Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pumpkin Soup

Alright so I have to be honest and say that I haven't been in hiding this last two weeks but instead I have just had SO much on my plate (it's actually not funny) and not all of it was necessarily food!!
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As quite a few of you know our little girl broke her wrist almost two weeks ago, we have also had two birthdays come and go and I think, cross fingers that after a doctor's appointment today we may just start to get back to normal (but what is normality?) with the exception of the arm which is still going to take a few weeks.

.Thankfully part of the process of getting back to normal is that we are getting back into cooking some nice foods and with the weather turning just a little cooler in Melbourne I thought I would make a huge pot of Pumpkin Soup especially as I have had a huge full pumpkin sitting in the kitchen pleading with me to cook something with it.

Pumpkin soup is definitely a favourite at our place whether it's eaten for a snack or lunch and even dinner but especially as my version isn't thick and creamy. Not that it is a bad thing to be thick and creamy but not so good on the waistline! This recipe, which I cannot fully take credit for, as it's a hand down from my mam but as usual I have modified, does however allow the individual to jazz their serving up as they wish by adding a swirl of cream or as my children do, without fail, add a handful of grated tasty cheese!

Served with a delicious fresh crusty roll this is definately homecooking at it's best!
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Pumpkin Soup
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Serves: 16
ProPoints per serve: 0
Old Points per serve: 0
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4kgs Kent or Jap pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed and diced
2 onions, diced
16 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken stock powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 teaspoons crushed ginger
pinch ground nutmeg
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In a very large saucepan place pumpkin, onions, water, stock powder, garlic and ginger and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until pumpkin is very tender. Allow to cool.
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Blend with a stick blender or food processor until smooth. If using a food processor you will have to do this in batches. Add nutmeg to taste.
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Return to medium heat and warm through - do not boil. Season with salt and pepper and serve by itself or with your favourite condiment ie a swirl of cream, some grated tasty cheese or even some fresh chives, etc.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A quick apology....

Sorry for not posting in the last week or so... yes I have been cooking but nothing wonderful or worthy of bragging about (trust me - a lot of quickie dinners and frozen meals have been consumed)!!

Some of you may have read my other blogs, Welcome to the House of Murray and This Little Piggy and know what has kept me away from my kitchen and this blog. For those who are not in the know my daughter Alex broke her wrist last Wednesday bouncing on the trampoline.

To make matters worse it was her Birthday and we were just waiting for Nana and Granddad to arrive for her birthday dinner party! She turned 8 and will always remember her birthday as a nightmare for sure... her arm is in plaster from knuckles to armpit. She had to stay in the children's ward until Friday morning as they had to manipulate the break and monitor the swelling etc.


She went been back for another x-ray on Tuesday to find that the bone had moved slightly from where the doctors had set it and we had to go back again today. We were told that if the bone had moved again by today she would require further surgery. Today's appointment has seen the bone move again but yet the specialists are hesitant to take her to surgery at this point in time. It's borderline that it should actually repair itself from now on in but they are also worried that it still may move as it has now moved twice. So next Tuesday we have to take her back for another x-ray and another appointment with the specialist!! gggrrrrr!!

Needless to say our live is starting to calm down and get back to normal. Our son, Oliver, also had his 11th birthday yesterday (yes both March babies) and this was celebrated without any injury - thankfully! Nana and Granddad came down for the family dinner which was a menu of Oliver's choice.


Oliver's birthday menu:
Fettucine with Creamy Spinach, Pinenuts and Sultana's
Penne with Tomato and Chorizo
Salad
Garlic Bread
Birthday cake (of course) with icecream

Saturday night will be his class party - he is having a disco party so 40 odd children dressed as their favourite rock/pop stars.... should be very interesting. I will be cooking some "adult" food (probably a curry maybe some ribs, etc) as well as kids finger food so hopefully I will return to blogging recipes as early as Sunday... cross fingers!!

Until then, take care and thanks for continuing to inspire me with your blogs......

