Saturday, 30 August 2014

Perfectly Rich and Creamy Peppercorn Sauce for Steak

This is my perfect peppercorn sauce. I don't want to even admit how many years I've been making it, but I hope you like it too!

Out of all of the recipes I've ever posted or shared, this is probably the one I make the most. It's evolved over the years, and poured over juicy steak is the go-to pick-me-up treat of choice in this house. And there's no skimping allowed with this - a treat is a treat! Click here for the Thermomix version of this recipe.


Normally, I just cook it intuitively. I've done it so many times I don't weigh or measure anything, it's just all done by sight and taste and memory, because I make it the same way every time - but this time, I recorded it, and measured as I went so that I could share it. Part of me likes to think that when my kids have grown up and left home (hopefully not in the too near future!), this blog will be a little reminder of home, and some of the lovely food we've all shared together that they can recreate their favourites from (when they're not sneaking back for dinner!). I have to confess though, on the rare occasions we treat ourselves to steak, sometimes we hold out and wait until after they've gone to bed to have it (sorry kids!)... ;)

So, what to have this with? My personal recommendation is with your favourite cut of steak, cooked your favourite way (for me, that would be medium rare - we like to vacuum seal them, and put them in the water bath at 56.5C for an hour or more - more time makes no difference - oil lightly, season then just sear for a few seconds on each side on a searing hot griddle to get some 'barking' flavour), served with chunky chips or sautéed potatoes, and 'petit pois' peas (my preference over garden peas) with a grilled flat mushroom and grilled tomato. For complete overkill, add a few crispy onion rings in there, and you won't be able to manage pudding! Did I miss anything?

We like our sauce, we do - so this will give you a very generous amount. Probably enough for four people really - as you can see in the photo, you get a whole ramekin full to yourself (I'm a 'dipper', rather than a 'pourer'!). However, running out of sauce to go with your dinner is a heinous crime indeed - and you don't have to use it all up, it will freeze and re-heat gently, although you might want to give it a bit of a whisk when you re-heat it, to make sure it's smooth.

On this basis, I'm giving you a 'serves two'. Plus, I only have about 5 ounces of steak, and I know some people put away double that! Calories? Seriously? Oh OK then, call it 310 per serving with maximum cream. Well, I did say there was no skimping... [Calories in square brackets, spoilsports]

If you love my creamy peppercorn sauce, why not try my rich Madeira sauce with wild mushrooms with your steak next time?

Bulgogi - Korean Barbequed Beef (includes Thermomix instructions)

This is a delicious way of cooking beef on a barbeque - the marinade makes the meat really tender.


Listed at number 23 of the world's 50 most delicious foods (from a reader's poll in CNN Go - have a look here if you're intrigued as to what else is on it) - if you're a lover of all things beefy and barbecued and keen on Asian flavours this is something you might want to try!

         

If you fancy something a little different, but not too 'out there', this is a great way to cook rump* steak. One of the tastiest cuts of steak, it is also from a hard-working muscle which means it is not the most tender steak - however in this dish, the Asian pear in the marinade really tenderises the meat. And on top of this, it's packed full of robust Asian flavours - garlic, ginger, soy and onions, with a hint of sweetness (and all you need to do is blitz up all the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor or blender - so it's easy to prepare too!).

Serves four people, at 287 calories per serving.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Harry's Ultimate Vegetarian Sausage Rolls - Nut Free, Gluten Free and Wheat Free (includes Thermomix method)

Delicious, tasty, meat-free sausage rolls - with all the flavourings of traditional English sausages (with options for regional variations!) and none of the pork - which have even fooled some meat eaters!


Named after my son, as I made them for his birthday! From 55 calories per party-size roll. If you or your children (or fellow grown-ups!) love sausage rolls and you want to make them meat-free without doing the usual claggy cheese and onion filling (that becomes rather rubbery and unpleasant once cool); or you haven't been able to eat sausage rolls for years, because you can't eat wheat, or gluten; or you haven't found a decent vegetarian filling you can make, because you're allergic to nuts and other options have seemed bland or mushy...

