Food and drink

Don't get stuck in a rut

Ken Hom book

Last year my husband watched a James Martin Saturday Morning with the American (Chinese) chef Ken Hom, and declared that we should start making stir fry for dinner. It was just before dear husbands birthday so I added the Ken Hom 100 quick stir fry recipe's book to his gift and set about clearing a bit of kitchen cupboard space for him to store his ingredients.

There are a few standard store cupboard ingredients that you need for most recipes, like sesame oil, nut oil, corn flour, Chinese rice wine and soy sauce (both light and dark). And then others that add flavour like black bean sause, satay sauce and fish oil, these have a once opened fridge life so we were careful not to buy huge jars to begin with!

We do at least 2 stir frys a week that need more fresh veg ingredients which meant updating our menu planning regime. At first I thought it would be a faff and didn't relish the idea of in store shopping again. But like with most things in life, if you plan carefully and think about where you need to go and what you need ahead of time, you can get it done relatively pain free.

The fresh veg that we use in our stir fry last about two weeks (and I have a small bag of frozen stir fry veg for emergencies). We've found a Chinese supermarket not far from home which happens to be in close proximity (ie next door) to a supermarket and outdoor fruit and veg market. This means fresh stir fry ingredients and any other shopping needs (like soap and cat food) are done in one stop!

We use mostly chicken and pork in stir fry and have found a local butcher that does excellent deals on chicken breasts. I cut them into strips and portion off to freeze. The packs are quite big so again it's a fortnightly visit.

This is a very different way of shopping to how I started doing things 18 months ago, but we're really enjoying the stir fry and it's so quick and easy. We cook more meals together, with me preping and giving instructions (from the book!) and dear husband doing the 'woking'. Eating and shopping like this has brought our food bill down further which in my book is a huge bonus!

My meal planning isn't 'this is what we're eating on these days', more of a shop for certain meals and then decide what to have on the day.

Happy days

Ciao xx

The fast

This post has been quite tough to write. I wanted it to be full of positive messages with a real sense of achievement, instead I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm for it at all.

49 days is a long time. It's a long time to feel enthusisatic about food that you're loving but getting a little bored of.

I had a terrible cold mid fast and a square of chocolate would have lifted my spirits! In fact a block of cheese would have done the trick too. It's funny how anything forbidden is the only thing you want when you're feeling down. I also couldn't muster the energy to think of two meals, one for Stuart and one for me, or enjoy food that I couldn't really taste. It felt like a waste of time and I was well and truely fed up!
We also had a few meals out with friends where I had the choice of two things on the menu and everyone around me was eating burgers and steak. Gosh, I wanted to scream even though it was my choice to fast and I really ought to stop behaving like a child, lol.

After my cold had gone, I found a few new recipes to try and started to feel some of the enthusiasm return. But I still wanted to give up. The funny thing about putting your challenge out there is knowing that if you fail or give up you need to face up to it and although I don't really care if anyone thinks i've failed, I would still feel guilty, even though the only person I would let down is myself.

I wasn't going to give up.

Palm Sunday, which fell on Easter Sunday in the Western calendar, it is a day off from fasting. Last year I didn't know that. This year I took advantage of it. Did I need to have this break? Definitely! Did I enjoy the break? Absolutely!

The last week was the hardest. I was so close to the end, but nothing on my Pinterst fasting board appealed.
I was pretty bleak and on the Wednesday evening (with only 4 days sleeps left) when I was at my lowest I had beans on toast for dinner. I added some Moroccan spice to the pan of beans and heated them slowly and I toasted some nice M&S seeded loaf and I enjoyed each and every mouthful. There was nothing fancy about the meal. Just plain and simple.

It's funny what you think you know and plan at the start of a journey and what lessons you learn along the way. I didn't need terribly complex and interesting food during my fast. I just needed something simple and to remember why it was that I had started this fast in the first place.

It was about going without, getting back to basics and enjoying the simple things in life. I had forgotten that as I tried to keep myself interested. One of my favourite meals is roast vegetables with cous cous. I think I had it once over the whole 7 weeks. How stupid was that?

On the Sunday that I broke my fast I did vow, as I did in 2014 that I won't do it again. I will do Holy Week but not the full 7 weeks. A week and a half on and i'm thinking it wasn't that bad! I can manage to do it again. But lets leave this discussion until the weekend of 12/13 March 2016. Clean Monday is the 14th!

I wanted to share a recipe on this post as it was one of my late finds that is a real gem but be warned it is a butter overload so shouldn't be a weekly meal!

Garlic Mushroom Pasta! OMG it is YUMMY!!

Garlic mushroom pasta

(photo courtesy of the recipe site as I didn't photograph my version - probably because it was wolfed down so quickly!)

Happy days

Ciao xx 

Quick and easy stir fry

One of my favourite meals during this years fast has been vegetable black bean stir fry. My favourite take out is Chinese and this meal is the fasting version of a take out night!

