Monday, 31 March 2014

Courgette (Zucchini) Ribbon, Goats' Cheese and Petis Pois Tortilla with Fresh Herbs

Inspired by the lighter Andalusian version of the traditional Spanish Tortilla

...which uses courgettes (zucchini) instead of potatoes, I made this version using blanched courgette ribbons, rather than fried courgette slices, complimented by soft  and salty goats cheese, contrasting sweet bursts of flavour from petit pois and highlighted with the flavour of fresh herbs, with a base of lightly caramelised spring onions.

Not only is it delicious, it's light on the calorie and carb front too, without potatoes. Lovely served with some small tomatoes on the vine, roasted for 10-12 minutes in a medium oven, and a green leafy salad with a drizzle of balsamic or lemon juice and olive oil.

The tortilla serves 4-6, depending on appetite, at 157 calories per serving (between six), or 235 calories each between four. [Calories in square brackets, if you're counting!]

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Soy, Ginger and Sake Marinated Tofu Steaks

Give tofu a try, with this flavour-packed recipe... ramp up the spice with a good shake of schichimi togarashi!

If you've never tried tofu, or you have tried it but been left unimpressed by its delicate flavour and texture, this is a great recipe to showcase it's versatility and lend it flavour and texture from a umami-rich marinade, with zing from the ginger, and nuttiness from the toasted sesame oil, together with texture from being browned in a pan and crunchy spring onions.

Serves 3, 142 calories per serving.

Serve it with your choice of rice or noodles, together with something like pak choi, wilted with garlic and light soy sauce in a pan and finished with a drizzle of sesame oil, or with my delicious wakame and shaved vegetable salad with a ginger soy dressing and toasted seeds (pictured). [Calories in square brackets, if you're counting].

Wakame and Shaved Vegetable Salad in a Soy-Ginger Dressing with Toasted Seeds

Now that the sun is starting to coyly tease us with its presence, it's time to think about some exciting new salads for refreshing accompaniments or meals on warmer days!

But... seaweed? Really? Yes!!!  This tastes amazing!

Serves 4 (possibly a couple more as a side dish). For the whole salad for 4 people: 747 calories with avocado, 471 without. Per serving: 187 calories with avocado, 118 without.

Go on, step away from the iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes, and push the boat out. Believe it or not, the whole family loved this, including my two children (aged 9 and 11). It's healthy, tasty and packed with different textures and flavours - and if you invest in some dried wakame a little goes a very long way (see below!) and it's great in things like miso soup too (my miso soup recipe is here). Makes a great side dish to all kinds of Japanese/oriental-flavoured marinated, grilled, griddled or barbequed meat, poultry, fish or tofu etc. (think teryaki, yakitori etc.), with a side of rice or noodles.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Tart with Black Raspberry Liqueur

This is my go-to dessert when I *really* want to impress...

There's just something about the combination of fresh, tart raspberries offset against the richness of white chocolate and a hint of sourness from creme fraiche, with a crispy dark chocolate pastry encasing it...

Painting the cooled pastry case with a thin layer of dark chocolate means you're not going to get the dreaded 'soggy bottom', and keeps in all the lovely, juicy raspberry filling. It might look a little scary, but trust me - baking is definitely my weak point, and so this one is pretty foolproof and nowhere near as difficult as you might think!

So, now you just need an excuse to make one... right?

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Spicy Blackened Fish Tacos

So, it turns out 'Fish Tacos' were almost my nemesis!

Here we go, the saga of the fish taco, and other things. You can scroll past my bletherings to the recipe at the bottom, which I highly recommend now I'm happy with it!

This serves four people, calories per serving are as follows:

For the blackened salmon - 192 calories
2 'mini' flour tortillas - 174*
1 regular corn tortilla - 123*
Coriander (cilantro) and lime 'crema' - 21
Onions - 6
Roasted tomato, chipotle and jalapeno salsa - 33
Optional chayote/courgette (I've made it with both, and both are delicious in this!) salsa/slaw - 18

Total calories per serving: with one regular corn tortilla - 393 calories; with two 'mini' flour tortillas (as pictured) - 444 calories

*Different brands of tortillas will have different calorific values, which is why I've separated all of the different components of this dish, so you can work out the overall value of your meal if your tortillas are different to the ones I use.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Chilli Con Carne - for EVERYONE! (Includes vegetarian alternative)

A 'good' Chilli is probably something most of us have been cooking for years, without even looking at a recipe book...

