Category Archives: Midweek Meals

Alyson’s Top Ten Ingredients of 2015

The end of the year is always seen as the perfect time to reflect on the year that’s just gone by, and look forward to the next year. Since we’re a food blog, it’s only fitting that we look at the past year in terms of food and its impact on my life. So here are my top ten ingredients of 2015.


1. Garlic 

The smell of garlic has always reminded me of the best kind of home cooking. It was my uncle who first inspired me to cook, letting me sit at his butcher’s block as he chopped and fried, throwing together the most delightful array of tasty little dishes in seemingly no time at all. Now I’m older and can look back on it, I suspect he lost whole mornings making lunch!

Garlic always featured heavily in his cooking, and was the predominant smell in his house, but in a “welcome to the nourishing bosom of our home” kind of way. So that’s what got me into garlic. And I just can’t seem to look past it. If it’s a pasta sauce, curry sauce, marinade, soup, roast or stir fry, garlic is the starting point. It’s good for you and it does so much flavour work!


2. Ginger

This year has been a turning point for me in terms of food and nutrition. I’ve finally had the willpower to make a few healthier changes which have helped me to drop the dress size I wanted to shed before our wedding, as well as helping me to realise that eating healthily is a lot less difficult, and much more tasty, than you might think.

Soups for lunch and stir fries for supper have played a massive part in this, particularly when I learned that it’s pretty easy to keep stocked up with the makings of a great stir fry marinade, delicious enough to forget about those calorie stuffed sachet sauces. Ginger is a big hitter for me, and I always have a knobble in my fridge (especially since Charles told me off for resorting to ginger purée!).

3. Soy Sauce 

For similar reasons to the above story about stir fries, soy sauce has been hugely helpful in letting me throw together healthy but filling suppers, satisfying enough to stop me rescuing for a takeaway menu or a bag of pasta. Even if it doesn’t feature in your stir fry, it’s a slightly heather way to ass on your Asian food, so stick it on the table in case there isn’t enough salt on your noodles or rice.

The legend says that light soy is for flavour, whilst dark soy is for colour, but I just prefer dark soy sauce – it seems a little less bitter to me.


4. Honey 

Honey has been getting a bad rep, recently  – “oh it’s not as healthy as you think”, “it’s as bad for you as sugar”, yadda yadda, but everything in moderation.  A teaspoon in your marinade isn’t going to kill you, but it will give you the perfect dash of Asian sweetness, as well as the most beautiful sticky glaze to your stir-fried meat (see my Chicken Teriyaki for the evidence!).  I like to buy the runny kind in a squeezy bottle for easy dispensing, but I’m not at all fussy about brand so don’t take the photo as a specific recommendation – whichever is on offer will be the bottle which makes it into my basket.


5. Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Really, I could be giving you a top ten rundown of my favourite/most eaten fruits and vegetables, so I’m afraid the title of this item will have to be as general as this!  You may remember (if you’ve followed my blog from the beginning) that one of my major resolutions for 2015 was to do my darnedest to eat my 5-a-day.  And, for the most part, I’ve achieved this (apart from the odd Saturday and Sunday, but that will change in the Brooker household).  It’s really much easier than you think.  I’m sure I’ll eventually get round to a post about the little changes you can make to the everyday to make your diet that little bit healthier, but generally melons and grapes have replaced my lunchtime packet of crisps, homemade soups and salads take the place of M&S sandwiches, apples and clementines float around my handbag in case I get peckish mid-morning or mid-afternoon, and bulking out my suppers with lots of fresh vegetables helps me to cut down on the carbs.  It can seem like an expensive way to eat, but once you’ve figured out your favourites, your weekly shop becomes a lot easier and a lot better for you.


