Friday, 31 December 2010

Day 1 - Chili, with garlic prawns to start

So, perhaps we'll try a bit of something different here; I'll post the recipes as well as logging some of what we eat.

Extra Easy, all food free.

Garlic prawns

Prawns - raw if you can get them
Garlic (as much as you want)

Salad - we used rocket, baby plum tomatoes, spring onions, and cucumber. All you do is gently heat the garlic in a nonstick pan with low-calorie cooking spray, add the prawns and toss them til they are cooked through. Serve over the salad.


Diced stewing beef, all fat trimmed away
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
2 medium courgettes
2 onions
as much garlic as you like
1 tin of tomatoes
1 carton of black beans
1 dried posilla chile
Ground cumin
Ground ancho powder
Ground chipotle powder
Mexican oregano
Kallo organic beef stock cube
salt and black pepper

Brown rice, to serve
Nonfat yogurt (we like Total 0%), to serve
Chopped spring or sweet onions, to serve

I made this using our slow cooker - in which case, put two cans of tomatoes in to keep it moist. Anyway, whichever you do, everything starts like this:

Brown the meat thoroughly in a large pan using cooking oil spray, and add the sliced onion and garlic, allowing them to brown and soften thoroughly. When that's happened, add the stock cube, cinnamon and a tiny splash of water to make a paste so all the beef is covered. It's optional but I find it helps the whole dish. Your call though :)

When that's done you either go for the slow cooker - in which case, arrange all your veg (peppers, courgettes, and beans) in the bottom of the dish, pouring one can of tomatoes over them and then adding the spices and giving it all a stir. Then, spoon over the meat and onions, add the dried chile and the final can of tomatoes, and set it off to cook to your requirements in the slow cooker - I did mine yesterday over about 8 hours on medium, with Chris turning it to low for the last hour or two.

If you're not slow cooking it, add the peppers and courgettes, pop the lid on and allow them to cook down. When everything is softened add the spices, the (1) can of tomatoes and the beans and dried chile, turn it down to simmer and leave it to bubble away til you're ready.

Serve over brown rice with yogurt and chopped onions on top.

I haven't given quantities because nothing needs to be measured on the Extra Easy plan but of course, you know, exercise your judgement ;)

New Year, New Plan?

I have been quiet recently; it's not because I've not been eating (au contraire!), but because actually...we've been really struggling with the new Weight Watchers plan and as a consequence have been eating the same things over and over. Without going into prolonged detail, it's just not suiting us at all - I feel that I can't actually eat enough of the healthy foods that I need to eat to feel well without going over my Points, because once you get into it it's actually quite restrictive.


So, last night, we buckled up and went back to Slimming World. It has been years since I have been to a meeting; I went a few times some years ago and as I have said before, I couldn't get on with the old Red and Green malarkey at all. However, the plan has changed considerably and seems to tie in quite well with what the nutritionist said when I saw her a few weeks ago, about needing to eat a certain amount of a certain type of food to make everything work properly.

So far, as far as I can see, all lean meat and fish, offal and shellfish are free, along with all fruit, veg, pulses, nonfat dairy/eggs (so things like quark and fat free yogurt) and things like pasta/rice/cous cous. Oh and Quorn and tofu. Bread and porridge/cereal are dietary supplements rather than staples and are consumed in very small portions as a healthy extra; likewise milk. That is genuinely about it. You can apparently eat naughty things but you count them and you don't get much allowance for it - I guess because you're already full of steak and chickpeas? Heh. Anyway...I think it might be a good one for us. Looking back at so many of my recipes on here, they're classed as free on Slimming World and so I think it might be a bit easier to stick to.

Listen, we are keeping an open mind eh...five months time and we're on our honeymoon so some of this extra padding needs to be dropped before we're in Disneyworld in June! :)

I shall keep you all informed. Perhaps being public about what we eat might motivate me a bit - recipes included, naturally.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Happy soup, with Goat Floats

Okay so...I may not have mentioned it, but I am slightly obsessed with all things goaty. Discovering this week that we had a FANTASTIC cheese shop very close by (we've not lived here that long, give us chance!)...well. I know I'm on WW but come on, it's Christmas. Nearly. Ish. And I had good reason; Chris asked me this year for "stuff to put in his mouth", since we're keeping things low budget because of the wedding, so I'm making him a teeny little hamper, and cheese is one of his most favourite things, so of course, that was where I ended up.

Anyway, having made the order to pick things up next week, I was all set to leave when I spotted...drumroll please...some Ragstone, and some Golden Cross goats' cheese. The Golden Cross SOMEHOW found its way into my bag and I've fallen in love all over again with the deliciousness of All Things Goat. So, without further it is.

You need:

About 40g of goats' butter (this is quite important).
1 big leek, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced/crushed
1 big Bramley apple, chopped up (peel it too)
1 good thumb of grated ginger
1 tsp Lebanese 7-spice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
5 parsnips (that was how many I had) peeled and chopped
1 celeriac, peeled and chopped
and then stock to cover; I used a bit of Marigold.

Just sweat off the onion, leek, apple, garlic and ginger in the butter til it's soft and gorgeous. Add the parsnip and celeriac and spices, turn in the butter for a moment, and then add the stock, cover and leave to simmer. Blend it til smooth and add a generous tablespoon or two of Total 0% yogurt to loosen it to the desired consistency.

Add some finely sliced Goat Floats (slices of beautiful goats' cheese) to taste and ENJOY!!

Oh and if I don't say it before...happy Christmas :)

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Another note on WW and ProPoints values

I should just say that at the moment my ProPoints allowance is 36 daily, and Chris's (because he's 6ft huge as well as being young and juicy) is 51; that's why my WW recipes, for now, are not particularly low in ProPoints. As we go along they will be tweaked and reworked to make them lower.

Festive mincemeat

Well, Christmas is 30-odd days away, and although we made our Christmas cake three or four weeks ago (on Halloween, actually), I thought today we'd make some mincemeat (sugar free, of course) for mince pies, to go with ice cream, over bananas, etc :) Now, my mom makes lovely mincemeat so after a bit of a pep talk I have made it roughly to her method but kind of made the recipe up as we went along. I'm not even going to try and work out the ProPoints for this, because, well. In reality you'd take what, a generous spoonful? It's not going to kill you. So. In the spirit of "writing everything down so I don't forget it", here is what I put in this year's batch; I'm sure it'll get fiddled with for next year.

500g sultanas
500g raisins
1 small carton mixed peel (about 200g)
1 small carton glace cherries (about 200g), rinsed well and quartered
375g soft dates, chopped (1 pack)
375g dried figs, chopped (1 pack)
6 tbsp brandy
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 scant tsp nutmeg
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1 lemon

This needs to be left overnight for the brandy to penetrate the fruit.

Next morning, the dried fruit mix is mixed with apple sauce, which is homemade; just cook down sliced and peeled Bramleys with a couple of tbsp PerfectSweet, and allow to cool. When everything's ready, combine the dried fruit mix with the apple, a bit at a time, until you get the consistency you want, and then put it into sterilised jars/tupperware etc.

Here's a (slightly blurry, taken with my Blackberry) shot of the finished product!!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wintry Sausage Pie

Okay so not really a pie since there's no pastry, but in the "cottage pie" sense of the word. Following the success of both the sausage casserole last week (with reduced fat sausages, which turned out to be surprisingly good), and the squash and turkey bake, I was inspired (well, forced, since all we had was root veg and sausages) to make....THIS.

The whole thing is 32 ProPoints, so if you have three generous portions (I'm looking at you Mom) that'd be 11 ProPoints each. Now, this is what I made it with since this was what was in the fridge/cupboards, but just go with what you've got lurking.

1 pack of ASDA reduced-fat sausages
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
3-4 smallish leeks
1 small bulb of fennel
3-4 sticks of celery
Small pack of mushrooms
Yellow pepper, diced
2 courgettes, diced
1 small onion

...seriously, whatever you've got.

For flavouring...okay, brace yourselves.
1 tsp Marmite, dropped in with some boiling water
1 Bramley apple (or a nice eating apple), peeled, chunked, dropped in with a tsp sweetener (yes, with the Marmite, yes, it tastes nice, just do it)
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
Generous shake of black pepper
Finally, to thicken it all - you need 2 tbsp cornflour mixed to a paste with a little cold water.
For the mash...
4-5 cloves garlic, whole, peeled

1 whole celeriac, peeled and diced
400g potatoes, old, floury, peeled and chopped
About half a tsp vegetable bouillion powder
It is so easy it's stupid. First of all brown off the chopped up sausages in a pan. Then, add the aromatics (celery, fennel, carrot, onion), and sweat off til they're softened and golden. Add all the other veg and give it a few minutes to soften, and then the flavourings. Turn it down, stick the lid on, and get on with the mash.
Sling all the potato, garlic and celeriac into a saucepan with cold water, to which you've added the stock powder, and bring up to the boil as usual. Try and chop the potato and celeriac to more or less the same size.
When it's ready, drain, mash it all together, season well, and if it is looking a bit stiff try mixing a tbsp of Philadelphia XL through it.
Meanwhile thicken your sausagey mixture with the cornflour, and then just assemble it with the sausages on the bottom and the mash on top. Can go in the oven straight away, or to cook from cooled it needs about 45-50 minutes (depending on the size of your pie) in the middle of the oven on 180.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Turkey and squash bake (borrowed from Nigel Slater)

So, this was one of the recipes from the first episode of the esteemed Mr Slater's new series of Simple Suppers, which I have fiddled slightly (I am sure he won't mind), and worked out the ProPoints; I reckon that for three big appetites it comes in at 10 ProPoints per serving. Serve it with some 0-ProPoint fine green beans, blanched lightly and then tossed with wholegrain mustard. Delishos, even if I do say so myself. The Husband Type Creature proclaimed it to be "better than any cottage pie with potato", so I'm happy with that assessment. I suppose it is supposed to be a bit like a cottage pie, with a minced meat base and a mash top.