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kung Pao Chicken

I have a long history with this dish and mastering it was just something that needed to be done. Not that I have but I think that I am getting pretty damn close.
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I owe the love of this dish to my father as it was definately one of his favourite meals although I never actually remember him making it. He would buy himself this dish as his treat when we went past the chinese take away in the foodcourt at shopping. And if he didn't go shopping we had to bring it home for him. To not come home with it was somewhat of a sin!
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Originating in the Sichuan Province of central-western China it has a very unique flavour. According to history the dish is named after Ding Baozhen (1820–1886) who was a Qing Dynasty official. Ding served as head of Shandong province and later as governor of Sichuan province. His title was Gong Bao or palatial guardian and therefore the name "Kung Pao" chicken is derived from this title.
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Kung Pao Chicken
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Serves: 4
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500 grams boneless chicken breasts, skin and fat removed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cold water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon black or red rice vinegar, or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chicken broth or water
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few drops sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornflour
6 to 8 small dried red chillies, or as desired
2 garlic cloves
2 spring onions, sliced on diagonal
1/2 cup skinless, unsalted peanuts
1 cup oil for deep-frying and stir-frying
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Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Mix in the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, water and cornflour. Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.
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In a small bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients, whisking in the cornflour last.
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Remove the seeds from the chillies and chop. Peel and finely chop the garlic.
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Heat the oil in a wok add half of the chicken cooking for about 1 minute, until the cubes separate and turn white. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remainder of the chicken. Drain nearly all of the oil from wok leaving approximately 1 tablespoon of oil.
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Add the chillies and stir-fry until the skins starts to darken and blister. Add the garlic and spring onion. Stir-fry until aromatic (about 30 seconds). Add the chicken back into the pan and toss until chicken is heated through, then push up to the sides of the wok and add add the sauce in the middle, stirring quickly to thicken. Stir in the peanuts. Stir fry for a further 1 to 2 minutes or until everything is coated and hot.
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Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup

My children devour this soup like it is going out of fashion or as if they hadn't eaten in weeks. However I am not complaining as I am really happy that the love it and are happy to have it whenever I fancy making it. Today was one of those days, and as usual it went down a treat.
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Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup
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Serves: 8 as a main
12 as an entree
Points per serve: Main 4.5
Entree 3
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1 kilogram chicken fillets and/or chicken thigh fillets, skin and fat removed
8 cups water
1 onion diced
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 teaspoons crushed ginger
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon dried parsley
salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 x 425 gram creamed corn
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
2 slices ham, finely sliced
4 shallots, chopped, reserving 1/2 cup for garnish
4 tablespoons cornflour
4 tablespoons water
3 egg whites, lightly beaten

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In a large saucepan place chicken, onion, water, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and sherry. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked, removing any forming scum from time to time.  Remove chicken from pan, reserving all the liquid, and allow the chicken pieces to cool until pieces are manageable. Shred all meat finely.

To the same pan add the shredded chicken, creamed corn, sesame oil and Chinese five spice. Stir until heated through. Add the shallots, reserving 1/2 cup for garnish, along with the ham and stir. Mix the cornflour and water together adding to the saucepan, stirring continually. When soup begins to thicken reduce heat to a simmer.
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Before serving stir through the egg white by adding to soup in a thin stream while stirring.
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Serve immediately topped with remaining spring onion as garnish.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hamburger with the Lot

This is a favourite burger here in our Fish and Chip shops and one my 10 year old son has taken to ordering and devouring... not quite sure where he puts it all but then he is a growing boy!!

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By saying it is a Burger with the Lot, it really is quite a handfull let alone a mouthfull. Some places offer a magnitude of toppings such as beetroot slices and pineapple but the basic is lettuce, tomato slices, onions, cheese, bacon, egg and tomato sauce. What goes into making "the Lot" is really up to the individual or the shop.
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Hamburger with the Lot
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Serves 1
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1 hamburger bun
1/2 cup lettuce shredded
2 -3 tomato slices
1/2 onion, sliced into rings
1 pineapple ring
1 rasher of bacon, rind and fat removed
1 slice tasty cheese
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
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In a small frypan sprayed with cooking spray cook hamburger pattie (see recipe) for 3 minutes each side or until cooked through. When half cooked to the same pan add the pineapple ring, onions and bacon rasher to seperate parts of the pan and cook through.
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Meanwhile cut hamburger bun in half and toast the inside only.3In a small microwave proof dish cook onion in microwave for 1 minute or until soft and transparent.
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Once the patty is cooked remove all contents of the pan from heat. To the same pan cook the fried egg.
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While the egg is cooking, place the base of the bun on a plate and top with lettuce, tomato slices, place hamburger patty on top followed by sliced cheese, onions, pineapple slice, bacon rasher and egg. Squirt on the tomato sauce and then finally add the bun top.
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Cheeseburger

