Monday, 30 April 2012

Jerk Chicken Rice 'n' Peas

I felt like a jerk today. Jerk chicken that is.

The chicken breasts have been marinating for 48 hours – not because they needed that long, but because I started a day too early. It was great homing home tonight to find that most of the hard work for this evening's dinner had already been done – all I had to do was stick it in the oven and get the accompaniments ready.

Jerk Chicken Rice 'n' Peas

2 chicken breasts
1 small handful coriander leaves and a lime to serve

For the jerk seasoning

2 tbsp allspice berries
tsp coriander seeds
tbsp black peppercorns
tbsp fresh thyme leaves
tsp ground cinnamon
tsp ground nutmeg
tsp ground cloves
6 garlic cloves
4 spring onions, chopped
1 small bunch coriander
4 Scotch bonnet chillies, deseeded
1 small knob of fresh ginger
2 tbsp sweetener
3 tbsp lime juice

For the rice and peas

100g basmati rice
410g tin kidney beans
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground allspice

For the melon pineapple salsa

¼ melon, chopped
¼ fresh pineapple, chopped
½ red onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
juice of one lime
a little sweetener (optional)

Grind together the allspice, coriander and peppercorns until quite fine, then liquidise with all the other jerk ingredients until it forms a smooth paste. Place chicken breasts in a plastic bag and coat with the paste, giving them a good massage with your hands to ensure they are well coated. Refrigerate overnight.

Cook the chicken at 220°C for 20-30 minutes until cooked through. Boil the rice in the liquid from the tin of kidney beans with the garlic and allspice, adding water if necessary. For the last few minutes, add the beans to heat through. Mix all the salsa ingredients together.

Serve with your favourite chilli sauce on the side for those who like their food hot!

Leftover Lunch

Today has been an easy day so far for the cook (me) – I had breakfast made for me, and lunch was leftovers.

He is anything but a cook, but my husband makes yummy bacon butties.

Leftover Meatloaf Hash with Jersey Royals

I can't really offer a recipe here, as I mostly used leftovers. I fried up a chopped onion in some Fry Light, then added the rest of the chopped meatloaf, a tin of tomatoes, the rest of a tube of tomato purée residing in the fridge and some garlic masala. Meanwhile I boiled some Jersey Royals, and lunch was done! Voilà!

I was glad to be able to use the garlic masala, as it has been bugging me ever since we bought it on our trip to Rajasthan. On hearing that I am a keen cook and love spices, our driver took us to a very touristy spice shop which mostly dealt in blended spices. I am not one for using pre-mixed spices, much preferring to combine my own according to my mood, but I was persuaded to buy a few packets of various masalas by the very friendly salesman. I was, however, dismayed to find that they were way more expensive than I could have bought them for back in Bristol at Bristol Sweetmart. Oh well, you live and learn. The masala was to be fair, very tasty. 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

It's pasta time!

My dad likes to help himself to food when he comes here, rather than being served, as he doesn’t eat very much, so pasta is ideal for this. Generally speaking it doesn't require much last minute preparation either, as my dad tends to turn up at least ten minutes, more often 15 minutes early. He rarely stays more than an hour, it is just a case of eat and go really – it used to drive my mum mad, as she always wanted to stay and chat.

Radiatori with Pork and Mushrooms

Serves 4
Syn Free on Extra Easy providing you use the cheese as Healthy Extra A

1 pork tenderloin fillet
200g mushrooms
3 onions
1 tub quark
1 tbsp bouillon powder
a little sweetener
a few drops of Worcestershire sauce
small bunch of basil, to serve
30g Parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water for ten minutes. Meanwhile chop the onions, and pork, removing all visible fat as you go along. Slice the mushrooms. Fry the pork and onions in a little Fry Light until the pork is cooked through. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving the liquid. Turn the heat right down and add the quark, bouillon powder and sweetener to taste and Worcestershire sauce, thinning the sauce with the pasta water until you have a nice consistency, creamy but not too runny. Stir in the torn basil and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Soba Noodles with Chicken and Edamame

This dish came about because of brain fog. Not only did I take the chicken breasts for tomorrow's dinner out of the freezer a day too early, I took three out in stead of two. So I was left with finding a recipe for one chicken breast.

Soba Noodles with Chicken and Edamame

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

100g soba noodles
80g edamame
1 chicken breast
½ red pepper
1 small onion
1 carrot
small knob of ginger
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbps rice vinegar
1tbsp sweetener
small bunch of coriander leaves

Thinly slice the onion and red pepper and cut the chicken into thin strips. Cut the carrots and ginger into thin juliennes. Chop the coriander leaves. Boil the noodles for seven minutes and drain.

Stir fry the onion and chicken for a few minutes, then add the ginger and carrot. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, then add the soy sauce, vinegar, sweetener and coriander, and stir well. Serve with extra soy sauce if desired.

Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

A decadent dish for a miserable Sunday morning with howling winds and driving rain. No Sunday papers for us today, as neither of us wanted to go out in this weather. This would work equally well as a nice starter at a dinner party too.

The recipe is not dependent on accurate measurements, just grab a handful of this and some of that.

Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

2-3 potatoes, depending on size
1 small onion
a little salt
freshly ground black pepper
a pinch or two of caraway seeds
1 egg
a tub of quark
a small packet of smoked salmon (probably around 100-125g)
a few sprigs of dill to decorate

Peel and grate the potatoes, chop the onions finely and mix with the salt, pepper, caraway seeds and egg.

Spray a large baking tray with Fry Light and place half a dozen blobs of potato mixture on the plate, pressing them down to form small pancakes. Spray well again with Fry Light and bake at 200°C for 15-20 minutes, until nicely browned. Keep an eye on them and turn the heat down if necessary.

Cut the salmon into thin strips. Give the quark a good stir and add some water if necessary to give it a nice, smooth consistency.

Serve three pancakes on each plate, top with the quark and arrange the salmon strips over the top. Decorate with a sprig of dill on each.

Even the husband, who is not a great lover of smoked salmon, commented how nice this was. 

The plates were won in a raffle at my local Slimming World club. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Lamb and Apricot Tajine

A tajine is a Berber dish from North Africa which is named after the earthenware pot it is cooked in. Of course you don't have to own a tajine to cook this dish, any oven proof casserole will do. I always think a large part of the enjoyment of any meal is the visual aspect of it, so I go to great lengths to ensure the table settings look good and the food is presented nicely. I collect plates and other crockery, much to my husband's dismay, as he can never find anywhere to put them. Maybe we need a bigger house?

Lamb and Apricot Tajine with couscous, harissa yogurt and pomegranate salad

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy providing you use the apricots as your Healthy Extra B

300g diced, lean lamb
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp paprika
120g dried apricots, roughly chopped
boiling water

100g couscous
1 carrot
1 courgette
125ml stock
1 tsp mint sauce

1 tub 0% natural yogurt
1 tsp harissa paste

1 packet of pomegranate seeds
½ red onion, thinly sliced
small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
juice of ½ lime

6g toasted almond slivers (optional) – allow 1 syn if using

Sauté the onions and garlic in a little Fry Light until soft. Mix all the spices together and add the lamb, making sure the meat is well covered. Constantly stirring, add the lamb to the onions in the pan and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the chopped apricots and enough water to cover. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and bake at 150°C for 2.5 – 3 hours.

Grate the carrot and courgette and place in a pan with the couscous and mint sauce. The instructions on the couscous packet suggests 125ml water or stock, but I always find I need to use more. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring to ensure the couscous doesn't stick to the bottom (my husband always berates me for welding food to the pan – it makes the washing up doubly hard for him).

Lightly stir some harissa paste into the yogurt. I always use much more than a teaspoon, but it depends on your taste and the strength of the harissa – mine is home made and very hot!

Mix together all the ingredients for the pomegranate salad.

Top the lamb tajine with the toasted almonds and serve with the couscous, yogurt and pomegranate salad.

Bob apetit.

I find this is such lovely comfort food, perfect for a cold dark Saturday evening such as today. The seratonin in the chilli always lifts my spirits and I love the combination of flavours, colours and textures.

I bought the tajine in France and brought the mats back from Burkina Faso. The brown plate is from the Range and the red bowls from John Lewis. The gold plated wooden-handled cutlery was bought over the internet. 

Hot Tuna Salad with Mango Coconut Dressing

Tuna is a fish we were only introduced to fairly recently, by a good friend and neighbour. Now we both love it! Shame it's so expensive; we paid over £7 for two medium sized steaks.

This is a really quick and easy dish to make, and great for a hot summer's day. Now all we need is a hot summer. The dressing would probably be really nice with some white wine in it, or even rum – something to try if I ever reach my target weight and can allow myself a few more syns each day.

Hot Tuna Salad with Mango Coconut Dressing

Serves 2
3 syns on Extra easy

2 tuna steaks
½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
Salad leaves of your choice
½ red pepper
2 sticks celery
1 bunch asparagus
1 mango
1 small tub Müller Light Coconut yogurt

Cut the asparagus in one inch long pieces, and blanch for a couple of minutes. Rinse under cold water and leave to cool. Mix together the salad leaves, chopped red pepper and chopped celery and divide on two plates. Add the asparagus.

Peel the mango and liquidise the flesh with the yogurt, adding some water if the consistency is too thick.

Coat the tuna steaks with the chilli flakes and fry in a little Fry Light until done to your liking.

Serve the salad topped with the tuna steaks and a little of the mango dressing. Serve the rest separately. 

