We don’t do diets in our house. Or at least I didn’t think we did. Then I Googled ‘diets’ out of interest.
We have the 5:2 diet, Dukan diet, Paleo diet, Atkins diet, Alkaline diet, Cambridge diet, South Beach diet, Slimming World diet, Slim-Fast diet, LighterLife diet, WeightWatchers diet, Rosemary Conley diet and Jenny Craig diet and that’s just for starters
I then Googled ‘Eat what you want diet’. I was surprised to find page after page of differing ‘Eat What You Want Diets’!
Now I have nothing against diets. I’m sure for some people they are the right thing and possibly the only way they will lose weight.
However the people that seem to be on a never ending circle of diets do make me laugh. Because that’s the thing. They do one diet, lose some weight, start eating ‘normally’, put weight back on and then start another diet. And then there’s someone making a lot of money out of these people!
The funny thing is we eat what we want. No. Not the eat all what you want diet. We just eat what we want.
However, we hardly eat any processed food. We don’t eat ready meals… at all (even the microwave has been shut away in the loft!) and if we or the Kids want to have something to eat between meals it’s usually a piece of fruit, not a chocolate bar, bag of crisps or bag of sweets.
We saw a video that someone had posted on You tube. It was a talk by Michael Pollan. If you are interested in food and diet I recommend looking at some of the things he has written.
One of the things he says is “you can eat as much junk food as you want… as long as you make it yourself”
And it’s a really good train of thought. It’s easy to go and buy chips, pizza, burgers and southern fried chicken from the take-away, you could go every day. However to make these things at home requires time, effort, quite a bit of mess and subsequent cleaning up! Which is why we only have these things occasionally as a treat, even then chips are usually baked in the oven as opposed to deep-fried. Making them yourself also means you don’t get the hidden nasty ingredients in there.
The other thing that Michael Pollan mentions is the amount of sugar, salt, chemicals and hidden fats in processed foods and ready meals. Again something which we don’t really eat.
So it’s funny when you look at the different diets and see that the majority of them say to cut down on processed food and eat more fruit and vegetables.
Well that’s what we do and it’s also what Michael Pollan advocates (although I have given a very simplified version of his advice).
We enjoy food. We cook nearly everything we eat from scratch. We eat fruit. We eat vegetables.
We don’t eat ready meals and we don’t eat a lot of processed food.
We eat what we want… does that mean we’re on a diet? If we are we’ve been on it for over eight years and still enjoying it. Now that must be some diet!
Just please, please don’t give it a name… I would be mortified to Google diets again and find ‘The ‘Ome Made Diet’!
So for Easter Sunday this year we decided to have Thai.
We were having friends and Family around for Dinner so we decided to keep it simple.
So of course it had to be Thai Fishcakes and the ubiquitous Thai Green Chicken Curry. These were complimented by some nice crunchy pickled vegetables, cucumber sauce and Thai sweet chilli sauce.
The fishcakes were made a couple of days beforehand and re-heated in the oven for 35 minutes beforehand, they reheated really well and saved time on the day. The Thai green curry paste was also made in advance to save time.
Unfortunately there are no pictures of the Thai Green Chicken Curry (I’ve put one in of a previous creation) but I’ve included the recipe anyway for anyone that wants a go.
First up the pastes. These will make more than you need but if you fry them in some oil and put them in sterilised jars they will keep in the fridge for six weeks or so. By the way if you’re one of those Veggie or Vegan types you can omit the shrimp paste.
Thai Green Curry Paste
2 teaspoons coriander seeds (or two level teaspoons ground coriander)
18 small, hot green chilli peppers
2 stems of lemongrass
3 tablespoon galangal sliced (or ginger)
1 tablespoon kaffir (if you can get them, normal if not) lime zest
30g/1oz coriander (if you can get it with the root on add that too)
6 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
60g/2oz shallots or onion chopped
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground white pepper (yes you can substitute black but white gives a truer and better flavour)
Add all the ingredients (starting with the hardest first) into a food processor or wet grinder and blitz to a smooth paste adding a little oil if necessary.
