Salmon fishing in Birmingham

ImageFew would consider West Midland’s best city (narrowly edging out Coventry in my opinion), a tourist magnet. Try telling that to the group of raincoat-clad Spanish tourists on a recent flight back to Birmingham International, tightly clasping an A4 sheet full of must see attractions being playfully buffeted around by England’s best attempt at a tropical storm. 

As well as some very large multi-story car parks, Birmingham famously boasts about having more canals that Italy’s floating city. I recently took a trip down one of these famed waterways on something less glamorous however than a Venetian gondola. My bike trip took my from the somewhere near the city centre where at the weekend the white collars embarrass themselves between the bars, through a startlingly busy fishing community plucking life from the murky canals and ended past a bohemian style stretch where under each bridge gathered a group of youths and an unmistakeable smell of Amsterdam.

Somehow this all culminated in me wanting to cook some salmon! We all need to thank a pioneering  salmon fisherman for making salmon affordable to the masses. He developed a complicated formula based on size which determines exactly when frisky young salmon are ready taken out of there fresh water habitat and survive in salt water farms. Interesting!  

Here is my favourite way of cooking Salmon.

Marinade in a food bag for 6+ hours in olive oil, soy sauce, chilli flakes, honey, sugar and lemon juice. Mix up enough marinade to cover all salmon fillets and taste it – you want it to taste spicy/tangy and sweet at the same time.

Pan fry the salmon in a little oil skin side down first for a few minutes. Then turn the fish and add some of the marinade to the pan. Cook to your preference, I like to take it out the pan moments before it is cooked through.

I ate it with some wilted spinach and a noodle and vegetable stir fry as featured in an earlier blog post, with any remaining marinade thrown over during cooking!

I don’t normally like Salmon, this was actually very tasty!

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Only got a ‘paella’rubbish in the cupboard?

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Here is a surp’rice’ngly easy dish to make.

Paella is a rice dish said to originate from Valencia in Spain. Perhaps it could could be considered one of this region’s best exports, along with oranges and world class footballers. 

You may be thinking “Ah! But he has forgotten that lovable overweight Spanish waiter, surely the most famous product of Valencia, endeared the world over!”  It is actually Madrid we owe a debt of gratitude for giving us that cHHHhhard working beaver, tactical leviathan, Rafa Benítez.

Paella together with Valencia conjures up images of sitting with a sunny seaside sangria in a dusty cafe full of burnt tourists. However in reality they seem to fit together like Paulo Ferreira coming on for Juan Mata as a wide right attacking option. I went there on a school trip once, in February, it was very cold and rained too much, but Valencia does boast a fantastic science museum shaped like an armadillo and Europe’s 5th busiest container port.

Back to the food. There must be many ways to cook a paella, here is how I did mine.

Bag of Paella rice (200-250g for 2 good sized portions)
Mix of vegetables (I used tenderstem broccoli long green beans, 1 red pepper 1 green pepper an onion 2 garlic bulbs and frozen peas)
1-2 chicken breasts
Mini cooked turkey sausage (Chorizo would be more authentic)
Flour
Paprika
Turmeric
Chicken stock
Olive oil 

 

Pre-heat oven with a dish of olive oil in it. Cover diced chicken in flour and paprika and fry quickly until slightly browned, then transfer into the oven dish and cover to cook it through.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan fry up all the vegetables and the sausage. after a few minutes add garlic paste (made by finely chopping garlic, then cover with plenty of salt which acts as an abrasive agent as you repeatedly press and rub the the knife over the garlic into a paste). 

After another few minutes add the rice and plenty of tumeric. After the rice becomes opaque, cover in about 700ml of stock, add frozen peas and chicken and let simmer until all stock is absorbed and the rice is soft,

Eat it out the pan so it stays hot, because you probably don’t have a warming drawer at University and don’t want to put your plates in the oven with someone else’s sloppy lasagna and will save you washing up. Plates might brake at 200 degrees too.

  

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Mushrooms and more

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Beet the rest.