Well you have probably guessed that kids wanted takeaway tonight and as I am not a huge fan of that idea to start with, I decided it would be nicer, tastier and more cost effective to make the request of takeaway at home.
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So Alexandria requested a "Cheeseburger just like you get at McDonald's" while Oliver decided he would love to have a Hamburger with the Lot.
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So here is my take on the McDonald's cheeseburger, a little larger and minus the paper wrapping!
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Cheeseburger

Serves 1

1 hamburger bun
1 slice cheese *
1 tablespoon white or brown onion finely diced
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
2 teaspoons american mustard
1 slice of pickle (if desired)
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In a small frypan sprayed with cooking spray cook hamburger pattie (see recipe) for 3 minutes each side or until cooked through.
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Meanwhile cut hamburger bun in half and toast the inside only.
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In a small microwave proof dish cook onion in microwave for 1 minute or until soft and transparent.
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Once the patty is cooked remove from heat. Place the base of the bun on a plate and top with 2 teaspoons of tomato sauce, place hamburger patty on top followed by sliced cheese, onions, pickle if using, remaining tomato sauce and mustard, finally adding the bun top.
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* Use the cheese slice of your choice. I used a slice of tasty cheese as my kids don't really enjoy the processed "plastic" cheese. In this case I have allowed 2.5 points for the cheese but if you used a Superslim or a WW slice it would only be 0.5 points. Total of 6.5 points if you use the lighter cheese and only half the hamburger patty. A different bun could be used to reduce the points even more.

Homemade Hamburgers

This is my base recipe for hamburger patties, nothing too exciting but enough flavour to compliment any toppings you may wish to add to your buns!! LOL!!
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Homemade Hamburgers

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Serves: 4
Points per serve: 3.5
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500g lean minced beef
1 onion finely diced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
salt and pepper to taste
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Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.
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Shape into four even balls.
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Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This allows the flavours to develop and I have found that the burgers are better cooked chilled.

Baked Brie with Sundried Tomatoes

Okay I have to admit this... my world DOES actually revolve around food and being a foodie, believe it or not.
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In fact since I started up this food blog I have come across so many others out there just like me, blogging their culinary delights and kitchen masterpieces. Some are even game enough to blog about their disasters!! There are so many foodie blogs that I read and have linked all of these to my blog, a few I have chatted with via comments and emails while there are others I just read, but I am always adding some of their dishes to my never ending list of foods to make in the future.
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One person's blog that I read daily is Kevin's. Kevin's blog is called Closet Cooking and he is based in Toronto, Canada.I must say that some of his dishes are amazing, not to mention the quality of his photo's just make you want to lick the computer screen. So when I read this Baked Brie with Sundried Tomatoes I immediately knew we had to try it. Like Kevin I have to admit for not being a huge fan of Brie but in this recipe it had such an interesting flavour when coupled with the sun-dried tomatoes and the herbs.
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Baked Brie with Sundried Tomatoes
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Serves 2
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250 grams brie, rind removed and cut into cubes
60 grams sundried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
pepper to taste
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Preheat oven to 175C.
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Mix everything together in a small bowl.
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Transfer to a small baking dish. The mixture should fill the baking dish to the brim as it will shrink when baked. I used just one small ramekin between the two of us... you could divide into individual serves if you wish.
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Bake in oven until the brie is melted and starts to bubble, about 20-30 minutes.
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Serve dip hot with crackers or dippers of your choice.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Murgh Makhani

