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Sprinkle over some Chinese 5 spice from a jar that is probably out of date.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.

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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.

Thomasina Miers’ Chorizo and Potato Quesadillas

As I may have mentioned, I don’t think a meal is a real meal if it doesn’t have carbs. There are some who say a meal is not a proper meal without meat. I can do without meat. But carbs? Carbs are the essence of food.

These have double carbs. Potatoes and bread. You know what else has both potatoes and bread? Chip butties. And crisp sandwiches. So you know this is gonna be good. It also has chorizo so if you are feeding someone with the aforementioned “must have meat” issue, this fits the bill.

Thomasina Miers is the creator of Wahaca, the chain of Mexican restaurants. Apparently she won Masterchef in 2005 or something. This is from her book “Mexican Food Made Simple”. A lot of it is not that simple, but this is.

Get yourself some potatoes. Cut them into dice, or smaller-than-dice if you can be bothered. The instructions said just to fry them but I find frying potatoes takes forever so I boiled them for 5 mins. Cut up some chorizo very small. Put it in a nonstick frying pan and fry while your potatoes are cooking. It’ll leak lots of lovely orange fat. Drain your potatoes and put them into the chorizo-y frying pan. Add lots of fresh thyme. Cook until you are sure that the potato is nice and soft.

Get your nice big tortilla wrap, put it into a hot nonstick frying pan (you can put some oil if you like but you don’t need to. Cover with the chorizo and potato mixture. Put grated cheese on top. I also added spring onion.

You’ll see the potato is all nice and orangey. Cover with another tortilla. I also used a small plate to hold the top one down to encourage the whole thing to stick together. Another way to make it stick together better is to use a lot more cheese than I did. That’s also a good option.

Cook like that until you sense that the bottom is brown. I don’t know how you expect to do this. The plate is useful for flipping.

Tah-dah! Now it is flipped. Cook til the other side is that same colour (I already told you, I don’t know how to do this, just use your intuition or something).

You’ll notice that I haven’t said any measurements here. I used a sausage of chorizo about 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, double that volume in potato, and a small handful of thyme, to fill 4 tortillas (so two sandwiches). How much cheese did I use? That much  <gestures vaguely>

These are great for a lunch where you’re not sure when you’ll be eating. I made mine for friends who were coming round with a baby in tow. They are nice hot, nice cold, and (much rarer) also nice if they are just warmish. They stay warm well stacked in the oven as in the very top picture.

How to decide what to eat

The best way to decide what to have for dinner is to first decide what kind of carbs you want.

There are some people who think a meal is not complete without meat. Personally I can do without meat for a meal or two, but I cannot happily do without carbs for very long.

And carbs define the kind of meal you’ll be eating. Will it be a traditional meat-and-two-veg (one of which is of course potatoes)? A steaming bowl of pasta? Ditto noodles? Perhaps noodle soup? Or soup with bread? Or a sandwich? Or what about rice? How do you feel about a pie? A real pie of course, none of these stews-with-lids (although if you are a reprobate who likes that kind of fake pie, the puff pastry “lid” can form a whole new carb category).

My considered opinion is that once you know what kind of carbs you want, you have a much better idea of what to eat. There’s no point eating something if it’s not going to bring you joy, after all.

And because no post is complete without some pictures…

ramen

Some ramen I made recently.img_20160922_201151

Tonight’s pasta

 

In your face, Swiss meringues

I am all-conquering.

I have a variety of whisking machines and I will use them to make you.

Er, sorry, got a bit over-excited there.

You may recall that Swiss meringues tried to kill my food processor, but succeeded only in breaking the drive shaft. Lizard-like, my food processor has grown a new one (I bought it one from espares), but it was clear that this task required a more venerable whisker.

electric hand whisk

Behold, granny’s hand whisk. This machine is definitely older than me. It belonged to my great-grandmother. It can handle anything.

I made the full 115g of egg white this time (4 smallish eggs, if you’re interested) , heated up with 225g sugar (granulated again, I still don’t have caster, I have no particular intention of ever having caster).

Put it in a bowl after the sugar is dissolved but before it starts looking like cooked egg white. Put in headphones and listen to something that will keep you occupied. I chose More or Less from the BBC because I like stats, and telling journalists and politicians that they are wrong.

Whizz it for ages and ages.

upside down meringues

Test if you can turn it upside down.

uncooked purple meringues

Squeeze in some squeezy purple food colouring because FANCY. (Next step actual flavours? Maybe) Blob onto greaseproof paper. Put into an oven that you have already heated to 150C.

Leave in the oven for some amount of time, then turn oven off and leave for some other amount of time.

cooked purple meringues

Look, they actually got bigger! I am all-conquering! etc

swirly purple meringues

Pile ’em up.