Friday, 28 February 2014

Cajun Chicken with Mango Salsa and Baby Leaves

This is one of my favourite stand-bys...

And this post is a little bit like putting a jigsaw together!

I posted my recipe for Cajun Spice / Seasoning Mix separately (although you can just use a pre-made Cajun Seasoning if you wish, such as Schwartz, widely available), as well as posting the Mango Salsa recipe separately too, because they're both so versatile and shouldn't be limited to one dish, or stuck together. Not because I'm lazy, honest! (It would have been less complicated to just do it all as one!).

Cajun-spiced Chicken with Mango Salsa and Baby Leaves

So here it is, all together, and its 210 calories per serving for spiced chicken, salsa and leaves. It's delicious served with rice/cauliflower rice, or oven-baked potato/sweet potato wedges, or even rolled up in a wrap with some half-fat sour cream or a dollop of greek yoghurt (or even mayo!). I have now perfected a cauliflower rice side (with coconut, lime and coriander) that I think will go really well with this, (and I can confirm that it does!) for which there is a link here. Now, to the chicken...

Mango, Red Pepper and Coriander Salsa

Fruity and Fresh, Zingy and Zesty...

This simple salsa with a kick is really versatile - I love it with either spicy or plain grilled, griddled or barbequed chicken, pork or fish - for me it's usually Cajun-spiced chicken, which is one of my staple go-to foods when I want something quick and tasty. It's not much to look at in a bowl on its own, but adds a splash of vibrant colour served alongside grilled meat or fish with a leafy salad and some coconut rice or home-baked potato wedges.

Oh, and if I'm in a rush, or I want to avoid making my eyes water later (you know, when you rub them after chopping up chillies), I sometimes like to throw in a teaspoon of my salted chillies instead of a fresh chilli, which gives a really interesting dimension to the salsa.

It will only take a couple of minutes to make, and you can eat it straight away, or the next day (if you don't add oil or salt, the coriander won't wilt particularly either, and the peppers and onions will stay crunchy, so it will still look and taste pretty fresh if you keep it in the fridge).

This quantity serves four as a small side, for 37 calories per person.

Cajun Spice / Seasoning Mix (includes Thermomix instructions)

Like it spicy and full of flavour?

Want to add a tasty kick the next time you grill, griddle or barbeque some chicken, pork or salmon, or indeed anything else you fancy? Fed up of paying over-the-odds for overly-salty pre-made spice mixes with added nasties?

Well, make it yourself then!

Cajun seasoning recipe

It will only take you a few minutes, and it's really easy! Makes around 32 servings, at 5 calories per teaspoon, and you can season with the salt element to suit you.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Cauliflower Cheese with Roasted Cauliflower and a Parmesan Crust

When it's good, it's very, very good...

If you're passionate about cauliflower, you'll find that tossing it in oil then roasting it intensifies and transforms the taste, giving a deep, nutty,  flavour. You could eat it on it's own like this, with a sprinkling of sea salt, or use it in other dishes, such as this cauliflower cheese dish. I think it's perfect for cauliflower cheese, because it means you avoid two heinous crimes against said dish, being either a watery sauce leaching out from soggy cauliflower (from the juices leaking out) or a stodgy lump you can pick up on your fork, from the dish cooking too long and all liquids evaporating. Yes, you know what I'm talking about! (Don't mention this to Grandma).

I have given you two versions, naughty and nice - one for the sinful amongst you, made with a traditional Béchamel and plenty of cheese, the other equally tasty, but with a lighter gluten-free version of a Béchamel sauce, both topped with a Parmesan cheese crumb. How much, if any, of the Parmesan crumb you choose to sprinkle on is up to you - you may just decide you prefer to have grated cheese on top. Or nothing extra. What you will get, though, is delicious cauliflower in a silky sauce. If you want to make it a little more punchy, add a spoonful of Dijon or English mustard to the sauce, and if you haven't got time to infuse the milk with the onion, you could cheat and add a little onion powder / granules instead.

Tea-Smoked Chicken, Mango and Asparagus Salad with a Toasted Sesame and Soy Dressing

A simple salad to throw together - you could use any cooked chicken, or tea-smoke your own!

