Better than a takeaway

My husband has berated me for my blogging content this week, as my recipes are neither seasonal nor local.  However, in my defence, it is Friday night, and as a nation we Brits all love a takeaway on a Friday night.  The food and drink I am writing about are perfect Friday night fodder, and far, far better than a bought-in take-away.

Despite loving cooking and eating home-cooked food, we usually have a takeaway on a Friday or Saturday night if we are in.  It will usually be either Indian (mild for the children’s sake), or Chinese in front of Britain’s Got Talent.  For Brent and my palate, take-aways need to be fragrant, spicy and savoury, and this Friday the children are visiting their grandparents, so we can go as spicy as we like.  We used to make this dish a lot when the children were very little, and not sharing our meals.  It is probably too spicy for them (however you can amend the amount of chillies you add), and it is certainly fragrant and savoury.  And best of all, because it is home-made, there are no nasty hidden ingredients.

Nasi Goreng (literally meaning fried rice) is sort of like an Indonesian paella.  Made with long-grain rice (medium glycaemic load or GL) its ingredients have many health benefits.  It is served with a garnish of raw salad high in enzymes to help aid digestion (cucumber, tomatoes, peppers), and we like to add lots of fresh coriander to it too, so that the raw ingredients almost overwhelm the cooked ones, adding to its health benefits.

IMG_0222One key ingredient is turmeric, a fantastic anti-inflammatory spice that adds the distinctive yellow colour to the dish.  Turmeric is a wonder spice, and as well as being anti-inflammatory is cardioprotective, beneficial for skin conditions such as psoriasis, a potent antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic.

The chilli content (both fresh and dried) is rich in vitamins and minerals and has similar properties to the turmeric, helps to reduce cholesterol and increases endorphin production for the feel-good factor.  The other ingredients, lean protein, are key building blocks for the body.

Nasi Goreng can be prepared in many different ways.  We base ours on a recipe in one of my favourite cookery books, given to me by my brother, Culinaria: South-East Asian Specialties, which I highly recommend if you like cooking Asian food.

Before you get started with preparing the nasi goreng, though, you will need a cocktail.  Brent and I spent an evening sampling these, and they are delicious, although more than 1 saketini is brave, and more than 2 foolhardy.  Asian-themed, they go well with the nasi goreng despite being from a different parts of Asia.

Cucumber and Basil Saketinis

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 2 parts Sake (we used Sawanotsuru)
  • 1 part Vodka (we used Grey Goose)
  • Splash of Sugar Cane Syrup (we used Saint-James)
  1. Juice the cucumber (I used my Matstone Juicer) with a handful of basil leaves to infuse the cucumber juice
  2. Chill the martini glasses
  3. Combine the sake, vodka and sugar cane in cocktail shaker
  4. Add cucumber and basil juice
  5. Shake over ice
  6. Strain and serve, with a squeeze of lime, and garnish with a basil leaf


Nasi Goreng (serves 2 greedy adults with leftovers)
  • 200g/7oz long grain rice (we used Basmati)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1-3 fresh red chillies, deseeded
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, boned and skinned and cut into pieces
  • 250g peeled, cooked prawns
  • 1/2 tsp chilli pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • seasoning to taste


To garnish:

  • a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • sliced red or yellow peppers
  • sliced cucumber
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, finely sliced
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander


  1. Precook the rice and leave to cool.
  2. Lightly beat the seasoned eggs and make omelette.  Leave to cool, roll up and slice into narrow strips.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok, and add onions, garlic, chillies and shrimp paste until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken and prawns and cook gently for 2 mins or so
  5. Stir in chilli powder and turmeric
  6. Add soya sauce, tomato puree and seasoning
  7. Add cooked rice and stir-fry till hot
  8. Serve immediately, with omelette strips on top and garnish on the side.
  9. If you like it as hot as we do, add some Sriracha, Lotus Chilli Oil or Chilli Garlic Sauce


There were no leftovers this evening, and it was absolutely delicious.  I think the children would love it too if I reduced the chilli content and went easy on the coriander.

Herbily Ever After

Heap of fresh Herbs isolated on white background Stock Photo - 14773931

Supermarkets chillers are full of them, neatly stacked in their sanitized plastic containers.  But how often do you actually utilize the whole packet?  Oh, you get the odd recipe that calls for a sprinkling of coriander here, or a snippet of chives there, but don’t you always find half-empty herb packets mouldering at the back of your fridge?

Stored in their cellophane containers, we can’t really appreciate them properly, and we forget how marvellous herbs really are.  Go to your local greengrocer and (if they let you) handle the herbs.  Smell them.  Taste them.  Hand select your own herbs.  You will usually get a better quality of herb, with the root intact, from a greengrocer, and you can buy the amount you want and need, not a pre-decided amount that will rot in the back of your fridge, like mine.

Even better, buy your own herbs from the garden centre, and plant them in window boxes or old crates in your garden for an instant herb garden (although it is better to wait for more clement weather if you intend to use your garden rather than your window sill for your herbs).  Please note that not all herbs thrive all year round, but we seem to have a good success rate in our garden in the South East with rosemary, mint, thyme and bay all year round.

