Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Speedy Shredded Carrot, Cabbage and Caraway / Cumin Salad

A five minute side dish for something slightly different - almost a cross between a salad and a slaw...

Great with my quick Turkish griddled chicken breasts.

You can throw this together in minutes, and it will happily keep chilled for a few hours (or while your Turkish chicken marinates for a minute and you prepare the other side/s), as there's no lettuce in it to wilt

Serves two, generously - easily doubled and a great one to stick through the food processor if you're making in larger quantities and want to save time. 71 calories per serving.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Quick Turkish-Marinated Griddled Chicken Breasts

For when you can't be bothered with lighting the barbecue, or marinating things for several hours then threading them on skewers, but still want the flavour of traditional chicken shish kebabs...

This is a great 'cheat', and it takes minutes to make the marinade and prepare the chicken - then you can leave it to sit while you prepare your salad and any sides you fancy with it. 

You could even salt a handful of grated cucumber while your chicken is marinating it, then squeeze and mix with Greek yoghurt for a dip just before you cook the chicken (or make full on cacik / tzatziki), along with my speedy shredded cabbage, carrot and cumin salad (like a cross betweeen a salad and a slaw, with Turkish flavours which takes about 5 minutes to prepare and you can have a generous helping about 4 times bigger than what you can see on the plate above for only 71 calories! Click here for the recipe) and a mixed side salad. Also shown with my Turkish red cabbage salad and easy Turkish rice.

Serves two, 153 calories per serving.

How to butterfly a chicken breast...

"It's only easy when you know how"...

'Butterflying' chicken breasts is basically opening them out, so that they're as flat and even as they can be, in order that they cook evenly. It only takes a minute or less, once you know how to do it, and saves on cooking time, giving you juicy, tender chicken which is evenly cooked through in minutes, without burning or drying out the outside layers, making it really easy and quick to grill, griddle or barbecue chicken breasts.

How to butterfly a chicken breast

Above are two chicken breasts, both the same size and weight, the only difference being that the one on the left has been 'butterflied' by opening it out so that it's approximately the same thickness all over.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Get the BBQ Out for a Turkish Night In! (Or the Grill or Griddle...)

The nights are getting warmer, and it's time to get the BBQ out and fire it up - whether it's for friends, or family, or just the two of you.

There are some foods just made for barbecuing. Many countries have their own versions of kebabs, and barbecued meats and fish and vegetables. Turkey is no exception, and cooking food over burning coals (as on a mangal) is a speciality.

And, bonus - it can be pretty healthy too, and you wouldn't even know it!

So I've put together a little collection of my Turkish recipes, for a tasty evening to share with friends or family - you can either scale down by half, warm up leftovers the next day, or freeze half of the meat uncooked for another time if the quantities are too large for you (the rice and hummus freeze well too). I've also included a shopping list below, as well as a key to what to prepare and when, to make it easy to put together.

If you're counting calories, then here's an example of how surprisingly few it adds up to per portion - you can eat everything pictured on the above plate for under 500 calories (and that's with full fat Greek yoghurt, and full fat organic lamb mince - so no compromise on flavour with dry, extra lean beef steak, either!) - and if you're not counting, you can have some nibbles beforehand, and go back for seconds! You could have just chicken skewers, or just lamb skewers with everything else and adjust the calorie count accordingly.

All in all, this is fantastic as either a healthy and delicious meal that's a real treat - or use the recipes the next time you get the BBQ out to entertain your friends, for something a little bit different and completely delicious! Click on the highlighted  text to go to each different recipe. [Calories in square brackets if you're counting]

Friday, 25 April 2014

Turkish (Lamb) Adana Kebabs / Kofta Kebabs - the Really Mouth-Watering Recipe... (AKA How to be a Kebab King/Queen!)

It may seem like I enthuse a lot over some of my recipes, but I only do that when I think they're really, really good and I've spent time perfecting them!

And this one, I tried making with different levels of herbs and spices, then different ratios of lamb and beef, and different fat proportions, until the combination of the spices, and the flavour and succulence of the meats just sang. Even thinking about how juicy and tasty these kebabs are, straight off a hot smoky barbecue makes my mouth water!

For me, there has to be lamb present as a majority. And I'm afraid it can't be lean, or extra lean lamb. If you're able to mince your own, or go to the butcher to buy your mince, then make sure it's from shoulder of lamb. The fat content is pivotal in getting those kebabs all juicy and sizzling and tasty ('Fat is flavour' as someone once said).

I've tried it with beef mince only, and for me, it just doesn't work. (Because the whole 'lamb' flavour is missing, obvs). Making it with lean or extra lean beef alone just yields a really dry result, I'm afraid. And I'm spoilt by having tasted really good Turkish Adana kebabs and being fortunate enough to have a really good Turkish restaurant within 20 minutes drive. Who cook their kebabs on a proper mangal, on top of burning coals. Mmmmm.

Anyway, I digress. I found my perfect balance of lamb vs. beef, and rather than using my local butcher, I used something from a supermarket, so that you can recreate exactly what I cooked and I know it will be good, rather than me getting all the good stuff, then you going down to [insert name of supermarket] and feeling like you got a duff deal. If you can cook this on the barbecue, you will be achieving near-as-damnit-perfection from a domestic point of view. So go on, give it a go... it's delicious served on top of my easy Turkish rice, with some Cacik as a dip (think Tzatziki) and a simple Vegetable Kebab as a must to compliment it, Turkish red cabbage salad, maybe a warm flatbread to hold it with and a side salad. And you can make them the day before, along with maybe my Turkish chicken shish kebabs (similarly perfected flavour-wise, of course!), and invite your best, most appreciative friends over to enjoy them with!

