SK: George Foreman Grill

Once upon a time George was a well known boxer, but now? He’s the last word in healthy eating gadgets. 

My husband and I love sausages. And bacon. And we eat them a lot. As part of our new year plan to get ourselves into healthier eating habits, we decided to invest in one of these: 

As there’s just the two of us we only needed a small one, but even that is big enough to cook 3-4 slices of bacon or up to six sausages. Those are the foods we use it for most, but just looking at the amount of fat that drains out of the bottom makes it a fabulous investment. 

It is also easy to clean. While it is still warm, I empty the fat tray which sits underneath, pour a drizzle of washing up liquid over the plate and then pour a small amount of boiling water over it, so that the tray will catch it. A quick wipe with a sponge and a dry with some kitchen towel does the trick for the bottom plate. For the top plate, again a wipe with a sponge soaked in hot water with a drop of washing up liquid on it should suffice and then just wipe it dry with some kitchen roll. The fat tray can be done with your washing up and it is even dishwasher safe.

This takes the hassle out of cooking things like sausage and bacon for me as well as the fat, as I don’t have to stand over them fearing that they will burn. I just pop them in for a few minutes and leave them to it and check back to turn them over once or twice (from head to toe, not side to side, otherwise with sausages all the meat sinks to the bottom!)

Our Foreman Grill cost us about £15 and was a brilliant buy. If you like to grill things like chicken and steaks as well as sausages and bacon, this is absolutely worth your while!  Especially if you are trying to cut down on fat and convert to a healthier lifestyle foodwise.

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SK: Electric Chopper

While I am a great fan of doing most things in the kitchen by hand (I still use wooden spoons for cakes, after all!) there are one or two gadgets which are great for people who are short on time when it comes to making meals.

My parents bought this for us as a little Christmas gift and now I would never give it up:

It’s a wee chopper, it’s not big, about the size of a soup mug, but it’s great for chopping things like fresh ginger, garlic and fresh chilis – things that you need cut really fine but don’t want to stand over with a knife for hours. A quick press of the button and it whizzes everything around in no time. 

I also use this for chopping onions, as we use loads of them in our cooking and sometimes need as many as three of them in a recipe for our curries. I hate chopping onions, I hate the feel of them, my eyes always stream after about 2 minutes and they just take forever. With this, I just peel them, chop them in half, pop them in and press the button – so much easier! I’ve even used it to make pureed onion when a recipe has required it, must easier than using a huge blender when you only need a smaller amount. 

It’s easy to clean too, it comes apart into three pieces, all of which can go in the dishwasher, or washed by hand in a few minutes. Best of all it takes hardly any storage room. 

They cost about £15-£20, so it’s on the dear side for what I would pay for a gadget but it is so useful that even if something happened to this one, I would buy another straight away. 

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SK: Egg Poachers

I love eggs. I eat them most days for breakfast, but until recently (last six months or so) I used to fry them, which isn’t really good for me even if I do use frylite or vegetable oil instead of butter or lard. 

Then in a local store I saw a pair of these: 

Little silicone egg poachers! I’m a total convert, I cook all my eggs this way now, I’ve practically given up on fried. So much better for me because they use absolutely no fat at all. 

They are also really easy to use. Half fill a small saucepan with boiling water, crack the eggs into the poachers and pop them in the pan. I’ve now started to spoon a couple of tablespoons of boiling water over the tops of the eggs to make sure they don’t dry out. Put the lid on and cook for about 6-7 minutes and they’re ready to go.

I eat these for breakfast a lot because they’re so quick and easy to cook, I don’t need to give them my constant attention like fried eggs and they don’t make much of a mess either. A quick rinse of the saucepan and a quick wash of the silicone with a sponge pad and a bit of washing up liquid and they can be left to drain. 

Mine were £1 for a packet of two and they have been an excellent investment – definitely something to look into if you eat a lot of eggs! 