1. The ingredients are ready prepared so no chopping!

Stir fry

2. Cooking time is all of 5 minutes.

Stir fry made

Of course I sometimes add a few prawns!

I keep a supply of noodles in the cupboard, and the veg and sauce is found in the veg isle so each week I just grab one of each for a quick easy meal.

Ciao xx

Let's eat Mediteranean

I love dips and picky food so eating a mediteranean diet suits me!

During my fast I need to go to the store more often because of the type of food i'm eating. To be honest going from a monthly menu plan and grocery shop to having to top up the food each week is a pain! And it's expensive.

So I've been on a mission to think of ways to cut that pain and expense down. Ideally I want to just do the veg aisle and get out of the store as quick as possible.

Two foods that I buy alot of during my fast is hummus and falafel. And both of these I can make myself.

I use Jamie Olivers best basic hummus recipe, it's super quick and so yummy! With this recipe I can make as little or as much as I need a week and nothing goes to waste!

I planned to make and photograph more food this past week for todays post but have been struck down with a horrid cold so instead I'm just sharing my recipes and letting you know they are great!!

Falafel is a great filler and can be eaten in wraps or pitas or just dipped into hummus. You can make your own or buy a dry mix that you just add water to, stir and let rest for 5 minutes. Here is a great recipe for Falafel Burgers.

Falafel 2

Another of my favourite dips is Baba Ganoush. It takes a little while to make because you need to roast the egg plant, but it's well worth the effort!

We always have jars of olives, pickled garlic and roasted pickled peppers in the fridge for mediteranean lunches which are a must in the summer. It's easy food that can be eaten at a leisurely relaxed pace!

Just three weeks of fasting left! It's going so quickly.

Ciao xx


I loved prawns as a child. My grandparents would take me out for prawn dinner whenever I visited and loved to watch how swiftly I peeled each one before popping it into my mouth. Prawns were by far my favourite meal.
Then I went through a moody teenager phase where I wouldn't eat anything with my fingers, and the thought of a prawn with his skin on made me sulk.
Thankfully that didn't last forever and my love of prawns returned.

For my fast this year I wanted a bigger variety of prawn recipes as last year I think I only cooked prawns two ways.

Today I want to share three yummy ways to cook Mr Prawn. Enjoy!

First up is shrimp and asparagus stir fry with lemon sauce. I made this for the first time last week and is a Pinterest gem that I pinned quite a while ago with the intention of using it over the fasting period.

Prawn lemon stir fry

For such a tasty meal, I was surprised that the preperation and cooking time was so short. I think it took 15 minutes! The recipe calls for a tablespoon of sugar in the lemon sauce which I think makes the dish a little too sweet so I will use just a teaspoon next time. I served it with egg noodles and prawn crackers and will try it with rice next time as an alternative.

Prawn lemon stir fry finished

A big thumbs up for this meal! And it's going on my meal plan as a regular dish.

Recipe two is from a lovely old Greek cook book that we inherited from Stuarts mom.

Prawn pilaf book

I found the book on Amazon here, as used, and it looks like it's not in print anymore. Our copy is well used with notes in the margins and everything i've made from it has been a success.

I am going to share the recipe (having searched the internet for recipe copyright laws and pretty sure I won't get into trouble as it's no longer in print!!)

Prawn pilaf
¼ cup of olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tsp of sugar
2 tbs of chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1kg prawns or shrimps
1½ cups of rice

Cook rice as per packet instructions

In a large pot, heat oil, add onions and fry until brown
Add the tomatoes, sugar, parsley and salt and pepper, and cook slowly until the sauce thickens
Add the prawns, stir and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes.

Prawn pilaf dish

The recipe also calls for butter to be heated with the oil, but as I started making this during my fast last year I didn't add it then and still don't.

I just adore this meal! Try it!

Part of my South African heritage is a love of cooking outdoors over an open flame and having a sunny warm spring weekend in March meant doing just that.

During my fast I don't want to lose out enjoying a meal cooked outdoors on the braai so my lunch was prawn and veg skewers.

Prawns 1

This is a marinade rather than a recipe.

In a small container combine:
¼ cup of olive oil (I use a chilli infused olive oil)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon of course ground salt
½ teaspoon course ground pepper
1 teasoon of thyme (dry is fine but if you have fresh then it's better)
Dash of lime juice (concentrate will work, but if you have fresh all the better!)

I usually baste my skewered prawns in the marinade and leave covered (or in a cold oven) to absorb the flavours.

Prawns 2

Just before they go on the grill they get another brush with the marinade. And if there is any left over they can have a mid cook brush too.

Prawn skewers also make a great BBQ starter.

Prawns 4


Next week I'll share some mediteranean inspired meals.

Ciao xx

Quinoa pronounced KEEN-wah

Not as I say, Quin-oh-ah. If you've not tried it yet, read here for some nutritional information.

I'm nearly two weeks into the fast and loving all these new recipes.

