Sunday, 21 September 2014

Spicy Chorizo, Chickpea and Spinach Soup (includes Thermomix method)

A delicious, hearty and filling soup, with spicy, smokey chorizo flavours, nutty chickpeas and fresh spinach.

Chorizo really is a star ingredient, packed full of flavour which is released in the oils when you cook it, which is enhanced in my spicy chorizo, chickpea and spinach soup by the fresh garlic, chilli and smoked paprika in it (which means that even if you chose to leave out the chorizo, to make this soup vegetarian, it would still have the delicious chilli, smoky paprika and garlic flavours in it). There are many different varieties of chorizo - some cured and eaten as they are, others for cooking, with regional varieties containing subtly different herbs and spices.

            Thermomix Spicy Chorizo Chickpea and Spinach Soup

And then there's the question of pronunciation. Is it 'choritho', 'shoriso', or 'choritso' or something else - a certain feisty Spanish lady, Maria at Feisty Tapas is quite adamant it's 'cho-ree-thoh', and I'm certainly not going to disagree with her!

This hearty soup serves six - and if you have leftovers they will freeze beautifully - or the next day, you could transform them into a meal, by adding a tin or two of your favourite white beans to them (e.g. butterbeans, or cannellini etc., rinsed and drained) or some roasted vegetables and topping with a chunky, pan-roast cod fillet. Delicious!

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

Friday, 19 September 2014

Moroccan-Spiced Superfood Stew

A delicious and hearty dish, full of flavour - perfect as a vegetarian main or a tasty vegetable accompaniment to meat or fish.

Packed full of 'superfoods' (or in other words, a great bunch of healthy vegetables and legumes, full of nutrients - I'm a sucker for alliteration, and a title including all the ingredients turned out a bit too long!), this Moroccan spiced squash, chickpea and kale stew is thickened with lentils (now can you see why I shortened it to spiced superfood stew?); and the combination of pulses and vegetables gives a wonderfully balanced dish which is a meal in itself, or can be topped with crumbled feta for a contrasting flavour or texture, maybe with a handful of toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds, and a scattering of pomegranate seeds?

           Moroccan Spiced Superfood Stew

For the non-vegetarians, you could go with my super easy Harissa Chicken, for a quick or healthy twist (recipe here) - or for a weekend roast dinner, rub some of that harissa paste into a shoulder of lamb, and roast at gas mark 3 for 3 or 4 hours, then pull apart and serve on top, scattered with some fresh coriander...


Serves 6 to 8 (as a hearty all-in-one side topped with protein, or served with extra vegetables on the side), from 179 calories per serving, if you're counting (if using one tin of tomatoes and serving eight. If serving six, for a bigger appetite, it's  239 calories per serving. If using a second tin of tomatoes, you need to add an extra 13-17 calories per serving). [Calorie counts in square brackets]

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Egg Fu Yung (Chinese-Indonesian Omelette) with a Sesame-Ginger Sauce

A delicious, quick and easy dish, popular in America and the UK - 'gravy' optional!

Although not itself authentically Chinese, Egg Fu Yung (also known as Egg Foo Young, Egg Fo Yong etc.) is a Chinese-American dish which is derived from an authentic dish from Shanghai, known as Fu Yung Egg Slices, made with beaten egg whites and ham slices, or minced chicken if you go further north. You can add your choice of various vegetables, as well as various types of seafood or meat if you like too (see notes below for ideas).

          Egg Foo Young recipe

In this version, I've simply added bean sprouts, straw mushrooms and spring onions (scallions) to keep it simple and quick, but use up whatever you fancy!

In the UK, it is not usually served with a sauce as such, but in America, they frequently serve it with 'gravy'. Whilst I had a little difficulty with the notion of serving a Chinese-style omelette with gravy, I do try to be open-minded where food is concerned, so in a nod to a transatlantic friend of mine, I did make a sauce based on a light chicken stock - which I'm afraid I then just couldn't help flavouring with soy, ginger, oyster sauce and toasted sesame oil. I will put my hand up, and confess that I actually rather enjoyed it, and it gave the dish quite a pleasant new dimension - so thank you, Audra, I'm glad I gave it a whirl! ;)

Obviously, the sauce (or gravy!) is entirely optional, but you might just surprise yourself and like it too!

