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Low fat moussaka

13 Nov

 

Moussaka is recognised as the traditional dish of Greece. I have many happy memories of our times in Greece, sitting in the sunshine looking out over turquoise blue seas, eating this with a Greek Salad on the side and maybe a glass or two of Retsina. If you were lucky the Retsina would be served in a bottle, chilled, but in our early visits there were no such luxuries and it would be decanted from huge barrels into a copper jug. It’s a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it and some think it tastes like turpentine. I absolutely love it and have a copper jug at home that I decant the bottle into for authenticity. If I close my eyes I am transported back to those idyllic shores with my first sip of wine.

The traditional recipe for Moussaka will include frying the aubergines and using a Béchamel sauce for the topping.  I have adapted this recipe so that it is lower in fat but retains the authentic flavours. Terry’s Greek Grandmother would be mortified but my Slimming World Consultant would give me a pat on the head.  Sorry YaYa. If you are using the cheese as your Healthy Option A it is, by my reckoning, Syn free, for those, like myself, who follow Slimming World food optimising. If you want to be truly authentic however, and you are not concerned about the amount of fat in your diet, feel free to replace the yogurt topping with Béchamel sauce although I would still cook the aubergines as below.

Low fat Moussaka.            Serves 4

  • 2 large aubergines, sliced into rings about 1/2 inch thick
  • 500g beef mince (5% fat)
  • Spray Olive oil or Frylight
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 X 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 60 ml red wine
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 X 175g Fage 0% Natural Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 35g low-fat cheddar, grated

1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil then blanch the aubergine slices in batches for 5 minutes. Remove and place in a single layer onto kitchen paper to drain. Discard water.
2. In another large pan, spray with one cal olive oil and sauté the onion until softened but not browned. Add beef and continue cooking over low heat until browned, about 10 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, allspice and seasoning. Mix well. Add the wine and purée and a little water if it looks too dry. Cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, adding a little water if it is going dry. Remove cover and cook for 15 minutes more to allow excess water to evaporate. You are aiming for a thick meat sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
4. Spray a fairly deep, square ovenproof dish with one cal. Put a layer of aubergines in the base (doesn’t need to be totally covered), followed by a layer of meat sauce. Repeat the finish with a final layer of aubergines.
5. In a bowl, beat the yogurt then beat in the eggs. Add half the cheese. Mix well then pour over top of dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese then bake in preheated oven (180C/170C fan/Gas 4) for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the top is golden and base heated through.
6. Remove from oven and allow to stand for about 10 minutes so the top firms up. Serve with a mixed salad if you like.

 

 

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Beef casserole, perfect for cold winter days!

30 Oct

 There are so many things I love about autumn and winter.  The dark nights when you can snuggle down in front of the fire, warm milky drinks to take to bed, long walks, wrapped up in scarves, gloves and hats and last, but definitely not least, thick warming casseroles, full of goodness and comfort.  I have been making this casserole for as long as I can remember.  My Grandma used to make a casserole out of ‘leg meat’.  I’m not really sure what cut this is, maybe it is peculiar to Derbyshire butchers.  I’ve often asked for it only to be given a blank look.  I have a feeling it is shin of beef but cut long ways instead of across.  Whatever it was, she used to cook it simply in water with maybe a bit of salt.  The result was incredible and the gravy to die for.  Oh well, enough of my memories. 

My version always uses braising steak.  Over the years the recipe has evolved.  Initially I would cook it like my Grandma, then, when we had the children and money was short, I started added vegetables to bulk it out.  Since then I have taken to adding some chopped tomatoes which give a great consistency to the gravy.  What we eat today, therefore, pays little resemblance to my early offerings but the flavour is simply delicious, accompanied by a big helping of mashed potatoes to soak up the gravy.  