Oh, and it would be rather rude not to make them some of your own hummus, perfected with my recipe and tips, along with a selection of spiced pitta crisps to serve them with.

If you fancy making up a whole Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan then have a look here!

So, here you are... lamb-on-a-skewer perfection! And as for Adana/Kofta - if you want to impress your friends by telling them which of the two they're eating, use wide metal skewers, and shape the lamb around them in one length per skewer and call them Adana kebabs (and you could get away with a little more spiciness). Or if you want to call them Kofta kebabs, roll the lamb into walnut-sized balls and slide them onto a skewer. Me? I find it easiest to use soaked wooden skewers as the meat seems to stick better, and squidge the mince around them in a flatt-ish sausage shape and to hell with it - it tastes good any which way! Oh, and if you Google kofta kebabs (not the right spelling, but I've had to use it too, for continuity!), you'll see a lot of the well-known chefs get it wrong and just wrap it around the skewer in a sausage too... ;)

Makes 12 skewers, at 133 calories per skewer (two skewers per serving). Serves six as the protein part of the dish on its own, or more with other kebabs (e.g. alongside my chicken shish kebabs). [Calories in square brackets]

Turkish Chicken Shish Kebabs (Şiş Kebabs)

Flavours inspired by my favourite local(ish) Turkish restaurant, The Mangal.

Delicious, moist chicken kebabs with a really tasty, slightly spicy marinade. Perfect cooked on the BBQ to capture that authentic smoky taste, or cook indoors on a ridged griddle to capture the charred flavour.

Serve alongside my Spicy Lamb Adana Kebabs (just like kofte kebabs in flavour, but shaped around the skewer rather than rolled into balls), with a Vegetable Kebab, Easy Turkish Rice, Red Cabbage Salad and some Cacik (the Turkish version of Tzatziki) for a full on Turkish meal with a side salad and flat breads. And you can make most of it the day before, ready to go if you feel like inviting friends over for a BBQ!

Serves four (or eight, if serving alongside the lamb Adana kebabs), 76 calories per skewer if made from chicken breasts, 105 calories with chicken thighs. Two skewers per serving. [Calories in square brackets, if you're counting].

If you fancy putting together a nice Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan, then have a look here!

Vegetable Kebabs with Za'atar

Less of a standalone recipe, more of a suggested traditional accompaniment to my Turkish chicken shish kebabs and spicy minced lamb kebabs.

Whenever we eat at Turkish restaurants and order chicken shish kebabs (Pilic shish, as they're called in the local-ish, Şiş tavuk or Shish taouk to the rest of the world), or spicy minced lamb kebabs (Adana kebabs) they always serve them with skewers of onions, tomatoes and Turkish green peppers roasted over the grill, which make a delicious side.

Vegetable kebabs recipe

So of course, when I make the meat kebabs myself, I like to serve them with little vegetable kebabs also. Me, being me, I have to meddle with them slightly, by adding a sprinkle of za'ater - a condiment made from dried herbs, sesame seeds and frequently salt, sometimes with sumac in it (coeliacs beware - sometimes this contains wheat / gluten, so check the ingredients) - and a cheeky pickled pepper for a kick sometimes, too! If you wanted to make these into something more substantial as part of a vegetarian meal, you could add cubes of halloumi cheese to them, and other vegetables such as thick courgette slices and mushrooms.

Serves four, 45 calories per serving. [Calories in square brackets, if you're counting]

If you fancy putting together a nice Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan, then have a look here!

Turkish Red Cabbage Salad

This is a must if you're barbecuing some Turkish Kebabs...

It's so simple, and goes so well along with a few other sides, that it would be a crime *not* to make it the next time you're having a barbecue (regardless of what you're cooking!).

It's something I became familiar with as a side dish in Turkey, and from a Turkish restaurant I frequent from time to time who make exceptionally delicious kebabs; and it has now become synonymous (along with a few other side dishes) with eating good kebabs.

Serves 4 as a small side dish, 28 calories per serving. Easily doubled (or quadrupled, of course!) for a crowd.

If you fancy putting together a nice Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan, then have a look here!

Easy Turkish Rice

This is so simple and delicious, and tastes much naughtier than it really is!

Only three ingredients, and about 20 minutes, and you have savoury, glossy, buttery rice - perfect served with Turkish kebabs and all the trimmings.

This quantity will serve four to eight - if you're eating it with kebabs, salads, tzatziki and all the trimmings, possibly with pitta or Turkish bread, it will serve six to eight, if you're just having it with kebabs and a side salad., then it's more likely to serve four to six.

Calories per serving: 145 for an eighth of the total quantity, 193 for a sixth, and 290 calories per serving between four (I found an eighth was more than enough with everything else!).

If you fancy putting together a nice Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan, then have a look here!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Pitta Crisps - a selection of flavours

A delicious, quick and healthy alternative crunchy snack, or tasty appetiser with dips before a Turkish or Greek meal.

Really simple and quick to make, these are just wholemeal (you could use white if you prefered) pitta breads, halved and cut into triangles with a selection of different toppings, toasted in the oven until crispy and light.

You could serve them with my Hummus (with tips for perfectionists!) and Tzatziki / Cacik along with some sticks of raw vegetables such as cucumber, carrots, peppers and celery for a really healthy, balanced snack or light lunch, or as part of a spread. They will keep in an airtight container for a day quite happily, although if you want them fresh and crispy, I wouldn't keep longer than this to serve to other people (although they will last quite happily a couple more days, just lose a little crispness).

Serving sizes are easy - served with raw vegetables, half a pitta bread will do per person (each half cuts into 6 crisps - half a wholemeal pitta from e.g. Sainsbury's would be 77 calories) for a snack; or use a whole one per person for something more substantial to eat, (154 calories), plus dips - see Notes below for more information. (Slimming World - SuperValu Round Wholemeal Pitta Breads 8 pack (1 x 48g) can be used as a healthy extra - therefore provided you choose a pitta bread without any added oil, a 48g portion before cooking could be used).

