My Favourite Meals of the Week

pork pre cooking  pork + bulgur wheat

This is how I cooked some pork loin steaks I bought (you guess it! HALF PRICE at Tesco’s). It is a sort of ‘casserole-y’ type dish where I just bunged some garlic, shallots, early potatoes, tomatoes and carrots topped with the pork into the oven. After about 20-30 minutes (I kind of lost track of the time), there were some lovely aromatic juices at the bottom of the dish so I added some bulgur wheat to bulk it up a bit and absorb everything.

finished port + veg casserole

In hindsight I would have pre-cooked the potatoes maybe for 10-15 minutes first so that they were a little softer. But all in all, quite a yummy little dish and very easy to make as everything is in one dish. It is also an easy one to keep in the fridge for leftovers the next day!

chicken noodle soup + veg

This chicken noodle soup/broth was really to use up some defrosted chicken stock I had in my fridge and my oh my did I feel full afterwards. It felt like I had eaten two meals – I actually had to stop half way for a ‘break’. To be fair I did use a whole courgette and half a lettuce as well as some prawns though. Eyes bigger than my belly.

steak and misc

I put the leftover garlic butter (‘recipe’ here) that I had made earlier that week into the pan to give the steak some lovely flavouring and cooked it more towards the well done side this time. After resting, cut into slices. De-licious. I just served with some roasted plum tomatoes (10 minutes in the oven on a moderate heat), a fried egg and rice. A bit of a miscellaneous dinner but I enjoyed every minute of it.

A Hearty Lunch/Dinner with Steak

So I got home this morning after running a 10km race which I cycled 20 minutes each way too – so yeah I was famished and needed to stock up my stomach on food! A few days ago Tesco had half price rump steaks and being a meat-lover, I just couldn’t resist the deal and bought a packet for my freezer. I cut them into slightly smaller pieces so they would last longer and pre-seasoned a little with salt and pepper before putting in to the freezer. Since I knew I was doing the 10km race, I’d already taken one piece out to defrost in anticipation of a hearty lunch when I got back. So here is what I made.

I had a red pepper that needed eating to I chopped it in half, drizzled a little oil on top, seasoned and then bunged onto a tray into the oven at a moderately high heat (about 180 degrees Celsius) to soften whilst I prepared everything else.

Next I took washed some ‘Charlotte’ potatoes keeping the skin on.

potato prep

The idea of making sautéed potatoes came from a Sorted food video I saw which I thought was a clever way of cooking them quickly without an oven – so this is how I did it.

I chopped them into small chunks/cubes of roughly even size so that they would cook quickly and at about the same rate.

cubed potatoes

Then I love using the leftover sundried tomato flavoured oil to give other foods the flavour so drizzled some into a hot pan. The potatoes take about 20 minutes turning every few minutes so they don’t burn. Season with salt, pepper and a light sprinkling of mixed herbs if preferable.

potato seasoning

Now time for the star of the show – the steak! Brush a little oil onto the sides and place carefully into a hot pan (I shared mine with the potatoes) for a few minutes. The cooking time will be dependant on how thick your steak is and also how you like it done.

sharing the pan!

I prefer medium so a few minutes on either side was perfect. Season a little more with salt and pepper in the pan if needed and then importantly, leave your steak to rest.

Looking a bit lonely on the plate!

Looking a bit lonely on the plate!

I left my steak for about 10-15 minutes before plating up with the sautéed potatoes and peppers. A hearty lunch or dinner for anyone which can also easily be multiplied!

A hearty lunch/dinner with steak

Fried Rice with Peppers +

I know a did a previous blog post a while ago on egg fried rice with some broccoli and sweetcorn, but I really couldn’t resist doing another post with some colourful veg! This time I used peppers and also added a few other things to make it a wonderfully warming winter meal that you can make in no time at all.

First I prepared the colour array of peppers by slicing them into quite thin strips (similar to julienne prep) and then turning then and cutting again almost into small cubes. This way they hardly need any cooking and will still retain a crunch providing some contrast to the rice.

