Thursday, 13 December 2012

Nina and Olav's Gingerbread House

This is anything BUT slimming, but still worth including for this time of year. 

Once made, the dough can be baked straight away, or kept for a few days in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge. It is best to make the house over two days: the first day you bake and decorate the pieces, the second day assemble them. If you try and decorate them after the house has been assembled, the icing runs – great for icicles, not so good for patterns.

According to the recipe, you can use brown or white sugar – I used unrefined caster sugar. I also found that I needed almost three times as much icing as they suggested. The dough makes more than enough for the house and the base, with plenty extra for trees, men, stars and other biscuits to nibble on while you wait for Demolition Day!

For the dough:
225g sugar
375g syrup
1½ tsp ground ginger
4½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom
225g butter
2 eggs
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
750-850g plain white flour

For the icing:
400ml icing sugar
1 egg white
a few drops lemon juice

For the 'glue':
250ml sugar

Place sugar, syrup and spices in a saucepan and bring to the boil (It is best to use a large saucepan for this, as the mixture starts to foam and expand as soon as you add the bicarbonate of soda. ). Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir until it is becomes frothy. Place the butter in a bowl and add the hot sugar mixture, stirring until the butter has melted. Add the eggs and leave to cool. When the mixture has cooled, gradually add the flour, stirring well between each time (I used a food mixer for this).

I found the dough was easier to use after 10-15 minutes, rather than immediately after it was made.

Roll out the dough directly on the baking plate (I used greaseproof paper on top of the tray) to a thickness of around 3mm, and cut out the pieces using the templates (including the holes for the window and doors – the door gets bakes separately). Make two of each piece, plus a base large enough to take the finished house. 

Bake the pieces, leaving enough space between each piece for them to expand slightly, at 180°C for ten minutes. Leave to cool before decorating.


When the biscuits have cooled completely, decorate with the icing. Mix together all the ingredients and stir well, then pipe out the pattern – the only limitation here is your imagination! Add Smarties or any other colourful candy while the icing is still soft, pressing them firmly into the icing. Leave the icing overnight to set completely. 


The following day, melt the sugar on a wide pan and dip the pieces in the sugar on the edges they will be joined with another piece. It is best to have two people do this – one to dip and the other person to hold the pieces in place as you join them. Just be very careful you drip hot sugar on your assistant – as it WILL burn and blister the skin (as my husband found out)!

Once the house is all assembled you can touch up with any icing to create snow, icicles and cover up any cracks etc. 

 The house is assembled, but I think it needs a little snow on the ground.

The house will keep well for at least a couple of weeks and still be OK to eat.

Vegetable Couscous with Spiced Yogurt

This is a great way of using up leftover vegetables – anything will do as long as it is chopped finely enough. 


½ cup giant couscous
½ red pepper, chopped
2 onions, chopped
½ savoy cabbage, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
½ courgette, chopped
1 tbsp bouillon powder
1 tub 0% fat free plain yogurt
1-2 tsp harissa paste

Cook the couscous according to the packet instructions, adding the onion, pepper, cabbage and celery. Just before the cooking time is up, add the courgette.

Swirl the harissa paste into the yogurt, and serve with the couscous.
Has-Bean Cottage Pie

A cottage pie with a difference. I love anything made with minced beef, especially cottage pie. I also love baked beans, so combining the two was a winning combination for me. 


Serves 4
Syn Free on Extra Easy

500g extra lean minced beef
3 onions
1 tin baked beans
250ml passata
bouillon powder to taste
1 swede
1 butternut squash
1 tbsp bouillon powder

Sauté the beef and onion in Fry Light until the onion is soft and the beef is cooked. Add the passata, baked beans and bouillon powder.

Peel, dice and boil the swede and squash until tender (the swede will take longer than the squash, so cook them in separate pans), then mash together with a potato masher, adding the bouillon powder and a little of the cooking liquid if the mixture is too dry (unlikely).

