Frozen stir-fry beef – is it any good?

In a word – yes. You can stop reading now if you like.

I live alone, and I find that I often have to make a balance between eating well, spending a lot of money, and eating the same things repeatedly. I can make 4 portions of chilli, eat one for dinner, one for lunch, and freeze the other two – I love chilli but can’t eat it 4 meals in a row – but many foods don’t do so well with freezing or reheating. Smaller packets of ingredients are more expensive or non-existent, and I don’t like throwing away the extra.

So I often resort to foods that can be stored for a long time. Frozen chicken mini-fillets are great as you can pull out as many as you need and they cook quickly from frozen. These stir-fry beef strips looked like they might fit into the same niche.

These were from Asda. And they were pretty good. Here’s what I did…

Kettle on, beef into pan on high heat. They look weirdly solid and rectangular but it’s fine.

1/3 mug of rice, 2/3 mug of water from kettle, add salt. Heat up til it boils, put on lid and turn off heat. This should be enough for 1 portion and should absorb by the time the rest is done. Do you need me to tell you how to make rice? Get the microwave kind if you think rice is hard, but that’s 2 portions per bag so you’ll have to think of something to do wit the other half.

Once beef has some dark brown edges on it, turn down the heat and add very thin carrot (I used a julienne peeler, you could use a normal peeler or a mandolin, if you try to just cut with a knife they will not be cooked), spring onion, red pepper, a bit of chilli.

Sprinkle over some Chinese 5 spice from a jar that is probably out of date. Add a teaspoon of honey (approx, from a bottle of squeezy honey that has gone hard so you have to lever it out in chunks), and some water from the kettle. Make sure the water touches all the bottom of the pan so it deglazes and gets all the sticky stuff off the bottom.

Tah-dah – dinner for one in about the time it takes rice to cook, and you didn’t have to make 4 portions or figure out what else to make with the rest of the packet of beef. You could use other veg of course but I always have red peppers and carrots.


Jamie Oliver chicken in “posh” ham – a tweak

One from a few years ago – Ministry of Food. Easy recipes for people who don’t cook. Video recipe here.

Essentially: get chicken breasts, bash them flat, wrap in parma ham (or other thin dried ham) with parmesan and thyme between the chicken and the ham, then fry.

Sounds simple, is simple, but for some reason I found the “bashing the breast flat” to be really difficult. My chicken stayed plump, and so took a while to cook through and threatened dryness. There’s also only room in my decent-sized frying pan for 2, or perhaps 3.

So the next time I tried it (in an unfamiliar kitchen on holiday) I made the following adjustments:

  • Cut the chicken breasts in half
  • Used pesto instead of parmesan (there was no fine grater in the kitchen)
  • Bake at 200C for 10-15 mins, instead of frying

This meant I could feed 6, and could deal with other things while it was cooking, rather than trying to stand over 2 or 3 frying pans.

Served with green beans cooked in butter and garlic, and quinoa (cooked in chicken stock) with roasted veg (red pepper, courgette, aubergine).

First try at dosas

I absolutely loved dosas on my trip to India, but they’re not always easy to get hold of over here. That said, if you’re near London Bridge this place has very nice dosas at lunchtime.

So when I saw this article in the Guardian, I thought I’d have a go. As is often the case I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, I just used it as a starting point.

This is a long process, so don’t get excited about making this for dinner tonight.

Day 1: Soak a mixture of 3 rice : 1 lentils in water for 3 hours. I only did 100g total because this was just a test. Blend, then put in a warm place overnight.

This is what it looked like – slightly puffy. Use this batter to make pancakes

As usual, the first one is a big old mess.

These seem to stay together better if you make them quite thick, but this does mean they’ll break/bend rather than roll smoothly. Maybe I should have made the batter thinner?

To go in them – I boiled some cubed potatoes, drained them, and sizzled some turmeric/garam masala/garlic in butter, then mashed the potatoes back into the spiced butter.

I think I’ll need to have another go or two before these are ready to be fed to other people, but they were pretty tasty. Mostly the filling was tasty. The pancakes themselves were a bit bland – next time I might add some spices to the batter – or at least some salt.

Simple bargain slow cooker ham

This is not really a recipe. It’s just a set of instructions. And it could really be boiled down to one instruction: put a gammon joint in your slow cooker.

That’s it. No coca cola. No sauce. Just stick it in. Then you will have some ham. Naice ham, as Mumsnet would say.