245 calories per portion for the Egg Fu Yung, serves two as a light lunch, or a meal with other/side dishes.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Skinny Spring Rolls

Crispy and delicious vegetable spring rolls for a fraction of the calories they'd be if you bought them, and simple to make too...

Easily doubled for a crowd, and not at all difficult to make - my children helped me rolling these up! Feel free to play around with the fillings and flavours - I've put some suggestions at the bottom of this post - whether you add cooked prawns or chicken with sweet and sour, or maybe some duck and hoisin sauce, there are all kinds of different flavours you could add!


And if you want something to dip them in, you can make my five simple Chinese dips in under five minutes! The recipes are here. If you want to make my gluten free version (which are even skinnier at only 35 calories each), the recipe is here.

Makes 20 spring rolls, 43.5 calories per roll, 218 calories for 5 rolls.

Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls - Gluten Free

Not only is this recipe gluten free, it's also a healthier version of crispy spring rolls, which doesn't involve deep-frying (and it's easy to make, too!) - what's not to love?

Spring rolls are often a guilty pleasure for many of us - or worse still, a greasy disappointment, heavy on the stodge, seeping out oil with every bite, and low on flavour - worse still if you buy the supermarket efforts. And if you're eating gluten free, even worse - you probably can't get hold of any!


However, salvation is here - a fresh and crispy tasty vegetable filling (and you can use this as a spring board, and add cooked prawns, shredded chicken or duck, char siu pork [watch out for gluten - my recipe to make your own is here] or whatever else you fancy to it - see the Notes for further suggestions!), with rice wrappers, quickly baked with a mere brushing of oil and egg, until crispy on the outside and hot and juicy on the inside! With a whole variety of very simple dips to serve them with (see here for five very simple Chinese dips you can whip up in under 5 minutes, as in the photo, that compliment them beautifully!), you can't go wrong, and they're very easy to make - no pre-cooking necessary for the filling!

Easily doubled for a crowd, and not at all difficult to make (the photo above is of rolls made by my children, aged 9 and 11 at the time - as in the photo on the left!) - tasty, crispy, gluten free spring rolls at a fraction of the calories you’d get in those from a restaurant or shop!

Makes 20 small spring rolls, 35 calories per roll, 172 calories for 5 rolls. I don't recommend making fewer, larger rolls, as you're more likely to get 'soggy bottoms' or splits in the rolls. You can shallow or deep fry the rolls if you prefer, instead of oven cooking - but obviously they will be considerably more calorific! If you don't need to go gluten free, you can make my Skinny Spring Rolls with filo pastry instead, another low calorie healthy option.

Simple Chinese Dip Selection

Put this selection of Chinese dips together in literally just a few minutes! Great for spring rolls, dim sum, satay skewers, wontons and more...

There's no need to faff about with these, a minute's chopping, and a couple of minutes mixing together, and you're there!


A selection of quick and easy dips which will serve eight people (we had more than twice as much as we needed for four people eating spring rolls!) and can be put together in under 5 minutes! 167 calories in total for all of the dips, if you're counting, so about 21 calories per serving if you share nicely. Everyone loves the peanut dip, so you might want to make more! If you're a fan of sweet chilli sauce and want to add that into the mix too, my recipe is here.

Chunky Nicoise Dressing - includes Thermomix method

Full of Nicoise flavours, this chunky dressing goes amazingly well with seared tuna steaks, roast or barbecued lamb and you can skip the anchovies if you like to make it vegetarian, for a delicious dressing for a hearty, warm potato and egg salad.

This is what I love to top a good seared tuna steak with, on top of steamed French beans and potatoes, with a side of leaves and tomatoes in my take on Tuna Nicoise Salad (see here for recipe). Anchovies, garlic, olives and tomatoes are also great partners to lamb, and this is delicious spooned over freshly grilled or barbecued lamb rump or leg steaks (or even sliced roast lamb), served with roasted Mediterranean style vegetables and baked baby potatoes with olive oil, sea salt and garlic (just par-boil first for ten minutes or so, and stick in a dish in a hot oven for about half an hour).


Is your mouth watering yet? (Mine is!). You can easily double this, and it will also keep in the fridge for a few days. It's nice as a dip for warm crusty bread too, (oh how decadent!) and good warm or cold - although my preference is for warm or room temperature - not chilled.

