Food Challenge Week 2: NY Deli Style Dill Potato Salad

Two weeks into my challenge and I’m feeling pretty good. I have been asked a few times whether I have a list of possible recipes, which sounds like a good idea, but I haven’t had the time to sit and think of one yet!

Last week’s recipe was a little of a let down, so this week I decided to try something a little lighter, and make something I would be able to add to my daily work lunches.

I’m a HUGE fan of the humble potato. If I was told I could only pick one ingredient to eat the rest of my lifetime it would be a potato. When I was in New York last, I ate the most incredible potato salad at Katz’s Deli, I think I reminisce about this salad at least a few times a week still, and this trip was over 2 years ago now!

So, a while back I picked up a recipe book called New York Cult Recipes.

recipe books

Inside it talks about fantastic eateries (Katz’s being one of them) and although the recipe for potato salad inside this book doesn’t replicate the one I ate on that trip, having never made potato salad before, I thought this was probably a good place to start.

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You start off with your potatoes (700g) and you chop them into quarters or smaller, depending on how big your new potatoes are.

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The recipe said to peel the potatoes first, but who has the patience to peel new potatoes? You boil them for about 10 minutes on a slow boil until they’re cooked through but still a little firm. Then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. These then can be left to cool.

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Chop your red onion (50g) really small, and then put this into a bowl of cold water for a few minutes and drain. This will get rid of some of that acridity you get from a raw onion.

You put 1 1/2 tablespoons of capers, the drained red onion and the cooled potatoes into a big bowl, ready for the dressing.

Now, there’s a lot of sugar in this dressing. An alarming amount – and when I tasted it after I’d made it, I was a little shocked. But actually it worked really well with the rest of the ingredients and there was a good balance of flavours. So please run with it.

For the dressing you add caster sugar (40g), 2 pinches of salt and 2 grinds of the pepper mill, 1 garlic clove, 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar), mayonnaise (60g) and natural yogurt (60g). Mix all of this together until all the sugar has dissolved and everything is combined. Give it a taste and make sure it feels balanced – it will taste sweet, like I said.

Then you add some finely chopped fresh dill (1 tablespoon).

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Add all of this to the potatoes, and stir gently, making sure not to crush the potatoes.

My potatoes were still quite firm (that’s what she said), so there was no risk of that!

Then you just chill and serve as and when you want to eat it. This recipe says it’ll serve 6 people. I divided it between 5 working days as an accompaniment to a fresh salad.

I used soy plain yogurt and found the dressing to be fairly runny. It also separated a bit between servings so I had to keep mixing it before serving. But it tasted REALLY good.

Not the most photogenic of concoctions though…

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I really enjoyed the addition of the dill in this, which made the whole dish special in my opinion. I’ll probably end up making this again!

I give this recipe 8/10 🙂

Food Challenge Week 1: One Pan Pesto Chicken

For the first week of my food challenge (and if you don’t know what that is, please refer to a previous post for the sitch), I knew I wanted to choose something fairly healthy, fairly simple and something I knew I had the skill to cook.

Enter Pinterest for inspiration. It being the New Year, after having indulged in a lot of heavy and rich foods (my skin is screaming for respite) I picked something of the roasted chicken and vegetables variety.

vine tomatoes, new potatoes and green beans

Being dairy-free (not by choice, I’ll add) means I can veto a huge bunch of recipes, but there’s also a huge bunch I can adapt. The recipe I actually found was promoting the Sacla Free From Pesto. I already knew this existed, but I think seeing the post promoting this ingredient probably spurred me on to choose it over any others.

jar of sacla pesto

I’ll post a link to the particular recipe I used, but it’s dead simple.

Roasting new potatoes in a little oil, then adding the chicken, then smothering it all in pesto before introducing the green beans and vine tomatoes towards the end and basting with the chicken/pesto juices. Then serve. It’s as simple as that!

roasted pesto chicken and vegetables

I won’t lie, I avoided basting the tomatoes in the pesto mainly because I ran out of room in my pan and for the sake of nice photos (!) I didn’t want them to break off the vine during vigorous jigging of veg. So these probably didn’t cook down as much as they’re supposed to. But they did start to burst a little and were pleasant enough. I’m not a massive fan of a cooked tomato, but that’s what this challenge is about – broadening my food horizons….