Tired of eating the same old salads? Bored of bland, dry, chicken? Want something that is equally delightful as a light meal or an impressive starter if you make the smoked chicken yourself?

All you need to smoke the chicken yourself is a wok, some foil, and either wood-dust, or a tablespoon each of tea leaves, sugar and raw rice. And you can make it a day or two before-hand, and just slice and serve.

More about that here.

Otherwise, you could use char-grilled, barbequed, or roasted chicken breasts, or even the leftovers from Sunday lunch and you will still have a delicious salad to go.

Keep the dressing separate, and you have a delicious lunch to take to work with you (or even make for your nearest and dearest, ahhhh). Got your tastebuds tingling? And it's only 262 calories per portion, or 131 calories as a starter! Serves two as a main, four as a starter. Here's the recipe:

Tea-infused Wok-smoked Chicken Breasts

Smoking in a wok (or large pan) is surprisingly easy!

Inspired by the Sichuan method of smoking duck, and having used the tea/sugar/raw rice method of smoking with delicious results with my Tea-smoked Teriyaki Trout in an outdoor, lidded barbeque, I thought I'd have a go indoors, with poultry. Except...

I thought I'd have a go at infusing the tea into the chicken using brine first, to give it extra flavour and moistness and add a different kind of 'tea' dimension. As Earl Grey is one of my favourite teas, I used this and added some fresh orange and zest to the brine, to accentuate the bergamot flavour.

Which was good - really good! If you've never had a go at smoking your own food before, and don't want to invest in additional equipment of any kind, I'd highly recommend giving this a go (just remember to have your extractor fan on, and maybe open a window or two if your fan isn't that strong!). You don't have to brine the meat first, you can just smoke it plain if you'd prefer.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Tea-Smoked Teriyaki Trout (or Salmon)

Smoking, Brining and Photo-Editing

No, I'm not talking 20 Marlboro...

I'm itching to get my smoker fired up (it's an eco smoker, which is essentially a cardboard box with metal shelves in it, and a fantastic little smoker in the bottom that burns for up to 10 hours and cold-smokes your food). I love that thing - it paid for itself on the first use, by smoking a side of salmon that I got half price (£10), with a variety of cheeses, sea salt and garlic bulbs using up the spare space.And then there was the home-made pastrami, marinated in spiced brine, cold smoked, then cooked sous vide... but more on all that another time. As a distraction from trying to make some kind of cool title photo involving forks and food, I was thinking about smoking in the house, in a wok (or possibly even large pan), something easy to do at home, where you don't really need special equipment. I've tea-smoked fresh-caught mackerel and teriyaki-marinaded trout on a barbeque before (recipe below), with a mix of tea, sugar and raw rice on some foil on top of the glowing coals, lid down once the smoke is going, then within a short time, luscious, smoky fish...

I was thinking of tea-smoking some duck breasts I bought last week, but didn't get around to it. And I was still thinking about smoking something indoors (rather than outside) yesterday. And the day before. And today. So, I'm going to do it...

Friday, 21 February 2014

Lime and Advocaat Cheesecake

Now we're talking (dirty)...

Cheesecake has never been my favourite dessert - not least because there are far more bad cheesecakes than good. Claggy, flavourless, thick, white, grainy gunge on top of soggy, tasteless biscuits with some token sickly sweet fruit or syrup slopped or swirled on the top. No thanks, not for me. I'd rather cheese and biscuits than that (and I LOVE a good dessert).

So, I decided to make the kind of cheesecake that I'd like to order... the kind you wouldn't be disappointed with...

A biscuit base with a touch of spicy, gingery heat and chopped nuts making sure it's crunchy, not soggy.

A silky-smooth creamy filling, nicely set with citrus-y notes and laced with Advocaat liqueur.

An outrageously zingy, zesty topping - the perfect compliment to creamy and crunchy.

Mouth watering yet? Read on for the recipe...

Salt Cod Stew, with Chickpeas, Spinach and White Beans

So, having put up my Salted Chillies recipe, I was reminded of my Salt Cod Stew recipe which we had last night, re-heated from the freezer (which it does rather well!).