I know I have - probably for the best part of two decades. You know the routine - the Anglo-Texan version, anyway. Fry up chopped garlic and onions (maybe even some chopped up peppers), brown mince (unless you're cooking it vegetarian style - see notes), add ground cumin, paprika and chilli powder (maybe a few other herbs and spices), add tinned tomatoes and cook until it seems like you think chilli con carne should be, throw in a tin of kidney beans, season and serve. Maybe with a whole load of grated cheese on top and/or sour cream (or similar).

Well, I thought it was high time to take this recipe out, give it a dust down and a shake up - a bit of research, and a re-vamp - packing it full of flavour, instead of a tired, student-style stand-by! This amount serves five main portions, at 315 calories each (218 if using Quorn mince, see notes**) for the chilli con carne; plus 18/29 calories per person for fat free/regular Greek yoghurt and fresh coriander topping AND still comes in at under 500 calories quite happily with cauliflower rice, tacos, tortillas, and even grain rice, as per my serving suggestions!

Browning Minced (Ground) Meat - how to get maximum flavour

I thought this would be a valuable mini-post, for those who like to pack in as much flavour as possible to their dishes!

See below for how to get the most out of your mince, when browning it.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Chocolate Pecan Fudge and Cocoa Dusted Truffles

Not quite what you might be expecting...

But if you've never tried anything like this, you may find yourself very pleasantly surprised!

No heating or cooking involved, just combining some raw and natural ingredients to give a delicious and rich result that can make a healthier adult alternative to traditional fudge or truffles, or a tasty treat for the kids! I'm a complete chocoholic, and I could (and may!) happily by-pass conventional chocolate for the cocoa dusted chocolate pecan truffles - I won't be buying any chocolate this week, that's for sure!! And these turned out so well, I can see me experimenting with a few different flavours too...

All you need to make them, is a decent food processor or blender and a tray or dish to put the mix in to chill. (I made mine in my beloved Thermomix and have included speed/timing instructions for Thermomix owners in brackets).

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Chayote and Lime Salsa or Slaw

A quick and easy recipe for a salsa or a slaw, depending on how you cut the ingredients!

Great with fish or chicken - especially if it's spicy, or in Mexican style wraps or tacos.

And a great way to have a go at using a new ingredient you might not have tried before - more about the chayote/mirliton/choko/christophene here!

Serves four in wraps as a topping (e.g. 8 regular-sized tortillas) for 18 calories per serving; or two as a side for 36 calories per serving.

Roasted Tomato Salsa with Chipotle and Jalapeño Chillies

Don't be afraid of the chipotle or jalapeño chillies - there are easily sourced ingredients or substitutes, and it's not too hot a salsa, honest!

This is a healthy salsa I put together to go with some fish tacos - it would also be great with either fish (such as sea bass, cod or tuna) or grilled chicken, in a wrap, as a dip, or even in a sandwich with some cream cheese!

Serves four to eight, 24 to 49 calories per portion (depending on whether between four or eight). We made it for four people (to go inside eight tacos) and had half leftover when we'd finished.

Spicy Mirliton and Shrimp Soup

So, I bought these 'chayotes' a week ago, and had never cooked or eaten one before...

Turns out I've been missing out! They're very versatile, and can be eaten raw (they have a taste a little like a combination of raw courgette and melon, and a crisp texture a bit like an asian pear - more here in my blog about chayotes) or cooked, and they're low in calories too (only 19 calories per 100g).

So anyway, moving on from the ingredients, to the soup - this is a delicious, spicy Louisiana soup which tastes far more indulgent than it really is - blending half of the chayotes after cooking (but before adding the shrimp/prawns) gives it a nice rich thickness, a bit like when you blend potato into a soup. This gives you a nice hearty portion too, which is delicious on its own!

Serves two, 134 calories per serving (including maximum amounts of all ingredients).

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Unusual Ingredients - Chayote / Mirliton / Choko

Ever seen a strange-looking vegetable for sale, and wondered what it tastes like and what you do with it?

For example, one of these funny-looking fellows?

It's known by many different names, probably chayote if you find one in the UK, chayote squash, mirliton or vegetable pear in the USA, and christophene in France... as well as various other names throughout the world, including cho-cho, choku, labu siam. It's probably a bit of a mystery to a lot of people in the UK, which is the best reason for providing a recipe to use it in!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Chicken Creole

A spicy Louisiana dish with traditional flavours from the Deep South

Having been set the challenge of coming up with some healthy, yet authentic-tasting versions of dishes from the USA, this is where I'm starting - because you can't go far wrong with chicken, onions, peppers and tomatoes as a base, and a bit of a kick!

