Saturday, 1 October 2011

Beef and pumpkin soup

This is a recent favourite, but we are so obsessed with it we can't stop making it.

For one large pot of soup you will need….

Lean diced beef, trimmed
A small pumpkin or a butternut squash or an acorn squash or any kind of squash really, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
A big onion
A red or yellow or orange pepper
2-3 cloves of garlic
A good grating of ginger (if you like – your call)
A chili (or two or three depending on how you like it!)
A beef stock cube
Some Caribbean spices. I have used Island Spice beef-and-pumpkin soup mix, Grace pumpkin soup mix, and a mixture of Jerk and Caribbean BBQ spices (by Dunn’s River) in the past, all with good results

2 bay leaves
3 whole allspice berries (dried)
Some fresh tomatoes, chopped into six or eight depending how big they are
Sweetcorn (canned or fresh) – optional
Beans (I like kidney, aduki or gungo peas) – optional
Black pepper (not an option, haha!)

If you are doing it in a slow cooker, just bung everything in with the meat at the top, make up the stock cube as a pint of stock initially, and then just top up til it looks soupy enough for you. Then just leave it to cook for as long as you’ve got – I have done this very successfully overnight on low, and in six hours on high.


In a pan, brown off the beef and add the onion, garlic, ginger and chili. Soften together and then just add everything else and enough stock to cover; bring it up to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook til the veg and the beef are tender. This is seriously deeeeelicious.

Sid's Birthday Poppyseed and Vanilla Cake

I made this for my friend Sid's birthday last weekend.

Firstly, the cake....this is adapted from a Rachel Allen recipe. When you turn it out of the tin it will look really small. This is IS really small. However this does not keep and as you know it is very rich, so all things considered, we can work with that. If you wanted to do a double, vanilla sandwich cake, you could either with a palette knife split a one-layer cake and make double the amount of buttercream, or make two cakes and sandwich them together (again, making double the amount of buttercream). Anyway.....

150g (5 oz) softened butter (I used slightly salted)
100g (3.5 oz) caster sugar (golden or otherwise, doesn't matter)
3 eggs, beaten
100g (3.5 oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder (not soda)
75g (3 oz) poppy seeds (Sainsbury's usually have them, ASDA never do)
zest of one lemon
Generous splash of vanilla extract - this is your call, but I love a good vanilla-y cake, so splash it in.

8-inch (20cm) spring form cake tin. Prepare it by buttering/lining with parchment - as this cake only needs to JUST cook (or it will be like a bisquit), you have to really make sure you can get it out, it is really fragile, so butter and line thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 170 C (325F), Gas 3.

Then just do your cake as usual - cream the butter and sugar with a hand mixer til fluffy and pale, then add the eggs a bit at a time, sift in the flour and baking powder in a bit at a time, folding in with a spatula, and then finally add the poppy seeds, lemon and vanilla and gently stir til combined.

Spoon into your cake tin and make a slight well in the centre with a spoon - only a slight dip. It just helps to keep it flatter as it cooks.

It goes in the middle of the oven for 25-28 minutes; you need to watch it like a hawk (or the aforementioned bisquit situation will arise). When you can insert a skewer into the centre and it comes out clean, it's done. It will not be particularly brown and golden - this is okay; as long as it's set, you are fine. I was concerned as mine was very pale, but in all honesty it is quite a crunchy cake so you don't want the outside with a crust, ha ha. It might take a couple of minutes longer if you don't have a fan assist. It's all good.

That goes on a rack to cool after about ten minutes in the tin to shrink away from the sides slightly so you can get it out without it breaking. The icing is the slightly more fiddly bit.

Vanilla buttercream icing - this makes enough to either do the top and sides or to sandwich two together. If you want to do both, double up.

150ml (quarter of a pint) of milk - full milk if poss
125g (4.5 oz) caster sugar - golden or otherwise
2 egg yolks
175g (6oz) butter, softened
vanilla extract - now her recipe says 1 tsp, I say balls to that and put it in til it smells of delicious, it is vanilla icing!! I don't measure.

You also need

a small saucepan
a small bowl, a balloon whisk, and a folded tea towel for step 2
a larger bowl for step 3

AND - just in case - another, spare mixing bowl (or a big jug) and a sieve, in case you have a Scrambling Incident. It is just for emergencies, set it up ready with the sieve positioned on top so you can pour everything through.

1. Put the milk and sugar in the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, so that the sugar dissolves.

2. In the small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, and then pour the milk onto them, whisking the whole time. I put a tea towel under the bowl so it doesn't move while I have the pan in one hand and the balloon whisk in the other. Then, pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and return to the hob on a gentle heat; you now need to stay with it, stirring gently, until it thickens up and covers the back of a spoon. This takes about 10-12 minutes; don't put the heat up high to speed things up as it'll scramble the eggs (hence the emergency sieve). If that happens, quickly pass it all through the sieve. Do keep stirring though as you are making custard and as you know it has a tendency to form a squidge on the bottom. When it's done pour it into a jug and leave it to cool right down to near room temperature.

3. Finally, put your softened butter in a bowl and cream it with a hand mixer. When it's soft and light, add the custard to it, whisking as you go, and fold in the vanilla. Voila! It is done.

At this point I don't know whether to say ice the cake, or just cut it into fingers and dip it in the buttercream...ha!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Fallen Angel bakery, Harborne

I had a business meeting in Harborne this afternoon and on my way back to the car I spied a lovely bakery...I got an Oreo cupcake for my beloved, and a red velvet one for me :)

The spiciest curry I have ever made!

Last night I was lucky enough to visit with my friend Mariane, her daughter Kaenaat and her mom on the first breaking of the fast for Ramadan. We ate aubergine and potato pakora, lamb and cauliflower curry and chicken and turnip curry with roti and rice and it was amazing - thanks to Mariane and her mom! It was actually a bit of a taste of home for me. Mariane and I lived together for some of our time at university (well, strictly speaking I stayed with her for part of the week as it was a terrible commute), and she is responsible I think for my curiosity about food.

Last night, as we waited for the time to come to break the fast, Mariane came into the lounge and ordered me to drive her to the shops to buy an aubergine - and we ended up at Food World on Washwood Heath Road. I wish we had that much of a selection of vegetables and spices nearer to our flat! Anyway, she showed me some different seasoning blends that I have not used before, and I also picked up some methi (which I have also never used before), and tonight I endeavoured to make a keema curry with peas (which she used to make when we were at uni together) and aloo methi, a variation on aloo sag, which I do sometimes make.

Here are the seasoning mixes I used, and this is how to do it. These were very cheap - £1 for both boxes, and each box is one use, just one package of seasoning.

