Sunday, 20 December 2015

Luxury Sherry Trifle with Fresh Raspberries (with Thermomix instructions)

A traditional-based sherry trifle perfect for special occasions - you can leave out the sherry if you want the kids to have some too!

In our family, it has become traditional to make a sherry trifle over the festive period. I have given you the option whether you wish to make this trifle with or without  jelly - I like to make mine without, with plenty of fresh raspberries lightly crushed and crammed into the middle to counteract the sweetness of the sherry-soaked sponge and the custard.

Custard wise, if you own a Thermomix, I've put instructions for making your own custard at the bottom; if not a 500ml tub of good quality thick custard is perfect for the job (or of course, you could make up 500ml of instant custard if you prefer a more set texture).

This should serve around ten people, or a few more if the portions aren't too large!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Rich Madeira Sauce with Wild Mushrooms

Delicious with steak, this decadent sauce is a real treat which also complements chicken and pork.

Things like Madeira, cream and wild mushrooms are luxurious ingredients, coming together in a rich sauce perfect for when you indulge yourself in a really decent, aged steak from a good butcher, and want to adorn it with something which will complement it, and not overpower it.

I confess, I haven't taken the best photo as I was plating up for four (including two hungry children!) for a certain person's birthday without the time or opportunity to faff about with beautifying the plate as I often do, or take anything but the briefest of photos, but I hope you can at least imagine how delicious the sauce might taste - which it really, REALLY does - there was not a drop left on these plates afterwards!

See? All appetites catered for here - boys on the left! If you're bored of peppercorn sauce with your steak (even though it's gorgeous), and you like mushrooms, you'll love this!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Luxury Fruit Christmas Cake (includes Thermomix method)

A rich and decadent traditional style Christmas cake, packed with fruit

For me, this is best prepared by around mid-November, so you can give it a few 'feeds' of brandy before Christmas. This makes one large cake, which is great if you have a family who really love it and will get through it (although it will keep for up to a year!) - or if you don't want lots of leftovers, you can cook it in a large square tin (which is what I generally prefer to do), then just before you're ready to ice it, cut into four smaller square cakes and give three away!

Yes, there is a 'little' missing from the top left square of the cake in the bottom middle photo...

As far as the mixed fruit goes, you can play about with the dried fruit types and quantities I've given you in the ingredients. If you don't like something, then substitute it for something you do like, the same weight - chopped dried apricots or dates, dried cherries, blueberries, pineapple - whatever you fancy. Play around with the weights of different things if you want too, just try and keep the overall weight the same (1kg dried fruit including glace cherries). If you don't have bags of assorted dried fruits permanently hanging around your kitchen cupboards like I seem to have, then for convenience you could just buy an 800g pack of dried mixed fruit of your choice (preferably including peel if you like it) and a 200g tub of glace cherries (or buy a 1kg mix including glace cherries) and mix with the liquid ingredients. Easy peasy!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Braised Ox Cheeks in a Rich Red Wine Sauce (includes Instant Pot Pressure Cooker method)

Moist, tender beef with a really rich, dark and delicious sauce

Although you don't have to cook this in a pressure cooker (you can slow cook it instead), it will shave a few hours off the process and give you the same meltingly tender results from the meat from just 30 minutes cooking at high pressure.

Ox cheeks are becoming easier to get hold of, now that they've become popular again - although the downside of this is that any surge in popularity means a surge in the price too. However, they're well worth it, as they are one of the tastiest, most tender cuts of beef, when cooked properly. They are practically the beefy embodiment of the word 'unctious'. If you can't get hold of ox cheeks, then beef shin will give you a similarly tender, gelatinous result.

One thing to note about cooking ox cheeks in this way is that they do shrink quite considerably during cooking, so if you want to cut them into single portions, I'd probably go for about 250g each which may seem like a large piece of raw meat, but not once it's shrunk after cooking! I cut it into large chunks about 125g each (so if buying in portions of around 500g, cut into four portions) to cater for my family, where people can choose whether to have one, two or three pieces each that way, according to their appetites (naming no names!). One piece is enough for me and the kids for a small portion, but I think most people would go for two (or three for larger appetites!). If you don't have access to a good butcher to buy your ox cheeks from, they can be found in some Waitrose and Morrisons stores (UK).

Serves from six to eight. Approximately 206 calories per 125g (raw weight) piece of ox cheek with sauce, therefore 412 calories for a serving of two pieces with sauce.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Baked Cod Provencal

A delicious, healthy taste of the Meditteranean, cooked in just the one tray!

Yes, that's right. Not only does this taste amazing, you only need one tray to cook it in, so less pots to contend with, too!

Succulent fillets of cod cook perfectly in the oven, on top of a bed of delicious roasted vegetables full of Provencal flavours. Shavings of lemony fennel inspired by Gordon Ramsey, top it all off perfectly for a contrasting texture, with fresh herbs.

Serves two, 318 calories per serving.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Creamy Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie with Tarragon (includes Thermomix method and gluten free options)

A luxurious creamy chicken pie, beautiful comfort food to share and enjoy...

If you like to cook a big roast chicken (or even turkey) on a Sunday and want something delicious to make with the leftovers, then here it is! Or if you just want to make a mouth-watering chicken pie, then you could roast one just for this (or cheat and grab a rotisserie chicken on your way home - one large bird should give you enough for this with a little bit left over for sandwiches - but shhh, don't tell anyone I said that!).