This quantity serves four, at 142 calories per serving.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Seared Tuna Nicoise Salad (includes Thermomix method)

A modern take on salade niçoise, topped with a seared tuna steak and a delicious, chunky dressing packed with bursts of niçoise flavours.

Contrary to popular belief, tuna isn't actually one of the core ingredients of a nicoise salad - anchovies are more likely to frequent the more authentic presentations, and the two wouldn't usually be served together. Cooked vegetables (e.g. potatoes and green beans) are also not part of an authentic salade niçoise recipe - fresh and raw broad beans are the way to go. I remember thinking I'd been 'done' when I ordered a nicoise salad in France a couple of decades ago, because they'd 'missed out half the ingredients'. But, what is this? Next I'll be telling you there are no boiled eggs either!

        Salade nicoise

No, don't worry there are. However, there are as many recipes for salad niçoise, as there are for chilli con carne no doubt, and it's just as contentious! Even the modern Niçois break the 'rules' and serve tuna and anchovies together. So, if they can, so can we, and while we're at it, let's break a few more and keep everybody happy and call it Nicoise Salad instead! (I doubt anyone Niçois would be reading a recipe for it in English anyway - especially if they saw a photo with potatoes and green beans on it - sacré bleu!!). With this recipe, you can choose whether to serve it warm or cold - I like to have my potatoes, beans and eggs warm, which makes it a great dish for winter or summer.

So after our first little harvest of French beans this year (lovingly grown by the good man), together with a motley collection of different tomatoes, hastily picked according to ripeness (rather than variety!), I was inspired to blog my version of Nicoise salad, which has evolved over the years. Mine involves serving a seared tuna steak over the warm steamed green beans and potatoes (optionally tossed in a little olive oil), with lettuce and cherry tomatoes on the side topped with a fresh a boiled egg (of course!), and a wonderfully piquant chunky dressing, with the olives, anchovies and basil within it, warmed through until the anchovies melt into the dressing and finished with capers and diced tomato then spooned over the top... fancy joining me?
You can play around with the salad ingredients (or the dressing), of course, according to what you have and love - add peppers, cucumbers, radishes or whatever you have to hand, use rocket leaves, and even try it with the fresh broad beans if you want to see what you're missing out on! I have a love of fresh tuna, just seared on the outside and rare in the middle - cook your tuna the way you like it, or if you prefer, use a good quality (dolphin-friendly) jarred or tinned tuna (in oil, if you're going to do it the more Gallic way).

Serves two people, easily doubled. 470 calories per serving (328 calories without the dressing, if you want to use a bought dressing, or just have a drizzle of balsamic for a few calories). Halve these quantities for a sophisticated starter at 235 calories [Calories in square brackets - it will of course be more if you add more extra virgin olive oil for tossing potatoes in and drizzles!]

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Harissa Chicken with Spiced Puy Lentil and Tomato Stew and Steamed Green Beans - All-in-one (universal) Thermomix Meal

Tender chicken on a bed of lentils and tomatoes, rich with aromatic spices and fresh herbs, served with fresh green beans.

All in one meals don't have to mean rice or potatoes in the internal basket every time, and this healthy and delicious lentil and tomato stew is packed with different flavours and textures and is cooked at the Varoma temperature making it perfect for steaming vegetables and harissa-spiked chicken (or fish) at the same time.

       Harissa chicken and lentil stew thermomix

The harissa chicken couldn't be simpler, with only 4 ingredients, and with the lentils, the Thermomix does all of the hard work for you! The lentil dish in itself is vegan, so if you wanted to make this into a vegan or vegetarian main dish, you could miss out the chicken, and add extra vegetables, and top with some crumbled feta (not vegan), and/or roast some spiced squash or sweet potato wedges and red peppers in the oven.

Harissa-spiced lamb, or firm white fish steaks or salmon would work equally well with these flavours, but lamb would probably be better grilled, griddled or barbecued, and you would need to put the fish on for less time.

Serves up to six (chicken and green bean servings can be to suit you, see ingredients below - you can freeze or chill the extra cooked lentils if you make this for less than six (which is what I do), but I don't recommend reducing the quantities etc. as they are calculated to have enough liquid to cook in and steam the chicken and vegetables, and may dry out and/or burn).

Calorie information

171 calories per serving of lentil stew (between six - or you could divide it between four more hungry people!); 173 calories per serving of harissa chicken, and 23 calories per serving of green beans (total 367 calories per serving). [Calories per portions]

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Easy Harissa Chicken (includes Thermomix instructions)

This is so simple, it's barely a recipe at all - unless you make your own harissa paste!

