Nice Baked Rice!

Baked rice is just so nice!
You will need:
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 knob of unsalted butter - approx 25g
1 onion - diced
1 red bell pepper - diced
1 or 2 tomatoes - skinned and diced
1/2 a cup of white wine
**3 cups of hot chicken stock - use Knorr stock cubes (Oxo are too salty)
1 and a half cups of uncooked Long grain rice - I use Uncle Bens
salt and pepper to season
How to do it:
Get yourself a large skillet and melt the oil and butter together and then add the onions - fry them gently over a medium heat for a few minutes. Now add the peppers. You don't want the onions or peppers to brown - just cook them until they're soft. Season with salt and pepper.
Now add the rice and give it a stir for a couple of minutes then add the wine. The rice will start to absorb some of the wine and the lovely juices from the onions and peppers which will all add to it tasting so good.
Stir for another minute then pour the lot into a casserole that can go into the oven. Now stir in the chopped tomatoes and the chicken stock - remembering you can always add more so start with 2 and a half cups.
Dot the top with a few little bits of butter and cover the casserole with a lid but don't fuss if you haven't got one with a lid, I haven't, at least not one the right size. Just fashion one immediately from kitchen foil!
Put the dish into a preheated oven for about 30 minutes then check and give it a good stir and also to see if you need to add anymore stock and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Pop it back in the oven until the rice is cooked through and the liquid have mostly gone - probably another 5 or 10 minutes.
Serve the rice with whatever you fancy.
**Top Tips!
I made 3 cups of chicken stock in case I needed it but I didn't. Better to have a little too much than not enough! If you are not using the wine you will need three cups anyway.
Tomatoes can be skinned easily but scoring them around the center and putting them into a jug of boiling water for a few minutes then the skin will peel of really easily.
For some reason baked rice just tastes different to ordinary rice and if you leave the lid off for the last few minutes you get nice crunchy bits.

Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

Easy to make from a few store cupboard ingredients, although I would recommend  using proper Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine).  I love sweet and sour chicken in batter but sometimes you either can't be bothered to mess about.  Besides, this is better for you!
This recipe is much the same as my one for sweet and sour pork  just this is chicken and without the batter.
If you do make this please be sure to marinade the chicken - don't leave that bit out - as it really makes a difference to the chicken.

Fried Spaghetti and Cheese

An idea for left over spaghetti - I'm always making too much.
I'm still decorating, so we've had over a week now of strange, made up dinners!
Yesterday lunch time I made a really quick snack of fried spaghetti, egg and cheese.
 Whatever, it works. Crispy spaghetti with eggy bits and melty cheese equals triple yum. You can add whatever else you fancy adding - onion or chives perhaps, or use Parmesan cheese instead of cheddar?


Spaghetti with Tomato and Aubergine

After seeing Peter's recipe over at Kalofagas I had to make it and it was every bit as yummy as he said. Pop over to Peter's and tell him Jan sent you although most of you will already know that his blog is full of the most yummiest food.

The aubergine in his recipe gave me the idea of adding it to my made up pasta dish. Now this week, I'm still decorating two bedrooms, which is taking an age to do in between working. So last night, I had no idea what to make. I had an aubergine in my fridge as I'd intended on making moussaka but that didn't happen as it got way too late.

So, in true Jan style of making up stuff as I go along - this dish 'happened'!

The chilli pepper adds a nice subtle heat to the sauce and is discarded at the end of cooking.

Yes yet another poor quality photo, but you get the idea.

You will need to serve 2:

1 large onion - chopped into fine dice

3 nice fat garlic cloves - chopped finely

Extra virgin olive oil

1 aubergine - sliced into almost half inch thick slices

1 courgette - sliced then each slice chopped into quarters

2 x 400g tins of good quality plumb tomatoes

1 x medium heat red chilli pepper - left whole and pierced

2 teaspoons of dried oregano - Greek of course!

salt and pepper to season

a little red wine vinegar

Fresh spaghetti - enough for two

100g feta cheese - crumbled - Greek feta - don't buy anything else!