The best thing about this dish, is that you don't have to buy salt cod and soak it overnight - you can make this with fresh cod, using my easy method of salting and cooking it, which takes just over an hour and gives you tender, moist, subtly salty cod flakes!

It also makes enough for six to eight people (or many more if serving as a selection of tapa), stretching an expensive fish a long way, and... freezes well!

So, why not have a go?

Potaje de Garbanzos, Judías Blancas, Bacalao y Espinacas
(Chickpea, White Bean, Salt Cod and Spinach Stew)

Serves six as a hearty meal, eight as a lighter meal, and probably a good dozen as tapas! Freezes well, so you can portion it up for future meals in small bags.  347 calories per serving between six (261 calories between eight, 174 between twelve).

Don’t be put off by the idea of salt cod – it’s really easy to make the equivalent to de-salted salt cod (Bacalao), with just an hour’s salting, and 30 minutes soaking and it’s delicious! Use any combination of chick peas, butter beans and white beans you fancy, as long as they add up to around 850g cooked weight.

Salt Cod - how to quickly make your own 'Bacalao' (Spanish salt cod)

Although you can buy (dried) salted fish in the UK it's more likely to be the kind you'd use in Jamaican cooking. A lot of people can find salted fish of this variety a little, well... too salty, and not be overly fond of the texture.

It's certainly not the kind of salted fish you'd want to use in Spanish cooking.

This however, is a fantastic substitute for 'Bacalao', tender and moist with just the right levels of salt - and you don't have to 'de-salt' it overnight to use it, and can prepare it from fresh to finished in under two hours, cooked and ready to eat or use in recipes. Delicious in my Chickpea, White Bean, Salt Cod and Spinach Stew.

Just two ingredients are needed - cod fillets (preferably with skin on) and enough coarse sea salt to evenly cover the flesh. 500g of fresh cod will give you the equivalent of 250-285g de-salted, soaked Bacalao (salt cod).

Place the cod fillets in a single layer, skin side down, on a plate or dish which will catch liquids that are released from the cod when it is salted. Sprinkle reasonably generously (as in photo) with coarse sea salt (don’t use fine salt, or it will be too salty) and leave for an hour (no longer). By this time, the cod will have released some liquid and absorbed some of the salt flavour. Rinse off all of the salt, then place in a large container with plenty of cold water for 30 to 45 minutes, changing the water twice (after 10-15 minutes, then again). Remove, pat dry and it is ready to cook.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, turn the heat right down to low, and add the salted cod to the water for 5 or 6 minutes, until only just cooked, then remove and put on a plate for a couple of minutes, until cool enough to handle. Use your hands to gently break the cod into large flakes, discarding the skin (and any bones you find), then gently stir into your dish, trying not to break up the flakes too much if for example, it's a stew, or incorporate more firmly into Spanish style fish cakes, before cooking.

Alternatively, you could cook for a few seconds longer, and serve whole with something like my Chilindron sauce (a spanish garnish of onions, peppers and tomatoes, popular served with chicken and fish dishes).

Salted Chillies

This has to be one of the simplest preserves imaginable.
Just two ingredients - salt and chopped up chillies. Mix them together and sprinkle a little more salt on top, that's IT!

They need to sit in a cool place for a couple of weeks, and then they're ready. Just keep them in the fridge once you've opened them and they'll last for months. They're incredibly versatile, and traditional in (Hunanese) Chinese cooking (so there will be some recipes here which call for them). You can use them as a seasoning, to just stir into something when you fancy a kick, or if you're cooking something which calls for fresh red chillies and you haven't got any in, they're a great standby. They're also a traditional condiment for certain oriental dishes. So, what are you waiting for?

Chocolate Heaven...

...since (about) half past seven.

A little bit of a bastardisation of a certain Very Famous Chocolate Manufacturer's catchphrase there, which doesn't do these particular chocolates justice, because their quality far surpasses the clunky, mediocre fayre peddled by the masters of mass production. Not that I don't eat them sometimes, but they're infinitely disappointing compared to the 'real thing'.

