Saturday, 31 May 2014

Carrot and Ginger Cupcakes

Another variation on my favourite – and immensely popular – butternut squash muffins. These are dangerously moreish, but at just half a syn (less in fact) each, you can really enjoy a couple without feeling guilty. They don't last very well in the fridge or a cake tin; but they freeze well – I have placed mine in containers with six cakes (without the icing) to take out for as and when we want a little treat, without going overboard.

Makes 36
½ syn each*

* providing you use the oats as your Healthy Extra b and cheese as your Healthy Extra A. Nine cakes constitutes one HexB and HexA.

140g porridge oats
2 tubs fat free thick plain Greek yogurt
100g sultanas
2 tsp baking powder
8 eggs, separated
2-3 tbsps mixed spice
½ – 1 cup of sweetener to taste
1 can sugar free ginger beer
3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
a knob of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
300g cream cheese
sweetener to taste
a few drops of rum essence

First of all, in a small bow, place the sultanas and pour over enough ginger beer to cover. Leave to infuse and swell. Next put the oats in a large bowl and mix in the yogurt and the rest of the ginger beer. If you are using a thinner, runnier yogurt, cut down on the amount of liquid you use.

Leave these mixtures to soak for at least a couple of hours, ideally overnight. Boil the carrots with the ginger and leave to cool. Whizz in a food processor until smooth.

In a large bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg yolks and add the sweetener, mixed spice and baking powder. (Don't do as I did – thinking that I might forget to add the baking powder – I wasn't following a recipe, I was making it up as I went along – I measured it out when I thought of it earlier and just put it on top of the oat mixture for stirring in later. Wrong! By the time I came to stir it in, the baking powder had drawn the moisture from the oat mix and was one hard, white cake. Oops. I managed to break it up by whisking it in with the egg whites, but it was certainly a learning point!)

Stir the egg yolks and carrot mix into the oat mixture, add the sultanas and gently fold in the egg whites, making sure everything is mixed in well. Spoon into well greased muffin cases. I find I like to keep stirring the mixture while I am putting it into the little muffin cases, as the sultanas tend to sink to the bottom fairly quickly.

Bake in the oven at 180°C for 20-30 minutes, until they are cooked through. They should be springy, not fluffy when you touch them gently with your finger, and a skewer inserted should come out clean.

For the icing, mix together the cream cheese, sweetener and rum essence and spread on top of the cakes.


Chermoula Chicken with Tabbuleh

Inspired by an article in the Slimming World magazine this month, as well as my raffle winnings in group, I set out to make Chermoula Chicken for dinner tonight. I adapted the recipe to fit with what I had in the fridge / cupboards, and as we have already had couscous this week, I thought I'd serve it with tabbuleh instead. Tabbuleh is a more recent discovery of mine – the first time I had it was in a Lebanese restaurant in Tripoli in Libya in 2005. It was love at first bite. 

Tonight's version was a variation on a theme, adding more vegetables to ensure I got the required amount of superfree, and I used coriander rather than mint as that is what was lurking in the fridge drawer. You can of course add any vegetables you would like to the tabbuleh; it's great for using up leftovers too.

Serves 2
Syn free on Extra easy

2 chicken breasts
1 tin chopped tomatoes
5-6 cloves garlic
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp celery salt
small handful of coriander leaves and stems
zest and juice of a lime
1 tsp sumac

Mix together all the ingredients except the chicken and the sumac and whizz through a liquidiser. Make deep cuts in the chicken breast and place in a shallow bowl. Pour over the liquid and bake in the oven at 200°C for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Slice the chicken and serve on top of the tabbuleh, sprinkled with the sumac.
Serve the rest of the cooking sauce separately to pour over the chicken at the table.

Tabbuleh with a Difference
a couple of handfuls of bulghur wheat
juice of 1 lime
100g tomatoes. chopped (I used golden pomodorino)
a handful of chopped coriander
a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
100 g cooked green beans, chopped
2 tinned roasted red pepper, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped

Place the bulghur wheat in a large bowl and pour in the lime juice and enough boiling water to cover. Leave to infuse while the chicken is cooking, adding more water if the mixture looks too dry. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. 