If you fancy putting together a nice Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan, then have a look here!

Tzatziki (also known as Cacik)

A delicious, creamy dip infused with garlic, salted cucumber and lemon juice, dressed with extra virgin olive oil.

I've given this its most popular name of Tzatziki, but my recipe and reason for posting it, is as a collection which go together (with some other Turkish recipes), remniscent of my favourite foods from there including this, the Turkish version known as 'Cacik'. They both contain essentially the same (or at least very similar) ingredients, and both vary slightly regionally, so I'd be hard-pressed to say for definite which was which from any given region or restaurant! The main difference is that Turkish cacik is slightly thinner than Greek tzatziki.

It's very easy to make, but the fundamental thing about Tzatziki is that it's not just cucumber grated or chopped in yoghurt, the cucumber has to be salted first to give it that authentic flavour.

Serves six, 54 calories per portion (or 38 calories per portion if using fat free Greek yoghurt, see notes).

If you fancy putting together a nice Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan, then have a look here!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Thai-Spiced Butternut Squash Soup (includes Thermomix instructions)

A nice light soup full of Thai flavours, perfect as a light starter to a meal or a tasty lunchtime snack.

This makes a smooth, light soup - if you want a thicker soup, then just halve the amount of stock, and add extra at the end to reach your desired consistency.

The quantities as below will yield you approximately 1.8 litres. For me, two small ladle-fulls constitutes a portion of soup, so this gives me ten portions at 62 calories each, but divide yours up as you feel fit (especially if you've made a thicker soup, and want, say, six large bowls of it at 103 calories each). The total calorie count for the whole batch is 617 calories.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Chicken in a Smoky Chipotle Chilli and Tomato Sauce

Spice up chicken breasts with a sauce redolent of Mexican flavours in this easy oven-baked dish.

Delicious served with my Mexican 'Green Rice' (which has a cauliflower rice option too to cut down the calories and carbs), and Cheat's Mexican 'Pot' Beans with a dollop of sour cream (or Greek yoghurt if you're counting the calories) and a quick fresh Tomato Salsa (as pictured).

Do something a little bit different for dinner, and easily tailor the heat to suit your tastes.

Serves four, 216 calories per serving.

Easy Mexican 'Green Rice' - Arroz Verde (with cauliflower rice substitution method)

Give your rice a bit of colour and flavour for a change! Also good the next day as a cold dish.

Rice cooked the Mexican way in chicken stock, flavoured with garlic, coriander, Jalapeno chilli and a squeeze of lime - the next day, add extra lime juice, fresh coriander and a slug of olive oil, and serve cold as a delicious rice salad.

Delicious served with my Chicken in Chipotle sauce and Frijoles di Olla (Mexican beans), or cold the next day with my Yucatecan-Spiced Chicken Skewers and salad.

Serves four to six as a side dish (I eat about an eighth of this quantity!), 191 calories per serving for six servings (scale up or down as appropriate, it's 144 calories for an eighth etc. ). [Calories in square brackets]

If making with cauliflower rice (see Variations below), 78 calories per serving between six; 117 calories per serving if served between four, .

Cheat's Frijoles di Olla (Mexican 'Pot' Beans) and Frijoles Refritos ('Re-Fried Beans')

If you can't get hold of dried black or pinto beans, then use tinned in this quick cheat's version!

Save on the hours of soaking and boiling, by using pre-cooked beans and cooking them in a little of their own liquid with onions and garlic until the alliums are cooked out and the sauce thickens.

Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream (or dairy free substitute, or half fat Creme Fraiche, or even Greek yoghurt if you're counting calories) and Fresh Mexican Salsa, as a side dish, or use as a vegetarian filling for tortillas and tacos with the sour cream and salsa and some grated cheese and shredded lettuce or Napa cabbage. These were lovely served alongside my Chicken in Chipotle Chilli Sauce.

If you want to add to the authenticity of the flavour and texture, you can add a further tablespoon of lard to the beans while they're cooking, but I haven't included this in the recipe. For 'Re-Fried' beans, see Notes at the bottom. You could also cook them in an earthenware pot if you have one suitable to go on the hob, which is how they would be traditionally cooked in Mexico.

Serves six, 110 calories per serving.

Fresh Mexican Salsa (Salsa Mexicana Cruda)

Tasty, versatile and can be prepared in a matter of minutes.

Great with all kinds of Mexican food, especially as a topping for Mexican style beans with some sour cream, in wraps, or as a side dish for spicy meat and fish dishes, like my Yucatecan-Spiced Chicken Skewers.

I prefer to chop my tomatoes by hand, but like to throw all of the other ingredients into the food processor for a quick blitz to save on time, then just stir everything together and garnish with a few extra coriander leaves.

Serves four, 17 calories per serving.

Yucatecan Pickled Onions

No cooking, just mix the ingredients together the day before - great with all kinds of Mexican food as a condiment.

Common in Yucatecan kitchens these will keep a good while in the fridge, and are great as a garnish to pep up Mexican food, particularly added to Escabeche, or with a splash of sour cream in a wrap, or on top of beans, or with a salad.

Make them a few hours ahead - preferably the day before, to allow the flavours to infuse into the onions.

Approximately 15 calories for a heaped forkful (around 1 tbsp, drained).

Yucatecan-Spiced Chicken Skewers (with Thermomix method)

Why not try some Mexican flavours on the BBQ for a change?