For the keema curry:

1 pack lean beef mince
1 large onion
3-4 green finger chilis
3 fat cloves garlic
Frozen peas
1 pack of seasoning, mixed into a paste with 3tbsp water

For the potato and methi curry:

Potatoes, boiled, cooled and cubed
2 big bunches methi, washed, shaken dry, and I removed the big stalks. Or just use spinach!
1 big onion
3 cloves garlic
2-3 finger chilis (I had a big bag of finger chilis!)
1 can tomatoes
a courgette, diced small
a red bell pepper, diced small
1 pack of seasoning as shown

I served this with brown rice and cottage cheese - plain yogurt would have been better but we didn't have any ;)

So, for the keema: just brown the mince, adding the onion, garlic and chili and allowing to soften. Mix the seasoning with some water, add and allow to cook through and dry up - it shouldn't be liquidy. Finally, when you're nearly ready to serve, add frozen peas and allow them to steam through. Easy!

The potato and methi curry is also easy. Do your potatoes first, just boil and then remove from the pan, allow to cool and dice. Meanwhile, just make a veg curry - soften the onion, garlic, chili and ginger until golden and slippery, then add the courgette and pepper, tomato and seasoning. Pop the lid on and let it all cook through. When you're ready, add the potatoes and the prepared methi (or spinach - it behaves very similarly, you just want it to wilt down) to the pan and allow it all to heat through.

MvF inspired burgers with baby baked potatoes

Oh Adam Richman, you have so much to answer for.

There's not really a recipe here - I made the burgers by mixing a pack of lean ground beef (350g) with half a grated onion, one grated clove of garlic, salt, black pepper, and dried parsley, and then shaped them with my hands (I made four fat ones).

On the toasted buns, I added sliced beef tomato, sweet onion, pickled gherkins, American mustard (French's), crumbled blue cheese (just a bit!) and ketchup. Chris's (pictured) had smoked bacon too.

The baby baked potatoes were just boiled baby potatoes which then went into the oven whole and were baked at a high heat, sprinkled with sea salt and a spray or two of olive oil to stop them sticking.

Jamaican BBQ chicken with ginger and pineapple (and rice with beans)

I made this last week and it was DELICIOUS but it has been a very busy week and I forgot to post it.

For the chicken bit:

Chicken thighs (or breast, whichever you prefer), cut up
A big onion
Chilis (however many you like - I used two Scotch Bonnets)
A big tbsp ginger paste
A cup of chopped pineapple
Bell pepper - I used one red, one green
2 courgettes, diced
1 can tomatoes
Garlic - to your taste, I only put two fat cloves in this one, though
Jamaican BBQ seasoning - 2 tbsp (from Dunn's River)
Jerk seasoning - 1 good tsp (I also used Dunn's River)
Fine green beans, sliced into rounds

For the rice:

Cooked kidney beans (I used canned)
1 can of coconut milk (light)
200ml stock (I used chicken, from a cube)
Cinnamon and thyme to taste

So. Brown the chicken, and add the chili, ginger, garlic and onion. Put the lid on and let everything soften, and then add the pineapple and seasonings. Give it a few minutes, then add all the vegetables and tomatoes, heat up and then turn down to simmer.

In a separate pan, put all the ingredients for the rice and beans. Bring up to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover. It will take about 15 minutes (until all the liquid is absorbed) but keep an eye on things!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

What's cooking now

Right now, I am making Beef Oxford.

Here it is!

This is a brisket joint, not stewing steak, however.

Saturday night's Middle Eastern inspired dinner

I realised we had a couple of stray aubergines lurking sadly in the bottom of the fridge and had a notion to make some baba ganoush. Except I don't really know how to make it, and all the recipes I could find online seemed to differ, so I just made one up. We'll call it Gill's Aubergine Dip.

To go with the dip, we had roast vegetables, cous cous, and chicken. Here we go.

For the aubergine dip:
2 smallish aubergines
5 cloves of garlic
Big tablespoon tahini
Juice of half a lemon

For the chicken:
Chicken thighs, chopped and marinated in:
Chopped garlic (to taste)
Bit of olive oil
Some Cinnabar Smoke Blend rub, from the Spice and Tea Exchange

For the cous cous (serves 2-4 depending on what else is on the table)

200g cous cous
450ml chicken stock (ish)
5-6 dried apricots, chopped
small handful of sultanas
small handful toasted pine nuts
chopped parsley

For the roast vegetables:
Red onions
Garlic cloves (whole, but in skin)
Anything else you like!
Olive oil (either a spray or a drizzle, however it comes)
Some Lebanese 7-Spice, to taste

First of all, put the chicken to marinate. I did mine in the morning; we ate this at dinnertime.

Next, make the aubergine dip. Crank your grill up to hottest and put the aubergines under the grill, turning every ten minutes or so. They need to go squidgy; the skin will go all charred and wrinkly. When they are squidgy, remove and let them cool. When they are cool enough to handle, scrape out the flesh into a bowl, add all the other ingredients, and have at it with a stick blender (not a dodgy euphemism). Season to taste. Add chili if you like; however you want it :)

Then put the vegetables in - they'll take about half an hour to forty minutes depending on what you're roasting, how much, etc. Just remember to turn them! While the veg are doing, fry off the chicken in a pan til it's golden brown.

Finally, make up the cous cous - it will just take five minutes when you add the stock (and I'll be honest, I just used a boullion cube, it's really not worth the hassle!) and cover the bowl with a tea towel. When the cous cous has sucked up all the liquid, give it a bit of a fluff with a fork.

Serve everything with a salad and, if you need to make things go further, some flatbreads for scooping the dip up with.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Gill's Amazing Mexican Friday Night Feast

First of all...I did not manage to take a photo of this, largely because everyone was so excited that we grabbed everything and put it on the table and ate it. But that doesn't mean it wasn't the nicest thing I've put in my mouth this week, so I shall tell you what we had.

I have a serious thing for Mexican food. I'm going to see friends tomorrow and when asked what we wanted to eat, I said Mexican for that, too. I could literally eat it every day. Anyway yesterday I came across this recipe for black beans on Stephanie O'Dea's website and it made the Mexican lightbulb in my head go off. I ferreted through the cupboard for the bag of dried black beans I had been keeping for emergency and stuck them on to soak. Last night before we went to bed I stuck everything into the slow cooker as per her recipe, with the intention that this morning we would have huevos ranchos with the black beans and a fried egg, but fortunately for us it made a WHOLE lot of beans, so that led to this evening's meal.

I've also been reading Thomasina Miers' Mexican Food Made Easy, which had a recipe for black bean and sweetcorn relish in it, which I didn't have all the ingredients for but which I made a cobbled together version of and which came out amazing.

Finally, I had some amazing barbecue rub from the Spice and Tea Exchange that I bought in Florida, so that was definitely going to get involved somewhere.

I should say that I MADE all this food. I did not EAT it all. There are a lot of leftovers!!