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New posts

Starting this afternoon I’ll be running a short series of posts about my favourite gadgets for making light of kitchen work and cooking. You might want to wait a while before investing in some of these if you’re new to this whole cooking lark, but book mark them for a later date if you’re getting into cooking for company or a family, because they will make light work of some fairly monotonous tasks! 

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SK: Make Your Own Pies

Who doesn’t love pie? I mean, seriously. It’s like the best food ever. 

I love to make my own pies, although I do cheat and buy the packet mix shortcrust pastry. There’s a limit to what I can do in my life, and there are times when it’s totally ok to use some convenience food to help you along the way. 

For this you will need a pottery dish. I have four, once which is medium sized, one with is large sized and two which are mini ones. If you are cooking just for you, a mini one is enough, and will stretch to two servings. For a family, a medium one will feed 4-6, depending how small you like your servings. For big gatherings – a big dish is essential. 

So, here’s how I prep my pies. For pastry, if possible, I use this: 

It’s the best I have found. One bag will make an awesome pie. 

Place the mix in your bowl and add a little cold water. Stir into the mix using a knife (it works better than a spoon and will cut through the clumps). Add small amounts of water and keep stirring until the pastry has mixed together into a cohesive but sticky lump. 

Dust some plain flour over a clean work surface and tip out the pastry. Scatter some more flour over the top and coat your hands in it. 

Press the heels of your hands into the pastry and then using your fingertips, bring the furthest edge of the pastry forward, folding it in half to meet the bottom edge. Repeat this two or three times, adding more flour if it begins to stick to the work surface or your hands. Turn the pastry over and repeat the process. The kneading and folding will strengthen the pastry, so that the pie won’t rip when you remove it from the dish after cooking. 

Roll out your pastry to the required size. If you don’t have a rolling pin, a straight wine bottle makes an excellent substitute. Use plenty of flour so that it doesn’t stick to the bottle/rolling pin or the work surface. Try to keep the pastry the same thickness all through, don’t let it get too uneven. 

Very carefully transfer your pastry to the dish, laying it out so that it coats the bottom and as much of the sides as possible. Using a clean knife remove the overhanging bits and set to one side. You will need these for the lid, so don’t throw it away! 

Using a clean form, stab the pastry all over the bottom. This will allow airflow and prevent it getting stuck or burning to the bottom of the dish. 

Place your filling in the dish (I’ll give you some ideas for that further down!)

Place a small amount of milk in a mug and using a brush or your fingertips, coat the top edges of the pastry around the rim of the pie dish. Milk acts like glue to pastry, this will help to seal your lid on and prevent the filling spilling out in the cooking process. 

Take the leftover scraps and roll them out to make a lid for your pie. Once you have it roughly the right shape, coat the pastry with milk using either  a pastry brush or your fingers. Then – very carefully – place the pastry over your pie, milk side down! 

Using your fingertips, press the pastry into the edges of the pie around the rim of the dish. If you have overhanging pieces, roll them inward towards the edge of the pie and squash them down again with your fingertips. They will make an excellent crust. 

Coat the top of the pie with milk again, especially around the edges, and then with a clean bladed knife, slit the pastry across the middle, both length ways and width ways, making a cross in the centre of the pie – don’t cut right to the edge, just cut in the centre. A bit like the swiss flag, but with just a slice rather than a blocked cross.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees and cook for 45mins to an hour on the bottom shelf of the oven. The pastry should be golden brown and firm by the time it is ready.

I use a fish slice to remove pieces of the pie, as it is easier to get it out of the dish with the bottom still intact.

OK, so let’s talk fillings. Here’s three to get your mouths watering:

STEAK AND MUSHROOM

1 tin stewed steak
4 – 6 closed cup mushrooms
1 tin of sliced carrots
one small onion
Mixed herbs
Gravy granules
Red wine

Cook the onions gentle in a saucepan with half a glass of red wine to soften them. Place the stewed steak, drained carrots and diced mushrooms in a bowl and stir together. Sprinkle in the mixed herbs and add the onion and red wine mix and repeat. Add gravy granules – at least 2-3 heaped tablespoons and mix again. The granules will help the pie mix to thicken up while cooking so that it is not too sloppy.