What I did:

Use a frying pan large enough to be able to add the spaghetti to the sauce once its made as it saves on washing up. In the pan add a little olive oil and gently fry the aubergine slices a few at a time and season with salt an pepper. Remove and set aside. Now in the same pan fry the courgettes, remove and set aside.

Now add a little more olive oil along with the onions and fry until soft but not coloured. When they are almost done add the garlic and the whole chilli pepper. Don't forget to pierce it or it will explode! After a couple of minutes (don't let the garlic burn) add the oregano and both cans of tomatoes. Don't break the tomatoes up just yet. Season with salt and pepper.

Let it simmer away for 30 minutes, by which time it would have reduced a bit to make a nice sauce. Another good reason for using good quality tinned tomatoes is that some are in a horrid pale looking watery juice instead of the proper red stuff!

Once your sauce is almost done break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and add a teeny bit of red wine vinegar - Go carefull as probably just half to one teasoon will do.

Now get a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, and get your pasta cooking. If you use fresh pasta it will only take about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, return the aubergine slices and the courgettes to the pan with the sauce in and heat through. Remove the chilli and discard.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and gently stir it into the sauce. Serve immediately with some crumbled feta on top.


'Taste The Nation'

Remember this post I did a little while ago?
I can now tell you the new cooking programme is called 'Taste the Nation' and it starts tomorrow, Monday 16th March on ITV1 at 5pm.
Originally, they said it probably wouldn't be shown until May.
The programme will run for one hour per day Monday to Friday
5pm to 6pm for six weeks.

Looking at the TV listings I don't think Shropshire will be on this week or next, but I will be recording them all out of interest.

As you know I won't be on the programme very much but I should be on at some point in the Shropshire round. I'm even not sure why I'm reminding anyone as it will be a bit embarrassing really but hey ho!

You see episodes shown already and read more about this new cooking show here.


Teriyaki Salmon and Some Other Nice Things

Quick and simple is what I was after yesterday! So, out came the kitchen foil and salmon yet again.
I made it up as I went along finding more things to add to my foil parcels.
Therefore the whole dish was made from bits and bobs in my fridge - for example just half a bell pepper is needed and one carrot - nothing too costly, just left overs really.
The picture below is one salmon fillet ready for the oven.

I prepared this before I went to work, so when I arrived home all that was needed was to pop the parcels into the oven and stir fry some rice noodles.
Da da - dinner sorted!
You will need to serve 2:
2 pieces of salmon fillet - skinless
a bottle of Teriyaki marinade - you wont need the whole bottle though!
1 small cube of fresh ginger root (half and inch cube) - peeled and finely diced
Put the salmon fillets into a small dish and add a good dose of the marinade and the chopped ginger. Cover with cling film. Keep basting them and leave for at least half an hour.
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F or Gas 6
Meanwhile, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients.
1 small carrot - sliced into very thin strips
half of a red bell pepper, or any colour you fancy - sliced into thin strips
1 small red onion - again sliced into thin strips
half of a fresh green chili pepper - de-seeded and sliced very finely
a lime - slice half of it and keep half for squeezing over that salmon later on
a little olive oil
How to do it:
Remove the salmon from the marinade but reserve the liquid for later.
Get yourself a two large pieces of good quality kitchen foil - the thin stuff isn't any good as it will tear easily.
Drizzle a little olive oil on each piece of foil.
Lay one piece of salmon in each foil - you will be making a parcel from the foil.
Add equal amounts of the sliced ingredients, bell pepper, onion, carrot and lime to each parcel and sprinkle with the chopped chili pepper.
Squeeze the lot with a little lime juice from the half you kept earlier.
Drizzle with a little of the marinade liquid and a little olive oil.
Bring the foil up each side till they meet and make a parcel.
Pop them onto a baking tray into a preheated oven for about 20 minutes - depending on the size of your salmon pieces.
The end result was yummy. My picture isn't too good, but you can get the idea through the blur!