For the chicken:
1 smallish roasting chicken, no giblets
2 tsp Smoked BBQ Rub
Drizzle of olive oil (to help you rub the, er, the rub in)
1 bulb of garlic, sliced through the middle so all the cloves are in half, if that makes sense
1 lemon, sliced in half

For the black beans in the slow cooker:
1 500g bag of dried black beans, soaked overnight in cold water and drained
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1.5 litres chicken stock
1 can/carton chopped tomatoes

For the rice:
200g basmati rice
450ml chicken stock
1 can kidney beans, drained
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
4-5 spring onions, chopped finely
1 tsp chipotle powder
Any juices from the roast chicken, if you're feeling frisky

For the sweetcorn and black bean relish:
1 large can of sweetcorn - I use the no added sugar/salt variety
1 carton cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
7-8 cherry tomatoes, sliced
Sweet hot jalapenos, the kind in the jar, with some of the spicy sweet vinegar
6-7 spring onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, grated
Bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

The chicken part is dead easy. Put the oven on 190 degrees, Gas 5. Make a paste with the bbq rub and olive oil, just in the palm of your hands, and rub it all over the chicken, bottom and top. Shove the lemon and garlic up its bum, skewer the spare skin together, and stick it in the oven for 20 minutes per 500g, plus an extra 20, or just until the juices run clear. I like to keep mine covered in foil til the last 15-20 minutes or so.

Likewise, the black beans are dead easy too - just dump everything into the slow cooker and set it to low-medium for about 8 hours. Mind you I did give mine a quick blast on the hob at the end as I like mine really sort of squidgy, but that's a personal preference. They taste great cold as well as hot. Brilliant, we'll be making them again and again.

The rice is a 15-minute job, if that. Just pop everything in together, bring up to the boil, drop down to a simmer and stick the lid on. Keep an eye on things but basically once the rice has sucked up the stock, it's done. If you're not quite ready for the rice, just put a folded clean tea towel over the pot and put the lid back on. Voila, fluffy rice!

Finally, the relish is the easiest of all. Chop it all up, stick in a bowl, mix and eat. Brilliant.

We also had some ready-made super hot salsa, some Cholula sauce and some cottage cheese on the table for dipping, as well as some leafy salad.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Cowboy Stew (inspired by Stephanie O'Dea)

I don't know if I mentioned this or not, but my life is CHAOS. As a result I rely on our slow cooker a lot during the week and have been very much inspired by the lovely Stephanie O'Dea at Crockpot 365, her fab blog which inspired her Make It Fast, Cook It Slow books. One of his favourites has been her Cowboy Stew, which I have had to adapt because of not being able to get all the ingredients here (for example, using regular Heinz baked beans and a package of spicy barbecue seasoning in place of ranch beans, and I still can't bring myself to use canned potatoes - it just freaks me out - so we use fresh ones which steam in the slow cooker).

Anyway this morning for once I've had chance to actually cook it from scratch, so here we go. It's a dish you've probably got MOST of the ingredientsfor in the cupboard or fridge, and it's very forgiving however you cook it. This is my recipe that I followed this morning, cooking it on the hob.

You need

Extra lean turkey breast mince
A couple of slices of smoked bacon, trimmed well
Garlic (just a bit)
1 green chili
2-3 sticks celery
1 can tomatoes
1 can baked beans
1 BIG can sweetcorn
1 package of barbecue seasoning (I admit it: I use Old El Paso, and it does the job FINE)
Courgettes, chopped
Red/orange bell peppers, chopped
Potatoes, cut into bite size pieced. The potatoes, if you are doing this on the hob, you could just boil separately and stir in, or parboil and add to finish them off. It's up to you.

Makes one pot-ful, which for us is enough for dinner x 2 and generous leftovers, so good for lunch the next day or the midnight meal on a night shift..

Very easy, this:

Frazzle the bacon (as much as is possible with no fat, ha ha) and then add the turkey breast, breaking it up as it cooks, and allowing everything to brown thoroughly.

Add the green chili, onion, garlic and celery, cover and allow to sweat down and soften.

Add the bell pepper and courgettes and allow to cook for a few minutes before finally adding the sweetcorn, baked beans, tomatoes and barbecue seasoning. Allow to cook slowly together for as long as you need them to.

Finally, add the potatoes - either cooked, or partially cooked, and allow them to finish in the pot. Serve and enjoy. I like some extra jalapenos or hot sauce on mine.

Look, a rubbish photo!! Ha. It looks very potato heavy but it's because I had cut them up into very small pieces and had just stirred it so they were all on top, so don't be afraid!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Wednesday Night Pasta, with chicken and olives

Chicken thighs
3-4 slices of bacon, all fat removed
1 large onion
3 fat cloves of garlic
1 chili
Green pepper
Courgette(s), depending on size
Canned tomatoes
Tomato puree (don't forget this bit!)
Black olives, chopped
Chicken stock cube
Pinch of oregano

First, add the chopped up bacon into the pan and cook hard, until it's frazzled and crispy. Add the chicken at this point and continue to cook until the chicken is browned all over. While that's doing, prepare your veg. When the chicken is browned, add the garlic and onions and allow to soften before adding the olives and chili. Give it all about five minutes before adding the mushrooms, courgettes and pepper; put the lid on and allow everything to cook down. Finally, add the tomato, tomato puree, black pepper, stock cube, basil and oregano, turn it down and let it cook gently.

Serve with pasta and a salad!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bacon and egg fried rice (a la my mom)

You will need:

Cooked, cold rice
Eggs, beaten
Bacon, chopped up small
Spring onions, sliced
Soy sauce
Big handful of frozen peas

In a non-stick pan, using a bit of oil, frazzle the bacon til it's crispy. Add the eggs and cook until they're almost set, and then add the rice, moving it around constantly so it doesn't stick. Add the frozen peas, onion and soy sauce to taste, ensure that everything is heated through properly, and eat!

You can add whatever vegetables you like in; it's good with mushrooms.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Pork, apple and fennel casserole

This is a kind of use-everything-that's-left-over casserole. Whilst at first glance the veg/apple combination might look a bit random, the apple cooks down to a point where it's just bringing out the taste of the pork rather than tasting of an apple and mushroom stew!! ;)

Extra Easy, all food free

Diced pork leg, trimmed of all fat
Granny Smith apple
1 green pepper
Pork stock
Black pepper

Then there are various options. You can either add some butter beans, some lentils or some baby potatoes, or serve it with some mustardy mash - it's your call :)

Dead easy, this one; brown the pork thoroughly in some low-fat frying spray, and then add the onion, garlic, celery and fennel and allow it to cook through gently, with the lid on, until the vegetables are soft and slippery. Put the peeled chopped apple in next, and stick the lid back on while you prepare the other veg.

When you've chopped the parsnip, courgette(s), mushrooms and pepper, put them into the pan along with some black pepper, sage and tarragon, cover and let them cook down, adding a smidgen of hot water and a pork stock cube to keep it moist (and, indeed, porky).