I should just say that if you don't live with a 6'4 beardy eating machine this would probably feed four people (if you had plenty of veg on the side, or a 0-ProPoint soup starter), so don't be put off.

500 extra lean turkey breast mince (try Sainsbury's or ASDA)
4 rashers of streaky smoked bacon, chopped finely
2 punnets of chestnut (or any tasty variety!) mushrooms, or equivalent, quartered
3 big carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
4 sticks of celery, sliced thinly
1 yellow pepper, diced finely
2 red onions, diced finely
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
1 small bottle of red wine (I mean a mini-bottle, 187ml)
2 tbsp cornflour, made up into a paste with a dash of tapwater
generous seasoning with thyme and sage, to taste
black pepper
1 chicken stock cube
1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and hacked into big lumps. There needs to be enough to make the topping so don't be stingy. Go by what size your dish is.

So...the method is thus.

Heat the oven up to HIGH. You're not going for elegant chewy roasted butternut squash, you're going for "nuked until it's soft enough to mash". So aim for that. Peel, deseed and hack it up, and then put it into a roasting tray with a few sprays of oil, sea salt and black pepper (to taste; I like mine quite well seasoned. Another tasty tip is to add the tip of a teaspoon of Marigold vegetable bouillon powder when you're actually mashing it). When the oven is up to speed, throw it in and give it fifteen minutes. Check it then, turn it and make sure it's not catching too much, and give it another ten. That should be enough. It needs to be soft enough to mash easily so use your judgement and if in doubt, try and cut a piece in half with the edge of your spoon. :)

For the rest, it's dead easy. Start by browning the bacon off and then add the turkey. Once they are browned, add the aromatics - the celery, carrot and onion - and saute gently til they are softened. Add the wine and let the alcohol cook off, then put the stock cube, Lea and Perrins, sage and thyme in. Finally add the mushrooms and pepper. Let everything cook through and then at the end add the cornflour paste to thicken it and make it all glossy and lovely.

Assemble it "cottage pie" style, with the meaty filling packed in nice and tight and covered by forked peaks of mashed squash. Nigel Slater suggested adding orange zest to the squash, which I didn't do - I went for a peppery finish, but I am sure both are equally delicious. It needs to go into the oven at around 180 degrees for about 40 minutes, and will sit happily in the fridge if you wanted to make it ahead and come home to it after a nice morning out or whatever (as we did). Ace!

This made a fabulous Sunday lunch and since there's only two of us there's a portion of the meat filling in the freezer for next time Chris's shifts are so awkward we miss each other completely, so it's a win all round!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Initial thoughts on the new WW ProPoints plan

As those of you following Weight Watchers may have heard, yesterday saw the launch of their new ProPoints plan. It's a little more complicated and I don't think they've done themselves many favours with the new website or indeed some of the explanations, but I'm going to post here the email that I sent to my dad (who is also doing WW, and is also a type-2 diabetic like me), which is basically my annotation on the promo blurb.

Here we go. WW's words from their website (copyright to WW, of course!)are in bold and my notes are in italics; these are my first impressions (which I believe are correct), and in no way shape or form represent the good folks of Weight Watchers. DID YOU HEAR THAT WEIGHT WATCHERS? DON'T SUE ME. Righty ho then.

A New System that Takes into Account How Food is Processed by the Body
Every food and drink is assigned a ProPoints value. This takes into account the way your body processes the nutrients in food, to give you a more accurate measurement of the calories available to your body, after you've eaten it.

Introducing the New Plan
The new ProPoints plan uses the latest nutritional science that reflects how your body processes food. You'll discover foods that'll keep you satisfied and that are healthy, and foods that'll make life enjoyable as you're getting to the weight you want to be.

The ProPoints plan is about your food, your life - your weight loss.
ProPoints plan is based on the latest nutritional science which is more accurate for weight loss than traditional calorie counting approaches. Most diets are dominated by calorie counting, but the new plan is different. It takes into account how protein, carbohydrates, fat and fibre are processed by your body.

This bit was really interesting - Julie (our leader) showed us a picture of two "breakfasts" that were 300 calories each but were very different values on the new plan. The "good" one (ie, most filling, lowest GI, lowest sugar, most nutritionally sound), was three pieces of lean bacon, two poached eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes, followed by a strawberry and banana home made smoothie with 0% yogurt. The "bad" one was a single English muffin with a scrape of jam and a small skimmed capuccino from Costa/Starbucks or similar. I was really surprised they were the same calories but according to the ProPoints, the muffiny one would have been nearly twice as many Points as it would have released loads more...wait for it...SUGARS (hooray! Finally there's a bit more acknowledgement!) into the blood. So, despite it being fiddly, it DOES seem to fit better with the diabetes management.

A New System that Takes into Account How Food is Processed by the Body
Every food and drink is assigned a ProPoints value. This takes into account the way your body processes the nutrients in food, to give you a more accurate measurement of the calories available to your body, after you've eaten it.

A New Freedom for You to Enjoy Life as it Happens and Still Lose Weight
There's more room for real life with the weekly ProPoints allowance. This is in addition to a personal daily ProPoints allowance. So alongside your day-to-day eating you know you have the capacity to fit in unplanned events and surprises and still lose weight.

So, with the new plan, you get your daily Points allowance as before but you CAN'T save any to carry over, like you used to before if you were going out for dinner or whatever. Either you use them all every day or you don't. What you DO get though - and everyone gets exactly the same amount - is 49 allocated Points per WEEK to use for if you want a treat, a bigger portion, etc. You don't have to use them all at once (or even at all) but the idea is that you've always got this little fallback in your pocket as it were in case you were out and wanted to have, say, a dessert or popcorn at the pictures or whatever. The intentions are that a: you don't end up playing catch-up if you do have a blow-out and b: that everyone eats about the same amount of "treats" per week - it's based on the healthy amount, rather than your (old) Points allowance, where if you were on 40 Points a day and only ate vegetable soup for lunch and porridge for breakfast you COULD have a MacDonalds every day. It does also mean that if you work out what 49 Points relates to, you can probably only really go for one meal out a week sensibly, and it will stop you from having five courses of breaded deep fried cheese with a 72oz steak smothered in clarified butter...haha. Anyway the big news is that our leaders and helpers have been doing it for four weeks with an average weightloss of around 9lb each in the last four weeks, so...apparently it is working.

A New Focus on Foods that'll Help to Keep You Feeling Satisfied and Healthy
Filling & Healthy foods take the guesswork out of finding foods that'll keep you feeling fuller for longer. The added benefit is Filling & Healthy foods are also healthy choices. For each food group we've carefully selected choices that are higher in fibre and/or lower in salt, sugar and saturated fat.

It does really pick up on which foods are actually nutritionally better for you - so although the calorific value might be the same, going back to the "grill-up and the smoothie" vs the "skinny latte and muffin", you can clearly see which would be better for you, with more lean proteins and fruits. I think we might actually get on really well with this because I think once we've got our heads around it it will combine the benefits of Slimming World's core plan approach (ie, encouraging you to eat the right foods nutritionally) with the traditional WW guidance to portions (which I think you can have problems with long term on something like Slimming World, if you don't address your eating issues*).

A New Way to S-T-R-E-T-C-H Your ProPoints Budget Further with Zero ProPoints Value Fruit and Veg
Eating 5-a-day has never been easier. All fresh and frozen fruits - and most vegetables - won't cost you any ProPoints values at all, so you can fill up, and enjoy healthy choices as you lose weight.

This has made a difference - bananas for example are now 0 Points; this makes a big difference, well for me anyway - I have one with my porridge. Obviously you can't eat five pineapples a day because it will mess up your blood sugar but it will be nice to have a bit extra. The only vegetables that I can see you have to Point are the same as before - potatoes and sweet potatoes, parsnips, peas, avocados. I think we'll be grand.

Initially things will look really high with ProPoints. For example I worked out that three slices of the bread that Chris
[my husband type] likes for his sandwiches - without the spread, sandwich filing etc - are NINE ProPoints, but - BUT - Chris's Points allowance is (get this) 51!!! So actually he CAN have that if he wants, or a really big portion of pasta or rice or whatever. My main concern with the bread in my case is that it's not as good for the blood sugars, but if yours are looking good then, you know, there we go.

Things to be careful of:

- Yes fruit is zero points, but we can't literally eat as much as we want becuase of the blood sugar
- Things do look high in ProPoints value, but it's because the actual amount a "Point" (or "ProPoint") is worth is smaller, hence you've got more of them. They are much more precise. So, as a guide, you've got 49 Points per week for treats; a standard bar of Cadbury's (not that we would, but as a guide) is about 19 Points. So in a week you'd be able to have maybe two standard chocolate bars as extras to your healthy diet. Which is how thin folks eat innit. It does make sense, it's just a bit kerfuffly. I think you will get on well with it when you've seen the books with the "pick and mix" menus in them.

*I should just say that this is an issue that I have had with SW. I appreciate that many people have great success with it. PLEASE DON'T SUE ME SLIMMING WORLD okay thanks.

Monday, 8 November 2010

New Weight Watchers points

Well, WW have had the biggest overhaul of their system in about 15 years, and it's been released today. From what I can gather it takes into consideration all the fibre and protein, as well as fats and carbs, in our food and should make things a bit more comprehensive; I shall investigate further after our meeting tonight. It seems to make sense and I'm hoping that as a diabetic it will improve how my needs fit in with the plan. We shall see - more details as I find out about them.

Spicy root vegetable soup

This makes about 5 servings, which work out at 4 ProPoints each (more of ProPoints shortly).

