Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Pork with Marsala and Fig Sauce and a Blue Cheese Cream

This is inspired by a delicious, yet simple dish I ate in France many years ago, of pork escalopes pan-fried with a splash of Marsala wine and fresh figs.

The figs I had were green figs, and luscious red inside and full of flavour. If you can get really delicious tasting figs (I suggest you slice off a small sliver and taste it - you'll know!) then you could just pan-fry them for a minute or two with the pork and add to the sauce just to warm through.

*Photos to follow shortly*

Good, fresh figs are pretty hard to get hold of sometimes, and this recipe enhances their flavour in the sauce with the sweet yet sour hint of pomegranate molasses (but don't worry, there's an alternative if you can't get hold of any).

If you have a water bath, I've given instructions to cook this sous vide. If not, don't worry, there are conventional instructions, or you can either serve a couple of pork escalopes per person, maybe pan-fried in butter (you could even skewer a slice of parma ham to one side of each escalope), or cook a tasty pork chop each, to your liking, and serve with the sauce.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Ragù alla Bolognese in the Pressure Cooker with Instant Pot method

Ragù alla bolognese is a versatile Italian classic, and here it's cooked in the pressure cooker to get a delicious, tender and tasty result in a fraction of the usual time needed...

Probably one of the most well-known and loved Italian dishes, the ragù alla bolognese is possibly one of the first dishes many of us make once we leave home, in the form of spaghetti bolognese - which is actually a dish which originated outside of Italy! The Italians tend to serve their ragù (Italian for 'meat-based sauce') in the form of tagliatelli alla bolognese (with flat pasta), or in lasagne alla bolognese, as this kind of meat sauce does not stick well to spaghetti.

5:2 spaghetti bolognese

Back in the day, I imagine most of us when trying to cook our first masterpieces in the kitchen went through a phase where we probably threw onions, mince and a tin of tomatoes into a pan with a shake of mixed herbs, and came out with a tasty pasta sauce, which then evolved over the years. Once outside of Italy, the ragù seems to change quite drastically depending on which country it has 'emigrated' to. Believe it or not, adding bacon/pancetta and herbs is not so authentic, however it's a taste which so many of us are accustomed to, so I've put them in as options. Here is my version of the traditional recipe, which is based on all the traditional ingredients (plus a couple of optional ingredients to satisfy modern tastebuds) for a very authentic flavour, including milk (which may come as a slight surprise to a few people, and certainly isn't something I included in my early days of cooking, but is very traditional) which has an amazingly tenderizing effect on the meat, so please do include it if you haven't previously - the difference is really noticeable!

Servings and calories

Makes approximately 10 to 12 portions (depending on your portion size). 

If you're counting calories and want to make a 'skinny' version, use beef and pork mince with a 5% fat content, reduced fat bacon medallions cut up into strips, and a total of 1 x 15ml tbsp oil. If split into 12 portions this would give you portions that were approximately 218 calories each - for more information see here for my original skinny version (conventional cooking method) with a breakdown of calories.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Chunky Minestrone Soup (includes Thermomix and Instant Pot Pressure Cooker instructions)

A delicious, hearty Italian soup originally made from leftovers and seasonal ingredients.

This is possibly my favourite soup - I just love the comforting flavours, and the feeling that because of the wonderful mixture of vegetables, tomatoes, legumes and pasta that you're eating something really good for you. If you can resist it, the flavours improve and it tastes even better the day after making! Omit the pancetta and use vegetable stock to make this into a fantastic vegetarian dish. Use rice or gluten free pasta to make it wheat / gluten free (I like to use gluten free spaghetti broken up into short lengths). Substitute any vegetables and beans you like (or have to hand!) to make it your own.

When I planned the ingredients to make this (I normally just throw everything in when making this kind of soup! But when I'm going to blog something, I plan it in advance) I wasn't really thinking in terms of volume, and ended up using two stockpots to fit everything in, so I have scaled it down to more reasonable proportions - however, feel free to halve the recipe below if needed, you won't really need to adjust the timings particularly. It depends on your appetites, and how much of a meal as to how many portions you end up with, and it freezes and defrosts really, really well. I just portion it out into small food bags which easily fit a 500g portion each, or more.

Makes 16 lunch-sized servings of approximately 250g at 106 calories per serving (I find 250g is quite filling) - or for a dinner-sized serving, double it to 500g for a pretty hearty and filling meal! Add grated parmesan on top for 39 calories per 10g (goes pretty far if you use a microplane grater).

For those counting calories, I've put them in square brackets next to each ingredient, along with the weights of the vegetables. If you're not counting, don't feel obliged to stick rigidly to the weights given below, they're just a guide.

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