Place the beef and bean mix in an oven-proof dish and top with the swede and squash mash. Bake at 220°C for 15-20 minutes until slightly browned on top and cooked through. Serve with vegetables of your choice and Slimming World chips.
Hoi Sin Turkey with Noodles

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

300g lean turkey meat, diced
2 onions, sliced
150g baby sweetcorn, halved lengthways
4 baby courgettes, quartered
150g noodles, cooked
4 tbsp hoi sin sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce

Stir fry the turkey and onions in Fry Light for ca five minutes, then add the sweetcorn and courgettes. Continue cooking until the turkey is cooked through and the vegetables are done to your liking. Add the hoi sin and soy sauce, and the noodles and cook, stirring, until everything is well mixed and heated through.

Spicy Bean and Tomato Soup

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tun baked beans
2 tsps sweetener
1 tsp bouillon powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsps ground cumin
chilli powder to taste

Whizz the tinned tomatoes in a food processor or liquidiser until smooth. Heat in a pan with the beans, and add the spices. Stir and enjoy.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sausages on Lentils

I had two spare sausages to use up, so had to come up with a recipe with lots of vegetables and one sausage each. This is a good way of using up lots of leftover cooked vegetables should you want to. I used Joe's sausages which are syn free, if you use another type of sausage, be sure to calculate the syn value. I left the beetroot raw for crunch (I prefer them raw to cooked), but you can of course boil yours prior to adding it to the lentils. At the moment I am adding chillies to almost everything as I am still picking several chillies from the plants daily. We both love spicy food, so that suits us fine.

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

2 Joe's Old English Sausages
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
½ cup green lentils
1 tbsp bouillon powder
1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
½ cup cooked carrots, chopped
1 small cooked potato, chopped
1 beetroot, chopped
½ pkt spinach, cooked

Sauté the onion and celery in Fry Light until they begin to soften. Add the lentils, bouillon powder, chilli (if using) and 1.5 cups water. Boil for 10 minutes then turn the heat down and simmer gently for 20-35 minutes, depending on how well you want your lentils done. Keep a check on it to make sure it doesn't boil dry. Meanwhile, grill the sausages to your liking. For the last couple of minutes, add the carrots, potato and beetroot to the lentils. Divide the lentil mixture between two plates, top with the drained spinach and top with one sliced sausage on each. 


Black Pepper Chicken Pasta

I used Joe's Black Pepper Chicken Fillets for this, but you can of course use just a standard chicken breast and just add more pepper. 


Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

2 onions, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp bouillon powder
60g parmesan cheese
fresh grated black pepper
1 small chilli, chopped (optional)
1 tsp sweetener
150g pasta, boiled

Grill the chicken fillets/breasts for 7-10 minutes, or until cooked through but not dried out. Meanwhile sauté the onions in Fry Light until soft. Add the tinned tomatoes, bouillon powder, chilli and sweetener. Slice the chicken and add to the sauce with the pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and extra black pepper before serving. 


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Mulligatawny Soup made from Leftover Chilli Con Carne

Nice and quick, nice and comforting, nice and easy, nice and warming, nice and healthy. What more can you want on a miserable day? 


Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

1 cup leftover chilli con carne (syn free of course)
½ cup red lentils
2 onions
2 stems celery
2 tsp bouillon powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ cup cooked carrots, chopped
a few drops food colouring
a small handful chopped coriander leaves
1 red chilli (optional), finely chopped

Finely chop the onion and celery and onions and sauté in Fry Light until soft. Add the lentils and bouillon powder and enough water to make it a soup consistency. Boil rapidly for ten minutes. Turn the heat down, add the leftover chilli con carne and spices and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until everything is cooked through and the lentils are soft and mushy. Add the carrots and fresh coriander and heat through. Add a few drops of food colouring if the soup looks a little insipid. Serve topped with some chopped coriander. 


Monday, 1 October 2012

Tuna Pasta Salad

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

100g wholemeal pasta
1 tin tuna in spring water
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
75g sweetcorn, boiled and cooled
80g rocket leaves
1 tbsp capers, drained
2 tbsp fat free vinaigrette

Boil the pasta according to packet instructions; drain and rinse under cold water. Drain the tuna, reserving the liquid. Mix together all the ingredients except the dressing. Mix the vinaigrette with the liquid from the tuna and toss into the salad. Sprinkle over lots of freshly ground black pepper before serving.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Czech Potato Pancakes

Nice and simple, I baked these potato pancakes in the oven rather than frying them in fat. 