CHICKEN, BACON AND MUSHROOM

1 tin of chicken in white sauce
4 slices of salted bacon
Half a glass of white wine
1 tin of sliced carrots
4-6 diced mushrooms
Garlic powder
mixed herbs
White sauce granules OR gravy granules

In a bowl, mix together the chicken, carrots and mushrooms. Add the garlic powder and mixed herbs and stir again. Cook the onions gently in a saucepan with half a glass of white wine to soften them. Slice your bacon into thin strips, add to the onion and wine mix and stir on a medium heat to seal the bacon. Once the bacon has turned light pink on all sides, add to the chicken mix and stir. Add 2-3 heaped tablespoons of white sauce granules (or if you want a meaty pie, gravy granules) and stir into the mix to help the mixture thicken up while cooking. 

APPLE PIE

2-3 cooking apples – peeled, cored and chopped
1 pint of dry cider
1 cup of plain flour
3 tablespoons of soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
half a teaspoon of nutmeg OR half a teaspoon of mixed sweet spice
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

OPTIONAL – Handful of dried raisins. 

In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and spices. Add the apple pieces and lemon juice (and raisins if you are using them) and stir together so that the dry mix coats the apple. A little at a time, add the cider and stir into the mix. The mixture should be a rich brown colour, almost like brown sauce, once all of the flour has been stirred in. Don’t make the mix too sloppy – drink what’s left of the cider 😉 

So there you go – three pies for you to try out and impress people with! Let me know how you get on. 

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SK: Poached Salmon

Poached Salmon in Milk and Butter

 

INTRO

I love this recipe, Mum makes it as a treat every time I go home because my husband isn’t really keen on fish as part of a main meal (although he has a FANTASTIC recipe for fish pasta salad which will be posted in a few days time).

TOTAL COOKING TIME FROM CHOP TO CHOMP: 40 mins

SERVE WITH: You can serve this with pasta or new potatoes, or even with rice. I absolutely recommend it with steamed green vegetables – broccoli or green beans for preference.

To drink, a crisp and dry white wine (something like Pinot Grigio)

SERVES: 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 Salmon fillet steaks (I buy the pre-packed ones at the supermarket because they’ve had most of the bones removed. Talk to a local fishmonger if you aren’t sure what to ask for)

200 mls milk (I use full cream for making this, but you can use semi skimmed)
25g butter (or butter substitute)
Parsley
Salt and Pepper

OPTIONAL:

White sauce granules or Parsley Sauce mix

WANT TO SHOW OFF?

Add homemade garlic bread to the meal

Instead of (or as well as) green veg, you can steam some corn on the cob to serve with it, complete with a sprinkle of salt and a dab of melting butter.

KITCHEN EQUIPMENT:

A baking dish (tin or pottery)
Tin Foil
A saucepan (if you’re making sauce)
Chopping board
Jug
Fish Slice

STEPS:

1)      Preheat your oven to 200 degrees

2)      Line your baking dish with tin foil. Use long strips which hang over the sides on all edges and make sure you line the base with separate piece to stop the milk leaking out at the bottom

3)      Rub a small amount of butter onto the skin of the salmon and then place the salmon fillets skin side down into the tin foil. This will make sure that it does not stick to the tin foil while cooking.

4)      In very small pieces scatter the rest of the butter over the top of the salmon flesh and sprinkle with a little parsley. You can also season this with salt and a bit of ground black pepper if you wish.

5)      Pour the milk over the salmon slowly, allowing it to sink into the flesh as much as possible before puddling around the fillets.

6)      Fold the edges of the tinfoil up to meet in the middle, then roll them down to seal the parcel.

7)      Roll the ends of the tinfoil in to the middle so that the salmon, milk and butter are encased.