By 'real thing', I mean artisan chocolates crafted with love - hand-made using carefully selected high quality chocolate and ingredients, where the balance of flavours has been perfected. I wish I had the words to describe what the perfect chocolate to me is, but I struggle to vocalise it without descending into rapturous eulogising, which may sound somewhat overly sensual (not least because I'm drooling at the thought of it). Besides which, it would be impossible to describe the perfect chocolate, because I haven't tasted them all...

I used to be a member of a certain chocolate tasting club, where you'd get sent a box each month, of a carefully chosen collection of brand new, experimental chocolates by various different master chocolatiers from across the globe. You never knew what you were going to get, just that it was going to be good and have things in it that you'd never tasted before. Some of them would blow your mind, and others would, well, mess with it. Not always in a good way, but it would always be exciting trying new flavours that were exclusive to the tasting club.

It's been a while since I've eaten chocolates like that - the occasional food festival/show there might be a few stands of people selling handmade chocolates, some of which are really good, but that happens only a few times a year.

So, I expect those of you for whom chocolate is akin to a religion are dying to know just what transported me to chocolate heaven for an evening - which chocolates? Who made them? Where can you get some too? Read on, and I will divulge all...

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sea Bass in a Spanish Cider Sauce

Theme of the day today, seems to be Spanish, so here's another delightful fish dish you might not have tried before. You don't have to use sea bass - hake, bream, cod, haddock, monkfish or your favourite fish will all go delightfully with this subtle cider and tomato sauce, which compliments white fish beautifully.

Lubina a la Sidra
(Sea bass in a cider sauce)

A delicious way to serve sea bass (or your favourite fish – don't forget to adjust cooking times accordingly), shown served with roasted vegetables with oregano (73 calories per serving) and roasted new potatoes (110 calories per serving).

Serves two, 258 calories per serving for the sea bass and cider sauce.  331 calories if served with the roasted vegetables, and 441 if you have the potatoes as well.

You can serve any white fish you like with this, grilled, oven-baked or even steamed (just remember to weigh it and adjust the calories as appropriate).

Zarangollo - Courgettes (Zucchini) slowly cooked with Onions and Oregano, and optional Eggs

Immensely popular in Spain, you'll find it served at many a tapas bar as an appetiser. It's delightful with eggs stirred in at the end, to lightly scramble them and make it into a dish in itself, or without the eggs as a side dish to accompany other dishes, or as part of a selection of tapa (with or without eggs).


Serves two as tapas (or a light accompaniment to a fish dish without the eggs), or one as something light to eat. Easily doubled.

With eggs (recommended): 168 calories per serving between two as a tapas dish (335 calories as a light dish for one).

Without eggs (more of a side dish than a meal): 80 calories per serving between two (159 calories as a very light dish for one).

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Another popular Spanish side dish...

And a great quick dish to rustle up from the freezer and storecupboard, if you haven't got fresh spinach to had, lovely with fish dishes (such as my cod with romesco sauce, or sea bass with cider and tomato sauce), or as a selection of mixed or vegetarian tapa. I've included a microwave cheat for when you need to throw something together last minute to impress - slug in extra oil for authenticity if you're feeling extravagant, and double up the ingredients if you want a good portion for yourself - don't be shy now!

Espinacas con Pasas y Piñones
(Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts)

Serves two as a side dish or tapa, easily doubled. 87 calories per serving if made with frozen spinach, 100 calories per serving if made with fresh spinach.

Roasted Vegetables with an Oregano, Sherry Vinegar and Olive Oil Dressing

Just a quickie...

A very simple side dish which is delicious alongside fish or poultry, or as one of a number of tapa. I've used onions, peppers and courgettes here, you could put in whichever are your favourite vegetables, such as mushrooms, fennel wedges, aubergine etc. and add whole garlic cloves if you like, squeezing out the soft, caramelised insides after they're roasted. You could even chop them up smaller, then stir through some cous cous soaked in vegetable stock with chopped olives, and crumble some feta cheese over it to make it into a meal...

Mediterranean vegetables roasted in a sherry vinegar, olive oil and oregano dressing. Great as a side dish with fish, chicken or pork, or as part of a selection of tapas dishes. 