Serves 4
Syn Free on Extra Easy

6 large potatoes, peeled
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
salt and pepper to taste

Grate the potatoes and squeeze out as much water as you can. Mix with all the other ingredients and shape into pancakes on a large oven-proof baking tray, flattening them down slightly with the back of a spoon. Spray with Fry Light and bake for 15-20 minutes at 200°C or until golden and cooked through. Serve as an accompaniment or on its own with fromage frais (in place of soured cream).


This Hungarian version of ratatouille is often eaten by itself as a main meal, with or without bacon; but can of course also be used as a side dish. 


Serves 4
Syn Free on Extra Easy

2 green peppers, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
200ml passata
salt and pepper
2 tsp paprika or chilli powder

Sauté the onion and peppers in Fry Light until soft. Add the passata, salt, pepper and paprika and stir well. Simmer for a few more minutes before serving.

Thracian Tomato Casserole

This is a typical recipe from the Thracian region of southern Bulgaria. It is eaten at harvest time during the hottest days of the year. 


Serves 4
Syn Free on Extra Easy*

* Providing you use the bread as your Healthy Extra B

3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1kn tomatoes
40g fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
2 tsp paprika

Place the parsley in the bottom of an oven dish. S;ice the tomatoes, discarding the end pieces. Lay the tomatoes in the dish, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle each layer with salt, pepper and a tiny amount of sweetener. Mix the breadcrumbs with the paprika, salt and pepper to taste and add over the top of the tomatoes. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 200°C. Can be served as a vegetarian main dish or as a side dish to meat.

Croatian Pork Schnitzels

During our tour of the Balkan states a few years ago, we felt after a while that we were having meat overload – some of their dishes were so laden down with meat, and not a vegetable in sight. It is certainly not a place for vegetarians! The picture below shows a mixed grill just for one person! I really missed vegetables on that trip – they rarely came as standard with the meal and often weren't available to order as a side dish. And almost everything came with chips – I am not a great lover of chips....

These schnitzels are not that heavy on the meat, and I have included a few vegetables for good measure (and to fill up on superfree foods). I have also used fromage frais in place of soured cream.

Serves 4
Syn Free on Extra Easy

4 pork steaks
115g chicken livers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
175g mushrooms, all visible fat removed and chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 rashers bacon, chopped
2 tsp bouillon powder to make stock
1 tsp mustard powder
250ml fat free fromage frais

Place the pork between 2 pieces of cling film and flatten using a culinary mallet or a rolling pin. Season well. Sauté the chicken livers with the garlic in Fry Light for a few minutes. Leave to cool. Divide the chicken livers between the steaks and roll up, securing with a toothpick (remember to remove before serving). Fry the schnitzels in Fry Light for a few minutes each side until cooked through.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions, bacon and mushrooms in Fry Light, then add stock, mustard powder and fromage frais. Heat gently without boiling. Serve the schnitzels with the sauce. 


Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup

In Hungary this would be served as a starter, but we had it as dessert. It is always served cold, and is a typical summer dish, when cherries are plentiful, and it's very refreshing on a hot day – not that we get that many hot days in England. The dish is best with sour cherries or morellos rather than the sweet bing variety, and really wouldn't be the same with canned or frozen cherries. I substituted fromage frais for the much more fattening soured cream in the original recipe.

Serves 2
2½ syns on Extra Easy

200g fresh cherries, pitted
generous pinch of salt
2 tbsp sweetener
450ml water
250ml fat free fromage frais

Place the cherries, water, salt and sweetener in a saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes. Leave to cool. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of cooking liquid, then stir the fromage frais into the soup, mixing well. Serve with the reserved cooking liquid swirled in. 


Joloff Chicken and Rice

This well known, colourful West African dish is easy to prepare and very tasty. My first experience of this was in Kumasi in Ghana, in a small restaurant just off the town centre with a delightful poster on the wall. Although it didn't instil much confidence in the food at the time, it did bring about a few laughs, and we were told that the meaning was to suggest that you “live for today as you don't know what tomorrow brings”. Maybe it lost something in translation. 


