Monday, 10 October 2011

Chicken Korma

 serves 4

2 onions finely chopped

1 clove garlic finely chopped

2 green chillies, finely chopped (takes seeds out if you don’t like the heat)

1 tbsp ground Cumin

1 tbsp ground Coriander

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Garam Masala

5 Cardamom pods slightly crushed

½ tsp salt

2 tbsps tomato puree

1 tbsp grated ginger

25 cashew nuts blitzed with some warm water to form a paste

Standard 400g can of Coconut Milk

250 mls hot water

500g Chicken Breast, cut into big chunks

4 tbsp oil or Ghee

If you like it hotter, add in a teaspoon (or more) of chilli powder.


Fry onions, garlic and chillies for about 8 minutes over a medium heat till brown and a little caramelised. Add Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric, Salt and Cardamom and cook out for about 1 minute. Add in tomato puree and cook for a further minute. You should have a reddish brown fragrant paste mixture. Add in the chicken pieces and cook for about 5 or 6 minutes till coloured. Add in the water, coconut milk and cashew paste. Cook until chicken is fully cooked, about another 5 minutes. Don’t overcook the chicken or it will just be dry. At the end, stir in the grated ginger and Garam Masala. Serve with basmati rice, some Nan bread and some mango chutney.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Weekend Food

So this weekend turned into a real foodfest. Firstly on Friday I went to Crackbird for lunch and sampled the Soy and Garlic Chicken, Semolina Crunchies, Chilli Crunchies and Slaw. In the evening I went to Mitsuba on Parnell St. My wife Yvonne and I shared Gyoza, Yakatori, Yaki Udon and a serious Sashimi platter. Mitsuba was pretty good value and we got out of there well fed and with a bottle of house white for under €60.

 On Saturday I wanted to try cooking something new but without buying too many special ingredients. I had some free range chicken breasts in the freezer so decided to go with them. I tried to create a dish out of my head so really the only element that came from a book was the sweet potato tart taken from the Martijn Kajuiter's Cliff House Book. It's simply a sweet potato round, cooked and marinated in honey, salt, pepper and I added thyme, and then wrapped in a puff pastry ring.

The chicken I stuffed with ricotta and roasted pepper and wrapped in blanched sweetheart cabbage and parma ham. This was all rolled tight into a cling film sausage and poached for 15 minutes. I served it with a sweet corn puree, some wild mushrooms and a basil foam which I'd made by blanching/refreshing the basil, add some agar agar, let it set, added some boiling water and blitzed it till it had a gel like consistency, then added an egg white and put into a nitrogen canister, added 2 shots of nitrogen and hey basil presto.

To be honest, I wasn't overly impressed with the presentation but it tasted pretty good. I though there might be too mush sweetness but the metalic basil, earthy mushroom and slightly bitter ricotta balanced things out ok.

For dessert I did another Martijn Kajuiter dish...his rhubarb crumble tart with white chocolate ice cream. This is basically a 10cm tin lined with puff pastry (not blind baked), a marzipan, egg white, lemon rind/juice mix added first, rhubarb chopped and mixed with orange zest/juice and jam sugar, a straightforward butter/sugar/flour crumble top and baked for 25 to 30 minutes at 175.

The white chocolate ice cream was 250 mls full fat milk, 75g white chocolate melted into it, 75g sugar added to the milk and 3 beaten egg yolks mixed in, cooked to a custard, cooled and churned. It was really very good and not overly creamy which can be the case if cream is used (obviously)!

I actually made this again on Sunday but made a full sized version and added plums to it. I had my mother, mother in law, sister in law and wife for dinner. I made a slow cooked porchetta rubbed with rosemary and garlic, cabbage cooked with lardons of bacon, silky smooth parsley mash and a turnip and carrot puree. No pics I'm afraid but it went down pretty well.

