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.

Halloween Sausage Stew

With Halloween approaching, this hearty stew looked like a good contender. We found it on the Sainsbury’s Homemade By You website, but their version looks much better than ours because they go to the effort of decorating tortilla pieces to look like gravestones and using herbs to create a grass effect. Voila – a graveyard for dinner!

It’s a quick and easy meal to knock out. First brown the sausages, then cook the other ingredients and once it’s all simmering add the sausages back in and leave it to simmer. With all that simmering it takes quite a while to cook but it’s a very “hands off” affair with virtually no effort required and very little washing up is generated either.

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.

Pork Bolognese

Looking for a slightly different source of recipes this week, I wound up on the Waitrose website and found this recipe for pork bolognese. Apart from the pork mince, we had everything in the cupboard already so it seemed like an easy option.

An in truth, it is. Chop the onion and carrot and fry them with the pork mince. Once cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, then refill the container with water and add that too. Also add a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree, some oregano and a chicken stock cube. Then you can leave the whole thing to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes and get on and cook some pasta.

The recipe says this is for two people, but I think that may be a typo and it’s actually for four. It calls for 500g of pork mince, which seems a lot, but also for 500g of pasta which makes for a monster of a meal. I actually dialled the pasta back to just 200g and it was still a really substantial meal.

Taste wise? It was OK. Not terrible, not bad, but not spectacular.

Japanese Style Hamburgers (wafū hanbāgā)

It took me a while to realise that the Japanese name for this dish, handbāgā, is just a Japanese way of writing “hamburger”. This recipe is another one from Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home.

I’ve got to admit though, the technique described wasn’t especially clear. It explained that the important thing was the mixing process, but then the only guidance given was to do it as if making pastry. Fortunately I’ve made pastry, but that seemed a very weak description of a process which is essential to the success of the meal.

The burgers are assembled and then steamed, but my upset really came when trying to turn them. The burgers completely fell apart. On top of that the accompanying red sauce which the recipe comes with turned out to be thin and runny. To add insult to injury the broccoli and cauliflower I’d bought to serve this with had gone mouldy.

Burgers tasted OK, but for the hassle involved and the mess that was created trying to make them, I think I’d put this recipe down as a miss.

Italian Vibe Vegetable Soup

We’ve been followers of Dennis The Prescott on Instagram for quite some time now, so when we were looking for something healthy to eat and he posted a link to this recipe for Italian Vibe Vegetable Soup, we thought we’d give it a go.

There’s a mountain of vegetables and healthy stuff in this, so you can’t go too far wrong with it. We had to make a few substitutions but nothing drastic – for example, we had no conchigle pasta so we used macaroni instead.

Somewhere along the line I made a mistake because my quantity of liquid seemed to low. As such, this turned out to be more of a pasta and vegetable stew but still tasted great.

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.

Courgette and Lentil Dhal

How much health can you get in a single bowl? Quite a lot, actually, when you’re using the Thrive on Five cook book. We’ve raved about this book before but the long and short of it is that it contains recipes which will give you your five portions of veg for the day in a single meal. There are a lot of nice recipes in the book (although some of them can get a bit samey – I’m looking at you, mushrooms) and we found this one we hadn’t tried before.

There’s a lot of spices and interesting flavours going on in this meal, but it upset me by requiring the use of the food processor to blitz carrot and celery (I hate anything which creates washing up!). The end result was very tasty but Mark enjoyed it more than me. Some brown rice and chapatis rounded out what turned out to be a very filling and tasty meal.

Followed by a slice of the healthy cake we made at the weekend, it’s 6 portions of fruit and veg in one sitting!

Puttanesca Style Haddock Stew

The official name of this recipe is “puttanesca style monkfish stew” but the supermarket didn’t have any monkfish and we ended up going with haddock instead. It’s another recipe from John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in Five Ingredients. As such, it’s another pretty straightforward recipe – although I think using anchovy stuffed olives is a bit of a cheat to get down to the give ingredient minimum; I’m pretty sure you could use separate olives and anchovies to make this.

The first bit is really easy – just bash together chopped garlic, chopped chilli and stuffed olives in a mortar and pestle. Then fry the resulting paste until it becomes aromatic and add the chopped tomatoes. Bring it to the boil, turn down to a simmer and sit the fish on top. Cover the pan with a lid and leave it for about 10 minutes.

To serve, I added some plain cous cous on the side for a bit of carb. For such a simply recipe it makes a good puttanesca sauce with a great flavour.

Quick Fish and Fennel Stew

This is another quick and fairly healthy meal from the Sainsbury’s Homemade By You website. The recipe is for four people, but we made a batch for two people by excluding the cod fillets (it already has salmon and prawns in) and cutting down on the volume of stock slightly.

It’s an easy recipe – fry the onion, garlic and fennel. Then add the liquid – tomatoes, stock and saffron which has been soaking in water. Finally add the fish and prawns and simmer for a bit. Served with some toast, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and rubbed with raw garlic.

The end result was… OK. It was pleasant enough, but the meal looked more interesting than it actually tasted. As we ate it, the flavour (such that there was) grew on me, but Mark wasn’t impressed and ended up leaving most of his.