Archive | February, 2013

Chicken Tikka Cheater… Taking a leaf out of Delia’s Book

27 Feb

Well Delia cheated, so why can’t I!?

It’s not something I am going to do often, however when it has been a long day and you have been on your feet is all you really desire is a yummy dinner that doesn’t take an age to cook.  I know this as well as the next person.  So tonight it was short-cut time.

I popped to Marks & Spencer’s and I bought their ‘Tikka Masala Sauce’.  I love their sauce range as they are seemingly the most authentic (I haven’t tried too many other types to be honest), but I know that M&S make simple, good, honest food and I like their ethos, so that is where my sauce came from.  I am not an M&S food snob – I promise.

So, what to add to the sauce… chicken is the obvious, but what about a vegetable – sweet potato?  I decided to take the plunge and add it in; and I will be doing it again.  It was delicious as the tomato-y sauce really went well with the sweetness of the potato – I am not sure I even really needed the chicken.  Maybe I will go 100% veggie next time, though I may need even more vegetables!  Here is how to do it folks…


COOKING TIME: 20 minutes

MAKES: 4 portions



  • 1 Jar of M&S Tikka Sauce – it cost me £.179
  • 1 Sweet Potato – it cost me 33p
  • 1 Onion – it cost me 33p
  • 1 Large Chicken Breast  – it cost me £1.70 (This was from my local butchers and included the fillet, so it was huge! Most supermarkets remove this and sell it on as a ‘chicken fillet’ when really it belonged to your chicken breast.)
  • 250g Wild Rice – it cost me £51p


Like I said before, I don’t normally cheat like this and use a jar sauce.  I believe that food should be cooked from scratch and be healthy and nutritious, but if you have had a bad day and are going to be naughty – do it but do it well and as healthily and tastily as you can.

So, peel and chop the sweet potato into very small cubes – I recommend 1cm cubes.  Then pop these into a small pan and add boiling water.  As these are so small they are going to take about 10 minutes to cook.  Do not over cook them so that they are dropping and making a sweet potato soup in your pan!

Chop the onion into a small dice and pop this into a pre-heated frying pan.  Leave this to cook, moving it around occasionally.  You want the onion to be very soft and slightly golden – not burnt, so keep the heat quite low.

Whilst the onion cooks away, chop your chicken breast up into approx. 1cm pieces too.  I say to do this quite small as I like to ensure all my ingredients are similar sizes and therefore I get a mouthful of rice, chicken, sweet potato and sauce.  I am not one of those people who eats all the separate elements of my dinner individually i.e. all my veg, all my protein then all my carbs!  No!  You want a little bit of everything in each mouthful.

Now the onions are soft, add the chicken and cook until golden and cooked through.  This should take about 7 minutes.  Whilst this is cooking I would measure out the wild rice, put this in a pan and cover with boiling water and then pop the lid on.  This will take 15 minutes, so your chicken should be cooked when the rice is half cooked.

The sweet potatoes will be ready to, so drain these and add these to the chicken and onions.  It is time for the sauce!  POP open your jar and pour into the frying pan with your lovely ingredients.  Fill the jar 1/3 full, place the lid back on, give it a shake and then pour this into the frying pan to.  We are now going to cook this until it reduces a little and thickens up and coats all of your chicken and sweet potatoes.

Time is up, everything should now be ready.  Drain the rice, serve and place a large dollop of your meat and sauce into the middle!  Pick up your fork and go… you deserve it!



Gemma’s Marvellous Medicine #2 – Chicken Noodle Soup

24 Feb


I hope you all enjoyed my blog yesterday ‘Gemma’s Marvellous Medicine #1 – Honey & Lemon Drink’?  If not, do have a little read, as it will hopefully help you to start feeling better, as there are a lot of colds and bugs going around at the moment.

The other thing I made for myself this week, to give me a little boost, is this ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’.  As a little girl, whenever I was ill, my mummy would make me chicken soup – now this was generally the tinned variety, but if you have had a similar experience, you will know what I mean when I say it makes you feel better instantly.  Me and my friends call this recipe ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’, as it is the ‘pick-me-up’ you need – a hot, tasty and fresh soup, which warms the cockles of your heart.  It is delicious!

This recipe also costs very little to make – my calculations for how much it cost me are below (though remember I bought all of my ingredients in a local supermarket in central London, so the  price will be slightly higher due to that).  It cost me £3.62 to make this recipe and I took the other portions to work for my lunch, so per portion it was 90p.  BARGAIN!  So lets get cooking this tasty, cheap, Chinese chicken noodle soup!


