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Thursday 27 February 2014

Steamed Sea Bass with Chinese Style Vegetables in the Microwave

Usually, I only defrost and heat up food in the microwave, I don't really use it for real cooking.  However, in case you haven't visited for a while, you may not know that I don't have a proper kitchen at the moment.  We have dry rot in our house and my kitchen has been stripped right back to the bare walls and I'm cooking in my utility room with my slow cooker, a single electric ring and the microwave (see pictures at the end of the post).  I'm pretty pleased with how I've managed so far.  I had frozen some chilli, bolognese sauce and some chorizo burgers but I've also made two slow cooker casseroles, omelette and pancakes.

I was particularly pleased when I was offered the chance for a product review for Lekue, a Spanish company who make high quality silicone cook and bake ware.   I chose to review the Steam Case with tray 3-4 persons, this is perfect for cooking in the microwave.

The Lekue Steam Case with Tray allows healthy steam cooking which maintains nutrients.  The removable interior tray guarantees the liquids accumulated during cooking or defrosting will drain away from the food. Cooking can be done with or without the tray depending on the desired results.  One of the things I really like about it is that it can withstand high cooking temperatures in microwaves and ovens AND it is dishwasher safe and maintains it's shape which has not been my experience with other silicone in the dishwasher.    

Things came together even more neatly when I saw that Charlene at No Love Sincerer had launched a Microwave Cooking Blog Challenge to help her friend Tom whose only means of cooking is his basic microwave.  Now that is a real challenge! 

So here is my guide to cooking Steamed Sea Bass with Chinese Style Vegetables in the Microwave.  The Lekue Steamer is ideal for this recipe, however if you don't have one, you could make this in a microwavable dish with a lid or with pierced clingfilm on top.

Place a pack of ready to stir fry egg noodles to the base of the dish. Add a pack of mixed Chinese style vegetables or a selection of vegetables e.g. mangetout peas, pak choi, carrots and spring onions. Steam the noodles and vegetables with a teaspoon of soy sauce for 3 minutes.

Add the Sea Bass fillets and add a sachet of stir fry sauce or you could simply add a little more soy sauce.  I also added shaved fresh ginger, sliced spring onions and garlic.  Cook in the microwave for a further 4 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.

This isn't fancy cooking, most of the ingredients I used were semi-prepared, but the result was a meal that is simple to make in the microwave and had a lovely fresh taste.  It didn't taste like a 'ready meal' and didn't involve too much taking the food in and out of the microwave which is something I find really off putting about cooking anything in the microwave.

What is your favourite dish to make in the microwave?

Thanks to Lekue for providing me with this steamer, I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday 25 February 2014

Crespelle - Italian Pancakes for Shrove Tuesday

Next Tuesday, 4th March, is Shrove Tuesday this year.  Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the day to use up all the rich foods in the house before Ash Wednesday and the start of the fasting season of Lent. It's also traditional to make pancakes, whether you take part in Lent or not, pancakes are a simple and delicious base for sweet or savoury toppings, so well worth using this annual reminder to cook some up. 

My pancake making was made really easy by the nice people at Tefal who sent me this 24cm  'Superior' frying pan.  It has Intensium, longer lasting, non-stick, an anti-warp base and the thermo-spot heat indicator that is a feature of Tefal pans.  It's even metal utensil safe, although I didn't use metal utensils. There's a Tefal Pancake Day website for great ideas for pancake making and a fun Tefal Pancake Selfie App

I've been reading this lovely book, Dear Francesca by Mary Contini.  It is a cookery book but full of well written stories from Mary's Italian family roots which she has written to pass on to her daughter Francesca.  Included in the book is a recipe for Crespelle or pancakes which Mary used to woo Francesca's father, it's a fairly standard pancake recipe although a little sweeter than I would usually make. 

Crespelle (makes 8 pancakes)
100g self-raising flour
300ml semi-skimmed milk
2 large free range eggs
2 tablespoons caster sugar
some melted butter

Sieve the flour then simply mix everything together, you can use an electric whisk, liquidiser or stick mixer.  However I put the flour into a large jug and added the eggs and milk gradually and mixed with a simple hand whisk (see the pictures above).  I then added the sugar and left the mixture to rest.  You need to do this for at least 10 minutes but I left it for a couple of hours as it suited me to make it early.

When you make the pancakes melt a little butter in the pan and when it starts to sizzle add just enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan.  Cook until it browns underneath (lift it up with a spatula to see) and it should bubble on the top.  Then flip it over and cook the other side.

I layered the pancakes up with baking parchment to keep them separate and covered with a clean tea towel.