...or even if you're none of those things, but fancy making some lovely, healthier, home-made sausage rolls without any of the additives or chemicals in bought ones and you prefer to know exactly what you're eating - then these are for you and yours!!


You might, just *might* even find that you prefer these to regular sausage rolls (well, you certainly won't be chewing on any suspect gristly bits, which my son hates)!

I was initially inspired to have a play with textures and flavours for a vegetarian filling by Cyndi O' Meara's vegetarian sausage rolls recipe (which I confess I haven't ever made) but I liked her idea of using oats as a base, with feta cheese as one of the protein and flavour elements. After that, I wanted to make it nut free, and wheat free, and use traditional English pork sausage flavourings in a mixture which I was able wrap in pastry, so it was all experimentation from thereon in, with seeds and spices and herbs and other aromatics and family members being given suspicious blobs of cooked mixture every now and then until the flavour and texture was right!

This quantity makes around 24 sausage rolls (about 4cm long each before cooking, if you're measuring!) with a generous ratio of filling to pastry compared with shop bought - if you use a 500g pack of bought pastry (or double my easy puff pastry recipe) you could easily stretch this to 36 plus rolls (double these quantities if you're cutting them like the mini sausage rolls you get at parties - I like to make mine more generously!).

Calorie wise, if you're counting (now come one, who eats sausage rolls on a day they're counting calories - but it's good to have an idea if you can't resist sneaking one and just need to know!) - they're 55 calories each for half-size mini party rolls, or 110 calories per my larger 4cm rolls, as in the photographs (if you make with my pastry, adjust calories accordingly if buying the pastry - my calories are split down per ingredient, so it should be pretty easy to add it all up, then divide by the number of sausage rolls you make. With this recipe, it's 2,641 for the total quantity of filling, pastry and egg wash - just divide it by how many rolls you make). [Calories in square brackets]

Easy Gluten Free Puff Pastry - (Method for Thermomix or Vitamix or food processor)

There's absolutely no need to dread making pastry (you're not alone, I have for many years!), you just need a fail-safe recipe and you can whip up a batch in minutes, and it's deceptively easy too!


This makes a fantastically light and flaky, (rough) puff pastry, perfect for sausage rolls, pie lids, savoury or sweet tarts or tartlets etc. and you would never even guess it was gluten free. It will rise even more when it's not wrapped around fillings, too!

          

I’m not sure whether a normal food processor will cope with the ice cubes and frozen butter for the pastry (see the paragraph below in italics if you want to have a go with a normal food processor), you will need something high-powered that can cope with frozen food specifically (e.g. Thermomix, Vitamix or similar etc.). 

If you don't have a high-powered food processor, you could make it using super-chilled butter, and iced water instead of ice cubes (add ice-cubes to 65ml of water, and drain off the iced water and measure again when you're ready to use it), but you will need to tweak the technique a little to suit you and your machine.

And if you like the look of these delicious meat-free, gluten free, nut free sausage rolls, click here for the recipe!


Friday, 22 August 2014

Thermomix Chunky Ragù alla Bolognese - with skinny option, and no more mushy meat sauce!

Ragù alla bolognese is a versatile Italian classic, delicious with pasta, or in a lasagne - and here is how to make it using your Thermomix with all of the flavours from perfectly browned meat, and no sloppy disappointing mush - so if you've been disappointed so far, don't give up yet!


Probably one of the most well-known and loved Italian dishes, the ragù alla bolognese is possibly one of the first dishes many of us make once we leave home, in the form of spaghetti (alla) bolognese - which is actually a dish which originated outside of Italy! The Italians tend to serve their ragù (Italian for 'meat-based sauce') in the form of tagliatelli alla bolognese (with flat pasta), or in lasagne alla bolognese, as this kind of meat sauce does not stick well to spaghetti. Honestly? I only learnt that a few years ago, and it was news to me too (as well as the milk thing!) and I've been making it for a couple of decades!

Thermomix spaghetti bolognese
Non-authentic serving suggestion on top of spaghetti! Or stir into tagliatelli to avoid offence.