300g potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 leeks, chopped
2 rashers bacon, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
500g parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 head of celeriac, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
Approximately 1400ml chicken (or vegetable, but I liked chicken) stock - made with cubes or concentrate, for this soup, is fine
1 tbsp medium curry powder
half a tsp smoked paprika
half a tsp cumin
1 small tub of Total 0% yogurt

It's so eeeeeeeeeeasy - just stick all your vegetables and the bacon in and sweat down, then add all the stock and spices and bring it up to the boil. Turn it down to a simmer, cook through til tender and blend. Add the yogurt, stir in well, and enjoy!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Husband soup

So...okay, not actually containing any real husband, but Chris came home from work the other day and said, do you know, your soups stop conversations in the hospital staffroom? I gave him the Eyebrow, but apparently, there is a standard pause in conversation when he removes his reheated lunch from the microwave, followed by someone asking what it is today. So far he's been happy enough with whatever I've whipped up with what we've got in the fridge, but yesterday he had a specific request: something really tomatoey. So, without further ado, here it is: tomato and lentil soup for Chris, aka Husband Soup. I reckon there's about five portions here, so it'd be 3.5 Points per serving.

2 medium onions, roughly chopped
4 sticks celery, roughly chopped
1-2 red bell peppers (depending on size), chopped roughly
3-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 x 400g-ish cartons sieved tomatoes/passata
1 tube tomato puree
approx 1400ml water (cold, from the tap!)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp italian seasoning
2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated (optional, but it makes SUCH a difference)
1 tsp sugar
BIG pinch salt
generous seasoning with black pepper
300g red lentils

Very simple, this; soften the onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper well in your pan, and then add everything else except the lentils. Cook it all down together and then blend it smooth. All you do then is add the lentils and cook them through, and behold! Husband soup. Alternatively, as I am doing at the moment, you can transfer it to the slow cooker at the point of adding the lentils, and leave it for however long you need to :)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Autumnal stew of pork with black beans and squash

With the cold weather heading our way and the nights drawing in, this is what's going to be in the pot tonight. It could probably feed three, but to be honest we will both have been running around a lot today and I'm always starving in this weather, so let's say it serves 2 at 6.5 Points each.

1 acorn squash, peeled, deseeded and hacked into chunks
3 smallish courgettes, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 smallish onions, diced
1 can chopped tomatoes in juice
5 cloves of garlic, crushed/smashed/smooshed
3 lean pork leg steaks (not very big)
1 carton of Sainsbury's organic black beans in water, drained
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried chipotle powder
1 tsp dried ancho powder
shake of bittersweet smoked paprika
pork stock cube if you've got it (that's your call)
If you're feeling like something a bit different, a peeled, cored and diced Granny Smith
If I'm feeling frisky I might pop in one of the whole dried pasilla chilis I've been hoarding from The Gringley Gringo (who also incidentally make the most awesome chipotle chutney).

So, off we go.

Sort your squash out first, peeling it and deseeding it and chopping it into manageable lumps. That needs to go into a roasting tray with a few squirts of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, and into the oven at 180 while you do everything else. You need to check it and give it a bit of a shake every 10-15 minutes and the idea is that you add it into the pot with the rest of the ingredients towards the end of cooking so it doesn't all fall to mush.

When that's on the go, start with your pork; cut it into small pieces and add it to your pan with a spray of oil. Leave that to start browning. When it's getting there, add the onion and garlic and let it all cook down gently together so everything is golden brown and soft; when it's there, add the pepper and courgettes (and any dried whole chilis and the apple if you're using them), put the lid on and let it simmer.

After about ten minutes, when everything is softened, add the tomatoes, puree, beans, stock cube and spices, give it a good stir and then let it all cook down til it's how you like it. When it's nearly there and your squash is roasted til it's soft and starting to catch a bit round the edges, add the squash to the mix and serve - enjoy!

If you are in need of extra ballast this will go really well with some brown rice (say 60g each - about 3 Points), or perhaps even a couple of wraps? (WW do them for 1 Point each, but they don't currently do wholewheat, which doesn't suit me too well.)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Warming parsnip and apple soup

I came late to the party as far as parsnips are concerned; it's only been these past few weeks that I've been enjoying them as an ingredient in a casserole, or roasted with Sunday lunch. However, this morning after I woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a truck, soup was the order of the day, and on close investigation there was a whopping bag of parsnips in the cupboard.

So, here is my improvised (but wholly successful, according to Chris) recipe; the whole pan comes in at about 8 Points and would give you a generous four portions; perhaps five if it was being portioned into boxes for lunch (we've got big bowls here at Casa Leno). So, allow about 2 Points per serving.

6 parsnips, peeled and chopped
2-4 Granny Smith apples, depending on size; mine were teeny so I used 4 - peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, diced finely
1 small heart of celery, diced finely
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Marigold vegetable bouillion powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp medium curry powder (I like Sharwoods)
About 1250ml boiling water (to cover your veg)

Begin by gently sauteing the onion, celery, apple, garlic and ginger together. Allow everything to soften gently and become slippery. Then, add the peeled parsnips and the spices, and stick the kettle on. When the kettle's boiled, sprinkle the tbsp of stock powder over and then pour the boiling water over to just cover the vegetables. Bring it back up to the boil, then turn down, cover and simmer. When the parsnips are tender (I usually see if I can break a piece against the side of the pan with my wooden spoon - note I said break NOT MASH, you don't want it to completely collapse), take it off the heat and let it cool for two minutes. Pop a folded towel on the side and stand the pot on it so it won't move about while you blend it smooth with a hand blender.

Check for seasoning and serve; we enjoyed it today with a sprinkle of parmesan and some leftover bread. Delishos. Don't forget to count the parmesan and bread ;)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


In my kitchen is this beautiful Crown Prince squash. Tomorrow it's going to be something lovely for dinner :)

Monday, 18 October 2010

My mom's chicken curry

This is a blast from the past for me, I actually had it this Saturday night past when I wasn't feeling very well and my dad picked me up and took me to my parent's house (on request I might add...and I should also say that the husband type creature was on shift at the hospital, so it's not just that he's rubbish if I'm sick!! Haha!).

All you need to count for this is your chicken breast per person, so be generous and allow about 3 Points each. The sultanas are such a small amount I wouldn't worry but if you're really paranoid call it half a Point. This recipe feeds 4. Serve it with rice and salad.

Quoted verbatim from my mom's e-mail:

I used to cube the chicken breast and you need to fry this off first; now I leave them whole so everyone is sure to get their full share. Remove the chicken from pan and then fry off onions (as many as you like I used 4 or 5) 2 sticks of celery and garlic - I used 5 cloves with salt and black pepper till well soft. Put the chicken back in the pan and add a tin of chopped tomatos, a chicken oxo cube dissolved in a small amount of (about 100ml) water. I then use about 3 teaspoons of Schwartz or Asda mild curry powder and 1/4 tsp dried ginger and a good tablespoon tom puree and mix well in. Then chuck in a 250g tub of mushrooms (roughly sliced) and any other veg u like. I always put in carrots but I have to cook them first and then mash them you could grate them if you want and usually a courgette or a leek and yes the sultanas about 50g.

This doesn't need much cooking - about 20 - 30 minutes, but it's better left overnight for the flavours to blend.

And there we have it. Thank you mom! :)

NB I should just point out that when she says 'fry' she means 'saute whilst watching like a hawk so it doesn't stick and cremate because you're using spray oil'. :)

Smoky turkey and beans

This happened when Chris came home from the supermarket with a lovely lean turkey breast fillet and I realised we had more cans of pinto beans in the cupboard than two modestly hungry thirtysomethings could ever eat. This makes three portions - two to eat with rice, if you like, for dinner - and one to stick in a box for lunch tomorrow. Yum yum. 5.5 Points per portion (and just add however many you eat with the rice added).

Ellie, if you're reading this - I know you don't like smoky so don't make it smoky! Use unsmoked bacon and regular paprika.

1 lean turkey breast fillet (from ASDA - it was 340g)
4 rashers of (ASDA) smoked streaky bacon
2-3 wands of celery
2 cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of tomatoes in their juice (they don't have to be chopped in the tin but they need to be chopped in your pot! ;) )
2 big onions, finely sliced
Peppers, either green or red or - as I used - one of each, diced
1-2 courgettes, diced to your preference
Garlic, to taste (if it's our house, an obscene amount)
Big squirt of tomato puree
Bit of Marigold vegetable stock powder, or a chicken stock cube
Spanish smoked bittersweet paprika, to taste
Cayenne pepper, if you like it

Brown the chopped up bacon in the pan and add the turkey, sealing and browning well. Add the onion, garlic and celery and get it all soft and lovely and golden.

Stick the peppers and courgettes in and then pop the lid on and turn it down to halfway. It needs about 5-7 minutes for the vegetables to cook through and soften a bit. Then, add the tomato, tomato puree, paprika, cayenne pepper and stock, stir well, turn it down with the lid on and leave it as long as you can bear to. Enjoy!

Chicken, fennel and mushroom risotto

This, depending on how much chicken and rice you are hungry for, is around 7 or 8 Points; allowing 3 Points for a generous chicken breast each, and about 80g of rice (4 Points). If you're hungry have 100g, that's 5 Points worth. So, this comes in at 7-8 Points per person, which is good for a filling main meal. Serve it with a fresh rocket, red onion and balsamic vinegar salad on the side.

To serve two:

2 chicken breasts
risotto rice (as you like, see above)
Mushrooms - whatever sort you like but I like portabella and organic chestnut
Bulb of fennel, sliced thinly
3-4 wands of celery, sliced thinly
1 large onion, sliced thinly
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 green pepper, diced finely
1-2 courgettes, sliced finely or diced, however you'd like really
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Kallo organic stock cube (or your stock cube of choice, but I really like those)

And then:
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried tarragon
Black pepper, to season

This is so so easy.

Cube your chicken and brown it generously in a pan. As it's releasing its juices, melt the stock cube in and stir well to coat the chicken. Also add the white wine vinegar and allow it to cook in. Then, add the onion, garlic, fennel and celery, plus a splash (JUST a splash!) of water if it's looking really dry. Turn the heat down a bit and put the lid on. You're aiming for it all to be golden brown and slippery soft, but not burned and welded onto the pan, so do give it a shake/stir and keep an eye on it.

When it's looking good and ready, add the other veg along with the herbs and black pepper, turn it down to halfway, get the lid on and let the veg sweat down. When everything is cooked through add the rice and just enough water to barely cover it and leave it to cook through. Stir stir stir as it starts to suck all the water down and once the rice is done and it's at a consistency you like, enjoy!

