I hope you'll join me in creating memories and sharing the passion of experimentation.

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Sunday, 10 June 2012

Spicy Szechuan Tofu

This is quite spicy, so tone down the spices if you're not so keen on the 'mouth on fire' feeling. Alternatively, use a spice bag and put chile, peppercorns etc inside and remove after cooking process. If your dish does turn out too spicy, add dairy products i.e. milk/yogurt, or oil does the trick.

You could substitute the tofu for chicken if you prefer

300g plain firm tofu, rainforest friendly please folks
1 fresh red chilli, take out the seeds if you want it to be less spicy. Finely chop (or leave whole if using spice bag)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp oil of your choice
2 tbsp oyster sauce, or hoisin sauce
1 inch fresh ginger root finely chopped (it's easier to freeze it an grate when frozen)
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
400ml water
1 tsp ground pepper (or peppercorns if using spice bag)
400g chopped tomatoes
5 spring onions, chopped into 1cm lengths
1 heaped tbsp black beans, soaked in boiling water if dried.

Serving: 2 large or 3 portions served with rice

1) Put the 2tbsp oil in a heavy saucepan or wok and heat gently (this may seem like a lot but you'll be thankful for it later)
2) Chop tofu in to 1inch chunks and place in pan with garlic and ginger. Stir for 5 minutes, until well coated
3) Place chilli, spring onions and ground pepper in to pan and leave for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
4) Add oyster sauce, sweet chilli sauce and chopped tomatoes. Stir, and leave for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
5) Add water, stir and leave uncovered on a medium, low heat to simmer for around 40 minutes. Stir if it starts to stick
6) Rinse the beans and add to saucepan. Cook for around 10 minutes
7) Serve with rice, flour tortilla, poppadoms, or whatever you like really. Freeze the leftovers. Oh this is making me hungry, I love it!!! And it's so easy!!!

Olive and Rosemary Stromboli

This recipe is good to do whilst you have other jobs to do, as there is a fair amount of waiting around for the bread to rise etc, whilst the actual making of it is quite simple :)

1tsp Caster sugar
800g Strong white bread flour plus extra for dusting
1tbsp fast action dried yeast
740ml warm water
1tbsp salt
Olive oil for drizzling
Large handful rosemary
Black olives, halved, about 20
Mozzarella, 1 ball
300g Red peppers, sweet or normal

Serving: 2 large loaves

I prefer to knead the dough by hand (stress relief), but you could make the dough in a bread maker.

1) Combine the yeast, water and sugar in a large mixing bowl and leave for 10 minutes (it starts to ferment, and magic dimples appear).
2) Add half the flour to the bowl and mix with wooden spoon, leave for 15 minutes in a warm place. (Atop the boiler in our house, or you could put in an airing cupboard or in the top oven after the lower oven has been on)
3) Add the rest of the flour and salt to the bread mixture, mix first with the spoon until stiff and then with your hands; combining all the ingredients until smooth.
4) Lightly flour your work surface, and lift the dough on to the surface, and start kneading. The dough mixture will be quite sticky, but this all adds to the bouncy and light finished product. If it really is too wet, you have my permission to add a little more flour when kneading. Knead for at least 10 minutes (children love doing this, so if you have things to do, get them involved).
5) Lightly oil a bowl and place dough inside, cover with a damp tea towel, and then leave in a warm place again for an hour or so. It will double in size. Magic.
6) Whilst the dough is growing, slice the peppers into 1cm wide lengths.
7) Place peppers on a baking tray, lightly drizzle with oil and grill until edges are starting to brown, about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them. (You can always chop the burnt bits off, don't worry). Set aside.
8) Another good step for stress relief. Punch the dough back to remove the air pockets.
9) Place half on a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch into a rectangle (20 x 30cm ish)
10) Scatter half of the mozzarella, rosemary, olives and peppers on to the loaf. Preheat oven to 200 degC (180 degC for a fan oven).

11) Begin to roll carefully from long edge
12) Once rolled into a loaf, repeat with other half of the dough

12) Cover the loaf with a damp tea towel for about 15 minutes
13) Drizzle with olive oil and scatter sea salt over the top, and place in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes
14) Cool for a few minutes, serve and enjoy. YUM!!!

Once cooked, I froze one loaf for the birthday girl and left a message on it telling her to leave out covered for a couple of hours to defrost and then bake for around 20minutes at 170 degC.

Birthday Present Idea - Vegetarian

Sometimes buying someone a birthday present can be pretty stressful, especially when it's a close friend. We've all been there. So here's a present idea for someone who isn't fond of cooking/doesn't really know how.....YET!

Why not, make them some nice meals which they can freeze, and include the recipe so that they can make them again and again?!?

These recipe ideas are also vegetarian, as I know some vegetarians get caught in the trap of just eating a meat based meal, without the meat. i.e. vegetables and carbs. So I wanted to bring a little excitement to the birthday girl's plate, without needing to spend money on a meal out.

Time saving element: I made all of these meals for my own dinner, or whoever I was eating with at the time and just made double portions and froze half for the birthday girl. It takes no more effort or time to cook double portions, but makes a really personal present, as long as you have their tastes in mind. Trying it yourself also means you know that it's good enough to give as a present and hopefully, fingers crossed, they'll like it!

I added cooking instructions, and the recipe to each meal.

Meals I made (recipes to follow) for the birthday girl: Olive and Rosemary Stromboli, Spicy Szechuan Tofu, Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi, Bean Burgers & Winter Veg Curry.

Enjoy :)