However, it was a part of an all in one dish which I posted - the rest of which happened to be vegan, hence I thought I'd post the chicken part separately! And if you do want to make a manageable amount of harissa paste just for this recipe, you could do worse than check here for a recipe from my good man!


However, it's not quite so easy when you make the own, so you can cheat and use a ready made one if you like - I used 'Al'fez' brand for this easy version (as it has no artificial ingredients), which is widely available, to test out how hot it was - don't worry, it won't blow your brains out, but it is, of course a little spicy. So my apologies, this isn't really a recipe (or not what I'd class as one), but it was part of a bigger dish and delicious on top of my spiced Puy lentil and tomato stew/'mélange' (from 171 calories per portion) served with steamed green beans (add 23 calories per portion for an 80g serving each). Serve it with anything you fancy - something Middle Eastern would be good - if you're going along with the 'easy' theme, cous cous is very quick and easy to prepare - add vegetable stock, serve with a nice big salad. My salad Shirazi with pomegranate seeds would be a delicious side to this too, and it's only 38 calories a portion!

Serves two, easily doubled (of course!). 173 calories per serving, if you're counting. [Calories in square brackets]

Spiced Puy Lentil and Tomato Stew

A delicious lentil dish, with a wealth of flavours - have it as a side, a lunch dish, or make it into a main with your choice of toppings.

This is a fantastic way to eat lentils - and also incredibly versatile. The spices and fresh herbs make it a great standalone dish for lunch, or you could top it simply with some crumbled feta, or add spiced, roasted cubes of  butternut squash or sweet potato wedges to make it more of a hearty vegetarian main or some steamed vegetables. 


We enjoyed it served with steamed green beans, and some really easy harissa chicken (see here for recipe, 173 calories per serving) - or lamb, or a firm white fish steak would work equally well with these flavours. You could throw in more vegetables at the beginning if you like, such as diced carrots and red peppers - and even add more stock to make it a lunchtime soup - I've used Puy lentils, but if you prefer, you could use plain green lentils (however you will need to increase the cooking time as per instructions on the packet). If you don't have all the spices, just play around a little with what you've got.

Serves six as a side dish or a light lunch, or four as a main with vegetables on the side. 171 calories per serving for a sixth serving, 256 calories for a quarter, if you're counting - feel free to slosh in an extra glug of olive oil if you're not, or even dress with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil when you serve. [Calories in square brackets]

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Perfect Steak - Cooked Sous Vide (including Thermomix Instructions for TM5 and T31)

Whether you enjoy your steak rare, medium-rare, or medium cooking it 'Sous Vide' is the way to get perfect results every single time...

When I met my partner years ago, I cooked him steak 'sous vide' in the early days, and it was the first time he'd ever had it cooked that way. In those days, I didn't have any high end kitchen gadgetry - no vacuum sealer, no sous vide machine and no Thermomix. It was just a couple of steaks in re-sealable sandwich bags with the air pushed out (via water displacement - sink them in a bowl of water almost to the top before sealing) pegged over a stock pot full of water which I'd heated to 55 degrees celcius, and carefully monitored with a sugar thermometer for an hour, while I did other things in the kitchen, then seared in a pan once it was ready. A little labour of love, but worth it for such tender and juicy steaks (well, they do say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach!).

Sous Vide Steak Thermomix

He's pretty much had steak cooked sous vide ever since that night, he was so bowled over by it - so I'm very glad I don't have to hover over a stock pot any more, and I'm lucky enough to be able to have the technology in my kitchen to do it other, easier ways now (including him cooking it)!

And there are really only four things you need to do, to cook your 'perfect' steak...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sous Vide Salmon in the Thermomix

Simply the most delicious way of cooking salmon I've encountered...

The thing about cooking things 'sous vide' (which translates to 'under vacuum' - although don't worry, you don't need a vacuum sealer for this dish) is that by keeping the temperature of the water you're cooking in constant, the internal temperature of the food is controlled, and you can cook it through at the perfect temperature all the way through without the outside being over-cooked, or the inside being raw or cold.