I served the salmon in the foil with some stir fried rice noodles that I'd added a little soy sauce to when stir frying. Simple and delicious!

Top Tip;
Did you know you can freeze fresh ginger root? It doesn't loose any of it's flavor and so you can be sure to always have some handy! All that happens to it is it goes soft. It defrosts in no time at all and can be used as normal.
So, next time you buy some freeze a bit in a plastic bag.


Nasi Goreng - Indonesian Fried Rice

If you want a quick (and I mean quick) and easy snack, side dish or just feel the need to eat rice then this is for you. I'm a bit behind with my postings as I made this last week - I just can't seem to keep up with this blogging lark!
This dish is spicy but not really hot, I guess you just add more or less of the paste till it tastes how you want it to.
You will need some precooked long grain rice. Please see my posting on storing cooked rice.
As I was shopping in Tesco's , I spied with my little eye a jar of Nasi Goreng paste, so of course I had to buy it.
I made chicken satay to go with it, but the pictures are awful so your not getting to see them!
Now as I understand you can add more or less anything you fancy to Indonesian fried rice. Says Wikipedia that it is often made up of left overs. The addition of prawns would have been good but Mr B wont eat them.
I did the following:
Heat up your wok, add a little vegetable oil then stir fry one chicken breast fillet that has been cut into bite sized slices.
When it's almost cooked add some small diced red bell pepper and one or two spring onions sliced diagonally into small bits.
Now add 4 good tablespoons of Nasi Goreng paste and stir for a minute. Then add the precooked rice stirring all the time.
Please make sure the rice has been heated through and it piping hot.
In a separate pan fry an egg - or you could make an omelet before you begin, shred it and put to one side. I just fancied it would look good with a fried egg on top.
Put the rice into a bowl and put the egg on top.

Serve immediately.

Storing Cooked Rice Safely - Avoid Food Poisoning

It's true that you could get food poisoning from eating reheated rice.
But it's not actually the reheating that's the problem – it's the way the rice has been stored before reheating. Uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus, bacteria that can cause food poisoning. 
When the rice is cooked, the spores can survive. Then, if the rice is left standing at room temperature, the spores will germinate into bacteria. These bacteria will multiply and may produce toxins (poisons) that cause vomiting or diarrhea. 
Reheating the rice won't get rid of these toxins.
So, the longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more likely it is that bacteria, or the toxins they produce, could stop the rice being safe to eat.  It's best to serve rice when it has just been cooked.
If that isn't possible, cool the rice as quickly as possible (ideally within one hour) and keep it in the fridge for no more than one day until reheating.  You can of course freeze cooked rice, just be sure to follow the previously mentioned instructions of cooling it quickly.  
Remember that when you reheat any food, you should always check that it's piping hot all the way through, and avoid reheating more than once.


Chocolate Chip Muffins - Now Perfected!

Last week I had a fit in my head and wanted to make muffins.
I'd never made them before and every one of my chocolate chips sank to the bottom of each muffin!
Not good. So, the next day I gave them another go, perfect.
The first recipe I tried was one from the BBC website. But now I was armed with Nigella Lawson's recipe, success!
Her addition of vegetable oil I thought was strange but it worked so I would use this recipe again.
Here is Nigella's recipe, which I followed exactly but I could only get 9 muffins and not 12 but I would think that's just me pouring too much in each muffin case.

Print Recipe

For 12 you will need:
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Half-teaspoon bicarbonate soda
2 tablespoons best quality cocoa
175g caster sugar
150g chocolate chips - plus more for sprinkling later
250ml milk
90ml vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6

How to do it:
Fill a 12-bun muffin tray with paper cases.
Weigh out the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Pour all the liquid ingredients into a measuring jug.
Mix both together, you will have a runny batter. Now spoon into the muffin cases.
Sprinkle more chocolate chips on top then cook for 20 minutes or until the muffins are risen and springy.
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