Sunday, 20 July 2014

Turkey & Chickpea Curry

Here is the first of my batch cooking recipes, a protein packed turkey and chickpea curry, a great dish to fill up hungry people and for me a good source of brain fuel for when I need to spend the evening at my desk. I've hidden some extra vegetables in the sauce, I added grated carrot and courgette rather than having them in small pieces which is what I would normally do and they added a new textural dimension to the dish. I'm sure this would probably be a good way of getting veg into fussy kids, it certainly works for a slightly veg-phobic man in his mid 30s!

As mentioned in my last post I went for a shortcut by using jarred minced garlic, ginger and chilli but I've also given approximate conversions to the raw ingredients based on what I would have used if I wasn't being lazy. I've used turkey thigh meat here as like with chicken it tastes better than the more delicate breast meat. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients, this is a really easy curry to make and fits well with a student budget.

Ingredients - serves 6

1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
2 heaped tsp coriander seeds
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 large bay leaves
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1-2 tbsp sunflower oil for frying
2 onions, finely sliced
2 heaped tbsp minced chilli or 3-4 finely chopped red chillies, feel free to add more if you like it hot!
2 heaped tsp minced garlic or 4-5 cloves crushed
1 heaped tsp minced ginger or a 5cm piece of root ginger finely chopped
600g diced turkey thigh
approx 200g grated carrot - about 4-5 medium carrots
1 medium/large courgette, grated
200g dried chickpeas soaked and cooked before use or 2 tins of dried chickpeas
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
salt and pepper to taste
  • Toast the cumin, coriander and cardamom in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until fragrant then tip into a pestle and mortar and grind to a powder, add the turmeric and mix everything together.
  • Heat the oil in a large casserole pan or heavy based wok over a low-medium heat, (I used the wok that I reviewed a while ago for Ozeri) and add the onions, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Cook for bout 10 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are softened and lightly golden. 
  • When the onions are nice and soft, increase the heat slightly and add the ground spices, fry these for a minute or two then add the chilli, garlic and ginger and fry for another couple of minutes. 
  • Next add the turkey and fry in the spicy onion mixture until sealed all over, make sure the heat is high enough so that the meat fries rather than steams. Then add the courgette and carrot, stir well and cook for a minute before adding the tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and the tomato puree, stir well again. 
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes so the turkey is cooked through and the sauce reduces to become a thick, rich coating for the turkey and chickpeas.
  • Serve with rice and naan breads too if you like. We're fans of the mini garlic and coriander naan breads from Tesco. 
  • If you're batch cooking for the freezer, leave the curry to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes then divide between labelled freezer bags. Spread the bags out on the worktop so they cool more quickly and then freeze once they have cooled fully. 
I'm linking this post up with the following blogging challenges. Extra Veg set up by Helen and Michelle, Cook Blog Share, Recipe of the Week, Tasty Tuesdays, Simple and in Season set up by Ren and Credit Crunch Munch set up by Helen and Camilla 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Batch cooking for an easy life

I'm not going to whinge too much about being busy, everyone is busy these days in different ways. I feel like I'm permanently chained to my desk at the moment whilst I try and get my thesis finished. By the end of the day I really don't feel like cooking but I know I have to eat and if my boyfriend has been at work on his feet all day, he doesn't feel like cooking either so I frequently end up making something fairly quick and boring involving pasta, a tin of tomatoes and whatever I can find in the fridge. On days when he is working late shifts and not home until after midnight I've found myself increasingly staying at my desk until around 9pm then lazily preparing something on toast, in other words feeding myself like a stereotypical student. Last weekend I decided that I would take a day away from the laptop to do loads of cooking to fill up the freezer and have a stash of homemade ready meals in individually portioned bags. So now when I'm home alone or if we're both just too knackered to do anything there will always be something quick and easy to heat up to serve alongside pasta, rice, potatoes or even just some crusty bread.

Our freezer, full of tasty homemade ready meals with enough room at the bottom for the obligatory ice cube bag and some ice cream cones. Yes I know it probably needs defrosting!
In preparation for my day of cooking I placed a massive order with Tesco to be delivered mid week during one of their new £1 delivery slots. We only live a 10 minute walk from a large superstore but there's obviously a limit to how much we can carry and I also wanted to stock up on some bulky basics like massive bags of pasta and rice and loads of tinned tomatoes etc. I decided to take advantage of the 3 for £10 deal on meat (twice) to get a selection and I also bought 2kg bags of dried chickpeas and lentils, these only cost a couple of pounds in the world foods aisle. I made all the meat dishes last week so the next thing I want to do is make a selection of vegetarian dishes using the dried pulses.

I admit I haven't exactly made 'summery' food but all the dishes were easy to prepare, give generous filling portions and all freeze well. As a little cheat I bought jars of minced garlic, minced chilli and minced ginger for about £1 each in the world food aisle and I used these in each of the dishes that I made. I'm not normally that lazy when it comes to ingredients but as I invariably end up poking myself in the eye after handling chillies and my garlic press isn't very good the jars worked out well for me.

