Hainanese chicken rice – revisited

Hainanese chicken is another childhood favourite.   I’ve attempted it at home several times over the last few years and is a good remedy for when I’m in need of a health-boost.  This time, I poached the chicken for 45 minutes with spring onions, garlic, ginger and peppercorns and then baked it in the oven for 30 minutes at 180 degrees celsius.  As is customary, I used the poaching liquid to cook the rice (with more ginger – I couldn’t get enough!).  It was a Sunday afternoon, and feeling lazy, I used bottled chilli sauce as a condiment. Drizzled with sesame oil, dark soy, the chicken is served with sliced cucumber, rice and some broth.  Simple and delicious.

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Return of the meal plans

I had long given up on posting meal plans.  Due to work commitments in what I refer to as Q1, we lived on pizza, Chinese takeaways, fish and chips, toasts and Jacobs cream crackers.  Now that all the craziness is behind us, I’m hoping to return to meal planning – health, routine and bank balance being main motivators. Although Friday night is an exception for it has been named the Bear’s ‘chips and ketchup night’.

Here is this week’s meal plan (dinners only):

  • Monday – salmon and puy lentils
  • Tuesday – lamb chili, steamed broccoli
  • Wednesday – leftover chili
  • Thursday – chicken fajita salad
  • Friday – dhal, chinese-style omelette

A mini break

We went away on a much-needed mini break a few days to our usual haunt in Nord pas de Calais.  The weather was similar to London, though it wasn’t sun, sand and sea that we were after.

The day we arrived was fairly decent and prompted a drive to Le Touquet.  Being a Thursday evening, the town was fairly quiet and there was no sign of Le Pirate bar we’d been to before.

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Good Friday was a very quiet affair.  It rained all day long and we nipped out only once for some coffee. The weather cleared up the next day, Saturday.  We could have stayed in again – Ben and Holly on the iPad for the Bear, me catching up on some reading, and the Hubby messing around on his laptop. Come 11am, we agreed on a day trip to Brugge, about 1.5 hours drive away.

Lunch was at Restaurant t’Vagevuur.   Delicious mussels for me.

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The Bear enjoyed spotting horse-carts.  We’d better start saving up for a pony, Hubby.

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This is our third trip to Brugge (the Bear’s second trip) and we retraced steps from our first visit.

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The mini break did us all good, and afforded us some quality time with the Bear.

Fish Congee

We had a family ritual when I was a kid.  Every Saturday evening after dad’s game of tennis, he’d treat us to congee at a local hawker stall.  I always opted for fish or chicken porridge.  A big bowl was always too much for me, but I would do my best to make a dent.

Congee (or bubur) is essentially a rice porridge, cooked with lots of water/stock, and typically served with slivers of ginger, a pinch of ground white pepper, fried shallots, soy, sesame oil, chopped spring onions and many other condiments of one’s choice.

I recently made a big pot of fish congee – it was a Sunday night and the congee lasted until Wednesday.  As the days passed, the flavours deepened and I was genuinely sad when I scooped out the last of the congee.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked rice, washed (I used basmati)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1inch ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 2 tbsp Chinese rice wine (Shao Xing)
  • 300g cod, boneless and skinless cut into chunks (marinated in 1 tbsp soy, 1/4 grated ginger, a pinch of salt, white pepper, 1 tbsp rice wine)
  • salt

To serve

  • dark soy
  • ground white pepper
  • sesame oil
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and julienned
  • fried shallots
  • spring onions, finely sliced

Method

  1. Use a big, deep pot.  Add the rice, water, ginger and rice wine.  Leave to simmer for 40 to 50 minutes over a low heat until 3/4 of the water has evaporated.  The rice should resemble mush
  2. Drain the marinade from the fish.  Add the fish to the pot and leave the congee to cook for a further 15 minutes
  3. Once cooked, remove the pot from the stove
  4. Ladle into bowls and serve with the condiments

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Rachel Allen’s Dutch Apple Cake

I’ve had a hankering for apple pies and tarts since our last visit to Ireland in November last year.   We were treated to home-made apple desserts, ripe from the garden variety, served with hot custard and cold vanilla ice cream.  Once we were back in London, I dreamed about them for days, I kid you not.  In fact, Hubby made several trips to M&S for their apple pie and custard.

We were watching Rachel Allen on telly last week and saw her make a lovely crumble topped cake, which got me flicking through her book ‘Bake’.   I found an easy recipe for a Dutch apple cake, achievable even with the little ankle-biter begging for play-doh every 2 minutes.   I used a 9″ springform tin and the cake turned out beautifully.  No cream needed, but pots of tea is advisable.

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Sweetcorn fritters re-visited

My colleagues and I went to Granger and Co, Clerkenwell twice in the last few months for breakfast.  My go-to breakfast at Bill’s has always been ricotta hotcakes, but I twisted a colleague’s arm to share some sweetcorn fritters on both occasions.

I’ve tested Bill’s recipe for Sweetcorn Fritters previously and it was rather underwhelming (it was too stody), but I woke up craving it one recent Sunday.   I had to make do with frozen sweetcorn and basil instead of coriander, and just winged it really.  There is something to be said for going with your instinct.  The sweetcorn fritters were lovely and light, served with cumin tomatoes, avocado and spinach.

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 3 tbsp organic plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 50ml milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, de-seeded and diced
  • 2 tbsp sweetcorn kernels (I used frozen, but best use fresh)
  • a handful of chopped basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil (or more if you fancy, I didn’t)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, paprika, milk and egg in a medium bowl and mix well
  3. Mix in the peppers, sweetcorn, basil and season well with salt and pepper
  4. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan
  5. Once hot, spoon the sweetcorn and pepper mixture into the oil (2 tbsp per fritter) and leave to fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side over medium heat
  6. Remove the cooked fritters from the oil and drain on kitchen paper
  7. Remove the baking tray from the oven and carefully transfer each fritter onto the tray
  8. Cook in the oven for 5 minutes (I found this helped cook the innards as I only shallow fried the fritters on the hob)
  9. Serve with cumin (grilled) tomato, spinach and avocado

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Spicy crab and spinach sauce

I intended to make this lovely crab and spinach sauce to serve with zoodles (courgette/zucchini noodles).  Alas, it is cold outside and a bowl of steaming hot pasta topped with delicious sauce won the toss up between comfort and health-eating.  To make this sauce Whole30 compliant, exclude the olives and serve with zoodles.   From pot to plate in 15 minutes.  Perfect for a midweek meal.

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Ingredients:

  • Fry lite (olive oil)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 red chilli, finely chopped (de-seed to cut back on heat)
  • 1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes
  • 80g spinach leaves
  • 1/2 tsp herb de provence
  • a good handful of pitted black olives, chopped
  • 120g white crab meat (I used canned, brining liquid drained)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of chopped basil

Method:

  1. Heat a non-stick frying pan on the stove (low heat)
  2. Spray the pan with Fry lite and fry the garlic and chilli for 30 seconds before adding the chopped tomatoes, spinach and herb de provence
  3. Leave to cook for 10 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally
  4. Add the olives and crab meat and season with salt and pepper.  Leave to cook for 2 to 3 minutes
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped basil
  6. Serve with pasta/zoodles and I was thinking it might even be lovely over an omelette!

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