How much salt?

Blinding obvious comes to mind when I read on the BBC about the CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) report on salt in fast food.

The daily recommended intake of salt for an adult is just 6g.

According to the Cash survey, a family of four sharing a Pizza Hut meal deal – consisting of one Cheesy Bites Meat Feast, one medium Super Supreme, a portion of garlic bread, a portion of potato wedges, chicken wings, and a cheesecake dessert – could eat 12.3g of salt each.

Most fast food “meals” contain about the daily recommended amount of salt. That’s a lot of salt, and remember some people then add extra salt to their salted food as well.

salt

Most people eat way too much salt, it’s not difficult to cut down, but people forget that herbs and spices can add a huge amount of flavour to a dish without needing to resort to salt.

However it can be difficult if you are going out to eat. It’s surprising how many chefs think that just because they haven’t added salt it’s not salty. I have been offered as salt-free dishes, a salad with olives, cured loin of pork (like gammon) and even ham sandwiches.

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Beef in Red Wine

In a previous post I mentioned a dish I had cooked, beef in red wine, however I did not post the recipe. This post was quite popular by people searching for a beef in red wine, so as promised here is the recipe.

Take some stewing steak, and in a hot pan, add a little oil (no need for olive oil as the flavour will be cooked out). The aggresively brown the beef. Only brown a little at a time, browning in batches and ensure that the pan is hot so that the beef does brown and doesn’t stew – as you don’t want it to stew at this time.

Once you have browned all the beef, remove the final batch of beef and add some chopped vegetables to the pan. I used carrot and onions. You could also add celery (yuck) or swede or parsnips or other root vegetables.

Once the vegetables have browned add some plain flour (just a spoonful) and stir.

Once it starts to stick add the red wine and some beef stock, this should deglaze the pan.

Place everything into a casserole dish, lid on and cook in the oven (not too hot) for a couple of hours, adding more stock if the dish starts to dry out.

In a frying pan cook some chopped bacon (I used pancetta) and cook off, then remove the bacon and add some button mushrooms and some freshly chopped parsley. Cook for a minute or two, in the main to soak up the bacon flavour.

Add the bacon and mushrooms about thirty minutes before you serve.

Serve with crusty bread, mash or roasted potatoes with some fresh steamed green vegetables.

Gnocchi with chicken and mushrooms

This is a very quick meal to cook and shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes, probably even less.

Take some chicken and cut into pieces the same size as gnocchi. You can use chicken breast, personally I use chicken thigh partly because it is cheaper, more so because it has a much better flavour.

In a large hot frying pan, add a splash of olive oil,  then add the chicken.

In another pan add some pancetta. You can use the cubed pancetta, though when I cooked this I used the sliced pancetta cut into small strips.

Ensure that the chicken is cooking and remove the cooked pancetta from the other pan to the chicken. Add some freshly chopped parsley and some freshly ground black pepper.

Keep the heat up in the pancetta pan and pan fry the mushrooms in the fat from the pancetta (you may need to add a little olive oil).

In a pan of rolling boiling water add the gnocchi. Cook for two minutes.

Add the cooked mushrooms to the chicken and mushrooms and then add a couple of spoonfuls of creme frache.

Drain the cooked gnocchi, spoon over the chicken, mushroom and creme frache mixture, toss lightly.

Spoon onto plates, add freshly grated parmesan and ground black pepper to taste.

Careless Wispa


Hey look what I found in WHSmith at Paddington Station!

Wispa

Yes it is a Cadbury Wispa!

I thought these had been discarded to the litter bin in the sky where all old chocolate bars go when they are replaced by new funky chocolate bars.

Probably a limited edition.

Buy hey it’s a Wispa bar!

Breakfast at 125mph

So there I was on the 7.30am train to London, and I was feeling a little peckish, so off I trot down to the buffet car to get some breakfast.

One of the nice things about First Great Western is that they do do a nice freshly cooked breakfast on their trains.

High Speed Train

Usually you have to fall back on some kind of roll filled with breakfast items or thrown together, heated up in a microwave which when you bit into it, slurps out the other side of the roll and onto your lap, giving you third degree burns and a nasty stain on your trousers which takes a bit of explaining. You can buy a breakfast roll, well a bacon roll to be heated up in the microwave if you wish, but I would recommend that you avoid that and try the proper breakfast menu out.

I has the brasserie breakfast platter, which in a real language means a box full of breakfast items. Okay so the scrambled egg could have been better, but the tomatoes and mushrooms were fresh, the sausage was over cooked and the bacon was okay. The toast was nice.

