Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Pasta with Prawns, Broccoli and Lemon Sauce

A neat little recipe, this, from the latest edition of the BBC Good Food magazine.  We don't eat a lot of prawns, and I had a small bag of cooked, peeled prawns lurking in the freezer, needing to be used.  But this was certainly a very nice way to eat them and super-quick too.  For 2 people, and at around 400 calories per portion, you need: 180g pasta of your choice, around 75g of cooked, peeled prawns (thawed), a small head of broccoli, cut into little florets, the zest and juice of half a lemon, a tablespoonful each of single cream and 0% fat Greek yoghurt, 10g of butter, and seasoning.  Whilst the pasta cooks, gather all your ingredients around you.  About 2 minutes before the pasta is done, throw in the broccoli and allow to cook for 2 minutes until still bright green and with a little crunch left.  Drain the pasta and broccoli, but not too well, so that a few tablespoons of cooking water remain.  Return to the hot pot, and quickly, over a low heat, add all the ingredients - try not to let it boil so the yoghurt and cream don't split, but let it get good and hot to heat the prawns.  Add some salt and black pepper to taste - I think it needs lots of pepper - and serve presto pronto, as our Delia says, on hot plates.  We'll have this again!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Char Siu Pork Fillet

I have no idea how authentic this is, but I like it!  It doesn't have the slightly suspicious red tinge to it that you sometimes get, which I suspect is produced by some sort of colouring.  You simply marinade a good-size pork fillet - organic and British, please - in 3 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce, a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of soy sauce (I use reduced sodium), 3 cloves of grated garlic, an inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated, and a teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice powder.  Marinade it overnight for a real injection of flavour.  Now, roast in a hot oven (on a foil-lined tray, or you'll be scrubbing for weeks) for about 20-25 minutes until just cooked and still juicy, and a deep, caramel, burnished colour.  Serve sliced, with stir fried veg and noodles or rice, or even just stuffed hot into a bread roll.  I imagine this would do well on a barbecue too.  Oh, and low fat, of course!

Borrowdale Brack

My late Mum, bless her, was NOT a domestic goddess.  Mind you, with 7 children, a full-time job, and extra work taken in to do in the evenings, you can hardly blame her!  One thing she DID make, though (other than a fantastic 6-tier cream and strawberry sponge for birthdays) was Barm Brack, a moist, fruit-filled teabread from an old Irish recipe, and it was totally delicious.  I have discovered lots of variations on this over the years, all based around large quantities of dried fruit steeped in tea then made into a cake.  These sorts of breads crop up in a lot of Northern British and Irish recipe books, and this particular one comes from the Lake District, where they know a thing or two about baking.  This fits in with our current low-fat regimen, in that there is no fat (other than an egg yolk), and no dairy too, so great if you have to avoid those things. Not low calorie, mind, with all that dried fruit, but a great energy-boost and a healthy treat.  Just don't slather it with butter, which we did with Mum's Brack :o(

Being an old Lakeland recipe, there is none of this metric nonsense:
12oz mixed dried fruit of your choice - I used sultanas, currants, raisins and chopped mixed peel
12floz hot strong tea - whatever rocks your boat, but I used proper builders' tea
10oz self-raising flour
4oz soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 large egg, beaten
The night before (or early in the morning) soak the fruits in the hot tea.  They will soak most of it up and go lovely and plump.  Next day or that afterfnoon, simply stir everything else in, tip into a 2lb lightly-greased loaf tin (the two long ends lined with baking parchment) and bake at 150C fan or equivalent for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.  This keeps very well, wrapped in greaseproof and foil, and it will keep getting moister as the week progresses.  If not on a low-fat regime, give yourself a treat and serve in thick slices spread with good butter with a cup of tea. 