Traditionally, this would be made with chicken portions (with skin on), but to cut the calories, I've used skinless chicken breasts (or half-breasts, as those from the USA would call them!) and cut down the oil and butter in the sauce. And you know what... I doubt you'd even be able to tell the sauce was lower fat, because it has all the flavour!

This serves four, at 203 calories per portion and is simple to make, and a great family meal.

Bengali-Style Salmon with Steamed Vegetables and a Spicy Yoghurt Sauce

A delicious and healthy way to cook salmon, packed with flavours

I've made this many times over the years, since I first discovered it - it's such a great way to cook salmon and keep it moist.

It has evolved a little over time, with technology and to my tastes, so I now cook it in my Thermomix as an all-in-one meal with vegetables and rice or cauliflower rice to boot, but you can steam it conventionally together with the vegetables, or bake it in the oven in parcels - whichever is your preference! (I'll include instructions to cover all bases, of course!).

If you're counting calories, they are as follows per portion:

Bengali salmon - 286 calories
Steamed green vegetables - 32 calories
Cauliflower rice - 76 calories
Total - 394 calories

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Octopus, Chorizo and Red Peppers, with Cauliflower Two Ways

Also delightful with scallops, or fresh squid rings...

Finally, I've pulled together the blog for this relatively simple to make, but delicious dish, after three other blogs which were necessary for the components (honest, it is simple and quick once you've cooked the octopus)!

Slow-braised octopus is tossed in a pan with crispy chorizo and red peppers, and served with a silky-smooth, garlicky cauliflower puree, which contrasts with a scattering of sautéed mini-cauliflower florets, cumin and almond crunch.

Serves two as a light lunch, or generous starter, easily doubled.  351 calories per serving.

Octopus - preparation and slow-cooking for use in salads, sautées, on the barbecue and other dishes

Some tips on preparing and cooking octopus:

Firstly, you can use the old fashioned / traditional method of flinging it against a rock to tenderise it, or beating it lightly with a meat mallet (remove insides first!), or (if you've bought it fresh, rather than pre-frozen) you can just clean it up, preferably remove the insides first, then freeze for at least 48 hours up to a week (obviously it will keep in the freezer for much longer than this, until you wish to use it) to tenderise it.

Silky-Smooth Cauliflower Purée

Thought purées were for babies?

Then this could change your mind. It's silky smooth texture has a very pleasant mouth-feel, and the flavour is delicate and creamy. You could get all 'chef-y' and put a generous swirl, or a swoosh of cauliflower purée across a plate (maybe even with a scattering of my crunchy Sauteed Cauliflower with Cumin and Almonds for a contrast of textures).

This is delicious with the above (Octopus with Peppers and Chorizo) with added garlic, and also makes a delicious change in a little curved deep swipe on the side of your sunday lunch, with a little of the gravy/jus creeping into the groove and a few peas scattered over it, or with a starter of plump, juicy scallops as a base for each scallop, with either some crisp pancetta, or diced crispy chorizo, or even a few small slices of pan-fried black pudding and some curling tendrils of pea shoots scattered around. It freezes exceptionally well, and is easy to re-heat and serve - tastes just like the day it was made!

This quantity will make more than enough for eight portions (56 calories each) to serve with a starter, or a garnish / side to a main meal (I don't think you'd want too much of it by itself, however delicious it is) with other vegetables, and you can put any you don't use into the freezer for the next time (a re-sealable sandwich bag is great for this, squeeze out the air and it will keep for months, and you can just break off what you want).

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Healthy Raspberry Yoghurt Ice, with Oatbran

Like ice-cream, but healthy...?

And takes seconds?

Well, count me in! Also delicious with blueberries, mangoes, strawberries, or whatever your favourite frozen fruit is...

So simple, just blitz - most run-of-the-mill food processors and hand blenders will cope with this easily, made in seconds.

Serves one (easily doubled etc.), 158 calories.

Sautéed Cauliflower, Cumin and Almond Crunch

Sometimes, it's the littlest things...