Garlicky root mash

I know, I KNOW you don't need a recipe for mash. Only...maybe you DO. This was inspired by a WW recipe which involved turnips and butternut squash, but I don't like turnips and I need the squash to make Chris's favourite curry (see previous post), so I improvised with what we had in the cupboard. All you need to point/count for this, if you're counting WW Points, is the potato. Everything else is free. Potato works out at 1 Point per 100g, so you do the maths. Just do the quantities as per how many people you've got, or how hungry you are. We were starving and this worked out at about 2 Points each (I mean we filled our BOOTS).


To make a generous potful, you need:

400g peeled and diced potato
4-5 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 celeriac, peeled and diced
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped in half

Salt and black pepper
About 100-120ml vegetable stock (I used Marigold powdered vegetable bouillon)

Just sling all the veg into a pot with cold water and a pinch of salt, and bring it up to the boil, then simmer until they're tender at the tip of a knife. Drain them well and then mash in together with the vegetable stock and the black pepper. For the whole pot, it's 4 Points, and if you have plenty of other tasty 0-Point veg this would serve 3-4. Ace!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Chris's favourite curry (for now, at least)

I made this a couple of weeks ago for Chris to heat up for himself during the day before he went off for the late shift. He doesn't like things as spicy as I do and I pretty well made this up as I went along. No claims for authenticity or any of that malarkey; it's just a nice, rounded, autumnal curry with no hard edges.

As always, quantities to be altered for however many are eating, but a standard portion consisting of one medium-large chicken breast, half a tin of chickpeas (drained) and a reasonable portion of boiled rice on the side (say, 70g) would set you back 8 Points per serving. All the veg etc are free, so that's a good way of working it out :)

So. For two people, one of which is a large, hairy, hungry man:

2 courgettes, diced
2 red peppers (or one humungous one, your call)
1 small-medium butternut squash
1 carton organic chickpeas (Sainsbury's; any you can get your hands on are good), drained
1 can/carton chopped tomatoes in juice
tomato puree
two onions, diced fine
Garlic - LOTS. About five cloves. We like garlic.
2 large chicken breasts, about 300g each
1 Kallo chicken stock cube

Then for spices -
2 tsp ASDA tandoori blend
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
5 cardamom pods (whole, fish em out at the end)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2tbsp black onion seeds

So, it is the usual drill - brown the chicken, onions and garlic while the squash gently roasts at about 200, peeled and cubed and sprinkled with salt and black pepper.

Once the squash is soft, just take it out of the oven and wait until you're more or less ready to serve. Don't stick it in the curry, it'll go soggy.

When the chicken/onions/garlic are lovely and brown, mix all the spices except the onion seeds in a cup with some water to make a loose paste, and add to the pan. Cook it through gently, adding a healthy squirt of tomato puree while it does so. When that's looking good, add the chopped pepper and courgette, cover and allow to cook through and soften. Finally add the tomatoes, the stock cube and the onion seeds. Leave it to cook down (this isn't a fast curry) for at least 20 minutes or so but preferably up to an hour on a low heat.

When you're ready to eat, cook some rice. While the rice is on, take the cover off the curry to let it come down a bit, and add the drained chickpeas and roasted squash. Delishos, even if I do say so myself. Particularly sexy with some salad, mango chutney and some extra browned onions on top, but I'm not preaching ;)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Pork and cider with lentils

I'm on a roll with the slow cooker. Don't mind me.
This will serve two hungry people generously (depending on how generous you are with your veg!) at around 9 Points each. If you put the apple in, bump it up to 9.5. That's not bad for a hearty main meal.

2 medium pork loin steaks
200g red lentils (dried)
500ml cider (one can)
And then in whatever quantity you please:
Green beans
Garlic (okay maybe not loads of garlic, it will smother everything)
Green and/or yellow peppers
Fine beans

You also need
1 pork stock cube (Knorr are good)
About a pint of water
Salt and black pepper
Sage and a bit of thyme
A bay leaf

If you're feeling frisky then a couple of apples would be good too - peeled, cored and sliced/chopped, or one big Bramley.


As ever, start by browning off the sliced pork loin steaks. I say sliced; I like mine chopped up into the stew but you can leave it whole if you prefer. When it's looking golden, or even a bit burned if you're feeling daring, add the onions, garlic and celery, and gently saute until everything is softened and slippery.

At this point add the rest of the veg, turn down to halfway, cover and leave to cook down for a few minutes, til everything is a little softened. Add your herbs and season well. Add your cider and bring it up to the boil briefly before turning it back down, and while that's doing make up your pint of pork stock with your cube and some boiling water, and either decant the stew plus the stock and the lentils into your slow cooker, or add the lentils and the stock to the pan. Either way all you're doing now is covering it and leaving it to do its work. In the slow cooker I'd say anywhere between 5 and 8 hours depending on what setting you put it on, and on the hob, depending on how high you leave the heat, give it up to about an hour or so.

Beef stew

I have a real thing for a stew tonight after watching the lovely Hugh Fearlessly Eats-It-All on telly last night.

Here is my preliminary stew recipe, quantities to be adjusted after the first run.

4 rashers ASDA streaky bacon
400g lean stewing steak
400g potato (can you see a pattern here?!)
2-3 carrots
leeks (as many as you want)
3 parsnips
1 clove of garlic
Beef OXO cube or some Marmite
Mushroom ketchup if you've got some
Balsamic vinegar if you've got some
Rosemary, perhaps?
A bay leaf, or two
Lots of good black pepper and salt
Water to cover
A bit of flour to dredge the meat in - we're not even going to count this, just go for a walk while the stew's simmering.

Other veg - well, you could add courgettes, or mushrooms, or whatever you like really.

This will serve 4 people at 5.5 Points per serving depending on how well you've bulked it up with 0 Point veg, or 3 people at 7 Points per serving.

You could serve it with rice or with bread, whatever really and depending on how big your servings are. At the outside if you were both REALLY hungry, I'm not going to criticise you for having a good old trough and just splitting it in half for about 10.5 Points a person. And that would not be unreasonable either :)

So - method; frazzle the bacon til the fat runs out. While that's doing stick some seasoned flour in a ziplock bag and then throw your beef in there. Shake it all about and then add it to the pan. When everything is looking good and crusty and brown, add your onions and celery and garlic (if you wanted to use any). Get it all good and soft and then add everything else, including whatever flavours you enjoy - that's really up to you. Bring it up briefly to the boil and then either put it in your slow cooker and wander off, or turn it down to a simmer and cover.

Just taste it for seasoning as completion (and dinnertime) nears. Fab. Well, this is what's going in the pot tonight; let's see shall we?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Pasta with Broccoli and Chili-Anchovy Dressing

This is a recipe that comes from Lindsay Bareham's excellent book A Wolf In the Kitchen, which I have got through three copies of since leaving home and which has now been republished as Hungry? (which I don't think is nearly as much fun, as titles go, but never mind).

This will serve two people at approximately 7.5 Points per serving

1 large head of broccoli or one of those helpful trays of florets. Or as much as you like really since it's 0 Points.
1 small can of anchovies in olive oil
1 large red chili, deseeded and chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed (do this to taste, of course)
Lemon juice and black pepper to season
About 200g pasta (this is serious comfort food. Stubby shapes of pasta like fusilli work best. I'd recommend wholewheat pasta so you can actually taste it.)

You do also need one of those hand blenders that comes with a little cup; this sort of thing, although I'd just point out that I bought my (Braun) one from ASDA and it cost me about a tenner.

Okay SO. Tip the pasta into a LARGE and I do mean L A R G E saucepan of boiling water and set the timer for five minutes. Get your broccoli broken up into florets ready.

While that's doing, empty the tin of anchovies WITH its oil - don't drain it, you need a sauce - into a cup or bowl, along with your chopped chili, garlic, lemon juice and black pepper. Blend thoroughly with the hand blender til it's smooth.

When the timer goes off drop the broccoli in with the pasta, get it back up to the boil and set the timer for another five minutes.

When it's done, quickly pop a spoonful of the pasta water in with the dressing to loosen it, and drain the pasta/broccoli. Stick it back into the hot saucepan and pour all the dressing in, scraping all of it out well because you don't want to miss anything! Stir it well together and eat straight away, preferably from warmed bowls so it doesn't go cold.

This sounds like it won't be substantial but it is AMAZING. Eat eat eat. Last time we had it, we ate it with a big salad with lots of rocket and beetroot, some homemade bread and a diet Coke :P

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Oh my God! I've got a follower!

I mean, a follower that's not Lisa and thus hasn't been armtwisted into it! Hello there. Hope you're well :)

Low GI banana bread

I made this this evening to use up some bananas that were about to go from black and squidgy to dangerously out of date. Therefore I just had to improvise with what I'd got in the cupboard but do you know, it's come out really well!

Makes 8 very generous portions at 3.5 Points a go. You could get two slices out of one of these portions though.

Quarter of a cup of vegetable/nut oil; I used almond but I bet hazelnut is nice
4 medium bananas, squashy to the point of splodgy, mashed
2 medium eggs, beaten
225g wholemeal flour (SR)
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup of PerfectSweet (xylitol, in granulated form)
LOTS of cinnamon ;)
generous splodge of vanilla extract (I used this from VanillaBazaar)

So, just add the wet ingredients to the dry, stir it into a batter and pour it into a loaf tin (mine's silicon so not even any greasing or flouring needed). Bake at 180 in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes, and check it as you go. Nice!

Kick-ass lentil soup

...even if I do say so myself!!

This makes about 6 extremely filling bowlfuls at 3.5 Points per portion.

