Monday, 7 May 2012

Chilli Cheese Stuffed Peppers

This is a great way of using up leftovers, which is exactly what I did, taking the rice from Saturday night and mixing it with the vegetables from last night. This is not really a recipe as such, more of an idea of something you can do for a filling lunch.

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy providing you use the cheese as your Healthy Extra A

  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • a couple of handfuls of cooked rice – mine was brown rice
  • about the same amount of leftover vegetables – I used sweetcorn, Savoy cabbage and carrots, but most vegetables would work
  • a few stems of fresh herbs, finely chopped – I has some sage left
  • a small onion to add a bit of a crunchy texture
  • tub of Low Low mature cheese with red pepper and chilli

Cut the peppers in half lengthways. Mix together the rice, vegetables and herbs. Blitz the cheese in a microwave for 20 seconds or so to soften it. Stir the cheese in to the rice and vegetable mix and fill the peppers with it. Bake at 220°C for 10-15 minutes until nicely brown on top.

Serve with a salad and potatoes of your choice. I cut up the leftover jacket wedges from yesterday and fried them at a fairly high heat in a little Fry Light to crisp them up. 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Spiced Baked Plums

This is a lovely warming dessert, and suits me well, as I often struggle to get my Heathy Extras in each day. You can also serve this for breakfast.

Serves 2
Syn free on Extra easy providing you use the plums as your Healthy Extra B

6 large plums
2 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla pods
3-4 whole star anise
small handful whole cardamom
sweetener to taste

Quarter the plums and remove the stones. Place cut side up in a shallow oven proof dish. Split the vanilla pods lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Place in a small bowl with the pods. Add all the other ingredients and some boiling water (around 150ml or so) and pour gently over the plums. Bake at 200°C for 10-15 minutes until the plums are soft but still holding their shape. Serve with fat free yogurt.

Boston Baked Beans

I love Boston baked beans, and this is the best recipe I have made to date. Even my dad said he enjoyed it, which is really quite rare!

This version is baked in the slow cooker and the meat will be very well done, falling apart at the touch. If you prefer your meat firmer, just add it half way through the cooking time.

Serves 4-6
13 syns for the whole casserole on Extra Easy

250g dried haricot beans
½ tsp ground cloves
2 onions
1 bay leaf
6 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp molasses sugar
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
250ml stock
small gammon joint
salt and pepper

Soak the beans for at least eight hours, preferably overnight. Drain, rinse and place half the beans in the bottom of the slow cooker dish. Cut each onion in eight segments and place on top of the beans. Remove all fat from the gammon and cut in one inch cubes; place in the pot with the beans and onions. Top with the remaining beans.

I a separate bowl, mix together the sugars, bay leaf, mustard, tomato purée and stock. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the beans and meat, adding more water if necessary to almost cover the beans. Turn on the slow cooker to high and cook for 5-6 hours. Serve with potatoes and vegetables of your choice. 

Minced Beef Hash

This is my adaptation of Anthony Worrall Thompson's recipe from his Weekend Cookbook which again is an adaptation of a classic American breakfast dish. It makes a great weekend brunch and easily fills you up until dinner. It would be equally suitable as a supper dish too.

Serves 2
½ syn on Extra Easy

200g extra lean minced beef
2 rasher bacon, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
200g potatoes, peeled and grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few drops of Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs

Tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms to serve

Mix together all the ingredients except the eggs and Worcestershire sauce. Heat a little Fry Light in a large frying pan, and when hot, add the beef mix. Cook for around ten minutes until the meat is cooked through, constantly stirring to prevent it sticking. The idea is to get some crusty bits on the meat, but without any added fat when frying, this can be very difficult. I was finding that instead of browning off nicely, it was just sticking to the pan. Therefore, to finish it off, stick it under the grill for 5-10 minutes, until the top is well browned. This is what really gives the dish its flavour. Season with Worcestershire sauce and serve topped with a fried egg each.