This was a little whim of mine, when cooking some seafood (octopus). I say whim, but I spent nigh on a week trying to think of flavours which would go with it! I still hadn't quite decided what to do with it on the day of cooking, so I looked in the fridge and I thought the cauliflower flavour would really complement it (because it works so well with scallops, which have a sweet, delicate flavour), along with having the delicious savoury maillard edge from caramelising the florets in a pan, together with extra crunch and nuttiness from the flaked almonds and coconut oil and some heady, earthy flavours from the cumin seeds, with a final sprinkling of sea salt.


That is almost directly how my thought process works, in written form! Thinking about which flavours go well together, then how I can get contrasting textures, and then add different dimensions on top of that. My mouth is just watering thinking about it!!!

It's very simple to make, and only 142 calories per portion as a side. And, it's really, seriously tasty and delicious!

Octopus (or Squid) Sautéed with Garlic, Lemon, Capers and Parsley

A quick and tasty way to cook and serve your favourite cephalopod (or maybe some scallops!)...

...either fresh (raw) squid, or octopus which you've gently braised the night before, or during the day (this takes 1 to 2 hours to simmer, see my method on preparing octopus). This is also extremely good with pan-seared scallops if you're not a fan of octopus or squid (optional garlic and capers with the scallops!).

So, you've cooked your octopus (or have your squid prepared and ready to go), now what?

This serves two people as a starter, 185 calories per portion (see serving suggestions for making this more of a meal) and used half of an octopus (400-500g, weight after preparation).

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs) Two Ways - With Tomato Sauce or Almond Sauce (including Thermomix method)

It's everyone's favourite tapas dish, with a healthier twist!

Serves five as a main course from only 271 calories per serving, or ten to twelve as a tapas dish (113 to 136 calories per portion).

Albondigas is a very popular dish in Spain, found in many tapas bars. It is usually made of a mix of meats (commonly pork and veal originally, to stretch the veal further), but you can choose whether you mix your meats or just use solely pork or beef. I prefer to use both for the flavour.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Cachumber (Indian Tomato, Onion and Cucumber Salad) and Chaat Masala (Spice Mix)

Simple, quick, fresh and delicious...

A healthy North Indian snack, which can be served as an appetiser or starter, with poppadoms and pickles, and also great as an accompaniment to Indian dishes, such as my tandoori chicken, or chicken tikka.

There really is nothing to it, other than a bit of chopping and a quick stir!

Serves 4-8 depending on course.

Calories per serving: 43 calories if served between four people, 21 calories if served between eight.

Chicken Tikka and Tandoori Chicken (includes Thermomix method)

I've included these in the same post, as essentially one is historically derived from the other...

...and I see no reason in complicating things (as sometimes life can be complicated enough!) Basically, chicken tikka (usually boneless pieces of chicken marinated in yoghurt, ginger, garlic and spices cooked on skewers in a tandoor - or over hot coals, sometimes on the bone in Punjabi cuisine) is the boneless version (and derivative) of tandoori chicken (whole chicken, or sometimes portions on the bone, again cooked in a tandoor, or sometimes on a barbeque grill).

Serves eight - don't panic, easily halved! Plus you can freeze it raw or cooked for future use, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of days after cooking for easy lunchboxe fillers, to go on salads including my Indian cachumber salad (tomato, cucumber and onion with coriander and spices), even as a filler for wraps and sandwiches etc. and especially use it in my healthy Chicken Tikka Masala (which starts from only 281 calories per serving). It's so good it's worth making up at least the marinade in bulk, if not the chicken - a great recipe for barbeques, having friends over, the whole family, or to cook and use up in all kinds of ways over a few days.

I’ve used pre-ground spices in this recipe, for ease of use – but if you prefer, roast the coriander and cumin seeds whole (used heaped spoon measures, then toss in a dry pan and keep moving so they don’t burn, until fragrant), then grind them for a fresher flavour in a spice grinder, or pestle and mortar (or thermomix!).

Calories per serving: 160 if using chicken breasts, 218 if using chicken thighs (without skin).

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala with a Twist (and some cheats!)

So, the British-Indian curry gets a healthy makeover...

In my defence, I'd like to put forward that this was a pre-meditated crime planned by my dearly beloved, and I was egged on by people from another place in the murky ether of the internet, who wanted a healthy recipe for it. Well, that's fair enough, because lots of people love this dish - so many, that it's become one of the country's favourite dishes!