Actually thinking about it, at £6.95, it was over priced for what I got. However compared to breakfast at a motorway service station it was much much nicer and compared to the ghastly breakfast rolls you can get, or those muffins from a certain so called restaurant, it is really nice.

Pasta with Chicken and Mushrooms

This is a very quick recipe which shouldn’t take longer than twenty minutes from entering the kitchen to sitting at the table and you should even be able to do it in less than fifteen!

Take two pans of boiling water, in one add some carrot, some onion, some parsley, a few black peppercorns (or I suppose you could use a stock cube). Poach four boned and skinless chicken thighs for about ten minutes (you could use chicken breast, but I prefer the flavour and taste of the thighs).

Add the pasta to the other pan of boiling water. I now never add salt or oil to my cooking pasta. All adding oil does is form an oily scum on the top, the myth that it stops the pasta sticking is just that a myth. After cooking if you toss the pasta in olive oil, this will stop is from sticking together, but that is after cooking and it is drained. I also don’t add salt, some add salt for flavour, but as I was using pancetta and parmesan and these are quite salty, there is no need to add extra salt.

So the two pans are simmering away, take a hot frying pan and add a handful of chopped (or diced) pancetta and a splash of olive oil. As the pancetta cooks, add a finely chopped onion and continue to cook until the onion is nice and soft. Now you could remove from the pan, but personally I keep the onions and pancetta in there and add a handful of sliced chestnut mushrooms. After the mushrooms are nearly cooked I add some ground black pepper and half a handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley. Leave for a minute before removing all the mixture from the pan.

Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and slice into chunks. With the frying pan, turn the heat up, add another splash of olive oil and quickly add the chicken to add some flavour. After a minute add three large spoonfuls of creme frache.

Drain the pasta, to the pasta add a handful of freshly grated parmesan, the pancetta, mushrooms and onions. Spoon in the chicken and creme frache and toss the pasta around.

Serve, adding grated parmesan and ground black pepper to taste.

Chinese Food – wish I hadn’t…

Tonight I made a mistake of going out and buying a chinese takeway. Now I wish I hadn’t.

It seemed such a good idea, get some egg fried rice, some prawn crackers, sweet and sour chicken, duck and something and king prawn dish.

No cooking, nice and easy Friday night meal.

Well we did order, and we got, egg fried rice which was somewhat dry (as it generally always is) and large crispy prawn crackers that didn’t really taste of prawns. We had chunks of chicken in thick crispy batter and a sweet and sour sauce that is a thick red gloopy glue. The duck with bamboo and water chestnuts had potential, but the Bisto style gravy let it down. Whilst the king prawns with cashew nuts was probably the best of the bunch, but still nothing to write home about.

After eating (and we did leave some) we didn’t feel quite right, a little bit sick and later some pain.

The idea was nice, the execution was poor and the aftermath not pleasant.

I bought chinese food, I wish I hadn’t.

Mozzarella Salad

This is a quick and easy salad or starter.

Take a mozzarella ball and cut into thin slices, arrange on a plate.

Add some sliced tomatoes, I actually used halved cherry tomatoes. You can either interleave the tomato with the mozzarella or place the tomato halves in the middle of the plate.

Scatter some small basil leaves across the cheese and tomato.

Dress with some white wine vinegar, some fine olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve.

Stuffed Chicken Wrapped in Pancetta

Last night I made a very nice meal which went down well with everyone at the table.

I took some chicken thighs and took out the bone. I prefer thighs over the breast meat in the main as I believe the flavour is so much better and is less likely to dry out, though with this method, that is unlikely to happen.

I then took some sausage-meat (by taking the skin of some good quality sausages) and added some finely chopped parsley and rosemary.

I laid out four slices of pancetta onto a square of foil. I laid the boned chicken thigh out on the foil. I placed some of the sausage-meat mixture on the chicken thigh and then rolled the chicken, and then ensured that the pancetta covered the chicken. I then rolled the foil up into a parcel. I ensured (by squeezing) that all the foil parcels were the same size (for even cooking).

The chicken parcels were then poached for twenty minutes, then they were removed from the water.

At this stage (in theory) you should leave them in the fridge to rest and firm up for some time. I didn’t have the time so I left them for ten minutes.

You can pan fry them (ensure that they are dry), however I roasted mine in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes on a bed of pepper, mushrooms and courgettes with a splash of olive oil.

I served the chicken with steamed vegetables, roasted potatoes and roasted parsnips.

Delicious.