Thai Red Curry Paste
10 – 15 dried red chillies (soaked in hot water for twenty minutes or so)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 stems lemongrass sliced
6 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
60g/2oz shallots or onion sliced
3 tablespoon galangal or ginger sliced
1 1/2 tablespoon shrimp paste
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
add all the ingredients into a food processor or wet grinder and blitz to a smooth paste as above.
Thai Fish Cakes (Tod Man Pla)
this makes approximately 22
375g/13oz white fish (haddock, cod, Pollock!)
1 large squid tube
1/4 portion of red curry paste (roughly a tablespoon)
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon softened palm sugar or dark brown sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves soaked in hot water
55g/2oz yard-long beans (or any round green bean) cut into thin slices
1 small egg beaten
Prepare the fish and squid taking the bones and skin off the fish and removing the backbone, beak and intestines from the squid then rinsing. Roughly chop and process the fish in batches into a smooth paste. CurlyE was helping me with this – “Urgghhh! that looks like snot!” to be fair he was right! Mix in the other ingredients with just enough egg to bind without being sloppy.
Form the mixture into balls using about a dessert spoon of mixture for each one (having a bowl of cold water and keeping your hands wet will stop the mixture sticking to your hands). Flatten your balls into disks about 5mm thick.
place the fishcakes on greaseproof paper on a tray (if all the ingredients were fresh and not previously frozen they can be flash frozen at this stage).
To cook from fresh deep fry for approximately 3 minutes, from frozen give them about 4 – 5 minutes.
We love pickled vegetables in our house. They make a lovely side dish to all South East Asian food. Even a bit of poached chicken on some plain boiled rice is livened up and made into a tasty refreshing dish with the addition of them.
The choice of vegetable is up to you. In this instance we used baby sweet corn, onion, carrot strips, white cabbage and some green beans. We also did one jar with some sliced chilli in, some like it hot! The pickling liquor is quite light, so these will not keep for months but they should keep for a couple weeks in the fridge.
To make your pickling liquor you want roughly 50/50 vinegar to water, some sugar to taste and some bits n bobs in it to flavour (Lemongrass trimmings, coriander seeds, garlic, ginger or whatever takes your fancy).
Simmer the mixture for 20 – 30 minutes until the sugar has melted and the flavours have infused the liquor.
Prepare your veg and place in a colander over a bowl. sprinkle with salt, give it a toss and leave for 20 minutes to draw some of the water out. after twenty minutes give the veg a rinse, drain and then put in clean jars (sterilised if not using within a week). Strain your vinegar liquor while still hot and pour over the vegetables to cover. It will be ready after 24 hours.
Sorry it’s not much of a recipe but it’s just one of those things I do on the fly!
Sweet Chilli/Cucumber sauce
In a pan put 175ml/6 fl oz water, 250g/9 oz sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and 175ml/6 fl oz white vinegar. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
Put 1/2 of the above mixture in a serving bowl, add a dash of fish sauce and light soy sauce. Finely dice some cucumber and add to the sauce. And that’s the cucumber sauce done.
To the remaining vinegar mix in the pan add 2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes or a couple of finely diced fresh red chillies and two teaspoons of strawberry or raspberry jam. Bring to the simmer again and cook until the jam has dissolved, that’s your sweet chilli done.
Thai Green Chicken Curry
Enough for 6 – 8 people
30g/1oz fresh coriander
1 generous tablespoon green curry paste
4 kaffir lime leaves (soaked in water if dried) shredded
1 heaped teaspoon dark brown sugar or a couple lumps of palm sugar
a dash of soy sauce
a dash of fish sauce
some Thai basil leaves shredded
2 Thai red chillies thinly sliced
juice of two limes
Blitz the fresh coriander in a food processor. Heat some oil in a large pan and add the curry paste, fresh coriander, lime leaves and the spices. Fry for a couple of minutes, stirring so the mixture doesn’t burn. Add the coconut milk, bring to a simmer and cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken and if necessary enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring to the simmer and cook gently, covered for approximately 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Serve with some plain rice or noodles and a little pickled veg and mango salad on the side.
