Thursday, 20 May 2010

Couscous, lima bean, and tomato salad

I found this salad recipe years ago in Redbook magazine. It seriously makes my mouth water when I think about it! Since there is no mayo in the salad it's a great option for picnics. When I was in the US I made it with baby lima beans. I had a friend who used edamame beans when she tried it and it was equally delicious. Lima beans aren't available in the UK or Ireland, so here I use frozen broad beans that I've popped out of the tough outer layer. It's a bit faffy, but it does taste so much better if you do this. Use this recipe as a guideline, but don't be afraid to eyeball it and alter it to your taste, particularly with the tomatoes and the feta cheese!

Couscous, lima bean, and tomato salad

¾ tsp salt
1 c couscous
¾ c water
10 oz frozen baby lima beans, edamame beans, or broad beans
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped and deseeded
¼ c fresh chopped basil
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
½ c crumbled feta cheese

Bring the water and ½ tsp of the salt to a boil in small sauce pan; add couscous, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a shallow dish to cool.

Cook the beans in boiling water until crisp tender, about 3 minutes, drain, plunge into cold water, drain again, set aside to cool. If using broad beans, you should peel them once they're cool enough to handle.

Whisk together vinegar, pepper and remaining salt in a large bowl; slowly whisk in olive oil. Stir in the couscous, beans, tomatoes, basil, and scallions. Sprinkle with feta cheese.

Makes 6 generous side servings.


Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Chicken and Cashew Stir-Fry

Chinese food in America is delicious. Chinese food in the UK is disgusting. When I was in England a couple of years ago Ching-He Huang did a show on BBC2 that corresponded with her cookbook called, Chinese Food Made Easy. The stuff she cooked looked delicious and fresh!

Last year when I moved to Ireland I discovered that Chinese food here is delicious! Hooray! One of my favorite places to eat in Dublin is a Chinese restaurant on Capel Street. However, it's expensive and I'm trying to be healthy, so this weekend I decided to make something out of my book. Since I had most of the ingredients for it, I went with the chicken and cashew stir-fry. It is really easy to make and much healthier than what you get in the restaurants. Wes liked it so much we had it again a few days later. Everything goes so fast once you start cooking, so I strongly recommend that you have everything sliced and ready to go before you start to actually cook.

The online recipe is slightly different from the one in the cookbook, plus I added a few things. So, I'm just going to post my version. However, you can find the original recipe on the BBC Food website.

Chicken and Cashew Stir-Fry

For the chicken
1 egg white
1 tbsp cornflour
Dash of salt
500g (1lb 2oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly
3-4 tbsp stir-fry oil (mixture of sunflower and sesame oils)

For the stir-fry
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into thin strips
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced into thin strips
3 tbsp chicken stock
2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 spring onions, sliced
4 tbsp raw or roasted cashew nuts*
1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
Salt and ground white pepper
150g Chinese-style medium egg noodles (dry, not straight to wok), to serve**

*If using raw nuts, you may choose to toast them before using them. I just toasted mine in the frying pan over low heat until they started to get slightly brown. I did this while I was chopping up all the veg and chicken. Keep an eye on them, shaking them around a bit, so they don't burn. 

**Follow the package directions to cook the noodles so they finish at the same time as the stir-fry. Mine only take two minutes, so that's how I have accounted for them in this dish. You can also use rice if you prefer.

1. For the chicken, whisk together the egg white, cornflour and salt. Make sure the cornflour is fully incorporated. Add the sliced chicken and stir around to completely coat it. 

2. Start the water boiling for the noodles. Heat wok (or large frying pan) on high heat. Add the oil. Fry the chicken until it's completely brown and crispy on all sides, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.

3. Heat the oil remaining in the pan over high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry about 30 seconds. Add the peppers and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, or until they start to soften. Add the chicken and stir-fry 1-2 minutes. Drop the noodles into the boiling water.

4. Add the stock, soy sauce and Chinese 5 Spice to the chicken stir-fry and allow it to simmer for a minute or two, ensuring the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the green onions, cashews, and cooked (and drained!) noodles. Season with the salt and ground white pepper. Stir everything together until the noodles are incorporated. Serve immediately.

Makes 3 servings or 2 if you're hungry!