This is a luxurious deep fill pie, with a really generous filling to pasty ratio. I use a lasagne-style pyrex dish which is 19cm x 25cm and 6cm deep, which is filled pretty much to the brim when using the full 800g of chicken. If you prefer a more shallow-filled pie, then you could bake this in two slightly smaller pie tins, and use two packs (or quantities) of pastry and put one lid on each (you'll need to reduce the cooking time to around 35 to 40 minutes or so). Or of course, you can make it into individual pies. You can freeze it once topped with the pastry - either before or after cooking it (leftovers!), or simply as portioned up pie filling depending on your preference.

If you'd like to make this gluten free, you can use my easy gluten free rough puff pastry recipe, and instead of making the sauce with butter and flour, just mix a few tbsp of GF cornflour with some cold milk, and add to the heated milk and stock at the end, until thickened to your likening.

Serves eight to ten. Freezes well. [Calories in square brackets]

Calories: The entire pie is 3,827 to 4,161 calories (using a pack of sheet puff pastry, according to weight of chicken used). For a tenth portion of a pie using 600g chicken, it would be 383 calories. For an eighth portion of a pie using 800g of chicken it would be 520 calories, and so on.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Roasted Aubergine and Spinach Curry

A delicious vegetarian curry that's easy to make and tasty!

'Roasting' the aubergines until soft, and then scooping out the flesh means that you don't need to cook them in lots of oil, and that they take on a rich, toasty flavour from the slight char on the skin which permeates through to the flesh.

If made with two de-seeded large red chillies, this is a very mild curry, which makes a lovely vegetarian main on its own (you may want to add a tin of chickpeas to add more texture and protein to the curry, if you want to serve it as a main on its own), or a beautiful side dish to other curries, or part of a selection (e.g. a thali).

Makes seven portions (main sized) of approximately 250g, at 134 calories each; or eight servings if including chick peas (see 'variations'), at 157 calories a portion. Serves more as a side dish, and freezes well.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

5:2 Fast Day Menu Planner (including full Vegetarian options and Gluten Free) - never have a boring fast day menu again!

A tasty selection of fully calorie-counted ideas and recipes for fast days - ideal meal inspiration for fasters old and new!

Whether you're new to the 5:2 diet or intermittent fasting, or you're a veteran in search of new ideas (in which case, you can probably scroll down past all the tips to the menu plans and skip this bit!), I hope this selection of fast day menu ideas helps you out.

There are eight menus for fast days with three meals (including breakfast) and eight more menus for fast days with two meals (no breakfasts) - all with full vegetarian options (and gluten free notes in the recipes)... and then there are a bonus further eight fast day dinner suggestions for those who like to save most of their calories for dinners (or men, who have an extra 100 calories to 'spend' on a fast day, the lucky so-and-so's!).

I've been developing calorie-counted recipes suitable for the 5:2 diet for my Facebook recipe group members for over two years now (you're very welcome to join us!), so I'm actually surprised myself, that I've not put something like this together before! [Edit: Now I know why... it took days!!!]

Retro Chasseur Sauce

A rich tomato, white wine and tarragon sauce with sliced mushrooms in it.

This sauce may be a bit of a blast from the past, for those of us frequenting British Pubs and Restaurants a couple of decades ago! 

However, this version is made from natural and fresh ingredients, and packed full of flavour. This sauce goes equally well with steak, chicken or pork fillets/steaks (just substitute chicken boullion/stock), or fish (use vegetable or fish boullion/stock). 

Makes 4 servings at 120 calories each (if you're counting. If not, feel free to increase the oil if you need to.), freezes well. Slimming World 1.5 Syns per serving.

Muttar Paneer - Pea and Indian Cheese Curry

A classic vegetarian Indian curry that's not too hot and can be served as a main dish, or a side.

Muttar Paneer is one of my favourite vegetarian Indian dishes. I think it's maybe because it has cheese in it which makes it one of those vegetarian dishes where you really don't miss meat.

You can even make the paneer cheese yourself the night before, if you fancy (see the separate paneer cheese blog here - paneer is a very mild Indian cheese, which is easy to make yourself at home and no special equipment is needed). I think this dish is lovely as part of a variety of Indian dishes to share with friends.

Serves six (or more if served as a side dish), easily halved. Freezes well.

Calories per serving: 248 calories for a full portion (a sixth) of the 'skinny' version where you either grill the cheese, or just add it as it is without frying. If shallow frying the paneer first, you will need to add around 70-100 extra calories a portion.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

How to Make Homemade Paneer Cheese (Indian Cheese)

Make your own paneer cheese - it's really easy!

You just need two ingredients (milk and lemon juice), it only needs to go into the fridge overnight and no special equipment necessary! 

So without further ado, here's how!

Courgette and Aubergine Curry (Zucchini and Eggplant)

Delicious on its own, or as an accompaniment to other curries.

This is a simple but tasty curry, delicately spiced and lovely as a main, or an accompaniment to other curries. You can play around and substitute whatever vegetables you have available ( it’s very versatile – peppers, cauliflower, squash, okra, sliced carrots, green beans are all good – or you could make it with just aubergine, or a mixture of vegetables.

I usually like to serve this as part of a selection of Indian dishes to cater for all palates, but it is excellent as a low calorie vegetarian main dish.

Serves 4-8 depending on whether served as a main dish, or a side dish.

Calories per serving: 120 calories if served between four people as a main, 60 calories if served between eight as a side.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Moroccan Spiced Roast Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Warning: This soup will fill the house with gorgeous smells whilst cooking!

This delicious (and healthy!) soup came about for two reasons: Firstly, I wanted to create a vegetarian soup with Moroccan flavours which didn't contain chickpeas, and secondly, there's a jar of ras el hanout in my spice cupboard which was crying out to be used in something!