Serves two as a side dish or tapa, easily doubled. 73 calories per serving. A lovely accompinament to my cod with Romesco sauce, or sea bass with a Spanish cider and tomato sauce.
[Calories in square brackets next to ingredients]

Cod with Romesco Sauce

Romesco Sauce is delicious with many different things...

...and the great news is, if you haven't yet had the fortune to try it, it's extremely simple to make - you just grill and blitz!

I've included it in a recipe with cod here, but it's delicious with any white fish (especially seabass, bream or monkfish) as well as with chicken or even roasted vegetables. You can even make it ahead and warm through, if you prefer. It's also a nice crowd-please if you've got people over for dinner - in fact, all of this is good to entertain, as it's generally well-recieved, quick to put together at the end, and you can prepare your vegetables, potatoes etc. ahead, prior to cooking them (the vegetables can even be cooked ahead and re-heated, if cooking roasted vegetables such as my roasted vegetables with oregano, and if serving with my Catalonian spinach with raisins and pine nuts, that only takes minutes to make).

If someone has a nut allergy, you can thicken the sauce with fried bread instead of nuts (the Spanish did it both ways, depending on their access to almonds!), you can use hazelnuts instead of almonds, or a combination of the two, and you can use additional olive oil to thin the sauce out a little, if you wish.

Bacalao en Salsa Romesco
(Cod with a Roasted Tomato, Garlic and Almond sauce)

A delicious way to serve cod, shown served with spinach with raisins and pine nuts (87 calories per serving) and roasted new potatoes (110 calories per serving).

Serves two (with an extra portion of sauce leftover if you don’t eat it!) only 225 calories per serving for the cod and Romesco sauce. 332 calories if served with the potatoes and spinach dish as shown.

Stuffed Aubergines (Eggplants) with Moorish Spices and Manchego Cheese

This is actually a form of distraction from chocolate...

Not this dish, per se, but posting it here. Which is passing some of the time before I can rescue my box of Troffel Chocolates from their hiding place after the children have gone to bed. More on that later, as you want to know how to cook delicious stuffed aubergines, not how to eat chocolate truffles!

Aubergines get a bad press sometimes, because they are guilty of being the type of vegetable which can soak up a lot of oil if you let them. Not that all oils are bad, but certain things are best in moderation.

That's not a problem with this Spanish dish, because the aubergines are partially steamed first, to tenderise them before finishing off the cooking process.

Steaming aubergines can give meltingly tender results, when you cook them all the way through, and I have a couple in the fridge waiting to be experimented upon to see whether I can do this to make 'fish fragrant' aubergines, a popular Sichuan dish. But I digress, you're after these juicy-looking cheese topped aubergines, so here is my stuffed aubergines recipe...

Berenjenas Rellenas de Carne (Aubergines stuffed with meat)

Serves four as a main meal with side dishes (or use really small aubergines to serve this dish as tapas), 244 calories per serving as a main.

Aubergines are popular in the Balearic Islands, and in this dish they are steamed in a pan with a little water before being stuffed, which means that unlike in many aubergine dishes, they do not soak up oil like sponges, and the flesh and the skin come out meltingly tender. However eating stuffed aubergines with cheese on the top feels incredibly decadent, and you’d never believe they were under 250 calories, when you taste them!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Hokkaido Salmon Hotpot (Ishikari Nabe)

If you're wary of trying Japanese food, this could be for you. A really homely, comforting hotpot, with mild and delicate flavours, from the island of Hokkaido. Feel free to substitute other vegetables in it, or add tofu for extra protein.

And if you cook this and like it, you'll have the miso paste, you'll have the dashi stock (or you can make my simple dashi stock substitute)... so there's no reason not to have a go at the other Japanese soups below - trust me, if you like this, you'll love them too!

Hokkaido Salmon Hotpot (Ishikari Nabe)

This is a lovely, hearty, comforting soup/hotpot originating from the island of Hokkaido. It has a mild and delicate flavour, so if you’re unaccustomed to Japanese food, it’s a great place to start. Feel free to substitute vegetables, or add extra vegetables (such as mushrooms, squash, broccoli etc.) and if you want to up the protein content, you could also add 150g cubed tofu  (add 57 calories per serving).