6. Ribeye Steak

Charles has the credit for introducing me to this one.  The lovely, succulent, tasty ribeye.  It has more flavour that a sirloin or a fillet, and it’s generally pretty easy to trim out the excess fat.  It just has more…steakiness about it.  We had ribeyes from my butcher for our first supper as an engaged couple (I didn’t know we would be an engaged couple but we were otherwise celebrating heading off for a wonderful week together on Skye, it just worked out quite well) and Charles has also introduced me to the wonders of Aldi steaks.  Seriously. Try them.  They beat the butcher hands down because they are hung for a bit to tenderise and mature the beef, and yet they are sourced locally from farmers who meet the highest standards.  When I’m not celebrating, however, I love these Tesco ribeyes, which, at £3 a pop and big enough to make two stir fries, are my protein-packed best friend for a tasty midweek supper which will help my muscles to recover from HIIT and Pilates.



7. Brown Rice 

My name’s Alyson and I used to be a brown rice sceptic.  Until I bought a bag, learned that it took forever and a day to cook it, and tasted it.  It’s easier to prepare than basmati (provided you have 20+ minutes to let it simmer),it won’t turn stodgy on you, it tastes beautiful and nutty and delicious enough to eat alone, and it has a low GI, which means it takes longer to break down in your body and is therefore less likely to turn to fat.  Sorted.  Although you should definitely stock up when i’s on offer as it can get fairly pricey (£2.50 from Tilda in Tesco right now ….on the shelf you will stay).

Olive ou


8. Olive Oil

Everyone, surely, knows the benefits of olive oil.  It’s a staple. It’s always kicking around somewhere in both of our kitchens.  If I’m stir frying, I prefer groundnut oil as it can handle a higher heat without burning (be careful if you’re allergic to nuts), but olive is still a great starter for dressings, marinades, pestos, and getting a gently sweat or fry on the go.  Let’s try some new oils in 2016…

 9. Tinned Tomatoes 

Such a staple, even my Mum keeps them in the house, tinned tomatoes are a must-have store cupboard ingredient.  They’re a great start to a pasta sauce, a curry base or a casserole and they help to make an excellent minestrone.  Buy a four-pack when they’re on offer.  I used to be all about the chopped tomatoes but I think I’ve convinced myself that tinned plum tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes if you’re feeling flush) give you a better flavour and texture.


10. Stock Cubes and Stock Pots

I’ll probably be breaking a “foodie” (yeurgh) law by telling you that I swear by Knorr stock cubes.  Chuck two or three in some boiling water and add to some vegetables in a soup pot and you’re halfway to a week of nutritious hot lunches.  They also give a great savoury backbone to sauces, and one beef stockpot added to a stew or casserole will hit all the right notes.  By all means, make fresh stock if you have leftover bones and the wherewithal, but don’t be too much of a snob to reach for reach for a helping hand from your cupboard.  Cooking loses it’s shine a little if make things too difficult for yourself, so take shortcuts when you can!

Let us know which ingredients you haven’t been able to keep out of your shopping basket this year, and have a great time at New Year!

Butternut Squash Risotto

The last few weeks have been a bit of a festive whirlwind with present-buying and wrapping sitting alongside Christmas baking and work, of course. But at last (hooray, hurrah) I’m off work until 29th December, so finally I have a chance to breathe.

Roasted squash risotto recipe

My first free evening was largely spent in the kitchen and on the floor wrapping presents, but I was feeling a bit more chilled than I have been and I’d bought a butternut squash at the weekend as an antidote to lots of meaty meals, so I thought I’d throw together a wholesome risotto for a bit of relaxation (yeah, I do actually find that sort of thing therapeutic!). This tasted so wholesome, comforting and filling without having to cook up any meat. You could so easily make this fully vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and if you use 80g of each vegetable, it can also make up 4 of your 5-a-day. Add whichever veg you fancy – it’s also great with roasted sweet potato.

Squash risotto recipes

As a bit of a warning, though, you’ll need about half an hour and a great deal of patience to make this dish. Once the liquid hits the rice, you’ll need to constantly stir it until it’s ready. Be prepared! I forgot about this part when I thought I’d be able to get a batch of mince pies ready for the oven at the same time!

How to make risotto
You will need:

Half an onion or a few shallots

1 clove garlic

Dash white wine or vermouth (optional but delightful; essential on a Friday evening)

80g carnaroli rice (or however much you care to pour in by eye – who has time for scales?!)