So here it is, I'm very pleased with it, and everyone else really loved it too! Feel free to shake up the flavours by substituting a different spice mix, or adding cooked pulses after blending it to make a heartier soup.

Yields 10 portions (recipe easily halved) of approximately 250g each, at only 99 calories per serving!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Spicy Prawn and Avocado Salad

The classic combination of prawns and avocado... with a kick!

Just a quick flash in the pan for the prawns, and you’ve got a tasty, spicy salad with a lovely lemony zing – fantastic fast food!

Serves one (easily doubled or quadrupled!), 272 calories per serving.

Saag Paneer (Paneer Cheese and Spinach Curry)

A delicious Indian curry, not just for vegetarians!

This is a really comforting and tasty curry - fantastic on its own, or as part of a selections of Indian dishes.

Traditionally the paneer cheese is fried before adding to the curry, giving it a tasty golden crust on the outside and a soft, fluffy texture on the inside. A similar effect (with less calories, if you're counting) can be achieved by placing the cheese on some greaseproof paper on a tray, and placing under a hot grill to brown it a little on the outside, or if preferred you could just stir the cheese in at the end and heat it through to keep the calories down.

Serves three to four light portions (or more if served as a side dish), easily halved or doubled. Paneer is a very mild Indian cheese, which is easy to make yourself at home if you wish (although this needs to be done the day before), and no special equipment is needed.

Calories per serving if not frying paneer cheese: 204 for a quarter (if split into four portions), 272 per serving, if split between three portions.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Retro-tastic Prawn Cocktail Salad

Prawn cocktail doesn't really need much introduction, does it?

Here’s a blast from the past – and incredibly simple to make, too – just chop and mix! A quick light salad perfect for a starter before Sunday dinner (or Christmas dinner!) with 'the olds', if you’re so inclined - or even a light, packed lunch to take to work!

Somewhat tenuous as a festive dish, I know, but when I got home one afternoon, I discovered someone had left the last handful of frozen prawns on the side, which were all but defrosted, so I had to use them up... what better dish, than the retro-tastic prawn cocktail salad - starter from the 80s, and still present on many a pub menu, especially Christmas ones!

Serves 2, easily halved or doubled. 152 calories per serving.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Tom Yum Gai (Hot and Sour Chicken Soup) or Goong (Prawns) with Vegetables

This fragrant and healthy, hot and sour Thai soup is deliciously simple and tasty, and what's more you can make it into a filling meal with the addition of rice or noodles

This is a really tasty Thai soup, which you can make a healthy meal of by adding a few optional vegetables, and even some rice or noodles in the bottom of the bowl before you ladle on your soup, if you want something really hearty (if a little inauthentic)! Keep it minimal for a great starter to a Thai meal.

You can make this with prawns instead of chicken if you prefer, adding them right at the end to make Tom Yum Goong, the popular prawn version of the dish (you can even make the stock up from the prawn shells, cooking them in a little oil until pink, then adding a litre of water and simmering for 20 minutes before straining), or make a vegetarian version with vegetable stock and add tofu to it for the protein element.

A more recent version of the soup, Tom Yum Nam Khon involves adding some coconut milk to the finished broth (usually when making with prawns), and a small amount of toasted dried chillies, if you fancy something a bit creamier - just splash some in at the end - you could also use 100g creamed coconut, or to taste, whizzed into the stock.

For the Thermomix instructions for this recipe, see here.

Serves four to six, from 211 calories per serving for a quarter portion (served between four), or 141 calories for a sixth portion, made with home made curry paste and skinless chicken breast and vegetables as stated.  

With prawns - 181 calories per serving for a quarter portion.

With tofu - 177 calories per serving for a quarter portion.

Add on 165 calories per portion, per 50g raw rice, or if you want a filling soup without the extra calories, you could use konjac / magic / slim noodles for only a few extra calories. Rice or beanthread noodles would be delicious with this too. [Calories in square brackets]

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Rich Red Lentil Ragu - A Tasty, Skinny, Lentil Bolognese Sauce

Make a change from meat with a truly tasty alternative to the traditional ragu sauce for spaghetti bolognese!

Dare I say it, this one is a dish to keep both the veggies and the meat-eaters happy! It's packed full of vegetables, with lentils for protein, and makes a great winter warmer. You can serve with pasta, or with vegetable 'spaghetti' for a lower calorie / carb meal, or even make it into a lasagne.

If you're not vegetarian, and not serving it to vegetarians there are a couple of optional ingredients in there to pack in the flavour you'd get from a traditional meat-based ragu (a little pancetta/bacon, because it goes so well with lentils, and some beef stock), and if you are vegetarian, skip the pancetta and use vegetable stock and an extra pinch of salt at the end if you think it needs it! I've added a couple of non-traditional ingredients to give it plenty of umami flavour, as well. For vegans, just check your vegetable stock cube doesn't contain dairy.

Spicy Chicken Salad - Yo Sushi Style

I do love a bit of sushi and sashimi - and yet if I go to Yo Sushi!, I can't resist a bowl of their spicy chicken salad whilst I'm there!

So, one not-so-fine Saturday afternoon, after a discussion about edible seaweed, I was craving a bit of Japanese food and got it into my head that I really fancied a Yo Sushi! style chicken salad. Not living in the vicinity of a Yo Sushi!, I did a bit of scouting around the internet for a recipe... and a bit more... and for once, it really wasn't very successful, so I had to make up my own!