Back in the day, I imagine most of us when trying to cook our first masterpieces in the kitchen went through a phase where we probably threw onions, mince and a tin of tomatoes into a pan with a shake of mixed herbs, and came out with a tasty pasta sauce, which then evolved over the years. Once outside of Italy, the ragù seems to change quite drastically depending on which country it has 'emigrated' to. Believe it or not, adding bacon/pancetta and herbs is not so authentic, however it's a taste which so many of us are accustomed to, so I've put them in as options (just like 'Mummy' used to make it. Or Dad in my case, who was the main cook). Here is my Thermomix version of the traditional recipe, which is based on all the traditional ingredients (plus a couple of optional ingredients to satisfy modern tastebuds) for a very authentic flavour, including milk (which may come as a slight surprise to a few people, and certainly isn't something I included in my early days of cooking, but is very traditional) which has an amazingly tenderizing effect on the meat, so please do include it if you haven't previously - the difference is really noticeable!

Don't get me wrong, I haven't even tried any of the Thermomix bolognese sauce recipes out there, so I can't comment on them, and this is no reflection on anyone else's recipe. It never occurred to me to do so because it's something which I've been cooking for around twenty years that I'm perfectly happy with flavour-wise (if it's not broke, why fix it, as the saying goes) and a brief look around at a few available (there are so many!) showed ingredients that I don't use in mine, or vice versa - it was just a question of getting mine right in the Thermomix. Mushy, sloppy meat sauce is something I've noticed many Thermomix users complaining of time and time again, and with my first attempts at cooking it in the Thermomix, I could certainly see why. It took a few attempts to get it 'right', and every time I changed the way I cooked the sauce and the meat, the order, the method, but with pretty much the same ingredients each time, and a 'control' batch on the hob going at the same time, to taste it against. On the last attempt (this one), which I swore *was* the last attempt, I finally got it how I wanted it. Phew!

Now, two important points.

Firstly, you will need a pan as well as your Thermomix. Preferably a heavy-based one with a non-stick surface. Just to quickly brown the meat in, in one large piece (as if it was a large rectangular burger - you don't cook it through, just literally brown on one side, flip and brown the other side, then set aside. It will be raw inside.). Shouldn't be a big deal - you can do it while you're preparing the vegetables, or even while they're cooking in the Thermomix, and put it onto a plate when it's browned and set to one side. Well, you didn't want flavourless meat-mush, did you? This took a few different experiments to get right, so I'm really hoping you'll enjoy it as much as we do, and no-one will ever know you cooked it in anything but an authentic manner!

Even less authentic serving suggestion - on top of 'courgetti' / 'zoodles'! Skinny-style. Heinous!

Secondly, you have choices here. Three to be precise, being (a) full-fat, (b) skinny and (c) with extra tomatoes added near the end to give a more tomato-y flavour, and simultaneously cut down the red meat you're eating, cut the calories, and stretch the dish out further (you'll end up with 2 litres of tasty pasta sauce - not bad for 500g mince!). It's far less complicated than it sounds, basically it boils down to: (a) choosing to make a full fat, authentic-tasting ragù, in which case you substitute full fat minced beef and pork (or veal), lubricate with olive oil to your tastes, and if you're using bacon or pancetta, just choose the full fat streaky variety, rather than the low fat options, and minimal oil I've given in the recipe. You don't need me to put those in as options, or calorie count them, because you're not counting! Just use the same weights. Or (b) you can follow the recipe recommendations for lower fat meat and measured oil, and you have a low fat ragù with all the authentic flavours and far fewer calories, that is incredibly tasty and guilt-free. Finally, (c) if the sauce is too 'meaty' for you, or you want to stretch it out to feed more people or have some chunks of tomato in it, you just add one or two tins of chopped tomatoes at the end and cook for a few extra minutes as per the method. This is also the lowest calorie option (from 154 calories).

So a fantastic family favourite, that can keep the healthy-eaters happy too!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Spiced Carrot Magic Bean Cake (includes Thermomix method)

Ohhh these magic bean cakes - they're so addictive...