If you want to make it into a meal, add 2 servings of shirataki (magic/zero) noodles – rinsed, snipped up and added to the soup for 2 minutes (an extra 4 calories each), or on a non-fasting day serve with a bowl of rice or add cubed potatoes to the soup, or ladle over a bowl with your favourite cooked noodles in it.

Serves two (easily doubled), 241 calories per serving

Shiitake Mushroom and Egg Soup

Another delicious soup using dashi stock (or dashi stock substitute!). A nice hit of protein from the egg, and the lovely hit of umami from the shiitake and dashi, this is a fantastic low calorie soup, quick to make, and also a nice starter or side dish for a Japanese meal or sushi.

Shiitake Mushroom and Egg Soup

Serves two, 93 calories per serving.

A great fast day soup, which also goes well with sushi, and simple dishes due to its delicate flavour. If you wanted to bulk it out, you could add extra sliced mushrooms, for 16 calories per 100g

Aubergine, Pork and Ginger Miso Soup

Another light soup. If you like miso soup, then here's a tasty variation. It doesn't require much introduction, as there's not much too it - it's just a light variant on miso soup.

                      Aubergine, Pork and Ginger Miso Soup

Serves 4, easily halved. 72 calories per serving. A tasty, light broth ideal for fast days, as a light starter, or an accompaniment to simple Japanese dishes or sushi. If you fancy a bit of a kick, just give it a shake of Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese 7 pepper spice mix) after you’ve served it, and if you want to bulk it out, add some rinsed, snipped up Shirataki (Zero/Miracle) noodles for the last two minutes.

Miso Soup

There's no question about this. Miso soup was one of the discoveries of last year for us. Something so simple, and yet so pleasurable. And versatile too.

I'm not going to pretend that everyone will like miso soup, because if you're Western, these ingredients are going to be pretty alien to you! Dried, fermented smoked tuna, seaweed, fermented soy beans, and that 'tofu stuff'? What is that all about? OK, there's spring onion in there, you'll know that one, but the rest... well, keep an open mind, because you might just decide it's rather delicious. So don't let that put you off! (And you can always make my dashi stock substitute as a base, which doesn't contain fermented tuna or seaweed - and the vegetarian version of dashi stock has dried shiitake mushrooms in it).

It's also incredibly healthy. Miso (paste) is a bit like the mythical 'apple a day'. It's very good for you. And very tasty too - if I say it's a bit like marmite, it's not because you'll necessarily love it or hate it, but it's full on umami flavour which gives a real depth to dishes. There are various different coloured miso pastes - the lighter, the milder and sweeter; the darker the more savoury and stronger. With miso soup, it's somewhat down to personal taste. I'd recommend a medium/red miso paste. Something between the colour of a cheap milk chocolate, and David Dickinson's mahogany tan (red miso). If you're trying to avoid gluten or soy, there's a little information here which might help you in what you select to cook with, and/or Clearspring make organic (white) miso which is gluten free - see here.

So here's my basic miso soup recipe (with tofu and wakame in it). I also like to add mushrooms to this, in fact, you can add in any vegetables. If you don't fancy wakame (give it a go first, it's amazing stuff! Plus it's amazing in this Wakame and Shaved Vegetable Salad in a Soy-Ginger Dressing with Toasted Seeds, too!) then wilt some spinach into it, instead. Oh, and if you like your spice, shake some 'Shichimi Togarashi' over the top, a Japanese spicy seasoning containing chilli and sesame seeds amongst other things. But beware, it likes to lurk at the bottom of your soup, waiting to burn your throat on the last mouthful!

                                              Miso Soup

Serves two, 79 calories per portion (with home made dashi stock)

Crab, Spinach and Japanese Mushroom Ohitashi

"What's an ohitashi?", I hear you cry (in my head, where else?)!

Well, gather round, and I will tell you. In just one sentence! It's a Japanese dish, consisting of a broth (e.g. dashi stock) containing seasonal ingredients, usually green-leafed vegetables. We don't really have a word or equivalent for it - it's that infamous soup/salad hybrid I spoke of in my welcome - but for most people this probably counts as a soup.