Rainbow peppers

Now onto the actual cooking. I added a few finely chopped shallots into a hot oiled pan just to give a bit more flavour. After a while, add in the cold rice to warm through and allow it to become a bit crisp. Make sure you break up any large chunks and turn it in the pan. I also added in some fresh root ginger (chopped as small as you can, and also slightly crushed) to the pan. Recently I have really been loving the smell and taste of ginger and find it really gives a warming sensation to the rice (I think it’s also good for colds as clears your sinuses etc.).

Then to the eggs. I like to make a ‘hole’ in the middle of the pan and crack the egg into here. Then gradually half scramble/mix the rice gradually so that it is distributed throughout.

Fried rice with a funny looking egg

When the rice is nearly ready, I added in the colourful peppers for a few minutes to warm up. Switch off the cooker and drizzle a little soy sauce at this point if you have any to spare – it gives a wonderful seasoning. And there you have it!

Egg fried rice with multi-coloured peppers

One pot red cabbage meal

So this ‘recipe’ was one of the meals I mentioned in my previous post. The great thing about it is that you can prepare it all in one pan. It is quite similar to this post but I’ve just made it simpler and easier to wash up afterwards! (By the way the random Ryvita was just to use up some Philadelphia.) I tried cooking the ‘grains’ like the couscous and bulgur wheat after I saw a Nigel Slater ‘Dish of the Day’ episode where he just added a similar sort of ‘grain’ in with some soup. I thought it was quite clever to add it in to an existing pan that was already cooking away rather than just using boring old water as it gives it much better flavour!

-Red cabbage

-Carrots

-Bulgur wheat

-Wholewheat couscous (I used the giant type)

-Chicken stock

-Oil for the pan

-Salt and pepper for seasoning

So first I cut up the red cabbage into smallish chunks and peeled the layers apart slightly. I think the colours are so pretty and it gives a sort of marbled effect when raw.

Next I roughly chopped the carrots and boiled in the pan for about 10-15 minutes until a little soft on the outside but still retaining the crunch. They will be cooked further later so you don’t want them too soft at this point. Drain and leave to one side. Heat the same pan (it was a large relatively shallow one) up and drizzle in a few tablespoons of oil. Add in your chopped red cabbage and toss in the oil. Cover with a lid for a few minutes until it wilts just slightly. Now mix in the pre-cooked carrots too.

Take care not to burn the cabbage. After about 5-8 minutes, pour in your liquid chicken stock (any will do – I made mine here). Turn down the heat and let it simmer gently with the lid on for about 15 minutes so that the liquid doesn’t escape.

When your cabbage is almost cooked to how you like it and there is still a good amount of liquid left in the pan, stir in some bulgur wheat and couscous. At this point, season well with salt and pepper and any other flavourings or herbs you have.

Stir the grains in until they are thoroughly mixed in with the liquid and cover with a lid. Taste to check when  they are cooked and serve immediately.

Chicken dinner.

Here’s a quick post of my hearty dinner from a few nights ago where I had to use up some old potatoes and peppers.

On taking my chicken leg out from the freezer I waited a few hours until seasoning so that it would absorb the salt and pepper.

Prepare the potatoes by thinly slicing. Drizzle over some oil from the sundried tomato jar (yummy) or just use regular oil. Place on the top shelf of a hot 200 degree oven for about half an hour. Turn every 10 minutes or so. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and drizzle with a little oil before also adding to the oven for about 15 minutes until a little soft but retain their crunchiness. Check that the chicken has cooked and serve. I filled my peppers with some basmati I had and drizzle over a little more of the sundried tomato oil. You could use seasoned couscous fluffed with vegetable stock which would be super tasty, and add in cheese or other small grains etc. All in all, this is a filling meal which is relatively cheap and easy to prepare.

*Amendment from November 27th 2012 – On reflection I think that it would have been better to brown the meat at a high temperature in a pan first for a few minutes to get some colour and flavour first before putting into the oven. That would probably make it look more appetising too.

Sun-dried tomatoes

This post is in praise of sundried tomatoes. They are scrumptious and incredibly versatile. Here are two ways I like to use them.

1. In Salad

All salad requires is a few green ingredients, a few red ingredients and some mixing together. Pips. This is what I used.

Chop up everything into dainty little slices. Cut a few sundried tomatoes into into the mixture with some salad leaves. The oil from the tomato jar is also ideal for tossing the salad with, it adds a little hint of flavour. Done. I kept some extra in the fridge for a few days to serve with meals.