This quantity serves four people, and is from 281 (YES, 281!!!) calories per serving - or 323 calories with the optional onions and peppers (see recipe below re. chicken tikka calories). The single large fresh chilli (de-seeded) and 1/2 tsp chilli powder make for what I would term a 'medium' hot curry - adjust this to suit your tastes!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Century Egg with Spicy Green Peppers - aka The 'Thousand Year Old Egg' Blog (with first tasting Video and serving suggestion!)

Ever heard of these, also known as 'Century Eggs'?

You might have done.You might not. It's probable that if you're a 'Westerner' you haven't tried them, unless you're in a very small minority. They are also known as 'Pei Dan', should you happen to be in oriental lands afar and wish to request one. Basically it's a duck (or chicken or quail) egg, preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, and quicklime for a matter of weeks or months, until it looks a bit like this!

If you're curious, I can promise you that this is actually a very nice way to try them, with some delicious flavours and textures. Especially if you've never tried them before and are a little nervous! And if you don't like the egg you can always stir this tasty pepper accompaniment into some rice, perhaps with a little stir fried  chicken and vegetables and have a tasty meal! But you might just surprise yourself...

Serves two to four as an appetiser or snack, 83 to 166 calories per serving (depending on whether between four or two).

Monday, 10 March 2014

Pork with Straw Mushrooms, Bamboo, and Fermented Black Beans

A little variation on a theme...

This would also be great with sliced chicken breast. It's just a quick variation on beef with green peppers in black bean sauce, but with a few different ingredients. It's very tasty, and once you've chopped all your ingredients, very quick to make!

I highly recommend sourcing some salted, fermented black beans to make this (oriental shops sell them, they're cheap, and they last for ages) to make your own sauce, they're delicious and very versatile and you can pick up some tinned straw mushrooms (and bamboo and water chestnuts) cheaply while you're in the oriental store/section! Although I'd urge you to use the fermented black beans in their original state to make your own sauce, I’ve included the option for you to use a pre-made black bean sauce, if you’d rather.

Serves two, generously - 287 calories per portion (if using Amoy stir fry black bean sauce, this increases to 323 calories per portion). Easily doubled, and everyone else will love it too on a non-fast day.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Spicy Sichuan Duck with Pineapple and Ginger

Well, I'm more than a little bit pleased with how this turned out, if I dare say so!

You know sometimes, when you have an idea in your head, of exactly what you want something to taste like, and somehow you manage to execute it all, and it turns out perfectly? And not only did I think it turned out great, the other half told me it was the best thing I'd cooked this year and everything was cooked perfectly, so I was very happy with the results!

OK, OK, enough raving about it (mouth is watering again!), I need to tell you what it is, and how to cook it, and those kinds of things! Oh, and did you know a skinless duck breast has quite a few less calories and fat per 100g than a skinless chicken breast (about 92 calories compared to 110)? Did you care? Do I? I don't know, but I do know I love duck!

It was supposed to be a 'serves two', but this is definitely a 'serves three' (and obviously more, if you serve it with other dishes) which makes it 206 calories per portion.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Chocolate Brownies with a Twist

Oh, these are naughty, very, VERY naughty - there is no expense spared here, and not a calorie saved! 

Well, they're chocolate brownies, and I'm a chocoholic, so what else would you expect? There is NO compromising where chocolate is concerned in this house!

However, if you're trying to be good, and want a leetle, leetle there is the option to cut them into little baby brownies and 'reduce' the calories that way. But be careful, they are DANGEROUSLY more-ish...

Steamed Chilli Chicken (or Tofu) cooked with Sea-Spiced Aubergines and Rice - Thermomix Method

These are quite simple dishes to make in themselves. (If you want the non-thermomix methods, go here for the Steamed Chilli Chicken recipe, and here for the Sea-Spiced Aubergines recipe). You can cook them all together in your Thermomix, and just finish off the aubergines in the sauce in a wok at the end while the chicken is resting and keeping warm in the Varoma.

The quantities given for the chicken serves two people as a main dish for 161 calories per serving, and you could easily double this if you're feeding more. If you prefer, substitute firm tofu (you can press wrapped in clean muslin for 20 minutes first, to firm up a little more, before cubing), and omit the blanching stage as not necessary. The quantities given for the aubergine serves four as a main, or six to eight as a side (depending on how hungry you are! Its 84 calories for a quarter of this quantity.), and I have cooked it in greater quantities because it freezes and re-heats well, and is great stirred into stir-fried noodles the next day, with some poultry, or meat of your choice and a handful of beansprouts, or similar! However, feel free to halve the quantities if you only want to make enough for two without lefteovers. The aubergines are also great as an accompaniment to dishes such as home-made Char Siu Pork or a smoked dish such as Tea-Smoked Chicken or duck.

