So this week I’m thinking to hell with it all, it’s cold, good food makes you happy and warm and you’ll also get some cracking leftover lunches from this week’s menu.
Whilst doing these menus I am flicking back through old ones from January 2012 for inspiration and have realised that my “food cravings” are pretty similar year on year. Looking at our current menus you’ve got roughly the same sort of vibe going on, clearly a creature of habit!. I have snuck in a low-cal meal on Friday from the Hairy Bikers recent diet cookbook to keep the weight watchers happy and also because it’s surprisingly yummy!
Saturday – Homemade chicken kievs w/ chips
Sunday – Pork goulash w/ herb dumplings
Monday – Pea and watercress soup
Tuesday – Stuffed peppers
Wednesday – Penne al’arrabiata
Thursday – Seared Mackerel & horseradish dressed salad w/ garlic ciabatta croutons
Friday – Fake-away sweet and sour chicken w/ rice
Homemade chicken kievs w/chips
200 g butter, softened
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Small handful chopped tarragon
Small handful chopped fresh parsley
4 free-range skinless, boneless chicken breasts – need to be a good size approx 150g each
100 g plain flour
2 large free-range eggs, beaten
100 g dried breadcrumbs
2-3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil, for frying
For the chips: 2 large sized Maris Piper potatoes and 1ltr or sunflower oil
Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5. To make the filling, mix the softened butter with the garlic, tarragon, parsley and seasoning. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
For the chicken breasts, using a small, very sharp knife, make a slit in the flesh of each breast fillet from top to bottom, creating a pocket at a slight slant. Spoon (or pipe if you’re feeling posh) the filling into the slit in the breast. If you have fillets with supremes, then simply fold these over the slits to cover them or just pinch the edges of the slit together.
Mix the flour, paprika and seasoning together in a shallow bowl. Tip the beaten eggs into another shallow bowl and the breadcrumbs into a third. Toss the stuffed chicken breasts first into the flour to coat, shaking off any excess, then into the egg and cover thoroughly. Finally, dip each into the breadcrumbs, again shaking off any excess. Lay the breasts, slit sides down, on a plate and chill to help firm the crumb coating.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Pour the oil into a medium frying pan (which is oven safe) to heat until you can feel a good heat rising. Add the chicken breasts and colour for 1-2 minutes on each side, until golden. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for approximately 12-14 minutes until golden brown and the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
For the chips, pour the whole ltr of sunflower oil into a large heavy pan. Cut your potatoes into chips then put them into the cold oil. Turn on the heat and gradually bring them up to a rolling boil, stir very carefully every now and then to avoid sticking. If they are getting too brown too quickly just lower the heat a little. Fry for about 20 minutes until they are a gorgeous golden colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well.
Pork goulash w/ herb dumplings
2 tbsp olive oil
1½ kg pork tenderloins , cut into strips
2 onions , cut into thin wedges
4 garlic cloves , crushed
1-2 tbsp smoked paprika
500 ml beef stock
2 x 400 g cans chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar
3 peppers , chopped into medium sized chunks
250 g self-raising flour
140 g shredded suet (available in supermarkets in the butter aisle)
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried marjoram
small bunch fresh oregano, chopped (parsley will also do)
Method Heat half the oil in a large frying pan and fry the pork for 4-5 mins until browned. Then remove and set aside. You may need to do this in batches. Add the remaining oil to a large casserole dish and fry the onions for 8-10 mins until soft and starting to brown. Then add the garlic and paprika, and cook for 1-2 mins. Add the cooked pork and pour in the stock, tomatoes and add the sugar. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer uncovered for 20-30 mins until the sauce has thickened.
To make the dumplings, combine all the ingredients, apart from the fresh oregano, with enough cold water to make a scone-like dough. Roll into approximately 30 walnut-size balls.
Add the peppers into the goulash then drop in the dumplings and cover the pan with a lid cooking for 25-30 mins until the dumplings are puffed up. Serve scattered with reserved oregano and some soured cream if you like. This can be frozen and will keep well for around 2 months.
Pea and watercress soup
2 tbsp olive oil
15 g butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large floury potato, cubed
1.5 litres chicken stock
900 g frozen peas
100 g bag watercress
70 g pack finely sliced pancetta or thin rashers smoked streaky bacon
Heat the oil and butter in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the potato and toss with the onion and garlic, then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, until the potato is tender.
