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 ;)