You can vary this basic recipe - add chopped candied ginger and dried ginger instead of the mixed spice with maybe a ginger tisane to soak the fruit.  All cinnamon and some grated apple to replace the mixed peel.  Use Earl Grey and dried figs with some crushed cardamom seeds.  Or a fruit tea and dried cranberries.  Darjeeling and glace cherries to replace some of the fruit.  Experiment!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Asian Rice Salad with Salmon

A chat with a friend on Facebook inspired me to knock this salad up for lunch tomorrow - it consists of cooked basmati rice (about 100g dry weight for 2), mixed with a dressing of coriander, lime juice and zest, a little olive oil and some sweet chilli sauce (the same as I used to dress the pasta with crab earlier).  This was mixed with grated carrot, chopped cucumber, a spring onion and some chopped mint.  I had some cooked salmon so that has been popped on the top to be flaked and forked through as we eat it for lunch.  Smells divine, and the spoonful I tasted was pretty good too.  Season well with salt and pepper - cold rice always needs it.  Dunno the cals - probably around the 450 mark because of the salmon, but it is good fat, man!  Omegas and all that sh!t.

Spaghetti with Crab, Chilli and Lime

I have mentioned Judith Wills' marvellous book '200 top low fat recipes' before, and this little gem was taken from it.  It took 12 minutes to cook, and comes in at around 450 cals per serve using 100g of pasta each - you could use less if you wanted to reduce the calories further, but I want me dinner!  Whilst the pasta is cooking, tip a carton of white crab meat (M&S Orkney white crab meat, 80g) into a bowl and add the zest and juice of a lime, a good handful of chopped coriander, a tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce and a tablespoon of olive oil.  Stir together.  Drain the pasta, but leave some water clinging, return to the hot pot and fold the crab mix through.  Serve on hot plates - no parmesan, please!  Enough for 2.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Chicken, Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Usually I make cannelloni with lots of bechamel sauce, cheese, olive-oil rich tomato sauce - not a low fat dish!  However, I brought this under 450 cals per portion and a perfectly reasonable fat content by using a couple of tablespoons of ricotta, no bechamel but a rich tomato sauce (with not much oil) and some fresh parmesan on top at the end.  This used the last of the roast chicken from Sunday, which was blitzed in a processor with the ricotta, some cooked spinach and lots of nutmeg.  Use sheets of dried lasagne that have been boiled for 5 minutes, refreshed in cold water and dried.  Spread the filling and roll up, then top with tomato sauce, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. You tend to eat much less pasta in this format (and lasagne) than if it was a bowl of the stuff dressed with sauce - probably only about 50g each, hence the lower calories on the bottom line.  Not as rich (or a satisfying?) as with a lovely cheesy sauce, but still good to eat.

Udon Noodle Broth with Chicken and Asian Seasoning

One of the joys of a roast chicken is having the carcase to make proper stock, and subsequently, a hearty veg and noodle-filled soup that is a friend indeed for the low-fat eater.  We had a litre of the stock, which was crammed full of new season carrots, onion and spring onion, celery, garlic, ginger, chilli, coriander and shredded left-over chicken.  I poured this over some slippery udon noodles and finely shredded greens in a deep bowl, and we tucked in.  There were even leftovers for hubby to take to work.  Yum.  Not sure of the calories, but we made 175g of noodles serve 3 portions, and the chicken and veg and broth itself is fairly low.  Even big bowls can't have been more than 400 cals, I reckon and very low fat if the stock is chilled and fat removed from the surface.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Cajun Cod with Broad Bean Succotash