At this point you can turn everything right down and leave it to simmer. If you're going to add lentils or beans, add more hot water accordingly; if you're adding potatoes just make sure they're of an even size and make sure there's enough liquid to cover them.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, 28 February 2011

Liver and bacon with root vegetable mash

For the mash (adjust to meet the needs of however many you're feeding):

2-3 cloves of garlic
Celeriac, if you like it
Turnip, if you like it
Swede, if you like it

Any combination of the above is just fine. Pop a spoonful of Marigold vegetable bouillon in the water and boil/simmer til tender.

While that's boiling away, prepare the liver and bacon:

Trimmed, lean bacon
Red onions, sliced thinly
Lamb's liver, rinsed well and checked over, trimmed and cut into pieces of your preference size wise

Just saute off the bacon and onion in some low-fat cooking spray until well browned and the onion is slippery and soft. You can add a splash of balsamic vinegar too if you like, which will make it taste deleeeeeeeeshios.

All you do then is mash your mash, adding (if you like) a bit of wholegrain mustard, or some Quark, and some salt and pepper to taste. Leave it in the saucepan with a teatowel clamped over it and the lid on top to keep it warm, and get on with doing your liver. It really doesn't need very long - just a few minutes, or it'll be the miserable grey rubbery liver we all dread.

We like this either with some gravy, or some fine beans tossed in wholegrain mustard. You can of course make the liver and bacon mix up into a gravy by tossing the liver in flour before it goes into the pot and adding a bit of water, but because there's barely any fat in there it's not the greatest ever (hence the Bisto).

Anyway! It's not meant to be fine dining; it's a 30-minute weeknight dinner and we eat it about once a week :)

Sunday's Spicy Feast

So, after a couple of days of excess we were feeling the need for some spicy comfort food, and my friend Carleen had been talking on Facebook about the harissa and kibbeh she had I asked for the recipes and can confirm that they are delicious!

Carleen's harissa:

1/2cup crushed dried chillis- soaked in very hot water to cover for 30mins.
1tbsp caraway seeds
2tsp coriander seeds
3 small fresh red chilli. seeded and chopped.
5 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water

Drain dried chillis and set aside.

Place caraway seeds and coriander seeds in a small frying pan on a low heat. Toast them for 1-2 mins until fragrant stirring so they don't burn.

Porcess all ingredients to a smooth(ish) paste. This will fill a 400g jar(ish) and will keep for ages in the fridge.

And the aubergine and chickpea kibbeh:

1/2 cup bulgur
2 cups boiling water
1 tin chickpeas
1tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
2tbsp olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 medium sized aubergine, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
1tsp lemon juice

Place bulgur in a dish and cover with the boiling water. Leave to stand for 20 minutes. Drain well and squeeze to remove excess water. Place in a large bowl.

Coarsely chop the chickpeas and add to the bulgur. Add the allspice, cinnamon and cumin and season with salt and pepper to taste. stir to combine and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute onions for 5 minutes until softened. Add aubergine (no need to salt-its only older larger ones that tend to be bitter) and cook for about 7 minutes until the aubergine is tender. Stir in pinenuts and lemon juice and season to taste. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350oF. Press half the bulgur mix into the bottom of a lightly oiled 10inch dish, smoothing the top. Add the eggplant mix, the cover with the remaining bulgur and press down to smooth.

Bake until hot and lightly browned (about 30mins). Remove from oven and let stand for 10 mins before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

She also gave me a recipe for vegan feta substitute:

Drain a block of firm tofu (the cauldron brand is ideal) and press out as much water as you can.

Cut into smallish cubes and place in a bag. Add:
2tbsp wine/rice wine vinegar
1tbsp lemon juice
4tsp olive oil
1tsp oregano
1tsp basil
2 whole but squashed cloves of garlic
1/2tsp salt (more if you prefer it salty)
lots of black pepper.

Marinade overnight and give the bag a good jiggle every so often. This is amazing in salads. Its not quite as good cooked but it gives you that feta like hit without the fat!

I also made hummus (my recipe this time!):

1 can of cooked chickpeas, semi-drained
Juice of half a lemon
1.5 tbsp tahini
LOTS of garlic (I used about 6 cloves!!)

Blend, sprinkle with smoked paprika and scoff.

With all that I also made baked chicken with za'atar and the harissa, and a salad with rocket and sliced sweet onion and peppers.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Gill's Amazing Fried Rice*

This is a two-stage process

For the pork:

Diced pork leg, trimmed and all fat removed

and marinated in...
Sesame oil
Sweet chili sauce
Dark soy sauce
Honey (the runny kind)
Chinese 5-spice (2tsp)

Rice, boiled, drained and cooled (we like brown, but basmati is fine)

Spring onions
Red pepper

Eggs, beaten

Low fat cooking spray

So. Step one is to first marinate the pork and then cook it in a pan, tipping all the marinade in and letting it cook through. Remove to a dish and allow to cool.

While you're in the kitchen you can also boil some rice, drain it and spread it over a plate to cool.

If you're really feeling frisky you can slice up all those vegetables finely (or whatever else you fancy) and have them ready.

When you are ready it's just an assembly job. Just spray your pan, let it heat RIGHT up, and put the veg in. They will take two or three minutes, and then add the egg, followed by the pork and the rice. Keep it all moving, keep it hot, and then chuck it in bowls and devour. Nice with a bit of extra soy sauce/chili sauce.

*Obviously, this might not SOUND amazing, but it was. You have to just trust me on this.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Home-made pork in black bean sauce

Diced lean pork leg, trimmed thoroughly
Green peppers
Any other veg you want to put in - I used some leftover Brussels sprouts which I sliced like teeny cabbages, a grated carrot and half a courgette
Dark soy sauce
Black beans - use canned/cartons/ready cooked
Chinese 5-Spice powder
1 red chili (optional if you're not keen)
Black pepper, generous amounts, but to taste

To serve, we had this with rice but it's your call :)

Very easy. Brown and seal the diced pork thoroughly, and then add the sliced onion and garlic. Once those have become golden and soft, add the 5-Spice and a splash of soy sauce, turn it down and leave it to cook in together for a little while while you get the veg ready. Add them to the pan, including the optional chili, cover and leave to cook in together. While that is going on, sort out your black beans.

I used two small cartons for this, and what I did was empty one whole carton, water and all, into a bowl and hand-blend it together until mostly smooth (you could mash it if you haven't got a hand blender), and then drain and add the other carton of whole black beans, to give it texture.

Go back to your pan; if the veg are as you like them then add your black beans along with a bit more soy sauce and a generous amount of black pepper. Let it all bubble up, taste and adjust the seasoning, and then serve over rice. We had some snipped coriander over it and it was really nice.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Day 27 - Chickpea Soup

Potatoes, peeled and diced fairly smallish
Red pepper, diced
Onion, sliced
Garlic, minced
Chickpeas (canned or cooked)
Vegetable stock (I used Marigold Bouillion)
Nigella (black onion seed)

And then, mixed in a big teacup with water to make a paste, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, pinch of nutmeg, 1 tsp ginger, half a tsp cinnamon, half a tsp paprika, 1 tsp garam masala, a pinch of turmeric, salt and black pepper.