Many studies are being conducted into how beetroot could be the new athletic superfood. It is high in nitrates, which have been shown to reduce the oxygen cost of exercise, in return improving aerobic athletic performance. Their effect may be less proven and dramatic than the use of banned substances, but consider it a cheap, easy and potentially tasty way to get an edge over your opponents. Why didn’t you like beetroot……Lance?

 

 

Classic mushroom Risotto

Despite its simplicity, when cooked well risotto can really impress!

You need:

Dried Porcini or wild mushrooms (don’t replace with fresh!)
Fresh button or chesnut mushrooms
Brown onion
Risotto Rice
White wine
Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Parsley
Olive oil
Stock Cube

 

Pour boiling water over dried mushrooms in a bowl for 10 mins. Meanwhile start to fry fresh mushrooms and onions with salt and pepper on a low heat. When dried mushrooms are done, add them to the pan and keep the brown liquid that remains. Make plenty of stock with boiling water and crushed stock cube and add to brown mushroom stock bowl. Add risotto rice to pan with onions and mushrooms with more olive oil and keep stirring for a few minutes whilst adding a generous glug of white wine. After, gradually and small amounts of stock at a time and stir until absorbed. keep adding stock gradually for about 20 minutes until risotto is creamy. add salt and pepper.

Serve in large bowls, sprinkle with parsley and grate parmesan cheese on top.

Enjoy

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Haddock enough of boring fish?

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The knives are out….. and butter comes out on top!

You may notice plenty of butter being used in this recipe and be tempted to replace it with an imitation yellow substitute.  For the sake of taste and health don’t! Here is an article that sheds light on the heath benefits of butter over low fat spread. It highlights another fascinating step in the direction of heath promotion of full fat dairy products for their nutritional value and surprising disease prevention qualities by those in the sports nutrition world.

http://www.johnappleton.co.nz/uploads/91453/files/245471/BUTTER-IS-BETTER.pdf

 

Fish


Here is a really easy dish that can put your faith back into fish. Make tasteless uninspiring fish in grubby sauces a thing of the past!

Smoked haddock with horseradish mash and a cheese sauce

You will need;

Boneless smoked haddock fillet (most supermarkets will do a good fillet)
2 medium potatoes
Milk
Butter
Hosesradish cream
Medium/strong cheddar
Flour
Nutmeg (powdered or ground)
Olive oil
Black pepper

Mash

Boil chopped potatoes for 15 minutes. Drain and mash well, adding butter, milk, black pepper and horseradish cream (a spoonful or so) to your preferred taste and consistency.

Fish

Wrap the fish in foil with a bit of olive oil and black pepper and place in the oven at 180 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.

Cheese sauce

Melt a knob of butter in a pan and add roughly 20g flour and stir until absorbed. Keep on a low heat for a minute or so and then gradually and slowly add about a glass and a half of milk whilst stirring. Simmer on low heat for 6-8 minutes then add a generous handful of your cheese and stir until absorbed. Add nutmeg and black pepper.

That is it! Once all plated up smother in in the cheese sauce and finish with a sprinkle of nutmeg. 

If you aren’t too keen on cheese sauces replace it with a poached egg, works really well too!


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Still Hungry? Recipe for this next time!

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The best burger in town

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I Spent last summer in the land of the burger and sampled some pretty good burgers. Travelling around northeastern USA, it was quite hard to escape the burger, the ease of a quick hunger fix where in some locations finding fresh fruit or vegetables was about as likely as finding someone who knew the rules of cricket.


Best burger – Fudruckers, Washington DC 

The 1lb behemoth all beef patty (pictured above) smothered in a free buffet of luxury toppings, was astonishingly tasty. Whilst maybe not quite in the man v food league in terms of size, it certainly took some brave eating stamina. Its impressive flavour and value at only 12 dollars or so for a meal so filling forced me to put this burger on a podium.

Try this for healthy hand made burgers (4 medium sized burgers)

Mix up by hand 500g lean beef steak mince with 1 egg, plenty of black pepper generous sloshes of worcestershire sauce and some salt. Make into 4 hand sized patties. Fry in a little oil, a few minutes on each side until browned with the lid on for the second half of cooking.

Some recipes may use plenty more additives like mustard and onions in the mixture, but I like to enjoy the taste of the beef more. I feel the seasoning I mentioned brings out the flavour of the beef nicely.