COOKING TIME: 30 minutes

MAKES: 4 portions of soup


  • 2 Chicken Thighs (98p)
  • 1 tin of ‘naturally sweet’ sweetcorn (you can use any you like, but I think that this is the tastiest) (65p)
  • 1 bunch of spring onions (£1)
  • 2 chicken stock cubes (50p)
  • 1 egg (29p)
  • 75g noodles (I use wholemeal noodles for an extra health boost, but any noodles are fine – or even fine spaghetti if you cannot buy noodles) (15p)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour (5p)
  • 1 pint boiling water
  • Black pepper to season


Grab a large pan and place it on the hob.  Fill the kettle with cold water and get that boiling.  Open the tin of sweetcorn and pop this in the pan, then dice the spring onion into small pieces (about 5mm) and throw this in the pan.  When I work with people from the community, teaching them to cook, the first thing they do with Spring Onions is to chop the top 6 – 10 cm off and throw them in the bin.  This makes my heart sink!  NO!  The green tops of the onion are fantastic for us.  You may want to tidy the spring onions and cut off the first 2mm, but you really must use all the spring onion.  The green part holds different vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin C, iron and folic acid) which are essential for our good health.  So, please do not waste any of this fabulous vegetable.

Place the chopped spring onions in the pan together with the 2 chicken thighs and then add the pint of boiling water.  Turn the heat on – to a medium heat so that the water is gently simmering/bubbling, but you don’t want it on a rolling boil – this is too hot.  Now add the 2 stock cubes and the black pepper (I use quite a lot of this) and then give this a good stir, to dissolve the stock cubes.  Place a lid on the pan and leave the soup to cook and the flavours of the chicken, sweetcorn and spring onions to come out and flavour the liquid.

We need to allow time for the chicken to cook through – this should take about 20 minutes.  After this time, remove one of the thighs, place it on your chopping board and cut into it.  If there is no blood it is cooked.  Remove the other thigh, repeat this process and then leave the chicken to one side.  If they are not cooked, pop them back into the water and leave for 5 minutes then repeat the checking for blood.

Now we need to work on our soup, so lets add the noodles and let these cook – this will take about 10 minutes.  Whilst this occurs crack your egg into a mug/cup and whisk – as if you are going to make scrambled eggs.  In another mug add the 1 tablespoon of cornflour and add water to this to make a fairly thin mixture.

The noodles will be cooked by now, so get a fork, place this into the soup and make small whisking motions in the centre.  Continue doing this whilst you very slowly pour in the whisked egg and you will see small bits of white egg form in the soup.  This is what you see in all the chicken and sweetcorn soups you get from the Chinese take-away/restaurant, and when you eat one of these later it will be just delicious, but it also adds to the Chinese authenticity of this dish. YUM!

The soup will be quite thin and watery now – unlike those in the Chinese, so we need to thicken it.  This is where your cornflour and water mixture comes in.  Stir the soup with a large spoon and slowly add the cornflour, you will notice the soup thickening.  Add as much/as little cornflour as you like to make the soup the consistency you want.  Once the soup as cooled it will thicken much much more, so go steady and use less rather than more!

Finally, shred the cooked chicken thighs using forks (if they are hot) or your fingers.  You want to make lots of little chicken strands, not huge chunks of chopped up chicken – for some reason it just doesn’t taste the same, or wrap around the noodles and egg if you chop the chicken, so avoid this and get your hands in!

Add the chicken to the soup, stir well and after 5 mins (once the chicken is heated through again) serve this in a large bowl.  You can add more pepper to taste if you like!

Now, you will feel satisfied and will hopefully have a little smug smile on your face as you battle your germs.  HAPPY EATING!Image

Ps.  My soup (as per the picture opposite) looks very purple!  This is right and it is not your eyes playing tricks on you!  I used wholemeal noodles which I get from my local Vietnamese supermarket and when you cook with them they look like little purple worms in your soup.  I also went a little overboard on noodles – so my soup was very purple and quite stodgy.  Kids will love the purple noodles, you could even rename the soup chicken worm soup – just to get them to give it a try!

Gemma’s Marvellous Medicine #1 – Honey & Lemon Drink

23 Feb


I’ve been away for a little while as like many of my friends in London town, I have been suffering with nothing less than ‘man flu’.  This is obviously a serious illness which requires constant moaning about and should be accompanied by a miserable face… I really did go for it and lapped up the sympathy votes. 

