Prawn Jalfrezi

A quick burst of heat for dinner on a cold winter’s day comes in the form of this prawn jalfrezi, the recipe for which is available online at the BBC Good Food website.

There were a few panics whilst making this – particularly when I realised we had no tinned tomatoes in the cupboard and I had to run to the corner shop on a particularly cold and windy night. The recipe also calls for you to cook the onions and spices, then add the chopped tomatoes and water and blitz with a hand blender. I tried to do this in the pan (heat turned off, obviously!) but the depth wasn’t sufficient to do without spattering so I had to decant everything to a pyrex jar, blitz it, and then put it back in the pan.

Also, the recipe called for one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes plus half a tin of water – I suspect the water wasn’t needed because our sauce was quite wet even after reducing down for a long time. The recipe said cook uncovered, but we took the lid off in an attempt to try and make things a bit thicker.

Despite that, the end result was really nice. Not a 100% authentic jalfrezi, but a nice and spicy sauce with a fresh taste.

Chicken and prawn xinxim

Yet another Diana Henry recipe today from A Bird in the Hand, and it’s a spicy one!

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I’d never heard of xinxim before but it sounded like an interesting recipe and I’m absolutely delighted that I tried it. The whole dish was a spicy delight – I’m not sure why, but it seems that added ground nuts to curry type dishes really works well (I’m thinking of the peanut stew which we made a while back).

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Potatoes and Peppers

Time for a veggie option, this time coming from Nigel Slater writing for the Guardian. The ingredient list is nice and simple – potatoes, peppers, garlic and chicken stock.

Cut the peppers into big strips first and fry them so they soften a little. Then fry the sliced potatoes so that they brown a little, throw in the garlic and the chicken stock with the peppers and let the whole thing simmer and reduce. You end up with beautifully soft potatoes and a tangy garlicky sauce – this is comfort food at its best.

Roast vegetable tortilla recipe with a green olive twist

Our third meal from the Sainsbury’s Homemade by You website is this vegetable tortilla (or maybe frittata?). It’s another vegetable loaded meal with plenty of health, plus low fat protein in the form of many many eggs.

It’s really easy too – we’re basically cooking the vegetables and then pouring an eggy mixture over it. Then it cooks in the pan, before being finished off under the grill.

Lots of food. Lots of taste. The twist on this occasion is green olives which were nice but did seem a little out of place… we love olives enough not to complain though.

Tuna and Vegetable Pasta Bake with Greek Yoghurt

Continuing the theme of “Little Twists” from the Sainsbury’s Homemade By You website, we’ve given it another go with this vegetable loaded pasta bake with Greek yoghurt.

It’s also a great way to get your five a day – there are a lot of vegetables in this, to which you add chopped tomatoes, greek yoghurt, herbs and tinned tuna. The whole thing goes in the oven with a topping of cheese so that it goes nice and brown on top.

The end result was a great big bowl of very satisfying food. There’s nothing too exciting here – it’s basically just a pasta bake with tuna, but the combination of lots of vegetables, cheese and tuna makes for something very tasty and satisfying. The addition of yoghurt makes for something a bit creamier and richer, but to be honest I don’t think that it really added all that much – it would have been a great meal even without it.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry with Coconut

The next few recipes we cooked came from the Sainsbury’s Homemade by You website. Sainsbury’s have been running a campaign called “Little Twists”, encouraging people to be a little bit more adventurous with their cooking, and this recipe is part of that.

It’s a pretty simple dish and quick to make – it’s a chicken and vegetable stir fry like any other, but the different comes at the end when you toss some toasted desiccated coconut into the dish. It’s a simple thing, but it does add a nice bit of flavour and an interesting texture too. I liked it, and so did Mark.

West African Chicken & Peanut Stew

This is a new one for us – an evening meal which features peanut butter as a main ingredient. Don’t get me wrong, we love the stuff, it’s just that we’re more familiar having it on toast… or possibly just eating it with a spoon straight from the jar…

This Diana Henry recipe (as ever, from A Bird in the Hand) is a lengthy one, as evidenced by our “before” photo. On closer inspection though, there’s nothing fancy here and if you have a reasonably stocked spice cupboard then you’ll have pretty much everything you need anyway.

It’s very strange to make the sauce by dissolving peanut butter into chicken stock, but the resulting meal is utterly fabulous – substantial and satisfying with a great nutty flavour and smoothness. Obviously not a good meal for those with certain allergies, but since we don’t fall into that camp we were happy to gorge ourselves on it.

Spiced Vegetarian Paella

We’ve done quite a few recipes from the Thrive on Five book, but recently discovered that there are some more recipes listed on their website, including this one for spiced paella.

The premise is the same – one meal containing your five portions of vegetables for the day. I was particularly intrigued to see how paella could work without chorizo though!

Things didn’t get off to a great start though when I realised there were no cherry tomatoes in the fridge and we’d used the last chilli. By way of compromise, I threw in an onion for extra vegetables, and found a dried and smoked chipotle chilli which was brought into service.

There was another mistake too, when I decided it wasn’t spicy enough and added some chilli flakes, but the lid came off the jar and I added far too many!

The resulting meal though worked surprisingly well. There were definitely some strong paella-style flavours here – helped, no doubt, by the saffron – and the spiciness didn’t overwhelm. I’d still prefer a meaty paella, but with all the health in this one I can’t really complain.

Chicken Gumbo

After the tasty jambalaya we made a short while back, it seemed appropriate to make some chicken gumbo as a follow up. None of our recipe books really have much in the way of creole recipes, so we went with a recipe we found on the BBC Good Food website.

Things didn’t get off to a good start when the online shopping delivery didn’t come with any okra (they tried to offer us some pak choi as an alternative – clearly the person who packed our shop had no idea what okra was!).

I was also a bit worried when I started to read some of the comments under the recipe which said that it was bland and unauthentic. There was no need for concern though. I made the whole meal for 4 for just the two of us (some comments suggested that the recipe was a bit measly in terms of portions) and the quantities seemed to work out just right. I was a bit heavy handed with the spices too – “just in case” – and it all seemed to come together really nicely. The flavours seemed (to my British palate) pretty authentic and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

The recipe suggested serving with some rice or bread – Mark had brought home some freshly baked rye bread which, when smeared with lashings of butter, complemented the whole thing beautifully.

Chicken Jambalaya

I’ve loved the food of the deep south for many, many years and every now and then I get a hankering for some good old jambalaya. Over the years I progressed from jars of sauce bought in supermarkets through to actually making things myself, but I never really found a recipe I was happy with. Tonight though, the hankering was back so I decided to give a new recipe a try and I found this one on Delia Smith’s website.

That said, I wasn’t overly impressed with the presentation of the recipe on the website. It broke the cardinal rule by listing ingredients in a different order to the one in which you need them, and there was also a mistake in that the Tabasco sauce was listed as part of the garnish when it’s actually an ingredient.

I also thought the amount of liquid added was wrong – it took much longer to reduce than the recipe said (and the recipe said leave the lid on; we ended up leaving it uncovered).

But the end result was well worth it – I’m not saying it was 100% authentic, especially given we were using chorizo instead of andouille sausage… but it was a damn good approximation.