Low fat and high in protein, enjoy them as you like, on there own or in a bun with toppings of your choice.

For a change use lamb mince and add finely diced apple to the mixture.

Sweet Chilli sauce! 

The  combination of sweet and spicy makes this such a popular condiment to many dishes.

Here is how I make my own

Olive oil, honey, sugar, chili flakes, soy sauce and lemon juice.

Mix well and play around with the quantities of each until you have the level of spicy vs sweet that you like!

Works great poured over meat or fish and fantastic as a marinade. Try it over those burgers!

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Wok time!

This is a go to meal for me always. it is so quick and easy to cook and always tastes great. You can use so many different ingredients depending on what you like, a great dish to clear out miscellaneous veg!

I see so many criminal stir fries at University, people using pre-prepared veg packs, which smell bad and contain tasteless sorry looking veg and thick gloopy sauces full of too much salt and sugar.

First, a quick word about carbohydrates

A much maligned macro-nutrient for those wanting to loose weight. Omit it from your diet at your peril though, it will leave you feeling terribly lethargic. research has shown you will have much greater success when combining your carbohydrate with protein and exercise, leaving you feeling and looking great.

All athletes know the energy available from that big bowl of pasta and the importance of keeping your glycogen stores full for competition (endurance athletes try glycogen low training once in a while, feels horrible but you will reap the rewards!). What you might not know is that exercise produces cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol weakens your immune system making you more susceptible to illness. Keeping your carbohydrate levels high during training and after will attenuate the affect of the cortisol on your immune system, keeping your immune defenses up!

Try this for a fresh tasting, delicious and healthy way of doing Stir fry.

Veg; 3-4 Spring onions, half a small brown onion, garlic clove, half a courgette, Pepper (any colour).

Meat; 1 chicken breast or beef chunks

Sauces and spices; Worcestershire Sauce, dark soy sauce, powdered ginger, black pepper, sugar

Noodles; Fresh or boiling noodles
Instructions

Cut meat into small pieces, and dice vegetables to a size of your choice, the bigger they are the more crunch they retain.

Heat oil in wok, with very generous splashes of Worcestershire and soy sauce and when hot add the meat . After 3 minutes or so (depending on thickness), when the meat is almost cooked through add all the veg and stir vigorously.

Meanwhile if you use boiling noodles (my preference) get them in some boiling water with some stock.

Keep wok heat high and keep stirring, add sprinkle of ginger powder, black pepper and a teaspoon of sugar.

Once the noodles are soft, drain and add to wok with the ingredients. Stir around and splash soy sauce liberaly.

Serve up!

You really can use any veg you like here, go crazy. This comes out quite spicy often but you can add more ore less spices to suit your taste

If you want added protein, add an egg towards the end of cooking and stir it all around, it works well!

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About me…….

Ben Bike

Hi there, my name is Ben, a student at the University of Birmingham.

I have been cooking from a young age and have held a couple of jobs as a chef. I  started at University 2 years ago and like many students find my weeks filled with sport, evenings out and the occasional late night deadline submission.

Stepping through the door covered in mud, freezing cold after another exhausting loss on the football pitch to find a sorry looking food cupboard featuring brown rice and a bag of prunes is not an enticing prospect. Even for the most frugal student, this would frequently spark a drive to reach for the grubby takeaway leaflets that adorn so much of our beloved deep avocado colored carpet.

It is this all too familiar situation and being obstinate about takeaways (I have still never ordered a takeaway or put on a ready meal at University!) that has driven me to get creative in the kitchen and most of all get that food on quick!

Being a keen sportsman and studying human nutrition as a prominent part of my degree course, I always strive to create meals full of the correct nutrition, full of energy and most importantly of all full of flavour, that can be whipped up well before the man carrying a box of greasy plastic tupperwares gets to your door!

In this blog I will share with you some quick, healthy recipe ideas full of the right nutrition that I often cook for myself,  as well as interesting food facts for any athlete who wants to know what nutrition your body really needs and why.

For me, food is the one thing that can keep you alive yet give you so much enjoyment at the same time, so make the most of it!

Enjoy!

Ben

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