Herbs are plants used to add flavour to a meal, but more importantly they have a history of being used for medicinal purposes for centuries, if not millenia.  Not only do they offer a better and more varied taste to your meals, they are full of health-giving properties.  Recent research has found the antioxidant content of several common herbs (in particular, oregano, dill, thyme, rosemary and peppermint) to be significantly higher than other potent antioxidant-rich plants, such as blueberries.  Antioxidants help protect the body against cellular damage, and can delay the signs of aging and help prevent the development of aging-related diseases.  See WHFoods: Herbs-Packed with Powerful Antioxidants-Oregano Ranks Highest for more details.

Which herbs do I use regularly?  Thyme (any variety); bashed up with a garlic clove, sea salt and freshly milled black pepper, and loosened with a slug of oil to dress chicken thighs for baking for the children (and us).  Flat-leaf parsley, used as a leaf in salads, or chopped to add flavour to a tomato and onion salad, or a quinoa tabbouleh.  Basil, for tomato and mozzarella salads, or whizzed into a home-made pesto, or added to a salsa verde to use with roasted meats and fish.  Coriander, chopped coarsely and added to curries, or Asian rice dishes (Nasi Goreng is a favourite).  Rosemary from the garden, crushed with garlic and salt, with olive oil, to marinate lamb cutlets.

I tend to use my left-over herbs in my daily green juice (see my earlier post Kale and Hearty – Seasonal Eating. | Water and Wine.).  I regularly juice flat-leaf parsley, mint and basil, and indeed buy them specifically for this purpose.   Parsley is a natural diuretic, very cleansing and potent, so it is prudent to use less rather than more when starting to juice.  Parsley also helps reduce oedema (swelling),  improve the blood transport system, and support the kidneys.  It is rich in antioxidants, as well as minerals and vitamins such as K, C and A.   Leslie Kenton has a fantastic parsley juice recipe in Juice High: Experience the Power of Raw Energy , which she suggests may be helpful for allergy sufferers.

Parsley Passion

  •  1 bunch parsley
  • 3-5 carrots
  • 2 apples
  • 2 small cauliflower florets

I also often use herbs to make fresh infusions (just add a tsp or tbsp (to taste) of the washed, fresh herb to some freshly boiled water and allow to infuse for about 5 minutes).  Camomile from the garden, or lemon verbena, helps calm the mind, and makes a great pre-bedtime drink.  Fresh mint tea is a good post-prandial drink; it is carminative (anti-spasmodic) and a great digestive aid, as well as being anti-microbial, and cooling and refreshing for hot days or nights.

Last Saturday, fed up with the mediocrity of our local Indian take-aways, we decided to cook our own curry.  We wanted lots of fresh vegetables too, so we made our own Kachumber, which is a sort of Indian onion salad or salsa.  We also made a Raita from full-fat goat’s yogurt, with cooling cumin and cucumber, to take the heat off the curry.  The curry recipe we used from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible and it was actually Trinidadian, but the flavours worked well with the Kachumber and Raita.  We chose it because it was so green, and sounded fresh and delicious with the addition of so many herbs and spices.  We ate it with fresh papadums from the local curry house, and it was a triumph.  Incidentally, we had a little left over.  It was fantastic cold as well; the flavour intensified in the fridge overnight, and I ate the leftovers for lunch with the remains of the kachumber, regarnished with extra coriander.


  • 1 carrot, finely sliced into juliennes
  • 1  onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 tomato (heirloom, preferably), sliced and seasoned
  • 2 ins cucumber diced into fine strands
  • 1 red chilli, cut into strands
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 bunch coriander, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin seeds, ground with a teaspoon of salt

Mix together, and chill before serving


Mix together, and chill before serving

Curry Boneless Chicken

Serves 4



  • 6 tbsp peeled and finely chopped onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 spring onions sliced finely into rings
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp thyme, picked
  • 3 bird’s eye chillies, chopped (I could not get the scotch bonnet variety this time)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1lb skinned chicken breasts, sliced thickly crossways

For cooking the chicken:

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp hot curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground, roasted cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp amchar masala (see below)


IMG_1400Amchar Masala (a Trinidadian mixture of roasted spices using Indian pickling spices)

  • 4 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp whole fenugreek seeds
  1. Dry fry all the spices over a medium heat in a small, cast-iron frying pan
  2. Stir for 1-2 minutes until spices turn a shade darker
  3. Remove from pan, cool, and grind finely with food processor or coffee grinder
  4. Store in dark cupboard in airtight jar

To make the dish:

  1. IMG_1426Make the marinade; put onion, garlic, spring onion, parsley, coriander, thyme, chilli, ginger, salt, black pepper and 2 tbsp water into blender, blend to a smooth paste.
  2. Put the sliced chicken in a bowl.  Add marinade, ensuring chicken is covered.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, and for as long as possible (maximum 3 hours)
  3. Add oil to a wide, non-stick pan, and add garlic, over a medium-high heat.  When garlic starts to sizzle, add curry powder and stir for 10 seconds.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, add chicken and marinade, and stir for 3-4 minutes until the chicken turns white.
  5. Add 120ml of water, the salt, cumin and amchar masala; stir and bring to a simmer.
  6. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes, while stirring.
  7. Serve with extra chopped coriander, the kachumber, the raita and papadums.  Mango chutney and lime pickle go well with this too.