Add the frozen peas and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the watercress and stir until wilted. Remove from the heat, cool for a few minutes then blend with a hand-held blender or pour into a liquidiser in batches, until smooth. Return to the pan, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and keep warm over a gentle heat.
Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high. Grill the pancetta for 2-3 minutes each side, until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Break up into pieces. Pour the soup into bowls and top each with some pancetta pieces.
4 large peppers, with tops cut off and insides cut out with a small sharp knife carefully – keep the lids
250 g mince (any “meat” you like or you can also use Quorn mince)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp Italian dried herbs
1 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped
100 m water, approximate if the stuffing is too dry then add a little more.
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Put a large frying pan on the heat and let it get nice and hot then thrown in your mince and brown nicely, then add a splash of olive oil and the onions and allow them to soften. Next add the garlic and fry for about 1 minute stirring constantly. Then add tomato puree, chopped tomatoes, dried herbs and soy sauce and after a good stir add the water and simmer for about 10 mins, you don’t want the mixture to be wet so if it’s still saucy you need to simmer for a bit longer until it’s thick. Taste to ensure seasoning is right and add salt or freshly ground pepper if necessary.
Take your peppers and off the bottom carefully cut a sliver off so that they stand up but be careful not to cut through to the inside as then the filling will come out. Spoon the filling into the prepared peppers, put the tops back on and put them standing up in an oven proof dish, pack them tightly together so they don’t fall over. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes until the peppers are cooked and soft but still holding their shape. Serve with a green salad. If you feel so inclined you can also add some grated parmesan on top of the stuffing before you put the lids on.
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium hot red chillies, finely sliced
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
handful basil leaves
600 g canned chopped tomato
400 g fresh or dried penne
Parmesan shavings to serve
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chilli and garlic to the pan. After about a minute, add the basil leaves and gently wilt them in the flavoured oil. Add the chopped tomatoes and chilli flakes if using. Simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little. Add salt to taste.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta for a few minutes in large saucepan of boiling, salted water with a dash of olive oil. Drain the pasta and the tomato sauce to it and mix well. Serve with shavings of parmesan.
Seared Mackerel salad w/ garlic ciabatta croutons
4 ciabbata slices (2 medium to large ciabatta rolls sliced in half)
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp horseradish
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 medium mackerel fillets
Salad leaves- any you like or a herb salad bag is fine
2 medium eggs boiled for 6 minutes until semi hard-boiled and quartered
Preheat oven to 180C/gas 4, put bread on a tray and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil then sprinkle over the crushed garlic and season with a little salt. Bake for 10-15 mins until crunchy
Make salad dressing by whisking 2 tbsp olive oil with the horseradish and lemon juice and seasoning. Score the skin on the mackerel fillets diagonally 2 -3 times. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and put the mackerel in skin side down for 2 minutes, then turn the heat down and flip the fillets over for a further 1-2 minutes until cooked.
Toss salad leaves in the 2/3rds of the dressing, then plate up by and lay the fillets and egg quarters on top of the leaves, drizzle over the remaining dressing and serve the bread on the side.
Fake-away sweet and sour chicken w/rice – this low-cal around 288 calories per portion without the rice
425 g can pineapple chunks in natural juice
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, cut into 12 wedges
2 peppers, red, green, orange or yellow, de-seeded and cut into chunks
225 g can water chestnuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
25 g piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
freshly ground black pepper
Drain the pineapple in a sieve over a bowl and keep all the juice. Put the cornflour in a large bowl and stir in three tablespoons of the pineapple juice to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining juice and 150 ml water, then stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and chilli flakes until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Cut each chicken breast into eight or nine pieces. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a wok and stir-fry the onion and peppers for two minutes over a high heat. Drain the water chestnuts and cut them in half horizontally. Add the remaining oil and the chicken to the pan and stir-fry for two minutes until coloured on all sides. Add the garlic, ginger, pineapple chunks and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 30–60 seconds.
Give the cornflour and pineapple mixture a good stir and add it to the pan with the chicken and vegetables. Stir well, season with some ground black pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4–6 minutes until the sauce is thickened and glossy and the chicken is tender and cooked throughout, turning the chicken and vegetables a few times. Serve with a small portion of rice.
(Credits: Gordon Ramsey, Nigella Lawson, Hairy Bikers, Good Food Magazine, Max Beesley, JJMoola’s Kitchen)