Cheese Topped Egg Stuffed Tomato

I was really excited when I found this recipe in the Guardian, as I've had a packet of zaatar in my cupboard for a little while, screaming out “use me, use me”. Zaatar is a condiment made from dried herbs, such as oregano, thyme and savoury, mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac and salt. 

Known as Baid bi Tamaten in Arabic, this dish originates in Iraq.

Cheese Topped Egg Stuffed Tomato

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy providing you use the bread and cheese as Healthy Extra A&B

4 large beef tomatoes
4 eggs
4 slices bread
1 onion, chopped
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tsp marjoram
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
1 tsp zaatar

Sauté the onion in a little Fry Light until soft. Meanwhile, carve out the centre of the tomatoes and chop the flesh, saving the juices as you go. Personally I don't like the seeds, so I omitted those, but that of course is up to you whether you include them or not. Place the slices of bread on a baking sheet.

Mix together the onion, chopped tomato flesh, turmeric, marjoram and a little salt and pepper. Use some to stuff the tomatoes, spreading the rest on the bread. Place the tomatoes on top of the bread. Break an egg into each of the tomatoes, top with the cheese and sprinkle with zaatar. Bake at 200°C for 15 minutes or so until the egg is cooked to your liking.

This is what my husband ate. As I have already got plans for my Healthy B option later today, I served mine on some leftover risotto, with some of the tomato-onion mixture stirred in.

Two tomatoes each was way too much for breakfast, one would have been enough, but it would make a nice supper dish or a light lunch. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

Prawn and Quinoa Laksa

This 'creation' is a combination of two recipes and far from authentic, but who cares as long as tastes good? The quinoa helps to thicken the soup and adds a bit of substance.

Prawn and Quinoa Laksa

Serves 2
1 Syn on Extra Easy

2 small onions
2 stems lemon grass
small knob of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp sambal oelek
1 tbsp curry paste
100g quinoa
200g king prawns
small handful of mange tout, finely sliced
1 carrot, finely sliced
handful of beanspouts
bouillon powder to taste
1-2 tbsp sweetener
2-3 tsp light soy sauce

Boil the quinoa in just enough water to cover for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, place the onions, lemon grass, ginger, garlic, coriander, sambal oelek and curry paste in a liquidiser and blitz until smooth, adding water until you get about 600 ml of liquid with a consistency like a thick soup. Add bouillon powder, sweetener and soy sauce to taste. Add the mange tout and carrots and simmer gently for a few minutes. Meanwhile, simmer the beansprouts for a few minutes in a separate saucepan. Add to the soup with the prawns and heat through gently. 

Chopsticks brought back from Japan. 

Black Bean Salad

If you are using dried beans, remember to soak them overnight and cook according to the packet. This recipe called for half a red pepper but my personal shopper (AKA husband) seemed to have somehow missed that. He swears black and blue that he bought it, he must have left it behind in the shop. Oh well, just a slight variation. Anyway, while looking for the absent pepper, I came across an orange, and thought that would go well with the black beans. I was right. I also had a lone tomato hanging around, and as it was the same colour as the missing pepper, I decided to include that too.

Black Bean salad

1 cup of cooked black beans
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsp sweetener
2 tsp samal oelek
1 green chilli
1 orange
1 large tomato
small handful of coriander leaves
handful of rocket leaves
handful of baby spinach
½ red onion

In a large bow, mix together the cooked beans, finely chopped green chilli, finely chopped tomato, rocket and spinach leaves and the thinly sliced red onion. Peel the orange, divide into segments and cut each segment in two. Add to the salad bowl. Mix the lime juice, sambal oelek and sweetener and toss into the salad with the chopped coriander leaves.

My main purpose of making this salad was to go with a cold slice of the leftover meatloaf. I still have three slices left, so I will have to put my thinking cap on again for another meal involving some variation of meatloaf. 

Despite the green chilli and the sambal ealek, it was hardly spicy at all. Personally I would have preferred it with a bit more kick, so if I make it again I will add more chilli.

Punjabi Potato Patties

I do like a bit of spice in the morning to wake me up. I have never understood the significance with certain foods at certain times of the day, and I love the Indian breakfasts when we travel on the Subcontinent – my favourite being paper masala dosa. Having a few leftover potatoes in the vegetable basket, I boiled some up last night and made them into patties which I put in the fridge overnight to save some time this morning. I'm not really a morning person, so I prefer to not have too many things to sort out first thing.

Punjabi Potato Patties

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

250g potatoes
1 medium onion
¼ tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp garam masala

Peel the potatoes and halve or quarter them, depending on how large they are. Boil for ten minutes in plenty of salt water, until cooked but not mushy. Grate the onion, then mash together the potatoes, onion and spices. Form into little patties, spray with Fry Light and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until nicely browned.