New Year, New You?

Warming Mushroom and Chicken Broth

I don’t know about you, but January for me is a time for new beginnings. After the excesses of Christmas and New Year, I like to take time out to reflect on the previous year and consider my goals for the coming one. After a Christmas in the French Alps consuming vast amounts of French breads and pastries, as well as the cheesy Savoyard specialities, like Tartiflette, washed down with copious amounts of local red wine, I enjoy a more ascetic approach to food in January.

Like many people, my husband and I give up alcohol during January. The first week is always difficult, but after that, we start to enjoy the new sensation of alertness and increased energy. Along with our alcoholic abstinence, we usually to do some sort of detox , or dietary regime, to cleanse our systems and help shed the Christmas pounds we gained over the holidays.   January is a dark and miserable month, so what can you choose to perk up your meals yet still keep them healthy?  Generally I am a great believer in eating seasonal and local, but I feel that the dreariness of January can occasionally be lightened by the addition of exotic ingredients.  The fiery heat of the chilli, for example, can compensate well for a lack of fat in a dish, and in addition triggers the release of endorphins in the body which help boost your mood too.  Fresh ginger root is also perfect for this time of year.  It has been used therapeutically for centuries for nausea, and helps aid digestion, as well as imparting a unique spicy, warming flavour to food.

During the week we often make broths as they make such an easy and quick post-work supper. If you have the time (or inclination), you can make your own chicken or vegetable stock using a carcass left over from Sunday lunch perhaps, but if not, Marigold bouillon or Kallo mushroom stock make a great alternative.  We are currently having two weeks oil-free  (more about this in a later post), so the broth is made without oil, but naturally this dish would taste nicer, and be cooked a little diffently with the addition of some fat.

Mushrooms make a great food choice at this time of year.  Rich in Beta-Glucans (for more information see What Are The Benefits Of Beta Glucans? | LIVESTRONG.COM), a type of carbohydrate that help to enhance the immune system, mushroom have an umami or savoury taste that is very satisfying.  Good fresh choices include Shitake or Chestnut, and to intensify the flavour, we add dried mushrooms to this broth as well.  Supermarket own brands are perfect; we use Waitrose’s Cooks Ingredients Dried Mushrooms.  This broth doesn’t really need the addition of meat – the mushroom flavour itself is intense and satisfying, almost meaty – so feel free to leave out the chicken if you like.

One of my most exciting discoveries of the year (thanks to the lovely Miguel of Naturopatica) is Glucomannan Noodles.  I used Zero Noodles, which I buy from Holland and Barrett, and they taste pretty bland, but the texture is just right, and they pick up the flavour of the ingredients they are cooked with.  They are made from Glucomannan flour, which is produced from the root of the Konjac, a starchy Japanese plant.  These noodles are gluten free, fat free, sugar free and salt free.  They are very low in calories and more importantly, high in fibre, so help the digestive processes of the body.  I tend to use them with Asian flavoured foods as they are so similar in texture to Asian noodles, and they make the perfect final addition to this broth.

Recipe (serves 2):

  • 2 small, skinless chicken breasts, sliced diagonally
  • 150g Chestnut or Shitake mushrooms
  • handful of dried mushrooms
  • Marigold bouillon or Kallo mushrooms stock cubes (to make up 1 litre)
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger root (grated)
  • lemongrass (bruised)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (grated)
  • 1 dried chilli
  • 4 or 5 spears of asparagus (or broccoli)
  • 1 carrot, sliced finely diagonally
  • 2 or 3 spring onions, trimmed
  • glucomannan noodles (Miracle Noodle or Zero Noodles), prepared according to the instructions
  • black sesame seeds, torn coriander and lime wedges to serve
  • Sriracha chilli sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Soak dried mushrooms in freshly-boiled water for about 20 minutes as per instructions.
  3. Roast mushrooms (Shitake or Chestnut are good)  on baking tray at 180º until shrivelled (approx 15 minutes).
  4. Make around one litre of stock and bring to the boil adding a ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilli.
  5. Split asparagus (or broccoli) in half and slice carrots into fine shards and reserve.
  6. Slice skinless chicken breasts diagonally.
  7. Add soaked Chinese mushrooms to stock.
  8. Add chicken to stock.
  9. After 2 minutes add carrots, asparagus, spring onions, roasted mushrooms and kelp noodles
  10. Stir and cook for further 3 minutes
  11. Test chicken to see if cooked through.
  12. Ladle into bowls and garnish with black sesame seeds, torn coriander and wedges of lime.
  13. If you like a good chilli kick, add a few shakes of Sriracha .