I think I'll take it handy this week. A few simple dishes!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Steamed Salmon, streamed rice with Vietnamese Carrot Salad

I've been cooking low fat, low cal a bit more recently in an effort to reduce the lbs. I love Asian food so this recipe from Good Food website jumped out at me.

Since I have a very handy rice steamer, I decided to steam the rice and cook the salmon above it at the same time. Whilst that was going on I did the carrot salad.

2 limes , 1 juiced and 1 cut into cheeks to serve
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 cm chunk root ginger , finely grated
  • 3 large carrots , finely shredded - a mandolin does the job quickly
  • ½ white cabbage , very finely shredded
  • a large bunch mint , chopped
  • a large handful peanuts , toasted and chopped

  • Mix all the wet ingerdients together and add to the cabbage, carrot, mint. Throw in the nuts at the end. It was really delicious and very healthy.

    Broad Bean & Pecorino Tagliatelli

    Ok, so went to Fallon & Byrne at lunchtime recently to browse. Food shopping for me is like shoe shopping for my wife. A cliche I know but true nonetheless. I wanted something seasonal, fresh, quick and healthy.

    I picked up some Rustichella d'Abruzzo Tagliatelli, some fresh broad beans, some Glenilen low fat cream cheese, some pecorino with chilli, fresh parsley and a lemon.

    I blanched the broad beans in salted water till soft, reserved half and put the other half in a blitzer with some of the cream cheese, some grated pecorino, a little fruity extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a litle water from the blanching and salt/pepper. This made a lovely sauce.

    To assemble, I just cooked the tagliatelli, poured over the sauce and plated up with some grated cheese, parsley and thereamaining broad beans.

    All in all, 20 minutes of easy cooking for a really tasty plate of food.

    Thursday, 1 September 2011

    Northern Bound Part 2 The Salty Dog

    So part 2 of my Northern trip ended with a Saturday night stay at The Salty Dog Hotel and a meal at it's very well reviewed restaurant run by Head Chef Derek Creagh. I won't get into too much of a review of the hotel but it was really nice, good value at £70 for a double room ensuite with breakfast. The breakfast is absolutely delicious, the full Ulster or a selection of pastries. The full Ulster fry came as you would expect with soda bread and fadge (potato bread), locally sourced meats and every element seemed freshly cooked with real care. The coffee, toast and butter were also soo nice. Loved the attention to detail.

    The menu had some really tasty looking dishes.

    My wife went for Fois Gras and Chicken Lever Parfait, Date & Pear Chutney. This was absolutely delicious. Rich and creamy, so tasty, fruity spiced chutney.  A real cracker of a dish.

    I went for Thinly Sliced Rose Veal, Breaded Veal Sweetbreads, Broad Beans, Girolle, Truffle Pecorino, Almond Butter Vinagrette. This was a very accomplished dish and quite delicate and subtle. I really loved it.

    We both had Local Monkfish, Chorizo, Avocado, Olive Cheeks, Langoustine, "Baked Beans" and we got sides of mash potatoes and buttered greens. This dish was also delicious, hearty food. Something you'd expect to see in a really good Spanish restauarant. I liked the fact that it wasn't so 'restauranty'. The mash was top top class. I don't know but I just love the really simple things, or seemingly simple things, done super well and the mash was so smooth, creamy, buttery and perfectly seasoned.

    For dessert I had Creme Brulee with Almonds and Poached Apricot and a glass of Reisling to go with it. I like when I get a dessert wine pairing.

    My wife didn't order dessert but the waiter brought her one anyway because he said we'd been 'neglected' a little becasue he was so busy. We hand't felt neglected at all but I really appreciate these gestures. It's a part of what great service is all about. The waiter told me he'd been working with Derek for a good few years and had followed him from Deane's in Belfast. A good call by Derek I think.

     I can't 100% remember what was in it (honeycomb, olive oil ice cream and a fruit puree I think) was really nice.

    We had a bottle of the house white, a coffee to go with our 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 sides, 2 desserts, a glass of Resiling. The bill was £80. I call that great value.