Chicken stock (a good cube dissolved in hot water and standing by or fresh if you’d like – I have a stock recipe coming soon)

A few florets of broccoli

Half a small butternut squash

Olive oil

A cupful of peas

1/2 tsp mild chilli powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Salt and pepper

How to cook butternut squash

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200c, line a baking tray with tin foil and get ready to roast. Carefully cut the squash in half from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds. If you need a hand with how to tackle one of these beasts for the first time, there’s a quick rundown in my squash soup recipe. Once you’ve done that, place one half of the squash on the tray, sprinkle on the chilli and cumin, season and drizzle with oil, then shove it in the oven.

Chop the onion and garlic
2. Finely chop the onion and garlic.

Making a risotto baseI
3. Drizzle a little oil into a medium saucepan and place on a medium to high heat. Chuck in the onion and garlic and allow to soften, stirring every now and then.

Carnaroli rice recipes
4. Tip the rice into the saucepan to join the rice and stir around for about 30 seconds or so, until you hear the rice start to crackle and pop, then pour in the wine.

Winter risotto recipes

5. Cook out the wine until the saucepan is nearly dry. Now comes the stock. This needs to be added a ladleful at a time, cooked out whilst stirring the rice, then repeated. This process will take 20-30 minutes – risotto is traditionally served al dente, but I would recommend tasting it before serving up because home cooking is all about what you like. The stirring process is really important because it helps the starch to be released from each grain of rice, and it’s the starch which will give you a really creamy, unctuous risotto.

Why do you have to constantly stir risotto

6. About 5 minutes from the end, cut up the broccoli into fine florets and boil it up in salted water. When the rice is ready, add the broccoli to the saucepan, then stir in the frozen peas. A couple of minutes in the risotto should be enough to defrost and cook them.

Vegetable rice recipes
7. Check the squash. It should take 20-30 minutes to cook as well. It should be tender throughout and browning on the edges.

Easy squash recipes

8. Chop up the squash into chunks. You can remove the skin before or after cooking, but, like many vegetables, a lot of the nutrients the squash offers are in the skin, plus it turns sort of sticky and marshmallowy when roasted. So yes, you definitely can eat the skin on a butternut squash!

Can you eat the skin of a butternut squash

9. Serve up the rice and add the squash chunks on top so they stay crispy on the edges. Then enjoy! If you want this to be extra creamy, you could stir in a tablespoon of crême fraiche before serving, or even grate some Parmesan over the top, however that would seriously bump up the calories, and of course remove the dish’s vegan and vegetarian credentials, but the world is your rice bowl.

Roasted butternut squash risotto
I’d love to hear about your favourite risotto and your favourite way to prepare and eat butternut squash.

Teriyaki Pork

 Let’s clear something up before we start. I stir fry a lot. I know, I started this blog to help me keep out of my food rut, but there’s just something about a stir fry. In fact, there’s a lot about a stir fry. They’re quick, easy, light, healthy, packed with freshness and flavour and so so versatile. Provided you like a couple if types of vegetable, know how to cook a variety of meats/fish/tofu (I suppose, but why would you?!) you could probably whip up a different stir fry every day and still enjoy it. In fact, one of my colleagues eats chicken stir fry every night, though that’s a very different situation and the sauce comes out of a sachet.   

There’s not a huge amount wrong with that either, I suppose. I used to be a huge fan of the stir fry sauce sachet (and in fact still have a few lounging about in my cupboard – should probably check the use by) but they are packed with all sorts of E numbers and preservatives, not to mention calories, and really there’s nothing in them that’s terribly good for you. So once you’ve mastered frying up some chicken and vegetables and boiling up (or microwaving, I suppose; those microwave rice sachets are pretty good, albeit terrible value for money) some rice or noodles (preferably without cutting or burning yourself), you should definitely try to make your own sauce. Though to call it a sauce is actually a bit grand. As long as you can cook meat to the point that it’s safe to eat but still juicy, you don’t really need a sauce, you just need flavour. A sort of hot dressing, if you will. Trust me, it will taste so much fresher and more vibrant than a sachet. Plus it means that nice you have the ingredients in the house, you can throw something like this together whenever you need it for a quick home-cooked meal without necessarily having to shop. 