Serve with accompaniments of your choice – I had some leftover tomatoes and mushrooms, but you can also add baked beans, or even sausages for that complete Sunday fry-up!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Khoresh Ghormeh Sabzi

A good friend and colleague was married to an Iranian for over 20 years, and this was her signature dish when entertaining. I fell in love with the subtle flavours and have since cooked it several times myself at home. Visiting Iran in 2007 we were lucky enough to be served this in a private home, and being taught how to cook it by the hostess.

You can buy dried ghormeh sabzi mixed herbs at Bristol Sweetmart, but failing that, use a mixture of chives, parsley, turmeric leaves and coriander.

Khoresh Ghormeh Sabzi

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

300g lean stewing beef
2 onions
½ cup ghormeh sabzi
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tin of red kidney beans
flavoursome stock

Sauté the onion in a little Fry Light for a few minutes, then add the beef and cook, ensuring that the meat is nicely browned all over. Add the herbs and spices and enough stock to cover, then simmer over a very low heat for half an hour. Add the drained kidney beans and simmer for a further 30 minutes. Serve with rice and vegetables of your choice. 

Noodle-Soup Frittata

Even wondered what to do with leftover soup other than serving it as soup again? Well, I did too, and put my thinking cap on. Having eaten all the meatballs out of yesterday's soup, all that was left over was noodles and vegetables. Thinking back to my mum's baked spaghetti some 40 years ago, I had an idea. Draining the water off, I was left with a nice filling for a frittata. I also raided the fridge for other orphaned bits and pieces, finding the crushed soya beans and some Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy providing you use the cheese as your Healthy Extra A

I fried up a couple of sliced onions in a little Fry Light and while that was cooking, mixed four eggs with the grated cheeses and crushed soya beans. Once the onion was soft, I chucked the noodle mix in the pan and stirred to heat it up, then shook the pan to level it all out. I carefully poured the egg-bean-cheese mixture evenly over the noodles and spread it right out to the edges. Turning down the heat a little, I covered the pan with a lid while I grilled some tomatoes and placed a handful of salad on a couple of plates. As soon as the frittata had firmed up, I served it with the salad and tomatoes, and some Extra Light Mayonnaise on the side (½ syn per tablespoon).

It worked surprisingly well, even Husband was impressed; and it gives me great pleasure to have created a new dish out of leftovers. 

Friday, 4 May 2012

Turkey Saltimbocca Skewers

Turkey fillets flattened and rolled up with red pepper pesto, sage leaves and Parma Ham, then cut into short pieces and skewered. I served mine on jewelled amaranth, and as I was eating it suddenly panicked about the syn value of amaranth. I always assumed it was syn free, and checking it afterwards I was right. Phew! Amaranth is a grain that was popular with the Aztecs and ancient Mexicans, and is regaining popularity as a healthy alternative to rice or couscous. I simmered mine in some stock with chopped red and green peppers and baby sweetcorn.

The plates were a gift from a very good friend in Texas, and the skewers I brought back from  Burkina Faso. 

Turkey Saltimbocca Skewers

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

300g turkey fillets
½ red pepper
50g tomato purée
bunch sage leaves
4-5 slices Parma Ham (same amount as the number of turkey fillets)

Flatten the turkey fillets as much as you can, either by using a kitchen mallet or a rolling pin, covering the meat with cling film to stop it splitting. Liquidise the half a red pepper and mix with the tomato purée, then spread on each of the flattened turkey fillets. Place the sage leaves on top and then the ham. Roll up from the long side and cut each roll into slices around one inch thick. Thread the slices on to skewers, ensuring that the ends of the rolls are secured well. Grill on a high heat for 10-15 minutes, until the turkey is cooked. Serve with accompaniments of your choice.

WARNING: if using metal skewers, they will be hot. I know, I am sporting two nice little blisters as I write this. 

Thai Meatball and Noodle Soup

Looking for shitake mushrooms on the shelves in Tesco, I came across some forestiére mushrooms, a new variety 'just discovered'. Always one to try something new, I was delighted to find they were on special offer too. Almost any type of mushrooms would work in this recipe though, and I really couldn't tell a difference with so many other flavours.

This dish is very much more than just a simple soup, it is very filling and a meal in itself.