Steamed Chilli Chicken (includes Thermomix method)

This is a really simple and quick dish to make. It's excellent served as a topping for noodles tossed with some stir-fried vegetables; with some steamed rice and a vegetable side dish; or with a selection of other Chinese dishes.

This amount serves two people as a main dish for 161 calories per serving, and you could easily double or halve the quantities. I think it's best served with vegetables on the side (and perhaps rice or noodles) and we enjoyed it with my Sea-Spiced Aubergines (as a side dish for only 42 calories) and some steamed rice (for which there is a Thermomix method to cook all three together, and Thermomix method for steaming the chicken below).

Sea-spiced Aubergines

The correct translation of this very-popular Sichuan dish, is 'fish-fragrant' aubergines, but I tend to think people are more familiar with 'sea-spiced', which doesn't give the incorrect impression that there is any actual fish in the dish (the term comes from using flavours often used to cook fish with).

This quantity would serve four as a vegetarian main dish, or six to eight as a vegetable side dish, or as a selection of Chinese dishes and it's a great accompaniment to a drier dish (like a steamed dish such as my Steamed Chilli Chicken, maybe some home-made Char Siu Pork or a smoked dish such as Tea-Smoked Chicken or duck). This entire quantity is only 337 calories, making it 84 calories per serving for a main, and only 42 to 56 calories for a side dish (depending on whether serving between eight or six people).

Unlike some Chinese dishes, it freezes and re-heats well - the next day I tossed some of it with some cooked noodles and stir-fried mince with a little extra light soy and sesame to make another really quick and tasty dish (see notes below for noodle ideas using this)!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Char Siu Pork - From Scratch

Ever fancied having a go at making your own Char Siu Pork?

Well, there's no reason not to because it's really easy - you just marinade, then bake (or grill/barbeque).

Even better, you can make a big batch, eat some freshly cooked (well, you have to at least taste it - and if you're feeling civilised, maybe serve it with some stir-fried pak choi and steamed rice, sprinkled with a few sliced spring onions - and if you want to be totally decadent you could reduce the marinade to a syrupy consistency, and drizzle over the hot sliced pork, or even just serve straight from the oven, because you can!) then slice the remainder and freeze. You can then easily add it to Chinese dishes, stir fries, my Spring Rolls (the skinny version, or the gluten free version) or my healthy Singapore Noodles/Chow Mein etc. (straight from the freezer) as well as having the benefits of being able to choose whether to make it authentically, make a low fat version, or even make it gluten free if you need to (which it won't be the majority of the time if you buy it pre-made, or buy a pre-made marinade).

Well, let us pontificate no further, and get onto how to make it, as you need to marinate it for a day first!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Singapore Noodles

Like your noodles spicy?

Tasty, filling and quick to cook – you could even fool yourself that you’re eating your favourite takeaway – but no hidden nasties and far healthier! 

Serves two (easily doubled), and if you're counting calories, it's 275 calories per portion made with shirataki (zero) noodles, 425 made with egg (wheat) noodles, 445 with rice noodles.

I wanted to make something using shirataki noodles, and this seemed like a great choice - spicy, with lots of crunchy vegetables - traditionally made with fine rice noodles/vermicelli, which are very similar.

Bingo! The other half loved them, and proclaimed that you couldn't tell the difference (and he's not had them before!). So, even though my nose is running slightly, from leaving the seeds in the chilli (you can de-seed it if you want to lessen the heat!), I'm calling this a win!

Romesco Sauce (Roasted Tomato and Almond Sauce)

Here's a 'littlie'...

A lovely, easy sauce to quickly put together - just throw three of the ingredients under the grill (broiler) and blitz - delicious with fish, chicken or vegetables.

Salsa Romesco (Roasted Tomato, Garlic and Almond Sauce)

Serves three as a sauce/accompaniment to a main meal. From 90 calories per serving.

This is a classic Spanish sauce, perfect for serving with fish (such as grilled sea bass, cod, monkfish etc.), vegetables and meat. If you’re not able to eat nuts, you could always thicken the sauce with fried (or toasted) bread instead (providing you're not allergic to gluten/wheat etc. - if so, use GF), which was also used in the past for those who didn’t have access to almond trees/almonds.