Warm spices, citrus and toasted oregano give these a real depth of flavour and they're delicious served with rice (like my easy Mexican 'green' rice - with a method for making with cauliflower rice to cut the carbs and calories if you prefer) or in a wrap, with my quick and easy Mexican-style beans, shredded lettuce or Napa cabbage (Chinese leaf/lettuce), a little sour cream, fresh Mexican Tomato Salsa and maybe some Yucatecan pickled red onions, or even just with a nice big salad if you're being saintly - although tomatoes, avocados, red onions and corn would be great additions, with a squeeze of lime and some fresh coriander... do as much or as little as you fancy!

Yucatecan Chicken Skewers Thermomix

This quantity will serve eight, but it's easily halved - or you could make it up, marinade it and then freeze portions for a tasty treat another time! Or you could just make up the spice blend, then use half of that along with the rest of the other ingredients halved.

Calories per serving - 151 if using chicken breasts, 208 if using thighs. [Calories in square brackets]

Sunday, 20 April 2014

At just over a tenner, why aren't they a kitchen staple? Meat probes / digital thermometers...

Perfectly-cooked joints of meat every time?

Or at least, perfectly cooked to your desired temperature, with a handy alarm that goes off to warn you to take it out of the oven at the right time (just before it reaches the 'perfect' temperature) to avoid residual heat over-cooking it (as it carries on cooking after you take it out of the oven, while it rests)?

Even works on something as small as a chicken breast?

I have to hold my hand up, and say that despite having used thermometers and temperature probes for years to check the done-ness of food (and the rest), I'd never 'invested' in a food probe that you stick in the food while you're cooking it, and leave the unit outside the cooker.

Why not? Well, to be honest, I'd never seen one in the shops in passing, never seen an article recommending them, never had one recommended by a friend, and don't really cook large joints of meat in the oven very often (er... because of the risk of over/under-cooking them!). And in the back of my mind, which never really thought about them, I assumed they were quite expensive.

But when I cooked pulled pork again last week, and was trying to perfect it, one of these would have been so handy during all those hours of cooking at a low temperature, taking the pork out to check how hot it was internally, and letting all of the heat out of the relatively-cool oven each time - I swear it took longer because of this! So I looked them up online, and discovered to my great surprise, that I could get one for a mere £12.99!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Hummus - with Tips for Perfectionists

Well, I wouldn't dare to claim to have perfected hummus itself - that's far too subjective!

However, everyone's taste is different and I hope that here many people will find either a great recipe for fantastic-tasting hummus (100% of home tasters preferred it to Sainsbury's organic hummus in a blind test!), or you will find some tips to improve your own home-made hummus to something approaching perfection, as I did, when researching it. Certainly, having the olive oil drizzled over the top, rather than an ingredient of the hummus was a real eye-opener!

Thermomix hummus hummous

I think one of the best tips (when making your own hummus) as far as flavour is concerned, is to cook your own chickpeas, rather than using tinned. If that really is too much trouble, then search out chickpeas in jars rather than tins, and ones which don't contain any chemicals, for a better flavour (I find tinned chick peas deeply unpleasant in flavour, tinny and slightly fishy, and I've only ever tried making hummus with them the once! However that's my taste, and not everyone else's, so I've scaled my recipe to a quantity which will be compatible with one tin of drained chickpeas).

This recipe makes a quantity of 410 grams (400 by the time you've had a few tastes to get the seasoning right!), which gives you eight 50g servings of 86 calories each (78 calories if you don't add sesame or extra virgin olive oil to the hummus; then add an extra 41 calories for each 5ml teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil you drizzle on top of your serving), perfect to serve as a dip with crudites (raw vegetable sticks) and pitta bread oven-baked sticks / crisps etc.- see here for my spiced Pitta Crisps recipe, and maybe treat yourself and have some Tzatziki / Cacik to dip into as well...

Let's be realistic though - who's going to stop at 50g! [Calories in square brackets]

If you fancy putting together a nice Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan, then have a look here!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Southern-inspired Green Beans with Bacon

The flavours of green beans and bacon really compliment each other, and this is a nice way to cook them in the style of a Southern braise, but keeping the texture of the beans intact.

We served these braised, with trout in a lemon butter and new potatoes first time around, and then we served them with my American-style Pot Roast Brisket of Beef second time around (cooked differently, as in this method), along with my Spinach and Mushroom Gratin, for Sunday Dinner.

This makes six small side servings (with other sides, 30 calories each) with a roast dinner, or three servings as a single side (60 calories each) with a lighter meal.

Spinach and Mushroom Gratin

So, in the spirit of trying to come up with healthier versions of some American dishes, came this...

Other than 'collard greens', my knowledge of traditional dishes involving green vegetables from the USA was pretty limited. And it turns out that, well... there just aren't that many? Which was confirmed by a couple of people I know from the states. So this dish was vaguely 'inspired', if I can call it that, by an Ina Garten spinach gratin dish.

Spinach and Mushroom Gratin recipe

We served it alongside the American-style Pot Roast Brisket of Beef I made, along with some Southern-style Green Beans with Bacon, and I'm guessing it would go with poultry and pork quite well too. You could probably bump it up to something more significant as a larger part of a meal if you're vegetarian, and serve with some balsamic-roasted tomatoes or roasted vegetables.

This serves six as a small side dish, at 60 calories per serving.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Italian Tricolore (and more) Salad

Italian Tricolore Salad is one of my favourite Italian salads

It's just so simple, but so delicious. This isn't so much a recipe, as me satisfying my own curiosity as to how many calories there were in what I was eating. But given that I write recipes for people who want recipes for under 500 calories, it was a great idea, as it's very easily under 500 calories even with extras! So working out the calories for the different ingredients, kind of made it into a recipe, and discovering that it was something delicious and simple which could be consumed for far fewer calories than I thought, made it a must-blog to share... (warm ciabatta not pictured!)

