salmon fish cakes

Another budget, ethical dinner. Aren’t you sick of my preachy nonsense by now?

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This makes four tasty gorgeous fish cakes. A hearty serving is two per person but you’d get away with one per person if you had plenty of sides.

200g canned wild salmon
300g approx of raw potatoes
2 tablespoons of flour
A knob of butter
2 scallions, very finely chopped (or, if you prefer, a handful of chives or other fresh green herb)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons of flour
The zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
Light olive oil or other vegetable oil (not extra virgin)

Peel your spuds and cut them into chunks. Boil them until tender, and then mash. Stir in a knob of butter.

Meanwhile, open the can of salmon (stinky!) and remove any skin or bones. You can eat these, if you like, but I don’t like to. Add the mashed potatoes, chopped scallions, flour, egg and lemon zest. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir together until you have a pleasing, pungent gloop.

Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a decent frying pan. Divide the mixture into four  wet patties and lower it into the hot oil. Flatten each quantity of the fish/potato mixture slightly with a spatula, to create your fish cake shape.

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Fry for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden and piping hot throughout.

Serve with lemon wedges and mayo, and anything else that tickles your fancy. Lash that into you now!

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peanut butter granola

A budget special. Granola is such a delicious brekkie, but paying €4/£3.49 for a small bag just isn’t worth it, not to mention all the nasties in the shop bought stuff.

This recipe is heavily inspired by A Girl Called Jack, a food blogger forced to feed herself and her son on £10 a week. This recipe costs an estimated 80p, and it’s versatile. Jack’s recipe called for honey but I had none, so I went with what was in my store cupboard.

This serves 8 and fills a 1 litre container. It’s so easy any idiot could do it.

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You will need:

300g porridge oats
25g butter
4 tablespoons of peanut butter
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of sugar

Preheat the oven to 180. Melt the wet ingredients together for a minute or two in the microwave. Stir well.

Using a metal spoon, stir the oats into the delicious goo until it’s all coated.

Lightly oil a baking tray.

Press the granola into the tray using the back of the spoon, and bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, and then put in a sealed container until you want to use it. Good with milk or yoghurt or for snacking on its own.

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falafel

Since moving to the UK, where factory farming and unethical meat production processes are sadly the norm, we have been experimenting with ‘flexitarianism’ – eating mostly vegetarian meals, with some wild fish and the occasional piece of (very expensive) ethically reared meat. So far so good.

A lesson I have learned quickly is that there is no point trying to recreate traditionally meaty dishes using vegetables or pulses in place of the meat – chilli, shepherd’s pie, lasagne and so on. Instead it’s better to prepare dishes designed with vegetables in mind. Since switching to this practice we’ve been enjoying some really delicious dishes. Falafel is hard to top in terms of satisfaction.

Falafel

There are many recipes floating around for falafel, and as a general rule if I’ve got some chickpeas hanging around I make it with whatever other ingredients I’ve got handy. I usually include some chopped coriander or parsley but this time around, I had none, so I went with the following recipe. This serves two, very generously.

1 can chickpeas, drained, and draining liquid reserved
Juice of half a lemon
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
Light olive oil

Blend your chickpeas and onions to a paste using a food processor. If you don’t have one, try using a hand held blender. Fold in the rest of the ingredients to form a pliable paste. You may need to add some of the liquid from the chickpeas to make the mixture move as you wish.

Heat plenty of light olive oil (not extra virgin) (1/2 – 1 cm) in a heavy bottomed pan and heat. Dispense tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil and cook gently for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and piping hot. Remove using a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towel. You may need to prepare these patties in batches. Pop them in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remainder.

Serve in warm wraps or pitta breads. Good accompaniments include chopped tomatoes and onions, fresh leaves, hummus and tzatziki (cucumber with yoghurt, salt and mint). Some people (not me) also enjoy beetroot with it. Try not to fight over the last falafel. Nom!

greek-style ragu

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For a simple, Saturday night supper, this can’t be beat. The recipe is enough for two, with leftovers for lunch the next day.

For the ragu:

250g lamb mince
1 small aubergine
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 can chopped tomatoes
0.5 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tsp mixed spice
0.5 tsp chilli flakes
A shake of dried oregano and parsley
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
Plenty of sea salt and black pepper

For the salad:

1 bag mixed salad leaves
Half a small cucumber
1 tomato, diced
50g feta

To serve:

Warm pitta
Houmous

Start by removing the bitter juices from the aubergine. Slice the aubergine into 0.5 cm rounds, and cut those rounds into quarters. Sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, finely slice the onion and garlic. Add a little olive oil to a pan and fry the onion, garlic and lamb mince. Once browned, add the rest of the ragu ingredients (bar the aubergine), stir, and leave to simmer. Taste for seasoning.

