Saturday, April 21, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Lasagne

Symply Too Good to be True - Annette Sym Used softcover low fat cookbook Book 1I am going to unashamedly admitting that I am posting this recipe for me, and for no one else. To be honest, I can't quite believe that I haven't posted it before as this is my go to lasagne recipe, mainly because I like to kid myself that it is a relatively healthy version that isn't too difficult to make and it tastes pretty dam good. I have been making it for a few years now after finding it in one of the Symply Too Good to be True cookbooks when I first bought them.

It is the kind of meal that I make a full 8 portions of, rather than scaling the recipe down, because I know that I can take some for lunch during the week, put some in the freezer and eat leftovers and it will still taste really, really good.

As I was typing this recipe up, I realised that I have become one of those people who make a recipe but then say, this recipe was really good, but I did this and this and this differently. At least I keep the key ingredients the same. I do find it amusing when you read a review of a recipe on a website, say for something raspberry and the commenter says I changed the raspberries for banana and this for that but it was really good. It may have been really good but it wasn't really the recipe that you are leaving a review of!! Anyway.....

For this, I always cook the onion and garlic first until it softens a little and then add the mince because I don't want to end up with not quite cooked onion. When it is all browned I just add all the other ingredients in and simmer. I also tend to add in basil as well as oregano.  I also cook the white sauce more thoroughly over the heat, stirring until it thickens rather than setting it to one side and hoping it thickens enough.



 Meat Sauce

750g very lean mince
Cooking spray
2x425g cans tomato puree
1x 140g can no-added-salt tomato paste
1 cup water
1 onion finely diced
2 tspn crushed garlic
2 tspn salt-reduced beef stock powder
2 tspn oregano
pepper to taste

White Sauce Mixture

1 tbspn light margarine
3 tbspn plain flour
2 1/2 cups skim milk
pepper to taste

8 instant lasagne sheets
1/4 cup reduced fat grated tasty cheese

To make meat sauce: Brown mince in a large saucepan that has been coated with cooking spray, drain well and remove to a plate. In same saucepan add all other ingredients, bring to boil, simmer 5 minutes. Return mince to pan, cook a further 5 minutes, leave to one side

To make white sauce: Melt margarine in a medium size saucepan, add flour, mix well with a whisk to avoid lumps. Slowly add milk, stir constantly until sauce boils, pepper to taste. Remove from heat, leave for a few minutes to allow sauce to thicken.

Preheat oven to 180C fan forced.

To assemble lasagne: Spoon 1/3 of meat sauce over base of lasagna dish, cover with 1/2 of white sauce. Top with 4 lasagne sheets. Spread 1/2 of meat sauce over lasagne, cover with remaining white sauce, top with remaining lasagne sheets. Spread with remainder of meat sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil (coat foil with cooking spray to stop cheese sticking). Bake 40-45 minutes, remove foil, cook a further 5-10 minutes until pasta is cooked and cheese is golden brown.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Pork and Pineapple Thai Red Curry

We are now at the end of summer now and we have had our first cool autumn day. Such an occasion tends to retrospectiveness about the summer just gone. Somewhat strangely, I found myself having a summer of pineapple. I like pineapple most of the time but recently we have had a lot.

Just the other weekend I decided to make an old favourite recipe (Thai Pork Burgers with a Pineapple Chilli Relish) and found myself trying to find a recipe to use the rest of the fresh pineapple up. There were plenty of options ranging from cakes to tarts and more but in the end we found this recipe for a pork curry with a pineapple twist.

The good thing about this recipe was that it was quick and tasty, which makes it ideal for a mid week meal.

Pork and Pineapple Thai Red Curry

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
500g pork fillet, thickly sliced (see Notes)
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
270ml can coconut milk
1 cup Massel salt reduced chicken style liquid stock
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar, grated
1/4 small fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
1/4 cup fried shallots
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Heat a large wok over high heat. Add oil. Swirl to coat. Add onion. Stir-fry for 3 minutes or until softened. Add pork. Stir-fry for 3 minutes or until browned. Add curry paste. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.

 Add coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until sauce thickens and pork is cooked through. Add fish sauce, palm sugar and pineapple. Simmer for 2 minutes or until heated through. Stir in lime juice.

 Spoon curry into serving bowls. Top with coriander and shallots. Serve with rice

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Bake It Box

I don't typically spend a lot of time on Twitter anymore, but when I do I tend to see tweets from the same people. One of those people is Kaetrin from Kaetrin's Musings. A couple of months ago she posted a photo of a super impressive lemon mousse cake. It featured several layers, curd, filling and more, so I naturally said something along the lines of there is no way I could ever make that.

She then told me about Bake It Box.

