Donburi

There’s something so warm and comforting about donburi that whenever I’m feeling sick or tired, I always crave a large bowl or two. If you’re not sure what donburi is, it is a Japanese rice dish served in different varieties – my favourite being oyakodon which literally means “parent and child bowl” aka chicken and egg. Kind of funny when you think about it!

It is a really simple dish to prepare, and will make you feel better almost instantly (I promise!). There’s lots of different ways of making it, here’s how I like to do mine:

Chicken and egg donburi (Oyakodon) 

This is actually gyu-donburi which is made with beef!

This is actually gyu-donburi which is made with beef!

The ingredients for this are per person, so just multiply accordingly. 

1 chicken breast or thigh, cut in to thin, small pieces
1 portion of cooked white rice
1 onion
1 chicken stock cube
Soy sauce/tamari
Spring onions, chopped.
1 egg

  1. Cook the onion in a small amount of oil in a sauce pan.
  2. After a few minutes, add in around 400 mls of water and the stock cube.
  3. Once it gets to a simmer, add in the chopped chicken breast and a splash of soy sauce/tamari to taste – I add around a tbs and then add more when eating.
  4. Let the stock simmer away and cook the chicken. How long this takes will depend on how big you cut the chicken, so be sure to check the largest piece to see it’s cooked.
  5. Add an egg to the stock/chicken mix. You can either stir it through, or let it poach lightly on top of the water.
  6. Add your rice to a bowl and pour the egg/stock/chicken mix over the rice. By this stage there shouldn’t be too much water left.
  7. Top with chopped spring onion and eat!

The Foodies Guide to Glasgow and the West

I was delighted to be asked by Fraser Wilson to contribute to his book. I met Fraser last year at a food blogging event at Butchershop Bar & Grill and not long after he emailed me to ask me to add a recipe to The Foodies Guide to Glasgow and the West.

Cue total panic.

While I love, love cooking, coming up with a recipe for publication was incredibly daunting and I emailed Fraser many times pestering him about what I should submit. I eventually went for a recipe combining a few of my loves – Scottish salmon and Japanese flavours to make salmon with miso pesto and sautéed sweet potato and kale. You’ll need to buy the book to get the recipe!

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He also interviewed me to introduce the bloggers section which was super cool (although nerve wracking, and he was writing in shorthand so I couldn’t check what he was writing down). Anyway, I didn’t have to worry as I’m delighted with the write up!

So, why should you buy the book?

Get on it!

 

Kitchen Tips & Tricks

One of my resolutions for the year was to really get back into home cooking – it’s a little all over the shop, if I’ll be honest! I started to compile a list of tips & tricks (aka kitchen lifehacks!) of things that help me out when cooking and I wanted to share them here. These might be super obvious but have been really handy revelations to me!

Listen! This is such a simple cooking tip but I never even realised how important was until I did a day at The Cook School in Kilmarnock. It makes life so much easier when you’re cooking away to have one (or two) ears focused on what’s happening on the stove – you’ll easily be able to tell if something if cooking at too high a temperature. I’m very much a multi-tasking cook so am normally chopping away, and really appreciate being able to tell if things are going wrong without constantly checking with my eyes.

How to open a coconut: I had a nightmare of a time recently trying to open a coconut. Nothing would work – I’d watched all the YouTube videos I could find and still, no coconut. I finally stumbled upon this trick. Drain the coconut through the eyes as usual (be careful not to stab yourself – I used a meat thermometer which I’m sure wasn’t the best idea). Heat your oven to 180 C and pop the coconut in for about 15 minutes. Remove using an oven mitt and hopefully it will have cracked. Then you’ll find getting the flesh out much easier!

The best way of cooking bacon: I’ve been cooking bacon in bulk recently, a whole packet at a time. It is so much easier to spread it out on baking paper and put it in the oven rather than pan fry it. I find it takes about 15 minutes at 200 C and the result is perfectly crispy bacon.   

The easiest way to cut bacon: This is definitely from a Life Hack I’ve read somewhere. Forget about chopping bacon with a knife – just get out the kitchen scissors and chop away. You can do about 4 slices at a time as well, saving time.

Keeping your herbs super fresh: I love herbs but hate the price and the waste. I decided to switch to packets of frozen herbs until I realised they really don’t have enough flavour. When re-reading The Stone Soup e-books I got a while back, I saw her tip for keeping herbs fresh. Simply use some, and pop the rest in a glass of water in the fridge. You’ll extend their life by quite a few days – I found coriander lasted for about a week when it was normally just 2 days.