You will need:

1/2 onion

1/2 red pepper

1 medium carrot

A few florets of broccoli 

1 piece pork tenderloin (about 1/3 of a fillet)

1 clove garlic

1 3cm piece ginger 

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp honey

Dash groundnut oil 

1. Slice the onion, and pepper, peel and chop the carrot into small pieces. Chop the broccoli into little tiny trees, bearing in mind that the only cooking they’ll get is in the wok i.e. with no water. 

2. Grate the ginger and garlic into a bowl then add in the soy and honey. Stir it together and that’s your sauce made!

3. Thinly slice the pork, add to the marinade and set-aside to flavour and tenderise.  

4. Hear the oil in a wok and chuck in the onions and carrots. Allow them to start to cook down a little then add in the broccoli and peppers. Turn the heat down to medium. If you’re having noodles, get those ready to go on. Boil them for a few minutes in salted water, as per the packaging; I used soba noodles here. 

5. Use your spoon to hold back the pork while you pour the extra marinade into the vegetables, and stir. 

6. Set a medium frying pan on at a very high heat and add a dash of groundnut oil. Once the pan is screaming hot (but please don’t test this with your fingers) add in half of the pork. Sear on both sides, then remove and replace with the remaining pork slices.

7. Add the pork to the wok with the remaining marinade that’s left in the bowl, add in your cooked noodles, and heat everything through,making sure your pork is just cooked. 

Serve and enjoy!

This recipe can be repeated with chicken, turkey or beef, and is great with salmon if you bake it in the oven for 7 minutes instead of frying it. 

If you’re having rice though, put that on while you’re chopping your veg, especially if it’s brown rice!


Sausage, Bacon and Bean Casserole

This is a busy time of year for everyone, especially those of us who have full-time jobs, but for whom it’s still important to fit in a decent home-cooked meal. This little beauty is warming, packed full of veg and it’s a slow cooker: once it’s going you can just leave it bubbling away til it’s ready. Prepare in the early evening if you want to eat at about 8, or prepare in the afternoon for an early Sunday supper and kick back with a Christmas film in between. 
To feed 2, you will need:  

3 rashers of smoked bacon (you can use more or less, I just had that amount to use up)

6 good pork sausages from the butcher

2 cloves garlic 

1 onion

2 medium carrots 

1 red pepper

2 cans plum tomatoes

1 Knorr Chicken stock cube 

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried parsley 

1/2 tsp mild chilli powder 

Salt and pepper 

A few sprigs fresh thyme (or dried)

A dash of Worcestershire sauce 

1 can cannellini beans 

Dash olive oil 

1 Knorr beef stock pot, optional but delightful 

1. Add a little olive oil to the bottom of a casserole or stock pot. If you don’t have either, do this in your biggest frying pan or saucepan, but transfer to an ovenproof casserole dish once everything is combined and pop it in the oven at 170C instead of leaving it on the hob. Once hot, fry off the bacon then remove and set-aside. 

2. Repeat with the sausages. Don’t worry if the base starts to blacken if you’re using a cast-iron casserole dish – it’ll de-glaze later. Once the sausages have bren browned on all sides, remove and set them aside with the bacon. 

3. Whilst there’s a whole lotta browning going on, chop the vegetables. I go relatively fine with the carrots and little chunkier than usual with the onions as they’ll gradually break down in the sauce. 

4. If necessary, add a little more oil to the casserole, then chuck in the onion and pepper and let them caramelise down a bit. Grate in the garlic and throw in the carrots. Give that a few stirs, and allow it to cook out for a few minutes.

5. If you’ve made it this far, you’re on the home stretch! Throw in the tinned tomatoes and stir, using your rio den spoon to break them up a little.

6. Dissolve a chicken stock cube in a little water (around half a can’s worth) in one of the used tomato cans. I like to swill it around in both before pouring a little into the sauce. Set the rest aside as you may need it to thin out the sauce a little more later. 