    There was a discussioon recently between a good few chefs on Twitter about punters complaining about the price of things and not understanding the true concept of value. I really do get value and the Salty Dog (and Harrys) is what it's all about. It's food that by it's concept, quality of ingredients, flavour combinations, skill of preparation and service puts it at a fine dining top restaurant level but at a price that is equivialnt to a local restaurant. In other words, you can see every single cent on the plate and in fact, you wonder how the hell they are doing it for that price.

    Great stuff, I will be back.

    Thursday, 25 August 2011

    Northern Bound Part 1 - Harrys

    So, my Aunt lives in Portstewart Count Derry and she kindly lent us her house whilst she went to see the military tattoo in Edinburgh. This presented a great opportunity, as if an excuse was needed, to sample some Northern food hotspots. @HarrysDonal, Harrys in Bridgend Donegal and @DerekCreagh in the Salty Dog Hotel Bangor were the chosen ones.  Both have been getting plenty of glowing press reviews and/or award recently.
    I was going to keep this brief because
    a) I’m not that good a writer
    b) I read some tips on restaurant reviewing for bloggers and there were so many words & phrases that are an absolute no no it seems (unctuous, to die for)

    but I failed!
    So’s in Bridgend just over the border from Derry, housed in a modern building with a nicely decorated comfortable split level restaurant. The ethos is ‘Made in Inishowen’...local food by local people, meaning that all of the ingredients are either grown, made or sourced from the Inishowen peninsula. It’s an ethos they are obviously and rightly very proud of.

    Donal (the co-owner I think), was extremely helpful via Twitter and once I tweeted my presence, he came out and said hello and checked it was all good. A friendly touch and the help and welcome were really appreciated.
    We arrived about 4:30 as the full evening menu and early bird kicks off at 4pm. There were a surprising number of people (well to me anyway, propbably not for Harrys) there for a Tuesday at that time and plenty of staff. We have a 2 yr old and he was well looked after...a high chair quickly supplied and his plate of chips came out first in lightening quick time. They  were beautifully crispy and fluffy; real homemade chips are hard to beat.

    My wife picked the early bird, Greencastle prawns fresh of the boat the previous day and a locally reared pork plate.  I went a la carte and ordered the Greencastle Seafood plate, the Inishowen Lamb tasting plate, a side of Dauphinoise and buttered cabbage grown in Harrys own walled garden that they’ve been carefully restoring. We got quick pleasant friendly service; beautiful homemade bread and butter arrived soon after ordering, along with our drinks and we felt very relaxed despite having to entertain a 2yr old.

    The prawns both of agreed were beautifully sweet, slightly garlicky but not over-powered with it, no need for lots of sauce, the produce spoke for itself. I could have eaten a good few more but mine was served with a lobster claw which had been poached in herbs I think, it had a nice back taste anyway, some crab on toast and a seafood salad mix.
    Greencastle Seafood Plate - (not a great pic sorry, a bit on the bright side but you get the drift)
    My wife’s pork plate was very tasty...she thought her sauce was a little sweet. It might have been a little over-reduced but I thought it was fine. I had a similar sauce with my lamb plate which had neck, rump, loin, rack and rib. It had a good strong flavour...nothing like the insipid supermarket stuff. The Dauphinoise and buttered cabbage were put together with loving care....the sides are sometimes the best bit and I think they know that.

    Lamb Plate 



    We couldn’t do dessert which was a shame. We were just too full. Not that the portions were ‘agricultural’ (borrowing the descriptor from Lucinda O’Sullivan to describe a portion she received)...they were exactly right...we had just had a late breakfast so note to self, don’t eat anything before going to Harrys again!

    So we had a big plate of chips, 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 sides, a coffee, a bottle of house white wine, a glass of Bordeaux red to go with my lamb and the bill was €78. Pretty great considering the quality of the food.
    I later found out that the Head Chef @raymoranchef was onholiday so thanks to his sous chef @Johnny_Heaney for cooking the food!