Pulled Pork Tortilla Pizza

Having read about pizzas made from tortillas, I was keen to try it for myself, and when I discovered that I could have the Bfree Wheat and Gluten Free Wholegrain Wraps as as a Healthy Extra B choice, the idea was sold. I had terrible trouble finding the said wraps though – they are apparently only available in Asda in this area, but the first Asda I tried was too small, so I ended up driving half way around the West Country to find them. When I finally did, I bought two packets to keep in the freezer.

I used the leftover BBQ pulled pork for my topping, but you could use anything you like, remembering to ensure that you get plenty of superfree foods. My BBQ sauce had onion, cherry tomatoes and passata in it, but even so I decided to serve it with a couple of salads to balance it all out.

Serves 2
Syn Free on Extra Easy*

* providing you use the cheese as your Healthy Extra A

and the tortilla as you Healthy Extra B

2 Bfree Wheat and Gluten Free Wholegrain Wraps
topping as required
60g grated Parmesan cheese

Salad or vegetables to serve

Place the wraps on a pizza cooking trays and spread the topping over the surface leaving a couple of centimetres around the edges. Scatter the grated cheese over the top and bake in the oven at 210°C for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through. Keep an eye on them as the edge can burn easily.

Tropical Coleslaw
As I still had some mooli left (those buggers are huge!) I made a tropical coleslaw to go with the pizzas. I tried grating the apricots too, but it just became a soggy mush, so I resorted to chopping them very finely.

finely grated mooli
finely grated carrot
2 apricots, finely chopped
1 tub zero percent plain yogurt
1-2 tsp mint sauce
Sweetener to taste

Mix together all the ingredients for the coleslaw and serve with the pizza. I also served it with a sweet bistro style salad (bought ready packaged from the store. 

Smoked Salmon, Scrambled Eggs and Potato Rösti

The breakfast of (European) kings. They were selling smoked salmon at half price in Sainsbury's this week, so I allowed myself a little treat for breakfast this morning. I didn't want to use my Healthy Extra B for bread to go with this, so I decided to make some potato rösti instead. 


* I normally add a handful of chopped spring onion tops to my scrambled eggs, but today I didn't have any. I did, however, have some leeks and I did the same thing with the green tops of those and it worked out well.

Serves 2
Syn free on Extra Easy

2 potatoes, peeled and finely grated
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 eggs
spring onion tops (just the green bits), finely chopped*
smoked salmon
tomatoes for grilling, halved
lemon wedges to serve

Mix the grated potato with the cumin seeds and place in four well greased Yorkshire pudding tins. Place on the bottom shelf of the oven and cook at 210°C for 15-20 minutes until golden. 


For the last few minutes of the rösti cooking time, place the tomatoes on the top shelf.

Meanwhile scramble the eggs to your liking, using the spring onion tops, chives or even leek tops as I did.

Serve with lemon wedges and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.


Friday, 30 May 2014

Caramelised Basa Fillets with Tamarind

Trey kho umpil

We first encountered this Vietnamese dish at a small beach restaurant in Dai Lanh near Nang Tra back in 1997. To reach the restaurant we had to traverse the river on a rickety old wooden footbridge, and the place itself looked run down and maybe not the sort of place I would normally have chosen to eat; but the fish was very fresh and absolutely delicious! The sweet, sour and spicy flavour combination has stayed with me ever since, although this is the first time I have attempted to make it at home. 


I'd stocked the freezer with lots of different fish when I went to Morrisons last week, and I asked Husband to take out a random packet of fish for tonight's supper. I was looking on line for inspiration about how to prepare basa fillets when I saw this recipe and the memory of this ramshackle beach café in Vietnam came back to me.

Basa is a type of catfish native to Vietnam and Thailand and has a somewhat unusual consistency but a nice firm flesh and good flavour. We both loved this dish and I shall definitely be cooking it again.

* The recipe called for fish sauce, but as I am not very keen I substituted some extra thick soy sauce. You can of course use normal dark soy sauce, but the consistency will be thinner. You can get it at Chinese supermarkets – I bought mine at Wai Yee Hong OrientalSupermarket in Eastville. 