Whether or not you're eating gluten free (and dairy free and grain free), this is just the most moist and delicious carrot cake! If you do eat gluten free, and you've ever bought any kind of gluten free carrot cake... you'll *know* how absolutely awful they are. Dry. Gritty. Tasteless. And just generally really appallingly bleeeeeuuurgh! (Which reminds me, I still haven't taken back the pack of GF carrot cake slices we bought a couple of weeks ago out of curiousity, and could not eat because they really were that bad... hence the inspiration to make my own. It was actually the first time in my whole life I've genuinely found a cake that bad I've considered taking it back to a shop...)


Anyway, I digress. This is definitely not bad carrot cake (although it might be naughty), it is goooood carrot cake! I made it for my son's birthday and he loved it! Now, I'm no Mary Berry, and so occasionally I may resort to unconventional techniques to get my cakes just as I want them. And I'm always open to tips from those more experienced than I am. But let's face it - who *is* Mary Berry? (Apart from Mary Berry of course, who you can always rely on for amazing recipes and elegant twinsets). Most of us go through life trying our best to avoid soggy bottoms and cracked tops and even more unspeakable things, and winging it along the way - and in my opinion, any tips to end up with a good cake, are good tips!

So here's my recipe for spiced carrot cake, a la magic bean cake. You can leave the nuts off the topping, and out of the cake if you want to avoid them (or substitute for a mixture of pine nuts / sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped, for a nutty texture), and you can use an orange drizzle icing in a lacy pattern over the top if you want to avoid dairy (see options). Plus, instead of making a tray bake cake, you could make this as muffins or fairy cakes / cupcakes, using an appropriate tin lined with cake cases.

Makes 24 portions. 140 calories per portion of carrot cake, plus 37 calories for light cream cheese topping with walnuts (see below), or 46 calories if using full fat cream cheese and walnuts; or an extra 29 calories per portion for orange drizzle icing.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Skinny Spaghetti Bolognese

Ragù alla bolognese is a versatile Italian classic, and here it's cooked with all of the authentic flavours but fewer calories...


This skinny but authentic-tasting version is from only 159 calories per serving for the extra skinny version of the sauce (ragù), which comes to 240 calories served with courgette /zucchini 'spaghetti' and grated parmesan (see below for more information on calories).

Probably one of the most well-known and loved Italian dishes, the ragù alla bolognese is possibly one of the first dishes many of us make once we leave home, in the form of spaghetti bolognese - which is actually a dish which originated outside of Italy! The Italians tend to serve their ragù (Italian for 'meat-based sauce') in the form of tagliatelli alla bolognese (with flat pasta), or in lasagne alla bolognese, as this kind of meat sauce does not stick well to spaghetti.

5:2 spaghetti bolognese

Back in the day, I imagine most of us when trying to cook our first masterpieces in the kitchen went through a phase where we probably threw onions, mince and a tin of tomatoes into a pan with a shake of mixed herbs, and came out with a tasty pasta sauce, which then evolved over the years. Once outside of Italy, the ragù seems to change quite drastically depending on which country it has 'emigrated' to. Believe it or not, adding bacon/pancetta and herbs is not so authentic, however it's a taste which so many of us are accustomed to, so I've put them in as options. Here is my healthier version of the traditional recipe, which is based on all the traditional ingredients (plus a couple of optional ingredients to satisfy modern tastebuds) for a very authentic flavour, including milk (which may come as a slight surprise to a few people, and certainly isn't something I included in my early days of cooking, but is very traditional) which has an amazingly tenderizing effect on the meat, so please do include it if you haven't previously - the difference is really noticeable!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Easy Homemade Kimchi (includes Thermomix method)

With just a few simple steps, you can have your first batch of kimchi ready in just a day or two, with a couple of large jars in the fridge for later...


If you're familiar with kimchi, you most probably know it as a spicy-sour, extremely tasty cabbage or radish dish, often eaten as a side dish, and also used as an ingredient in various Korean dishes.


If you're not that familiar, kimchi, also known as kimchee or gimchi is known as Korea's national dish and your average Korean consumes 40 pounds a year! It is mainly made with napa cabbage (also known as Chinese leaf  lettuce) and/or a large white Japanese radish known as daikon or mooli (or a few other things), brined or salted and then flavoured with other ingredients such as red pepper flakes, fish sauce and/or anchovy sauce, garlic, ginger and spring onions (scallions). It is frequently a hot and spicy dish where the ingredients are left to ferment (although not all varieties include red pepper / chilli).