8)      Place in the oven and bake for half an hour. This will give you enough time to boil new potatoes, pasta or rice to go with it, and to steam any green vegetables you wish to add to the meal. Remember to be a good host and keep up with the clearing up!

9)      When you remove the dish from the oven, be extremely careful opening the tin foil as it will be full of boiling hot steam. Stab the tinfoil a few times with a clean knife first to let it out so that you don’t burn yourself.

10)  Remove the fish pieces using the fish slice and serve with your vegetables and carbs.

11)   If you are making a sauce, transfer the remaining milk stock from the tinfoil into a small saucepan and add a little more milk. Bring to the boil and add either white sauce granules or cornflour to thicken, stirring constantly to prevent the milk burning to the bottom of the pan. Serve in a small jug, or pour over the meal if you know it is to everyone’s tastes.

You can also buy packet mixes of parsley sauce to go with this meal – I have yet to master the recipe for making it from scratch, but would love to hear from someone who has!

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SK: Spicy Chicken Jambalaya

This is a slow cooker recipe, so it’s great for nights when we do things like going to the cinema. The cooker does the world while we’re out having a good time, and then the last few steps can be done after we get home late. This is a particular favourite because it’s a one pot meal, so as long as you do the washing up after you’ve finished your prep, the only thing that needs cleaning up is your slow cooker and whatever you used to eat it.

TOTAL COOKING TIME FROM CHOP TO CHOMP: Approx 3 hours

SERVE WITH: You can serve this on its own, or for a lighter meal halve the portion sizes and serve with a green salad

SERVES: 2 people

INGREDIENTS:

2 chicken breasts
100 g of chorizo
4 slices of smoked bacon
2 cups of rice
1 onion
3 sticks of celery
Spices (1 tsp ginger, ½ tsp chilli powder, ½ tsp paprika)
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Small amount of cooking oil

Chicken stock, made from:
700 mils water
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 chicken stock cube
2-3 dashes of Tabasco sauce

OPTIONAL:

If you prefer your food more spicy, up the chilli powder to a full teaspoon, and put 3 dashes of Tabasco sauce in your mix.

WANT TO SHOW OFF?

Substitute 100 mls of the chicken stock water with white wine for a drier flavour

KITCHEN EQUIPMENT:

A slow cooker (or a big oven pot with a lid)
Frying pan
Chopping Board
Sharp Knife
Jug
Wooden Spoon

STEPS:

1)      Prepare all of your meat first. Chop your chicken breast into small (about 1-2 cm) cubes. Remove the rind from your bacon and slice into pieces approx the same size as the chicken. Slice the chorizo into strips. Return the chorizo to the fridge to use later.

Also, remember to wash your hands between handling fresh meat and cured meat (in fact wash your hands when you’re starting to handle ANY new ingredient in the kitchen, but it is especially important between meats!)

2)     Turn your slow cooker on and place it on the high setting. Dice your onion. Trim the top and bottom from your celery stalks and slice into pieces approx 1 cm wide. Slice and dice your garlic. Measure out your spices.

3)      Heat the oil in your frying pan and add the onions, stirring until they are soft and slightly discoloured.

4)      Add the celery, garlic and spices to the mix and stir for approx 1 minute. Scoop the mix into the slow cooker and re-wet your frying pan with a little more oil.

5)      Fill and boil your kettle. While this is happening, add your chicken to the frying pan and stir until the meat has turned white on all sides. Add the chicken to the mixture in the slow cooker.

6)      Mix your stock ingredients together in the jug and stir thoroughly.

7)      Add the raw bacon to the slow cooker mixture and pour the stock over the mixture and stir thoroughly.

8)      The mixture now needs to sit and cook for 90 minutes. If you are going out, turn the dial to the ‘low’ setting and you can leave the mixture to cook for twice as long, so three hours from this point before the next step is required.

9)      Measure out two cups of rice and add them to the mixture and stir in thoroughly. If you have been cooking the mixture on the low setting, remember to turn it back to high at this point! Leave for 30 minutes.