In Old Delhi in the 1950's the legendary Moti Mahal restaurant created the dish that for millions of poeple around the world, especially us British, defines Indian food. "Butter Chicken" as Moti Mahal calls it, is the father and mother of Chicken Tikka Masala.
In the West, this dish is much interpreted, but in fact it has been enjoyed by Punjabis for decades. This is exactly how it is prepared in Old Dehi so of course - we just had to try it.
Ideally the chicken should be cooked in a tandoor on skewers but we used an indoor grill and a barbecue would suitably do the job as would cooking the chicken pieces in an oven. The key is not to overcook the chicken for fear of it drying out and not being the tender meat the we are all familiar with.
Although this recipe is quite time consuming and not for a beginner chef, the taste proves that it is definately well worth the effort.
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Murgh Makhani
Source: curry
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Serves: 4 - 6
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1 teaspoon crushed ginger
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
juice of 1/2 lemon
800 grams boned chicken thighs, skin and fat removed, cut in half or diced
100 grams plain Greek-style yoghurt
1/4 teaspoon garam marsala
1.25 kilograms tomatoes, cut in half
125 ml water
2.5cm piece fresh root ginger crushed
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 green cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 cinnamon leaf or bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons Kashmiri chilli powder
60 grams butter, cut into small pieces
2.5 cm piece frest root ginger finely chopped
2 green chillies, each slit into 4
75 mls single cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons sugar
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To make the marinade, mix together the crushed ginger, crusher garlic, salt, chilli powder and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the chicken and using your hands coat the pieces with the mixutre. Set aside for 20 minutes. Mix the yoghurt with the garam masala and apply to the mariated chicekn. Set aside for another 10 minutes.
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Thread the chicken on to skewers. Cook over the grill plate, barbecue or in the oven for 15 - 18 minutes, thurning the skeweres to cook evenly on both sides. Don't worry if some parts blacken as this actually adds to the flavour.
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While the chicken is cooking make the sauce. Place the tomatoes in a pot with 125 ml water and add the crushed ginger, garlic, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon/bay leaf. Cook until the tomatoes are completely broken down and soft. Remove from the heat and either using hand-held blender or a food processor, puree the mixture. Press through a sieve to make a very smooth puree.
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Return the puree to the pan and bring to the boil. Stir in the chilli powder. Cook until the puree starts to thicken, then slowly incorporate the butter, little by little, stirring constantly. The sauce will become glossy.
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Remove the chicken from the skewers and add to the puree along with any juices. Simmer for 5 - 6 minutes. As the sauce begins to thicken, add the chopped ginger, slit green chillis and cream. Continute simmering until the sauce is thick enough to coat the chicken.
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Remove from the heat before the fat separates out and comes to the surface of the dish. If this happens simply stir in 1- 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon more of cream and remove immediately from the heat. Add the salt, ground fenugreek leaves and garam masala and mix well. Check the seasoning and add the sugar if needed. Serve hot.
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Note to make this more child friendly or milder I would omit using the green chillies and also add about twice the amount of cream, depending on the mildness you require - you could also reduce the amount of Kashmiri chilli powder that you use.
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A tandoor is a clay oven used to back breads and other dishes in North India and Pakistan. The fire is fuel by charcoal and ofent kept lit all day. It is the focal point in many homes and some villages even have a communal tandoor where, believe it or not, gossip is as important as cooking.

Kerala Lamb

This is a restaurant speciality, formously known as Malabar Mutton Curry, cooked all over southern India in Malabari restaurants. Muslims in Calicut are very found of this dish, as it is easy to cook and has extraordinary taste. The roasted coconut base and peppercorn flavour are typical of Keralan cooking.
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Kerala Lamb
Source: curry

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Serves 4
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100 grams freshly grated coconut or desiccated coconut
2.5 cm piece fresh root ginger, sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2.5 cm cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
10 curry leaves
5 black peppercorns
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
200 grams shallots, chopped
1 tablepsoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/2 teapsoon chilli powder
salt
500g boned lamb, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
2 green chilies, slit lengthwise
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First make the spice paste. Roast the coconut with the ginger, galic, cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaves, curry leaves and ppercorns in a dry pan until the coconut is browned. All to cool, then grind in a food rprocessor, gradually adding 250 ml water to make a fine paste.
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Heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, add the shallots and fry for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the spice paste, the ground coriander, turmeric, chili powder, some salt and 400 ml of water. Bring to the boil. Add the lamb, then reduce the heat and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until the lab is well cooked.
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Now prepare the tempering mixture. In a seperate frying pan, heat the oil and the mustard seeds. Once they start popping, add the curry leaves and green chillies. Stir-fry for 1 minute.
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Pour the tempering mixture over the lamb curry and continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until the curry is very dry and thick. Serve hot.