300g potatoes, peeled and diced small; I used Charlotte potatoes
2 large carrots, peeled and diced small
1 red pepper, diced small
3-4 sticks of celery, sliced small
1 large onion, diced finely
4 rashers of ASDA streaky bacon, finely chopped
4 big fat cloves of garlic, smooshed
1 carton of passata, about 400-500ml
300g red lentils
Anywhere from 3-4 pints of (boiling) water
2 organic Kallo chicken stock cubes
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
generous seasoning with black pepper

All very easy. Saute off the bacon so the fat renders, and then add the celery, onion and garlic until everything is lovely and soft and golden. Pop the rest of the veg in with a lid and let it all sweat and soften. Then it's just in with everything else, stick a lid on and turn down the heat. Alternatively put it all in your slow cooker and leave it overnight; the last batch I made I did on low heat for 8 hours, putting it on as I went to bed and then taking enough for my lunch out as I went off to work.

When it's cooked through you can blend all or some of it for a smoother or chunkier texture. If you blend it all it will need more liquid so it's not just puree :)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Baked squash and corn with goat's cheese

WELL. This particular version was inspired by Jane Baxter's gorgeous recipe, which I actually made exactly as published for my fabulous friends Lisa and Simon a couple of weeks ago, and which comes in at around 7.5 Points per person (if you allow for that recipe to serve 4 people).

However. This evening we really fancied it again, but I didn't have all the gubbins for the dressing, so we made it a bit differently; this version feeds 2 at 5 Points each.

1 large butternut squash (it's to feed two of you for the main part of the meal; BNS is 0 Points, so knock yourself out)
2 sweetcorn cobs
75g goat's cheese (I used ASDA's English Goat's Cheese, it's a firm crumbly one)
2 onions, sweet if you can get them
As much garlic as you like - I used a whole head, ha!
Dried rosemary
Sea salt - I used Maldon's smoked, but you know, who's worrying?
Black pepper

This is so easy it's stupid. Fire up the oven, stick it on at maximum.

Slice your onions and stick them in a pan with a spray of oil, and if you're feeling generous, a sliver of butter. Don't worry about it too much. If you have the butter, go for a walk after dinner, it's all good. Sprinkle with a little salt and let them get on with going golden brown and goopy.

Peel, deseed and cube your squash, and pop it in a roasting tin. Season well with the smoked sea salt and black pepper, as well as the rosemary; just do it as you like. Spray with oil, or if you're feeling frisky (and you haven't got a spray bottle) just drizzle, and then turn it over with your hands. Stick all your lovely (unpeeled) garlic cloves in and make sure everything's spread out well. Stick it in the oven and set it for ten minutes.

While that's doing, with a sharp knife take the sweetcorn off the cob (thank you for showing me this Lisa!).

After ten minutes, turn your squash and put it back in for another ten. When it comes out the next time (ie, after it's had twenty minutes or so), give it another turn and pop it back under for another five. At that point, stick the sweetcorn into some boiling water on the hob, so it gets five minutes too.

In the five minutes, chop your goat's cheese up into little cubes. Get your oven dish out. Brace yourself for GORGEOUSNESS.

When the timer goes off, drain your sweetcorn, retrieve the squash (don't turn the oven off, just turn it down to 180 degrees) and take your onions off the heat. Gently combine the squash, sweetcorn, sweet onions and goat's cheese in your oven dish, turning and folding until it's all looking reasonably even.

It's going back in the oven for another 10 minutes; while that's doing you can make a lovely onion and tomato salad with sweet onion, dukkah and lemon, and break some good seedy brown bread out. Oh happy days!

When we had it with the dressing (as per the original recipe), we served it with grilled chicken, lebanese salad, crusty bread and copious cups of tea, because we're rock and roll like that. Enjoy.

Friday, 3 September 2010

A word on Points amounts

I should say here that at the moment our Points allowances are still quite high; mine is around 25 and Chris's is 29 (being as he's eight feet tall). For that reason, the recipes at the moment are quite generous with the Points. As the allowance descends it will probably be that they come down.

However, unlike a lot of the recipes published on the WW website or in the books, the ones I post here are generally pretty bloody generous. And before WW come for my hide, I should say that there's nothing wrong with them, they're great - but when you're twice the size you should be at the starting point, it's likely that they'll leave you hungry and then that sets you up for failure. There is little chance of you going hungry with these, which is where I think I (and many others) have struggled in previous attempts at WW. If you take their ready prepared meals as a guide - not that I'd be eating them these days, not now I have my own kitchen, anyway! - they are TINY. It's not just me, the fat lady, saying that either. So just be aware of that :)

Chicken, bacon and red wine casserole

This serves 2 at 8 Points each; fill up with 0-Point vegetables.

400g chicken breast (2 largeish)
3 rashers ASDA streaky bacon
1 half-bottle of red wine
2 tablespoons of McDougalls instant thickening granules (I know I KNOW. They were in the cupboard though and they're easier than making a roux provided you give them time to dissolve properly.)
Chicken bouillon cube, if you like
Splash of mushroom ketchup, if you like
Black pepper
Dried thyme and marjoram

And then all your veg, I like a combination of any or all of the following, adjust to taste and hungryness levels!
Bell pepper(green is best)
Fine beans

You need a BIG pan. Start by spraying it with oil and frying the finely chopped bacon til it sizzles and browns. Then, add the chicken breasts and brown them all over. I like leaving them whole for this recipe but it's your call if you want it to be more like a traditional stew with them in chunks.

After that, add the chopped onion and garlic, followed swiftly by the carrot and celery. Let everything soften and cook down. After that, it's in with all the vegetables, down with the heat, and leave them to soften and cook down; if you like you can take the chicken breasts out temporarily to allow for easier stirring.

And after that, it's just in with the wine, herbs and any other seasonings you like, turning the heat down and leaving it to cook through gently. When you're ready, thicken it with the (sorry) thickening granules and serve with perhaps some mashed roast butternut squash and broccoli (well, that's what we're having with ours).

I should say that you can cut the Points down on this by using less wine; I'm being generous because we don't drink particularly and I know we'd just plonk the whole small bottle in.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Gill's Packed Lunch Of The Week

So, I've discovered cous cous. This is my current obsession.

Serves 1 hungry person at 4 Points (ham or chicken) or 5 Points (tuna)

60g (dried weight) cous cous
Large chunk of cucumber, as much as you like, my chunk tends to be about 7 or 8 inches (ahem)
cherry tomatoes, about 10
half a small sweet onion, or red onion, or spring onions
Sliced pepper (if liked)
Celery (if liked)

And then, some meat or fish, so either a small pack of wafer thin ham or chicken, shredded, 70g, or a drained can of tuna in brine or springwater

All you do is chop up your vegetables as you like them and put them in a bowl with a good sprinkle of salt. Turn them all around in it and leave them to sit while you make the cous cous - which involves pouring about 80ml of boiling water on it, covering it with a tea towel and setting a timer for 5 minutes.

When the cous cous is done and fluffed up with a fork, add it and your meat or fish to the vegetables and either consume or pack into a lunchbox. I've done this as far ahead as the night before and it's remarkably forgiving as the cous cous absorbs all the juices from the vegetables and tastes ace.

If cucumber gives you the burps, peel it :)

Thursday, 19 August 2010

WW-Friendly Spaghetti Bolognese

Well, this is the slimmed down version.

Serves 4 at about 8 Points per serving (we make four and freeze two, sans pasta)

400g extra lean beef mince
3 rashers ASDA streaky bacon (please note that regular streaky bacon is 1.5 Points per rasher, ASDA's is 1...who knows why)
Mushrooms, as many as you like
Grated carrot
2-3 courgettes
Green pepper
Large onion
Can of chopped tomatoes
Tomato puree
As much garlic as you want
Beef OXO cube
Balsamic vinegar
Dried herbs - Oregano, Basil, Marjoram, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme
Black pepper
280g dried wholewheat pasta (70g each)

Brown off the bacon to release some of its tasty fabulous bacon tasty fat, and then crumble the beef mince into it to brown thoroughly. Don't be shy about this as the more browned it is the more amazing it'll taste. While this is going on add the OXO cube, crumbled, and a good shake of nutmeg, and a pinch of salt/black pepper. When it starts to look like it's sticking add a shake of balsamic vinegar to deglaze everything.

Add the sliced onion and crushed garlic until it's all cooked down, then go in with the pepper, carrot and courgettes. Sweat down til they're tender, and add the tomatoes, tomato puree, and herbs. Let it all bubble together for about 20 minutes and then get on with doing the pasta. Once that's cooked just drain it and toss everything together - or if you're saving two portions to freeze, put them aside first and then toss the pasta in with the remaining half of the sauce.

It may not be 'authentic' but it tastes nice :)

Lemony fishy pasta

...not the most appetising of names but it's delicious. I am not quite sure where the inspiration for this came from but it's definitely a Special Treat Dinner given the generous amounts and the particular ingredients. It doesn't look particularly elegant but it tastes amazing (even if I do say so myself).

Serves 2
at approximately 9 Points each

1 pack of peeled cooked prawns, approx 280g
1 large fillet of cod, haddock or firm white fish; be responsible!
100g Philadelphia Extra Light (never be tempted to substitute "Light"'s really not!)
Fresh shelled peas
Asparagus spears
1 onion
1 lemon
4-5 cloves of garlic
black pepper
Dried tarragon leaf (or fresh but I find it hard to find)
Marigold vegetable bouillon, scant teaspoonful
140g dried wholewheat pasta

This is so SO easy. Start by popping your fish in the oven in an ovenproof dish on 180 for about 15 minutes. Put it aside to cool while you do everything else.

In your pan, gently saute the onion and garlic til soft. Leeks work well too. Add the lemon, stock/bouillon powder and some tarragon and let it all gently cook down together. When it's looking softened and tender put the pasta on to cook, and add the asparagus, chopped into small rounds, to the pan to heat through. Flake and skin your white fish, getting the bones out, and add it and its juices to the pan along with the prawns to heat through gently. Finally as the pasta is approaching completion pop the peas in along with the Philadelphia, another shake of tarragon and some black pepper. Drain the pasta, toss it all together and consume with glee :)

Sweet potato, spinach and butter bean bake

I had a version of this on a study day at a Quaker centre and promptly came home and tried to recreate it. This is the version we had with my parents the other night.

