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I actually enjoy cooking. I find it relaxing and de-stressing after a hard day at work and I enjoy adapting recipes to my own tastes. I like nothing better than to open a bottle of wine and sip it as I create.
In the past I have led a strange eating lifestyle. I decided to turn vegetarian in my teenage years (whilst travelling with rock bands…you wouldn't believe the stick I got!) then turned back to gradually introducing meat into my diet. After travelling to various countries and sampling as many foods as possible I decided to try to adopt a healthier lifestyle but tried to keep the enjoyment of food alive.
These are a few meals that I occasionally cook for friends who drop by unexpectedly and expect to be fed fairly quickly. I find them easy to make as I usually have all the ingredients in the store cupboard, fridge and freezer. I tend to buy pots of fresh basil, coriander and other herbs from the supermarket when they are reduced and you can find these in the fruit and vegetable section. I keep them on the kitchen windowsill where they seem to flourish and this year I intend to try to grow them from seed.
Be careful when buying reduced packets of green leaf salads and mixed salad leaves, as there can be some discoloration on the edges. I find that buying fresh whole lettuces is more economical and these can be kept in the drawer in the bottom of the fridge and used as required.
The quantities and ingredients in the following recipes aren't written in stone. I find it far more satisfying to mix and match and experiment and hope that you do too. I haven't given any calorific values, as I would imagine that anyone concerned about these would be able to work them out instantly. Nor have I estimated the cost per dish as I have tried to create these dishes from items I already have in storage. As far as I'm concerned they cost nothing except time and love.
Obviously, if you don't like certain items, or are allergic to them, replace them with something that you like, or just omit them … as long as you don't end up with a bowl of 'paprika flavoured peas' for this first recipe! Enjoy!
Pasta with a Quick Salmon Sauce ******************************************** Utensils: 2 Very Large Saucepans A Tin Opener A Spatula A Grater
Ingredients: 1 14oz/400gms tin of Salmon 1 pint/½ litre of cream or 2 pots of Elmlea 1 or 2 glasses of White Wine Salt Pepper Nutmeg Tabasco Sauce 10ozs/284gms Frozen Peas 3ozs/85gms Fresh Parmesan or Mature Cheddar Cheese Pasta (enough for up to 6 people) Paprika Fresh Basil Leaves Fresh Mixed Salad Leaves
Place a large quantity of water
into a large saucepan. Add a little salt and bring to the boil.
I usually put some rolls in the oven on a low temperature at this stage so that they warm through and are crisp on the outside.
Open a tin of salmon and drain the juices into another large saucepan. De-bone and de-skin the salmon.
Slosh a glass or two of white wine, a pint of cream (or Elmlea if you're cutting the fat) a pinch of salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg into the juices in the pan. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally and allow it to reduce to a decent thickness.
By this time the water in the other saucepan should have reached a rolling boil. Put in some pasta…any pasta…I like freshly made Tagliatelli with this dish but it's your choice …Penne, Fettuccine, Fusilli are all good choices. In fact, when I've run out of pasta and didn't fancy making any, as it does tend defeat the object of a quick meal, I've even used Chinese noodles. However, if you use these, make sure that you follow the instructions on the packet and rinse them really, really well.
Add some Tabasco sauce to the sauce in the other pan (not too much, just two or three splashes, unless you like it really hot!) and then stir in the frozen peas.
At this point I usually make a fresh green salad.
Cook the sauce for a further 3 minutes, or until the peas are heated through, then stir in the freshly grated (not dried, it stinks, tastes like grated sweaty socks, and should be banned in my humble opinion) Parmesan or a good strong cheese like mature Cheddar.
Drain the pasta. Toss it into the sauce, taste and season as necessary.
Fold the salmon in, after flaking it and serve in dishes or on large plates.
Garnish each serving with paprika and fresh basil leaves.
Serve it with some warm crusty bread, a fresh mixed salad and a glass of Orvieto Classico or a crisp, fresh wine of your own choosing.
It serves up to 6 people depending on the size of the portions and their appetite!
I've also made this with Tuna but I go easy on the added salt if it is stored in brine.
Any leftovers can be placed in a sealed container in the refrigerator. This can then be re-heated next day and served with a baked potato or toast for a light lunch.
A Vegetarian Dish for those with Dairy Intolerances:
Apparently, Bulgur Wheat is a good source of iron, phosphorus and B vitamins. It is very nutty but doesn't have much flavour on its own.
If I don't have any fresh vegetables available then I usually resort to the freezer. I always buy bags of various types of vegetables from the freezer section in the supermarket when they are on offer as they, usually, taste just as good as fresh, though not as good as home-grown ones. These bags of mixed vegetables are especially ideal for soups, stews and generally filling a meal out in a healthy way instead of resorting to bread to fill up on. Just lately I have discovered really tasty ones in the supermarket that contain eight portion-sized bags that are steamed in the freezer.