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So, as you can see, the potatoes cooked down beautifully, and were nice and buttery-soft on the inside but lovely and browned and nutty on the outside. (Just writing this is making me hungry…) The green beans were roasted but still moist (yes, I said moist) and had a little crunch to them when you bit in. The chicken was… I’ll say, okay – I didn’t like the chicken we’d bought from Tesco if I’m honest. I’d much rather pick mine up from Costco, but I didn’t have any of theirs in the house. But the pesto on top was a nice addition. And the tomatoes I’ve mentioned. They were warm roasted tomatoes – not much else you can say about them!

plate of pesto chicken and vegetables

As an overall dish, the flavours and textures were nice together. It wasn’t too greasy, despite pesto being traditionally oily. I feel like the Free-From iteration was less oily – on opening the jar I didn’t need to stir in any oil on the top into the pesto, which you do with standard pesto. I do feel like this pesto was a lot less salty, and the whole dish was fairly under seasoned, despite me adding what I would consider to be enough salt and pepper. If I was to make this again, I’d add some more salt.

All in all I’d give this recipe a 6/10 – it was fine, but I don’t like fine for dinner – I like yummy!

If you’d like to see the original recipe I used, you can find it at The Taming Twins here.

Let me know if you’ve tried or if you will be trying this recipe, and how you got on with it. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

So, on to week 2! I already know what the next recipe for my challenge is going to be, so stay tuned for next week’s post!

2018: A Year of Self-Improvement

Every new year we sit and think about resolutions. We look back over the year past, and wonder what will face us in the coming 12 months.

I’ve never been one for setting new year’s resolutions mainly because I either forget I’ve set them or I fail early on and get annoyed at myself.

So this year, I’ve decided to set myself two challenges, partly because I hope if I fail at one I’ll still achieve the other, and of these particular challenges one I know I am already partially skilled at and the other is something I’ve wanted to do for many many years.

The first challenge came to me during a period of new film watching. As a huge Nora Ephron fan it seemed bizarre that I’d never seen Julie and Julia. The film is based on a true story about a woman who lives in NY and decides to make her somewhat dull and frustrated life a little more exciting by cooking each and every recipe in her classic Julia Child cookery book – all 524 recipes. And every time she makes one, she blogs it. I had no idea this was a story about blogging either, so I was very pleased to see a mix of my love of Nora Ephron, food and blogging all in one film. (I very much enjoyed the film by the way!)

Anyhow, it made me want to start some kind of food challenge. So I decided that I would set myself the task of cooking at least one new recipe for every week in 2018. I know this could be a massive task, since I sometimes run out of time in a week, and if I’m on holiday or sick this will also be impossible. So I’m allowing myself the occasional skip-week. And I’m also including recipes like sauces or new variations of old favourites.

recipe books

And then the idea is that I will blog the recipes, and hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have at least 52 new things under my belt, will have hopefully increased my skill set in cooking, and with luck will have tried new foods and found new favourites!

I have so many cookery books and Pinterest at my fingertips so hopefully the hardest part will be choosing what to make next!

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My second challenge is a skill I’ve wanted to learn for some years, and I think I even mentioned it in my New Year roundup last new year! I’ve taken the first steps in beginning to learn calligraphy. A dear friend went for it last year, when I was toying with the idea, and seeing her coming on leaps and bounds has really inspired me. She has warned me it’s not as easy as it looks and to preserver, and I intend to! I’m hoping by Christmas 2018 I’ll be writing beautiful envelopes on my Christmas cards! Here’s hoping!

Anyway, I’ve bought some pens and a new notepad (you need special paper don’t you know) and I intend on sharing pictures of my journey on instagram, and here, as I go (if I’m any good!) Fingers crossed!

So those are my two challenges for the year. I have one more up my sleeve, but that’s more of a thinker so maybe I’ll share that down the line.

I’d love to hear if you’ve set yourself any challenges or new year’s resolutions for this year? What do you want to achieve by January 2019?

Chilly & Chilli

The weather has well and truly turned for the worst, and despite it being a tad dryer this week, the weekend has been bitterly cold. At times on Saturday I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had started to snow.