Serves 4
at approximately 4 Points each

Around 900g sweet potato, peeled weight, diced small
Large bag of spinach
2 x 410g cans of butter beans, drained and rinsed (I like Sainsbury's Organic, in cartons)
1 large onion
2 (ish) courgettes
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
as much garlic as you like!
1 can of chopped tomatoes
good squeeze of tomato puree
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
half tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
half tsp nutmeg
1 scant tsp Marigold vegetable bouillon powder, or a veg OXO cube
salt and black pepper to taste

So, first arrange your sweet potato on a roasting tray and spray well with spray oil. Season well with salt - I used Maldon Smoked, but any is good. Stick it in the oven on the highest heat for about ten minutes. After that time check it and give it another five.

So, back to the rest of the ingredients. It's dead easy, just brown off the onion and garlic in some spray oil, then add the finely chopped courgette and pepper and allow it all to cook down and soften. At that point add all the tomatoes and tomato puree, the spices, the butter beans, the salt, pepper and bouillon powder, stir well and turn down. Pop the lid on. When the potato is done add that to the pot and let it all bubble gently together for about 15 minutes.

When you're ready to go, get the oven to 180 degrees and stir the spinach through the vegetable mixture. Carefully turn it out into a large Pyrex dish and bake it for about 15 minutes. If you've got enough Points and you like cheese, you can add a ball of Sainsbury's or ASDA's reduced fat Mozzarella for about a Point each and then go for a good walk afterwards ;)

Friday, 6 August 2010

Tuna Pasta Bake

This is kind of a what-have-we-got-left-I-don't-want-to-go-shopping dinner, and I make no apology for the fact that it's totally non-classy. It's also comfortingly goopy and salty and stodgy and sometimes, ya know, that's what you want. It's been slightly doctored so we can eat it on Weight Watchers. Good hot with salad, good cold and chewy in your lunchbox, sorry this is not restaurant cuisine!! :)

Serves 2 at approximately 8.5 Points per serving

2 drained cans of tuna (drained weight would be about 250/260g); I mean tuna in brine not oil, I know that's the best stuff.
Vegetables - I like green pepper, celery, courgettes, mushrooms
Large onion
Garlic, to taste (crushed)
Can of tomatoes
tomato puree
Italian herb seasoning, or if you haven't got any, just basil and chili will do
Black olives, preferably dry cured if you haven't got any in oil knocking about, rinsed/wiped lightly, stoned and chopped
150g wholewheat pasta (dry weight)
1 ball of light/reduced fat mozzarella

This is so easy it's stupid.

Chop and saute the onions in some spray oil and once they're suitably floppy add the garlic. While that's going, get all the veg chopped up and then add them to the pan, covering them and allowing them to soften while you sort out the tuna (draining it, etc) and chop your olives up.

When all the vegetables are softened a bit, add the tuna, olives, tomatoes, tomato puree and whatever seasoning you like, cover and leave to cook through while you cook the pasta as per the instructions on the pack; when it's all done, stir together, transfer to a pyrex dish, top with the ripped mozzarella and it's good to go. When you're ready it just needs to be finished off/heated through in the oven at about 180 degrees.

If the concept of putting tuna in it is too much (and I know for some folks it might be but I actually like canned tuna, I'm not snobby!) then just leave it out and treat yourself to more olives or something. :)

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Chicken and Butternut Squash Curry

This can be made with pretty much any vegetables but I like the chewiness of the roasted squash. Quantities should be varied to suit how many you're feeding but I'd allow one medium chicken breast (about 2.5 Points) and approximately 80g of red lentils (dried weight) per person. You can literally bulk it out with whatever vegetables you like as long as they're not potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes or anything else with a Points value (unless you've got room to spare and can count them in).

So, to feed 2 at a value of approximately 6.5 Points per person:

2 medium chicken breasts, diced small
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, diced and roasted with oil spray and sea salt (just a bit)
2-3 courgettes (depending on size) (zucchini if you're not English, haha)
1 yellow or red pepper (or orange! just not green, you want a sweetish one)
1 big onion
garlic to taste - I think I used 4 FAT cloves
1 can chopped tomatoes and a squirt of tomato puree
160g dried red lentils
approx 350ml boiling water

...and spices. Now, I am hopeless at explaining EXACTLY what goes in, but this is roughly what went in this one (by the looks of what order my spice jars were in):

1 scant tsp garam masala
2 tsp tandoori spice
1 tsp cumin
half tsp turmeric
half tsp asafoetida
generous half tsp cinnamon
shake of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne
- mix these together in a big teacup with water to make a smooth paste.

You also need about a tablespoon of kalonji black onion seeds, or nigella seeds, to throw in.

Okay so, before you get cracking on the body of the curry, switch on the oven to the highest it'll go and put the shelf to the top. Peel, deseed and dice your squash, arrange it in a roasting tray, give it a good spray of oil and a scrunch of salt and roll it all round so it's coated, then whack it in for ten minutes to start with.

While that's happening get the diced chicken on the move in a large pan, with a spray of oil. Everything's going in one pan btw so make sure it's a big one. While the chicken is sealing/browning, get the garlic ready and crushed, and slice the onion. When the chicken is browned a little add in the onion and garlic and let it all cook down together til the onions are softened and golden. While that's happening, chop the courgettes and pepper ready and make up your spice paste in a teacup. Do use plenty of water in it, possibly about three quarters of your cup full so that it doesnt all just stick. Don't add the onion seeds; keep those back for now.

By this point if your oven hasn't beeped yet it's possibly nearly ten minutes. Check the squash, turn it, and stick it back in for ten more. It should be slightly burned looking when it's ready so don't worry til then!!

Back to the chicken/onion/garlic; it's time to add the spice paste. If you've got your heat up high, get it down to about halfway. You don't want the spice paste to weld itself to the pan. Stir it in thoroughly so everything is coated and give it a couple of minutes and then add the chopped veg. Stir well and then get the lid on and let it steam for five minutes. After that open it back up, add the tomato/tomato puree/onion seeds, stir stir stir, and have a look at your squash.

At this point you're waiting for the squash. When it's ready just pop it all in along with your lentils and boiling water, stir it in thoroughly and pop the lid on. From now on it's just a case of keeping an eye on it to see if the lentils have sucked all the water up and cooked through. If they are stubborn, add a bit more water as you go. Think risotto :) As a final thought, if you're a spinach fan, a double handful won't go amiss in this as it gets towards the end - just dump it in and let it wilt. Lovely.

That's it!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Standard Weight Watchers stuff

For those not in the know, Weight Watchers is a weightloss and weight management system which currently works on a Points system; all foods are given a number of Points per portion or serving, and then the individual is allocated a certain number of Points to eat per day based on various criteria including starting weight, height, age, gender, lifestyle etc.

Points are worked out based on calorific value and amount of saturated fat; one Point is roughly equivalent to about 60 calories or so, however this does vary somewhat depending on other criteria including the saturated fat. The amount of Points a person will be allocated goes down as they lose weight.

All of the recipes I add here will be Pointed exactly as they are shown, however, it is useful to know some of the basic foodstuffs and measurements. Many foods are free and these are the ones we should focus on to add bulk and variety as well as key nutrients.

Vegetables, with a few exceptions like potatoes/sweet potatoes, parsnips and peas, are free, or 0 Points. Straight away that gives plenty of scope for building interesting recipes. Something I didn't realise is that butternut squash and pumpkin are free, although if you do have insulin resistance, diabetes or other blood sugar disorders it's worth bearing in mind that you probably shouldn't be eating it every day.

Fruit does have Points, although not huge amounts of them. Possibly the highest is banana, which works out on average at about 1.5 Points a go. An apple is 0.5, a couple of satsumas is the same. So they're still the healthy snack/dessert!

Meat should be very lean. As a rough guide, a medium chicken breast, which is about the size of a computer mouse, is around 1.5 Points. I have however weighed all the chicken I have put into the recipes here as it can vary somewhat. Turkey breast is also very good and lean. Bacon works out to about 1.5 Points per slice, although peculiarly (if you're in the UK), ASDA's streaky bacon is only 1 Point per slice.

Rice, pasta and lentils work out very similarly; about 1 Point per 20g dried weight, however WW suggests that about 60g is an average portion.

A slice of wholegrain bread - about 40g - is around 1.5 Points, or thereabouts.

A medium egg is 1.5 Points (and two works out to 2.5 Points)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Jollof Rice with Chicken

We first had this as cooked for us by our old neighbour Pat and his wife Faye. It was amazing and I have no idea whether this is a faithful representation or not but it tastes pretty good so we don't complain!

Serves 2 at approximately 6 Points each (and it's HUGE)


400g (2 large) chicken breasts, skinless, diced small
1 butternut squash, peeled, diced, roasted with a bit of salt and spray oil
1 red pepper, diced
1 pack of fine green beans. sliced into 1-2cm lengths
1 big courgette, chopped
1 big onion, diced finely
4-5 cloves of garlic (we LOVE garlic)
big squeeze of tomato puree
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes in juice
3 tbsp jollof seasoning
80g basmati rice
1 chicken stock cube (we like Kallo Organic, but whatever floats your boat)
180ml boiling water

First begin by setting your oven to the highest it'll go and putting the oven shelf up near the top. Then, peel, deseed and dice your squash. Dice it quite small; you want it to be bite size and I personally like it to be a bit charred and chewy but I appreciate that's not everyone's taste! Put it in a roasting tray with some spray oil and a good sprinkle of salt. When the oven gets up to speed it needs to go in for 10-minute intervals, turning it at every ten, for about 20-30 minutes til it's as done as you like it. When it's done it can be put to one side if you're not ready with everything else.

While that's doing get the rest of the dish ready. Start with the diced chicken - get that browning thoroughly and while that's happening, get your onion chopped, your garlic crushed, your pepper and courgette diced and your beans cut up. When the chicken's browned add the onions and garlic, get them softened and caramelised a bit, and then add the other vegetables and the jollof seasoning. Give it a few minutes with the lid on for everything to soften, then add the tomato puree, the chicken stock and the canned tomatoes (and your squash if it's ready out of the oven).