Why would you do this? Because naice ham is expensive. This is much less expensive. And you have a big lump of it. Much cheaper and more satisfying than buying slices.

Here is my gammon joint. It was on offer: 3 for £10. You find it in the supermarket near the bacon.

Here is my slow cooker. I chose this one because it was red. Just get a cheap one. You don’t need it to do anything fancy.

The ham is in the slow cooker.

The slow cooker is on low

Some hours later… How many? At least 5, but if you want to go out to work and come back 12 hours later nothing bad will have happened. That’s the whole point of the slow cooker.

Let it cool, if you can wait

I got 560g of nice sliceable ham for my £3.33. That would normally cost, what, at least £10?

You can of course put things in or on your ham, but the important message is that you don’t have to. Even if you do nothing, you still have some ham.

If you’re really into getting the most for your money, leave the gunk in the bottom of the slow cooker and make some soup on top of it – it’ll add a hint of salty savoury meatyness.

Oh, and FYI Slimming World peeps – lean ham is free.



Thai green marinade (for chicken, or other things)

Also known as “another thing you can do with a Nutribullet that is not making a green juice“. It does contain have “green veggies” though, so maybe the Nutri Gods would approve.

I’m using this as a marinade for chicken but you could use it on anything that you fancied marinading. Big prawns would be nice. Some vegetables, maybe. Tofu? I don’t know anything about tofu. It can be vegetarian if you leave out the fish sauce – if you do that you’ll have to add more salt.

ready to whizz

Into your blender of choice, throw things that you have in your fridge or freezer or cupboard, including but not limited to:

  • spinach (the frozen lumps work well here)
  • spring onions (cut off the roots and the very dry ends but leave most of the green)
  • ginger (I had fresh, jarred or powder would be fine too)
  • lemongrass (I had a jar of paste)
  • chilli
  • garlic
  • a glug of fish sauce

Nothing needs to be cut up finely, you’re going to whizz it into oblivion very soon.

Add half a cup of water to help it all whizz.

Whizz it. Now you have green goo.

chicken mini fillets

Put it on top of your chicken. I highly recommend these frozen chicken mini fillets – they live int he freezer, you can take out as many as you need (usually 2-3 per person), and in this circumstance I’m doubling up on marinading time and defrosting time.

marinading chicken

These would be great on skewers for a BBQ, or cooked in coconut milk to make a curry.

I decided to make a greenish stir fry with broccoli, courgette, and baby sweetcorn. You could call it a curry but it’s not as sauce as most Thai curries tend to be. I didn’t have any coconut milk so I added a little bit of yoghurt to make the sauce a bit creamier.

Bronte book challenge

Only a mini challenge this time. Unlike last time.

Samantha Ellis, author of How to be a Heroine and writer of a very funny 2-actor play called How to Date a Feminist, has a new book out. As far as I understand, it’s on why Anne Bronte is the best Bronte.

If you are a Bennet sister, everyone in the neighbourhood compares your looks. If you are a Bronte, they compare your writing. That’s probably better really.

I have no wish to be more intimately acquainted with Wuthering Heights than I already am. I consider it to be full of horrible people being horrible to one another, sometimes in an impenetrable accent.

I have read Jane Eyre, but not recently, so I will reread it. I will ease in gently by reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, which is sort of about Jane Eyre but not really.

I have not read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, or the other one, so I have no knowledge of Anne Bronte at all. I can’t even summon the name of the other one without looking, so I shall read both in order to fully appreciate the arguments in favour as Anne as “the best Bronte”.

Purple pickled eggs

These baby beetroots are really nice. Step 1 is to eat half the jar. Step 2 is to remember that you’ve eaten half a jar of beetroot so that you don’t freak out when the red colour passes straight through you.

Hard boil some eggs – I have worked out my timings to have still slightly-gel-ish yolks as:

  • Boil kettle
  • Pour hot water onto eggs in pan
  • Turn on heat under pan
  • Set timer for 6 mins for small eggs, 6 1/2 for medium eggs
  • When timer buzzes or beeps or flashes or cuckoos, put eggs straight under running cold water until they are cold enough to peel
  • Peel eggs, put in your jar of beetroot

Wait. A few hours will give you a pink tinge, a day will give you pink on the outside but still white inside.

A few days gives you THIS

Colour of egg vs colour of beetroot

Inside, the egg is practically glowing.

These would be good in a salad, if you can restrain yourself from just eating them. The vinegar is quite sweet from the beetroot, it’s not as sharp as a pickled egg you might get in a pub.