I buy the cheapest tins of vegetables in bulk, especially tinned tomatoes, as they are a great addition to any soup, stew or main course and can be left whole or roughly chopped with a knife in the tin. When tinned tomatoes are liquidised or 'blitzed' in the food processor and run through a sieve they make a brilliant homemade English-style Passatta. This is basically pulped and sieved tomatoes, but, with a few additions like a splash of balsamic vinegar, some chopped garlic and fresh basil or oregano, it can be rendered down slightly and made into a more authentic Italian-style Passatta, which is thicker and has a more intense flavour. It is an ideal, simple, yet tasty, sauce for various pastas and can even be added to a Chinese stir-fry with other ingredients to make a passable Sweet and Sour Sauce or Kung-Po Sauce with the addition of a few chopped chillies or chilli sauce.
Bulgur Wheat with Mixed Vegetables **********************************************
Utensils: A Knife 2 Medium Saucepans A Spatula
Ingredients: 1 medium Onion (chopped) Oil for frying 1 Can of Tomatoes (whole or roughly chopped) Tomato Puree Lemon Juice Salt Cayenne Pepper 4 ozs/113gms Bulgur Wheat 4 fl.ozs/113mls Boiling Water Freshly Chopped Vegetables Freshly Chopped Herbs Fresh Mixed Salad Leaves
In a medium saucepan sauté a medium chopped onion in a splodge of oil for about 6 minutes or so until lightly browned.
Stir in a can of tomatoes, a squeeze of tomato puree, a dash of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Add 4 ozs of Bulgur Wheat and about 4 fl.ozs of boiling water. Stir and cover. Turn off the heat and leave until all the liquid has been absorbed.
In another saucepan place loads of freshly chopped vegetables of your choice into boiling water, add a touch of salt, bring back to the boil and simmer.
At this point I usually make a fresh green salad.
Put the bulgur wheat mixture into a serving dish and place the freshly chopped vegetables on top. Sprinkle with a mixture of freshly chopped herbs and serve.
Serve with a fresh, green salad and a bottle of plonk!
Vegetarian Dish for those with Wheat Intolerances:
Potatoes are a great staple, comfort, 'fill you up quick' food and I'm always on the lookout for new varieties to try. For this dish, however, I find the cheapest oldest potatoes to be ideal, the ones that you'd use for mashed potatoes, as they seem somehow creamier and fluffier. Apparently, Nutmeg is known to have a hallucinary effect in large quantities but in small quantities gives a sense of well-being. I look out for 'different' cheeses in the reduced section of the chiller cabinet in supermarkets, as they usually have oddments of slow selling cheeses cut into convenient pieces, as well as buying the staple mature Cheddar that is always a good standby. The following dish is quite filling by itself as a main course but can also be used, in smaller portions, as an accompaniment to other foods on the same plate.
Cheese and Tomato Topped Dauphinoise(ish) Potatoes *******************************************************************
A Knife or A Mandolin or A Food Processor that can slice Potatoes 1 Medium Saucepan A Shallow Baking Dish A Grater A Spatula
2 lbs/907gms Potatoes ¾ pint/450 mls of milk Salt Pepper Nutmeg 2 ozs/57gms Butter 4 ozs/113gms of Cheddar or Emmanthal Cheese Tomato and fresh herbs for decoration and extra taste (optional) Fresh Mixed Salad Leaves
Turn the oven on and set at Gas Mark 7 /220°C/425°F to heat up.
Thinly slice the potatoes. A mandolin (watch your fingers!) or a food processor makes life easier but I actually prefer to slice them all up on a board, after peeling, washing and drying them, then I celebrate my patience with a large sip of wine.
Place the milk in the saucepan and add the thinly sliced potatoes. Season with salt & pepper and grate in as much nutmeg as you wish.
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 12 minutes until tender.
Lightly grease a shallow baking dish with a knob of butter. Rub a freshly cut garlic clove around the sides then transfer the potatoes to the dish and add more milk if it seems too dry.
Grate the Cheddar or Emmanthal Cheese over the top and dot the surface with butter.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown.
At this point I usually make a fresh green salad.
I also place slices of tomato on top and sprinkle with fresh herbs to give the dish a decorative 'main course' effect.
This dish, with a fresh green salad and a bottle of chilled crisp, fruity, white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc is my ideal comfort food.
Not bad considering my favourite meal used to be Lancashire Hotpot with four slices of Warburton's Thick White Bread covered in butter…or even a Full English Breakfast with two eggs and extra toast! Ten pints of lager a night was easily drunk yet now I get by with the odd glass of wine (occasionally). I hope the above recipes help you and your diet, whatever it may be and don't forget.... A little bit of what you fancy does you good…Rock on!