Apparently, they have a cookbook (which I don't have), and I was able to find the ingredients (minus quantities) online on Eat My Books - however... maybe it's an old book, or they've changed things now, as they just didn't seem quite right compared with the colour and flavour of the chicken I was used to eating at Yo Sushi, and the other ingredients in the salad. I'm accustomed to a spicy, orange-coloured, highly-flavoured chicken on a bed of lettuce, julienned carrot, edamame beans and a few bean sprouts etc., but I couldn't find anything that convinced me it would recreate this. I couldn't even find a Japanese name for the salad - although I'm quite familiar with Japanese food - and to be honest, although delicious, the flavours of the chicken had always seemed a little out of sorts with my experience of Japanese food.

Turns out there's a reason for that! 

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Apple and Blackberry Flapjack Crumble with Custard (includes Thermomix method)

Now that autumn is here, apples and blackberries are plentiful and often free, if you know where to look!

And what better pudding to warm you up on a chilly evening and share with the family (or not!). Best of all, you can make plenty and freeze once assembled for a ready-to-cook dessert, or if you prefer freeze leftovers once you've cooked it.

If you're not a huge fan of blackberries, you can use another berry or fruit of your choice to the same weight, or simply add a couple of extra apples. I like to use a mixture of cooking apples (Bramley) and eating apples (Gala / Cox / Braeburn or similar) for contrasting textures and flavours. Really, you can substitute pretty much any autumn fruits you like - you don't have to use apples - just moderate the sugar to your taste, cover in crumble and bake until bubbling around the edges and golden on top!

Not so long ago, I had a crumble which had a custard layer between the fruit and the crumble - and I have to say it was a very pleasant experience, which I think stops the fruit from making the bottom of the crumble a big soggy lump - so I have included a method for making your own custard to do the same - you don't have to do this, you can just serve custard on the side - or, of course, you can cheat and buy a couple of cartons of good quality thick custard, and use those in instead! Either way, it's optional (but very nice, so I do recommend giving it a go!).

Makes two crumbles which serve six generous portions each, but you could easily half this to make just one (I make one to bake, and then split the rest between small containers to freeze in double portions). Sorry, but I just don't think this is one to count calories on, for a change!!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Black Sesame Spinach and Spiced Sesame Spinach Egg Rolls

It's a two-for-one! A different way to eat spinach with the delicious, nutty flavour of toasted sesame, and the option of using it as a filling for a spiced egg roll.

You can make the spinach as a side dish to complement Japanese main dishes, such as my teriyaki chicken or salmon, or kushiyaki beef skewers, or you can make it as a filling for delicious spiced egg rolls as below - almost like a seaweed-free, rice-free version of sushi rolls!

As a side dish, you can divide the spinach between two (or eat it all yourself!), or you can stuff one egg roll and have it as a snack just for you, or share if you're presenting more than one dish.

The black sesame spinach is 116 calories per serving (if serving two) and the sesame spinach egg roll is 345 calories in total for the whole roll. [Calories in square brackets]

Spicy Szechuan Chicken

Try something outside of your Chinese cooking comfort-zone, that’s very easy to cook, and surprisingly subtle in terms of flavour, with a little bit of a kick to it!

The official name of this dish is Hot and Numbing Chicken (Ma La Zi Ji), but don't let that scare you off - it's really not *that* hot and it isn't going to anaesthetise your mouth, I promise!

Nowhere near as spicy as you might think, this dish gets its name from the numbing, tongue tingling qualities of the Szechuan / Sichuan pepper (not used to excess in this dish, so don’t worry, it’s quite subtle!) and the heat from the chillies (which you can also moderate, by leaving out the seeds, for quite a mild dish). It’s actually a Hunanese dish, which is why the amounts of pepper in it are quite conservative, because the Hunanese are not overly fond of the strange tingling flavour of their neighbours’ peppercorns!

Serves two, 235 calories per portion. Easily doubled, or halved.

Szechuan Seafood Stirfry

A delicious stir-fry with just the right amount of subtle kick, and a delicately flavoured sauce which doesn’t overpower the squid.

If you're a fan of seafood, this is both delicious and healthy - plus it will use up some of those Szechuan peppercorns you've maybe got hiding in the back of the cupboard!

Serves three light portions (or two generous), 161 calories per serving for three (or 242 between two people).

Crab claws with Chilli, Ginger, Garlic and Spring Onion

Fantastic starter or snack, or great served with a selection of Chinese dishes to share. Simple ingredients but absolutely delicious!

If you love crab, and you've seen crab claws and wondered what to do with them, then here's a delicious and really easy way to cook them, Chinese style!

This was inspired by the way my favourite Cantonese restaurant serves king prawns - with the exception that they also add a splash of ignited brandy from a metal ladle, to flambe the prawns! Feel free to add this touch for extra visual impressiveness if you want to!

Serves two, easily doubled or halved. 120 calories per serving. [Calories in square brackets]

Monday, 13 July 2015

Easy Indian Masala Omelette (includes Thermomix instructions)

A spiced omelette from India with tomatoes, onions coriander and spices - great for anytime from breakfast to supper!

This is a really delicious version of omelette, which is both full of fresh flavours, and surprisingly light. It's great if you fancy a quick savoury breakfast, light lunch or supper, Indian style. 

This is good on its own, or you can serve it with Indian flatbread (e.g. a roti or chapatti), or a bread roll or toasted bread (also served as accompaniments in some places in India, believe it or not!).

I like to serve scattered with some fresh chopped tomato, onion and fresh coriander - you could serve a little mango chutney on the side with it, if you wanted to, or your favourite raita.

This serves one, for those of us fending for ourselves and needing a quick and easy solution - but of course it is very easily doubled.

Calories per portion for those counting: 237 - 257 per serving. (Lower if you only use 1/2 tsp oil to fry the omelette in - or use oil spray). 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Steak and Ale Pies (includes Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker method)

In this house, steak and ale pie is the King of all pies...