5:2 Tricolore Salad

So, my apologies that it's not set out in a purist or traditional fashion, and that there are extras on the side, but I wasn't planning to post this as a tricolore salad, or even necessarily as a recipe - just as something summery and vague on a sunny day, showing my appreciation of the simple things in life. Also... I kind of like to keep the balsamic to the tomatoes, to make them more piquant, rather than staining my mozarella or avocado, and I like the grassy tones of a good extra virgin oil shared between the tomatoes and mozarella, with it's greenish golden tones trickling over the white of the cheese.

But I digress... you want to know how you can fit something like this in for under 500 calories (because if you're not counting, you're like a kid in a sweetshop in the deli, and you don't care!).

Serves one, from 326 calories.

Pot Roast Brisket of Beef

Roast dinner - American-style!

Fancy a change from the usual British roast? Why not have a go at this delicious American favourite - Pot Roast, which transforms an economical cut of beef, such as brisket, into a moist and tender dinner, with carrots, shallots and potatoes all in.

Pot Roast Brisket of Beef

If you prefer, you could serve this with roast potatoes instead, or mash, but it's a great one pot meal, and the sides are optional - this would commonly be eaten just with the carrots from the pot roast and potatoes in the US - maybe even mopped up with bread! Served shown with my Southern-style braised green beans with bacon (30 calories per serving), and an American-inspired spinach and mushroom gratin (60 calories per serving). Good served with steamed green vegetables.

Calories per serving, 406 without potatoes, 491 including potatoes as below. Serves six (with two portions of leftover beef and gravy - in other words, one serving of beef is 1/8 of the joint).

Cooking with alcohol, alcohol substitutions, and reduction of alcohol content over cooking time

I had to put this somewhere so I don't lose it!

I find this helpful when trying to calculate calories, and suggest substitutions, so I hope it is of use to others as a vague guide too. I apologise in advance for any bad layout etc. this is almost more for my own reference but I know it might be useful to other people too, and I've included links to relevant sources of information.

Lamb and Harissa Burgers

Gorgeous juicy lamb-burgers, with a hit of harissa paste and Moroccan spices

This is actually my significant other's recipe, and as the burgers tasted so good, I'd like to share them with you (being the food blogger in the family)!

I also got him to calculate the calories on them too, for those who count (because I know a lot do!).

Serves 2 (or one Mike), easily doubled. Total calories per serving, 500. [Calories in square brackets]

Dried vs. Cooked Weight - Chickpeas / Garbanzo Beans / Channa / Bengal Gram (and cooking instructions from dried)

Another FAQ (well, one of mine!) put to rest in my own kitchen

I'm frequently Googling what the dried weight vs. cooked weight is of chickpeas - predominately because I detest the flavour of tinned chickpeas (I find they have a vaguely fishy and, unsurprisingly 'tinny' taint to them, so I won't use them for things like hummus etc.), and also for other people with this affliction. I try to make quantities in recipes convenient(ish) for people to cook them, where I can - so where I use them as an ingredient, if appropriate, I'll go in increments of 240g (as that is the drained weight of a can of a 400g tin of chickpeas), or 120g, so that people haven't got bits and bobs lying around.

So anyway, I usually cook my chickpeas in bulk (due to soaking time), cool and freeze in a big re-sealable bag so I have a ready and convenient supply whenever I want them - as convenient as tinned chickpeas, but taste nicer, and are far cheaper to buy! This time, I decided to weigh them after cooking, so I never have to Google it and wonder whether it's right again...

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sous Vide Chicken (with Thermomix method)

If you've never eaten chicken breast cooked sous vide, then this will be a complete revelation.

This may even 'spoil' you for eating chicken breasts cooked by other people, or at restaurants and pubs (unless they've cooked them perfectly, of course!), so be warned, you can't un-taste this! It is quite simply the most perfectly moist and tender chicken breast you will ever eat.

Sous Vide Chicken

And there are really only four things you need to do, to get perfectly cooked chicken (oh, there's an optional extra too, but I'll leave that one until the end!).

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Pulled Pork 'Sandwich' with Smoky Barbecue Sauce and Southern Style Slaw

So this, quite simply, is a delicious consummation between the home-made pulled pork, barbecue sauce, and slaw I've posted, between two pieces of bread, or bun, or roll, or whatever you like to call it...

It's for those who like the details, the numbers, the finished product.

Pulled Pork

Look tempting? Mmmm, it is very tasty - my son actually said, without being asked or prompted "Wow, Mum, I think that's actually the tastiest sandwich I've ever had in my life".

I'm not sure what that says about my sandwich-making, but this is some good shizzle.

Not, perhaps a recipe in itself, but it does give the calorie counters an idea of how much they're putting in their mouths in terms of delicious, smoky, porky naughtiness. Or maybe not so naughty! The rest of you, just go ahead and shovel it in... [calories in square brackets].

Calories, per bun/'sandwich' approximately 309 (if using all my recipes - other products will vary)

You don't need to use all of these recipes, you can just buy your favourite coleslaw and BBQ sauce and impress your friends by finishing off your own pork on the barbecue - or if this has really whet your appetite, you can even buy pre-cooked pork joints for warming through and pulling as well. But obviously, they won't be as tasty... ;)

American-Style Pulled Pork with Home-Made Barbecue Sauce

Moist, smoky, tender, slow-cooked pork, brined overnight, and rubbed with the perfect blend of spices before cooking; then shredded and mixed with the tasty cooking juices for maximum flavour...

This has a nice, subtle kick to the pork from the spice rub, and a delicious flavour and moistness from the brining. Slow cooking renders it tender, then shred and serve warm in a soft bun, with my Smoky Barbecue Sauce, and a generous scoop of my Southern-Style Slaw for the full flavour experience.

