Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Canapés, Party Food and Lunchbox Treats the Healthier Way (includes Thermomix instructions)

Do you despair of party food being a sea of bloat-inducing pastry and breadcrumbed, bread-based foods, and yearn for delicious treats and nibbles that aren't going to induce an attack of indigestion?

Well, here are some of my favourite recipes for entertaining, including some completely grain-free tasty nibbles, plus additional links to more of my recipes which make great party food and canapés, and ideas for even more!

And the best thing of all - most of them can be made the day before, so no need for last minute panic - you can spend the day pampering yourself, then throwing a few fresh bits together and setting it all out for your guests to enjoy.

So, pictured above are (from left to right, in traditional fashion) smoked salmon and cucumber cups, crab and tarragon stuffed baby tomatoes, celery and blue cheese barquettes with walnuts and red pepper canapés with a Greek salad topping - recipes below, and more!

Scroll down below the first four canape recipes for a whole host of ideas that won't upset your stomach, including skewers with salads, lettuce cups, gluten free finger foods and even sushi!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Piccalilli with Pears and a Hint of Red Chilli (includes Thermomix method)

The perennial English mustard pickle favourite - punchy, crunchy piccalilli is perfect with pork pie, cheeses and cold meats all year around.

Having a kitchen helper or two will shave lots of preparation time from the recipe (whether they're smaller versions of yourself, or a clever appliance you can plug into the wall!), however it's all worth it for the amount of jars you'll end up with, which you can share around the family and friends (or hoard all for yourself if you're a complete piccalilli fiend!).

You'll end up with around three metric tonnes of piccalilli... no, just kidding, but you will need a pretty mahoosive pot to mix it all together with at the end: e.g. a 5 litre stock pot will do it - or use two large pans - or alternatively you can easily halve the quantities in this recipe. The whole recipe will make 4,800 to 4,900g piccalilli, so have plenty of jars ready to go - and it will easily last a year or more in sterilised jars.

How much it makes - smallest jars 326g
It's your choice whether to make this a chunky piccalilli to have as a side to cheddar, pork pie, ploughman's salad etc., or whether to cut it more finely, so you can have it as a sandwich pickle. I tend to cut mine on the finer side, so that it can be enjoyed as a side, and in lovely doorstep sandwiches. Makes a fabulous gift, and has a much more tasty and refined flavour than the bought jars of piccalilli which can be rather astringent from the vinegars used in them, or packed full of sugar.

Cranberry Sauce with Port and Orange (includes Thermomix instructions)

Delicious served as a condiment with a roast turkey dinner, on the side of cold meats, or in a baguette with soft brie, and maybe even a little bacon, or with turkey, ham and stuffing!

Cranberry sauce isn't just for Christmas, so why not make more of this deliciously tart and tangy sauce! This luxury version is enhanced by the flavours of port, orange and a hint of star anise, and as well as the traditional foil for a rich turkey dinner, it is the perfect partner to rich and creamy French cheeses and cold meats.

This yields about 1.1 to 1.2 litres of sauce, and it will keep unopened in the fridge for many months (mine usually happily lasts up to a year, or more!) if sealed in sterilised jars, as well as keeping a good few weeks after being opened. Makes a lovely gift, too. Around 50 calories per tablespoon.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Bejewelled Festive Fruity Mincemeat (includes Thermomix method)

A rich mix of colourful dried fruits, festive spices and slivered almonds, fragrant with orange and spiked with brandy

For the uninitiated who may be daunted by the idea of eating sweet meat pies, worry not - mincemeat generally stopped containing actual meat about halfway through the last century, although from the 15th century onwards, it was exactly what it said on the tin! Now it's usually a heady mix of dried fruit, spices, distilled spirit, and frequently suet (which is often vegetarian now too), and sometimes mixed peel and nuts.

The great thing about mincemeat, is that it keeps really well, frequently for a year, and sometimes another year after that (some people revive it with another glug of brandy stirred in, or whatever spirit is to hand). It's most commonly used to make 'mince pies', and can also be used inside festive 'strudel' type pastries. My preference is to make it into mincemeat stars (inspired by the Finnish festive star-shaped pastries, Joulutorttu, which are filled with plum or apricot jam and look so pretty) which I started making many years ago and have now become something of a family tradition. If you can make this a couple of weeks ahead of using it, the flavours will develop really nicely, but if (like me) you frequently end up fire-fighting everything you need to do in the week (or couple of days!) before Christmas, then don't worry - I've made it and used it on the same day, and it still tastes fantastic! This quantity will fill two large 800g jars (or an equivalent volume of smaller jars) with a tbsp or two left over.

Autumn-Spiced Braised Red Cabbage (includes Thermomix method)

A really delicious way of cooking red cabbage, with warm spices and fruity notes.