Anyway, here is the recipe.  If there is left over meat it is fantastic in a cottage pie.  Simply line a pie dish with a layer of the meat and vegetables cut up into bite sized pieces and top with  potatoes and swede mashed together with a little low fat fromage fraise

Beef casserole                        Serves 4-6

  • 1 kg/2 lbs 4oz lean braising steak, fat and sinews removed and cut into large pieces
  • 4 white onions, peeled and halved
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and halved
  • Spray or Frylight sunflower oil 
  • 1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 500 ml water
  • 1 beef stock cube (knorr)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/170C fan/gas 4.
  2. Spray a large non-stick ovenproof casserole with a lid with the oil.  Don’t worry if you don’t have one, simply make in a large frying pan and transfer to your casserole when it is ready to go in the oven.  Brown the pieces of beef over a high heat.  The intention is to sear the meat and retain the flavours.  Do this in batches if necessary as you don’t want the meat to steam instead of searing.  When brown remove and reserve.
  3. Spray the same pan again with oil and add the onions and carrots.  Cook for a few minutes until they start to go a light brown.
  4. Add the tomatoes and water and crumble over a beef stock cube.  Season well.  When boiling return the meat to the dish with the bay leaves.  There should be enough water to almost cover the meat and vegetables but not drown them.  If not add a little more.
  5. Cover the casserole and cook in the oven for 2 hours, checking every now and again to make sure it is not going dry.  Check the meat is tender, if not give it another half an hour.   Remove from the oven and serve with mashed potato, pouring the lovely gravy over them.

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Healthy Spaghetti Bolognese – delicious

23 Oct

imageSpaghetti Bolognese is probably my husbands favourite meals. My version is not typical of a traditional Bolognese sauce as when I first started making it, many years ago when the children were young, I had to bulk it out with vegetables to reduce the overall cost and also to provide vegetables for my resistant children.  We still love it and have it on average once a week. Now there are just my husband and myself at home I still make enough for four people and simply freeze half in a rigid container to use when time is short or when I don’t feel like cooking. Defrost completely though before you reheat.

Recently I have been attending Slimming World to lose some weight that has crept on over the years.  I have adapted the recipe so, by my calculations, if you use the Frylight oil,  it is now Syn free. In fact, so is the pasta and, if the Parmesan is used as a Healthy Extra, that is free too.  A wonderful plateful of free comfort food, what can be better than that!

Here is the recipe.

Spaghetti Bolognese                     Serves 4 people

  • Frylight Olive spray or 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 500g lean steak mince
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 beef stock cube (I use Knorr as Oxo is a bit overpowering in this dish)
  • 100/200 ml of water (just enough to loosen the mix and provide some sauce
  • Dried spaghetti (portion dependant on appetite)
  • Parmesan cheese, finely grated (Optional)
  1. Spray a large saucepan with the oil or, if you are not using the spray, add the oil.  Heat until hot over medium heat and add the onion. Fry gently for about 5 minutes until starting to go tender.  Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute more.
  2. Add the pepper and mushrooms and continue frying over a low heat for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.
  3. Turn up the heat to medium/high and crumble the mince over the vegetables. Mix well and cook until the mince has browned.
  4. Sprinkle over the oregano and season.  Mix well then add the tomatoes and water. Crumble over stock cube, mix well then bring to the boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes until all the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened. Add a little more water if necessary.
  6. In the meantime cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  7. Drain the spaghetti and serve with the meat sauce on top, sprinkled with parmesan if you like.

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Thai style beef and mango salad, one of our favourite meals!

16 Oct

 We first had this salad about eleven years ago, shortly after we returned from living in America.  It has been a firm favourite ever since and we eat it at least once a month and more often if I think about making it.  Although this is classed as a salad it could not be further away from what I grew up to understand salads to be, i.e. lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber!  The tender chunks of beef, straight from the pan, absorb the hot and spicy salad dressing.  The sweetness of the mango is in perfect contrast with the beef and the heat from the red onion and the watercress.  Your senses will rarely be subjected to such an attack on all levels, smell, taste and sight!  Absolutely delicious and very low in fat, carbohydrate and calories so excellent for anyone who is hoping to lose weight.  What more could you ask for?

Thai food is known for its balance of the four fundamental taste senses, sour, sweet, salty and bitter.  It is often spicy as well.  This dish is an excellent example of how this balance is achieved.  Don’t be put off by the ingredients, especially the mango in a savoury dish.  If you like spicy food I think you will love this.

