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.