Trinidadian Beef

As we had decided to continue to try new curry recipes this one caught my eye.
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Trinidad is an island located in the souteast Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. The food of Trinidad was developed by the influence of East Indian and African cultures, who people had been brought in to work in the local plantations as slaves. It is identified by its deep, rickh spicing rather than any excessive heat from chillies.
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Trinidadian Beef
Source: Womans Weekly New Curries
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Serves 4

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, quartered
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 fresh small red thai chillies, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons corasely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely
1/3 cup peanut oil
1 kilogram gravy beef, cut into 3cm pieces
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon hot curry powder
3 cups beef stock
2 fresh small red thai chilles, sliced thinly
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Dry fry seeds and peppercorns in small frying pan, about 1 minute or until fragrant. Crush mixture using a mortar and pestle. I used my new toy, a Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker - a lot easier.
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Blend or process onion, quartered galric, coriander, thyme, chopped chilli, ginger, parsley and 1 tablespoon of the oil until mixture forms a paste. Transfer curry paste to a large bowl, add the beef mixing until thoroughly coated in the paste. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
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Heat remaining oil in a large saucepan, cook crushed garlic and curry powder, stirring for 1 minute. Add beef mixture. Cook stirring over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add stock and crushed spice mixture, combine well and then simmer covered for 1 hour. Uncover and simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally, or until meat is tender and sauce thickens slightly.
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Serve curry sprinkled with sliced chillies.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Chicken and Spinach Lasagne

Well I wasn't sure how this dish would go down in our house purely because Lasagne is Lasagne and by saying that I mean meat sauce, bechamel sauce and lots of cheese. But after hearing so many rants of positive feedback on the Weight Watchers forums I decided it was time to give it a go.
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It was quite easy to make, probably easier than normal lasagne in fact. The flavour was wonderful and the fact that there was an argument over the last 2 peices meant that it was a success! I even received a "please cook again" after it was all gone.
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Chicken and Spinach Lasagne
Source: Symply To Good To Be True 3
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Serves 6
Points per serve: 5
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1 x 250g packet frozen spinach defrosted
1 x 250g tub low fat cottage cheese
cooking spray
600g skinless chicken breast diced
1 onion diced
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon low fat butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 cups skim milk
4 sachets Cream of Chicken cup a soup (98% fat free)
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
9 lasagne sheets
1/2 cup reduced fact grated tasty cheese
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Preheat oven to 180C.
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Squeeze water out of spinach and place in a bowl.
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In a food processor blend cottage cheese until smooth, add to the spinach and fold together. Leave to one side.
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In a non stick frypan coated with cooking spray saute the chicken, onion and garlic until nearly cooked.
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In a seperate saucepan melt butter, add in the flour and combine. Slowly add the milk using a whisk to avoid lumps, add dry soup mix and tarragon to the milk mixture, stirring constantly. When boiled pour over the chicken and mix together.
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Coat a lasagne dish (approx 15 x 28cm) with cooking spray then place 3 lasagne sheets at the bottom of the dish, spoon half the chicken mixture into dish and cover with another 3 lasagne sheets. Spread spinach mixture into dish and cover with remaining 3 lasagne sheets. Spoon remaining chicken over top, sprinkle with cheese and cover with foil.
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Bake for 40 minutes then remove foil and cook a further 10 - 15 minutes to brown top.
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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Toad in the Hole

My kids love this novel dinner - we actually had Tom, one of their friends, sleepover the other night and I am sure he was convinced that we were serving up frogs for dinner. He said he would give it a go and must say I was impressed when he asked for seconds.... who wouldn't? This dish is great for kids of all ages!!
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I normally serve this with steamed vegetables and a huge gravy boat of thick gravy.
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(Sorry this is a really bad picture)

Toad In The Hole

Serves 4
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4 tablespoons oil
8 large good quality sausages
285 ml milk
115 grams plain flour
a pinch of salt
3 eggs

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Mix the batter ingredients together and put to one side. I let the batter stand for around 30 minutes in a cool place.
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Heat oven to 180C. Put the oil into the baking dish and add sausages. Cook for 10 minutes until sausages are browned, turning occasionally. Then place the baking dish on the middle shelf of your oven and turn your oven to its highest setting (around 250C). Keep your eye on the sausages but you need to get the oil as hot as possible. At this point take the baking dish out of the oven, being very careful and working very quickly, pour your batter over the sausages. Warning the cold batter hitting the hot oil may make it bubble and possibly even spit a little. Put the tin back in the oven and close the door.
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Don't open it for at least 20 minutes as the minute you open the oven the Yorkshire pudding mixture will flop. Remove from the oven when puffy, golden and crisp.