Tag Archives: Food

Kitchen Hero returns

The first season of Kitchen Hero, Donal Skehan’s excellent TV show, returns to our TV screens tonight at 8.30 on RTE 1 after it’s mid season break. I really enjoyed the first 6 episodes so I’m counting the minutes already.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Donal Skehan, he has a great biography over on his food blog. He first came to my attention with his original and excellently titled food blog thegoodmoodfoodblog.com alas it is no longer with us but the ethos behind that original blog is still very much alive on donalskehan.com

His first cook book, “Good Mood Food”, is a great read that reminds me of the early Jamie Oliver cookbooks with it’s direct and easy to follow style. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to give his second book, Kitchen Hero, a review as yet but based on what I’ve seen in the TV show, I’m sure it will be every bit the match for the recipes and tips of the first.

As cooking shows go, Donal’s personality and enthusiasm shines through, there is no doubting that he loves food, loves to cook and most important loves to share that knowledge with others. His recipes are very accessible and any I’ve made, I’ve enjoyed both the results and the preparation.

The thing that really makes this show for me though is the attention to detail, I can’t remember the last time I saw a cookery show where we actually saw the cook washing their hands, not to mention washing them after handling raw meat. I know it’s basic hygiene and I know most people do it automatically, but I really hate the way so many shows seem to take hygiene for granted! Good on you Donal for keeping it real!

Recipe: Thai Yellow Soup

Hmmm a traditional Thai soup recipe? Hell to the no! This is anything but. I came up with the idea for this recipe after an experiment in making Thai chicken curry. The chilli I used for the curry was a little lacking in the heat department and as a result I ended up with a curry that had almost no heat.

It still made for a fantastic tasting dish, just not what was originally intended. The lack of heat meant that all the other herbs and spices were able to come through in full force. Which led me to thinking about what else I could use similar flavours in because they are so great together.

This is the first of those ideas to make it to the “perfected recipe” stage and it’s a butternut squash and sweet potato soup of sorts but that doesn’t really make for a snappy title so given the inspiration and appearance I’m calling it Thai Yellow Soup.


Thai Yellow Soup garnished with a sprig of basil and a dash of truffle oil
Thai Yellow Soup garnished with a sprig of basil and a dash of truffle oil

Ingredients;

1 x onion, diced
1 x carrot, diced
2 x sticks of celery, diced
2 x cloves of garlic, finely diced
quarter of a chilli, diced
Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely diced or grated
Pinch of ground coriander
Pinch of ground cumin
1 x butternut squash, diced
2 x sweet potatoes, diced
Veg or chicken stock
1 x star anise
1 x handful of fresh coriander
1 x handful of fresh basil
1 x handful of fresh mint


Place a large saucepan over a medium high heat, once it has warmed add a little oil, just enough so that you can slow fry the onion until it is soft, then add the carrot and continue to gently fry until they start to soften.

Next you want to add the celery, garlic, chilli, ginger, ground coriander and ground cumin. stir it all together and continue to fry for about a minute this should be long enough to warm and release the fragrance of the garlic, ginger, coriander and cumin.

Add the butternut squash and the sweet potato to the pot and stir together. Add enough stock to cover all the contents. Drop in the star anise, fresh basil, coriander and mint, then stir and bring it to the boil. Simmer gently for 30 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sweet potato and butternut squash start to break up as you stir remove the soup from the heat and blend until you have a smooth purée.

Return this to a low heat. Then taste and season. If you are happy with the consistency of the soup you can proceed to the eating phase, if not, you could thin it by stirring in boiling water or by adding milk or cream.

I like to serve this soup drizzled with a little truffle oil for added decadence and a crusty bread roll is a great accompaniment to any soup.

A moment of thought and planning

So, Thursday saw the end of my series of posts on cooking methods which was microwave cooking and I didn’t publish a recipe to go with it. This wasn’t an oversight on my behalf, if it wasn’t for my morning laziness I would hardly ever use our microwave.

Quality is not quantity.
Image via Wikipedia

So, what’s next for Not Junk Food?

Well, I had mentioned before that I wanted to do some posts on food hygiene and nutrition but I’m not going to launch into those just yet, part of the reason is that I haven’t even started writing those posts yet, what with the job hunting taking up so much of my focus for the last while and because these can be VERY boring topics if not treated well. So rather than rush into it and risk boring my tiny audience to tears I’m going to work on making those posts as easy to read and digest as possible.

When this site started originally I was posting at least 4 times a week, more recently that has dropped to 2-4 posts a week. This gave me a little extra time to improve the quality of what I was writing, by allowing me to do more research and editing, some of those cooking method posts were like chapters of a book on their first draft and that’s just not cricket. People either don’t read longer posts or lose interest halfway through. I really believe that having an understanding of these basic methods has improved my cooking immensely and I wanted to pass those details along to as many people as possible hence the extra effort.

For the future I intend to continue this trend of lower quantity, higher quality. So here’s the plan, I’m going to commit to publishing a recipe and at least one other post every week, for the foreseeable future.

Microwave

The microwave cooks food with energy created by microwave emissions at high frequency, which activate the water molecules in the food and the agitation created produces heat which cooks or reheats food.

Microwave oven
Image via Wikipedia

It can be used to cook food in its entirety, partially, reheat food or even to defrost food. You can save up to three-quarters of the time taken by conventional methods, for his reason it is often called the refuge of the lazy and/or disorganised cook. This is because the microwave does nothing for the flavour of food and in many cases provides a far inferior tasting finished product to a conventional option, but it sure is quick. That said it does cut cooking odours and minimise the shrinkage of meats or fish and it is useful for small quantities of food.

The interior needs to be kept clean at all times. Metal or gilded containers should never be used. Also the door seal should be checked regularly, if it is damaged the microwave should not be used until it is repaired.

I’ll admit that our microwave gets a lot of use in our kitchen for three purposes, the first is for making porridge in the morning and this falls into the lazy/disorganised category as I just can’t be bothered with saucepans and watching when I’m still just waking up myself, mix the porridge in the bowl, bung it in the microwave and ninety seconds later I stir in some mashed banana and eat my breakfast. The second is for heating Elly’s “hotpack” that she uses instead of a hot-water bottle.

The final and most frequent use that our microwave gets is as a bread box, it’s big enough to hold 2 full loaves and it’s an airtight container, you just have to remember to let the oven cool before placing the bread inside and closing the door.

Shallow frying

Five sausages (Cauldron Lincolnshire) fried in...
Image via Wikipedia

When shallow frying the food is cooked in a small quantity of fat or oil. There are four different types of shallow frying.

  1. Shallow frying where the food is fried on both sides in oil or fat in a frying pan.
  2. Sauté where the food is tossed in hot fat or oil to cook quickly. A sauté pan is ideal but a frying pan can be used
  3. Griddle fried where the food is cooked quickly on a lightly oiled hot plate or Griddle pan.
  4. Stir-fried where the food is tossed in hot fat or oil over a very high heat, usually done in a wok but a frying or sauté pan can also be used in an emergency.

This is a quick method that can add colour, flavour (from the oil or fat) and a crisp finish to most foods as required.

It’s important to use a pan of a suitable size for the food that you intend to cook and not to crowd the pan as this can affect the quality of the result. As always care should be taken when moving hot pan and especially when tossing a pan with hot oil in it. Finally never leave a pan unattended as oil and fat can catch fire when too hot.