This was such an excellent low-fat and low calorie dish, and delicious, too - around 350 calories for the lot.  Broad beans are bang in season, and we love them.  They are a bit of a faff to prepare properly, as they need the tough skin removed to reveal the tender emerald bean - simply blanch in boiling water for a minute, cool under running water, and squeeze from the softened skin.  What is succotash, I hear some of you ask?  It was originally a Native American dish combining corn and beans, and there are endless variations.  Mine consisted of onions and garlic sauteed in a teaspoon of oil and - yes! - about 10g of butter.  Add your beans, a tin of good-quality sweetcorn (fresh would be best, but it isn't in season) or some frozen ones, some chopped fresh tomatoes and about 60ml of veg stock.  Simmer for a few minutes until all has amalgamated and become tender.  Add parsley if you have it, and serve with grilled chicken or, in this case, more of Waitrose's delicious cod loins, sprinkled with Cajun seasoning, for a version of blackened cod.  We also had mounds of amazing fresh chard, bursting with flavour.  Feeling very virtuous!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Spaghetti Puttanesca

Now, this is a challenge.  Puttanesca needs oil and olives and cheese and plenty of pasta.  Something's gotta give!  I decided that we needed the carbs and have been good all week, so it is the full 100g portion each of pasta for us tonight, not the measly 75g that most books say - my hubby could put 150g away in one serving.  I also used a full tablespoon of oil - this seems quite a shocking amount now, even after just a week.  So, 1 tablespoon of oil in which you saute some sliced onion and a couple of cloves of garlic - keeping the lid on during this process creates steam and helps the cooking process.  I also added some fresh fennel bulb, very finely sliced, the remains of a tin of tomatoes from last night's chilli, some fresh cherry tomatoes, about 10 olives and some rinsed salted nonpareilles capers.  I don't use anchovy in my puttanesca, as I think it makes it smell like cat sick.  Simmer until all the veg are tender and the sauce has reduced a little, add some fresh oregano if you have it, and serve up with the pasta and just a little grated parmesan.  Dunno how many calories, but this isn't a diet, rather it is a healthy eating regime!

Low-Fat Chilli Con Carne

Chilli responds very well to the low-fat treatment - use the leanest mince you can get (mine was less than 5% Hereford Beef Mince from Waitrose) and use as little oil as possible in the initial saute.  By bulking it out with a red pepper and lots of kidney beans you can keep the calorie count to around 250 per person, 450 with 60g of rice each (dry weight).  So, simply saute an onion and couple of cloves of garlic in a teaspoon of oil in a non-stick pan for 5 minutes until beginning to soften and tuen golden.  Add a chopped red pepper and 200g of minced beef.  Stir until the meat is no longer pink.  Now add a teaspoon of chilli powder, or to taste, 3 teaspoons of Hungarian paprika (not the smoked Spanish stuff), 2 teaspoons ground cumin and a teaspoon of dried oregano.  Stir in 200mls of beef stock and half a tin of tomatoes, along with a good splodge of puree and a drained rinsed tin of kidney beans - small or large, depending on appetite.  Cover, and simmer for a good hour until tender, removing the lid for the last 10 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit.  Just before serving, throw in a square of dark chocolate - the higher the cocoa content the better, and allow to melt before stirring through.  This transforms things, mellowing and smoothing proceedings and adding a dark gloss to the dish.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Spinach and Chickpea Curry with Garam Masala Roast Potatoes

Judith Wills wrote a marvellous book, 'Top 200 Low Fat recipes' which is now, sadly, out of print.  I have cooked her superb Bouillabaise from there several times, and this simple and cheap little recipe came up trumps too.  You blend, in a mini chopper, a small onion, a thumb-sized piece of peeled ginger, and rather a lot of garlic - in my case, an entire head of 'wet' garlic.  Add a chopped red chilli, a dessertspoon of turmeric and a heaped teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander.  Saute in a teaspoon of oil in a non-stick pan for a couple of minutes, along with another small onion, chopped.  Now, add around 250 ml of water and a good teaspoon of tomato puree, and a tin of rinsed chickpeas (I have spoken before of my fondness for the cheap but excellent 'East End' brand).  After simmering for 15 minutes, the liquid will have reduced somewhat - don't take it too far, you want some spicy 'gravy'.  Throw in around 200g of spinach and allow to wilt in the pan for a few minutes.  Now stir in chopped fresh coriander and serve with the potatoes (below) and some 0% fat yoghurt mixed with chopped mint.  An amazing 230 calories per extremely cheap and filling portion - this serves two very generously.  For the carbs, I chopped 300g of new potatoes, tossed them in a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of Garam Masala ground in a spice mill (Bart's herbs and spices have a Garam Masala mill) and roasted on a non-stick baking sheet for 20 minutes until crisp and brown - this added a further 200 calories per portion - you could reduce this further by just having a little rice or a flat bread.  Cheap as chips!  (Mmmmmmm - chips.......)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Five-spice Chicken and Ginger