Winter Fruit Pancakes

This is a perfect store cupboard dessert, most of us will have the ingredients for these dried fruit pancakes in our larder, just use whichever dried fruit you happen to have.  I filled one batch of pancakes with a mixture of dried fruits, apricots, cranberries and raisins in some Walkmill Cider Apple and Amaretto Syrup (non-alcoholic), you can use orange juice or the booze of your choice.  I warmed the fruits and syrup through briefly in the microwave and left them to soak up the juice for a couple of hours. Do this at the same time as your batter is resting and everything will be ready at the same time. 
Fill and roll the pancakes and serve with cream or greek yogurt. 

Breakfast Pancakes - Roti Telor Style

I had three pancakes left over so decided to have them for our breakfast.  I would normally grill my bacon but am operating out of a temporary kitchen due to the work that is going on in my kitchen, so I fried  up the rashers in my Tefal Superior Frying pan then set to one side.

I drained off some of the fat from the bacon and added a pancake. Then I broke an egg onto the pancake and swirled it about.  Anyone who has been to Malaysia and eaten breakfast in a street cafe will have tried Roti Chanai (Pancakes with a curry sauce) but for added protein you can have Roti Telor.  All that means is that an egg is broken on top of the pancake, it was my husband's favourite when we visited Malaysia in the 1980s.  Before the egg is cooked add the bacon.

I found that I had to flip the pancake over to make sure the egg was fully cooked  and to enclose the bacon in the pancake.

There was only one thing missing...Maple Syrup!  Unfortunately, it wasn't something that I put in my temporary store cupboard, so we had to do without.

I'm entering both recipes for Shop Local, the blogger challenge run by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary to highlight the great products available in our local area. Walkmill Cider products are available at my local farmers market and the eggs I used in the pancakes and on the pancakes come from a local farm.

I'm also adding this to Credit Crunch Munch as both are cheap, cheerful and filling. CCC is the blog challenge of Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All and this month is hosted by My Golden Pear.
And finally the Pancakes Roti Telor Style made to use up the leftover pancakes is going into the No Waste Food Challenge run by London Unattached and Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary

I was provided with a Tefal Superior Fry pan, I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own. 

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Saturday 22 February 2014

Tea and Toast with style!

There are some pieces of kitchen equipment that we simply take for granted.  How often do you boil the kettle?  I know that mine is on many times every day, not just for tea and coffee, but to boil water for vegetables or stock as well.  This Morphy Richards Chroma is a sleek, modern jug kettle in shiny black and silver.  It's fast boil and surprisingly light.

I really loved the lid which isn't the usual hinged type but lifts right out with a ring handle and a good seal around the top.  The cup measurements are really clear on the side too.

The Morphy Richards Chroma 2 slice toaster has good clear controls with a range of heat settings.  It toasted evenly and quickly, great for breakfast toast or a quick snack with cheese.

Both items did the job you expect with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of style and get a big thumbs up from me!

Morphy Richards Chroma Jug Kettle RRP £39.99 (currently with 15% off at Morphy Richards £33.99)
Morphy Richards Chroma 2 slice toaster RRP £39.99

I have a Chroma kettle and toaster to give away (UK only), to enter the competition please answer the questions on the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Morphy Richards for the kettle and toaster to review, I was not paid for this review and all opinions are my own.

Many thanks too, to my friend Avril for the use of her kitchen and beautiful Portmerion Pamona crockery as I have major building work going on in my house!

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Tuesday 18 February 2014

Comfort Food to Banish the Winter Blues

What's your favourite comfort food?  In a recent poll, insurer Axa found that a roast is our favourite comfort food, shepherd's pie, chips and lasagne came next followed by spaghetti bolognese, macaroni and Cheese on Toast.  While most of the top comfort foods require a bit of time and effort to prepare, Cheese on Toast can be put together in minutes providing a pick-me-up which, Psychologist Donna Dawson says, reminds us of our childhood as we associate them with family and feeling safe.

Cheese is usually high in calories and fat, so it's a comfort food you have to take care not to eat too often which is why I was pleased to try out this Pilgrim's Choice Extra Mature Lighter Cheese.  It's still matured for 12 months and has the tangy taste you expect from Extra Mature Cheeese, but with 30% less fat than regular extra mature cheddar.

I was slightly concerned about how well the cheese would melt as it's the fat in the cheese that melts.  However I was pleasantly surprised with the bubbliness and browning I got with Pilgrim's Choice Extra Mature Lighter Cheese.  I wouldn't say it had the equivalent flavour of a full fat extra mature cheddar, but it was a tasty piece of cheese with good texture and a good melt.

Nutritional info:
  • 302 calories per 100g
  • 22g of Fat per 100g
  • 750mg of Calcium per 100g
 350g of Pilgrim's Choice Extra Mature Cheese Lighter costs around £3.40

I was supplied with a pack of Pilgrim's Choice Extra Mature Cheese Lighter to review, I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.

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