Grilled prawns with lemon, chilli and garlic

I’m lucky enough to have a good fishmonger’s in my local town. On saturday I was shopping so I popped into the fishmonger’s to see what looked good, as I often do. This time, it was an offer on fresh peeled raw tiger prawns that caught my eye. I wanted to cook something that would really showcase the prawns. I thought of making a marinade, then grilling them on skewers, with cherry tomatoes and chunks of pepper and onion.

I got home to find that I did indeed have peppers and cherry tomatoes in the fridge, and elsewhere in my kitchen onions, garlic and everything else that I needed for the marinade – but no kebab skewers. So, I just grilled everything lying flat on the rack of the grillpan, turning it all over piece-by-piece when it was halfway through cooking. Still tasted great. If I’d have had courgettes, I’d have used them too. I know it would taste even better cooked on a barbecue, but late November in northern England doesn’t provide barbecue weather.

Quantities given would serve 2.

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Ingredients

12 big fat prawns (tiger prawns, king prawns, call them what you want) peeled and de-veined
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 big onion (or 2 small onions)
1 courgette
12 cherry tomatoes

Marinade
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp crushed dried chilli
1 tsp smoked paprika (optional – I used it partly to provide some of the smokiness you’d get from a barbecue, partly because I’m addicted to the stuff)

Method

Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade in a big bowl. Add the prawns and stir around.

Peel the onion(s) then chop into big chunks. Wash, core and de-seed the peppers then chop into big chunks. Chop the courgette into big chunks.

Add the chunks of onion, courgette and pepper and the cherry tomatoes to the marinade and stir.

Heat up the grill. Put the prawns and vegetables onto skewers. Grill at a fairly high temperature for about 3-4 minutes then turn and grill the other side for about the same time. It’s easy to see when they’re cooked because the greyish flesh turns pink.

Serve with pitta bread, or with couscous.

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Fish baked in a parcel

This is the easiest, laziest way that I know to cook fish. It works for almost any fish, with almost any accompanying flavours. This photo shows sea bass (baked with a little lemon juice and parsley, accompanied by sweet potato and savoy cabbage), but I often use this method for cooking salmon or trout.

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Ingredients
1 fillet of fish (sea bass, salmon or trout all work well)
A tsp of your choice of liquid (start off with lemon juice, and maybe a little extra-virgin olive oil – but you could also try balsamic vinegar, white wine, or many others)
A tsp of your choice of herbs and/or spices (start off with chopped parsley – but you could also try toasted cumin seeds, rosemary, chopped capers, or many others)

Method
Lie the fish fillet skin-side-down on a square of foil. Sprinkle with the liquid and herbs/spices. Fold the foil together aboce the fish then at the ends. Bake for 20 minutes at 180C.

Open the foil up. Pour any juices over whatever potatoes or vegetables you’re having as accompaniments. Peel the foil away from the fish (this will handily remove the skin, but you meed to be careful if you want to avoid breaking up the fillet, as I have in the above photo).

Honestly, that’s it. It’s the first way of cooking fish that I learned and it’s sooo easy. Try different flavours; salmon with lime and chilli, sea bass with orange and fennel, trout with lemon and rosemary.

Spicy bean burgers

A couple of years after beginning this diet (for improved health with MS), I moved house. My new home was just 5 minutes walk from a school that offered a lot of evening classes – including a course in international vegetarian cookery. I thought it would be a great plan to use this chance to pick up more skills in cooking vegan meals, particularly in using beans and pulses. I emailed Avril who ran the course to check if there would be vegan options – she promised at least one vegan choice each week and said I was also welcome to find and bring any recipes I wanted to try. This recipe was one of Avril’s, one of the first in the course, and has been a regular meal for me ever since. Easy to make up a batch and freeze for quick midweek meals.

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Makes 6-8 burgers

Ingredients

1 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 400g tin black-eyed beans, drained and rinsed
1 sweet potato
1 onion
1 or 2 chillies
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch of fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
olive oil or an egg white

Method

Grate the sweet potato, finely chop the onion, chilli and garlic – or just blitz them all in a food processor. Cook in a saucepan over a low heat for 5-10 minutes until they start to soften. Mix in the dried cumin and coriander, cook for another minute. Mash in the beans to form a rough paste then stir in the fresh herbs, breadcrumbs and either an egg white or a tbsp of olive oil for binding.

Shape the mixture into balls, then slightly flatten into patties. Bake on a baking sheet at 180C for 10-15 mins on each side.

The burgers freeze well and can be cooked from frozen – allow an extra 5-10 mins cooking time per side.