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

200g extra lean pork mince
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch spring onions
2 red chillies
zest of ½ lime
½ tsp galangal
1 tsp dried ginger
2 kaffir lime leaves
¼ tsp lime powder
1 tsp salt
a few turns of the mill of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sweetener
¾l well flavoured stock
1 tbsp light soy sauce
50g forestiére mushrooms, finely sliced
1 pak choy
100g fine egg noodles
5-6 shallots, finely sliced
A few shredded mint leaves to serve

Finely chop half the spring onions and one of the red chillies. Mix with the pork mince and add the garlic, lime zest, galangal, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lime powder, salt, pepper and sweetener. Stir well to ensure it is thoroughly combined. Turn into little balls and place in a steamer. Steam for 15 minutes until cooked through, reserving the water that has come off the balls for using with the stock in the soup.

Thinly slice the remaining spring onions lengthways in 2” long pieces. Slice the second chilli. Gently sauté the shallots for a couple of minutes, then add the sliced mushrooms, cooking for a few more minutes while stirring. Add the stock, meatball stock, pak choy, spring onions, soy sauce , sweetener and noodles. Simmer for 3-4 minutes and serve with the mint leaves.

Boiled Eggs with Watercress and Parsley Sauce

It is very unusual for Husband to say he doesn't like something, but this morning he did. Unlike me, he is very particular about what he can and cannot eat for breakfast, and this really didn't suit him. Oh well, you can't please all the people all the time.

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

4 eggs
1 packet watercress
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper

Boil the eggs to your liking. Place the watercress and parsley in a liquidiser with a couple of tablespoons of water and process until smooth. Season to taste. Pour the sauce on a plate and top with the boiled eggs, quartered. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Salt and Pepper Man

As soon as I saw this wrought iron figure at a blacksmith's house in Bobo Dioulasse in Burkina Faso, I had visions of him carrying salt and pepper on my dining table. The artist had a few different designs to choose from, but this one really caught my eye. I enjoy bringing back unusual but useful souvenirs, and love my little salt and pepper man. The slate base came courtesy of our local builder's merchant, as my little man was somewhat unsteady on his feet and kept falling over shedding his load all over my table.

The tablecloth is in fact a blanket from Darjeeling in India. Another useful souvenir. 

The blacksmith
A choice of styles

Strawberries Cardinal

As the two men in my life were having triple chocolate pudding for dessert tonight – special offer at the garden centre of all places, selling off Easter stock- I didn't want to be left out, so I decided to make myself one of my favourite summer desserts: Strawberries Cardinal.

Serves 1
2.25 syns on Extra Easy

150g strawberries
150g raspberries
sweetener to taste

Hull and quarter the strawberries. Place the raspberries in a saucepan with a little water and heat gently until the berries are nicely crushed. Push through a fine sieve to remove the little seeds and add sweetener to taste. In a bowl, mix the raspberry coulis with the strawberries are stir well to cover. Leave for at least an hour at room temperature before serving.

Of course, it is perfect topped with whipped cream, but fat free yogurt was pretty delicious too. 

Lamb Shanks with Barley and Root Vegetables

This seems to have been cooking all day, and I struggled to find a pot large enough to house all the vegetables, but it was well worth it for the finished product.

Served 2
2½ Syns on Extra Easy

2 lamb shanks
a couple of handfuls of pearl barley
bouillon powder to make stock
2 medium sized potatoes, diced
2 carrots, thickly sliced
2 leeks, thickly sliced
1 parsnip, diced
1 onion, diced
4 tbsp Bisto gravy powder

Place shanks and barley in a large oven-proof pot and cover with stock. Bake at 160°C for 1.5 hours. Add the vegetables and return to the oven for a further 1.5 hours. Remove the juices form the pan, keeping the meat and vegetables hot, add the Bisto powder to the pan juices and heat to thicken, adding more water if necessary.

Serve the vegetables on a plate, topped with the lamb shanks. Serve the gravy separately, and mint sauce is desired. 