I should imagine the people of Punjab would most likely serve the patties with a chutney of some sort, but I had a craving for baked beans this morning. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Lentil and Sausage Casserole

I'm a great lover of lentils and have eight or nine different types of dried lentils in my store cupboard. I prefer to use the dried variety for several reasons – there are no added preservatives or salt, less packaging, cheaper and I can use the amount I want not the amount that fits into a can. And unlike dried beans, they don't have to be soaked, so there is no excuse about having forgotten to put them in water the night before. Although he is not so keen, I am lucky in that my husband will eat anything I put in front of him.

It was my Slimming World consultant who introduced me to Joe's Sausages, and I haven't looked back since. They come in a variety of flavours, and are syn free on the plan. I buy them in bulk and stock up my freezer with them. For this recipe I used the chilli and garlic ones.

Lentil and sausage casserole with chilli and garlic

4 sausages, grilled
400g lentils (I used brown)
2 onions
2 carrots
4 sticks celery
1 red pepper
4 cloves garlic
stock made from bouillon powder
1 red chilli
2 green chilli
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
tub of Total 0% fat yogurt

Finely chop the carrots, onions, celery, garlic and pepper, and sauté in a little Fry Light for a few minutes until soft. Slice the sausages – I like to slice mine thinly as I always feel I am eating more if the pieces are smaller. Add the lentils, chopped chillies and enough stock to cover, and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are cooked, but still retain a little bite. You will probably want to check from time to time to ensure you have enough liquid. For the last few minutes of cooking, add the sausages and cherry tomatoes. Take the pan off the heat and add the yogurt. Patience has never been one of my strong points, and I added the yogurt just a little bit too early, and it separated. Oh well, the taste is just as good, and you couldn't really see the little white bits as the light was bad tonight. Sometimes I am grateful for grey days and dark evenings. 

Place mats brought back from Bali.

Pitta Pizza

Normally pizza and diets don't go terribly well together, but I have found a way that I can have my cake - or rather pizza – and eat it. And even better, I was able to use up some more leftovers. They don't call me the leftover queen for nothing!

When asked about the type of pizza he wanted, my husband's answer was 'Texan Spicy BBQ', so I was tasked with trying to recreate the flavour of his favourite pizza from the take-away.

Spicy Texan BBQ Pitta Pizza

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy, providing you use the bread and cheese as your Healthy Extra A & B.

2 pitta breads*
1 slice leftover meatloaf
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced
½ onion, thinly sliced
small handful of rocket leaves
½ red pepper, thinly sliced
½ cup leftover BBQ sauce
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp sweetener
45g of reduced fat cheese, grated**

Heat the oven to 190°C and grease a baking tray. Mix the BBQ sauce with the chilli and sweetener and add the chopped meatloaf. Split the pitta breads open and place all the other ingredients on top, starting with the rocket leaves and finishing with the grated cheese. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned on top. Serve with a salad of your choice.

*The Slimming World book says that only Co-Op 60g wholemeal pitta bread is permissible as a Healthy Extra B, but after I had my husband drive half way around the South West looking for a Co-Op which sold them, but to no avail, I decided to use a 60g Sainsbury's wholemeal pitta instead. Seeing as I'm not having any other syns today, I am willing to risk it.

** I used a mixture of mozzarella and low fat cheddar.

OK, so it wasn't quite the same as the take-away pizzas, but the taste was very similar. The pitta breads made a good substitute for normal pizza base, and best of all, I can have it on my plan. Definitely one to repeat.  

Indian Scrambled Eggs

I love the challenge of what to do with leftovers and absolutely hate wasting food, so everything that is not eaten goes in my fridge.

For breakfast this morning I wanted to make Indian Scrambled Eggs, knowing that I could use various leftovers in the process. I found half a red onion in my fridge as well as some leeks in a white sauce from last night's meal, which I decided to use too.
(* I had already counted the syns for the white sauce yesterday, so didn't include them today. Same with the milk from my Healthy Extra A allowance.)

Check out the Slimming World website for details.

Indian Scrambled Eggs

Serves 2

Free on Extra easy *

4 eggs
½ onion
handful of green beans, chopped
½ cup leeks in white sauce
½ tsp onion seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp crushed coriander seeds
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp salt
small handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Finely chop the onion and fry in a little Fry Light with the onion, mustard, coriander and cumin seeds. Break the eggs into a bowl and mix together with the leeks in white sauce, coriander leaves, garam masala, salt and chilli flakes. Add the green beans to the onions in the pan, then pour in the egg mixture. Keep stirring until it is lightly set – it won't set completely because of the white sauce.

Serve with grilled tomatoes. 

It was actually quite a big serving and unusually my husband couldn't even finish his - although he have toast with his.