Easy meals to prepare for Christmas and Boxing Day

Thai fried rice. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • This Christmas season we have come up with a selection of recipes from which you can select and tailor your own menu.

For that matter, you may choose just a couple of items to add to your own menu repertoire. Not every family can afford the likes of roast turkey or beef Wellington.

Pumpkin is in season and pumpkin soup would be an excellent starter if you have a few guests over and you want to something different and formal.

Thai fried rice 
This hot and spicy dish is easy to prepare and can be had as a meal unto itself. Serves 4
Ingredients:
220 grams Thai jasmine rice. Basmati rice is a substitute.
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 good size onion, chopped
1 small red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into ¾ inch cubes
340g skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut into ¾ inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, crushed 
1 knob ginger, crushed 
1 tbsp. curry paste which cans be substituted with a good quality curry powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tap ground turmeric 
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 eggs beaten

Salt and ground black pepper

Fried basil leaves, to garnish 
Variations: 
Feel free to add 60g frozen peas to the chicken in step three if you so wish. Naturally, you may use fresh peas if you have them in stock
Method
1. Put the rice in a sieve and wash thoroughly under cold running water and then put the rice in a heavy-bottomed pan and add 6 ¼ cups of boiling water. Return to a boil and then simmer gently leaving the pan uncovered, for 8 – 10 minutes, drain well. Spread out the grains on a tray and set aside to cool.
2.Heat a wok until hot and add at least 2 tbsps. of the oil and swirl it around. Add the onion and red pepper and stir fry for about 1 minute. 
3.Add the chicken (with the peas if you are using them), garlic, ginger, curry paste and spices and stir fry for 2 – 3 minutes
4.    Reduce the heat to medium and add the rice which would have cooled down by now, fish sauce and seasoning, Stir fry for 2 – 3 minutes until the rice is very hot. 
5.Make a well in the centre of the rice and add the remaining oil. When hot, add the beaten egg and allow to cook for about 2 minutes until lightly set then stir in the rice. 
6.    Sprinkle over the fried basil leaves and serve at once. 

Pilau 
1 tumpeco of white rice, cooked and preferably cold
1 sliced onion
2 teaspoons of garlic, crushed 
Sliced ginger
Chili if so desired
Ground cinnamon 
Cardamom (whole) 
Cumin

Black pepper 
Cooked peas
Boiled potatoes, quartered 
Meat, preferably boneless
Tomato paste 
Vegetable oil
Fresh cilantro 

Method
1.    Make sure that the white rice is completely separated and this can best be done by hand. Each grain must be apart. This recipe best works when the rice is cold.  Have the meat already cooked and set aside. 
2.    Heat a saucepan and fry the onions, garlic, ginger until the onions become translucent. Add the chili, cumin, whole cardamom, black pepper and the cooked potatoes and the peas if you are using them. Add the tomato paste and continue to stir fry for about 5 minutes. Add a bit of salt and taste and correct seasoning.
3.    Add the white rice to the mixture and stir fry until the rice is hot and all the spices can be tasted and there should be a strong presence of cardamom. Add the coarsely chopped cilantro and heat through and taste and correct seasoning before serving. 
4.    The rice should have a nice brownish hue to it as well as a wonderful fragrance of the pilao masala ingredients. 

Braised matooke with or without meat (katogo) 
Serves 4
Ingredients:
20 very mature peeled fingers of matooke (The more mature the better the outcome)
2-Carrots chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic        
2 medium sliced onions
A few sprigs of chopped cilantro    
1 sliced courgette
¼ kilo fresh garden peas        
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 chopped celery stalk        
1 large sliced green pepper
10-chopped garden eggs (entula)     
Vegetable oil
5 medium size chopped tomatoes             
4 tbsp. tomato paste
Salt to taste                      
4 tablespoons ghee
Two bunches washed and chopped dodo    
1 bay leaf

Method
1.Put the matooke into a heavy saucepan and then add water and bring to a boil. Do NOT add salt. Reduce the heat and let it simmer gently for at least an hour; the longer the better. 
2.In the meantime, heat some vegetable oil in a medium size saucepan and fry the garlic and onions and then add the rest of the vegetables including the salt and pepper. Add a bit of stock or water and simmer gently over low heat for forty-five minutes. Correct the seasoning.
3.    As soon as the matooke is done drain the water and reserve some of it in case you need to add a bit more to the vegetable mix. Immediately after draining the matooke add the vegetables and the return your saucepan to the cooker. Once it begins to boil reduce the heat at once and cook for another half hour. Serve hot.

Summer garden beef salad

Summer garden salad. PHOTO/COURTESY

Green onion dressing (see below)
Basic recipe
3 cups julienne strips cooked lean beef fillet or boneless chicken strips
2 cups cooked fresh whole kernel corn or canned corn 
1 cup cooked fresh French beans or better still, Chinese pea pods
1 cup julienne strips plum tomatoes
2 thinly sliced and separated onions 
1 cup julienne strips zucchini (about 1 or 2 medium) 
1 cup green or yellow bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
6 to 10 lettuce leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives 
Green onion dressing 
½ cup chopped spring onions (6 or so medium)
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup white wine or apple juice
¼ cup chicken broth 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
Place all the ingredients in a blender or a food processor, cover and blend for about 30 seconds
Prepare the green onion dressing and toss with the remaining ingredients shown in the basic recipe except for the lettuce leaves and chives. Serve the salad on lettuce leaves and sprinkle with chives.  