7. Throw in the herbs, spices, beef stock pot and seasoning and stir well, turning the heat down to a simmer. 
8. Chop up the bacon and add it back in (I remove any remaining far from the bacon at this stage) then place the sausages into the sauce. They should still be quite firm, but just try to be careful when stirring things up to avoid breaking up the sausages. If you’re using a dish in the oven, place the sausages into the dish at this stage, finish making the sauce and then combine it all in the dish, before covering with a lid or foil and sliding it into the oven. 

9. Add in the cannellini beans and carefully stir together. 

10. Put the fresh thyme on top and stick the lid on.  Now you can walk away from it, checking on it every half hour or so (when you make another cup of tea or top up your wine glass), give it a stir and add a little more stock if it’s getting too thick. 

11. After it’s been simmering altogether for an hour to an hour and a half, serve in shallow bowls with some green veg and a hunk of crusty bread. Bon appetit!


Roast Cauliflower 

Ok, let’s not pretend these are anything like roast potatoes because they’re just not. They are, however, a really hearty warm accompaniment to a winter meal.  I served these up alongside some spiced chicken and cucumber and pepper cous cous, but cauliflower is just about filling enough to replace the starchy part of your meal completely. And it’s full of vitamin C!
You will need:

Cauliflower – 5 florets or so per person – if you want it to cook more quickly or turn more crispy, cut the florets into smaller pieces

1 tbsp olive oil 

1 tsp ground cumin 

1 tsp ground coriander 

Good pinch of salt

1 tbsp flaked almonds 


1. Line a baking tray with tinfoil and pour on the oil. Place it in an oven preheated to 200c.

2. Cut up the cauliflower. I find this quite time consuming as I prefer I remove the roots and leaves then pop off the individual florets so they keep their nice shape, but you could of course quarter the whole head and proceed to cut off the raggedy remaining florets if you’re in a hurry. 

3. Toss the florets in the cumin, coriander and salt. Then remove the tray from the oven and carefully toss the seasoned florets in the oil.


4. Leave in the oven for around 20 minutes, but check and turn after about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, crumble up the almonds a little. You’ll want to toss these over the cauliflower around 5 to 10 minutes from the end. They should take 25-30 minutes to cook in all, but it will of course depend how large the pieces are. Remove from the oven when browning and cooked through but still crunchy. The almonds will be lovely and toasted. 


Moroccan Flatballs

Sometimes you have mince, but you don’t want burgers and you don’t want bolognaise, but your freezer’s full of chilli. Am I right?  That’s when necessity becomes the mother of invention. I present to you my Moroccan Flatballs. They’re like meatballs, only…well, flat. And they are delightful in a wrap.

You will need:

Good quality lean steak mince – just whichever quantity is most economical to buy 

2 tsp rose harissa

6 dried apricots

1 clove garlic

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp tomato ketchup

1/2 tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh parsley

Cracked black pepper 

1 brown onion

Serving suggestion:

1 wheat and white or wholemeal wrap

Shredded lettuce

A few ribbons of carrot

Sliced avocado

A dollop of seasoned yoghurt or hummus 

1. First thing’s first! Slice up the onion. Heat a small saucepan over a medium heat, with a tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, chuck in the onions and allow them to cook down and caramelise. Don’t put a lid on – that’ll halt the browning process. Towards the end, add a small glug of balsamic vinegar, helping the sweetness and browning along.

Remove from the heat and set aside. 

2. While the onions are cooking out, make the Flatballs. Your mince should be placed at room temperature or the finished balls should be left at room temperature for about 20 minutes or so before cooking. Put the mince in a nice big bowl and break it up a little. I like to use a Pyrex bowl so you can see all sides of the mince and make sure everything’s really well-mixed. 

3. Add all the flavourings at this stage, including grating in the garlic. Don’t add any salt at this stage. 

4. Wash your hands well then mix it all together – don’t be afraid of the mince! It’ll need to be kneaded together to make sure the flavouring gets evenly distributed. Then, chop in the apricots and mix once more. 