Scotch Egg with Salad

I love Scotch eggs, and now I can also eat them on my Slimming World plan. These were particularly nice, so I shall be making these again, that's for sure. They'd be great for picnics.

Serves 2
½ syn on Extra Easy providing you use the bread as a Healthy Extra B

200g Joe's sausagemeat
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried sage
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs, hard boiled
2 slices bread

2 tbsp extra light mayonnaise
2 tbsp fat free plain yogurt
juice of 1 lime
a pinch of chilli flakes
sweetener to taste

Salad leaves of your choice.

Using a food processor, make the bread into crumbs and spread thinly on a baking plate. Bake at 200°C for 5 minutes, making sure it doesn't burn.

Mix the sausagemeat with the salt, pepper and spices. Peel the eggs and wrap them with the sausagemeat. Roll in the breadcrumbs to ensure they are completely covered. Bake at 220°C for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the dressing. Mix together the mayonnaise, yogurt, lime juice and chilli flakes. Add sweetener to taste. Serve the Scotch egg on the salad and drizzle with the dressing. 

Asparagus Mimosa

This would make a very impressive looking starter for a dinner party. It looks really complicated, but it is in fact far easier than it looks, and only two ingredients. If you find it a bit dry, serve with mayonnaise or a Hollandaise sauce. We used the leftover shallot and garlic sauce from yesterday.

Asparagus Mimosa

Serves 2
Free on Extra easy.

250g asparagus spears
3 eggs

Boil the eggs for ten minutes. Put the asparagus in a pan of boiling water, then switch off the heat. Leave in the pan to keep hot.

Shell the eggs and separate the white from the yoke. Press the white through a sieve with the back of a spoon, repeating with the yoke. Arrange on top of the asparagus and serve any sauce separately. Voilà! 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Monkfish with Shallot and Garlic Sauce

I'm not often 'allowed' to go grocery shopping in Waitrose, as I tend to buy to many of the nice things I see there that are not usually available in Tesco or Morrisons. Yesterday was no different. We only bought 21 items according to the receipt, but it came to £67 – that's over £3 per item. Oops. And there was I supposed be trying to save money...

Some lovely monkfish fillets caught my eye, so I had to put my thinking head on to create a recipe for tonight.

Monkfish with Shallot and Garlic Sauce, Samphire and Crushed Soya Beans

Serves 2
4 Syns on Extra easy

2 monkfish fillets
150g samphire
150g soya beans
1 tsp mint sauce
150g shallots, very finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
2 tbsp tartare sauce
4 tbsp extra light mayonnaise
4 tbsp fat free plain yogurt
Grilled tomatoes to serve

Sauté the shallot and garlic in a little Fry Light until soft. Mix together the tartare sauce, yogurt and mayonnaise. Add the shallots and garlic mixture and mix well.

Boil the soya beans for 10 minutes until very soft. Briefly blanch the samphire. Grill the monkfish for 7-10 minutes, depending on the size.

Drain the soya beans, reserving the water. Crush the beans with a potato masher adding a little salt and the mint sauce. Using a chef's ring, place the crushed soya beans in the centre of the plates. Top with the samphire and last the monkfish. Using the hot water from the soya beans, dilute the shallot mayonnaise mixture to a runny sauce consistency. Poor some over the monkfish, and serve the rest separately. Serve with grilled tomatoes.

I also topped the whole thing with a few chilli sultanas, allowing ½ syn for 3g of sultanas. I keep a small jar of these in the fridge – they keep almost indefinitely and a great added to salads or like this, just a few to garnish a dish. Sultanas and fresh chillies squashed tightly into a jar and topped up with dry sherry. Keep for a few weeks before using to let the flavours develop.

I also keep sultanas in balsamic vinegar in the fridge, as well as raisins in rum. 

Freekeh Salad with Sumac Lamb

Always one to try something new when I see it; when I discovered a box of Freekeh on the shelves of Bristol Sweetmart the other day, I couldn't resist buying it.