Pulled Pork

Across America, pulled pork is cooked and served in a number of ways, with and without rubs and brines, and with various different sauces - including vinegar and mustard-based sauces as well as tomato-based barbecue sauces depending on the region. I've gone with the latter, as I think it's more universally popular, and also a more versatile sauce if you're going to make it yourself (plus you can always buy a classic barbecue sauce if you don't want to make your own). I've brined the pork to increase moistness and flavour (you can skip this part if you'd rather), and used a rub for flavour as well ('Tripple D' style!) - especially for those who don't want to mix in a barbecue (or other sauce) to the pork, as this gives it bags of flavour. The smoking part of this at the end is not essential, it just gives it an added flavour dimension, akin to the pulled pork you'd find in diners the states, which would be cooked long and low in hot smokers - you could use 'liquid smoke' or smoked paprika instead. You can also cook pulled pork in a slow cooker. My suggestion is to start brining it the night before, take it out in the morning, and get it into the oven mid-morning to eat for dinner early evening. Even better the next day, after being shredded and mixed with its own juices, if you're going to be really organised - re-heats really well, and freezes and re-heats well too.

Calories approximately 100  per 50g serving (enough for one bun/roll/cob - see notes for calculation, and photo at the bottom), makes approximately 25 servings of this size, freezes/chills and re-heats very well.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Smoky Barbecue Sauce (includes Thermomix method)

You can't beat a decent barbecue sauce, especially if you make it yourself!

This is amazing with my Pulled Pork recipe, especially in a bun with some homemade Southern style coleslaw or with spare ribs, and also great on burgers, with sausages, or even on grilled chicken with a little handful of melted cheese, and a couple of rashers of crispy bacon. You could use it as a glaze if you're cooking, as well as a sauce.

Many commercially-made varieties are overly sugary and vinegary, and lack substance, being made mostly of water and thickener. If you make your own with a base of tomato passata (sieved tomatoes), you can control how sweet and thick it is yourself, and adjust the salt and acidity levels as well. As you can see, I played around until I got it to my preferred consistency and flavour (the bottom right!).

Even better, if you're making it for the family, you can leave out the salt if you have small children (or want to reduce your salt levels). This one does have a little bit of a kick though (only a little one, honest!) from the smoked paprika, so if there are any baby-mouths in the house, you might want to go easy on that! Once you've made it, you could portion it out into re-sealable sandwich bags to freeze (and defrost as required), or store from hot in sterilized jars and refrigerate after opening. If you have a Thermomix, I've included the Thermomix method at the bottom. [Calories in square brackets]

Calories per 2 tbsp (30ml) serving, 24. Makes approximately 1.2 litres / 1,200 ml / 1,200g.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Coleslaw - Southern-Style and Healthy

Delicious, crunchy, coleslaw, perfect with pulled pork, salad, in a sandwich, with a barbecue, on top of a jacket potato, or eat it on its own... whichever way you like it!

I made this to go with my pulled pork recipe (it's fantastic in a bun with pulled pork and barbecue sauce!), but if you're a fan of coleslaw then you already know how versatile it is - I'm having leftovers tonight with my Cajun chicken, and a nice fresh salad and the children had it in their lunchboxes, in cheese sandwiches... everyone loves it! I also have to be careful not to eat too much after I've just made it, as I love how fresh homemade coleslaw tastes, especially with the apple in it - and I don't like the huge, overpowering chunks of onion you get which overwhelm you in bought coleslaw.


The great thing about this recipe, is that you can make it as creamy as you like it, and add or substitute ingredients to suit your tastes (suggestions at the bottom in the Tips). Oh, and did I mention you can cheat and buy a bag of ready shredded coleslaw mix if you prefer? I've given you the basis for a nice crisp coleslaw, with a slight sweet and crunchy element from tart, Granny Smith apples and carrots, the tang of sweet white onions, and the crispness of shredded green cabbage (with a little red cabbage as well, if you like!) with a tasty dressing - it's up to you how much mayonnaise you add, if you're not counting the calories. I'm not one for a 'sloppy slaw' (one of the reasons I've used nice thick Greek yoghurt alongside the mayonnaise, rather than buttermilk), but when you've made it up with my suggested quantities, you can just keep going with the mayonnaise until it's the consistency you like. [Calories in square brackets, if you're counting].

Calories per 50g serving: 60 for full fat version, 27 for light version (extra-light mayo and 0% fat Greek yoghurt).  (Total weight, approximately 1,190g, total calories 888 for full fat version, 475 for extra light mayo, fat free yoghurt version).

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Quick Warm Potato, Green Bean, Lemon and Caper Salad (with Salmon) including Thermomix method

This quick, warm potato and green bean salad is the epitome of why simple is often delicious, with just six ingredients.

Absolutely perfect with salmon or trout (which you can cook all-in-one in the Thermomix), or for a vegetarian alternative toss with some quartered boiled eggs and a handful of olives and top with toasted pine nuts, or if you want to cut the carbs, replace the potatoes with thick chunks of sliced courgettes (zucchini).

After craving salmon for a few days, and dreaming up just how might be the very perfect way to cook it I also had to think what would be the perfect accompaniment to it as well. I thought about quite a few things, and then finally settled on making something light and lemony, warm and simple. Which also just so happened to cook in around the same time as my salmon took to cook to perfection.

Serves two, calories per serving: 145 each for the warm potato and bean salad (if you want to cut the calories and carbs substitute thickly sliced courgettes for the potatoes this reduces the salad to to 95 calories per serving), and 140 calories per serving for smoked trout or from 211 calories per serving for hot smoked salmon (see ingredients).