I've been making steak and ale pie for years - I often start off by braising beef this way, and sometimes it even gets the traditional pastry lids when it actually ends up as a pie (I usually like to do them individually in pots with just a puff pastry or rough puff pastry top), sometimes it ends up not as a pie, but with fluffy dumplings on top, soaking up the juices, or occasionally it's served with baguette slices laid on it near the end, smothered in a mix of butter and mustard and topped with cheese... and sometimes, it's 'just' served as a beef casserole with potatoes and vegetables.

This is my pie - it's a small one - everyone elses' is about double the size!

It's just the kind of braised beef dish that's soooo good, and so versatile that I go back to the core ingredients time and time again but end up using them in different ways. Usually, I make this quantity the day before, and put half in pots for making pies the next day so it's nice and chilled before putting the pastry lids on, and the other half is frozen for another time. You can get away with putting it into the fridge to chill for just an hour or two before putting pastry lids on and baking if you're using individual dishes for the pies, as it will cool down quicker (and if you want to top it with dumplings, you can just pop them on top as soon as it's cooked, and cook for another 20 minutes or so until they're fluffy and cooked - adding mustard, parmesan and some thyme if you have it is lovely!).

This quantity serves eight people (or if they have Desperate Dan appetites, maybe six?) and is easily doubled if you want to cook in bulk.

If you're counting calories, it is 2,965 calories for the whole quantity of filling, not including pastry, and therefore 371 calories for an eighth (of filling only - so for a low calorie meal you could always have the filling as a braise with steamed green veg and some new potatoes, and try to ignore those eating it pie style with chips!!).

Monday, 22 June 2015

Vegetable Spiralizers and other gadgets to make vegetable spaghetti or noodles

If you haven't heard of a vegetable spiralizer, then you've almost certainly probably seen food prepared with one somewhere...

...whether in a salad, or in cooked form: Courgettes (aka zucchini) are a common one - so common in spiralized cooked form they even have their own name now, known as 'courgetti' or 'zoodles', as a grain free, low carb, low calorie alternative to traditional spaghetti or noodles. And if you've ever been for sushi, you've quite possibly noticed the pretty spirals of Japanese white radish served alongside slices of sashimi.

Many vegetables (and also some fruits) are excellent candidates for being spiralized to add to salads, stir fries, fritattas, soups etc., or to eat in place of pasta and noodles. With thicker cut strands or plain spiral cut, they can also be tossed in a little oil and roasted, to add to or make delicious warm salads, or as side dishes, snacks or garnishes. Spiralizing vegetables can also make them more appealing to those who aren't keen on conventionally served vegetables or salads - including children!

This blog is primarily about horizontal vegetable spiralizers, as I have almost lost count of the amount of people I've seen wondering which type of spiralizer they should buy, in the current climate of their popularity!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs (includes Instant Pot Pressure Cooker method)

Who doesn't love a sticky spare rib from the BBQ, with tender, slightly charred meat that falls off the bone?

Well, there's definitely a knack to it! I've not always been a fan of spare ribs, having been given my fair share of over-cooked ribs with dried out, 'cottony' textured meat clinging stubbornly to the bones, and therefore it wasn't something I chose to cook very often. However, there came a point where I learnt that the secret to cooking *really* good spare ribs on the BBQ (or indeed under the grill) was all in the pre-cooking - low and slow (or the equivalent in the pressure cooker, as I have now discovered!) to ensure tender and succulent meat, which just needed a quick spell to give that characteristic, caramelized deliciousness on the outside.

Not only will this recipe give you delicious ribs, you also get an incredibly tasty Thai-influenced sweet and sour sauce to serve alongside - and unlike many sweet and sour sauces, there are no refined sugars, ketchups or artificial ingredients in it, it's all natural! If you're having a BBQ, it's easy to prepare these ahead, and then just warm the sauce through when you're ready to go.

1kg spare ribs will serve four to six people as a starter, or as a main with another dish of similar proportions (e.g. with one quantity of my Sticky Sichuan Chilli Chicken Wings - recipe here).

Calories: For those counting, a quarter of the ribs (served with sauce) is approximately 593 calories, and a sixth is 395 calories. [Calories shown in square brackets]

Monday, 8 June 2015

Sticky Sichuan Chilli Chicken Wings (including Instant Pot Pressure Cooker method)

Whether on the BBQ, or under the grill, you can't beat spicy, sticky chicken wings!

With only four ingredients, and no chopping, these wings couldn't be simpler, and they have a unique umami kick from the Sichuan chilli bean paste.


There's no need to marinate (although you're welcome to if you'd like to!), and you can pop them in the pressure cooker for 10 minutes before barbecuing or grilling to ensure your wings are perfectly moist and tender inside with crispy sticky skin on the outside.

Serves: 1kg chicken wings will serve four to six people as a starter, or as a main with another dish of similar proportions (e.g. with one quantity of my Sweet and Sour spare ribs).

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Salad with Griddled Courgettes

Quick and delicious - classic flavour combinations in a tasty salad that is ready in minutes.

Pop the griddle or grill on to heat up while you chop up your salad and shake up your dressing, and you can have this ready to eat in ten minutes or less.

Great for a light packed lunch too - just take your dressing in a separate little pot.

Serves one as a main, or two as a starter.

475 calories
for a main portion, 238 calories for a starter.

Want to cut the calories? Leave out the avocado and take it down to 317 calories for a main portion.

Normandy Pork Cheeks In Cider (includes Instant Pot Pressure Cooker method)

Meltingly tender, succulent braised pork cheeks in a cider and brandy sauce with carrots, mushrooms and caramelised apples.