Optionally, you could use a smaller sweet potato and add in a medium ordinary potato too. Depends on how much you enjoy sweet potato (or, in my case, on what you happen to have in the kitchen).

Credits: From a vegetarian cookery course I did in 2011 at Stockport Academy, run by the lovely Avril Povah

Baked sardines

Fresh sardines are delicious, cheap and very quick to cook. I like them best cooked on the barbecue, which gives them a lovely smokiness. They could be prepared this way for the barbecue or for grilling, but I usually use the oven and cook accompaniments like potatoes, peppers and tomatoes at the same time, often in the same dish. They’re just fine without the accompaniments, though – maybe as a tasty sandwich with something like sliced tomato and / or spinach.

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Ingredients

2 fresh sardines
1 tbsp capers, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
Lemon juice
Black pepper

Method

First the sardines need to be scaled, cleaned, gutted and the heads removed. The fishmonger should do this for you. If not, don’t panic. Hold the fish by the tail and remove the scales by scraping from the tail towards the head using the back of a knife. Wash the fish, then slice open along the belly, slicing towards the head. Reach into the slit and grab the guts at the base of the head, then pull them out. Feel around the cavity and remove any other organs, like the liver.

Open each sardine out along the slit in the belly, then lie on a board, skin side up. Press fingertips along both edges of the spine, pushing the fish flat. Now, turn the sardine over, and you should be able to lift out the spine (with most of the bones attached) with a little tugging.

Sprinkle with a little lemon juice, the capers, parsley and a few grinds of black pepper. Fold the belly edges together so the sardine is lying on its side. Place both sardines on a baking sheet then cook at 180C for 10 minutes.

Credits: This one was just me (or maybe lifted from many half-remembered recipes I’ve read and used over the years).

Chana brinjal

I love, love, love curry. I’ve really missed takeaway curry since starting this diet (ghee is an obviously bad idea) so I’ve been trying to replicate the taste, within the limits of quick and easy home cooking. I tried a Jamie Oliver recipe for Sainsburys and it fit the bill nicely. It’s been a regular favourite since, with frequent tweaks to the spice mix used.

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Serves 4

Ingredients

2 aubergines
2 400g tins tomatoes
1 400g tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric (optional)
Small piece (about 1/2 inch) root ginger, peeled and finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or crushed dried chilli) or more to taste

Method

Cut the aubergine into 1.5cm dice.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and cook over a low heat with a little water or vegetable stock until softened. Add the spices and stir for a minute (add the ginger if using). Stir in the aubergine, mixing well. Add the tomatoes, and chick peas, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes.

Credits: Original version of the aubergine curry at http://www.sainsburys-live-well-for-less.co.uk/recipes-inspiration/recipes/aubergine-curry/

PS as an alternative, try chana gobi; substitute a cauliflower for the aubergines. Cut into florets and steam for 5 minutes, then follow the recipe exactly as for diced aubergine.

Sweetcorn and chilli chowder

This is one of the rare recipes where I shrug off my distaste for “fake dairy” and use soy milk. It’s lifted from a book of 500 vegan recipes and is a great soup for any time of year; warm and filling enough for winter, refreshing enough for summer.

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Serves 4

Ingredients

2 small tins sweetcorn
1 chilli
1 onion
1 medium potato
500ml soy milk
200ml vegetable stock
salt and pepper
A sprig of coriander or parsley (optional)

Method

Peel the potato and chop into small dice (1 cm). Finely chop the onion and chilli. Cook the potato in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat with a little water or stock, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes. Add the onion and chilli, mix well, and cook until the onion has softened (around 5 minutes), adding a little more water or stock as needed to prevent sticking. Mix in the sweetcorn, then add the soy milk and stock (if using*) bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Season and stir.

Nice served sprinkled with chopped fresh coriander or parsley, and with crusty bread and some kind of dip or pâté alongside.
*I tend to use stock if I have any left over, leave it out otherwise. It gives the chowder a fuller, more balanced taste, but the chowder is perfectly fine without it. Obviously, more liquid = more simmering time to achieve the desired consistency. 15 minutes is just a guide.

Credits: Original version from 500 Vegan Dishes by Deborah Gray

Disaster!

Apologies for the recent lack of posts. It’s been busy at work, and I had a minor domestic disaster: Freezer accidentally switched off, not noticed for several hours, so had to bin a lot of healthy, homemade, partially-defrosted food. Freezing homemade food is a fairly essential part of following my MS-controlling diet while also working 32 hours per week and looking after my baby (7 months old). Re-stocking with healthy homemade baby food is the clear priority, so cooking for myself has been very limited.

I did make some fish cakes, so will post that recipe when I get a photo of them.