Friday night Gary and I took another visit to the gym, and I was determined to run a 5k on the treadmill. I got a stitch pretty early on which I couldn’t shift and reluctantly gave in at 3k. I was super annoyed. It was pointed out to me later on, that trying to run 5k on a Friday after work when I was tired and already frustrated probably wasn’t a good idea. Good point.

Saturday we had to get up early as I had a hair appointment and unfortunately due to a mix up with a new receptionist at the hairdressers I was booked with the wrong person. The hair cut was fine but I was disappointed that I missed my quarterly catch up with my hairdresser, and there was so much to ask and tell. So it’ll be February before I get to catch up with her again 😦

After the hair cut Gary and I met with some friends and he went to see Gravity at the cinema and I caught up with my friend Tash. We had a flutter in the new casino and a nice long, chilled out chat. The casino in MK is one of the new Super Casinos and is surprisingly relaxed and chilled, and weirdly an ideal place for a girly chat (and free drinks!) We didn’t come out up on our money but we hadn’t lost much.

Supermarket shopping was next (we’re so rock and roll). There’s been a recipe I’ve wanted to try for about 5 years from Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella Express, and I was very excited that I was finally going to make it. I’m not a fan of spicy food. I love to try most foods and I wish my tolerance was better for hot spices but my body just can’t handle it. I really love the idea of chilli though, and when I saw a quick chilli recipe in Nigella’s book, that included sweet chilli sauce I got excited. I have adapted the recipe quite a lot for various reasons, but I’ll post it how I made it below. For various health reasons I swapped the minced beef for Quorn mince from the chiller cabinet (as opposed to frozen tvp mince). I switched chorizo for smoked sausage because neither me nor Gary like chorizo. And I toned down the spices by using unspiced mixed beans and no chilli flakes. The end result was very very mild for spice – like, no heat – but full of flavour. Obviously use spicy sausage, cooked mince, chilli flakes and spicy beans if you want, but that’s pretty much every other chilli recipe and I just loved how I was able to make a quick, mild and flavour-some chilli so easily. We served it with rice, but it would have been very yummy on a jacket potato or topped with broken nacho chips and grilled with cheese on top.

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Today is Remembrance Sunday and we decided to have a lie-in and watch the processions on the tv before we got up. It’s such a poignant and thought-provoking day, and I’m so pleased that we still observe it to the extent we do. After that we had a session at the gym with personal trainers as we’re new to the place. The plan I was given seems very good and focusses on continuing with the running but integrating intervals on the treadmill whilst strengthening my upper leg muscles, to help prevent further knee pains and also a little bit of upper body and core strength work. It was good to work on areas that I hadn’t previously and I know it’s all going to work towards helping my running technique and ability. All in all very positive. But now I’m knackered and can barely move – not because I over did it, but generally exhausted. It’s hard to do any kind of work out when you’re so bunged up you can’t even get the oxygen in normally….. ah well. My Movember 10k is only two weeks away…… let’s hope I can get the correct training in!

Quick Mild Chilli

150g Smoked Sausage (ready to eat, but heated according to the packet)
350g Quorn mince
1/2 tsp ground Cumin
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
3 Cardamom pods, bruised
500g jar tomato and chunky veg pasta sauce
240g (drained weight) can mixed beans
60ml sweet chilli sauce

In a heavy based pan I slung in the pasta sauce, drained beans, sweet chilli sauce and spices. I sliced the heated sausage into half moons and added to the pot. Then I tipped in the mince. If you’re using meat mince and chorizo make sure these have been fried off first before you add the sauce, beans and spices. At this point the mix is kinda dry so I put it all on the heat and added a little freshly boiled water. I kept the kettle nearby whilst I brought the mixture to the boil, adding hot water by eye until I was sure that it was loose enough but not too loose. Once at a boil I turned the heat down and simmered for 20 mins, stirring occasionally.

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bubbling away!

If I wanted to make this all vegetarian I think I’d replace the sausage with chunks of mushroom and courgette, though carrot or peppers would also be lovely. This makes enough for 4 people and as there’s only two of us here we have another hearty serving of chilli for later in the week!

Let me know if you make this, I’d love to know what you think, or how you adapt it.

Gahh….. Now I’m starving…… 😀

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