Serves 2
Less than ½ syn per serving

2 basa fillets
2 small onions, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp extra thick soy sauce*
1 tbsp tamarind paste (½ syn)
1 tsp sambal oelek (or lazy chilli)
2 tbsp sweetener
1 bunch of spring onions, sliced diagonally in 1 inch slices

Sauté the onion in Fry Light over a low heat until translucent and soft. Add 200ml water, the soy sauce, sweetener, tamarind paste, garlic and sambal oelek and stir well. Place the basa fillets in the liquid and simmer gently until they are cooked through, some 7-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets, turning half way through to ensure the fish is coated in the mixture. 2-3 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the spring onions.

I served this with brown rice with a handful of frozen chopped vegetables added for the last couple of minutes of the cooking time; tenderstem broccoli and Do Chua Vietnamese pickles. I used a bit of a cheat's recipe for the pickles, as I made them up fresh rather than actually pickling them. Husband said it was very refreshing and went well with the fish. 


Do Chua

½ daikon or mooli, grated
1 large carrot, grated
knob of ginger, grated
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sweetener

Mix all the ingredients together and serve. Any leftovers can be kept for several days in the fridge. 

Kale and Mint Salad

I had some kale in the fridge that needed using up, and I was searching the internet for inspiration when I came across a recipe that I managed to doctor enough to fit in the Slimming World Plan. Normally I would just fry the kale in some Fry Light until crispy, so this was the first time we've had it raw. 


Serves 2
Less than ½ syn per person*

* providing you use the cheese as your Healthy Extra A

1 packet kale, picked over to remove the thick hard stems
1 packet of mint, leaves roughly chopped

zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 small garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp red chilli flakes
30g finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp plain fat free yogurt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together and add water until you get a dressing-like consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in to the kale and mint leaves until thoroughly mixed.

I served mine with some chilli and garlic grillsticks from Joe'sSausages for an almost syn free lunch with lots of superfree.

We both found the texture of the raw kale a little unusual, but agreed that its chewy consistency was not unpleasant. I would definitely have it again. 


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Red Velvet Cupcakes

These work out at under than half a syn per cupcake providing you use the oats as your Healthy Extra B and the cream cheese as your Healthy Extra A

Makes 12 little cakes

70g rolled oats
1 tub Müllerlight toffee yogurt
1-2 tbsp water
4 tbsp cocoa powder
sweetener to taste
3-4 beetroots, depending on size
1 tbsp baking powder
4 eggs, separated
150g reduced fat cream cheese
200g fat free fromage frais
a few drops of red food colouring

Soak the oats in the yogurt for at least two hours, ideally overnight. Add the cocoa powder and sweetener to taste. Add some water if necessary to make a soft consistency.

Peel and cook the beetroot until soft and mash using a potato masher or a fork. Be careful at this stage as it can be quite a slippery customer and bits have a habit of flying out of the bowl and staining whatever they land on.

Mix the beetroot in with the oats and add the baking powder.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks. Mix the yolks with the oats and beetroot and carefully fold in the whites. 


Spoon in to 12 greased muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes at 180°C until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool.

For the icing, mix together the cream cheese, fromage frais, sweetener to taste and a few drops of red food colouring. When the cakes are cool, pipe the icing on top. 


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries

I used to make this a fair bit a while ago, but had forgotten all about it until I was looking through my old food photos trying to get inspirations for what to cook this week. This really does taste too good to be diet food, but trust me, there are only 3½ syns in each portion.

This is what you do for two people:

250g fat free fromage frais
6 tbsp cocoa powder
sweetener to taste
2 egg whites
fresh and/or frozen raspberries – I used both
3 tbsp low fat spray cream
a few sprinkles of caramelised buckwheat to decorate

Mix the cocoa powder with the fromage frais and add sweetener to taste. You might need quite a lot as cocoa powder is quite bitter and fromage frais rather tart.

Whisk up the egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold in the fromage frais mixture. Spoon in to tall glasses and add the raspberries on top. Spray with cream and decorate with caramelised buckwheat.

I have served this a couple of times at dinner parties and my guests said they would never have guessed that the mousse was diet friendly. Try it for yourself and see. 