This is perfect as a side dish to compliment game, pork, duck, turkey and even sausages - and it's brilliant served with Christmas dinner too! This will make a good quantity (it should feed eight to twelve easily, more if part of a large meal with other vegetable side dishes), and if frozen in food bags with the air squeezed out, it will keep for months and months in the freezer.

If you have leftovers in the fridge, they're also nice cold with sliced roast meats, cheese, pork pie etc. It re-heats perfectly, and is therefore great to make the day before, or even well in advance and freeze, if you're cooking for a hungry crowd and want to minimise preparation and cooking on the actual day!

You'll need a large dish with a lid to cook this - preferably pyrex or earthenware, and it will be a lot quicker to prepare the ingredients if you have a food processor with a slicing blade (or see Thermomix method).

Calories, for those counting -129 for a twelfth.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

No Fail, Deliciously Thick and Creamy Thermomix Yoghurt

Perfect results every single time, with only two ingredients and yoghurt so thick you can stand your biggest, heaviest spoon up in it!

Are you fed up of playing 'yoghurt roulette'?

Disappointed with thin or sloppy home-made yoghurt? Getting grainy results, or finding you end up with more whey than yoghurt? 
Well here's how to get the perfect result every time with only two ingredients - just milk and a yoghurt starter!

Having a few yoghurt fails myself when I first started making my own in the Thermomix was what prompted me to do a bit of research on why, and then perfect my method in order to get the same result every time.

Served with fresh raspberries, a drizzle of honey and toasted almonds

This is my second post on making yoghurt, as the first one was quite long because it included reasons why your yoghurt could go wrong, and how to make it using various methods. So after being asked to provide some recipes to an e-magazine, I decided to blog a straightforward and short set of instructions (well, short for me!) of how to make it in the Thermomix - if you want to see the longer version, which includes how not to make it, straining it to make Greek style yoghurt (although the yoghurt you will get using this recipe is so thick, that step is unnecessary), and making it into 'yoghurt cheese' and some of the science-y stuff, have a look here.

The other equipment I recommend using for perfect, no-fail yoghurt every time, is an Easiyo to incubate it in, and some kind of thermometer or temperature probe to check when your milk has cooled down to the right temperature before adding your yoghurt starter. Both these things are pretty inexpensive, yet essential, and you will have saved the cost of them in making your own yoghurt after just a handful of batches, and continue to save - I save 80% on what I would pay for two 500g pots of my favourite brand of Greek yoghurt every time I make a litre, which is a lot! The bacteria are also incredibly good for your gut health, so it's well worth having a go on both counts. If you're counting calories, it will be pretty much the same as the calorie count per 100ml/g as the milk you use, give or take a calorie or two.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Creamy Peppercorn and Brandy Sauce - Thermomix Version

This is our absolute favourite sauce of all time to have with steak, so it was about time I wrote up my recipe for the Thermomix!

It's also good with pork steaks, or even chicken breasts, but for me, this is complete 'steak dinner' perfection served with chunky chips, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, and peas (or petit pois in our case!) and of course, a perfect medium rare steak. Throw on some crispy onion rings if you're going to really push the boat out! If you haven't got a Thermomix or you really love setting fire to your sauces (seriously!), then worry not, my original recipe is here, and if you want instructions on how to cook the perfect steak sous vide in your Thermomix (however you like it cooked, and whether you have a TM31 or a TM5), you can find them here.

This makes enough sauce to serve four generously (it yields around 350ml so possibly six - I'm just incredibly greedy with this sauce because I love it so much!), and you can also freeze leftovers, which re-heat very successfully with a vigorous stir at the end. If you would like to cook your steak sous vide, you can put the sauce aside to keep warm while you cook your steak, or re-heat, and it will be quite happy. Lay some greaseproof paper over the top to stop a skin forming, or just give it a vigorous stir before serving.

Serves four, takes 20-25 minutes to cook, 164 calories per serving (but you're not seriously counting with this, are you??) ;)

Easy Pea, Ham (or Feta) and Lettuce Soup (includes Thermomix method)

A twist on classic flavours, with a variety of textures in this delicious soup

I like to use petit pois in this, because I prefer their more tender texture and sweeter flavour, and to make life easy, you can use bought ham (or chicken/vegetable) stock if you like, and pre-shredded / pulled ham, which is also easily available. Otherwise, sear then gently simmer a ham hock in a couple of litres of water for a couple of hours, with a carrot, leek, celery stalk and a few fresh herbs (parsley. thyme, bay) plus some peppercorns and skim off any scum and strain. Then you can shred the meat from the hock to add to the soup.

Pea Ham and Lettuce Soup Thermomix

For vegetarians, use vegetable stock, and substitute crumbled feta cheese and a handful of chopped fresh mint for the ham (as per the ingredients list) for an equally delicious soup.

Serves eight, 121 calories per serving - one of those soups which is delicious in any season!

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