5. Get a plate ready! Tear off little pieces and roll into balls the size of golf balls. Flatten them between your hands and place on the plate. You can of course leave them as balls or make larger burgers, but I quite liked that these were a little but different. 

6. Preheat the oven to 180c. Put a large frying pan on the hob and set to a high heat. Once the pan’s nice and hot, you can start to dry off your Flatballs, putting no more than 4 in the pan at a time to avoid bringing the temperature down. Fry until brown then flip over and repeat. 
7. Place the browned Flatballs on a baking tray lined with tin foil and put in the oven for around 10 minutes, until the balls are sizzle and cooked through. To reheat the onions, chuck them into the frying pan and they’ll take on some of those meaty juices. 
8. Season and serve how you will. But look how good they look in a wrap!


Baked Trout with Garlic Vegetables

This is a massively smile recipe but massively delicious. You know that way when something is unexpectedly delicious? That’s this. Trust me. Let the produce talk to you.   
  You will need:

1 trout fillet 

Salt and pepper

1/2 tsp lemon juice

A few leaves of fresh parsley to garnish

Your choice of fresh vegetables (or even frozen, I guess!) I used baby carrots, tenderstem broccoli and green beans.

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic

  1. Trim and debone your trout. Sometimes it’s supposed to be boneless then you run your finger along it and you can feel tiny spiny bones. I’m a girl who has nails, so I just dig them out myself, pulling against the grain, but you could always use a clean pair of tweezers if you don’t have deboners. (Ha..deboners!). 
  2. Place it on a piece of foil on a baking tray, then season, drizzle on the lemon juice and add some fresh parsley. Wrap up in the foil and pop in the oven at 180C for about 7 minutes, until it is just cooked, flaking and delicate.  
  3. Meanwhile, put the veg on to boil in salted water for about 5 minutes. Chop up the garlic and heat gently in the oil.  
  4. When the veg is cooked, drain and allow the water to steam off. Then toss in the garlic oil. Serve with the trout. Trust me. It’s a simple thing, but it’s night and day.  

Warm Turkey Salad

I think you’ll notice a pattern here in that I’ve been eating a lot of warm salads for supper and soups for lunch, but I’ve been seriously short on time and in need of something quick and light to keep me eating healthily while fitting the preparation around my revision schedule. 

This is a great, balanced meal, packed with protein, big on flavour and providing fresh, nutritious veg. 

  You will need: 

Salad vegetables; I used a couple of handfuls of iceberg lettuce, a medium carrot, peeled into ribbons as chopped into sticks, half a red pepper, sliced, a good chunk of cucumber, chopped, giving you st least 3 of your 5-a-day in one easy meal 

2-3 turkey mini fillets

Greek yoghurt, whichever kind you prefer (I’m not really one for low-fat dairy – everything in moderation)

2-3 heaped teaspoons of your favourite curry paste 

1 tsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper 

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp lemon juice (for the dip)

  1. Mix the curry paste with about 4 tbsp of the yoghurt. Season and add the 1 tsp lemon juice.  

2. Add the turkey into the bowl and make sure every piece is covered.   
  3. Put in the oven for around 10 minutes at 180C until looked through. I only baked 2 pieces one night she had the remaining 3 with rice the next day. Boil the egg for 4 minutes, allow to cool then peel and chop. 

  4. Meanwhile, add the dry spices and remaining lemon juice to the remaining yoghurt to make the really simple dressing.  
  5. Chop your veg, the add the turkey, egg and dressing to the top. Serve and enjoy.  

Prawn Curry in a Hurry

Ok, it isn’t a curry per se, but you get tonnes of Indian flavour and a light healthy supper in 20 minutes – no need to stand over a steaming pot for hours. Perfect for after a long day at work. If you’re not into shellfish, you could use chunks of salmon or chicken, just step up the cooking time a little for the chicken. 

