Butternut and chicken laksa

Have been knocked out with a cold for most of the weekend, so planned a healing dinner of laksa-style soup.

This is my go-to dinner when I get the lurgy as it’s easy to eat and packed with garlic, ginger, chilli and fresh herbs which can only be good for you 🙂
This time (inspired by a Jamie’s 15-minute dinner episode) I added grated butternut squash to bulk it out, and heavily garnished with fresh coriander and Thai basil which were lurking in the back of the fridge. No piccies as I could barely keep myself focussed for the half hour it took to make, but will be doing again and will write up the recipe soon!

Here’s what went into it……
In a big pot, 1.5 pints boiling water from the kettle and add 1 chicken stock cube and 2 tablespoons Thai curry paste, a tablespoon each of sesame oil, fish sauce and nut butter. (I used macadamia paste)
Stir to dissolve everything and bring it back to the boil and chuck in half a butternut squash (grated in the food processer), 4 sliced spring onions, finely shopped stems from a small packet of coriander (reserve the leaves for later) and a whole can of coconut milk. I got this back to a boil before adding 2 chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces, and simmered for about 20mins until the chicken was cooked.
Before serving, add the juice of 2 limes and scatter over the chopped coriander leave – because you’re worth it. x

Chinese lemon chicken

One of my favourite take-away meals, pre my attempted clean-living phase, was the lemon chicken you get from every “Chinese” takeaway. (quotation marks used there as I’m quite sure anyone from China would be baffled by the cuisines they serve up). Thinly battered pieces of chicken, coating slightly soggy from sitting in a tinfoil tray covered in sweet and zesty lemon sauce. The sauce always reminded me of lemon curd – and it probably was 🙂  All this was smooshed together with egg fried rice to form an easily shovelable sweet, MSG’y glob of deliciousness. Sigh…….

So many reasons why that’s a No now, but I do still get a fancy for it. Last time I tried it, about a year ago, I was really disappointed. Not sure if my nostaligia/ memory was failing me or if eating real food, and hugely reducing my salt intake, had massively affected my taste buds. Bit like how people who quit smoking have an epiphany when they “taste” a carrot for the first time in years.

The solution came when I spotted a honey and lemon sauce (paleo version) in my new cookbook. No weird ingredients; just honey, lemon and seasonings (I won’t give the whole recipe – buy the book!) with arrowroot to thicken. A-MAZE-ING!

Would have tasted great with a suitably-paleo coated, crispy chicken fillet but I had just poached a chicken that morning (jumped over a fence and everything…) . I pan fried the chicken breasts to heat and give a bit of colour, as poaching does leave everything a tad anaemic, and served it all with a pile of egg-fried cauliflower “rice”. The end result was spot on for flavour but did look a bit beige – I like to think “Authentic” 🙂

A very inauthentic Gumbo

So, it looked like Spring had come last week. Nice and sunny, warm enough for flip-flops. You know the routine. This week – WTF? what happened. Down to nearly zero at night and the wind is so beyond ‘nippy’ it’s not funny. I’d planned to start a regime of getting out in to nature and enjoying the fresh air – sod that.

Feeling cold makes me what to eat stodge (preferably of the pizza variety, failing that something with custard) so I adapted my stir-fry dinner plans to make a huge pot of steaming gumbo. Hot, garlicky, spicy, soupy – what more could you want?

I had to make a few adjustments to the authentic recipe, as the base requires a roux. This not only thickens the finished stew, but gives it a rich flavour. There are Paleo variations for the flour but instead I omitted the roux altogether and relied on okra to thicken the soup. I’m sure I’d be shot by anyone from Louisiana for even entitling this ‘Gumbo’ but you gotta call it something!

  • 100g Smoked garlic sausage [like andouille, but French 😉 ] sliced into thick rings then halved.
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp Paprika, Âœ tsp each Oregano and Thyme, ÂŒ tsp each Cayenne pepper, Garlic powder and Onion powder
  • 1 tblsp tomato paste
  • Tin chopped toms
  • 3 cups Chicken stock
  • 100g Okra, trimmed and sliced
  • 3 x skinless, boneless chicken thigh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 100g cooked prawns

Fry the sausage in a smidge of oil until golden. Remove from pan, but keep the garlicky oil in there. SautĂ© the onion, pepper and celery until just translucent then add the garlic. Stir until the raw garlic smell is gone. Now add the seasonings and tomato paste, stir for 30secs before adding chopped toms and chicken stock. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer. I let this simmer and reduce for about 15mins before adding the okra and sliced chicken, then simmer until chicken is cooked. Add the prawns and the reserved sausage and heat thru. The okra should have thickened the soup nicely. Serve in a bowl with a spoon and expect seconds 🙂

All by myself…….. sniiiiiff

Well, the chilli didn’t so much kill the cold, but has certainly drawn it out. Probably for the best.

Woke up feeling like cr*p, and had a fully booked calendar. Fortunately I could do most of it from home, except one pesky task which I had to drive back to the office this afternoon to sort. Hate being ill – makes my brain fuggy and I don’t like not being sharp. Even large quantities of coffee didn’t clear the mist 🙁

Hey ho, will just have to take more drugs tonight and get tucked in nice and early. 6am alarm call tomorrow, and 150miles of motorway driving – I think I might cry.

Feeling like a proper grown up

After waving off hubby on Sunday morning, I’ve nearly completed a whole working day of being all on my lonesome.

Set an alarm on my mobile (as I don’t know how to operate the alarm in the bedroom…) and even made my own cup of tea before leaving for work. Managed a bit of breakie too. Had prepped packed lunch night before, as usual, so covered for that. Still managed to forget my expense receipts, but can’t get it all right on day one.

Evenings are much easier as I just have to potter around, making dinner and watching tv – simples. Not doing any foodography this week. Too time consuming and still working in the evenings on the day job. <sigh>

Knocked up a curry with a lot of extra chilli to try and kill off the cold I’m developing. Was meant to last 2 nights’ dinners but greed and a need for nurture took over. Must be my impending old age that’s making me weak and ill – ehem ehem sniiiiff hack hack………

Comfort food

It’s been a bit of a stressful day. My hubby is away for work, on another continent, and has fallen seriously ill. Fortunately, private travel insurance meant he was dealt with quickly and hospital bills weren’t an issue. All this worry has left me exhausted and I’m in need a bit of comfort. No wine left in the house. Tempted to swing by Waitrose for a pizza – maybe dough and cheese will make it better?

An initial sweep of the leftovers has identified frozen spicy chicken wings, some soft goat’s cheese, unripe peaches (prob shouldn’t leave those in the fridge) and an avocado that has finally ripened. Did have Thai chicken curry scheduled but not sure I can be bothered with that now; and just realised that the leftover coconut milk I’d saved for it has not gone off 🙁 sod it.

Right, in that case I’ll go for chicken thighs sautĂ©ed with onion and some of the fresh mushrooms which arrived in this morning’s veg box, and I have no idea what I’ll use them for. Splash of dry sherry, touch of Dijon mustard, and a little cream and tarragon to finish. Smidge of garlic would have been nice but yummy anyway – like chicken pie without the pastry! Hug in a bowl.