Perfectly ripe avocado: I’ve fallen for the labels before – and always been disappointed. So much so that I’d stopped buying avo in the UK as it was never ripe the way I liked. Joanna Blythman’s fab book “What to eat” gave me the tip of putting avocados in the same bag as bananas to help them ripen. You still need to beware of oven-ripening but has now saved me from avo wastage.

Simple tips & tricks, but these have saved me lots of time & money! Have you got any great tips or tricks you’d like to share?

Eating Seasonally

I was recently asked to contribute to a guest post on the Puma Hotels website and the post has just gone live! Check it out on their blog as well as some great information about eating seasonally. Here’s my contribution to the post.

Eating seasonally used to come naturally when I lived in Melbourne, but there was a bit of re-learning to do when I moved to the UK 4 years ago! The change in weather, different ingredients and the fact that most foods are available year-round now, whether they are in season or not. This can be quite handy if you have a particular craving for something, but it’s still most sensible to focus on eating what’s in season. It’ll save you money, taste better and give you a huge variety of foods to eat year round. There’s great websites to check out if you need inspiration – like Eat the Seasons and BBC’s Food pages. Kale is a big favourite in our house, and while we our #1 recipe is baked kale crisps, kale pesto isn’t far behind. Here’s the recipe for kale pesto pasta with goats cheese.

Kale pesto with spaghetti and goats cheese

Kale pesto with spaghetti and goats cheese

I’ve also included a very quick dessert recipe. I’m really loving passionfruit now and have been having it as a dessert when I feel like I need some sunshine in my day (e.g. every day. Thanks Glasgow!).

Quick passionfruit dessert
1 passionfruit
1 small tub of yoghurt
Coconut shavings
Rice malt syrup, to taste 
Passionfruit and coconut yoghurt

Passionfruit and coconut yoghurt

Top the yoghurt with the passionfruit. Stir in, and add rice malt syrup to taste (it tastes like honey). Top with coconut shavings. A great light winter dessert to get you through the gloomy days!

An Australian Christmas Feast featuring Pavlova

Here I was, all set to write up a post about our Australian Christmas when I discovered I’d already done that back in 2011. How time flies when you’re having fun!

Our feast in 2013 was quite similar to the original (after all, that is the point). This year there was a few tweaks – I grilled prawns for that delicious flavour kick and let them cool for the prawn cocktail starter. We got a Wiltshire roasted ham on the bone and I made up a ham stock with the bone and last few shreds of ham. There was also a side of creamed spinach rather than kale for a change and some oven roasted peppers (red and green, to make it festive!).

All decorated!

All decorated!

The real highlight of this year though was the pavlova. Because I was sick, I ended up making it a week later than our Aussie Christmas feast. This was probably a good thing as I struggle to eat that much food in one day!

I grew up with a real love of pavlova (I was a bit of a sugar addict – eating tins of condensed milk and spoons of icing sugar when I could!). My mum always made (and still does!) pavlova for Christmas and it was a kind of magical dessert to me, being made from so few ingredients. I’ve tried to make do with shop bought pavlova but it just doesn’t have the gooey, chewiness to it that is so important (and delicious!).

I’m glad to say that I think I have now perfected the pavlova making process and wanted to share the recipe. This is one I have adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe which is no longer online. If you’ve never made a pav, I think you should – it is really a lot more straightforward than people make out and whatever the result, it will (probably) be delicious!

Perfect Pavlova

Ready for baking!

Ready for baking!

Ingredients:
4 egg whites (medium eggs)
225g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Vegetable oil for baking sheet

Out of the oven!

Out of the oven!

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 180C or 160C for a fan oven.

2. Cover a baking tray with baking paper/parchment. Drizzle around 1 tsp of vegetable oil and rub it all over the paper/parchment.

3. Whisk the egg whites with an electric beater in a large, clean bowl.

4. Once the egg whites are stiff and shiny (takes me around 3-4 minutes) then start adding the sugar. A few tablespoons at a time is fine and make sure it’s all beaten in before adding the next few tablespoons.

5. Keep going until all the sugar is added – you should whisk until it is glossy and stands up in peaks. To test, switch off the beater and pull it out of the pav in an upwards direction. Your pav should get a nice quiff if you’ve beaten it enough!

6. Add the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and give it another quick beat (10-20 seconds) to incorporate.

7. Gently pour out your pav onto the baking paper/parchment. You can use a large spoon to shape it into a circle, and I like to make the edges a bit higher than the middle for easy topping. You want the size of the pav to be about 20cm and around 5-8cms high.

8. Put the pav in the oven and turn the temperature down to 120C or 100C for a fan oven. Cook it for 1.5 hours and then turn off the oven. Some recipes say not to ever open the door, although because our light is broken I did a couple of times with no adverse effects. Just be quick about it if you’re going to do it – think like a ninja!