I hope you are all feeling a little better, but if not, I thought it would be an ideal time to share ‘Gemma’s Marvellous Medicine’.  Admittedly, this is something I have stolen from my mother’s little box of tricks, but it really does work.


  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 100ml boiling water


This really is extremely easy to make but it works a treat.  The lemon is first, so get yourself a glass and into it squeeze your lemon.  Roll the lemon on the work-surface for a little while using the palm of your hand – this will release the juices.  Then, cut the lemon in half and squeeze into the glass.  You could use your hand as a sieve to prevent all the pips from going into the glass or if you are feeling really rotten and want to be lazy, just throw the pips in to!  (Don’t do this if you are giving it to children!)

Next pop in a teaspoon of sugar, then a teaspoon of honey and then the hot water.  Now, I like this drink nice and strong and lemony.  If you want the same add less water, if you want a long drink add some more.


So, why is this drink so good?  Well, the lemon is our vitamin C, so this gives our immune system a real boost and allows our body to start fighting all the germs.  We only absorb a certain amount of vitamin C in any one day, so using half a lemon will give you all the vitamins you need.  Don’t try eating several lemons – vitamin C can only do so much!

The honey is great, its one of natures natural antibacterial remedies, as it contains phenolic acid and flavonoids.  It compliments the lemon excellently and seems to allow the antioxidants in the lemon to be absorbed much more readily.  Honey is present in a large number of cough medicines, and it seems to coat the throat, so if you have a dry cold or a chesty cough this remedy is excellent.

The sugar – this is a necessity for me.  I have a sweet tooth, but the sugar seems to cut through the bitterness of the lemon in a way the honey cannot.  Sugar is also the provider of energy, therefore if we are feeling low and lethargic the sugar just seems to give you a boost and give you the energy spurt you may just need to get to work.

Hot water – I use the boiling water to dissolve all the honey and sugar and to bring the drink together, but there is a bit of theory behind it to.  Have you been ill and your mum gives you cooled, boiled water to drink rather than water from the tap?  Yes, me to!  This is because the boiling of the water removes any little germs/bacteria thay may be in our water, which our bodies could normally fight off.  It therefore follows that using hot water here has the same effect (no extra germs added), but it has the benefit of warming us up on a cold wintery day too… perfect!

I give this drink to my friends and housemates when they are feeling under the weather and they all say ‘wow it tastes incredible’ and that they do feel a little better after it.  I would suggest you have it in the mornings before work or in the evenings before bed.  It really is just like a ‘hug-in-a-mug’! 

HAPPY DRINKING PEOPLE & I really do hope you are all feeling better soon!  I am off to drink my honey and lemon drink right now… ATCHOOO!

BEETROOTS are Red, Violets are Blue, I’ve got a beetroot muffin for you!

14 Feb


Whether we have been dreading it or looking forward to it and planning the purchase of random ‘love’ gifts for you partner for weeks; the day is finally here.

I was so close to having a Valentines this year, yet once again so far.  But not to worry (…and please don’t feel sorry for me) I have just been baking to compensate!

I hope you all have a fabulous Valentines day and if you are cooking tonight, please do make these little muffins.  They are great fun, deliciously moist and a stunningly beautiful little muffin.  ENJOY!

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes


  • 180g plain flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 250g cooked beetroots (not pickled!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

How to make these love muffins…

First things first – you are not going to be able to make a love muffin unless you have a love heart shaped muffin tray, or at least a muffin tray with love heart shaped paper cases.  So, sorry but you are going to need to invest in those… and quick!

The muffins are so easy to make.  The first thing you need to do is to prepare the muffin tray and preheat the oven to 180 degrees (Gas Mark 4).  Now you can get all your dry ingredients ready, so weigh out the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and then sieve them into a large mixing bowl.  (It is important to sieve here as you do not want lumps of cocoa powder).

Add the sugar to the dry ingredients and then mix well so that the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder are all combined together.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients using a large spoon and then crack the eggs into here.  (You may want to bread each into a cup first just to check they are fresh/not bad, and then you can pour them into the well).

Measure out the vegetable oil into a measuring jug and then to this add the 250g of cooked beetroot.  This is the fun bit (and if you have children then will love doing this!), its BLENDING TIME!  So, insert the blender into the centre and blend until you have a smooth, light pink mix.