    I'll definitely be back and I think a few of my Portstewart relatives will be along soon for a gander.

    Part 2  to follow soon.

    Monday, 8 August 2011

    Pork and Lentil stew with Chorizo, Pimentón & Tomatoes

    So I’ve been watching Rick Stein in Spain for the past 4 weeks and wanted to make something this weekend from the series. Once, I started it however, I couldn’t resist tinkering with it and what was originally supposed to be lentil stew with pimentón that he made in episode 4, turned into that combined with the well known Andalucian Magra con Tomate (pork with tomato). So this is Pork and lentil stew with chorizo, pimentón & tomatoes. The pork is cooked really slowly so it crumbles in the mouth. I served it with a char-grilled onion bread to mop up the sauce.

    As often with stews, I make too much and freeze portions. This batch got us dinner last night and 6 portions for the freezer.

    Dessert was Adriaan Bartell's Raspberry Creme Brullee from the Cliff House Hotel cookbook. Love using my blowtorch!

    250g green lentils washed and hard boiled for 10 minutes to start the cooking process
    1200g shoulder of pork cut into big cubes
    6 large cloves of garlic sliced
    2 large onions chopped
    1 large carrot chopped in big dice
    5 celery stalks diced
    100g Serrano ham chopped
    Glass of Sherry or wine
    1 large chorizo (from Lidl) sliced into chunks
    2 tins of tomatoes (I used tinned cherry ones)
    3 tbps pimentón
    Salt and Pepper
    Olive Oil

    Slowly soften the garlic in a few good glugs of olive oil for a few minutes
    Add in the onion and let that get translucent and sweet
    Add in the celery and carrot and soften that for a few minutes
    Add in the Serrano ham and Chorizo and cook for another minute or 2
    Increase the heat and add the pork and brown it slightly
    Add the pimentón stirring to coat all the ingredients in this beautiful smoky powder
    Tip in the glass of sherry and let that gather up all the paprika and cook out a little
    Season for the first time
    Finally add in the 2 tins of tomatoes and bring to the boil
    Reduce the heat to just on and let it bubble very slowly for about 2 and a half hours
    Let it cool a little and then check the seasoning

    Monday, 18 July 2011

    Carlingford Foodie Weekend

    Warning - this is not a diet type post, this is all about me falling off the weight loss wagon in style and enjoying what there is to enjoy! Today, Monday, it's back to the plan...more of that later.

    Myself and my wife Yvonne enjoyed a little road trip this weekend just past in Carlingford County Louth. A lovely part of the world it was indeed as it overlooks Carlingford Lough, is a medieval heritage town and contains a surprisingly large number of pubs and eateries all within a short walking distance.
    We stayed in Belvedere House which contains The Bay Tree restaurant.

    We did a stay/meal deal on the Saturday which was €150 for 2 people bed & breakfast and a 3 course evening meal at the restaurant. The extra night was €90 and with a bottle of wine at dinner and a glass of port, the bill was €273.
    We arrived on Friday afternoon and headed straight to one of my favourite pubs, PJ’s Anchor Bar...voted Louth’s best gastro pub in both 2010 and 2011.

    We had a little tapas portion of oysters and baby back ribs to go with our pints which were extremely tasty. The ribs absolutely melted in the mouth and thankfully the obligatory BBQ sauce was on the side. I preferred the natural flavour of the slow cooked meat.

    For dinner we went to the Kingfisher restaurant  which I was reliably informed was Carlingford’s best by a good local source.  My wife opted for the special set menu @ €26.95, pretty good value but the options were of course a little on the cheaper side. She started with a pea risotto which was nice, but criminally under seasoned. She followed up with Thai Spiced Pork in light crispy batter, Asian sticky rice, Roast curry oil & sweet soy. Hot & sour onions, which was also quite good...healthy amounts of five spice, sweet and sour notes, chilli heat...but overall, I thought it was lacking something and Yvonne was quite under-whelmed. Her dessert was a Strawberry Pavlova which was very nice.  I ordered off the specials menu, a scallop, pea puree, and risotto and bacon starter @ €9.95, Turbot @ €26.95 and a very nice sticky toffee pudding at €6.95. The starter was really nice ... scallops well cooked and pretty much a classic and often done combo with the peas and bacon.