There are many different recipes for kimchi, including other ingredients such as salted shrimp (available in jars), oysters and squid (brined seafood is more commonly found in Southern varieties) - this is a recipe for 'mak kimchi' inspired by Maangchi (do have a look at her website, there are some fantastic traditional Korean recipes, as well as lots of tips about kimchi too!), which is an easy cut cabbage version (rather than stuffing the sauce into cuts made in whole cabbages as in the autumnal baechu kimchi, although the sauce has the same flavours) which does not include any brined seafood, only fish sauce. If you've never made it before - don't worry, this is easy!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Deliciously Dark Chocolate Jaffa Cakes - Gluten, Dairy, Nut and Grain Free with Natural Orange Jelly (includes Thermomix method)

Think Jaffa cakes - but with a rich dark base instead of a light sponge, and an orange filling made from fresh orange juice and zest, topped with delicious dark chocolate...


These started out as a pleasant accident with coconut flour chocolate cookies (i.e. they turned out more like cakes than cookies!) - which I decided would be great as a base for dark chocolate Jaffa-style cakes, but with a natural orangey filling. I'd seen a handful of recipes for 'normal' sponge-based Jaffa-style cakes in the past (i.e. wheat flour, sugar and butter), but these all had a suggestion of using a packet of orange flavoured jelly melted with less water than usual - and to be honest, I never really liked the flavour of artificial tasting packet-jelly even as a child.

Gluten free jaffa cakes

So I plotted and I schemed, and I decided that reducing down some freshly squeezed orange juice, along with the grated zest would have a much nicer taste (and far fewer colourings and flavourings!) as the orange filling, and given that the chocolate 'cake' part was made with coconut oil rather than butter, putting dark chocolate on the top would keep it dairy free.

If you're not looking to make the GF DF variety, and just want normal cake bottoms, you could make plain or chocolate cake batter, and just put a tbsp or so in the bottom of muffin tins instead - or, you could make Jaffa muffins by using the orange and melted chocolate toppings on top of muffins - or even better, on top of chocolate Magic Bean Cake muffins, for a really delicious twist! See here for MBC recipe.

This recipe makes 16 dark chocolate Jaffa style cakes at 137 calories each (if you're counting) [calories in square brackets].

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Thai Crab Cakes or Fish Cakes with Sweet Chilli Sauce and Fresh Pickled Vegetable Relish - includes Thermomix method

One of my favourite Thai dishes, and so versatile - a dinner, a starter, a snack, a buffet dish...


Fish cakes are one of the iconic street food dishes of Thailand, and they're delicious dipped into a piquant sauce. I think my favourite thing about Thai fish cakes is the fact that there's no filler in there - no bread crumbs, or potato - they're just pure, delicious un-stodgy protein! Here I've given them a little twist, by replacing some of the raw fish with crab meat, and lightly pan frying them and finishing off for a few minutes in the oven rather than deep-frying them - but you're welcome to deep-fry them if you prefer... I think they're really good cooked this way though, and somewhat healthier.

Thai Crab Cakes


This recipe makes around 20 to 25 fish cakes, and serves four to five as a main course (there are four of us including two children, 10 and 11 with hearty appetites - I made twenty, and we had five left over) - obviously it would serve far more as a starter (divide the mix into 24, and you'll have three each to serve eight people), and would make a great warm buffet dish. The secret is not to overcook them - you want a nice, light, dare-I-say-it almost slightly 'bouncy' texture. They really are deliciously tasty - no wonder they are so popular! They even freeze well, either raw or cooked (I prefer to freeze them lightly cooked, for ease) - just defrost and re-heat or cook lightly.

If you're counting calories, then the calories per serving if divided between five people are as follows:
Fish Cakes - 142; Pickled Vegetable Relish - 50; Sweet Chilli Sauce - 48; Total calories - 240. (You can take off 30 if you leave out the peanuts, and add on 76 for a 200g portion of cauliflower rice, or 149 calories per serving for a portion of Thai Jasmine rice (45g uncooked). 50g mixed leaves is around 10 calories). [Calories in square brackets next to ingredients]


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