9. Leave the pav in the oven to cool – I probably left it for another 1.5 hours before taking it out, but you can leave it overnight depending on when you started cooking!

10. It should slide off the paper/parchment really easily thanks to the oil, and you can then pop it on a plate/tray and decorate. I like mine with berries and cream, but passionfruit is also lovely.

Enjoy!

There – it couldn’t be simpler. I’ve read a lot of pavlova recipes in my time and they can make it so complicated with extra ingredients, rules and scaremongering. I am pretty relaxed about the whole process and haven’t had one fail yet. Yeh, sometimes they crack but you can just cover it with cream or berries!

So, are you going to give making a pavlova a go? Please post if you do!

Scottish Macaroni Appreciation Club (SMAC) – Mummy Mac Off!

The amazing SMAC is launching the first Mummy Mac Off on Sunday 19 January and they are looking for Scotland’s best home made mac!

So, do you think you’ve got what it takes? You can check out the details on facebook and if you fancy entering, just get in touch with SMAC!

SMAC! Mummy Mac Off. Have you got what it takes?

SMAC! Mummy Mac Off. Have you got what it takes?

Your esteemed judge on the day will be myself (I am so excited I might burst) along with the amazing Sean Batty from STV! I can’t wait to try the delicious mac creations on the day, so please consider entering and coming along!

In celebration of all things mac, here’s one I made this week to prepare my tastebuds. I love the recipe from Economy Gastronomy and am yet to find a better one. And yes, before you comment, I did have to use fusilli pasta as there wasn’t any gluten free macaroni at the supermarket.

Fried artichoke hearts

Fried artichoke hearts

This time I already had some bacon that I’d cooked at lunch, so just needed to fry off the artichokes. You could probably skip this step if you wanted but I liked giving them that golden crunch.

Bechamel sauce

Bechamel sauce

My tip for bechamel sauce is to relax – it can easily go wrong, and if you think things are heating up too quickly then remember you can just whip the pan off the stove onto a cold bit. Take it slowly and just keep stirring. I often switch to a whisk if I think things look too lumpy.

Variety of cheese!

Variety of cheese!

One thing I really love about mac is to use up the miscellaneous bits of cheese loitering in the fridge – this time I used comté, red leicester and cheddar. These were all on the brink of turning bad, so just chop around any mould and use it up!

Finished!

Finished!

I normally omit the tomatoes but had some that needed using up. I like to do a topping which is a mix of parmesan and panko breadcrumbs for that ultimate crunch!

Yum! So will you be entering the Mummy Mac Off?

Aubergine Daal

Over the holidays I’ve been making a concerted effort to get back into home cooking. With life being a bit hectic it has been too easy to resort to eating out or ready meals from Waitrose for dinner. Cooking is my favourite way of relaxing so I have been practicing our routine of meal planning for the week again, and trying some new recipes. Part of this involved a mammoth cull of our recipe binder – it was filled with recipes made once, whether or not they were worth repeating, and oodles of duplicates. I’ve now cut back so we just have the recipes that are tried and tested favourites – something around 30-40 options to use as the basis of meal planning. There’s definitely some gaps in there – side dishes, veggie options – but it’s a good start!

Something that I wanted to work on was to be a bit more adventurous and cook some dishes that I wouldn’t normally go for. I spied Aubergine Daal in Jamie Oliver’s new book, Save with Jamie and cooked it last night. What a winner it turned out to be! I suspect 2014 is going to be year of the daal in our house! With a bag of split peas coming in at 55p, two aubergines for £2, 3 red onions for £1.25 and rogan josh curry paste for £1.65, I price this meal at around 90p per portion.

Here’s my version of the recipe:

Aubergine Daal
Note: the original recipe is served with handmade chapatis but I didn’t bother with these, and just had a side of rice. 

Ingredients: 
2 aubergines, chopped
2 red onions, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbs of ginger, chopped
5 tbs of rogan josh curry paste
olive oil
500g packet of yellow split peas
1 veggie stock cube

Aubergine (eggplant!) daal

Aubergine (eggplant!) daal

1. Heat oven to 180C.

2. Put the aubergine, onion, garlic, ginger and curry paste into a roasting tray. Pour over some olive oil and give it all a mix so there is an even coverage.

3. Roast for around 25 minutes.

4. Put half the roasted vegetables into a deep saucepan. Add the split peas, stock cube and 2 litres of water. Simmer for 1 hour & 20 minutes or until its got a nice thickness to it. You’ll need to stir every now and then.

5.  The other half of the roasted vegetables can stay in the tray – just turn off the oven and pop the tray back in to keep warm.

6. Serve with basmati rice, topped with the roasted vegetables!

Do you cook daal at home and have a great recipe to share? Please do!