This weeks recipe is one pan mexican quinoa, i'm loving these one pan wonder dishes!!

One pan mexican quinoa

The preparation and cooking time on this recipe is very accurate and it's one of those meals that you don't need to stand over. Goodness it's super delicious too!
The only negative is I found it a little dry. I'm not sure if I simmered it on too high a heat or for too long, but next time I make it I will add a cup and a half of vegetable stock.
I used cherry tomatoes cut into 6 pieces, a carton of black beans and a small tin of corn. The quinoa is cooked right in the pan with all the ingredients!

I give this a thumbs up!!

I wanted to share another quinoa dish this week, but as luck would have it I made a dish that had enough left for a second night so I ran out of time to make and write it up. I'll revisit quinoa because I have found a few more recipes to try!

Next week I'm exploring prawn/shrimp dishes!

Ciao xx

One pot andouille sausage skillet pasta

This may be a strange fasting recipe to share but please bare with me! I found this recipe on Pinterest while I was looking for one of those 'throw it all in a pot and Voila it's done' type meals, you know the ones you need when you just don't feel like cooking. And it's delicious!!

The recipe can be found here, along with a huge library of great one pot/pan meals.

My original plan was to make two versions side by side, one following the original recipe and then an adapted recipe for me.

One pot pasta ingredients

Stuart came home before I had started cooking and said he didn't mind the soya milk so I decided to make the vegan version and just add the sausage and cheese to his bowl.

So to turn this into a vegan meal, simply replace three items:
Sausage = courgette
Milk = soya milk
Chicken broth = vegetable stock
and leave one off:

I sliced the courgette thinly and fried it with the onions until they were just softening, then add the vegetable stock, carton of chopped tomatoes, half a cup of soya milk and the raw pasta to the pot and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, pop on the lid and allow to cook for 12 to 14 minutes stiring occasionally.

One pot pasta all in the pot

I love both versions of this recipe and it's one I will make often over the next 6 weeks.

One pot pasta two bowls

It's such an easy and very tasty meal, give it a try. Well that's week 1 almost done, just 6 left!

Ciao xx

Clean Monday and fasting

Today is Clean Monday. It is the start of Lent, 7 weeks before Greek Easter.

I must explain that I am South African born to a Greek father and Scottish mother. I was baptised in the Greek Orthodox church at the age of 13. The motivation was Greek citizenship and a passport. I went to church every Sunday but understood nothing. I don't speak or understand any Greek, well except a few words, like hello, goodbye, thank you and I can swear. I love that I have a mixed heritage!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

For years my aunt had encouraged us to fast for Holy week, the week preceding Easter, but somehow I would always remember half way through a pizza!

In 2013 following a small health scare that my husband had we fasted for Holy week, just 6 days, and enjoyed it. It was also a little kick start to change some of our eating habits. Last year I decided we should fast for the full 7 weeks. We did it, and it was hard and at the end of it I vowed never to do it again, ever!!

And here I sit on Clean Monday 2015 in anticipation for the next 7 weeks of meals that contain no meat, no fish with a backbone (- prawns, mussels and octopus are allowed), no dairy, no eggs, no olive oil or fats derived from animals and no wine.

In addition to the official list, I'm also giving up all alcohol, crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks (except tonic water).
In modern times olive oil can used in cooking and all other fats excluded. However you can't use raw olive oil as a dressing. I will do this as I prefer to cook with olive oil and if you use it to roast vegetables you can use what's left in the dish to drizzle over food.

You may think it's impossible and honestly I thought that too. But over the past year the internet (and Pinterest) has opened my eyes to a huge library of vegan recipes. If you're an adventurous eater you will find lots that you can and will enjoy. And some that you won't, lol.
My aim this lent is to find and cook more Greek recipes, I have a few, but I would like to learn more.

Although I am all set and keen to start, my husband is not and I would never force him. We have agreed that he will eat my vegan offering with a piece of meat in the evenings and I have encouraged him to eat a healthier option for breakfast and lunch. You see, last year we had a little weight loss bet that I won by .5kg. It was a close call and I thought he might be up to steal the title.

I must just say that I have no intention of becoming a vegan, I like meat too much!

So why am I doing it? Well, I like the challenge of completing the 7 weeks and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I like food, too much, and this makes me think about what I put into my body each day. I need to think about each meal and every ingredient in it.
It also reminds me that vegetables can be exciting and delicious and different each time you prepare them if you just experiment a little bit.
Of course there is the spiritual side to lent, giving up so much that is taken for granted. And it is to cleanse the body in preparation of the acceptance of the resurrection at Easter.

I have started a fasting recipe board on Pinterest for easy reference and I'm looking forward to trying some new ones. I thought that I would share a recipe/meal, maybe two, a week for the duration of my fast. These will be recipes I have tried and will give an honest opinion on ease of cooking and taste.

Check back soon for a knitting update too. I have two completed projects to share.

Ciao xx