Thursday, 29 March 2007

Chinese-Style Chicken and Sweetcorn Sunshine Soup

Have you ever been for a Chinese meal (or grabbed a take-out) and been served that gloopy, grey-yellow mess that is often the excuse for Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup?
In theory it should be one of the nicest (in my opinion) soups on the menu but so frequently it's over-thickened with corn starch and there's hardly a piece of chicken in it!
Fortunately it's very easy to make your own and because it is so quick to put together (even more so if you use leftover roast chicken), I sometimes make it in the mornings and take some to be reheated for lunch at work. Because of it's high protein content, it would also be great to eat just after a workout at the gym.
If you make this with good quality eggs, the final colour tends to be a very bright yellow, hence the name :-)

500ml Chicken Stock
1 Large Chicken Breast (sliced into thin strips)
1 Small Tin Unsalted/Unsweetened Sweetcorn
1 Large Egg (lightly beaten)
1 tsp Oil
1 tsp Sesame Oil
Approx 1 Heaped tbsp Cornflour (mixed with a little cold water until 'dissolved')
Finely Ground White Pepper & Salt
(Spring Onions to garnish)
Serves 2

1) Heat both oils in a saucepan and lightly cook the chicken until sealed.

2) Add the chicken stock and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

3) Drain the sweetcorn and add to the soup - turn the heat right down.

4) Using a fork (yes, a fork), slowly drizzle the egg into the soup in so it forms thread-like 'ribbons' - if you tip the egg in too fast it will just form a solid mass

5) Season with salt and pepper to taste, before adding the cornflour a little at a time, stirring constantly until the soup is at the desired thickness (remember that the soup will continue to thicken as it re-reaches boiling temperature, so don't add too much cornflour. If it does become too thick, stir in a little more water or chicken stock)

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Cauliflower With Spinach, Mixed Sprouts and Garam Masala

In last week vegetable box, I got something I'd never seen before; mixed sprouts. I mean, I'd heard about them on various tv shows and in diet books, but this was the first ime I'd seen them 'face to face'. Sprouted beans, including aduki, lentil, mung and chickpeas are a favourite of those on raw diets as they are an excellent source of protein and more importantly, when raw they are also rich in phytochemicals; compounds found in plants that are not required for normal functioning of the body but that have a beneficial effect on health.

Because curry was on the menu last week, I figured that as the likes of lentils and chickpeas feature frequently in Indian cooking, an Indian-style recipe would work well - and it did. This recipe is a 'jazzed up' version of my spiced cauliflower and spinach one that I regularly make to go with curries. It uses Garam Masala spice powder although you could use general purpose curry powder mixes. To make the most of the nutrients the raw sprouts were thrown in at the last minute before serving.

1 Half Head of Cauliflower (cut into 1" florets)
8 Blocks of Frozen Spinach (defrosted and squeezed to remove excess water (or a couple of good handfuls of fresh leaves))
1 Medium Red Onion (chopped)
2 Handfuls Mixed Sprouts
3 tsps Garam Masala
1 tsp Sugar
1" Piece Fresh Root Ginger (finely chopped)
1 Clove Garlic (minced)

1) Blanch the cauliflower florets in boiling water for approximately 5 minutes and drain

2) Fry the onion, ginger and garlic in a little oil until golden.

3) Add the cauliflower florets and fry until they start to develop browned spots, before adding the spinach.

4) Stir in the Garam Masala, Sugar and a little water if necessary. Stir until well mixed and the spinach is warmed through.

5) Turn off the heat and stir in the mixed sprouts. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Banana and Poppyseed Cake

3 is the magic number apparently, and that was certainly the case with this banana cake; this is the third weekend in a row that I've tried to get this to work! The first time I tried it I must have overestimated how much fat it needed because it turned out as a really heavy, greasy mess. The second time I tried I overcompensated and it turned out too dry... And just like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the third attempt was near-enough perfect. Granted, I left it in the oven a little too long, but other than that it's great! Really light and fluffy and because I offset the sweetness of the cake with a cream cheese filling, it tastes simply divine! This is best eaten in 2-3 days, but slice and freeze to enjoy for longer :)

3 Ripe Bananas (mashed)
150g Butter (softened)
150g Light Brown Sugar
250g GF Flour (or slightly less plain flour if you're making it non GF)
50g Ground Almonds
2 tbsps Poppy Seeds
2 tsps Vanilla Essence
3 tsps Baking Powder
3 Medium Eggs (lightly beaten)
1 tbsp Oil

25g Butter (softened)
75g Full-Fat Cream Cheese (softened)
(Up To) 500g Icing Sugar

Preheat oven to 180C and line two 8" cake tins with baking parchment

1) Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the beaten eggs, oil, vanilla and bananas and beat again.

2) Mix the baking powder, flour, poppyseeds and ground almonds and sift gradually into butter mix, mixing well each time so the mixture stays light.

3) Distribute evenly between the two cake tins and place in the middle of the oven.

4) Bake for approximately 30 minutes until the cakes are golden brown and springy to the touch. A toothpick or skewer should come out clean.

5) Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.

6) Beat the butter and cream cheese for the icing together until smooth. Gradually sift in the icing sugar, beating well, ntil the mixture is fairly stiff but soft enough to spread.

7) When cool, spread the filling between on the 'bottom' layer and sandwich them. Decorate with a final shake of icing sugar and enjoy!

Friday, 16 March 2007

Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Credit for this recipe goes to my work-friend Hannah's brother-in-law (thank you!), although I was using the basic idea and its been slightly Zoe-ified!

