Sunday, 31 July 2011

Thai Beef Salad

We had a couple of lovely rib eye steaks in the freezer, and had them as an increasingly rare red meat treat this evening.  I cut the thawed meat into chunky cubes, removing as much visible fat as possible.  Marinade them in a mixture of grated garlic and fresh ginger, a chopped red chilli, the juice of half a lime and a tablespoon of coconut cream, along with half-a-teaspoon each of ground cumin, turmeric and coriander (use the rest in a vegetable stir-fry).  Let it sit for at least an hour, overnight if possible.  Thread onto skewers - if using wooden ones, make sure you soak them well in warm water.  Grill, either on a chargrill or under a hot overhead grill - if the barbie is on, even better.  Brush with the marinade and turn until done to your liking.  Drizzle over sweet chilli sauce, chopped roasted peanuts and chopped coriander leaf, and serve the remaining half of lime on the side.  Serve with a leafy green salad with cucumber and we also had a big dish of stir-fried peppers, tomatoes and sugarsnap peas in a green curry coconut sauce.

Chocolate Pear Cake

I am tentatively allowing some home-baked goodies back into our diet, on the basis that a little slice of cake made with the best fresh ingredients will ALWAYS be better for you than a processed rice cake or anaemic low-fat commercial biscuit.  Since doing the original Nigel Challenge a couple of years ago, I have become a fan of his favourite 'pound cake' recipe, where essentially you have the same weight of butter, sugar and flour - organic, please, for the best flavour.  This cake uses 125g each of those ingredients, along with 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 30g of cocoa powder (get the best you can afford), a teaspoon of vanilla essence (again, the good stuff from Madagascar), 2 organic eggs and 100ml of plain yoghurt.  Have the butter nice and soft and then chuck it all into the KitchenAid and beat until it goes a pale milk chocolately colour and is soft and creamy.  You could just sit on the floor of the kitchen, in the corner, and eat it out of the bowl now.  Or resist, and spoon it into a parchment-lined 20cm-square baking tin.  Peel and chop 2 ripe pears and press the chunks into the top of the sponge.  Bake at 170C for about 45 minutes, during which time the pear will sink beguilingly into the chocolate batter.  This will serve 8-10 people, so is really not as bad as you'd think, with about 15g of fat per serve.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Cod Baked in Fresh Tomato and Bay Sauce

The English tomato season is starting to get into its swing, and I love the acidic freshness a good, ripe English tom brings to proceedings.  This simple dish showcases them, and some wonderful fresh cod fillets (sustainably fished, I might add!).  Take time to sweat a lovely fresh, yellow onion in a tablespoon of olive oil - we can afford the calories for the flavour it brings.  When it is soft, put in 4 or 5 big, ripe, peeled fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped, and a couple of fresh bay leaves.  You can add garlic too, if liked, but today I wanted this to be all pure flavours.  Simmer for 20 minutes or so until well reduced and jammy (see the picture).  Season carefully with salt and pepper.  Now, place thick loin fillets of cod (you can use other fish too) on top and cover with a lid or foil.  Simmer gently until the cod is pearly white and just cooked.  Serve with parslied new potatoes and green beans or sugar snap peas.  Apart from the tablespoon of oil, there is no fat in this dish so - healthy, healthy, healthy!  You can jazz the sauce up to ring the changes - add olives and capers, or basil, or sliced peppers, mushrooms - you get the picture.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Turkey Bolognese

I am sure no self-respecting Italian would consider this to be an authentic ragu Bolognese, which is usually made with a blend of pork and beef mince, chicken livers, lots of oil, milk (for a tender creamy sauce), red wine and hours of cooking.  Wonderful and rich, but not low fat if made in the tradiotional way.  But for a tasty, low-fat sauce for pasta, turkey makes a very acceptable substitute, especially if made with lots of garlic, red and green peppers, fresh oregano and basil - the turkey is like blotting paper, mopping up all the flavours.  The other benefit is that it is ready in an hour, and the meat is inherently tender - not always the case with minced beef.  Anyway, you all know how to make a Bolognese, you don't need me to tell you, but try it with turkey (good quality, organic British mince, please) and make sure it is well-reduced to avoid wateriness.  Yum!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Chicken and Basil Sizzle