Add the bended oil and beetroot to the well along with the eggs and then using a fork or a metal spoon and start to bring together all the ingredients.  Keep mixing (not beating) until there are no pockets of flour and the mixture is smooth and deep in colour.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases/tray until each compartment is about two thirds full.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  When you take them out of the oven they should have risen beautifully and if you insert a skewer or knife into the centre it should come out clean.  If not then pop them back into the oven for 3 minutes.  Repeat until cooked.  Remove from the baking cases/moulds and leave to cool on a cooling rack.


I give you an Onion… HAPPY VALENTINES.

14 Feb


Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears like a lover.
It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.20130214-055213.jpg
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful as we are,
for as long as we are.
Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.

A little word from gems:

Not a recipe from me today… well not yet. But instead my favourite ever poem that for me symbolises love and involves food. Myheaven. My friends and family will laugh at me for this, as at school I was totally obsessed with my anthology book and this is a poem that we studied, back in the day. The poem really struck a chord with me then and I cannot wait to find the love of my life and randomly give him an onion… (…as yet I still have the onion, she says as her eyes water a little and she sniffs – but she carries on preparing dinner.)




How did you have yours!?

13 Feb


This year I got myself all prepared and ready for pancake day… my goodness I was excited… SHROVE TUESDAY!  YES!  This year I was organised… for the wrong week, which is a #fail.

So… I did have plans last night so I could not join in with the pancake fun, so my pancake day will be tonight.  Some of you may have gone for it and had pancakes last night, some of you may not have… if not, why not try this recipe tonight?  It is the best one I have found/use and I believe that to get a good pancake it is all in the eggs…

Preparation Time: 3 minutes

Cooking Time: 4 minutes

Eating Time: 3 minutes per pancake (unless you are a hoover!)


  • 200g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 75ml water
  • Butter (for the pan)

Optional Additions to the Ingredients:

This is the vital part of the pancake… HOW WILL YOU HAVE YOURS?  So, what toppings do you fancy.  For me it is always lemon and sugar, but you could have banana and nutella, orange and cinnamon, a jam (raspberry, strawberry, blackcurrant), you could go very healthy and have yoghurt and berries.  You choose, buy these and then get ready to make the batter.

How to make the batter..As per my previous note – it is all in the eggs!  So, you ideally need organic free-range eggs and they must be fresh, I repeat, they must be fresh!  Crack your egg in a mug and if the white is watery and runny then it is not that fresh.  If you have just bought the eggs that day and you do this test you should have quite a firm egg with no watery bits.  If your egg is watery it is ok, you can still use it and it will not make you ill; but you may not get the best/tastiest pancakes possible.  Sorry.

So first you need to sieve the flour and the pinch of salt into a bowl.

Next, make a well in the centre of the flour and then pour your egg from the mug unto the middle – the well – and then repeat with the second egg.  Separating the eggs out into mugs first before you put them into the mixture just allows you to check they are ok and smell ok.  My mummy taught me to do this as a little girl, so it is something I always, always do.  (Thanks Sally!)

Pour the milk and the water into the well too.

Begin to mix – slowly!  So, place your metal spoon (or fork) into the centre of the well with the wet ingredients and being to whisk in a scrambling motion.  Do this slowly and you will notice that your wet ingredients start to pull in the flour.  Keep doing this until nearly all/most of the flour has come into the wet mixture.  Then and only then can you start to fold in the rest of the flour.  This is the ONLY way to avoid getting huge flour lumps in your batter, so please do this bit slowly and carefully.  Put some love into your pancakes people!

Now put a little knob of butter into your pan and heat it up – gently.  Once the butter has melted and is just starting to smoke (not burning and bubbling) place a ladle of mixture into the pan (if you have a small pan use half a ladle) and then pick the pan up and move the batter around so it covers the base.  Do not drag the mixture with a spatuala.

Allow this to cook for 2 minutes on one side (it should be starting to come away from the pan at the edges, telling you that it is cooked) then FLIP IT and cook the other side.  You will know when it has cooked as it will not be doughy any more and will have little brown splodges/freckles on it.

The first pancake for me is always a test and sets my pan up for more pancakes, so ensure you have a low heat – disregard pancake one – it is probably very ugly and perfect your skills the second time around.

Go for it!  This batter should make 8 to 10 pancakes! ENJOY!

Ps. As per the picture I will be having mine with lemon and sugar… but I also have a little treat up my sleeve which I will be giving to you all tomorrow – if it works!

It’s a little bit STICKY, this feeling inside… Sticky Chicken & Sticky Rice.