Prawn Laksa

There are lots of different versions of prawn laksa, and this is my take on this popular spicy noodle soup from Singapore. Instead of the usual coconut milk, I used Müllerlight coconut and vanilla yogurt at only ½ syn per pot. You can easily use leftover vegetables in this soup, or any combination that you like, only limited by your imagination! Below is a list of what I used, for two people.

4 banana shallots
a knob of ginger
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp sambal oelek
1 tbsp bouillon powder
2 noodle nests
1 pkt of uncooked prawns
½ pkt bean-sprouts
5 spring onions, chopped
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped
a handful of mint leaves, chopped
½ cooked butternut squash, cubed
1 tub of Müllerlight coconut yogurt

In a large saucepan, fry up the shallots, ginger and garlic in some Fry Light, then added water, sambal oelek and bouillon powder. Let it simmer for a few minutes, then add the noodles and bean sprouts. Once they start to go soft, add the prawns, spring onions, cooked butternut squash (or whatever leftover vegetables you are using) and stir until the prawns turn pink. Switch off the heat and add the yogurt and herbs. Check the seasoning and serve.

Eggs Royale

As it is our wedding anniversary today (37 years, I can hardly believe it), Husband wanted to take me out for breakfast. I think there is something really decadent and special about going out for breakfast, it is not something we would normally do unless we are travelling. In all those 37 years I think we've over ever been out for breakfast once! 

Anyway, I decided to make a special breakfast at home instead, and here it is.

A base of wholemeal bread (as they didn't have any wholemeal muffins in our local Tesco), with steamed spinach, poached egg and Hollandaise sauce (2 syns for 1/3 packet + milk from my Healthy Extra A choice)

Served with rocket leaves and grilled tomato for extra superfree.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Pulled Beef Chilli

More leftovers for dinner tonight. Using the pulled beef from last night, I added tinned tomatoes, passata, kidney beans, cooked leeks, red pepper, yellow pepper and onions; chopped red chilli, cumin powder, oregano and garlic. 


I was going to serve it with twice cooked jacket potatoes, but we'd been out for the afternoon and got back so late I wanted something quick and easy. If I have to wait too long for dinner in the evening when I am hungry, it becomes a bit of a danger area for me for snacking. There are times when you can wait, and times when you need instant gratification. 


The jacket potatoes can wait until later this week - there is plenty of leftover chilli (leftover of the leftovers) to go inside the potatoes, so that's another easy meal sorted. 

Dhal Masala Vadai

Vadai (also known as also known as wada or vade or vada or bara) is a south Indian savoury fritter type snack, which can be made from lentils (dhal), chick peas (channa), gram flour (besan) or potato (aloo). It is usually deep fried, but I decided to bake mine instead to make it fit in with the Slimming World regime.

I used leftover lentils and vegetables for this, but you can of course cook these especially for the vadai. I had green lentil mixed with onions, Chinese leaves and spring greens from Friday night's dinner; and also some leftover roasted vegetables from Saturday night which I added to the mix for extra superfree (red, green and yellow peppers, red and yellow onion and sweet potato). Add spices to taste – I used ground cumin (my favourite!), ground cinnamon, ground coriander, fresh and dried ginger, fresh garlic and red chilli flakes. Whizz it all up in a food processor, using the 'pulse' button to ensure it becomes paste-like but still retains some texture. 


Using wet hands so that the paste doesn't still to my fingers, I formed the mixture into little balls and placed them in muffin cups flattening them ever so slightly with my hands before spraying them with Fry Light and baking in the oven at 230°C for 20-25 minutes until nicely browned and crispy on the outside. 


In India, vadai is eaten as a snack (often for breakfast) or a side dish, never as a main course; and is found for sale all over the south at street food. I served mine with leftover coleslaw and potato salad from yesterday's picnic lunch; tomato salad made from chopped tomatoes (flesh only), onions, a red chilli and coriander with the juice of half a lemon and some salt and coarsely ground black pepper; mint raita (made from 0% fat plain yogurt, mint sauce and sweetener); and some rocket leaves to turn it into a complete meal. Garnished with red onion. 


Baking the vadai rather than deep frying them means that they do become a lot more crumbly when you cut into them, and it would be difficult to eat them as a street food snack with your hands (right hand only of course); but if you don't mind the texture, the flavour was superb. Even non-lentil-loving Husband enjoyed it so much he had second helpings.