I'm quite proud of my version. I'm a creative soul, and spend far too much time making all kinds of pretties, and thinking of things to do with food to make it look even more appetising, and this is what I did to poor old ohitashi. Don't worry, the ingredients are authentic, but I don't think they're usually constructed within a food ring, with the broth and mushrooms poured around it... but... look how pretty it is, I love how you can see the little assortment of mushrooms, laying in the transluscent broth... but anyway, I digress. The recipe...

Crab, Spinach and Japanese Mushroom Ohitashi

Serves two, 111 calories per serving.

Ohitashi is a kind of seasonal broth incorporating salad-like ingredients, which we don’t have a Western equivalent to. It is served anywhere between warm in winter and chilled in the summer, when the ingredients are almost like having a spinach salad in a broth.  You could choose to serve it hot, which is also delicious, as lukewarm soup is not to everyone’s taste! I must admit, I serve the broth and spinach hot, with the crab meat at room temperature on top of the spinach, then when you stir it all together it is nice and hot all the way through.

Vegetarians could substitute diced tofu for the crabmeat, with an extra splash of soy sauce to season it.

For the Thermomix recipe and method, go here.

Dashi Stock, and Dashi Stock Substitutes (includes soup suggestions)

In the beginning...

So, when I first started my recipe group, for recipes from around the world, I was all excited, and me (being me) dived in head first, using the kinds of ingredients I'd already gathered from my culinary travels (and orders from amazon) - you know, the kinds of things you buy and stuff into your kitchen cupboards (I really should check on the weight bearing loads of mine now, it's getting a bit scary - only last week a triple-width shelf collapsed), on top of which it was a great excuse to nip down to my nearest (and rather excellent) oriental shop, given that I'd decided to start in Japan. Well - why not? Fresh, healthy tastes, a little bit different, vegan and vegetarian options, as well as wheat and dairy free food... nothing too complicated in terms of the dishes I was going to present, and their health and obesity rates as a nation are exemplary - what was not to love!

Except of course, not everyone is going to be convinced by the idea of purchasing bonito flakes (Katsuobushi - dried, fermented, skipjack tuna), of which I had an enormous bag still half full left, about to go out of date, as they're not exactly cheap, or kombu (kelp seaweed).

I revisited this a few months later (having already posted several recipes using dashi stock), during the winter months, when soup started getting popular again, and I posted a couple more. This time, I included the option of using dashi/bonito stock/powder, although this wasn't perfect, as often it contains MSG which some people are not keen to consume (and you'd need to check the ingredients if you were cooking gluten free). So in addition to this, I concocted a dashi stock substitute. Not a like-for-like substitute, but something which could be used instead, made from more readily available ingredients, and a sympathetic and more accessible base to use to make Japanese soups, such as my miso soup, and crab, spinach and mushroom ohitashi recipes (perennial favourites here, especially the miso soup with tofu and wakame).

Anyhow, the point of this post is dashi stock, and dashi stock substitutes, in all their forms, so here they are, for if/when you cook one of my Japanese recipes where it's needed (the soups are highly recommended for quick and tasty filling dishes - and even if I do say so myself, the original way I present my ohitashi [yep, the one in the photo, I'm a lil' bit proud of it!] is a fabulous starter for a dinner party idea - let your guests de-construct it in their bowls and enjoy at their leisure).

N.B. This blog seems to be getting a lot of regular traffic - I'm intrigued as to where from as it's been going on for a while, so if you've found this, or cooked this, I'd really love it if you made a comment below to help me solve the mystery and let me know how you found the dashi stock if you made it! Thank you :)

So here you go, dashi stock, every which way but loose (see below for fantastic recipes which use dashi stock):

Smoked Trout and Celeriac Remoulade with a Twist

Hot off the press!

While I'm busy trying to add the huge backlog of recipes I have, here's one I've just written up... whilst wandering around trying to decide what to have for dinner while the rest of my clan had decided on home-made burgers, I spotted some cold-smoked trout fillets, so decided to have them grilled with some celeriac remoulade. I added a little ground fennel seed to the celeriac, to complement the aniseed notes, and served it simply with some green leaves, for a quick and tasty treat.