    The main was quite disappointing. I love a nice moist thick turbot fillet but what I got was several of the thin tails which were pretty overcooked.

    It came with a fresh tomato sauce which was nice and fresh but a little bland. The accompanying carrots, broccoli and new potatoes were buttery and still firm so pretty good but overall I expected quite a bit more from the most expensive item on the menu. I generally don’t send food back...I just don’t come back. I did mention that the fish was overcooked and they kindly gave me a free glass of wine so I have to say that was nice. We had a bottle of the Panul Chilean Sauvignon blanc and the bill came to €91 so €100 with a tip. I’d really be hoping for a lot more for that money these days.
    For lunch the next day, we ate at Food for Thought on Dundalk Street...

    I had a golden onion and Emmental tart with a side of absolutely steaming hot and very delicious cheesy creamy garlic potatoes. Tart was very tasty and served with a salad, coleslaw and sticky chilli jam. Very nice. Yvonne had a deli ham and cheese sandwich with some Ballymaloe relish which was also lovely. Very nice lunch for €24 including a cup of tea.

    Dinner was in The Bay Tree and part of our deal. It was the best meal of the weekend. We both had a Crab Crème Brule which essentially was a creamy fresh crab mayonnaise (but light and unctuous), a parmesan Tuile acted as the Brule and it came with a nicely dressed fresh leaf salad (with a couple of interesting leaves, I’d say partly foraged), some sweet pickled cucumber which really cut through the creaminess of the mayo and some thin toast.
    We both really enjoyed this. For main, I had a fresh succulent monkfish deep fried in Kadayif pastry and fresh tartar sauce. It came with a gorgeous warm crab adn potato salad...very good!!
    Yvonne had a very nice Halibut with prawns in a cream sauce. It was really good and perfectly moist juicy fish.
    I had a cheese board with some port and Yvonne had an iced nougatine with strawberries.

    The cheese was billed as artisan and my only complaint was that I would have loved to know what each one was. A little card with a printed explanation would have been great. All in all, a really good meal.

    Breakfast the next day was a little average. The bacon seemed to have been cooked in a batch at the start of service and it was pretty dried out by the time I got mine at 9:45. The 2 poached eggs I had were a little watery but the toast and coffee was lovely. Would have liked some homemade jam or artisan rather than a branded plastic tub.

    Carlingford is a great spot. Loads of bustle, live music in most of the pubs, we had great cocktails in Magee’s bar, pints in the Anchor, a good live country 3 piece and some great food. Added to that a quick shopping trip to Newry which is only 18km away and it was a nice little break. Highly recommended.

    Monday, 4 July 2011

    Mediterranean Sunday Lunch

    I think we all loved yesterday's sunny weather. I'm not into tennis or hurling so instead, we set up the canopy and table outside, opened a bottle of rose, lots of sparkling water, warm crusty bread and I made...

    Two types of Alioli
    Smoked Paprika and plain roasted garlic. I love roasting a whole bulb of garlic in the oven with maldon and good olive oil and then squeezing out the mushy smokey garlic. Considering the healthy option, I went pretty easy on tbhis stuff!

    Mini Paella, Pan fried Squid
    I just left a fish stock with saffron and smoked paprika to infuse for a couple of hours, sweated an onion and some garlic and made the paella risotto style. Quickly pan fried the squid with some chilli flakes

    Wild Salmon, Saffron potatoes, Samphire and Asparagus
    Beautiful wild Irish salmon...leave well enough alone I say. The saffron potatoes and alioli made it seem very Mediterranean though.

    and my son loved it too!!