This is a delicious dish, which you can choose to pop into a low oven, and allow to languish over a period of a few hours - or if you want to complete the whole process in a much shorter amount of time with the same tender and flavoursome results you can utilise the magic of pressure cooking and shave hours off. Once everything is in the pot, it takes 25 minutes at high pressure, to be precise (plus time to reduce the sauce). Excuse the rustic photo - I cut the vegetables large both to ensure that they stayed intact, and also with the idea of a nice, clean, minimalistic plate but hunger took over, we all ate together and I haven't had time to set up another photo yet! The best part about this dish, was how much everyone enjoyed it - my son loved the tender texture of the pork, and said "Mummy, I don't know how you got the pork that texture - is the cheek quite expensive?"

I have fond memories of what I knew as 'Normandy Pork' from my first forays into braising meat (nigh on a couple of decades ago!) alongside Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin, and it seemed like the perfect way to cook pork cheeks. Pork cheeks are an amazing cut of meat - as a hardworking muscle they are full of flavour, and banded with connective tissue which renders down through cooking to give you the most meltingly tender and unctuous nuggets of meat. As a bonus, they're also an incredibly economical cut (well, until they get too trendy, that is - right now, if you don't have access to a good butcher, at a supermarket they're around £5 a kilo). If you can't get hold of pork cheeks (you only want the meaty parts, see below for a photo), you can use any other cut suitable for braising, trimmed of excess fat and cut into large dice, e.g shoulder, or even use thick pork chops on the bone.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Jamaican Rice and Peas (includes Thermomix method)

The perfect accompaniment to dishes such as jerk chicken, curry goat, or even on the side of ackee and saltfish! (Can you see where I'm going here?)

OK, so this is one of those things that I usually don't really bother measuring or timing when I make it - in that I make a load, we eat what we need for that meal, and the rest goes into the fridge or freezer for convenience - it's very forgiving when being re-heated, or kept warm!

This quantity serves a good eight to ten (from 245 calories per generous portion) - but let's face it, if you're having a barbecue for friends and making a heap of jerk chicken, you'll be glad of it! And if not... just halve the quantities, or put what you don't want into the freezer for easy future accompaniments. To be honest, if you are entertaining, and you make this quantity and serve a range of dishes, it's probably going to serve a few more than ten people.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Jamaican Curry Goat or Lamb (includes Thermomix and Instant Pot instructions)

If you've never tried curry goat, and you love curry, then you really, really should - it's delicious! And if the thought of goat curry scares you, then try it with mutton or lamb instead, and go from there...

I do love a good curry goat, and always have to sample some when we go to the Caribbean carnivals. Traditionally it's made with cubes of meat on the bone, but if you don't like the idea of trying to pick meat from small chopped up bones, then you can use boneless shoulder meat (and if you like, optionally add a few bones to the curry whilst cooking for flavour).

Because this curry is so full of flavour, and cooked low and slow, it's also a great contender for a skinny version too, as goat meat is naturally quite lean - so if you want to cut the calories right down and use some lean meat (e.g. lean goat meat or extra lean diced lamb meat) the long and gentle cooking will tenderise it nicely.

Either way, I've given you the recipe below, with a couple of options to suit, and I hope you enjoy it! If you don't want to make your own Jamaican curry powder, then you can just use a generic ready-made *mild* curry powder if you like and add a pinch of ground allspice. Requires marinating for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight, and approximately 3 hours total cooking. Delicious (albeit decadent!) served with Jamaican 'rice and peas' - my recipe is here.

Serves six (or more with other dishes), 286 calories per serving with lean goat meat, or 368 calories per serving with extra lean diced lamb meat. [Calories in square brackets, if you're counting]

Love Jamaican food? Why not try my Jamaican jerk chicken, or fresh twist on saltfish and ackee?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Jamaican Curry Powder

This is an authentically flavoured Jamaican Curry powder, perfect for dishes like 'Curry Goat'

The curry powder itself is mild, and you add the heat to the curries with chillies - namely scotch bonnet chillies!

The main ingredient which denotes it as a Jamaican curry powder, is the allspice (also known as pimenton), a fundamental flavouring in many Jamaican dishes.

This will make approximately 135g of curry powder (using 15ml tablespoon measures), and for example, you'd use approximately 1/2 tbsp per person for curry goat at approximately 10 calories per 1/2 tbsp.

Cumin-Spiced Salted Cod with Ackee, Red Pepper and Tomato

This is my fresh spin on 'Ackee and Saltfish', a traditional Caribbean dish made with ackee, the national fruit of Jamaica.

It has all of the traditional flavours - the main difference being that instead of using dried and reconstituted salt fish soaked overnight (which sometimes people can find a bit strong, who aren't used to it) then boiled and flaked into the dish, I use fresh cod given a brief salting, then brush it with a light cumin butter for an extra dimension and then grill it and serve on top of the ackee.

It really is delicious, and easy to make - you can prepare all your ingredients (and any side dishes) while the cod is salting, then it takes less than 15 minutes to cook. It makes a surprisingly filling and very healthy meal on its own if you're avoiding carbs or keeping the calories down; or you can serve it with your choice of 'rice and peas' (my recipe for Jamaican rice and peas is here), plain white rice, or even dumplings, fried plantain, hard dough bread or breadfruit if you want some Caribbean accompaniments, Plus it's a novel way to serve saltfish and ackee, particularly to guests!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Jamaican Jerk Chicken (includes Thermomix instructions)

One of the best known and loved Jamaican dishes, jerk chicken is quite literally packed full of flavour and brilliant for a barbecue if you're having one!