I love stir-frying, and it fits in nicely with our 'eat healthier' regime at the moment - provided you measure the oil carefully and use reduced-salt soy sauce.  Use plenty of garlic, chilli and ginger to boost the flavour.  I coated some organic chicken fillets in a little five-spice powder and then sauteed in a non-stick pan with just a teaspoon of oil.  Set aside while you fry the veg - today, a wonderful fresh onion, some calabrese broccoli, celery and red pepper, but you can use whatever you have.  Add lots of garlic, ginger and chilli - as much as you can take!  I used about a dessertspoon of oil in my non-stick wok, and added a splash of water when the veg looked like it needed a bit more welly.  Return the chicken to the pan and pour over a mixture of a tablespoon of low-salt soy sauce, a tablespoon Chinese rice wine, 120mls water, a dessertspoon of sweet chilli sauce and a teaspoon of cornflour.  Allow to bubble and thicken for a minute and serve with some plain steamed rice - preferably brown basmati, but I only had plain white.  Not too much, mind!  All in all, this came to around 450 cals with the rice. 

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Broadbean and Mint Fritters

The first broadbeans of the season arrived in the Riverford box on Friday.  By the time they were podded and skinned, there was just a teacupful of the emerald green beans.  They were perfect to mix into a minted batter with chunks of cheddar, and fried in exiguous quantities of olive oil in a non-stick pan.  They were then consumed with non-fat Greek yoghurt mixed with sweet chilli sauce.  The recipe made enough for four, so we'll have the rest for lunch tomorrow.  I don't know what the calories were, but I don't really care, they were scrummy!

Butternut Squash and Cannellini Bean Soup

We're in the middle of June and I'm making soup!  Can't believe it.  But it is so chilly and damp that we need something to warm us up, so this was knocked up for lunch today.  Simply dice about half a peeled butternut squash, a large onion, and 3 cloves of fresh, new season's garlic.  Saute in a tablespoon of olive oil, until onion softens, but doesn't brown.  Now, add 750ml of veg stock, some finely-diced chilli (I had a nice, hot little green one) and a good sprig of rosemary.  Tip in a drained, rinsed can of cannellini beans (I love the Cirio/Valfrutta brand).  Cover and simmer gently for around 15 minutes, until squash is tender, but not breaking up.  Add some shredded greens - cabbage, spring greens, broccoli, spinach, whatever you have - and cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Add lots of fresh chopped parsley and eat.  This is enough for 4.  If you aren't watching the calorie/fat intake, more oil drizzled over would be nice, and some fresh bread.  But we are.  So we didn't.  Abstemious types like us will only take on board about 180 calories in each big, steaming bowl!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Sumac Cod with Vegetable Couscous Salad

We are on a bit of a health kick.  Resolutely NOT a diet, we don't do those, but we are lightening the food up over the summer.  We don't eat very much processed food, but will cut it all out, so no crisps or biscuits, I'm afraid - oh, and less alcohol :o( ........  I shall still bake, but will leave others to eat it!  Anyway, low fat, plenty of fruit and veg, some carbs, moderate amounts of protein - this will be the order of the day for a while.  The brilliant 'Australian Women's Weekly' have published a book called 'The 21-Day Wonder Diet' (NO, NOT a diet, I insist!) packed full of great recipes, that the Aussies do so well.  This first dish from the book was absolutely wonderful - filling, zesty, spicy and fresh.  If they are all like this, I should look like Elle MacPherson in no time....well, maybe in about 3 years!  LOL.