This is the description from their website:

Bake It Box delivers a delicious, exciting, & new baking kit directly to your door every month. Each bakeitbox contains easy step-by-step instructions, pre-measured dry ingredients and all the decorations needed to create a standout baking masterpiece!

Now, I consider myself a competent baker. Most of what I cook tastes good, but I am not very good at making things pretty, but it's good to challenge yourself isn't it? I therefore waited for the announcement of the next box knowing that I intended to order it.  I also ordered a kit for my sister who already does a lot of cake decorating but I think this is a technique she hasn't used before.

I must confess that I doubted the wisdom of that decision when I saw that it was going to be a Red Velvet Cake with a Mirror Glaze. The red velvet part was fine. I mean, that's cake so it should be okay as long as you follow the recipe, but the mirror glaze part was far more challenging. It's the kind of technique you see on baking shows and think wow that looks amazing but I couldn't possibly do it. Part of the reason for buying this kit (and the other one I have bought but not yet made) is to challenge myself so this weekend I am finally biting the bullet and making it. There were a couple of reasons for doing it this weekend. One is that we don't have to do any moving furniture etc so there is time to do all the processes, and the other is that I have told myself that I can't buy the next box until I have made at least one of the two that I have here.

When I did decide to make it this weekend, I knew that I was going to my sister's for dinner on Sunday night, so I thought that I could take this for dinner. Ironically, she decided that she was going to make her box this weekend too so I see plenty of red velvet cake in my immediate future!

So what do you get in your box. Basically, you get your pre-measured dry ingredients, plus things like disposable cake tins and food colouring to help you with your creation. You also get an ingredient list so you know exactly what else you will need to buy, and a step by step instruction card that gives you all the ingredients so you can make the recipe again at a future date. In addition, there are resources such as online tutorials (this is the tutorial for this recipe). The instructions also tell you what the techniques are. For example, in this recipe you mix your gelatine into cold water and then mix that into hot liquid. This technique is called blooming (or so I learned from the instruction card!!)

Here are some pics from the process

I have to say I am really really pleased with how this has turned out. All there is left to do now is transfer it onto the serving board without messing it up and it will be done. Of course that might turn out to be the hardest bit yet!!

I will definitely be using the cream cheese frosting recipe in the future as it was the best I have ever made. And for all the leftover bits that we cut off to make the heart shape? Well, I think we are going to make a trifle type concoction next weekend with all the offcuts!

So, am I going to keep buying kits from Bake it Box. Absolutely!! I might even try and make them in the appropriate month too!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Year One by Nora Roberts

I've been reading Nora Roberts books for a long time now. Whilst there are plenty of her books that I have really enjoyed, over the last few years there have been a number of her books, particularly the trilogies, where I felt like I had read them all before. Yes, the names have been changed, and the locations but there was a certain sameness that lead me to think that maybe, just maybe I was done with her books. At least the trilogies with a paranormal bent. I didn't necessarily feel that way about the standalone suspense titles, but I also haven't read any, mainly because I haven't been reading very much anyway.

Recently, a few of my online friends began talking about this book and how it was different from other books by her. After one person said it was different I wasn't interested, but after hearing several people saying the same my interest began to be piqued. I was looking for a new audiobook and I wanted something different from the historical fiction and crime I had been listening to so I thought I would give this a go.

So, was it different? It most certainly was, and yet there were also parts of the book where  it was definitely a Nora Roberts book.

The story basically unfolds as an epidemic called the Doom spreads around the world. It starts in Scotland but soon spreads all around the world as people travel and make contact with strangers who then make contact with others and and travel etc etc. Soon, law and order, government and communication collapses as millions of people die. For those who are immune, or who have special talents, survival becomes paramount, and it soon becomes survival of the fittest.

There are entire sections in this book where it is full of the horror of a world falling to pieces and it was really well done. The fear that the characters feel as they try to get out of New York, running the gauntlet through humans who fear the uncanny - the faeries, the witches and warlocks, the elves - but also the uncanny who are on the dark side and who prey on humans. Really, these scenes are the strength of the novel.

It is, however, this same uncanny element which had me thinking wait, this is definitely Nora writing here. For example, there are times when one of the main characters, Lana, lapses into trance and starts prophesying (for want of a better word) and that felt familiar and there were times when I wondered if maybe we weren't sure about what type of book it was meant to be. Is it meant to be a horror novel, or a paranormal fantasy, or a combination, or something different again.

While I was reading (or should I say listening?) I did find myself looking for the tell tale NR signs.  In a normal NR trilogy you have six people who come together and then pair off into romantic partnerships. There were times when I thought well here it comes, but in the end where ever this happened it was in effect off the page.

Now I need to wait for the next book in the trilogy which is due out at the end of the year.  I hope that the next two books are still in the same vein as this book. Undeniably Nora Roberts, but undeniably different, with the potential to be even more different if she could just step away from some of her  normal cliches.