Rinse the aubergine and pat dry. Heat some olive oil in a large pan and fry the aubergine slices until golden. Add to the ragu and stir well.

For the salad, dice the tomato and cucumber and toss with the leaves. Crumble feta on top.

Warm some pitta and smear with hummus. Stuff with salad and lamb ragu. Be amazed.

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crunchy salmon goujons

No pictures sadly! Next time I make this, I promise I’ll add ‘em (may never happen).

I had a couple of salmon fillets in the fridge and wanted to make something a little different tonight. I thoroughly recommend these tender, crunchy bites. We ate them with potato wedges and mayo with garlic and lime. Delish.

Serves two.

2 salmon fillets, de-skinned and de-boned, and cut into 4-6 chunks each
2 slices of bread (anything but wheaten), thoroughly dried in the oven
Zest of a lemon, and juice of half
1 egg, beaten
Flour
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 190. Blitz the dried bread in a food processor to a fine crumb. In a bowl, mix the crumb with the lemon zest, the juice of half a lemon, plenty of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Dip the salmon pieces first in flour, then in egg and then in the breadcrumb mixture. Set on a lightly oiled baking tray.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden and delicious. Serve with a lemon wedge and dipping sauce of your choice. Yum!

tasty home-made potato farls

I’m really into leftovers. We had a bit of leftover mash recently and I made them into really good potato farls to go with the bacon and eggs of a delicious Saturday brunch. They are unspeakably easy to make and look very beautiful and a little impressive on a plate. Here’s what you need:

A ratio of 2:1 with mashed potato:flour
Salt
Butter and olive oil
A tablespoon of water

Put your potato and flour into a bowl and season with salt. Rub it all together nicely. My leftover mash always has butter in it – if yours does not, you may wish to add some melted butter at this point. If the mixture seems crumbly, add a little water or milk to form a good firm dough.

Roll out on a floured surface to just 0.5cm thick to about the size of a dinner plate. If you want to be more efficient than I was, roll it out to a circle that will fit in your frying pan! I made mine far too large, but was too lazy to re-do it. I ended up frying them one at a time, like some kind of idiot. :(

Cut your circle into four quarters, as is the traditional style of a farl.

Heat a non-stick pan and add a little drop of oil and a smear of butter.

Gently lift them into the pan. Cook the farls until golden and beautiful.

Serve while still piping hot. Yumaroo.

lime bang bang rice

This is an exciting dish; super-tasty and bursting with flavour. It’s extremely difficult not to eat its components while cooking. I just about kept it together before devouring tonight.

These portions make four very hearty servings.

2 litres of good quality chicken stock, boiling
300g of basmati rice, washed
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
Half a green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large, firm plum tomato, diced
Juice and zest of two limes
125g fresh raw prawns, shelled (weight after shelling)
2 chicken breasts, diced
100g chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
Pinch of saffron
2 teaspoons of hot smoked paprika (if you cannot get the hot variety, the sweet variety is fine – but you will need to compensate for the heat with 1tsp of chilli powder)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Hot lime pickle, to serve

1. First of all, dry fry your chorizo in a large, deep, hot pan until almost crispy and it has released all of its beautiful oil. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Fry the chicken in the leftover oil until golden and cooked through. Set aside.

3. Dissolve the saffron in the boiling stock in a large pan and add the rice.

4. Flash fry the prawns in the remaining oil – adding a little olive oil if it seems dry. The prawns will cook within a minute or two. Set aside.

5. To the same pan, now add the garlic, onions and peppers. Saute for a couple of minutes. You want to retain a little crispness.

6. Return the meats and prawns to the pan. Season with sea salt, fresh black pepper and the two teaspoons of hot smoked paprika. Pour in the lime juice and zest and stir well.

7. Add the chopped tomato to the pan and stir. By now, the rice should be almost cooked. Once it is tender, drain the rice and tip it into the meat and vegetable mixture. Toss everything together.

8. Serve in four warm bowls, topped with hot lime pickle. You may now pass out with happiness.

char siu (chinese-style pork)

Char siu is basically pork fillet or tenderloin, cooked Chinese style in a barbeque sauce. It’s a dry dish, as opposed to saucy, but is very flavoursome, and very simple to cook. It tastes best having been given loads of time to marinate – 48 hours if you can manage it.

Apologies for the rubbish photos – unfortunately they all came out blurry, except for these two, which are less than fabulous. But you get the idea.

Ingredients:

1 pork fillet/tenderloin, about 500g
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Stir the marinade ingredients together.

