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5 Simple Salad Dressings

Wednesday 15 May 2019
With the weather finally warming up again this week I thought it was about time I blogged our favourite simple salad dressings. I don't usually buy pre-made dressings, other than mayonnaise, as they're pricey and I like to customise our salad dressings to our tastes.

All you need is some measuring spoons and a jam jar, no special equipment.  Once made the dressings will keep in the fridge for a couple of days in the jam jar, just give them a good shake before you use them.

Lemon Dressing

90ml/6 Tblsp oil

30ml/2 Tblsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Honey/Maple and Mustard Dressing

90ml/6 Tblsp oil
45ml/3 Tblsp white vinegar
1 Tblsp Dijon mustard
1 Tblsp honey or maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic Dressing

90ml/6 Tblsp oil
2 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

French Dressing

1/2 clove garlic, minced or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Dijon mustard
30ml/2 Tblsp white vinegar or lemon juice
60ml/6 Tblsp oil
salt and pepper to taste

Yoghurt Dressing

5 Tblsp/75ml or 1/3 cup natural yoghurt (can use dairy free)
2 Tblsp/30ml white vinegar or lemon juice
15ml/1 Tblsp oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 Tblsp fresh herbs, finely chopped (optional)
1 clove garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder (optional)

To make any/all of the dressings above simply put all the ingredients into a jam jar, screw on the lid, and shake until completely combined.  Use immediately or store in the fridge, remembering to shake the jar again before using the dressing.

Aubergine and Potato Curry

Monday 13 May 2019
Last week was cold, with rain and thunderstorms most days, and everyone felt grumpy and grim.  We needed comfort food to warm us up and lift our spirits.  I love this curry, it's quick and tasty, perfect for a rather chilly Spring weeknight and a great addition to your Meatfree Monday repertoire.

 Augergine and Potato Curry

For the rice: 
175g basmati or long grain white rice 
2 Tblsp sunflower oil 
1 onion, thinly sliced 
1 tsp cumin seeds 
½ cinnamon stick 
2 cloves 
2 cardamom pods 

For the curry: 
2 Tblsp oil 
2 Tblsp butter 
2 onions, diced 
3cm/1¼ inch fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated 
1½ tsp turmeric 
1½ tsp cumin seeds 
1 tsp black mustard seeds 
1 tsp chopped fresh green chilli (take out seeds and membranes for milder heat) 
2 large potatoes chopped into 1cm/½ inch dice 
2 large aubergines, chopped into 2cm/¾ inch dice 
3 Tblsp dried fenugreek (methi) 

Wash the rice until the water runs clear then cover with fresh water and set aside whilst you get the curry cooking. 

To make the curry, heat the oil and butter in a large lidded saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened but not coloured. Add the ginger, turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds, chilli and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for a couple of minutes until the spices are fragrant and then add the potato with ¼ cup/60ml water and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 5 – 10 minutes. Add a little more water if necessary. 

Once the potatoes are tender, add the aubergines to the pan with the methi and another ¼ cup/60ml of water. Cover with a lid and leave to steam for 10–15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and cooked through. Remove from the heat and allow the flavour to develop whilst you cook the rice. 

Drain the rice thoroughly. Put a large lidded saucepan over a medium heat, add the oil and onion and cook for 5 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Stir in all the spices and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the drained rice and 250ml/1 cup of water and simmer very gently, covered, for 10–12 minutes, or until the water has absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove the whole spices before serving the rice. 

Serve the curry with the rice, chapati or roti, and whatever other condiments and accompaniments you prefer.  

Easy Shortbread Biscuits

Wednesday 8 May 2019
I've baked these biscuits so many times that I've memorised the recipe, and I usually have to make a double batch.  We sometimes add a teaspoon of cinnamon or some orange zest for a change, and they are delicious with chocolate drizzled over as well.  These biscuits melt in your mouth and are proper buttery, delicious traditional shortbread.  

Easy Shortbread Biscuits

125g butter, softened (at room temperature)
55g sugar
180g plain flour

Preheat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 and line a couple of baking trays with non-stick baking paper or a reusable liner.

Beat the butter and the sugar together until noticeably paler in colour, the mixture should be smooth.  Stir in the flour until the mixture is a smooth paste.  You can freeze the mixture at this point if you want, or refrigerate the dough to bake later.  Tip the mixture onto a work surface and gently press or roll out the dough until 1cm/½in thick.

Cut the dough in to fingers and put on to the lined trays.  Prick each biscuit lightly a few times with a fork.  Put the trays of biscuits into the fridge for half an hour.  Don't miss out this step.  It allows the dough to rest and stops the biscuits from spreading too much when baked.  Sprinkle with a little sugar if you want.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown.  Leave to cool on the trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an air tight container.

Carrot Hummus

Sunday 5 May 2019
Hopefully the weather will start warming up and we can think about weekend picnics, and packed lunches for outings.  I've been experimenting with different dips and spread recipes recently to change up our usual picnic fare.  Carrots were very cheap recently, 1kg bags were 30p, and I had some miso that needed using up, so I thought why not add some to my usual hummus recipe for a delicious savoury flavour hit.

The dip is really tasty, and great for spreading thinly on flatbreads when making salad wraps.  I've even mixed some leftover dip with vegetable stock to make a quick cup of soup.  It's also rather tasty spread on a fresh white bread roll filled with lettuce and fish fingers.

Carrot Hummus 

500g carrots, thinly sliced (I don’t bother peeling them, just give them a good wash)
3 Tblsp oil
2 cloves garlic
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground ginger
2 Tblsp water
1 tsp salt
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 Tblsp miso paste or 1 Tblsp Marmite/Vegemite
1 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp water
dash of sesame oil

Put the carrots, oil, garlic, cumin, ginger, water and salt into a saucepan over a low/medium heat. Cook until the carrots are very soft, it usually takes around 20 - 30 minutes. Alternatively steam the carrots, etc in the microwave until very soft.  Once the carrots are soft, add the chickpeas and stir to combine, cook for another few minutes. in the chickpeas and heat through. 

Add the rest of the ingredients then either use a stick blender or pour the mixture into a food processor to blend the dip until smooth, adding a little more water if necessary to get the consistency that you prefer.  Serve with crackers and crudites.

Delicious Fish Curry

Friday 3 May 2019
This is a delicious, easy and quick fish curry perfect for a busy weeknight.  I've been trying to find simple and thrifty ways of incorporating more fish into our Meal Plans as it's recommended that we eat at least two portions of fish a week, one being oily fish.  I normally use frozen or tinned fish to keep costs down.

This recipe uses frozen white fish fillets, you could use frozen salmon fillets instead.  If you're in a rush, or don't like cooking rice from scratch, you could use microwave rice pouches.  I usually serve our curry with steamed greens, or steamed mixed vegetables.

Delicious Fish Curry

300g basmati rice
1 Tblsp oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
400g tin chopped tomatoes or 450g fresh tomatoes, cut into chunks
3 Tblsp tikka curry paste
400g can coconut milk, full fat
500g frozen skinless and boneless white fish fillets
handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Put a large saucepan of water on to boil and cook the rice following pack instructions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, wide saucepan over a medium heat and add the onions. Cook for 5-10 mins until softened and starting to colour. Add the garlic and tomatoes, and fry for 2 mins. Add the curry paste, fry for 2 mins more, then pour in the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Add the fish to the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the coriander over the curry and serve with the rice.

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