The mats on the table are also West African – we bought them in a small village in Burkina Faso, where we could see the women weave mats and baskets. 


I baked the chicken legs in the oven before adding them to the stew, as I wanted to make sure that they were cooked through. 

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

2 chicken legs, skin removed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 onions, chopped
200ml passata
1 chilli, finely chopped
150g rice
flavourful chicken stock

Rub the chicken with the garlic and set aside for 30 minutes. Bake at 200°C for around 20 minutes, until almost cooked. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in Fry Light until soft. Add the tinned tomato, chilli, passata, chicken legs and enough stock to just cover. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the rice and chicken are cooked through. 


Tanzanian Fish Curry

I removed all the flesh from the bones before adding the fish to the sauce, as both of us are fussy fish eaters, but you can of course serve the bream whole on top of the curry if you wish. You can alter the amount of ginger to suit your taste, we love ginger with a passion, so usually add way more than the recipe states. I added some carrots and leeks to my rice to bulk out the superfree.

Serves 2
4½ syns on Extra Easy
2 fresh breams, cleaned
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 green pepper, chopped
small knob fresh ginger, chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
rice and vegetables to serve

Sprinkle the fish with salt and grill for 5-10 minutes until it is cooked. Meanwhile, sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and peppers in Fry Light until soft. Add the tinned tomatoes, peanut butter, chilli and enough stock to make a thinnish sauce. Simmer for a few minutes. When the fish is cooked, remove the skin and bones and add the flesh to the curry. Serve with rice. 


Buckwheat Kasha

I am totally hooked on buckwheat at the moment, and thought I'd have a go at making a Russian savoury porridge for breakfast. Kasha is a Russian word for toasted buckwheat – I remember the first time I tried it was in one of the former USSR states, in a small hotel in Minsk, Belarus. 


Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

½ cup buckwheat
1 ½ cup stock
1 onion
4 slices bacon, all visible fat removed
1 tbsp chopped basil to serve

Dry toast the buckwheat until starting to brown and becoming fragrant. Add the stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Meanwhile, sauté the onion in Fry Light until soft. Grill the bacon and chop. When the kasha is cooked, add the onion and stir well. Serve topped with the chopped bacon and sprinkle over the basil. 


Apple and Cinnamon Tart

Husband loves anything with cooked apple (I prefer the apples raw, and end up eating all the skin as I peel them for his dishes), so I am constantly trying to work out low syn recipes containing apple. 


Serves 6-8
½ syn for the whole cake on Extra Easy*

*Providing you use the cooked apples as your Healthy Extra B

½ cup buckwheat
2-3 tbsp sweetener
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tbsp quark
½ tsp baking powder
2 eggs, separated
vanilla essence
2 tbsp sweetener
2 tsp cinnamon powder
7 apples
sweetener to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a spring form cake tin by spraying it with Fry Light. Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat and dry toast the buckwheat until they start to brown, 3-5 minutes. Switch off the pan, add 2 tbsp sweetener, 1 tsp cinnamon and ca 1 tbsp water to mix it all in. Stir until all the water has evaporated. Quickly line the bottom of the cake tin with the buckwheat and leave to cool.

Mix together the egg yolks, baking powder, 1-2 tsp vanilla essence, 2 tbsp sweetener, cinnamon and the quark, using an electric whisk. In a separate clean bowl, using a clean whisk, whip the egg whites until firm. Carefully fold the yokes into the whites. Pour the mixture on top of the buckwheat and bake for 10-15 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool.

Peel and core 5 of the apples and cut into small chunks. Place in a saucepan with the sweetener and 2 tsp cinnamon and enough water to only just cover the apples. Simmer until the apples are very soft and mash up with a potato masher. Pour the apple sauce over the cake in the tin.

Peel and core the rest of the apples and slice very thinly. Arrange in a pattern on top of the sauce and bake at 200°C for 25-35 minutes until the apples are cooked through. 


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Old Clothes Soup

This evening I turned the Ropa Vieja ('old clothes') into a very nice soup by adding some water and extra chilli flakes. I so enjoy leftovers!