. After this, add the cherry tomatoes and paprika, chilli flakes, garlic and salt and pepper and toss the ingredients to they are covered in the spices.
  3. Crack the eggs into the pan and cover until the eggs are cooked through (this should take around 2 minutes for a runny yolk or around 4 minutes for a hard yolk)
  4. Turn the heat off and add the coriander and basil leaves to the pan and then crumble the feta cheese on top.

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