Sous Vide Salmon in the Thermomix

This salmon is cooked 'a la Heston Blumenthal' - the flesh is going to be of a soft and yielding nature; heated all the way through, but rare. This is the time and temperature for the perfect textured salmon, according to Heston Blumenthal's tastes and I love it, but it's not for everyone, so if it doesn't appeal then cook it at a higher temperature for longer (e.g. 55-60C for medium rare to medium - although if you want it well done, then it's not really worth cooking it this way, there are plenty of other methods - steaming in a parcel is a good one, to retain the best moisture in well done salmon while you cook rice or potatoes in the internal bowl, and vegetables in the Varoma tray).

I love to serve it with a warm new potato, green bean, caper and lemon salad with flat leaf parsley - once the sous vide cooking is done, you could add any herbs or spices you liked, before the quick pan sear (which is optional, but highly recommended). For my instructions for how to cook the perfect steak sous vide in the Thermomix (TM5 or TM31) have a look here - you won't go back! And to *safely* cook chicken breasts sous vide, look here.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Joojeh Kabab - Persian Chicken Kebabs with Lemon and Saffron (includes Thermomix instructions)

More delicious flavours for chicken - something just a little different, perfect for the barbeque or grill.

The zesty marinade helps keep the chicken tender and moist while cooking, and the subtle flavours infuse the chicken with Middle Eastern flavours, whilst the saffron gives it a delicious golden colour.

Persian chicken kebabs

If possible, cook over a barbecue to really capture the authentic smoky flavour of this dish - if not, you will still get incredibly tasty and moist chicken if cooked under the grill or on a griddle. Ideally marinate this the night before, or several hours in advance - although if you're pressed for time you could probably just get away with an hour or two.

Joojeh kababs, (aka Jūje-kabāb) are a popular dish in Iran, commonly served with rice or lavash bread (Persian staples), along with grilled tomatoes and peppers. We enjoyed them with some quinoa and lentil salad with roasted vegetables, sumac and fresh herbs (recipe here), and a deliciously refreshing Persian salad Shirazi with pomegranate.

Serves four, at 166 calories per serving. [Calories in square brackets, 1/4 marinade calories used as the majority left in the bowl once chicken is threaded onto skewers].

Calorie information
Serve with a portion of salad Shirazi (38 calories) and a portion of my quinoa and lentil salad (an eighth for 174 calories) for a total of only 378 calories for the whole meal.

If you're keeping the carbs down serve with a 200g portion of cauliflower rice instead of the quinoa salad for just 76 calories (you could stir in some chopped fresh coriander, mint and parsley with a squeeze of lemon for less than 10 extra calories, and bags of flavour!), and a total of 280 calories for the whole meal including a serving of salad Shirazi.

Salad Shirazi with Pomegranate Seeds

This is one of those dishes whose simplicity belies how utterly amazing the combination of ingredients tastes...

Which is perhaps why it is pretty much the national salad dish of Iran. Hailing from the city of Shiraz, this Persian salad is to Iran, what Kachumber is to India.

Shirazi Salad

With the same base of cucumber, tomato and onion, salad Shirazi is flavoured with citrus and mint. I've added fresh pomegranate seeds to my version, for delicious little pops of sweetness with a crunch, and the fresh mint brings it all together beautifully.

It's good to make this a little in advance and leave it to chill for an hour or so, to allow the flavours to mingle. It's great as a side dish to pretty much any Persian meal - we had it on the side of some delicious Joojeh kababs (Persian chicken kebabs with saffron and lemon - recipe here) along with my Persian-inspired quinoa and lentil salad with roasted vegetables, sumac and fresh herbs.

This serves four people as a side dish, at 38 calories per serving. [Calories in square brackets]

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Quinoa, Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Salad, with Sumac, Lemon and Fresh Herbs (includes Thermomix tips)

Enjoy a taste of the Middle East in this delicious and healthy salad full of different textures and flavours.

Courgettes and peppers are roasted with cumin seeds and sumac then tossed with quinoa, nutty lentils and a refreshing mix of coriander, mint and parsley and dressed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.


Makes a fantastic side dish to grilled or barbecued meat, fish, poultry or halloumi, or even good as a light lunch on its own. We enjoyed it with Joojeh kababs (Persian chicken kebabs in a saffron and lemon marinade, my recipe is here) and salad Shirazi with pomegranate seeds.

Serves six to eight as a side dish. 174 calories per serving for an eighth, 232 calories for a sixth. [Calories in square brackets]

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