Prepare the potatoes, courgettes, pepper and chickpeas and put them into your slow cooker. In a frying pan, brown the onions and garlic, before adding the spice paste and allowing to cook through gently. Then add the passata and the onion seed, mixing it together thoroughly before pouring it into the slow cooker over the vegetables and chickpeas. Finally, top it up with vegetable stock, give it all a stir and then leave it to cook overnight. I did mine on high as I get up so early but you know your slow cooker best, adjust it to suit.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Day 26 - Pasta with ragout, again

Well, there's not a lot to say for this day either except that it was very lovely and as a variation we added a splodge of Quark...the recipe is the same as we made here :)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Day 25 - Gill's Night Off!

We went to see Black Swan and ended up eating at the Village Cafe in town, so no cooking for me today! (Noodle soup, if you're interested, was what I had).

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Day 24 - Slow cooker chicken and butter bean casserole

Today we had our first day off together in about a fortnight and rather than spend it chained to the cooker I decided to rework this recipe that we made a couple of weeks ago, making it in the slow cooker so we could go out and look at suits for Chris for the wedding.

Extra Easy, all food free

Chicken thighs - skinless, boneless, and trimmed of all the snorgly bits
Lean bacon, trimmed and fat removed
1 lemon
Red peppers
Smoked paprika - I used hot rather than sweet today
Pinch of saffron threads
Hot chicken stock - made with a cube is fine for this
Chopped tomatoes
Black pepper
Butter beans

Chop your pepper and courgettes and put them, along with the butter beans, into the bottom of your slow cooker.

In a pan, brown the chicken and bacon thoroughly together, adding the onion, celery and garlic and allowing them to soften. Transfer them to your slow cooker, sitting them on top of the veg. Chop the lemon up and put it in too.

In a big jug mix the tomatoes, stock, paprika and saffron together and then pour it over the chicken, veg and beans. Season with black pepper, stick the lid on and leave it to cook on slow. It's not going anywhere :)

We had it with some broccoli.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Day 23 - The Fastest Chili In The West

Today I spent more or less the whole day with my friend who just lost her father, and then went to see my parents who live nearby. With the husband type safely at work with his tasty packed lunch I was rather bereft when I got home, however there was turkey breast mince defrosted so I made a ginormous bowl of barbecuetastic comfort food. It's not classy but it tasted good.

Extra Easy, all food free
Turkey breast mince
2 trimmed slices of bacon, all fat removed
Canned tomatoes
Small can of refried beans
And then my secret weapon: a sachet of Smoky Barbecue Fajita Seasoning. Muahaha.

Serve it with brown rice if you're starving.

So. Stick the rice on. It's brown rice, it'll take about half an hour. You can do the rest in half an hour. Just chop fast.

Brown the turkey and bacon in your pan in some low fat cooking spray. Add the onion, celery and garlic, keeping the heat high but keeping an eye on it. While they are softening, finely chop your pepper and courgette and then sling them in, too. Keep an eye on it, you don't want it to burn. When everything is looking soft, and that won't take long if you've chopped it small, add the tomatoes and barbecue seasoning. The refried beans go in right at the end as they only need to heat through.

I recommend scooping it all into an enormous bowl, making a big glass of squash and eating it with a spoon while you slump on the sofa and watch Ace of Cakes. Ah Geof Manthorne, be still my heart, and thank God you will never see me devouring a huge bowl of turkey chili like I've been starved. Haha.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Day 22 - The Pasta Salad of Misery

You know...I barely know why I am posting this except that I said that I would put everything I eat on here. This was a combination of bare cupboards, extreme hunger, and having too much other stuff to do.

Extra Easy, all food free

Pasta (preferably wholegrain)
Salad leaves (whatever you've got)
Baby plum tomatoes
Sliced sweet onions
Sliced beetroot (yes, from a jar)

Er...cook the pasta. Open the tuna. Put everything in a bowl and stir. Eat, wishing you'd had the forethought to put soup in the slow cooker, but being silently determined not to crack and go to the chippy. Wedding dress, honeymoon! Wedding dress, honeymoon! *sigh*

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Day 21 - Cottage pie!

Extra Easy, all food free - except for MINIMAL Syns for a spoonful of wholegrain mustard.

Extra lean ground beef
Optional couple of slices of bacon with all fat trimmed and removed
Carrots, sliced thin
Kallo beef stock cube OR Marmite
Black pepper

Wholegrain mustard
Salt and pepper

Oh man....okay it's a cottage pie. Boil the potatoes, drain, and mash, seasoning and adding the mustard. Lovely.

Make the filling by browning the bacon and beef in low fat cooking spray, and add the onions, cooking until soft and golden, along with the Marmite or stock cube. Finally, pop the carrot and mushrooms in; add a bit of water so it all stays moist and doesn't stick. When it's done, just pile it into the bottom of your oven dish and put the mash on top. Do it like my nan and rake it about with a fork so it's all rough and goes crispy in the oven.

This will go happily into the fridge or even into the freezer til you're ready for it; it needs about 45 minutes from chilled in the middle of the oven at around 190 degrees, or until a knife poked into the middle and held against your bottom lip is piping hot.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Day 19 - Harissa chicken with roasted chickpeas

This is not particularly spicy-hot, but it's interestingly chewy and tasty and warming. The chicken and the roasted chickpeas and cauliflower give a lovely contrast with the soft, slippery, tomato-and-pepper sauce. Yum!

Extra Easy, all food free

Chicken - either diced breast, or thigh, as long as it's skinless/boneless, and well trimmed
Pepper - red, yellow, or orange, or all three
Can/carton of chopped tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube, or a spoonful of chicken bouillon concentrate

For roasting:
Cauliflower, in small florets
Canned chickpeas, drained and blotted dry
Sea salt
Ground cumin and coriander

To serve: cous cous or brown rice (I like the cous cous better, and it's quicker)

To start: put the broken up cauliflower and drained chickpeas in a large roasting tin, spray with low-fat cooking spray, and sprinkle liberally with the ground spices and salt. Turn to coat well and roast in the middle of the oven at 180 degrees, turning regularly, for about 40 minutes or so. It's going to catch and go chewy. It's all good! When it's done just turn off the oven and leave the pan in there til you're ready. Move it to the bottom though.