When everything is looking like it's starting to come down, add the rice and water, stir well, cover it, turn it right down and go and have a sit down for ten minutes. After that it's just a case of regularly checking and stirring to make sure it's not all sticking and you're away really.

Serve it with a big side salad and I defy you to be hungry for another three days afterwards.

Lebanese 7-Spice Chicken with Fattoush

Serves 2 at approximately 7 Points per person but this will vary according to your quantities of chicken and what pitta bread you use. The Points value for this particular recipe is accurate as everything was weighed and calculated.

This recipe is a 'Nigella Special', which means we were watching La Lawson on the telly and grabbed notebooks to scribble down what she was doing!


400g chicken breast (we had two large ones)
3 Sainsbury's Organic Wholemeal Pittas at 2 Points each
1 cucumber
1 pack of good cherry tomatoes, we used pomodoro, either halved or quartered
1 sweet onion - a red onion or spring onions would also be fine but it's going to be raw
1 fat clove of garlic, grated
Bunch of fresh mint
1 lemon
BIG bunch of fresh parsley (we used flat leaf)
Spray or two of olive oil
Powdered sumac
Lebanese 7-Spice powder

Pop your chicken into a small ovenproof dish and coat well with the Lebanese -Spice powder. That goes into the oven at 200 degrees for about 40 minutes.

While that's doing, peel and chop your cucumber, you're aiming for bite sized chunks. Combine the cucumber, tomatoes, finely sliced onions, grated garlic, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil spray in a big bowl.

Split your three pitta breads open (so they're in thin halves) and lay them on a baking tray in the bottom of the oven with the chicken til they're good and crunchy. Remove them and allow to cool slightly while you finely chop/rip the herbs and stir them through the salad. Tear up the pitta bread and add it to the salad, cover and leave to soak up the juices while you wait for the chicken.

When the chicken's done serve it on top of the fattoush with a sprinkle of sumac and perhaps an extra touch of salt, and enjoy.

I get my Lebanese 7-Spice powder and powdered sumac from Greenwood's, which is available in big ASDA stores in the UK.

A short break followed by a different approach

Well. I've been rather quiet. It's not because I haven't been cooking - far from it, in fact - but thanks to a rather unexpected diagnosis of diabetes in May, I've been seriously changing how I eat and think about food, which has of course had quite a big effect on how I cook it.

Anyway, I'm back in the saddle now and will be posting some of the newer recipes we've been enjoying. We - my fiance and I - are both following the Weight Watchers plan initially while I try and get the blood sugar and weight issues under control and read more about how I can reduce the insulin resistance issues. Since our main priority after we get married next year is to a: stay married for a Long Time and b: make babies, it's all rather important and such.

For the forseeable future then, all recipes will have Weight Watchers points assigned to them, but hopefully they by no means prohibit anyone else enjoying them :)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Beef and pea curry

This was MUCH nicer than it sounds. I remember my friend Mariane making something a bit like this more years ago than I care to remember when we were at university. I only remember the fact that there was mince, there was peas, it was quite dry in consistency and it was really quite hot, so here's my attempt (and it came out very tasty, if I do say so myself).

You need:

500g good minced beef (we got ours from the butcher)
1 small pack of fresh shelled peas, I guess about a cupful?
2 small courgettes
1 good sized white onion
1 good sized green pepper
Good squeeze of garlic paste
Whopping squeeze of tomato puree
healthy shake of lemon juice
A good pinch of salt
Beef OXO cube (this is optional)

and then the spices. I am HOPELESS at measuring, so this is approximately what went in.
1 tbsp tandoori spice
half tsp cumin
1 tbsp black onion seed
half tsp cinnamon
tsp chili powder
half a tsp dried chili flakes, or one chili, chopped finely (this is optional)
really big pinch of cayenne pepper

Start by thoroughly browning the mince off in the pan. If it looks a bit insipid add a beef Oxo cube but if it's good quality don't bother. Add the cinnamon at this point too.

When it's brown, add the chopped onion to soften and then follow it up with the garlic. Give that a couple of minutes and then sling in the courgettes, pepper, tomato paste and all the rest of the spices. Stick the lid on and go and shuffle about for about 10 minutes or so.

At this point if you're having rice, get the rice going. After about 15 minutes or so it'll all be ready but don't forget the peas about 3 or 4 minutes (at most) before you serve, just to barely cook them.

Serve with yogurt, salad, chutney, rice, whatever you fancy :)

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Spring vegetable risotto


1 onion
1 courgette
1 green pepper
3 sticks of celery
1 small pack of shelled peas
1 pack of asparagus tips
Squeeeze of garlic
Small bottle of white wine
Slug of chicken bouillon concentrate
1 teaspoon tarragon
half a lemon, cut into four
black pepper
small handful of grated parmesan

then whatever risotto rice you want plus hot water to cover (as the bouillon concentrate's already in there).

So, saute off all the vegetables (including the lemon) except the peas and asparagus. Add the garlic and tarragon and let it simmer gently.

After about ten minutes add the wine, let the alcohol cook off, and then mix in the bouillon concentrate and rice while the kettle boils. Add the water to the pan, stir well and put the lid on.

When the rice is almost cooked and the stock has almost all been absorbed add the peas and asparagus and let the risotto finish with the lid on. Finally stir through the parmesan and serve (we had it with some garlic chicken and salad but whatever is good).

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Rachael's mackerel pate

This is a recipe shown to me by my friend Rachael, who I have the good fortune of working with. Technically I think it's a recipe from her partner Steven, who I believe may have come by it via Jamie Oliver, but who cares, it's amazing.

Here is the recipe:

1 pack of smoked mackerel fillets
Philadelphia soft cheese - a third (ish) of a tub
Horseradish sauce (to taste, and I used Colmans)

Please note there's no real strict quantities because you might make loads and you might want your pate stiffer or looser, spicier or not.

Take the skins off your mackerel fillets and flake roughly into a bowl. Add the Philadelphia. Add the horseradish. Stir.

Er...that's it. But, it's GENIUS.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Sicilian sausage casserole

1 pack of Sicilian sausages (Sainsbury's!)
1 small pack of pancetta
1 celeriac
1 fennel bulb
1 large onion
1 smallish courgette
1 small head of celery
Good squeeze of garlic
Black pepper
Fresh sage - about a tablespoonful, chopped
Liquid concentrated chicken bouillon
2 cartons of butter beans

Start by browning the chopped up sausages in a large pan.

While that's doing prepare the vegetables - the fennel, celery and onion to be sliced thinly and the celeriac and courgette to be diced fairly small.

When the sausages are browned take them out and put to one side, then add the pancetta, cook for a few minutes, and then add the onion and celery. When that's softened add the garlic and the other vegetables plus a splash of water and the bouillon, put the lid on and let everything cook with the lid on so it can soften. Oh and add the sage.

Stick the sausages back in after about ten minutes and then add as much or as little stock as you want, add the beans, stick the lid on and give it at least twenty minutes on a low heat. Serves about four people, three if you're bloody starving.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Lentil, chorizo and sausage casserole

This is slightly adapted from Allegra McEvedy's recipe in the Guardian. I did look at it sideways initially and wonder if rosemary really went with chorizo, but I'd forgotten about my lovely chorizo, chicken and rosemary's genius.

Anyway, this will serve probably about 3 people, or 4 with some bread.

1 pack of Toulouse sausages (ie, 6. Sainsbury's sell them), each sausage cut into 4
1 sausage-sized piece of chorizo, peeled and chopped into lumps
1 big onion, diced
1 big carrot, peeled and diced
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
a big squeeze of garlic paste, or 3 cloves, crushed
1 whole red chili
200g red lentils
chicken stock to cover and cook

Brown the chopped Toulouse sausages in a pan and then take them out and put to one side.

In the same pan, saute the onion and carrot til slightly softened, then add the chorizo and allow to cook for a few minutes. Follow this with the garlic and rosemary, and allow that to cook in too.

Add the sausages back to the pan along with the lentils and the stock. Put the whole chili in as it is, cover and allow to simmer until the lentils are soft and the stock is mostly sucked up. Give it a few minutes extra if you want it dryer, but I quite like it a bit soupy if you're having bread with it.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Lemon and ginger cupcakes

Another variation on a theme, but a very nice one.

175g self raising flour
175g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
zest of two lemons
75g chopped crystallised stem ginger

Cream together the butter and sugar, and add the beaten eggs and flour a little at a time. Fold in the lemon zest and ginger and bake for about 15 minutes in a moderate oven - 190 degrees.

To make icing, mix the juice of the lemons with icing sugar and drizzle. :)

Friday, 12 February 2010

Half-imagined goulash

Now, this is sort of meant to be a goulash, but the only recipe I have for goulash is from Bram Stoker's Dracula, where Jonathan Harker describes it as being 'beef with paprika, good but very thirsty', so I've improvised.

2 onions, 1 white, 1 red, chopped
2 red peppers
2 smallish courgettes
1 can of thick cut chopped tomatoes
a gratuitously large squeeze each of tomato and garlic purees
1 heaped teaspoon La Chinata smoked sweet paprika
1.5 teaspoons of regular paprika
Diced steak - however much you're wanting/can afford
Small lump of leftover chorizo caserno

Start by gently sauteeing the chorizo to let out the lovely juices and oil, and then add the diced steak and let it seal.

Add the onions, put the lid on, and cook til everything is gently softened and browned. Add the garlic and let it cook in.

Add everything else - veg, tomatoes, tomato paste, spices - stick the lid on and let it cook til the vegetables are cooked through and the sauce is bright red, thick and bubbly.

Serve with steamed rice and some soured cream if you've got it.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Christmas Soup

This is simple but quite honestly one of the best soups ever. It's made from the last container of the stock made from the Christmas turkey - made, of course, by my mum.

1 onion
large squirt of garlic paste
1 large bottle of passata
1 small tin of tomato puree
1 large container of turkey stock, unskimmed
About 150-200g rice (we're making a CAULDRON of soup here)

Saute off the onion. Add the garlic and cook that down for a few minutes too.