You will need:

1 red pepper 

10 king prawns (I used frozen ones and defrosted them in a bowl of water while I was working out)

2 tbsp Greek yoghurt

2 tsp curry paste, whichever you prefer

Few drops lemon juice 

1. Chop the pepper into chunks. Clean the prawns and dry them, making sure you remove the black vein on the inside and just inside the tail. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Mix the yoghurt, curry paste and lemon juice in a bowl. 

3. Add the prawns to the mixture and mix in.

4. Take two wooden skewers and run them under the tap or soak in water. This will stop them drying out and burning. If you don’t have skewers, you can just bake everything in a dish. 

5. Carefully thread the chunks of pepper and coated prawns onto the skewers, dividing them evenly between the two skewers and spreading them evenly across each skewer. 

6. Bake in the oven for 7 minutes and serve with rice and vegetables.


Light Sweet and Sour Pork 

My prevailing memories of Sweet and Sour when I was growing up were the sticky, cloying bright red sauce with guilty pleasure battered chicken balls or my Mum’s Sweet and Sour Chicken, which was basically dry chicken breast in a jar of Uncle Ben’s Sauce, served with boil in the bag rice. Weird I ever got a taste for it, right?!

However, my first forays into stir frying (again with experience led by my Mum who can’t have stir fry without a sachet of sauce) had me reaching for a sachet of Blue Dragon Sweet and Sour Sauce, which is arguably of better quality. 

Most recently, I’ve learned how to make it myself, and that means I can make it however I want! No green peppers, lighter, thinner and with a bit of a kick. If you want to recreate that old fashioned taste, you can easily do so. Just leave out the ginger, garlic and chilli and add a bit more cornflour to get a thicker sauce.

You will need (for 1):

1 small piece of pork fillet (tenderloin). I used a leftover piece I had in the freezer) this should be out of the fridge for half an hour or so before you cook it. 

1/2 brown onion

1/2 red pepper

1 small carrot 

1 clove garlic

1 knob fresh ginger

2 tsp tomato purée 

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine (or sherry)

1 tbsp honey

Pinch mild chilli powder 

1 tsp cornflour 

1 small tin of pineapple slices or chunks in their own juice 

Splash groundnut oil

I used to make this recipe with fresh pineapple and pineapple juice (which is delicious) rather than tinned, but I’m not really one for drinking fresh pineapple juice so it made the recipe much more expensive and it meant running out for particular ingredients rather than trying to pull something together with what’s in the cupboard. 

1. Slice the onion, chop the pepper and peel and chop the carrot. Size is up to you. Some people like to julienne the carrot but I just prefer to cut discs from the narrow end, the half or quarter lengthways and continue to slice. 

2. Grate the ginger and garlic. Cut the pineapple into chunks, unless you bought it in chunks.

3. Add the groundnut oil to a large frying pan, allow to heat to a high heat and toss in the onion. Once it has started to turn translucent, add in the pepper and carrot. These actually need quite slot of cooking and will still stay nice and crunchy. 

4. Allow the veg to cook down a bit, stirring or tossing every now and then depending how dexterous you are with this…I’ve finally nailed the one handed toss with even my biggest frying pan and am feeling pretty chuffed with myself! Anyway, add the grated ginger and garlic and cook out for a few minutes, reducing the heat down to low to medium. 

5. Mix together the soy, honey, mirin, chilli powder and cornflour. 

6. Thinly slice the pork. I like to do this widthways but whichever way gives you thin smallish pieces is absolutely fine. You can cook this in the same pan if you like, but I decided to use a medium pan for the veg and my smallest frying pan for the pork, just to give it the best chance of really searing and taking on colour without being affected by the moisture in the other pan.  If you want to minimise washing up, push the veg to the side and use the same pan, but use the largest one you have. You want the pork to sear on one side then turn over to brown the other side. As soon as it is just cooked, take off the heat.


6. Meanwhile, add the tomato purée to the veg, stir in and allow to cook out at a lowish heat. 

7. Add it the sauce mixture along with the pineapple and pineapple juice and stir, stir, stir to avoid the cornflour catching of become lumpy. 

8. Add in the just cooked pork and heat until it just comes through the boil again them serve with noodles or rice.