You could just use some ready-to-eat hot-smoked trout, as you don't often find it cold-smoked, or use some lightly smoked salmon fillets if you see them. Or even some sliced smoked salmon (obviously, I doubt you'd want to grill that!). If you're feeling adventurous, you can buy fresh trout or salmon and give it a quick smoke yourself (see notes). If you're not counting calories, drizzle the leaves with some good extra virgin olive oil, and add mayonnaise to the celeriac to your taste - home-made is best, of course, but use your favourite if your wrist is feeling too tired to make your own...

Smoked Trout with a Lemony Celeriac Remoulade

Simple but delicious, choose which mayonnaise you use to determine how many calories are in your meal, if you're counting.

Serves 4, easily halved. Calories per serving: 217 if using extra light mayonnaise; if you use light mayonnaise it will be 259 calories per portion; and 339 calories per portion if using full fat mayonnaise – all within range, go for your personal preference!

Beef in Black Bean Sauce

Where else to start, but at the beginning?

One of the first 'proper' Chinese dishes I made, I remember watching Ken Hom make beef in black bean sauce on the television, and furiously scribbling a recipe into the back of some tragic early 90s microwave so I could have a go myself (at some point where I could afford to buy steak). Ah, halcyon days...

Twenty years later, I'm perfecting my own version, using authentic ingredients with a little less oil. So this is it, and the two most important things I'd say in order to get the best out of this dish are the beef, and a good non-stick wok. You want the beef pretty much half-frozen in order to be able to slice it into really thin, uniform slices, and then a good non-stick pan to be able to fry it quickly and evenly in a small amount of oil without it sticking.

This is still one of my favourite dishes, and I highly recommend sourcing some salted, fermented black beans (oriental shops sell them, they're cheap, and they last for aaages - the ones which have ginger in too are fine - just pick out the odd slice of dried ginger before using) to make your own sauce, they're delicious and very versatile.

Beef in black bean sauce

A really tasty, popular dish – versatile too, as you can substitute chicken, king prawns, tofu, mushrooms or whatever you fancy if you don't want to use beef (see note below for changing it around to suit you)!

Want to save money on expensive cuts of steak, and make this using your pressure cooker? My pressure cooker recipe is here.

Serves two,  329 calories per portion (365 if using Amoy stir fry black bean sauce). Easily doubled, and everyone else will love it too on a non-fast day.

Mushroom stroganoff (Mushrooms à la Stroganov)

Are you sitting comfortably?

Well, here it is, my first foray into the world of blogging... Hello reader, and welcome to my blog, which (I hope) is going to be full of all things food-related, mostly recipes, mostly healthy, and hopefully, wholly delicious!

So, I shall start as I mean to go on, with a recipe. A very healthy, low calorie recipe, which has proved very popular in my recipe group, and other groups I've posted it in - not one person yet has disliked it (that I know of!) - and as well as being low calorie (and of course, delicious), it's also very easy to make, and you can tweak it to suit you.

My style of writing up recipes includes calorie counts for each ingredient, (which I source from the most accurate place I can, often comparing different suppliers nutritional information, rather than using one of the databases compiled by various different users available on the internet, which I have found to be highly innacurate) so that you, the potential user can chop and change as you wish, and amend the calorie counts. That's if you count calories. If you just want some healthy, tasty food then you can ignore all the numbers, throw in a knob of butter, or splash of cream if you want to dirty it up, and enjoy!

Without further ado, here is my recipe for...

Mushrooms à la Stroganov

Mushroom stroganoff

A very tasty, incredibly low calorie meal, packed full of flavour which tastes much more creamy and indulgent than it really is! I use full fat Greek yoghurt to make mine to cut the calories but keep the flavour, and with a generous serving of cauliflower rice it comes to a mere 242 calories for a large and filling dish full of tasty food! Disclaimer - please note, the above photo of it is a single serving in a bijoux little mini-pot - not 2 litres of the stuff with enormous mushrooms and giant parsley! ;)

Edit - for the Thermomix version of this recipe, go here.

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