11 Feb

sticky chickenRandom title to this article (as per I guess!), but it is valentines week and my favorite/romantic film of all time is the Moulin Rouge. Not only did a boy buy me this film (and he was my boyfriend at the time), but I loved the production of the film and the whole theme is LOVE. So, I think this valentines day you should make your loved one this Sticky Chicken recipe as I am sure that if they don’t love you already, they most definitely will after eating this!

This recipe was a marinade (that I found) for chicken legs, thighs and wings and I looked at it and thought ‘if I add some vegetables to this and cooked it in a pan on the hob, would it make a tasty Chinese dish?’. I gave it a go and hey presto! It has now made its way into my weekly repertoire of foods to cook, and even more recently has been on my menu for a date! I am pleased to report that it worked and he was completely charmed by my cooking skills… (girls pay attention, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!).

The ginger, sesame oil and soya in this recipe make the dish taste very authentic. It is very important to cook the onions for a while first, so that they have a soft mouth feel, then the rest can be thrown in. I choose the vegetables I did as these are my favorites, but have a think about what veg you like and perhaps you could throw those into the mix to?

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 – 25 minutes

Makes: 2 sticky chicken & sticky rice portions


For the main dish…

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 sweet red pepper (or 1 red bell pepper)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large onion

For the sticky rice…20130211-175330.jpg

  • 150g of sticky rice/glutinous rice (… this is available in some large supermarkets and looks like this – see image)
  • 260ml cold water

For the marinade…

  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp dark soya sauce (NB. light soya sauce does not mean ‘light’ as in healthy… it’s actually stronger and should be used as a dressing for an asian salad or as a dipping sauce.  The dark soya sauce has a stronger flavour and should be used in your cooking.)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2cm ginger, peeled
  • 1 red chilli (with seeds if you like it hot)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder

How to create the dish…

Let’s make the chicken and sauce first.  So, I always prepare my onion first, by chopping the tip off, peeling it and then cutting it in half.  Now you want to make half moon shapes, so slice the onion fairly thinly and make the half rings.  Once you have done this, put a little sesame oil in your pan, heat it gently then drop the onion in.  The onion needs to cook for appox. 10 minutes before you can add the other ingredients, so lets get prep-ing!

Prepare the pepper by de-seeding it and then chopping into into slices – whatever size you like.  Next cut the carrot.  So that it cooks you want each piece to be very thin, so I would actually hold the carrot and use a peeler to create very thin slices (think what the carrot is like when you order Chinese from your local – you want them like that.

Now the chicken,  I would cut the breast along the longest part (length ways) to form 3 or 4 (depending on the size of the breast) fillet pieces.  Then I would cut each one of these so it is quite thin.  This is for 2 reasons 1) it will cook much more quickly when it is thinner, so you can be sure it is cooked and 2) each mouthful should then hopefully have some chicken in it!

Place all the chopped ingredients and add to that the ingredients for the marinade.  With the ginger, you need to peel that with a teaspoon (yes really!!)  Just scrape a teaspoon over the ginger root and voila, the paper-y skin will just come straight off and you will hardly waste any ginger.  You will also be able to get into the nooks and cranny’s of the ginger.  YES!  The ginger is best grated on a very fine grater, not the normal one you do your cheese on.  Once you have grated approx. 2 cm of ginger pop this into the bowl with the other ingredients and the marinade.  Give this a stir and then put it into the pan with the onions, leave this at a medium heat and stir it occasionally so it doesn’t stick.  If it is getting dry (which it shouldn’t do) you can add some more soya sauce and maybe a little water.

Sticky Rice… this does not cook quite like normal rice, it is very sticky… hence the name!  So, lets weigh out what we need and then put this in a pan and onto a low heat.  Place a lid on the top and let it cook.  You are going to need to stir this every now and again to, and you may need to add a dash (but honestly ONLY a dash) of water every now and again.  The rice will stick to the bottom of the pan as the starches are released.  This is ok, just use a spoon to scrape it off, stir into the rice and let it continue to cook.  Keep repeating this and trying the rice every few minutes after about 15 minutes of cooking and once the hard bits have gone the rice is ready!

To serve… you can create my love heart if you like.  Just pop a portion of rice on the plate and then use a wet metal spoon to mould the rice – if you use your fingers or a dry spoon it will just stick and make a BIG mess!  Then you can cut a little circle out of the centre and spoon in the chicken and sauce.  WOW!

Alternatively… serve in a bowl with your rice on one side and the chicken and sauce on the other.

Either way, this dish is certainly delicious and you will most definitely be making it for your partner over and over again!


sticky 2