In the town near to where I live, there is a Caribbean Carnival every year which I like to visit with my family. Members of the local community organise the most fantastic parade full of absolutely amazing home made carnival outfits around the city, and there are all kinds of stalls including many selling traditional Caribbean foods and drinks.

A helping of jerk chicken from one of the stalls from an enormous barrel-shaped barbeques smoking away, together with some curry goat from a huge, simmering pot, rice and peas, and salad on the side has become a must, washed down with the milk of a fresh young coconut - its top skillfully hacked off by a young man with a machete, and replaced with a straw for drinking it with... sitting on the grass in the sunshine with the family, eating it and getting sticky fingers with the sound of reggae music in the background... Summer bliss! And what's more, having eaten it so often I'm completely happy that I've really nailed the flavours of the marinade in this recipe, so I hope you enjoy it too!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Mushroom Caulisotto

My apologies if you're Italian: look away now, there's no rice here - just low-carb creamy cauliflower lusciousness!

For when you’re craving the flavours of a creamy, rich-tasting, mushroom risotto, but don’t want all of the calories. If you're a fan of cauliflower ‘rice’ (as well as creamy mushroom risottos) you'll enjoy this, as cauliflower is the main component of the dish and it's only 260 calories per serving.

When I came up with this dish about a year and a half ago, I had trouble naming it, and it started off life as 'Mushroom Floretto', which was a tweak away from the rather sophisticated suggestion of ‘Mushroom Fleurotto’ after I appealed for help from my 5:2 recipe group naming it (which beat ‘Mush-rotto’!). This was supposed to be for two people when I developed it, but there was way too much, so that’s why it serves three! However, it is good warmed-up the next day too, and microwaves well (you could also freeze a portion for an easy, quick meal another time, although the texture of the cauliflower will be slightly softer). If you're a meat eater and can't go without your protein fix, this would also make a delicious side dish to something like chicken breast wrapped in parma ham, or you could add bacon or chicken to the dish before the mushrooms.

Serves 3 as a main dish, 260 calories per serving (truffle oil additional) or 304 calories in total for the spinach and sun-dried tomato twist (highly recommended!).

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Quick Thai Prawn and Pineapple Skewers

OK, so you have some plump and juicy delicious raw prawns (shrimp), and you want something quick and tasty to do with them?

Well, dig out that red Thai curry paste, and a few chunks of pineapple (you can even use tinned!) and a luscious treat is yours in minutes!

These are delicious cooked on the BBQ (and probably rather impressive too... little do your guests know how easy they are!), or just cook them under the grill, or on a griddle instead. It really doesn't matter as they will be full of flavour either way!

You can use a good quality ready-made Thai red curry paste, if you can't get hold of all the ingredients to make one yourself, or if you want to make your own, my recipe is here (includes Thermomix instructions).

Serves two as main with sides, or four as a starter or as a selection of dishes. Makes four skewers,  62 calories per skewer (124 calories for a portion of two skewers). Easily doubled, or more, for everyone.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Mia's Luscious Little Lemon Cakes (includes Thermomix method)

It's not often I'm this naughty, but it was for a good cause so it's allowed, right?

My daughter wanted to make some little cakes to sell at school to raise money recently, and we wanted to make something simple, and universally appealing.

Fairly cakes seemed like a simple solution, so we made this lemony version, and iced them with a little lemon-flavoured buttercream, and they turned out absolutely delicious! If you want to make plain / vanilla fairy cakes, simply swap the lemon for 2 tsp vanilla extract.

Makes 24 cakes, and plenty of lemon buttercream to pipe on top! We only put a small amount on, which meant we had the same amount again left, so you could easily cover the cakes with it - whether you pipe it in with a small nozzle, or swirl on with the back of a spoon (much easier!).

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Asian-Style Slaw (includes Thermomix method)

A refreshingly different take on coleslaw that's a great side for Asian-flavoured grilled or barbecued meat and fish.

Full of flavour and texture, this is delicious as a side dish to complement all kinds of Asian flavours, whether you have it on the side of grilled meat or fish, some tasty barbecued skewers, or pop it inside a 'fusion' burger with a splash of sweet chilli sauce!

Not only is it tasty, it's healthy too, being packed full of fresh ingredients. I serve this with my Thai-style salmon fishcakes - and I'm sure it would be equally delicious with Thai crab cakes too!

Serves five, 45 calories per serving.

Thai Spiced Salmon Fishcakes (includes Thermomix method)

Simple and tasty these make a great dinner dish or something a bit different to have on the barbecue.

They're delicious served with some crunchy Asian-style slaw, whether with rice, cauliflower rice or in a bun and maybe topped with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce, if you like!

Pop your cubed salmon into the freezer for half an hour first, to make for easy mincing/chopping in a food processor, and make the texture as smooth or chunky as you like - a slightly chunky texture will give you deliciously moist and tender fishcakes.

Makes five fishcakes, from 199 calories each.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Easy Baked Eggs with Spinach, Tomatoes and Ham

Perfect for breakfast, brunch or even supper, choose whether to ramp them up with a splash of cream and a light grating of parmesan cheese for an indulgent treat, or stick to the virtuous version...

Not only is this a delicious and healthy dish, it also only take a couple of minutes to put together, and you can quickly wilt the spinach by pouring hot water from the kettle over it in a colander!

Use your favourite ham as a base (or if you're vegetarian, substitute some sliced, lightly pan-fried mushrooms), and pile the other ingredients on top. For a bit of a change, substitute a slice of Italian mortadella sausage for the base, or even a slice of smoked salmon for a luxury treat! Delicious served with a slice of your favourite crusty bread, toasted - or enjoy on its own for a low carb treat.