10)  Check on the mixture. If the rice has absorbed all of the liquid and it looks a bit dried out or sticky, add a little more water to make the mixture more juicy (or if you prefer, you can make another half jug of stock – just halve the amount of water, puree and only add one dash of Tabasco to the top up mix). Leave for another 15 minutes.

11)  Most of the moisture should have been absorbed by the mixture now, which should be a light reddish brown in colour. Add your chorizo strips and stir thoroughly into the mix. Leave for another 10-15 minutes until the chorizo has headed through and the rest of the moisture has been absorbed.

12)  Serve and enjoy! Don’t forget to turn off your slow cooker! 

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SK: Chicken Wrapped in Bacon, with tomato and mustard sauce

This was an experiment we made one night, using what we had left in the fridge. It turned out so well that it’s become a regular. If goes with pasta, roast potatoes, chips and mash equally well, depending what you fancy. 

FROM CHOP TO CHOMP: About an hour

Serves: 2 people

Serve with: Red Wine

Ingredients:

2 Chicken Breasts – skinless
Pack of Butter
Garlic Granules
4 slices of smoked bacon
6 closed cup mushrooms
Can of chopped tomatoes
Sage
Garlic granules
Chicken stock cube
1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
Half a glass of red wine
Gravy Granules

You will need:

A cooking pot with a lid
A wooden spoon
A sharp knife
A chopping board
A jug
A tablespoon
A teaspoon

1) Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lay out two pieces of bacon on the chopping board, along side each other. The fatter pieces should be alongside each other, the streaky bits should extend further on either side.

2) Lay the chicken breast length ways across the middle section of the bacon strips, flap side up. Using the knife score slightly deeper into the chicken breast. Cut a slice from the packet of butter and cut it in half. Place one of the sticks into the scored groove and sprinkle garlic granules and a little sage over the butter. 

3) Wrap the streaky ends of the bacon over the chicken, and place it into the cooking pot, streaky side down. Repeat the process with the rest of the bacon and the other chicken breast. 

4) Slice your mushrooms into cross sections as thinly as possible and layer them over the chicken breasts like roof tiles until they are completely covered. 

5) In the jug, mix together your canned chopped tomatoes, half a glass of red wine, a crumbled chicken stock cube, a teaspoonful of sage and a tablespoon of dijon mustard. Stir thoroughly and pour over the chicken and mushrooms in the pot. 

6) Place the pot into the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remember to use this time to keep up with the clearing up and be a good host

7) Once the cooking time is up, remove the pot from the oven and use a fork to remove the chicken breasts. The bacon should be cooked, but moist and juicy and wrapped firmly around the chicken breasts. Place them on your plates and add a sprinkle of gravy granules to the pot. Stir to thicken the sauce. Once you have served your carbs, ladle the sauce over your dish, or return it to your jug and allow your guests to help themselves. 

Want to show off?

You could make garlic bread to go with the dish. You could also use frash garlic, peeled and then crushed or finely chopped, in the centre of the chicken breasts with the butter for a stronger and fresher flavour. 

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SK: Po-tay-toes!

Beloved by Samwise Gamgee and wonderfully versatile – learn how to cook them in different ways to add extra variety into your meals. Here are two classics to try out with your meals! 

Mash

Peel your potatoes and cut them into pieces about the size of a ping pong ball. Fill and boil your kettle and place the potatoes in a sauce pan with a sprinkle of salt. Pour the water over the potatoes until they are covered and set them to cook on the hob. 

Once they are ready to mash, they should be soft enough to stab through with a clean bladed knife. Drain the potatoes using a colander and return them to the pan. Add about a tablespoon of butter (or margarine) to the potatoes and mash them using a potato masher until they are light and fluffy in texture. 

Roast Potatoes

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C. Cut up the potatoes with the skin still on them. Fill and boil your kettle, place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover them with hot water. Set them to cook on the hob for no more than 15 minutes. Drain then using a colander and place them into a baking dish (a tin one or a pottery one will do). Pour a drizzle of oil over the potatoes and stir them using a wooden spoon. (You can coat them in fry light spray instead if you wish).