Slice the tenderloin down the middle length-ways, leaving you with 2 long strips of meat. Put each strip of meat into a separate freezer bag, and pour half of the marinade into each bag. Seal the bags and squish the meat to coat. Leave in a flat dish in the fridge to marinate for as long as possible.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220 Celsius and line a roasting tin with foil. This is important, because the sugars in the marinade will burn and be tricky to scrub off your roasting pan.

Drizzle a little olive oil onto the foil. Remove the pork from the freezer bags and reserve the leftover marinade for basting later.

Blast the tenderloins for 15 minutes at the high heat, then reduce the temperature to 160, and cook for a further 20-30 minutes, basting with the leftover marinade every five minutes or so. (Remember that the marinade has had raw pork in it so the marinade cannot be used to glaze the pork post-cooking, but must in itself be cooked!)

Check that the pork is cooked all the way through. I prefer to have no pinkness in my pork, but still like it to be juicy and tender.

Remove from the pan and slice as thinly as you can.

Serve over noodles or rice, and stir fried veg with a little honey and soy sauce. Nyom!

hearty chicken soup

This is a very versatile little dish, which is good all year round. It’s tasty, filling and very nourishing. The ingredients are flexible – especially the carbohydrate element –  and can easily be made from leftovers (which ours always is). Here’s how I make it. This makes four hearty servings.

Shredded chicken leftovers (about half a carcass, but less or more is fine)
400g of of baby new potatoes (or 200g of noodles or small pasta shapes)
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
About half a can of sweetcorn (I used 8 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1.5 litres of good quality chicken stock
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
Salt and fresh black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, onion, carrots and celery and gently saute until soft but not coloured; about five minutes. If using potatoes, add them now and season the pot well with salt and black pepper and the thyme. If using noodles or pasta, add them now too. Stir well.

2. Add the chicken stock, tomato puree, bay leaf and the shredded chicken meat, stir and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer covered for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are tender. If you are using noodles, allow just 3-5 minutes of simmering, or for pasta, about 8-10.

3. The last stage is simply to add the sweetcorn, stir well, dish up and devour. Good on its own or with buttered crusty bread. Glasses of sparkling wine optional. :)

oatmeal pancakes

Or porridge pancakes, if you prefer. I first made these a few years ago, looking for an alternative to porridge in the mornings. I like porridge, but sometimes it’s hard to eat it first thing in the morning, especially in warm weather. However oats are very nutritious and keep you going til lunch, so I tried this again recently, and came up with these.

Now, there are a couple of ways you can prepare these pancakes. The first is to simply mix the ingredients together to make the batter: quick and simple. I call this the weekday method. It works well and produces a light, firm pancake.

The second method is to separate the eggs, and whisk the whites until foamy and stiff, and then fold them into the rest of the (already blended) ingredients. This method is more time consuming in two ways: firstly you’ve got to spend time whisking the whites, and secondly because it increases the volume of the pancakes by about 60%, you get more actual pancakes out of the batter, which of course takes more time to cook. This method produces a fluffier pancake. This is the weekend method.

The reason I offer two methods is because most of us are quite pushed for time in the mornings.

Another note: the quantities might seem a little odd. That’s because I have been playing around with the amounts used in order to create the perfect number of oatmeal pancakes for the husband unit and I. Using the weekday method, this produces five good-sized pancakes (two for me and three for my slightly hungrier husband). The weekend method yields 8 smaller, fluffier pancakes. They are smaller because the stiffer, egg-whitey batter doesn’t spread as wide as the runny batter. I find three is enough for me, and he gets five. Remember, these are more filling than pancakes made with white flour.

The photos here are of weekday pancakes.

Ingredients:

85g of oats, finely ground in the food processor, or 85g of oat flour (oat flour is great, but it is hard to find and it is CRAZY expensive)
2 eggs
150ml whole milk
Large pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon juice/white wine vinegar (adding an acid to pancakes with baking powder aids the fluffiness of the pancakes)
Butter, for cooking

Mix all ingredients together except the lemon juice/vinegar in the food processor until smooth. Remove to a jug. Add the lemon juice or vinegar and stir well. The mixture may bubble up a little as the acid reacts with the baking powder.

Cook the pancakes one or two at a time on a hot, flat heavy-bottomed frying pan (I use cast iron), using a little knob of butter for each pancake. The pancakes are ready to be flipped when they seem to be firming up around the edges and bubbles are rising on the surface.

Eat with bacon and maple syrup, or just a little jam or marmalade. I’m tempted to experiment with these bad boys to make savoury pancakes – adding cheese and chives and maybe garlic and black pepper. I’ll keep ye posted. :)

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