A perfect little stir-fry from Judith Wills' brilliant book 'Top 200 Low Fat Dishes'.  Couldn't be simpler.  In a dessertspoon of sunflower or groundnut oil, stir-fry some chopped spring onion, chopped red chilli, garlic and ginger (however much or little you want), and then add two thinly-sliced chicken breasts and a sliced red pepper.  Stir and toss around the pan for a couple of minutes until chicken just cooked.  Now add about 120ml of veg or chicken stock, a splash of fish sauce, the juice of half a lime and a big handful of basil and chopped coriander leaf.  Stir for just a few seconds more and then spoon onto rice or noodles and tuck in.  Really low-fat, but really tasty.  Keep your frying pan or wok on the highest heat possible - the clue is in the word 'sizzle' - don't be afraid of  the heat here, it needs to be hot and fast.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Cottage Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Spread

Delicious little spread or dip, this and so simple.  Take half a tub of plain low-fat cottage cheese, plenty of black pepper (the cheese is usually plenty salty, so don't add any more) a squeeze of lemon juice, a small roasted, skinned red pepper (some from a jar is fine but blot as much oil off as possible) and a tablespoon or so of basil leaves.  Blend in a processor or mini chopper - try to leave some chunkiness for texture.  Now, taste and adjust the seasoning with some Tabasco sauce to spike it up, if liked, and serve as a sandwich spread with lettuce and cucumber or as a dip with crispbreads, tortilla chips, crudites, etc.  Yum!

Lemon Blueberry Cake

Baking has moved to the back burner, so to speak, as a result of our lower fat regime.  But a little of what you fancy does you good, and this cake only uses 90g of unsalted butter and 80g of sugar, and it will serve 8-10.  So only around 10g fat and 200 cals per slice.  Blueberries are bang in season, and seem to be particularly plump and juicy this year, in common with British cherries.  This is an easy variation on a lemon drizzle cake, though you can leave the drizzle off to cut the sugar content even further.  Best made in a good electric mixer - I love my Kitchen Aid!  In said mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light, pale and fluffy.  Beat together 125ml of skimmed milk, two large eggs and a half teaspoon of good vanilla essence.  Weigh out 160g of plain flour and mix with 2 level teaspoons of baking powder.  Grate the zest of a large unwaxed lemon into the flour.  Now put half the flour and half the milk/egg mix in with the butter and beat briefly until combined.  Add the remaining flour and egg mix and beat again briefly until just combined - try not to overbeat it but keep it light and fluffy.  Gently stir in 100g or so of blueberries ( a small punnet) and spoon into a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin.  Smooth the top and bake at 170C for about 45 to 50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave in the tin for 5 minutes then cool on a wire rack.  If you want the drizzle, mix the juice of the lemon with a heaped tablespoon of caster sugar.  When the cake comes out of the tin, spike the top with the skewer and spoon over the gritty lemony sugar.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin, when the sugar will form a delicious sharp crust.  Allegedly, this keeps for a couple of days......we shall see!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Pork Stir Fry

Sorry for the media blackout (although Facebook followers were spammed with about 40 old recipes - sorry about that chaps, it weren't me, honest!).  A busy week and the weekend away at a friend's wedding were enjoyable, but we fell pretty badly off the low-fat wagon.  Still, you can't stay in a lovely B&B with full English breakfast, and then attend a brilliant wedding with canapes, a delicious sit down dinner, as much booze as you could drink, late-evening cheese and crusty bread and home-made truffles AND a chocolate wedding cake and whinge about being on a low-fat regime.  So, sod it - relax and have fun, and hop back on the wagon today.  A stir-fry with masses of veg- sugarsnap peas, broccoli, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and ginger - hits the spot, along with strips of pork fillet marinated in Five Spice powder.  A rich sauce of soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, more garlic and ginger and thickened with cornflour brought it all together nicely.  Savoury, filling, healthy, crisp, and low-fat.  Mind you, still fantasising about that chocolate cake....and the truffles.......and the cheese.......mmmmmmmnn, cheese.....

