Thursday, 30 April 2009

Chicken and asparagus stir fry

Another nice recipe for using all that British asparagus that's now in season!

This is a really easy and really tasty recipe. First, cut the chicken breast into strips and place in a bowl with some soy sauce (for a British alternative, consider anchovy sauce, it doesn't taste the same, but it adds the same kind of rich, saltiness that you get from soy sauce), chopped garlic and dried (or even better, fresh) basil. I also like to add a generous portion of freshly ground black pepper. Mix all this up and set aside for around half an hour.

Then, simply chop two or three (depending on the size) shallot onions, half a red pepper, half a yellow pepper and some asparagus. I like to keep the asparagus fairly long, so I cut it into three or four sections. Add some oil to a wok and heat until it's nice and hot. Then fry the shallot onions until they are soft and beginning to turn brown. Add the chicken and continue to cook on a high heat. I find that you can tell that the chicken is cooked through when you can break a piece in two using only a blunt wooden spoon, but this will generally take about 5 minutes. Stir regularly while it's cooking to avoid anything sticking to the wok. Next, add the chopped sweet pepper and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until beginning to soften. You could also add some frozen peas at this point if you like.

Add the asparagus last, as it requires the least cooking and you don't want to over cook it.
Cook for a further three or four minutes. Serve with rice, as shown above. That's it!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tomato plants

To my great surprise, the tomato seeds that I sowed earlier on are already shooting and looking fairly healthy: So, they no longer need to be in a propagator, so I have removed the cling film covering from the pot. I will let them grow a little bit bigger and then I will transplant them into individual small pots. I didn't expect anything to happen quite so soon. There is no sign of activity from the sweet peppers yet and I haven't had time to plant all the other seeds.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Apparently, British Asparagus is now in season! It's a very short season, so make the most of it while you can! As an example of all the wonderful things that can be done with Asparagus, I made a sausage and Asparagus gratin. It's very simple:

Finely chop a medium sized onion. Cut the sausages into roughly 1 inch lengths and mix with half of the chopped onion in a heat proof dish. I like to use whole Asparagus, rather then just the spears, but I think it's best to cut off the woody bit right at the very bottom of the stalks. I then chopped the Asparagus stalks into sections and mixed them in with the sausages and onions. Add some salt, pepper, a splash of olive oil and some herbs (fresh herbs are always best if you have them!), I like to use basil in this kind of dish, but parsley would also work well. Add half a tin of chopped tomatoes and the rest of the chopped onion. Then, cover with thinly sliced, raw potato and a final dusting of salt and pepper, as shown:

Cook this in the over, at 190C for about an hour. After it's been in for about 45 minutes, I like to take it out and add some grated cheese to the top, but this is optional.

OK, maybe I need to work on my presentation, but I'm not a professional chef (poor excuse) and I can assure you that it was very tasty!

Thursday, 23 April 2009


Sausages made from British meat always seem to be available, so I tend to eat them quite often. A slightly less well known form of sausage is the beef sausage and there are some particularly fine Aberdeen Angus beef sausages around in the supermarkets. I always prefer to cook sausages in the oven, which takes about 30 minutes at 190C. This gives plenty of time to do something else, like make a tasty sauce to go with them!

Such a sauce can be made easily enough from some chopped shallot onions, which have a much sweeter flavour then 'normal' onions, half a tin of chopped tomatoes and some garlic. Simply fry the shallots in some oil until they are soft. As far as I can tell, British shallots are around in the supermarkets at the moment. For the oil, olive oil works well, but for a British alternative, consider cold-pressed hemp seed oil. This has a slightly different flavour, but it's quite nice and it has many of the same good qualities of olive oil. Add some salt, pepper and chopped garlic (about 3 sections from the bulb). Stir this around and let it simmer away until the onion is soft. Then, simply add half a tin of chopped tomatoes, stir, then cover and leave to simmer gently until the sausages are done. I have never found tins of chopped British tomatoes, but it would be equally possible to use fresh tomatoes, but they should be peeled first, which does take some time (to make this a bit easier, blanch them in boiling water first, but remember, they'll be hot afterwards!).

Once the sausages are done, I like to chop them and stir into the sauce before serving with pasta or mashed potatoes. Of course, unless you make your own pasta, it probably wont be British.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Home grown vegetables

Well, it's been a while since I last posted! I've been busy moving down to the South of England and starting a new job, which I think is a good enough excuse.
Anyway, I now have some outdoor space, so I can finally grow some of my own food! This is quite exciting because it means I'll be able to have British grown tomatoes, courgettes and butter-nut squash. Well, British tomatoes will be in the shops eventually, but it'll take a while. Mind you, the seeds I've bought will take a while as well, so we'll have to see which is first - watch this space!

I also bought seeds for coriander and basil, both of which I use a lot in cooking. As I found when I did the year of eating only British food, it's very hard, if not impossible to find British produced herbs. And, because there was a special offer on, I got some sweet pepper seeds as well, but they'll only grow indoors, along with the herbs.

So far, I have only planted the tomatoes and the sweet peppers:

I don't have a propagator, or a green house, so I've used clingfilm over the top of the pots. Not very exciting yet, but watch this space, they should start germinating soon! Now is the time to get planting most things, in fact it's almost too late for the tomatoes. The butternut squash and the courgettes will get planted next month. I will transfer these to grow bags on my patio once they are big enough to fend for themselves outside.