    Saturday, 2 July 2011

    Martijn Kajuiter Night

    So tonight I cooked 3 dishes from the Cliff House Hotel Ardmore cookbook...3 very clever and extremely tasty dishes from head chef  Martijn Kajuiter. I've got to give big kudos to my friend @ConalM who introduced me to this food.

    All of these are what I would describe as healthy food. In the first course, I didn't use cream as per the recipe and just used full fat milk instead. It was delicious.

    1st Course - Wild Mushroom Bread and Butter Pudding, Baked Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Oil and Micro Greens

    2nd course - Scallops with Asparagus 3 ways...boiled, tempura and in a jelly, with a scallop roe foam, some prawn dust as seasoning


    3rd Course - Strawberry Plate - Strawberry Shot with Mint foam, Stawberry tempura on a chocolate paint, Strawberry sorbet with dehydrated strawberry slices, marinated strawberries in balsamic and black pepper, strawberries in caramel.

    Yvonne (my wife) loved this meal. We had a bottle of Sancerre to go with it and the whole thing was lovely. I would say that the recipes were very good but they do assume a certain base knowledge...not for beginners!!

    I just loved the ideas. I've discovered Soy Lechitin. I normally just use gelatine and a nitro canister...this is a good new technique. The agar agar asparagus jelly was also very good, it worked very well and was easy to handle.

    Myself and Yvonne will grab a weekend in the Cliff House this Autumn, can't wait to try....and I hope I get to meet Martijn, a real food hero.

    Friday, 1 July 2011

    Ice cream...well sort of

    Found this idea for ice cream substitute which actually was really very nice. Take 2 or 3 bananas and slice them up. Put them into a freezer bag along with some berries of your choice. (I used summer fruits) and freeze over night. Next day, take the bag out of the freezer and let it thaw for about 25 to 30 minutes. Put the fruit into a blender and whizz until smooth. I added a little bit of water to get it going.

    The result is a smooth soft scoop type ice mixture which is quite like ice cream, except without any of the calories!! A bit of honey might be nice too...I think I'll try that next time. Definitely a great way to get at least 1 of your 5 a day!

    Thursday, 30 June 2011

    My Lower Fat Chicken Tikka Curry

    I love curry but a Chicken Tikka Masala or Korma type curry from the takeaway is 650 calories just for the meat and sauce. When you add in rice, Nan bread, papdoms etc, you're going to hit well over the 1200 calories mark. My curry here is about 300 calories per portion. Add in a portion of rice, some low fat yoghurt riata, a little onion, tomato and cucumber salad...half a Nan bread and you're looking at 600 calories without losing too much taste.

    I make it at least once a week and it does take a bit of time. My Dad had Indian business partners for 20 years and he also loves Indian food, so Sunday dinners or family occasions were mostly an Indian buffet feast with loads of meat and vegetarian dishes spread out on the table along with riata, chutneys, salads and Indian breads. I've also been lucky enough to visit India about 5 times now and as a foodie, I loved trying dishes and talking food with the locals, who were always happy to share.

    The secret to a great Indian curry, apart from the obvious spices, is the onions! Browning the onions at a decent heat for about 10 minutes till they are caramelised, nutty brown, with little burnt edges is the basis to any Masala or gravy. The other thing is marinating the meat overnight. I cook my meat and sauce separately so the sauce is reduced and complex and the chicken juicy and not overcooked.

    I make this recipe to serve 10 to 12 portions. We use 2 straight away and freeze the rest in individual portion bags...really handy for a busy day at work or in anticipation of a Friday night craving. If you don't care about calories, then go for it and triple the amount of Ghee, Coconut milk and Cashew nuts being used and add in a big dollop of mango chutney to get a much richer flavour.