  • 2 large vine tomatoes (about 220g) [44]
  • 4 garlic cloves (unskinned) [24]
  • 20g blanched almonds* (you could use slivered, or ground, but the flavour and texture will be a little different) [126]
  • ½ tsp sugar (optional) [8]
  • ½ tbsp red (or white) wine vinegar [2]
  • ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or more to taste on non-fast days!) [65]
  • Salt (initially try ¼ teaspoon) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste [1]


Pre-heat the grill (broiler) to medium and line a baking tray with foil. Put the tomatoes, garlic cloves (in their skins) and almonds on the tray, and put under the grill. Initially, you will need to keep a close eye on it, as the almonds will start to brown very quickly and need turning before they burn – you only want to brown them a little. 

Remove them once lightly browned and set aside into a food processor (or blender - you could do this all by hand in a pestle and mortar, but it will be hard work!). Continue to grill, turning occasionally - the garlic will be cooked next, once it is browned and the tomatoes will take up to about twenty minutes once the skins are wrinkled and coming off.

Remove the skins from the garlic and tomatoes. Chop the bottom end off the garlic, and cut the skinned tomatoes in half, and remove the tough green part where the stalk is. Add the garlic to the nuts in the food processor and blitz to a paste. Add the tomatoes and other ingredients, and then blend to a creamy sauce – it will have a slightly rough texture from the nuts, it is not meant to be smooth. Serve warm with fish, vegetables or meat.

If you're not counting calories, you could add extra olive oil – it will take up to another tablespoon and a half, or to taste.

*You can use hazelnuts instead of almonds, or a mix of the two. You can also use a slice of fried bread (gluten free if making this for coeliacs) to thicken the sauce if you are unable to or do not wish to use nuts.

Aromatic Spiced Mango and Apple Chutney

Well, if you're going to the trouble of making yourself a good curry... should certainly have a go at making this delicious mango chutney to eat before (with poppadoms etc.) or with your dinner (especially if it's a curry!).

If you're counting, it's approximately 17 calories per level tablespoon - great with curries and poppadoms etc., and also left-over roasts such as turkey, pork, chicken and ham, and strong cheeses! Also great to give away as a Christmas gift!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Murgh Masala

Well, if you twist my arm...

...I think I can manage another chicken curry! This one is so popular, it's another Punjabi chicken curry and well-loved, so well worth adding to your curry favourites!.

Serves four, easily halved or doubled. Really simple Punjabi soul food, easy to make and delicious!

Calories per serving: 270 if using chicken breasts, 357 if using chicken thighs (without skin). You could also just use a whole chicken jointed, or whatever chicken joints you have to hand, skinned (and on the bone).
You could even make this using leftover chicken/turkey from a Sunday roast, making the curry sauce first and just adding the diced cooked meat to heat through at the end. On a healthy day, you could serve it with a small serving of boiled/steamed rice, or plenty of cauliflower ‘rice’. If you're not counting calories, don't feel like you have to measure the oil...

Murgh Saagwala - Punjabi Chicken Curry with Spinach

Let's have another one!

Dare I say it, I think this dish ticks all the boxes if you like a chicken (and spinach) curry - it's healthy, it's easy to cook, it can get children (and grown-ups) to eat spinach who don't like it, AND if you've got a reasonable storecupboard, the chicken, spinach, onions and tomatoes will come to under £1 a head! (If you see chicken drumsticks half price, about £2 a pack, for about ten GRAB THEM -they're perfect for a family dinner, or freeze the leftovers).

Murgh Saagwala - Punjabi Chicken with Spinach 

Serves a generous four. Calories per serving between four: 338 if using drumsticks/thighs and frozen spinach, 350 if fresh spinach. (If using chicken breasts, deduct 78 calories per portion so 260/272 calories per portion). [Calories shown in square brackets next to ingredients]

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Most of us love a good curry...

...although it's quite easy to get into a bit of a curry 'rut' and end up eating the same curries over and over again. There's nothing wrong with that if you've found the ones you like, but it's always pleasure to find a new one that's really good and add it to your repetoire (and your friends', if you're feeling like sharing!).

If you want a really authentic experience, go for chicken on the bone either chopping up a carcass yourself, or using chicken thighs. I've given a recipe with the choice of using this or chicken breast meat, to cater to different tastes (and those wishing to reduce the fat content).