Serves: As few or as many as you like, provided you have enough dishes! I make this for my family of four, but I've put the ingredients down for a two person serving, so it's easy to double or halve them, for four people or one person.

Calories: 179 calories per person for the 'regular' version with a thick slice of ham (or as low as 146 calories if using a slice of generic supermarket ham) - and add another 90 for the cream and parmesan 'luxury' upgrade! See the notes below for different calorie counts of hams etc. if you're counting. Want more protein? Throw in another egg for around 88 calories.

[Calories in square brackets]

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Pollo al Chilindron - (Spanish) Chicken with Peppers and Tomatoes

Simple and tasty at its best, Spanish-style...

I've blogged this recipe, which I've had in my 5:2 group for a while, because it is how I learnt the real name of a 'Half Man, Half Goat'... make of that what you will!!! This is a classic Spanish dish, originating from Aragón. You can choose whether you use all red bell peppers (which are sweeter, and some say is the most traditional), or a mixture of red and green, or even all green for a slightly more peppery flavour. Choose chicken thighs for moist and succulent tasty meat, or chicken breast for a leaner, slightly quicker option.

Chilindron - the pepper and tomato sauce - is simple and yet soooo good - great hot or cold, and delicious with meat, chicken or fish - and if you're a vegetarian, you could just make the sauce and crack some eggs into it to poach shakshouka style for a delicious brunch, and mop up with crusty bread.

Serves four as a main meal, 275 calories per serving (if using chicken breast and Serrano ham. Add an extra 23 calories per portion if using skinless, boneless chicken thighs, and an extra 32 calories per portion if using rindless streaky bacon instead of Serrano ham). For a vegetarian version, with four medium eggs cracked in, it would be 178 calories per person.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Thermo FroYo

That's it right now, it's just a name. But I thought of it right this second, and I like it, and I 'googled' it and no-one else has called anything that yet, so I'm claiming it as my own by blogging it. 'Thermo FroYo' is mine, and it means that much to me.

Recipe to follow, of course. Over the Easter holidays some time... (unless I get out more) ;)

Message ends.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Luxury Sourdough Hot Cross Buns (incudes Thermomix tips)

Using a sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast makes these hot cross buns much easier on your digestive system, and gives them a lovely depth of flavour.

It hasn't become that apparent on my blog yet, but I've become an avid fan of sourdough baking. I've just posted how to get your own simple sourdough starter off the ground in four days, so that now I can share some of the things I've been baking - you can find the instructions here - and there's no special equipment needed, you'll be glad to know, just (rye) flour and water!

You can, of course, 'cheat' and beg, borrow or buy a sourdough starter rather than getting your own going, but it's easy enough to do, and I think more satisfying! So, it took a little experimentation to get the spicing levels and amount of dried fruit to my tastes, and I've given you the option to include some wholemeal flour in the final dough if you want, which is more absorbent and gives you a firmer dough which is a little easier to work with, and has a little more depth to it - but they're delicious either way!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Simple Four Day Sourdough Starter... that might just change your life!

Sourdough is nothing to be scared of, and it might just change your life a little bit!

Personally speaking, I've suffered most of the time when I've eaten bread over the last decade (and a little bit more), and discovering sourdough has been a revelation of almost biblical proportions for me. Not only can I eat, nay enjoy, nay... consume in ecstatic rapture (is that OTT?) bread - it's become the tastiest, most delicious, full-of-flavour bread I've eaten.

I now have an understanding of why some artisan sourdough bread is soooo expensive in the shops. Out of my price range, to be fair - and yet, now I can make it myself. Last night, I ate the most delicious bread I've ever eaten in my life - and I made it (and that's really saying something for me)!

A selection of breads made from my sourdough starter, and I'm quite new to this!
What's so special about sourdough? It's the long, slow ferment. This allows the natural wild yeasts that you capture in your starter to slowly work their magic in your dough over a long period of time. There's a lot written about the health benefits of sourdough, and the fact that it's better for diabetics, and for those who suffer eating wheat and gluten because of the way the gluten is broken down over the long ferment (unlike commercially made breads, and even home made bread made with commercial yeast), and the healthy bacteria in the bread, and all sorts of things. There's a really interesting article here which will give you a great insight into what is so good about it. And I'm buying into it, not least because from my own personal experience, I can actually eat this delicious bread without any ill digestive effects. And it's not just bread - you can make pancakes, muffins, crumpets, croissants, hot cross buns (more later!) and all kinds of things - it's amazing!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Shrek Pie ! (Includes Thermomix instructions)

Or for the adults, Spinach, Mozzarella, Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Slice!

Although this is not just for kids, we all know that if it's green, it's 'unclean' as far as most of them are concerned, and in order to entice children to eat things which are green, we have to give them 'special' names relating to their favourite characters - be that Shrek, Hulk, Kermit or whoever else is flavour of the month! I think you can probably see why this one is "Shrek"...!

Shrek Pie

My son (who is 12) told me that whenever he finds this in his packed lunch at school, he pumps his fist in the air and shouts "Shrek Pieeeeee!" to his friends - I'm not really sure what to make of this, but apparently some of his friends have tried it and liked it too, and it's kind of funny!

I use buckwheat flour in this but there's no reason you can't use plain gluten free flour, or even just plain (or wholemeal) wheat flour if you're not cooking gluten / grain free.

I baked this specifically to be gluten free and lunchbox friendly - and it will make a good 20 portions at 80 calories each (in case you're tempted!) as a side / with other savoury things to eat (I cut 10 rectangles from each dish - but then cut some of these in half to fit into lunchboxes, two a portion). If you're making this for dinner, it's more likely to serve 6-8 people with sides.

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