Saturday, 23 February 2013

Quick and easy dinners

You know those nights when you need something nourishing quick - either you can't be bothered or you're coming or going from the gym or a meeting. You need dinner and you need it fast. This week I had two of those nights. I had the added issue that we have not been shopping for a while so our cupboards are looking rather bare. Here are two of my quick and easy dinners.

First, my Throw it all in the pot pasta. The title says it all and I make this quite often. Whatever I can dredge up from the bottom of my fridge's vege drawer goes in. Pasta like this can be a bit boring, so it's important to make sure it has a flavour punch. I did this by whizzing up a quick pesto - I use basil, cashews, chilli, parmesan, garlic and olive oil. If you can't be bothered making pesto, other flavour punches can simply be added by using chilli, garlic and lots of fresh herbs such as parsley.

So, to make the pasta I got my frying pan going with some oil and fried some chilli and garlic. In went mushrooms, corn, peas and broccoli heads. To speed up the cooking time I threw the broccoli stalks in with my boiling pasta. When the pasta was done, I simply drained the whole lot and threw it in with the rest of the veges. I had some leftover chicken, so in that went too. I mixed the whole lot together with most of the pesto and some of the pasta cooking water to make it a bit saucy. I topped it off with some pesto and, in true Jamie Oliver style, "olive oil drizzled from a height". Done.  

Although it's a bit of a funny colour, don't be put off because this next dish tastes amazing. This is my version of Tom Yum Soup.  Note I say my version, I have no idea what authentic Tom Yum Soup tastes like, but this does the trick for me. It's super quick, easy and only uses one pot!

You will need: ginger (chopped finely), lemongrass, a tomato, mushrooms, green veges, capsicum, Nam Prick Pao (a Thai chilli paste that you can pick up from an Asian grocery store), fish sauce, lemon juice, corriander and prawns.

Put 3 cups of water into a pot. Add a 2 teaspoons each of the ginger and lemongrass and bring to the boil. Add a chopped tomato, a handful of chopped mushrooms, some chopped beans (or whatever green veges you have), half a chopped capsicum and 4 tablespoons of Nam Prick Pao. Let that bubble away for about 10 minutes and then add a handful of rice vermicelli noodles. When the noodles are almost done, add about 200g of prawns. Boil until the prawns are cooked, or warmed through if they are precooked. Don't overcook your prawns! Remove from the heat and one tablespoon of fish sauce, some chopped corriander and the juice of a lemon.  
This will serve two for a hearty dinner. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Sticky date pudding with caramel rum sauce

My darling partner often has to watch as I whip up some baking and trot off somewhere with it (usually work), only to return with crumbs. So when I was musing about what I could bake on a relaxing Sunday afternoon and he suggested sticky date pudding, I couldn't disagree. I had a craving for caramel and wanted to experiment with making rum caramel. And what goes more perfectly with sticky date pudding than caramel sauce!

I have a gorgeous sticky date pudding recipe, it really is the best. Never fail, deliciously moist and moreish. It's one of those fantastic recipes that I have cut out of a newspaper many years ago and sellotaped into a recipe notebook. I return to it time and again.

I like making them as little individual cakes - using a giant muffin tin.

1 cup of pitted dates, chopped
1 cup hot water
50g butter
1 cup self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs

Pop the dates and water into a microwave bowl and microwave for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the butter and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda and spices into a bowl and stir in the brown sugar.

Add the eggs to the cooled date mixture and mix well. Fold in the dry mixture.

Pour into muffin tins or a 23cm cake tin and bake at 180 degrees for 25 minutes for the muffins or 30 minutes for the cake. Leave them to stand for 5 minutes or so before you turn them out - this helps them keep their shape. They are best served warm - they will heat beautifully in the microwave.

This time I made it as a cake, just cos.

I smothered it in rum caramel sauce, mmmm. I just made a simple caramel (a cheat's caramel, not a melt sugar and make sure you don't burn it caramel) and added a good slosh of rum. I love rum. There are tons of recipes online for easy caramel sauce, I would recommend on like this.

You could add sultanas to this recipe if they are your thing, just use a few less dates and make sure you soak them or you will end up with a dry cake.