Anyway, first get a couple of spankingly-fresh cod loins (our are from Waitrose, sustainably fished, of course) and sprinkle each with about half-a-teaspoon of sumac powder. (This is a lovely peppery, lemony spice, if you've never tried it before).  Set aside, whilst you reconstitute 90g couscous with its equivalent by volume of hot veg stock.  Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a non-stick pan, and saute a finely-chopped small onion, a clove of garlic, a thinly-sliced courgette, and about 8 cherry tomatoes, halved.  Stir occasionally, until onions have softened, and then stir in a half-teaspoon of ras-al-hanout, if you have it, or ground cumin if you don't.  Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in another non-stick saute pan, and, over a medium heat, add the cod.  Leave for 4 minutes, without prodding or moving, and then carefully turn over, and cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Whilst this is happening, fluff up the soaked couscous, add to the veg and gently fold through, along with some chopped coriander, mint and parsley, or just one of these if that's all you have.  Dish up, with lemon wedges to squeeze, and tuck in.  Around 420 calories per serve apparently, and scarcely any fat.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Hazelnut Tart with Orange Mascarpone and Strawberries

A nice variation on strawberry cream tart, this appears in the latest edition of 'Olive' Magazine.  The base is a rich shortcrust with ground toasted hazelnuts added, and baked blind.  It is filled with a tub of mascarpone mixed with a little sugar, grated orange zest, a little orange juice and 150ml of softly whipped cream - just in case there wasn't enough fat for you already.  Topped with healthy sliced strawberries from the local PYO in Binsey, and we have a treat indeed!

Moroccan Aubergine Stew

One of the best chain restaurants, in my humble opinion, is Giraffe - the food is interesting, mostly cooked on the premises and features some exciting flavours.  One of the most delicious things they do is a mezze plate with this stew, along with hummus, baba ganoush, etc.  So this is my version, and it is best served cold, with hummus, olives and flatbreads.  Just gorgeous.  Saute two finely chopped medium onions in 3-4 tablespoons olive oil until soft and golden - don't let them brown.  Stir in a diced aubergine - dice it quite small, and saute for a few minutes.  It will soak up all the oil, but don't be tempted to add more!  Now add 5 - yes, 5 - cloves of grated garlic, a teaspoon of ras al hanout powder, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, half a teaspoon of chilli flakes, and a quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon.  Stir well then add half a tin of chopped tomatoes (or a small tin, if you have one) and a splash of water. Cover and simmer over a low heat until thick and the aubergine is tender and slightly squishy.  Chill, and then add chopped coriander leaves.  Some Greek yoghurt with cucumber and mint is a nice accompaniment to this too.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Delia's Flaky Fish Pie

I wonder why this recipe has eluded me until now?  It is in my battered and well-thumbed copy of Delia's 'Complete Cookery Course' which is well over 20 years old.  Perhaps it is the lack of a photo?  Anyway, it is supremely good, using puff pastry rather than mash (I used a sheet of bought puff rather than the home-made flaky in the recipe).  I can do no better than point you to the recipe on her website, and use her picture - mine was pretty-much like hers but without the fancy pastry shapes on top - couldn't be arsed.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Butternut and Chard Fritatta

I had thought I'd seen the last of both these main ingredients in the Riverford veg box, but they turned up again this week - along with lots of other goodies!  However, they were splendid in this dish.  I roasted the squash with chopped wet garlic and fresh rosemary, then mixed with 4 eggs and the finely-shredded stalks and leaves of Swiss chard which had been sweated in a little olive oil.  Cooked in a pan with more oil, browned under the grill, and served with asparagus that had roasted alongside the squash and some warm crusty bread with butter, it was a veggie feast, and I didn't resent them in the end!