2. Flavouring Snacks

Inspired by my sister and mother who enjoy eating Ryvita I thought I would buy myself some of this healthy crisp-bread next time I was at Tesco’s. They like the ‘dark rye’ variety but I thought that was a bit too adventurous for me and so opted for the safe (or so I thought) sesame version. That was 3 weeks ago and I’ve only eaten three pieces. The first piece was not good. So I came up with a way to ‘yummify’ them. Slap on some philadelphia and sundried tomatoes and you’re good to go!

Any other suggestions for how to dress up my Ryvita?

What’s in my kitchen?

So I was thinking of ideas for posts to do and I thought why not take a photo of what’s in my kitchen cupboard and fridge? I would always recommend for students especially to buy things on offer and check for bargains (but don’t go buying things unnecessarily just because they are on offer which you’ll never eat, assess whether it’s worth it).

– Some packs of Green Giant sweetcorn (my favourite) which are always useful to add to rice, pasta or a salad, or just straight out the can

– A few tins of canned tomatoes which I used for making some bolognese

– Pasta and spaghetti are a must in cupboard (I’ve got a few more in my room) as they are dry and store for ages

– That big box of Mingles isn’t actually full of mingles, it’s just to keep crackers/biscuits dry so they don’t go soggy (any old biscuit tin will do)

– Rice, I don’t recommend the Tesco basics long-grain rice, next time I will pay a bit more for some good tasting rice (cheaper to buy in bulk)

– Dried fruit like apples or apricots are good snacks, these can be expensive so I don’t have them all the time

– If you’ve spotted that unmistakable gold and red stripey packaging, yes I did go and and buy an 8 pack of Caramel bars because they are so DELICIOUS (my treat after I’ve worked hard in a sports session)

– Go Ahead bars and other cereal bars

– Green tea (the only kind I drink)

– Porridge oats

– Nut granola and bran flakes go really well together although since the granola wasn’t cheap cheap I ration myself to 3 spoonfuls per cereal bowl of bran flakes!

– Some fresh fruit, bananas and apples

– Little canisters of salt and pepper (you can get them really cheaply) and some mixed herbs (oh and a spare jar of pesto)

– Knorr’s chicken stock cubes, for flavouring vegetables

I saved the apple ‘trays’ to put my cutlery and knives in, they are just the right length although the chopsticks stick out a tiny bit. I also had a pack of tortilla wraps, onions and some garlic in a bottom cupboard.

– Pesto and cheese, friends for my pasta

– Activia intensely creamy apricot yoghurt pots (LOVE THESE!)

– Eggs, they are just so yummy.

– Fresh vegetables, when I took the photo I had a pack of beansprouts, a carrot, cucumber, and some peppers

– Leftover minced beef from the bolognese which will be going into the freezer too for the next time I make it

I would be careful with the fresh vegetables and fruit though because you don’t want to go overboard and buy loads (easily done when looking for bargains) as you won’t be able to eat them all at once (as they won’t keep for too long), so just have a rough idea about what sorts of fresh food you have at home when shopping. I don’t eat a lot of fish because I’m a bit fussy but will be out to get some salmon (buy a large piece and chop into smaller ones) or prawns as they store well in the freezer and give you lots of essential oils.

I totally forgot that we had an oven until a few days ago so all that’s in my freezer drawer is one pizza and some bolognese I made earlier. It’s really easy to make (see recipe here) and you can freeze a few portions so that they give you an hearty meal in no time.

(I don’t have the luxury of a chopping board yet I didn’t really get round to finely chopping anything) I also substituted the celery for pepper (put this in 20mins before the end) as I wouldn’t be able to finish the rest of the celery, but I love peppers. The same goes for ingredients like tomato puree, you don’t have to buy every little thing, just the important ones.

They are ready for the freezer when they have cooled.

So that was a rather long-winded post, I hope it wasn’t too boring but I tried to include a few tips and ideas about how to save money and plan ahead by buying food in bulk. Please do check out my other recipes by using the categories column on the right hand side or the ‘recent recipes’ column. I will be posting a ‘Dinners of the Week’ post to show how a few similar ingredients can make a tasty variety of meals. If you have any ideas for posts or quick and easy recipes to try out on a student budget, I welcome all suggestions! Cheerio.