I usually add some sort of dried herb and a sprinkle of garlic granules or garlic powder and give them a stir again with the spoon before setting them in the oven to cook.

Suggestions for herbs if you are growing tired of mixed herbs by now:

Beef: Tarragon or Thyme 

Lamb: Rosemary or Mint

Chicken: Sage or Parsley

Pork: Sage 

Fish: Parsley

Vegetable Dishes: Basil

I cook the potatoes for approx 30 minutes in the oven, or until they are starting to brown and turn crispy on the outside. 

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SK: Bara Brith (Fruit Loaf)

Bara Brith is one of the national dishes of my country. I make it a lot because it is very easy and it is very simple to turn it into a vegan friendly cake recipe. 

You will need:

A loaf tin
2 Bowls (one large, one medium sized)
A wooden spoon
A large mug
Kitchen Scales
A cooling rack (the wire out of your grill pan will do at a pinch)
A sharp knife

Ingredients:

12 ounces Self Raising Flour (I use white, but you can use wholemeal)
10 ounces Mixed Dried Fruit
A tea bag and hot water
3 ounces of soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon of mixed sweet spice*
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon*
Half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg*
A small squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
1 egg (or 1 egg’s worth of substitute)

1) Measure out your 10 ounces of dried fruit into the medium bowl. Make a mug of black tea in your mug and brew it until it is strong and dark, then remove the teabag and pour it over the fruit until it is covered. Top the liquid up from the kettle if you need to. 

This needs to stand for several hours, overnight preferably, but if you are doing your baking in the evening, you can set it to stew in the morning and leave it for the day. For best results, leave it to stand at room temperature, out of reach of pets or children. 

2) Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C and line your loaf tin. There are special loaf cake cases that you can buy now which make this whole think MUCH easier!

3) Measure out 10 oz of flour into your large bowl and add 3 oz of sugar. Add the dry spices and stir together

* If you are building up your spice collection, nutmeg and cinnamon are amongst the earliest you should pick up – not only are they great for baking, but they are fantastic for making stir-frys. If you don’t have them yet, just use two teaspoons of mixed sweet spice instead. 

4) Strain the fruit using a colander, but keep the tea juices! Add the fruit to the dry mixture, with a squirt of lemon juice if you wish, and stir in thoroughly until all of the fruit is coated.

5) Crack your egg into the centre of the mixture and stir in from the middle, drawing the flour mix into the centre. 

6) Once the egg is stirred in, add the juices from your fruit a little at a time, pouring into the centre and drawing the mix in from the edges of the bowl. Use all of the liquid up and stir together thoroughly. You should have a sloppy mixture the colour of milky tea (the more spice you use, the stronger the colour will be)

7) Place the mixture carefully into the tin and then place the tin in your oven on the top shelf. 

The cake should take roughly an hour to cook. Once it is cooked it should be well risen, firm to the touch and if you insert a clean knife into the middle, you should be able to pull out the blade without any sticky mixture on it. If the middle is still sticky, clean your blade and back into the oven with it for another 10 minutes. Continue checking regularly until cooked through.

Don’t worry if it cracks on the top, mine tend to look a bit like this when I take them out.  

8) Remove the cake from the oven and tip it out onto the cooling rack. Remember to keep it out of the way of pets and small children. If you need to protect it, you can wrap it into a clean tea towel. 

Store the cake in an airtight tin and eat in slices. You can butter them if you wish, but I actually find the cake rich and juicy enough without that. 

Check back through the recipe and you will notice that this is a completely fat free cake – no butter, no marge, no baking block. Now that’s something to boast about to your friends! 

We’ve been known to have this for snacks, as part of a packed lunch and even for breakfast on hectic days – it tastes fantastic with that good old British classic, a nice cup of tea 🙂 

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