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!