Dice a whole mango and place in a serving bowl. Add a dash of vinegar, black pepper, a sliced red chilli and a sprinkling of soft dark brown sugar. Top with some toasted and crushed cashew nuts before serving.
So that was our Easter Sunday Dinner. It might not have been traditional but it was damn good!
Oh… yes there was dessert but it was just a boring old trifle… and erm…. the custard didn’t set… whoops!
We don’t have them very often so when we do it’s a real treat.
Our children have never been to a McDonalds, Burger King or any other junk food purveyor.
I can imagine that when they do (although I’d like to think they never will…) it will be a real eye opener for them. I can just see them going back to the counter with the sad little burger in hand… “What’s this? You call this a burger?”
I don’t know why more people don’t make their own? You can buy a kilo of mince meat for a lot less than it costs for a kilo of burgers. All you need to do is add a bit of seasoning, mix and form into a rough Pattie and throw on a grill, BBQ or frying pan.
However you can let your imagination run wild and flavour your meat with a vast array of ingredients.
And then you have your toppings, now this is where the fun starts!
You have to have cheese of some sort. I love a slice of Monterey Jack on a beef burger, but a medium cheddar is just as nice. If you want to ‘Posh’ it up I would go with some crumbly Stilton. One of my favourite burgers is a Mediterranean influenced lamb burger topped with a piece of grilled Halloumi and some ‘Ome made Tzatziki.
I like a nice mustardy mayonnaise on my beef burgers along with a little salad leaf, slice of tomato and I’m sorry but gherkins are good too. I also think a beef burger needs a good squirt of tomato ketchup.
Lately we have been making veal burgers. I know that some people are a little put off by veal but the place that we get it from uses the male animals from the place that they get their milk supplies from. If the animals are not sold for meat then they would be slaughtered at birth anyway. So personally I haven’t got a problem with eating veal that’s a by-product of the dairy industry, and from some where that has high standards for animal welfare.
Mince veal has quite a delicate flavour and it makes a really nice burger that compliments other ‘add ons’.
Heres a recipe you might want to try but feel free to add your own ‘add ons’ as everyone has different tastes. The burgers could be made with any sort of meat though.
1.2Kg veal mince (or beef or lamb), Waitrose often have a deal on veal mince, hence the amount which would cost £10
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
A really good grind of black pepper
A couple teaspoons of mustard. Dijon or wholegrain works best
And that’s it, although you could add other things if you fancy. Get your hands in the bowl and give it a really good ‘squish’ to thoroughly mix the ingredients into the meat.
I then line a tray with greaseproof paper, form the meat into burgers, place on the tray and chill which lets the burgers firm up a little. If you’re finding you have more meat on your hands than tray a tip is to shape the burgers using slightly wet hands. You may notice on the photos that we made some little meat balls from the same mixture, these were used in the Kids’ pack-up for their school lunch (I never got pack-up as good as theirs!), they would be equally as good in a tomato sauce with some pasta for a quick lunch or supper.
And that’s it your burgers are ready to go and be cooked using your preferred method.
So we had these little beauties topped with Chorizo, Monterey Jack cheese, an ‘Ome made tomato and habenero chilli salsa and some rocket and baby spinach leaves all sandwiched in a mini Ciabatta bun with a squirt of American style mustard spread on for good measure.
The salsa is really easy too if you want to have a go. Just dice some tomatoes, onions and chillies (which can be left out if you don’t want the heat). Add enough sugar to lightly coat the mixture, a little splash of vinegar and a good squirt or squeeze of lime juice. It now needs a good pinch of salt (I personally like a nice salty salsa)and a good grind of pepper. Again a salsa can easily be customized to your own liking.
We had these with some nice chunky baked chips and a little more salad leaf on the side.
Be prepared for juice dribbling down chins and arms, but then that’s all part of the enjoyment!
And don’t forget to tell you’re kids how much nicer and healthier Home-made burgers are compared to the high street, mass produced crap of fast food vendors!
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