Serves a generous four (to six), easily halved or doubled. The curry powder makes more than you need, but will keep for months in an airtight container or jar (and you’ll definitely want to make this one again, or even make it in bulk as gifts! You can also use it in my delicious Spiced Sweet Potato and Tomato Soup).

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Coconut, Lime and Coriander (Cilantro) Cauliflower 'Rice'

What's that? Cauliflower 'Rice'?

Well, faux-rice is probably a better term, also known as cauliflower 'cous cous'. Anyway, I've covered that bit here, and this is a recipe to give you an idea of something to disguise the taste of cauliflower do with it.

This is nice served with grilled fish, chicken (such as my Cajun chicken) or pork, or in a plainer form (e.g. you could leave out the lime and coriander) with curries (e.g. Indian, Thai), or leave out the coconut and serve it with something Mexican. Or swap the coriander for some fried shallots and roasted cumin seeds and a squirt of lemon, and serve with some pan-fried shallots, with a couple of tiny roasted florets or temupura florets, some cauliflower puree and call them 'textures of cauliflower', like in restaurants... (where's my slightly sarcastic font gone?).

Anyway, I digress, here's the recipe...

Cauliflower 'Rice'

Cooks in just a couple of minutes!

Just a quick post (although it will take me longer to post this, than it will for you to make some cauliflower rice!) for those who are not familiar with this 'phenomenon'.

Also known as cauliflower 'cous cous', it's basically just cauliflower florets (minimal stalk) pulsed in a blender (or grated on the largets setting) until it resembles grains of rice (or cous cous) and then cooked quickly.

Speedy Spiced Sweet Potato and Tomato Soup

Here is a working example of that saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention"...

You know, when you get in, everyone's hungry, you haven't got much time and you throw together the nearest things with a vague idea of what it's going to taste like at the end?

And then it turns out... DELICIOUS, so you have to quickly jot it down so you can make it again?

Well, this comes from one of those times - and you can make it one of two ways - by blitzing the veg in your food processor, cooking in a pan, then blending with a stick blender, or in a food blender (you can even chop by hand, if you have more time), or if you're lucky enough to own a wonderful gadget which will do all three for you (yes, I'm talking Thermomix! Or I'm guessing one of those new-fangled soup-maker machines will do the same job, but I can't really comment on those), then you can do it that way, with less pots. Happy times!

When I posted it in a popular recipe group I run, I was delighted with the response to it so that's why I've chosen to share it here - it's also the first recipe where I've specifically written up instructions to make in a Thermomix, as although I'm always using mine, the majority of people in my group don't own one (they haven't caught on in the UK as much as in some other countries yet). 

Serves four, 141 calories per person – a deliciously warming spicy soup ideal for colder weather!
Ready in under 20 minutes [Calories in square brackets].

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Sunomono - Cucumber and Wakame Salad

Just a quickie!

Seeing as I've posted my Seared Tuna with Daikon Dressing recipe, I thought I'd better post this lovely little Japanese salad dish, which I chose to serve on the side. Lovely with all sorts of things as a side dish, including Teriyaki grilled meats and fish, or you could even go a bit 'fusion' and serve it up with little Thai crab cakes.


Serves 2 as a side dish, 42 calories per serving.

Seared, Marinated Tuna with Daikon Dressing and Mizuna

Although the title sounds a bit fancy...

This is actually a really easy dish to make. What's a daikon? It's just a big ole' white radish that looks like an overgrown fat carrot. Also known as a mooli. If you cant get hold of one you could actually just use your favourite radishes instead, because the flavours are quite similar.

Mizuna? You can just use your favourite salad leaves - watercress, wild rocket, whatever you fancy.

And the best thing is, you're just literally searing the outside of the tuna, so as long as you get the pan nice and hot, and don't mess about with the tuna, you really can't go wrong with cooking it.

See, it's deceptively simple!

And extremely tasty, too! And if you're entertaining you can make it look all fancy by serving with rice put in a little oiled mould with a strip of Nori (seaweed) in it, to go around the rice and give you some contrast (I served it with sushi rice, I'll be posting up my sushi guide which contains my recipe for sushi rice dressing, which I'll link here). And that's some 'Sunomono' you can see up top, which is basically just a really simple Japanese cucumber and wakame seaweed salad. You could even just serve it on it's own in half-portions, or with a tiny little sushi rice package as a sophisticated starter.

Right, what are you waiting for...

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