    Recipe (makes 10 to 12 portions)
    Chicken Tikka
    Marinade overnight in a sealed container in the fridge
    ·         1.5 kg Chicken breast cut up into decent sized chunks that won’t dry up in the oven
    ·         150g Glenisk Low Fat Yoghurt
    ·         3 tbsp Tandoori Masala powder
    Masala Sauce
    ·         3 tbsp Ghee or clarified butter
    ·         400g Onions, sliced
    ·         2 medium red Chillies (deseeded and finely chopped)
    ·         3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
    ·         3 big cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
    ·         4 cardamom pods, crushed and green husk removed to leave the seeds
    ·         2 bay leaves
    ·         2 inch piece of cassia bark or cinnamon stick
    ·         800g chopped tomatoes (this is 2 standard tins)
    ·         165g can of coconut milk
    ·         50g cashew nuts
    ·         1 portion of Home-made curry paste
    ·         750ml Chicken Stock
    ·         80g fresh coriander
    Home-made curry paste
    ·         1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
    ·         2 tsp Tomato Puree
    ·         1 tbsp ground cumin
    ·         1 tbsp ground coriander
    ·         2 tsp turmeric
    ·         1 tsp Garam Masala
    ·         ½ tsp Chilli Powder (less or more according to degree of spiciness required)
    ·         ½ tsp salt
    Mix everything to a reddish brown paste

    Make the Masala or curry sauce by heating the Ghee over a medium to high heat, add the bay leaves, cassia bark and cardamom and fry off in the oil for a minute. Add the onions and brown for ten minutes, stirring often until golden nutty brown. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the curry paste and cook out for 2 to 3 minutes stirring constantly. You can add a little stock to the pan to loosen the mixture if it starts to dry out in the pan. You should be left with a fragrant, reddish brown pasty onion mixture. Add in the tomatoes and cook until boiling, add the stock and reduce for about 15 minutes on a medium to high heat to concentrate the flavours and let the spiced onion mix infuse into the stock and tomatoes. Mix in the fresh coriander. Important - Take out the cassia bark and bay leaves before blending. Using a stick blender blitz the sauce to a smooth think consistency. Taste and season with salt and more chilli powder if that’s your thing. Put the cashew nuts into a food processer (or use a stick blender), add a little water and blitz to a smooth paste. Add these to the sauce. Add the 165g can of coconut milk. Finally, taste the sauce again and correct the seasoning for a final time.
    Whilst the stock is reducing you can be cooking the chicken Tikka. Heat the oven to its highest setting, mine is 250 degrees C but higher would be better. Place the marinated chicken on a baking tray, evenly spread out with space between each piece. Use 2 trays if you’re doing the full recipe. It’s important not to crowd the tray. I normally pre-heat my trays whilst the oven is heating up. Cook the chicken for about 10 minutes but check the biggest chicken piece by cutting it open after about 8 minutes just in case your oven is a bit hotter. The chicken should be cooked through (no pink) but you should still be able to see plenty of moisture in the meat. There’s nothing worse than dry over-cooked Tikka.
    To serve I just do a little basmati rice, some low fat Glenisk yoghurt riata (made with yoghurt and shop bought mint sauce), a chopped red onion, tomato and cucumber salad and a Nan bread (I get Taza brand Tandoori Nan from my local Asian supermarket, the supermarket big brand Nan breads are terrible. I also don’t make them myself as you really need a Tandoor or Pizza oven to do them any justice at all)

    Hope someone tries and enjoys this. Please leave a comment and let me know.

    Tuesday, 28 June 2011

    Day 2 - Smoked Mackrel for lunch

    Ok, so that was one of the tastiest lunches I've had in work for ages. I used to get a sandwich from a great local deli called McCabes.. good value in comparison to other places as well...€3 for a basic sandwich, €3.80 for home cooked rare roast beef and 3 salads. But, the bread's too nice & thick, I'd always get coleslaw and I'd get a bag of crisps as well, way too many calories. And anyway, €3.80 times 5 days equals €19 a week on lunches, plus the crisps and never mind the 8 or 9 coffees at €1.70 a pop...I digress.