Grilled fish fillet with mango sauce

Choose mangoes that are sweet and not raw (they are bound to be sour) otherwise the effect will be different from what was intended. First taste the mango that you will be using. 

If in doubt then get the imported ones that are available year round, in  supermarkets as well as Nakasero Market. If you do not have a grill, then pan-frying is the alternative. This is an ideal entrée for a small and intimate occasion when you want to show off your cooking prowess. 

However, time permitting do a dry run before the curtain raiser. Use an array of multicoloured bell peppers that help to bring out the colour of the dish. 

Serves 6
Ingredients
¼ cup olive oil        
2cloves minced garlic
6 filets of skinned fish fillet washed
1 tsp dried basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedges
½ cup julienne strips zucchini    ½ cup julienne carrots
½ cup julienne yellow bell pepper
½ cup thinly sliced yellow onion
½ cup julienne red bell pepper
8 new boiled potatoes unpeeled 
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Strips of avocado

For the mango sauce
1 Cup diced ripe mango     
2 tbsp minced cilantro 
2 tbsp diced green bell pepper
2 tbsp diced red bell pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped spring onion    2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Salt & pepper to taste    
2 tbsp diced yellow onion
¼ cup olive oil        
Method
1.Set the oven to the grill mark and preheat for at least 10 minutes. Begin by making the mango sauce that will benefit from an overnight stay in the fridge in a covered plastic container. 
2.    Combine the mango sauce ingredients as indicated and process in a blender or a food processor and taste and correct seasoning before storing in the fridge.
3.    Mix the garlic and olive oil with the dried basil and the salt and freshly ground pepper. Black pepper will do very nicely. Immerse the fish in the marinade for thirty minutes prior to grilling and then grill on one side for about three minutes and then turn the fish and do likewise. Total grilling time ought to be about 6 minutes. Remove and set aside and finish cooking in the oven mode at 400°F/ 204°C for five minutes. 
4.While the fish is baking warm some olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the vegetables and the boiled potatoes cut in half. The vegetables should be ready within five minutes and you will need to sprinkle some salt and freshly ground pepper over them. 
5.To serve the fish, place it on the side of the plate and surround it with the potatoes, vegetables and the strips of avocado. Serve the mango sauce in a side dish.

Pumpkin soup

Serves 6
Ingredients

4 cups cooked fresh pumpkin                 
2 tbsp unsalted butter 
1 medium-size chopped onion
1 cup half and half
¼ tsp paprika        
a pinch of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste    
2 ½ cups chicken stock
2 crushed garlic cloves
Method
1.Get rid of the outer skin of the pumpkin and dice the flesh into small pieces. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and sauté the onions until they become translucent then add the garlic and gently fry for a couple of minutes.
2.Add the diced pumpkin along with the stock and bring to a boil then simmer for about a half hour or until the pumpkin is cooked.
3.Remove from the heat and process in a food processor until it is nicely pureed. Clean the saucepan and return the pureed mixture then add the half and half, paprika and the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and slowly reheat just before serving, taste and correct seasoning before serving. 
Chicken in coconut cream
Ingredients
1 whole chicken cut up     
1 tsp freshly grated black pepper
4 crushed garlic cloves    
1 thinly sliced onion
6 finely chopped cilantro roots
1 thinly sliced piece of ginger
2 fresh green chilies finely chopped      
400 ml coconut milk
1 grated peel of a fresh lime    
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp lime juice        
4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Salt to taste        
 2 lemon grass stems chopped
2 bay leaves        
2 tsp peanut butter
2 tbsp cooking oil
Method
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
Grind the garlic, onions and the cilantro roots to a fine paste in a mortar and pestle. When you have done this, heat the oil in a small pan and fry the past so as to bring out the flavour. Add the peanut butter and do not allow it to brown.
In the meantime, season the chicken with salt and roast it in an oiled roasting pan for about 15 minutes. 
Add the partially cooked chicken pieces to a wok with the coconut milk, chilies, lime peel, lime juice, ginger, fish sauce etc. and mix well then bring to a boil and reduce heat and gently simmer for about 40 minutes until the chicken is tender.
Serve with boiled rice sprinkled with sautéed onions.

Tropical fruit salad. PHOTO/COURTESY

Tropical fruit salad 
Serves about 6
Ingredients
•1 good size pineapple    • 400g guava halves in Tropical 
• 4 sukali ndizi  bananas     
• 4 tbsp coconut milk
• 1 large mango peeled and cored    
•½ tsp nutmeg
• 115g stem ginger & tbsp syrup    
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• Strips of coconut for garnishing    
• 1 small pawpaw
• 1 small melon cubed
Method
• Peel and core then cut the pineapple into cubes and place in a serving bowl.
• Drain the guavas and reserve the syrup and chop, then add them to the bowl with a couple of the bananas, pawpaw, melon and the mango. Chop the stem ginger and add it to the pineapple mixture.
• Measure a ½ tbsp of the ginger syrup along with the reserved guava syrup and put it into a food processor then add the remaining two bananas with the coconut milk and the sugar then puree into a smooth cream.
• When ready to serve pour the banana and coconut mixture over the fruit and sprinkle over the fruit. Serve well chilled sprinkled with the nutmeg and cinnamon garnished with strips of coconut.

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