I'll be writing up the dishes separately over the coming days and weeks, this is the second advantage of cooking loads at once, giving myself plenty to write about when I need a break from writing my thesis. Another thing I want to do is some baking for the freezer (based on my photo above I'll have to see if there's space first!) as I like having muffins etc on stand by.

These are the recipes I'll be blogging in no particular order with veggie options to be added once I've decided what I want to make:

Turkey & chickpea curry
Beef & barley casserole
Pork meatballs with hidden veg tomato sauce
Chilli con carne
Lamb & green pepper stew

In the meantime have a look at some of these batch cooking tips and recipes from around the blogosphere.

Save time during the week by following some of these tips for preparing healthy food in advance from Dannii. If you eat a lot of tomato based dishes then try Sarah's slow cooked tomato sauce. Mince forms the basis of many of our favourite dishes and Camilla has a very easy recipe for minced beef and onions. Katie's recipe for vegetarian shepherd's pie is great for making and freezing in advance. Jacqueline has a very healthy vegetable and lentil stew and on Michelle's blog there are several tasty looking batch cooking recipes.

Do you ever batch cook or bake for the freezer?

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tasty things in my kitchen round up #3

Time for another round up of new products I've been given to try over the past few weeks.

First up is the brand spanking new teapigs matcha drinks. I took part in the teapigs matcha challenge recently and when they launched their new drinks they very kindly sent me a selection. There are 3 flavours to choose from: apple, grapefruit or elderflower and each 330ml carton contains a 1g serving of matcha mixed with spring water and fruit juice from concentrate and the best thing for me is that there is no added sugar or sweeteners as I don't like overly sweet drinks. Once chilled, I found these drinks very refreshing on hot afternoons and the matcha gave me the boost I needed to carry on working. The matcha flavour is definitely present and it works well with the fruit juice, a good way to try matcha if you're not normally a green tea drinker. My favourite flavour was the apple closely followed by the elderflower, the grapefruit was too sharp for me but I'm not keen on grapefruit anyway. I ended up using the grapefruit drink as the base for breakfast smoothies 2 mornings in a row so I could mask the sharpness with other fruits. The cartons have a long shelf life though once opened, teapigs recommend they should be consumed within 24 hours. The matcha drinks retail at £1.89 each and are currently available from the teapigs website, Harvey Nichols, Whole Foods and Planet Organic. This is something that I would pick up when out and about even though I think it is a little expensive and if it were available in shops near me, however the majority of stockists appear to be in London.

We don't really buy ready meals with the exception of pizzas and the occasional quiche but as I seem to be spending more time at my desk (final deadline not far away now) and less time in the kitchen I'm keen to get us fed quickly. I was asked by Charlie Bigham's if I'd like to try some of their new range of World Ready Meals designed for 2 to share. My first response was ' they sound nice but we don't have a microwave!' However it turns out that their meals are oven friendly so I thought that we could give them a go to have a couple of easy meals organised as we're both working long hours at the moment. I headed off to Waitrose with my vouchers and I chose the chicken tikka masala and the chicken breasts with white wine sauce and mash. We were impressed with the portion sizes and both meals filled us up. The chicken tikka masala had plenty of nice big chunks of chicken breast and lots of sauce which was well spiced and had a good flavour to it. The rice stayed fluffy even after 30 minutes in the oven, I was a bit worried it might dry out even with the handy piece of foil supplied to cover the rice, but it was just right. The chicken in white wine sauce stayed lovely and moist and again there was lots of sauce which had lardons in it and had a good wine flavour. The mash was good too though overall the whole dish was a little too salty for my tastes. We both liked the meals and I was surprised at how nice they were (I confess I may have been a bit snobby about similar ready meals in the past) but at £7 each we thought they were expensive even though they feed 2 people and as neither Waitrose or Sainsbury's are on our routes to and from work/uni it's unlikely that we'd buy them again.

Finally I was sent a small sample of Van Dotsch speculaas spice mix from The Speculaas Spice Company. This is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and 6 other spices. At first glance it seems very similar to the speculoos blend that I have made myself following a recipe from a French book, but from tasting and smelling it there appears to be a higher proportion of clove in this blend. I used it to make some frosted shortbread by slightly adapting a recipe for Ginger Crunch from Three Sisters Bake book that was printed in the June 2014 issue of BBC Good Food magazine (I halved the quantities as the original recipe makes a lot of shortbread and swapped the ground ginger for the speculaas). The result was nice and tasted good though overall I think the clove in this blend was just a little overpowering and I prefer the blend I make myself.

Thanks to all the brands who sent me samples and products to try, as always all opinions in this post are mine. If you would like to see your brand featured in a future round up post then please feel free to email me