Brussels sprouts are often vilified thanks to many people's childhood memories of bitter green, round blobs that appear on their plates once a year for traditional English Christmas dinners, and indeed it wasn't until I went to university that I actually developed a taste for them. Closely related to cabbages, Brussels sprouts are rich in many valuable nutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. They are a very good source of numerous nutrients including folate, vitamin A, manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamin (vitamin B1) and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, phosphorous, protein, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin E, copper and calcium. In addition to these nutrients, Brussels sprouts contain numerous disease-fighting phytochemicals.

Pine nuts have a wonderfully mild, nutty flavour which goes really nicely with the sprouts and bacon.
As with many other nuts, pine nuts contain heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid, as well as vitamin B1 (thiamine) and loads of vitamin E. They are also a great source of protein, containing many amino acids.

Approximately 500g Brussels Sprouts (roughly chopped)
2 Rashers Back Bacon (chopped into thin strips)
1 Small Onion (chopped finely)
40g Pine Nuts
2 tbsps Cream
1 tbsp Oil (as usual, I used groundnut)
Salt and Pepper

1) Fry the onion in the oil until golden; add the bacon and cook until crispy. Set aside.

2) In the same pan, fry the chopped sprouts until just tender and slightly browened at the edges and turn off the heat.

3) Add the onion and bacon and pine nuts, season well and stir in the cream. Serve immediately - I did mine with GF sausages and mashed potato.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Soy Glazed Salmon with Sesame Seeds

I was going to give you this recipe I came up with along with the recipe for the vegetable rice noodles that I did with it, but I've still not managed to cook rice noodles so they don't stick to the pan and disintegrate (any hints anyone? I soak in cold water for 10 minutes and then blanche in boiling water until soft)! So until I suss the noodles, you'll have to make do with the salmon by itself - not literally of course; it would go perfectly well with normal egg noodles or rice and stir-fried vegetables.

2 Salmon Fillets
3 tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Soy Sauce (Gluten-Free if you are that way inclined)
1 tsp 5-Spice Powder
1 tsp Minced Garlic
2 tbsp Sesame Seeds

Preheat oven to 180 C

1) Mix the honey, soy sauce, 5-spice and garlic together well.

2) Spoon 2 tbsp of the marinade on to a plate and place the salmon fillets face-down into the sauce so the flesh gets flavoured. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

3) Place the salmon skin-side down on a small baking tray and bake for 15 minutes before removing from the oven.

4) Turn on the grill to high, spoon a little more marinade over each piece of salmon and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Grill on high until the top of the fish is slightly caramelised and the seeds are turning golden.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Braised Red Cabbage with Apple and Cranberries

This is another favourite recipe to use up veggie-box items and is even more brilliant because it freezes well so you can make up batches and keep them for later. This is based on a recipe that my sister Roz found, but was tweaked to use more of what I had in my cupboards and to make it slightly 'fruitier'. I find braised red cabbage is wonderful with game meats and because this version is quite 'appley', it would go really nicely with pork as well.

1 Medium - Large Red Cabbage (sliced finely)
2 Eating Apples (Such as Cox's, peeled and grated)
1 Red Onion (sliced finely)
2 Cloves Garlic (minced)
50g Dried Cranberries
2 tbsp Light Brown Sugar
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Mixed Spice
150ml Cider Vinegar
100ml Water
1 tbsp Oil

1) Blanch the cabbage for 2 minutes in lightly salted, boiling water; drain and set aside.

2) Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion, garlic, bay, thyme and mixed spice until the onions are softened.

3) Add the cabbage to the pan along with the cider vinegar, water, sugar and grated apple. Stir well before covering the pan and allowing to simmer for approximately 15 minutes.

4) Stir in the cranberries, stir again, cover and simmer for approximately 10 more minutes until the cabbage is tender and the liquid is nearly gone.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Mushroom Stroganoff

"Beef stroganoff is a dish consisting of strips of lean beef sauteed and served in a sour-cream sauce with onions and mushrooms. The reicpe, which is of Russian origin, has been known since the eighteenth century, but its name appears to come from County Paul Stroganoff, a nineteeth-century Russian diplomat." An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto

While I would usually make this recipe with beef as is traditional, I wanted something really quick after the gym last week that would also do me for lunch the next day, so I threw this mushroom version together. Although traditional stroganoff recipes call for a sauce comprising bouillon and sour cream, I like mine with tomato puree (as served by my mother and apparently Brazilians) and a little wholegrain mustard. This dish is wonderful with creamy mashed potatoes or rice and mine is pictured here with stir-fried cabbage as well.

To make this recipe with beef, you can use cheap cuts of stewing or braising steak, sliced very thinly and fried, a little at a time in the pan and allowing the whole dish to simmer for at least an hour before adding the sour cream.

500g Chestnut Mushrooms (sliced to about quarter of an inch thick)
1 Medium Onion (chopped finely)
500ml Beef Stock
1 Heaped tsp Wholegrain Mustard
1 Heaped tsp Tomato Puree
Sour Cream to Taste
Salt & Fresh Black Pepper
A Little Oil (As usual, I used groundnut oil)

Serves 2

1) Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions until just going brown.

2) Tip in all of the sliced mushrooms (there will seem to be a lot, but they will shrink!) and gently fried until just soft and slightly browned.

3) Pour in the beef stock and stir in the mustard, tomato puree, salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes until the stock has reduced by about a third.

4) Stir in sour cream to taste, and serve immediately.