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.

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.

Quick student meal – Fried Rice

So being at university I don’t have all the time in the world (strange after 4 months of holiday) so I like to cook and prepare things in advance so that I can eat them quickly when needed. Fried rice is incredibly simple to make and you can add any vegetables and meat to it you like to incorporate those important fresh ingredients. All you’ll need are eggs, rice, and your choice of vegetables.

Prepare the rice using a rice cooker or boiling in a pot. Cook your vegetables/meat if needed.

Heat a pan (thank you mother for the non-stick one, makes it so much easier!) until hot and add some oil. When hot, crack an egg into the pan. Wait 10 seconds before gently stirring a few times. You don’t want to completely scramble the egg  as you want it to slightly ‘bind’ to the rice. When most of the egg is cooked, add the rice. Continue frying and stirring so that the egg and rice mix together.

Then add in your meat/vegetables one at a time.

When you are satisfied that everything is warmed up and mixed together nicely, turn off the heat. Add a splash of soy sauce and serve. Fried rice is really easy to store in the fridge and microwave for a quick meal (which is what I did), just keep refrigerated.

Omelette – The First Attempt

So I had never made or eaten an omelette before until about half an hour ago. Omelettes are great for quick snacks or accompaniments to meals because all you need are eggs and you can chuck in whatever takes your fancy. I thought I would make one because we have so many boxes of eggs thanks to the chickens at the farm I recently started working. I called this my first attempt because I know that there are lots of things I could improve on for next time, so here’s the slightly haphazard ‘recipe’ I used.

First I cracked two fresh eggs into a pyrex glass jug (I find these easier to pour into the pan as opposed to a regular bowl) and mixed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have some herbs like chives or parsley or other herbs, now would be a good time to tear them up and mix with the egg. Heat up a medium sized pan (about 20-30cm in diameter) and add some olive oil. Make sure the pan is relatively hot before adding the eggs. Meanwhile prepare your filling. I used finely chopped peppers and some ham in mine, but any vegetables, meats, and cheeses work nicely too. (Maybe leave your favourite combinations in the comments below and I’ll be sure to try them out?)

Turn your pan down to a medium heat and pour in the eggs.Keep turning and mixing very gently (you don’t want it to become scrambled) every 10-20 seconds so that different parts of the omelette will cook. Obviously you don’t want liquid uncooked egg in the middle with your filling when you sit down to eat it. When about 2/3 of the egg is cooked, sprinkle on your filling of choice. Carefully use a spatula to ease off half the omelette and fold it over the other half so that your filling is sandwiched in between. The omelette should now be semi-circle shaped, cook for 4-5 minutes until ready and serve immediately.

I ate this for dinner with some toasted homemade soda bread baked lovingly by my mother and it made a delicious meal!

 

Simple noodles and veg for dinner.

My mother is a superb cook, I only wish that some of her instinctive skill had rubbed off on me. I remember sitting on the kitchen work-top when I was much younger and watching her cook as well as helping her make delicious dumplings, oh if only I had the freedom of time now! She is Oriental and cooks fabulous meals from the most basic ingredients – her simple and lightly-flavoured Chinese cooking is characteristic of the region she grew up in as opposed to some of the very strong flavours favoured (that’s a tongue-twister!) by other regions. My palate is used to this style of cooking as I have been brought up in it, and I think it works best for everyday home cooking – it’s healthy, simple, and quick. However despite this I am not really used to cooking Chinese food, I find the eating part suits me better. I think the ultimate comfort food for me is just a steaming bowl of rice really. That’s how easy I am to please. Anyway, my skills do exist beyond opening a pack of ‘gong-zai mian’ (Cantonese for ‘doll/toy noodles – aptly named after the famous ‘Nissin’ brand noodles which have a little cartoon person on them), even if only just.

Although I do love these instant noodles very occasionally…

Tonight I used shrimp-flavoured noodles instead. You can get these easily in any Chinese/Oriental supermarket (we go to Wing-Yip which has EVERYTHING, I didn’t even realise they also have a new online store too in case you don’t live by one). They are quick and easy to cook (about 10-15 minutes in boiling water) and have a gentle shrimpy/prawny taste which is less bland than plain noodles.

Anyway, before cooking the actual noodles, I first chopped up some broccoli and put it into the pan of water first. If you chop them relatively small, it cooks much faster and so after about 10 minutes you can put the noodles into the same pan. I also sliced some baby sweetcorn and cut up some leftover roast pork. You can basically add any vegetables or meat that you have in your fridge really and it makes a decent meal.

After about 20 minutes of total cooking time, remove the broccoli and noodles from the pan. Meanwhile heat another pan and pour a few teaspoons of oil into it when hot. Stir in your meat and vegetables and fry for about 5-8 minutes. You can also add a little bit of chicken/beef stock (about 10ml) before seasoning to taste. Serve on top of the noodles and stir in with a light drizzle of soy sauce.

Ta da! (Sometimes I also add a fried egg on top). A really quick easy meal ready in less than half an hour.