Freekeh is a roasted green wheat which is particularly popular in Palestine, the Arabian peninsula and Egypt. According to Wikipedia: "The wheat is harvested while the grains are yellow and the seeds are still soft; it is then piled and sun-dried. The piles are then carefully set on fire so only the straw and chaff burn and not the seeds. It is the high moisture content of the seeds that prevents them from burning. The now roasted wheat undergoes further thrashing and sun-drying to make the flavour, texture, and colour uniform. It is this thrashing or rubbing process of the grains that gives this food its name, farīk or “rubbed.” The seeds are now cracked into smaller pieces so they look like a green bulgur."

The initial plan was to make this as a vegetarian salad, but a surplus lamb shank changed that plan. Buying three of any piece of meat usually proves difficult as the store normally packages them in twos. Although shanks were available to buy singularly at the butcher counter, they were much smaller and looked inferior.

This recipe would work equally well with other cracked wheat such as bulgur, or even couscous or rice.

Freekeh Salad with Sumac Lamb, Figs and Feta

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra easy providing you use the cheese as your Healthy Extra A

150g cooked lamb
1 tsp sumac
100g freekeh
5-6 small fresh figs, quartered
100g feta cheese, cubed
½ red onion, thinly sliced
small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Cut the cooked lamb in to small slivers and coat with the sumac. Leave in infuse for a while. Cook the freekeh in plenty of salted water for 30 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Mix together all the ingredients and serve.

This was a great salad to take for a car picnic today, although I did carry the feta cheese and parsley separately and mixed in just as I was serving. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Pork and Pasta Bake

Yet another dish where I am not going to offer a recipe – gosh I feel lazy today! To the leftover pasta with pork and mushrooms from Sunday night, I added a small carton of passata and some chilli, cinnamon and cumin powder; then topped the whole thing with a little grated reduced fat Cheddar cheese and baked it in the oven until it was nicely browned. Love it when dinner is that easy. I did however, spend quite some time making a picnic for tomorrow's day out, so hopefully I am forgiven for my lack of culinary activity today. 

We did treat ourselves to small but syn free dessert this evening though: jelly with blueberries, topped with fat free yogurt.

Roast Turkey Carvery

Once a week or so we take my dad out for a meal, nearly always to The Carvery Company at Cribbs Causeway. Roasts are not difficult to make but equally they are not the most exciting of meals to create either, so I thoroughly enjoy having someone else cook it all for me. Meat always tastes better and juicier from a larger joint I think, and if I was to cook such a meal for the three of us, we would end up eating leftovers for the rest of the week. By the time I would have bought all the vegetables, it would probably work out more expensive too – at £10 for two meals, it is really good value for money.

There is a choice of roast turkey, beef and pork at lunchtimes during the week, and vegetables include cauliflower cheese, roast parsnips, peas, leeks in a creamy sauce, peas, carrots and cabbage, so there is something for everyone, with a choice of roast or new potatoes, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings and gravy as well as all the usual condiments: mustard, mint sauce, horseradish, cranberry sauce.

Since starting the Slimming World plan again this time, Husband and I have been feeling the cold much more, probably because of cutting right down on carbohydrates; but we both came out of the restaurant this lunchtime with a nice warm glow. 

Seared spring onions with poached egg

I have never understood the concept that certain foods have to be eaten at certain times of the day, so I often find myself tucking into dishes first thing in the morning that most people would not consider 'suitable' for breakfast. This is possibly one of them. The recipe I adapted it from suggested it as a supper dish.

OK, I have to be honest here, and say that the consistency of the spring onion sauce initially reminded me a little too much of the glutinous okra side dishes so often served in West Africa and the Caribbean. I have a very adventurous palate, and enjoy an enormous range of tastes and consistencies, but glutinous is not one of them. However, once I got past the visual aspect of the sauce and actually tasted it, it was nothing like okra nor was it particularly glutinous.

Seared spring onions with poached egg.

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy

2 bunches spring onions
4 eggs
a little lemon juice
salt and pepper

Liquidise one of the spring onion bunches with the lemon juice, adding water until you get the consistency you want. Sear the other bunch of spring onions over a high heat in a little Fry Light. Poach the eggs to your liking and serve with the whole spring onions with a little sauce spooned over.