Meanwhile, in a pan, brown the chicken in low fat cooking spray, adding the chicken stock cube/bouillon, garlic, sliced onion and peppers, and turning gently. Let it cook slowly together until it's really melty and soft, and then add as much harissa as you want, and a carton of chopped tomatoes. Let that cook down gently together until it's bubbly and thick, and turn off the heat. Make up your cous cous in a large bowl, and while that's soaking turn the roasted chewy cauliflower and chickpeas into the tomato sauce. Serve them over the cous cous and enjoy!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Day 19 - Chinese 5-Spice Pork and Sprouts

...yes, sprouts. Not BEANsprouts. Sprouts. You know, the Brussels kind. The Christmas ones.

I love sprouts with a passion; Chris, before I made them with bacon and chestnuts (yeah...that'll be where my festive belly came from!) for Christmas last year, was not a fan. As we all know, if you say you don't like something then it's game on as far as I'm concerned...ha! Anyway, inspiration struck in ASDA whilst shopping as I realised I'd got some pork leg steaks in the freezer to be used up and there were readily available sprouts for the asking. *rubs hands together*

Extra Easy, all food free

Pork leg steaks, trimmed and all fat removed
Leeks, sliced thinly
Grated carrot
Courgette, diced very fine
Chinese Five-Spice
Dark soy sauce
Pork stock cube
Boiling water

Brown rice to serve

To begin with, blanch your sprouts. Drain and set aside.

Spray your pan with low fat cooking spray and brown off your finely diced pork, before adding the leeks, garlic and grated carrot. Sweat down gently until it's all soft and golden and add the courgette. Pop the soy sauce, five spice, pork stock cube and water in, cover and leave to bubble.

Cook some rice!

Add the quartered sprouts into the vegetable and pork mix right as the rice is about to finish cooking, and serve with great amusement as your husband type proclaims that "sprouts don't taste of farts! Sprouts taste of nutty!" *facepalm*

Monday, 17 January 2011

Day 18 - Lamb curry with yellow lentils and spinach

This is a medium-hot curry (well, the way I've made it, anyway); serve with brown rice if you're starving. Heh.

Extra Easy, all food free

Lamb leg steak, trimmed, all fat removed
Ginger (copious amounts of all three)

In your biggest teacup, mix 1 tsp medium curry powder, 1 tsp ASDA tandoori blend (I know, I know, just do it), 3/4 tsp cumin, half a tsp turmeric, shake of asafoetida, shake of fenugreek, and add water to make a paste.

Tomato puree
1 carton of tomatoes
Yellow lentils

RIGHT then. As always start with the meat, browning thoroughly in low fat cooking spray. Add the onion, and minced garlic and ginger and stir gently until golden brown, and then add the spice paste, cooking it through gently. Add the tomato puree and stir to mix well and then add the mushrooms, pepper and courgette, Turn it all round thoroughly together and pop the lid on to let it all cook down.

After a few minutes add the tomatoes, and a shake of black onion seed if you've got it (this is pretty optional). Leave it for another few minutes and then add your lentils and some water for them to cook in. Finally, add spinach, wilt it in and serve. Yum!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

BY THE WAY...I forgot my weightloss this week!

I lost another 4lb, so that takes me just over half a stone in two weeks. So good. *shovels in dinner*

Day 17 - Beef ragout with pasta

Yeah yeah...if you were round my house I'd be calling it spag bog. Anyway, you know what it is, I'm just afraid of the Authentic Italian Food Police!! ;)

Ellie this one's for you, it's the slow cooker version I was making when I saw you earlier. Although as usual I forgot to take a photo. It's spag bog though, you know what it's supposed to look like!!

Extra Easy, all food free

Extra lean beef mince - make sure it is the extra lean stuff!
Couple of slices of smoked bacon (optional) - trimmed, all fat removed
Garlic (as much as you care for)
Courgette (or two)
Green pepper
MUSHROOMS - don't care what sort, as long as they're tasty!
Can of tomatoes (400g)
Splodge of tomato puree
Kallo beef stock cube
Teeny splish of balsamic vinegar
Black pepper

Oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil, parsley - or, alternatively, just use mixed herbs. No REALLY. I'm not being snobby about this, cook it for long enough in the slow cooker and it becomes a thing of MAGIC.

Begin by browning the bacon in some low cal frying spray. Add the beef, shredding it up well with your fingers; no chunks please! When it's starting to look foxy, add the nutmeg, balsamic vinegar, black pepper and stock cube, mooshing it up with the juices from the meat and stirring it in well. While that's doing, slice up your onions and crush the garlic, and add it to the pan. Stir it well and let everything brown and be golden.

While that's happening, chop your courgettes, mushrooms and pepper, and pop them in the bottom of your slow cooker. Give them a turn about so they're mixed up a bit. How is the beef/onion mix looking? Add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree and herbs; the main one should be oregano, with basil and parsley coming next, and then a pinch of all the others. Seriously, if you haven't got them...stick mixed herbs in and while you're out at work grab some oregano to pop in at the end. All will be well. Right. If it's heated through, pour it all into the slow cooker pot, stir it through gently and stick the lid on. You can cook this on low for pretty much as long as you want to, if I'm honest.

Serve it with some wholegrain pasta and salad.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Day 16 - Chicken with puy lentils and rocket salad

Extra Easy, all food free

Chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, trimmed and all fat removed
Bacon, trimmed and all fat removed
Yellow pepper

Bay leaves

Puy lentils
Chicken stock
Black pepper, to taste

To serve - either make a salad with rocket, cucumber, tomato, etc, or - as we are going to - sprinkle the rocket over as you dish up and eat it with.

Brown off the chicken and bacon in low-cal cooking spray, and add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic and bay leaves. Allow to cook through until softened and golden, and then add the mushrooms, courgette and peppers. Allow to soften slightly before adding the rosemary, thyme and black pepper. When everything is as you want it, add puy lentils and enough chicken stock to cook them through, turn down to a simmer, and cover. Serve when the lentils are cooked through and tender, as above!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Day 15 - Jollof rice a la Leno

Extra Easy, all food free

Lean chicken, diced, skinless
Butternut squash, peeled, diced, roasted with a bit of salt and spray oil
Red pepper, diced
Fine green beans. sliced into 1-2cm lengths
Courgette, chopped
Onion, diced finely
4-5 cloves of garlic
big squeeze of tomato puree
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes in juice
3 tbsp jollof seasoning
Rice - and although we usually use brown rice, it's REALLY hard to get it to cook using the absorption method unless you're really...reaaaaaaaaaaaally patient, so just use regular
Chicken stock (made with a cube is fine provided it's a nice cube!)

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

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Day 14 - Chili

I have about fifteen recipes for chili on here (or something ridiculous) but this is specific to what's in the cupboards today as Chris is cooking it while I'm at work.