Add the passata, stock and tomato puree and bring up to a boil, then simmer with the lid on so it doesn't reduce for about 15 minutes to let everything cook together.

Add the rice, cover, and leave to cook til the rice is soft and broken down. Perfect. It freezes and reheats amazingly well and is delicious.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Chicken, paprika and basil with pasta

I remember dimly making a soup with roughly these ingredients and in roughly this order; this came out okay but I do seem to remember using fresh basil, which I didn't have.

Chicken breasts x number of people eating
Smoked paprika
garlic paste
juice of one lemon

1 courgette
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 onion
lump of chorizo (optional, but we had some left over)
1 carton passata
3-4 sundried tomatoes, chopped
handful black olives, chopped
1-2 teaspoons dried basil
black pepper
teeny squeeze of chicken bouillon concentrate

Start by cubing the chicken and marinating in a mixture of the smoked paprika, lemon juice and garlic. The earlier you do this, obviously, the better.

When you're ready to go - and I'd leave the chicken at least an hour - begin by gently sauteing the chorizo, which is now hacked into lumps, until it starts to release its oil and colour up a little bit. Then add the chicken and a little swish of oil so it doesn't burn, and cook til it's lovely and crusty and brown.

Add the sliced onions and let them sweat down and then the rest of the veg (pepper, courgette). Cook down while you chop the sundried tomato and olives finely, and then add them to the pan with the basil and a shake of black pepper. Put the lid on and let everything cook down for a few minutes until the vegetables are going soft, and then add the passata and squidglet of bouillon, stir well and stick a lid on. It can be left now over a really low heat until you're ready to cook the pasta, and then when that's done it's just a matter of stirring it all together and eating enthusiastically.

If you do have fresh basil just stir it in at the end instead of the dried basil.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Chicken and tarragon risotto

Well, if there's one thing continuous viewing of the Good Food channel will do to you, it's make you want to try new ingredients, and I've never tried tarragon and I'd got leftover roast chicken and wine, so here we go.

1 onion, chopped finely
1 courgette, chopped finely
1 heart of celery, chopped finely
Double handful of interesting mushrooms (ie, not the white boring ones), wiped and sliced
glass of white wine
leftover roast chicken, however much you want - I put about a (chicken) breast's equivalent each
couple of slices of bacon, chopped up finely
dried tarragon, to taste
stock and risotto rice - today I tried some organic chicken bouillon concentrate, it was very good.

So - crisp up the bacon in a dry pan and let any fat render, then add the finely chopped onions and celery and let that sweat off gently for a few minutes before adding the garlic to cook through. Add the courgette and go and make a cup of tea.

When you come back, add the chicken and the wine together and when the chicken is heated through and the wine cooked off a bit, stick in the mushrooms and tarragon and pop the lid on to let everything get mooshy and sexy.

When it looks soft and squidgy and goooooooooood, add the stock and rice and let it do its thing. Lovely! This one will be making a repeat appearance.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Sort-of kedgeree

Okay SO. My mum used to feed us kedgeree quite often, but always at dinner time (I know it's traditionally a breakfast dish). Anyway I loved it and I haven't had it literally for years so I decided to have a go at making it tonight, sans recipe, and with a sort of half remembered list of ingredients and various phonecalls to my mum. I'm including my recipe that I sort of made up and my mum's variations.

1 pack of smoked mackerel (cooked, you know the sort - flaked up with your fingers, skins off)
4 eggs, hard boiled (my mum just whisks hers and scrambles them in)
handful of sliced mushrooms (my mum uses mostly mushrooms)
1 green bell pepper, diced finely (she doesn't add this)
1 onion, diced finely (mum uses sliced spring onions)
1 tablespoon medium curry powder (mum uses soy sauce, apparently - I don't remember that!)
About 250g (dry weight) cooked, cold basmati rice

How I do it:

Cook the rice, and leave to cool. Also, hard-boil the eggs, and leave those to cool too. Go and do something else for an hour or whatever.

When you come back, saute the vegetables gently until soft, with the curry powder. Add the mackerel and (gulp) some butter, and then stir fry the rice until it's all piping hot and lovely. Stir your sliced up hard boiled eggs in and shovel in quickly while it's hot, preferably in front of the football.

My mum does the rice ahead too, and sautes the onions and mushrooms together too, and then she scrambles the eggs into the veg, adds the mackerel and rice and soy sauce and str fries it all together. I'd have thought that'd be hyper salty but I remember it being delicious so I am sure it was :)

Anyway mine came out lovely although almost certainly hotter than anyone in my family would have enjoyed.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

My (slightly miserable) Tuna Pasta Bake

This week has been absolutely slammed with no real time for grocery shopping or enjoying the cooking, and last night's dinner kind of showed it. I mean, it was edible, but it needs work.

Canned tuna steak (in oil, not brine, drained and rinsed)
1 onion
1 green pepper
1 courgette
Handful dry cured black olives
Carton of passata
Handful of chestnut mushrooms
Italian herbs
Mozzarella (a sprinkle)
Breadcrumbs (a sprinkle)
Spaghetti, cooked

So. In a pan, saute off the onions, adding the garlic after a couple of minutes, and then the rest of the chopped vegetables. Put the lid on and allow to soften while you put the oven on to 180 degrees and set the pasta to cook. When the vegetables and garlic are looking squidgly, add the drained tuna, break it up well it a fork, and add the passata and herbs. Allow this to cook through for a few minutes while the pasta finishes.

When the pasta's cooked, drain it well and add it to the sauce, tossing thoroughly to make sure everything's coated. Spoon about half into a pyrex oven dish, sprinkle with mozzarella, then add the rest with another sprinkle of mozzarella and a light shake of breadcrumbs for a lovely crispy top. Stick it in the oven for 20 minutes, and then eat.

I think it needs a more liquid and possibly some extra tomato puree but it wasn't bad and we were hungry.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Leftover pork

Obviously a shoulder of pork was a lot of meat for three people so we had leftovers for dinner last night. Here is what I made.

Leftover pork, with fat carefully removed
1 onion
1 green pepper
1 carton passata
1 pack of baby spinach
handful of dry cured pitted black olives
Italian herb seasoning
Black pepper
About a quarter of a lemon

First, warm a teeny glob of butter in the pan and add the pork. Warm through gently and let it get some moisture back into it. Then, add the chopped onions and sweat off gently. Next in is the garlic and the green pepper, and then let things cook together while you chop the olives- they can go in next. Add the passata, herbs, black pepper and lemon, and pop a lid on while you decide what you're having with this; gnocchi or pasta? We went for gnocchi last night but I think I'd rather have had pasta in retrospect. Anyway. Cook the pasta and when it's almost ready pop the spinach in with the sauce, stir through, turn off the heat and stick the lid on so it wilts into the sauce. Drain your pasta (or gnocchi) and stir into the sauce, et voila! We had a sprinkle of mozzarella on top, and it was a good foil for the olives and pork.

Sunday roast, and how to make gravy

Well, despite being quite an experienced cook I had never roasted a joint of pork before, so on Sunday, feeling the need for something huge to make us sleep through all the FA Cup 4th round matches in the afternoon, I set out to roast a pork shoulder.

The roasting was, of course, no problem, and the meat came out great. One question though: the gravy. My mother served us roast pork just after new year and her assertion that roast pork gravy is the best was not wrong, so I called her to get directions (just in case). Here, for all to see, are Joy Duckett's Instructions For Roast Pork Gravy.

1. You need to be making some form of potatoes to go with the gravy. You need the boiling water with all the gluey starch in it.

2. When the pork's done, take it out of the roasting tray (I've got one with a little rack so the juices run away from the meat). Put it to one side to rest. Drain the water from the potatoes into the roasting tray and put onto a low heat (obviously, no handle, so hang onto it with a tea towel or something).

3. I had some onions that I'd already sauteed with some balsamic vinegar (just a teeny splash) - those can go in, too

4. When you're ready, if you like, thicken the mixture with a cornflour/water paste; some folks like their gravy thick enough to spread (my flatmate being one of them), others like more of a jus, but both are good as long as there's no lumps!

And that is how you make roast pork gravy like my mum.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Peanut cookies


I received a replacement copy of Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking, by Nigella Lawson, for Christmas - one of my all time favourite baking recipe books. Whilst slumped flicking through it last night, my eye fell on these little beauties, and they've just come out of the oven.

100g unsalted butter
50g vegetable shortening, ie Trex
1 large egg
75g light muscovado sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g self raising flour
125g salted peanuts

2 baking sheets (lined)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.

In a bowl mix the butter, shortening, sugar, egg and vanilla extract til it's all creamed together. Then sieve in the flour and stir in that and the peanuts. The dough is ready!

Drop teaspoonsfull onto the prepared baking sheets but leave about 5cm between because these SPREAD. I managed about 12 per tray. Then oil the bottom of a drinking glass (I used sesame oil), dip it into the reserved sugar, and flatten each dollop a bit.

Bake for 8-10 minutes and then leave to cool on a wire rack.

Edit: These come out quite fragile, or at least mine did. Try to restrain yourself from shovelling half the batch in while you're putting them on the wire rack. I can now see why Nigella says in her book that from the point of view of sheer greediness, these are her favourite; they're GENIUS. And very moreish.

Spiced fruit soda bread

While the fridge bottom soup was cooking, this was in the oven. It's taken from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe in the 2010 River Cottage Diary, and since it came out completely perfect I'm just going to repeat the recipe here.

250g plain flour
250g wholemeal flour
2.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp caster sugar
200g mixed dried fruit
1 tsp cinnamon
400ml buttermilk

Pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees first.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in the centre, and pour in the buttermilk. Mix together until it makes a soft sticky dough and then turn out onto a floured surface and knead lightly for a minute until it comes together into a proper ball.

Put it into the tin and bake for about ten minutes, then turn the heat down to 200 degrees and cook it for abother 25 minutes or so. It's done when it sounds hollow.

Nice eh?