    Last night I spent 15 minutes making up a lovely salad of watercress, rocket, organic beetroot, celery, tomatoes, fennel, radish, a spoonfull of pureed avocado and some smoked mackrel. Dressing was just a table sppon of olive oil, some red wine vinegar, dijon, dash of honey, salt and pepper. I had one slice of wheaten bread. I brought the bits in seperately and assembled in work....ok, so my photography via blackberry doesn't show it off to it's best, and the avocado was partly rescued from the slightly brown stage but it was bloody nice!

    Had porridge again for breakfast, a few blueberries thrown on top. Suppose I better keep track of the cost of all of this as well...I wonder how much eating healthy and tasty will cost versus convenience and calories.

    Monday, 27 June 2011

    Ottolenghi Broccoli

    So, this is a staple in my house, introduced to me by friends Conal and John on a trip to London ... Ottoloenghi's Chargrilled Broccoli with Chilli and Garlic. It's great hot, cold or warm. I had it tonight with some baked Salmon. According to Otttolenghi, people travel accross London for this stuff, it's one of his most iconic dishes.

    Just to make it a little healthier, I reduced the Olive Oil from 60 mls to 30 mls or 2 tablespoons.

    Serves 2

    1 head of Broccoli
    60 mls Olive Oil
    2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    1 large mild red chilli sliced
    Thinly sliced lemon skin on

    Special Equipment
    Ridged Griddle Pan

    Seperate the broccoli into florets, blanch in salted rolling boling water for 2 minutes, no more. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking immediately. Dry the broccoli on kitchen paper and ensure all the water has gone. This is important for the cargrilling. Gently rub half the olive oil accross all of the florets. Heat a griddle pan till smoking hot and griddle the broccoli all over till it has a nice char grilled appearance. Whilst this is going on, heat the remainder of the olive oil on a medium heat and cook chilli and garlic till nutty brown, ensuring, obviously, to not let it burn. When both the broccoli and chilli/garlic are done, toss together, season and add the thin lemon slices. I chargrill my lemons a bit too. Ottolenghi adds some flaked almonds too..I don't.

    From his book...Ottolenghi The Cookbook.

    About this Blog

    About this Blog
    Ok, so I’m 44, I love my food and I’m a very keen amateur cook. I’ve been on every diet I can think of...the F Plan, Weightwatchers, Atkins, low GI, Dukan and a host of others....the result? I’m gradually gaining about a stone in weight every 3 or 4 years. My base weight has risen from about 13 stones in 1992, to 14 stones in 1996, to 15 stones in 2000, 16 stones in 2004 and now 17 stones since 2008. These are the base weights around which my fad diets have operated...losing a stone, gaining 2, losing 2, gaining 1. This is a typical yoyo diet cycle.

    So this blog is about the antithesis of that and is the anti-diet diet. But I still would like to be healthier, lose weight and eat tasty food. A tall order.
    Most of these fad diets didn’t work for me because of the starve/binge cycle...I felt so deprived on most of them that when I ever fell off the wagon, I binged twice as much as I did before I started. I always felt hungry. I was always obsessing with the things I couldn’t have on the diet. I was never quite full. All the ‘free’ foods were tasteless and boring.
    Recently I’ve been cooking quite a lot more, experimenting with techniques and recipes, learning about ingredients and have come to the realisation that whilst I don’t want to go on a diet in the typical sense, I want to make a life-style change that for me, as a food lover, is sustainable for the rest of my life. I'm doing this blog to see if I can actually lose weight  without going on a diet. There is only 1 hard and fast rule to this  – No food or beverage items are banned.
    In this blog, I’m going to track my progress. List what’s working and what’s not. Inevitably it will also be about nice food I've cooked or eaten, rstaurants I've been to, times when I've ignored being healthy and what tasted great

    Here goes....