Extra Easy, all food free

Extra lean beef mince (pack in fridge)
1 large onion
1 stick celery
4 cloves of garlic
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Beef OXO cube
Courgettes (in fridge, left hand drawer)
1 red pepper and the huge red and green one in the back of the fridge
1 carton chopped tomatoes
1 carton black beans
1 can of kidney beans (if there are none, use pinto)
Squirt of tomato puree
teaspoon chile ancho
half teaspoon chile chipotle
teaspoon cumin
teaspoon mexican oregano (in tin from Cool Chile)
Teeny shake of smoked paprika (in screw-top jar from my mom's)

Brown the beef thoroughly using some low-fat cooking spray, adding a shake of cinnamon and the OXO cube. When it's thoroughly browned add the onion, celery and garlic and cook til golden and softened. Then add the chopped peppers and courgettes, cover and allow to sweat down. Finally add the tomatoes, tomato puree, spices and oregano, turn to simmer and allow to bubble for about half an hour before adding the drained beans, turning right down, covering and leaving to think about its actions.

Hope that's okay.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Day 13 - Chicken and mushroom risotto with thyme and tarragon

Extra Easy, all food free

Diced chicken breast
1 large onion, diced fine
4-5 sticks celery, diced fine
1 green pepper, diced fine
2 courgettes, diced fine
Mushrooms, sliced - whatever sort you like, but make them tasty!
dash of balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic
black pepper
risotto rice
chicken stock

Spray your pan with low fat cooking spray and brown off the chicken - I mean REALLY brown it off, you want it tasty and golden and crusty. Add the splash of balsamic vinegar and turn it thoroughly so it's coated, and let it cook down til it's sweet and soft. Then add the celery, onion and garlic, stick the lid on and let it all sweat down. When that's golden and soft, add the peppers and courgettes and the tarragon and black pepper. Again, put the lid on and let it cook down and soften. Finally, add the mushrooms and thyme. When they've had a few minutes, add the rice and turn it to let it soften while you get the stock ready; then, I'm afraid, I was tired so I just added the stock in one go, stirred it well and left it to its own devices. I know that's not the rules but it came out fine. Just pour over enough hot stock to barely cover everything and keep an eye on it.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Day 12 - Baked chicken with root mash and garlicky greens

Extra Easy, all food free

Chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, trimmed of all fat and snorgly bits
Back bacon, trimmed

Whatever root veg you've got - we had
1 big carrot
2 small parsnips
1 huge potato
half a celeriac
2 cloves of garlic
Marigold vegetable bouillion powder
Quark (optional)

a big leek

Salt, pepper to taste

This is very easy. Trim the chicken and wrap the bacon round it. Arrrange on baking tray, preferably one with a rack in it to let the juices drain away, and bake in the oven - this will take about 40-45 minutes at about 200.

For the mash:
Peel everything and stick it all in a pan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, and when it's tender drain it all and mash together with a sprinkled teaspoon of powdered Marigold and a heaped tbsp of Quark. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the greens:
Slice the sprouts and leeks thinly, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain, spray with cooking spray, and add about 2 cloves of garlic, or however you like, and salt and black pepper. Stir fry briefly to soften the garlic.

Serve together. The leftovers will make cracking bubble and squeak tomorrow with a crispy fried egg ;)

Monday, 10 January 2011

Day 11 - Sweet and spicy chipotle pork with rice and beans (and chili veg)

Extra Easy, all food free - except for 1 tbsp honey, 2.5 Syns for whole dish.

1 pork tenderloin, cut into thick medallions
1 tsp Discovery chipotle paste
1 tbsp runny honey
200ml pork stock made with a Knorr pork cube

1 big onion
2 sticks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
2-3 courgettes (depending on size)
1-2 red/yellow peppers (depending on size)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
squirt of tomato puree
half tsp cumin
tsp chile ancho
quarter tsp chile chipotle
half tsp smoked paprika

To serve: brown rice (boiled, plain)
Refried beans

Pork first! In a large, non-stick pan sprayed with low-cal cooking spray, brown the pork tenderloins, then remove to a small pyrex dish and pour over the combined honey, chipotle paste and pork stock. Set aside.

In the same pan, soften the onion, garlic and celery til golden, and add the rest of the vegetables and spices. Cover and cook til jammy and thick. When that's looking good, turn it right the way down, and put the oven to 200 degrees.

For the last twenty minutes, boil the brown rice, heat the refried beans through, and bake the pork in the oven in its spicy sweet baste, turning occasionally.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Day 10 - Chicken and potato with saffron and lemon

On Friday night, Chris's mom made a delicious one-pot dinner with chicken thighs, potato and pepper, amongst other things, and it was so good I swiped the recipe and am now making a slight variation on it as we speak.

Extra Easy, all food free
Chicken thighs - skinless, boneless, and trimmed of all the snorgly bits
Lean bacon, trimmed and fat removed
Small potatoes - I'm using Vivaldi, halved
1 lemon
1 big onion
4 sticks of celery
2 big red peppers
2 big courgettes
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp smoked paprika
pinch of saffron threads
hot chicken stock - made with a cube is fine for this
can of chopped tomatoes
black pepper
slug of hot sauce (if you like)

I would have liked to put some olives in this, but a: I didn't have any and b: those aren't free, so be careful how many you put in. ANYWAY.

Into the pot go the cut-up bacon and chicken to brown, followed by the onion, garlic and celery. Let it all cook in together and then add everything else, turn it right down and leave it to bubble gently until everything is cooked down.

This would also be nice with butter beans if you're not keen on taters, or both if you wanted some different textures. If you're not on Slimming World and can eat bread, that would go really well with it; if you want something extra or to make this go further (this makes a big potful, your portions are up to you), some broccoli goes well.

Days 8 and 9, and the first weigh-in

So, no posts for days 8 or 9 as we went to visit C's family and I didn't cook! However, huge thanks to my lovely m-i-l for helping me stick faithfully to the food optimising all weekend, even going so far as to dry roast some potatoes and parsnips for me when everyone else had a late Christmas roast last night!

In other news, I lost 4lb at my first weigh-in, after the first week on-plan, so I am quietly optimistic, because between you and me I ate my FACE OFF last week.

Right then! Back to normal programming.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Day 7 - Beef and Marmite Casserole

Extra Easy, all food free
Lean back bacon, all fat trimmed and removed
Lean beef stewing steak, all fat trimmed and removed
1 large onion
3 sticks of celery
2-3 carrots (depending on size, I used two huge ones)
2-3 parnsips (same principle)
1 bulb of fennel
Bay leaves
Black peppercorns (about 4-5)
3 small cloves garlic
Splash of Lea and Perrins, or - even better - Henderson's Relish
VERY heaped spoonful of Marmite
Splash of boiling water
Salt/black pepper to taste

Because the meat is so lean, you have to really watch it to make sure it doesn't burn and stick too much. So, I find it is easier, if you're not the fastest blade in the west, to prepare all your vegetables first. Slice the carrot/parsnip/fennel, and if you're doing it in the slow cooker (as I am), put them in the bottom. If you're doing the slow cooker version, sprinkle the thyme and rosemary, bay leaves and black peppercorns in with the vegetables and toss. (If you're not doing it in the slow cooker just pop them in a bowl until you need them.) Then, slice the onion and celery and crush the garlic, and put them to one side.