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Aubergine and Beef Stacks with Lemon Yoghurt Dressing

I love a well-made moussaka, but it is NOT low-fat!  All that olive oil and (usually) fatty lamb, which of course gives flavour but pushes the fat content sky high.  Add to that, the rich eggy, yoghurty, cheesy custard topping, and it is a no-go zone.  So, this revamped and deconstructed version from the marvellous Australian Women's Weekly 21-Day Wonder Diet is a God-send.  It consists of a base of slices of sliced, baked aubergine, courgette and red pepper (very lightly spritzed with olive-oil spray and laid on baking parchment, then baked for around 20 minutes).  Meanwhile, dry-fry 250g of lean (5% fat) organic beef in a non-stick pan until browned, breaking up with a wooden spoon.  Add a very finely chopped onion and clove of garlic, a quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a teaspoon of tomato puree, two peeled, chopped tomatoes, and 200mls of beef stock.  Cover and simmer gently until the beef is tender and the liquid has reduced.  You can add other veg too - I added some sweetcorn and chopped, roasted pepper.  Right at the end, add some chopped fresh basil.  Now, layer the roasted veg on a warm plate, top with the mince and a spoonful or two of 0% Greek youghuret mixed with lemon juice and sumac (if you have any), and add some salad leaves or watercress on the side.  We added a few baby new potatoes for carbs.  Delicious - all the flavours of moussaka, and virtually none of the fat.  Without the potatoes, this comes in at around 320 cals per portion, which can't be bad!  Just make sure you are mean with the oil when roasting the veg.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Pasta Primavera

Normally, recipes for this dish are very heavy on the butter and/or cream, but it is possible to lighten it up with much less fat, through using chicken or veg stock.  Go with whatever veg you have in that is good and seasonal - I went for carrot, broad beans, courgettes, asparagus tips and some peas, with baby spinach folded in at the end.  This is a good way to get your five-a-day!.. Sweat a finely diced onion in 10g of butter and a teaspoon of olive oil.  Keep the heat gentle and a lid on.  Prepare all the other veg, addding first the carrot, then the asparagus and then the courgettes and peas, allowing each to sweat a little in the covered pan to soften before adding th next.  Add about 150ml of stock, cover, and simmer gently whilst you boil the pasta.  Drain pasta, add baby spinach and mix, and sprinkle with some parmesan.  So delicate and summery. 

Thai Minced Turkey

This has to be one of my favourite low fat dishes that I've cooked recently.  Turkey breast mince is very low in fat, but can be a bit bland - so, get good organic stuff and mix it with lots of strong flavours - Italian and Thai work very well.  In this dish, the turkey is stir-fried with a sliced red onion in a little oil (only about a teaspoon) and then you add chopped garlic, chilli and ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, coriander (all frozen from Waitrose, brilliant time-saver) and some chicken stock.  Simmer for about 15 minutes until the turkey is tender.  Slake two teaspoons of soy sauce with two tablespoons of dark soy sauce, and stir into the pot.  Allow to bubble for a minute, then stir in a big handful of basil leaves.  Serve with Jasmine rice or rice noodles.  Just yummy.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Rigatoni with Beef Tagliata, Roast Tomatoes, Beans and Light Pesto

I've always enjoyed the taste of a good steak, but been somewhat put off by a large lump of meat, bleeding onto my plate.  The Italians, as with so much in life, have it right, by serving the steak tagliata, or in slices - this makes it easier to eat, and makes the meat stretch further.  This was a delicious invention, if I say so myself, and I am sorry I didn't take a pic of the finished dish.  Advance prep is best - blanch and skin some broad beans and blanch some fresh sliced green beans, and meanwhile, quarter three ripe tomatoes, spritz with a little olive oil, and roast for 20 minutes.  All the veg turned up in the Riverford box today, and were soooo fresh!  Make some pesto, either the traditional way, or using my amazing, patented low-fat version.  In a mini chopper, blitz 25g basil leaves, a small clove of garlic, a heaped tablespoon of 0% Greek Yoghurt or low-fat cottage cheese, and about 15g of grated fresh parmesan.  Cook your pasta (150g for 2) and chargrill your steak, letting it rest for a minute or two while the pasta finishes. 1x150g steak was plenty for us to share.  Just before serving, slice the meat across the grain.  When done, drain the pasta, return to the hot pot, and throw all the ingredients in, giving it all a good stir, and serve on hot plates with a little extra Parmesan grated over.  No idea of the calories really - guessing around 550 a portion?  But really low fat, and totally delicious.  I will make it again, and take pictures, I promise!