Monday, 25 May 2015

Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin

Preparation is key to many things in life, as is cooking. I've learned to make sure you have the necessary utensils, not just the ingredients. So before I did anything, I put a tablespoon on my shopping list before adding the ingredients. A teaspoon, however, is a third the size of a tablespoon, or so I found after I'd finished cooking. So as long as I can remember that...

When I shopped, though, I couldn't find a tablespoon in the whole of Tesco. Poor performance.

To begin, I poured the flour into the hot milk without mixing it with water first. I had to start that again. Then I turned the grill on and forgot to light it, resulting in me remembering late and nearly losing my eyebrows.

The recipe includes peas for the ingredients of the gratin itself, which is a bit like a pie. But at the last minute the instructions suggest you also throw in peas as a side dish. Oh.

I then forgot to preheat the plates so the food cooled quite quickly once served.

The topping, a mixture of cheese and breadcrumbs, ended up a little thin due to the size of the dish.

I got the timing for all of this wrong- I invited my parents around to share it with me but when they arrived I was still 20 minutes off. It was a good job I did invite them around as this isn't a dish that's safe to reheat, and it fed the three of us. We all liked it, though, and the fish- Vietnamese river cobbler and smoked haddock- was very flavoursome, one more so than the other. The recipe suggested cod, but I recorded only their generalisation of “white fish fillet”.

Timing etc. aside, the meal was a tasty success.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Harissa Chicken with Bulgar Wheat Salad

Next up: this North African rice and chicken dish from the Hairy Dieters cookbook.

I made a mistake from the outset by only putting 1 lemon in the shopping list- I needed one to season, another to serve. I got by with a spare lime.

I could have sworn I bought a tablespoon after a recent recipe. If I did, I can't find it. A replacement is on my shopping list. Regardless, the recipe asked for a tbspn of harissa paste. Tesco sell this in a pot not much bigger than container of lip balm. There's no way a tablespoon would have fit- the teaspoon I used only just made it through.

It took nearly 2 hours to cook and prepare- whether this is due to my memory difficulties slowing down the process or whether this is just one of those lengthy recipes is something you'd have to tell me after having a go yourself.

Verdict: Chicken tasted great. Salad predictably dull.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Cajun Chicken

A simple and tasty Hairy Dieters recipe, this Mississippi-inspired dish was quick to cook and lasted a few days.

A few minor problems: measuring out spices with a teaspoon got a little messy, and a teaspoon of oil to coat a tray full of wedges seemed stingy. I could do with buying a larger measuring bowl, although saying that I could do with a larger kitchen altogether. But hey, I'm not Roman Obramovich.

Timing the cooking of different components of the meal is still a challenge after all these years, and I found the chicken a little slow to cook. The wedges could have lasted longer in the oven, but they were still more than edible. Forgot the limes the first time around and left them on my kitchen work surface- I reheated a breast and a few wedges for the next day's meal. A squeeze of half of a lime brought the dish to further life.

End result- delicious. Easy on the tongue and the brain.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Cranberry and Almond Muesli

The first recipe I've tackled this month is a breakfast from the Hairy Dieters cookbook.

I made the mistake of buying whole almonds instead of flaked, but I went back for the correct type. The mistake now provides me with something to munch on in work that isn't going to put weight onto me.

I mixed up all of the necessary ingredients but found that none of my tupperware boxes were big enough, so I used my blender to physically shake it up by hand (not by turning on the blades).

It tasted nice but a little bland. Blueberries and yoghurt livened it up somewhat. This will be my breakfast for the next few days.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Silly girl

A minor exchange between myself and an American girl regarding Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the death sentence a Boston court handed down to him on Friday. I screenshotted these on different days, hence the profile picture change. The @handle, as you'll notice, is the same.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Scene at Spinningfields

Spinningfields' first Indian Restaurant opened last month. Scene, on the Left Bank of the newly developed corner of Manchester, occupies the unit previously home to Strada Italian restaurant. I dropped in with meetup group Manchester Social Nights

They're a good group with regular attendees so you get to know the people rather than dealing with a steady turnover of members. The venues for meetups are good choices, as was Wednesday night's.

The opulent and well-placed venue sports oak and deep red tones, creating a private ambience, and the arched doorways within the building carry a traditional Indian feel. We were led through the high-ceilinged entrance through to the large dining room and to our own table with attached apex roof, giving us a certain element of privacy.

We were served appetisers of plain and spicy poppadoms, the latter of which contained black flecks of spice and nearly blew my head off. Impressive.

One of our group was a young Indian man with impressive knowledge of his native food, so although the menu was clear enough we had a little extra advice on what might be to our taste.

I started with a tasty and suitably small king prawn appetiser, and moved on to their signature dish, the chicken makhani. Deliciously mild, this is a great choice for those- like me- whose taste buds aren't at vindaloo-level endurance just yet.

The business still has a few growing pains- when I went on Wednesday they were still waiting for their supplier to send till roll, so the bill was hand-written. There were a few errors on it which we straightened out, but presumably when the tills are properly up and running these mistakes won't occur to affect customers.

The group leader also somehow managed to get us 25% off the bill, a perk to joining the meetup group. Get involved!

Check out the Manchester Evening News' writeup for more info. Their photography picks out the intricate metalwork and woodwork of the d├ęcor.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Cooking on Gas

I've written a lot about working out and about cooking recipes. The former I do quite a lot, the latter not enough. It's well-known that you don't get the results you want at the gym and in your physique unless you eat the right food to begin with. But what is the right food?

I've been following recipes from the Hairy Dieters Cookbook for a few years now. The meals are packed with meat and vegetables- protein and vitamins. These recipes are perfect for if you're trying to lose weight (which I now am) and also if you're building muscle (which I always have been).

I've been cooking them few and far between, though. And I've been relying on chicken stir-fry, chicken fajitas and omelettes for too long. It's time to vary things up and include a bit more veg. Hence, for a month I'll hammer the Hairy Dieters book, trying out the breakfasts stews and pies. I'll also try the recipes that came with my soup-maker, and I'll write them all up here. Throughout this I'll get to the gym as much as possible and see what PBs I can beat. Let's see if I can get my weight under 70Kg again.

Cooking a meal, from writing a shopping list of ingredients through to sitting down and eating it, is a process that contains its fair share of steps. For most people those steps are quite straightforward, but for those of us with disabilities that may take a little more effort than people realise. Writing a shopping list may be a necessity (it is for me) but through trial and error you learn to not just write down the ingredients you need but also to check you have the right equipment- for example a meat recipe might require string, or a soup recipe might require a ladle. You learn through time, whether learning disabled or not, to watch out for minor problems along the way. But these problems can be overcome through practice- hence this project.

In a month, I hope to be a lot sharper and a more competent chef.