Now, the meat. Start with the bacon, in a large pan, sprayed with low-cal cooking spray. Once the bacon has started to cook and is releasing all its juiciness, add the beef and let it start to cook through. Hopefully lots of juices will come out of the meat; I poured them off into the slow cooker with the vegetables as I went along. When the meat is looking nice and brown, add the celery/onion/garlic to the meat pan, stir gently and put the lid on. This will encourage them to sweat down into the meat. Do keep an eye on them at this point.

When the celery/onion/garlic is looking softened and golden and the meat is browned, splash in some Henderson's or Lea and Perrin's (to taste, but even if you love it don't go overboard, because the Marmite's next). Put the lid back on and boil the kettle. When the kettle's boiled, add a big, gollopy spoonful of Marmite (and I do mean a BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG one), pouring a splash of boiling water in to get it off the spoon and to help it dissolve so you can coat the meat and vegetables with it. I think I possibly added about a cupful in all but don't worry too much - just don't drown things.

When the Marmite is dissolved and everything is coated, decant the whole lot into your slow cooker, stick the lid on and stick it to high for an hour. There shouldn't be any need to add much liquid.

If you're not doing it in the slow cooker, at this point you should add all your prepared vegetables to the pan, along with another cup or two of water (slow cookers retain all the moisture so you always need less liquid). Don't sweat it if you put too much water in. That's what lentils are for. :)

That's it, really - leave it to cook long and slow, and enjoy with a baked potato, or some steamed broccoli/cauliflower...whatever you like!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Day 6 - Christmassy tomato soup

Today is Chris's birthday so we are going out for dinner, however, here is what we had for lunch.

Extra Easy; all food free.
1 large onion, diced finely
3-4 sticks of celery, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carton of passata, plus about half a carton's worth of water (to get the last bits out)
A good slug of tomato puree
about 1 litre of Christmas turkey stock (strained and skimmed and clear)
Leftover roast Christmas turkey (frozen with the stock) - lean meat only, no skin etc
2 rashers of lean bacon, fat trimmed and removed
Black pepper
Pinch of sugar or PerfectSweet/Splenda
300g red lentils

Just brown the bacon, onions, celery and garlic in some low-cal cooking spray until golden, and then add everything to the slow cooker. Stir. Switch on slow cooker. Voila! When you get home from shopping...soup.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Day 5 - Retro-fabulous crab and noodle soup

This was our lunch, improvised after a very hungry-making trip into town round the sales. On the Slimming World website there was a recipe for a crabstick and noodle salad which looked kind of retro-cool (we've been watching a lot of the Supersizers, perhaps that's why) - but it's FREEZING today, so it became noodle soup instead.

Before anyone gives me the Eyebrow, I KNOW crabsticks are not, ordinarily, the way forward. But for something pink, perfectly rectangular and suspiciously non-fishy, they come out pretty well really.

Extra Easy, all food free

Medium egg noodles
Crabsticks, shredded
Sliced veg - we had mushrooms, peppers, a courgette, and a couple of leeks
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Shake of Chinese 5-Spice
Black pepper
Glog of soy sauce
Wonton Soup Base Mix (we like Shanggie)
Spring onions, sliced, to serve

Stick all the vegetables except for the spring onions in the pan with some cooking spray and stick the lid on to allow them to cook through and soften. Then, add about 1.5 litres of boiling water, the 5-Spice, soy sauce and Wonton Soup Base Mix, bring it up to the bubble and drop in the noodles and crabsticks.

Give it 3-4 minutes for the noodles to cook and then chop the spring onions into it. Ladle into buckets generous bowls and schlurrp.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Day 4 - Potato salad

We had a slightly uninspired day today (well, as far as recipes go); tonight's dinner was a salad, a gammon steak and a warm potato salad.

Extra Easy, all food free

Small potatoes - we used Charlottes - in their jackets, scrubbed and halved
Spring onions
Salt and black pepper

Er...boil potatoes, drain, stir everything else in and eat. *cough* Bit of a boring recipe, haha.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Day 3 - Christmas Minestrone

Now, this was technically yesterday's lunch, but since we ate at my mom's today I don't have anything to include of my own. SO, here is yesterday's soup recipe.

Extra Easy, all foods free.

1 onion, sliced finely
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 big carrot, grated
Mushrooms, sliced fine
Pepper, sliced fine (whatever colour you like)
3-4 sticks of celery, sliced fine
Bacon, all fat trimmed and removed
A leek, if you've got one that needs eating (we did)
Cauliflower, broken into very small florets
Can of butter beans, drained
Carton of passata (about 450ml or so)
About 1 litre of stock - and this is Christmas minestrone because I used the stock from the turkey!
Pasta - any kind you like, I used the Fantasie pasta my parents brought for us from Italy

You then need a bit of oregano and basil and parsley - or if I'm honest a bit of mixed herbs would do if you hadn't got them
Black pepper and salt to season

All you do is chop your bacon up small and cook it in some low-fat cooking oil spray, letting it brown up a bit, and then add the onions and garlic, allowing them to soften. Follow with all the veg except for the cauliflower and pop the lid on to allow them all to cook down a bit.

Add the passata, the stock, and the cauliflower and heat it back up to bubbly; add the pasta, beans and spices and turn it down. When the pasta is cooked it's ready to go.

Also good in this are sliced shredded cabbage or spinach if you want to use them up!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Day 2 - Spicy pork with sweetcorn and squash

Extra Easy, all food free

Pork leg steaks, all fat trimmed and removed
2 sweetcorn...cobs? You know, one each.
1 butternut squash (whatever size is fine)
1 red/yellow/orange pepper
1 big onion
garlic (to taste)
1 can of tomatoes
1 big courgette (optional but I'd got one lurking)
1 carton of black beans, drained
tomato puree

Smoked paprika
Chohula chipotle hot sauce, to taste

Brown rice, to serve (optional)

Very simple always, get the squash roasting first; peel, deseed and chop and whack it in the oven until it's soft.

While that's doing, brown the pork (using low-calorie cooking spray), and add the onion and garlic to soften and cook through. Add the pepper and optional courgette and allow them to cook through and soften. Then it's in with the tomatoes, black beans and the sweetcorn, which you've cut off the cob and added in "loose", as well as the spices, and then get the lid on to let it all cook through.

Whatever you do, anyway - don't add the squash until a few minutes before you're going to serve, because it will all go to mush in the pot. Once it's roasted it only needs to heat through so don't fret.

Whether you eat this with a bit of rice or just as is, it's very filling and the textures are really ace - if you're going to slow-cook it, though, don't put the sweetcorn in til nearish to the end as you want it tender and crispy.