So, for a really light meal, the warm salad made with courgettes and served with smoked trout (see below) would come in at 145 calories per serving.

Feel free to substitute and add your favourite vegetables to the warm salad - asparagus, broccoli, mange tout, snow peas etc. would all be great.

Sous Vide Salmon (also Quick-brined and Cold-smoked, with a few 'hacks' so everyone can have a go! Includes Thermomix instructions))

Simply the most delicious salmon I can remember eating... you don't need the fancy equipment to enjoy this (or something very similar) either, as I have included alternative methods.

I came home last night with a dozen fresh salmon fillets, and just couldn't decide which way to cook them - I had been really fancying a nice fillet of salmon for days, and I couldn't decide between pan-frying, poaching, barbecuing, grilling, steaming, cooking sous-vide (in a vacuum-sealed bag in a water bath at a specific temperature) then searing...

Sous Vide Salmon

...and I'd had the barbecue out the previous day to cold-smoke a shoulder of pork (more on that elsewhere!). So in the end, I did a few of the above and it turned out one of the tastiest, moistest salmon steaks I'd ever had (despite needing a very slight rescue with a splash of extra oil, because it stuck slightly to the pan when I seared it! My fault for being lazy and using the small pan!)... lightly smoked, with a tasty seared outside and delicately flavoured flesh which cut like a hot knife through butter. I served it with a warm new potato, green bean, caper and lemon salad with flat leaf parsley, and it was just perfect... you can pick and mix your methods from below, e.g. skip brining and smoking, and just cook your salmon sous vide, for perfectly cooked salmon and sear afterwards.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Thai Pork with Green Beans (Pad Prik King Moo)

A simple, spicy and light dish - something a little different to do with pork and beans!

Easy to throw together, really tasty and another one to add to the 'Red Curry Paste' collection. If you prefer, you could substitute chicken, or even turkey. The red pepper is a little tweak just added, when my daughter cooked it with me this week (she's 10 - well, she cooked it for everyone, and I helped her!).

Serves two, easily doubled, or serves more if part of a meal.
Calories: 279 per serving for two people (plus 4 calories if served with shirataki/zero noodles - rinse very well and snip up into very short lengths before cooking). Good served with noodles (whether zero, glass or rice noodles; or courgette/zucchini 'noodles' for around 32 calories a 200g portion) or rice (or cauliflower rice for around 70 calories a 200g portion) to make a main meal. 236 calories a portion if you use the same weight of boneless, skinless chicken breast instead.

Thai Pork in Chilli Sauce (Nam Prik Ong)

Another one to use up that red curry paste (that you might have made or bought by now!)

Well, I can't have people making up a job lot of curry paste, and running out of ideas of things to do with it! (There's a Thai green bean and pork dish to come too, and some Thai fish / crab cakes as well, just in case my Thai Red Duck Curry and Thai Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Salad haven't convinced you to have a go at my recipe for Thai Red Curry Paste...)

This is a dish from Northern Thailand, often sold on the street with deep-fried pork rind – can be eaten as a ‘dip’ with raw vegetables (baby gem lettuce leaves and chicory leaves are good to serve it in/on – would look nice in a small bowl on a large plate surrounded by individual leaves etc. for people to help themselves to), Thai crispy rice cakes, or sticky rice – you could even serve it with (zero or glass/rice) noodles mixed in to make a main meal, or on top of steamed Jasmine or cauliflower rice, for a low carb, light meal. You could substitute minced chicken or turkey if preferred, but pork is traditional. The thai pork in chilli sauce is to the bottom right of the photo, the top left is my Chinese Lettuce Wrapped Pork (or Chicken) – Sung Choy Bao, recipe to follow in the near future.

This will serve four as part of a sharing platter or starter at 129 calories each, or you could serve up to two as a main (257 calories per portion), but it's quite spicy!

Pinchitos Morunos - Pork Kebabs (with Green Peppers)

Tasty pork kebabs, flavoured with Moorish spices - popular in many Tapas bars.

With warm and heady spices, these are beautiful grilled (USA broiled), and perfect for cooking over a barbecue - you could even griddle them if you want to catch the smoky, slightly charred flavour. Delicious served over rice (or cauliflower rice) with my Artichoke, Asparagus and Fennel salad.

Makes four main portions, or serves six to twelve as tapas. 228 calories per serving (three skewers), 76 calories per skewer.The little green Padron peppers take on a smoky flavour when cooked under a home grill (broiler) on the pork kebabs. If you can’t get hold of Padron peppers (or other small cooking peppers, I picked up the Padron peppers on a whim as the shop just so happened to be selling them as peppers suitable for Spanish tapas dishes that day), then just cut up regular peppers into large dice and thread onto the kebabs.

Artichoke, Asparagus and Fennel Salad with a Lemon Dressing

This is a beautiful, Spanish-inspired dish, which really takes salad to a whole new level.

It makes great use of what some would consider luxury ingredients, and with the Spanish slant, goes wonderfully with things like grilled chicken, fish and seafood, or my Moorish-Spiced Pork and Padron Pepper kebabs, and makes a stunning dish on a table of food to share with friends.

Serves four as a side, 91 calories per portion.
Feel free to chop and change the ingredients according to what you’ve got! [Calories in square brackets]

Friday, 4 April 2014

Gai Satay (Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Salad)

Who doesn't love chicken satay skewers with a peanut sauce?

Threading pieces of marinated chicken onto skewers, then serving them with a dipping sauce or sauces seems to have an almost universal appeal, and this recipe is no exception. You can make it *really* special, by making your own Thai red curry paste (my recipe is here) to use in the peanut sauce (as well as other delicious recipes, like my Thai duck red curry), or for convenience use a good brand of bought red curry paste, such as 'Thai Taste'.

Serves 4 (or more people as a starter), 330 calories per person as a main meal if you're counting, you can add 40g uncooked Jasmine rice (per person) for 132 calories each if it’s your main meal (bringing it up to a total of 462 calories), or have cauliflower rice, if you don't eat grains, or for less calories (38 per 100g) and/or a nice big salad! Don't forget to reduce the calories if you substitute sugar for stevia etc.

Satay is a popular dish, you could easily substitute pork, beef, lamb, king prawns or a selection of vegetables such as courgette, aubergine, large chunks of mushroom and peppers (or even use quorn meat substitutes if desired). If you’re using wooden/bamboo skewers, don’t forget to soak them for at least 20 minutes so they don’t burn when you cook the chicken.

Thai Red Duck Curry (Gaeng Phed Pet Yang)

I do love the exciting mix of different flavours and textures in a Thai red duck curry... they're amazing!

I don't think there's another curry *quite* like it, especially if you go the whole hog and make your own Thai red curry paste! (I thoughtfully posted my recipe here for you, including Thermomix instructions which will keep for a few weeks in the fridge, or freeze in portions and keep for months, just before I posted this, the first of my Thai recipes including red curry paste - or if you don't want to make your own, you could use one of the better bought brands, e.g. Thai Taste).


This recipe serves two, and is easily doubled (or serves more as part of a meal with accompaniments).
Calories (if you're counting) are 472 per serving, if made with full fat coconut milk and served to two people; 350 per serving if made with ‘light’ coconut milk.

Thai Red Curry Paste (Nam Phrik Gaeng Phed) - from Pestle and Mortar to Thermomix instructions

An essential ingredient for Thai dishes - if you make it yourself, the flavour is far superior to bought pastes.

This will last a little while in the fridge in a sealed container, but I like to freeze it in portions after giving it a couple of days for the flavours to meld, which means it will last for months and retain the original flavour. Delicious in dishes such as my Thai Red Duck Curry, Thai Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Salad, Thai Pork with Green Beans, and Thai Pork in Chilli Sauce.

Makes approximately 480g (with 1tbsp water added to process - 20 portions of 24g each, easily doubled). 319 calories for the batch, therefore with 20 single servings, that’s 16 calories per serving, if you're counting or need to know.

The milder cousin to green curry paste, used in curries with coconut milk/cream, garnished with kaffir lime leaves, chillies and Thai sweet/holy basil. Red curries are generally thicker, milder and less pungent than green curries, with warmer spice notes. Will keep in the fridge for 2-4 weeks. [Calories in square brackets]

Larp Gai (Thai Spicy Minced Chicken Salad) - including Thermomix instructions

I first fell in love with this in Sheffield, of all places, when a friend of mine made it...

But a trip to Thailand soon followed. This is one of the really well known Thai salads, and is incredibly refreshing and full of flavour. It's also very easy to make, full of flavour, healthy and can be a great sharing food if you provide the leaves of baby gem lettuces to use as little cups for the salad (or assemble them in about 12 small baby gem lettuce leaves, for canapes for friends to help themselves to).

Serves two (or more as a starter, or sharing platter), easily doubled.

Calories per serving (between two)
203 for chicken salad, 37 calories for suggested vegetables

A popular spicy chicken salad, originating from the North East of Thailand, served with raw vegetables. Eaten cool, so great to prepare ahead, or even make as a meal the night before, then put the rest into your lunchbox (with vegetables/salad in a separate tub) for the next day. 

[Calories in square brackets]

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Perfect Sous Vide Turkey (and a brine to make your oven-baked turkey more succulent)

It's so unbelievably good, it's DEFINITELY not just for Christmas, or Easter, or Thanksgiving...

Aside from a turkey afficionado's dream for cooking the perfect turkey, this is also perfect for making the most extraordinary use of those frozen (single) turkey breasts marketed for family roast dinners, which come in 800g frozen packs in the supermarket - not my usual choice, but when you're initially experimenting, you don't want to be going out buying enormous, organic, rare-breed turkeys and butchering them into appropriate portions at great cost to yourself - so this is where I started off to perfect the brine and cooking.

And, with the brine and cooking time perfected, it was literally the best turkey breast I'd ever tasted in my life! So, you can stick with the frozen, more economical version, knowing it's going to turn out sublimely, or ramp it up to something more upmarket in the turkey arena, knowing you'll have a rapturous experience when you bite into that first mouthful of moist, tender, free-range, slow-growing, individually plucked and hung turkey, delicately flavoured with subtle herbs and spices, perfectly browned at the end, in a pan, to bring out those rich caramelised flavours... oh, sorry, did I make your mouth get a bit excited?!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Make Your Own Sushi!

You can't go wrong with my non-fail Sushi Rice Recipe, and photo steps for rolling Norimaki and Uramaki Rolls, so why not give it a go?

Not only is it delicious and impressive to serve to dinner guests, you can make it to suit everyone's tastes - or even better, people can have a go at rolling their own - it's great fun to do with a partner, or older children, for something a bit different!

This quantity easily serves 4 as a main, much more if for nibbles/starters/side dishes. Total calorie count for the rice (including dressing) 1,187 - therefore, rice (only_ per serving, between 4 people as a main would be 297 calories each. However, bear in mind that the fillings are in very small quantities, and very low fat, so you won't be going much higher than that when you've made it, if you make it in rolls.

Below, you will find the ingredients to make enough sushi rice for a four person main meal (or starters/sides/snacks for double that). Sushi does not have to be rolled up in seaweed (Toasted Nori Sheets), it can be served simply, with ingredients all scattered on the top, or some mixed in, in a big dish for people to help themselves to - so there's no need to worry if wrapping things up isn't your forte. Plenty of ideas below!

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