Thai style beef and mango salad    Serves 2 (generously)

  • 2 sirloin steaks, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced into half-moon shapes
  • 1 bag watercress
  • 3 tsp fish sauce
  • freshly ground pepper
  • juice 1 lime
  • small knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • Spray sunflower oil or Frylight
  1. Put the cubes of steak in a dish, add 1 tsp fish sauce and season well with freshly ground pepper.  Mix well and set aside.
  2. Divide the watercress between two plates.  Sprinkle the mango cubes and sliced onion over each plate.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and chilli.  Check for taste.  If it is too sweet add more lime, too sour, add a little more sugar.
  4. Just before serving, heat the oil in a wok.  When hot stir fry the steak , turning frequently, until it is browned all over.
  5. Divide the steak between the two plates of salad and dress, to your liking, with the dressing.  Serve immediately. 

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Beef Hotpot, great way to use up leftover roast beef

21 Aug

I wonder how many people buy a joint of beef that looks the business then find its tough and chewy when cooked. That is exactly what happened to me this Sunday. I know butchers say there is no way of knowing if beef is going to be tough before it’s cooked but it is such a disappointment on the day. Thankfully there was only the two of us for lunch and I was able to rescue it by slicing, cutting out the layer of grizzle and braising it with sliced onions in stock for half an hour before serving.

That left me with the problem of what to do with the other half of the joint. Those that know me will know I never waste food. I think of all those poor people who have nothing to eat and I just can’t do it! So, given the braising success, I decided to make a Beef Hotpot. It was a huge success, even if I do say so myself.

I think the secret of a good Hotpot is to make a really tasty gravy. The meat in this one is already cooked so will not be adding to the flavour so the recipe includes additions that overcome that. Some will turn their noses up at kidneys. Please don’t. Even if the thought of kidneys is abhorrent you will really not know they are in there and they add a lovely richness to the gravy.

I have made this as healthy as possible. It’s low fat and, for those on Slimming World, it is very low in Syns, 1 Syn between four people plus any you may add with Spray oil.

Here is the recipe. Serve with green vegetables if liked.

Beef Hotpot.                        Serves 4

  • Cooked roast beef, all fat and grizzle removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Spray sunflower oil or Frylight
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 lambs kidneys, core removed and very finely chopped
  • 3/4 pt beef stock made with 2 stock cubes
  • Leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tsp cornflour dissolved in a little water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium red potatoes, thinly slices
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/160C fan
  2. Spray a large nonstick frying pan with oil and fry the onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the kidneys and fry for a minute more.
  3. pour in the stock and add the cornflour, thyme and Worcestershire Sauce. Season.
  4. Add the beef, mix well, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Pour all the beef mixture into an ovenproof dish. Cover with the potatoes then press the potatoes down slightly so they are covered with a little gravy.
  6. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 1.5 hours or until the potatoes are tender. Serve while hot.

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Slow cooker beef curry, Slimming World friendly

13 Aug

Since my last post I have been voted Slimming World Woman of the Year for my group. I am completely overwhelmed and humbled that someone would even think of nominating me. As I stood at the front of group with five other amazing nominees it gave me time to take stock and reflect on my slimming journey and the lovely friends I have shared it with.  Some of my closest friends will know I have had a lifelong battle with my weight.  I weighed in at 9.5 lbs at birth and it was all downhill from there. I think my Father insisting I clear my plate before I could leave the table didn’t help any or that my wonderful, loyal husband flatly denying for forty-three years that my bum  looked big in clothes when I asked, bless him.

As you may have gathered, I love cooking but it wasn’t until I started following Slimming World that I realised just how much fat my food hero chefs used in their recipes.  It has been a challenge to adapt those recipes and, to my absolute amazement, the finished dishes are delicious and much healthier. I admit I am not over keen on the low-calorie spray that is recommended to replace oil and it isn’t always successful for frying some foods, so I often use a normal oil spray but limit the number of sprays and count the Syns. When a recipe is for a few people the individual Syns are negligible so as long as they are counted into my daily allowance it isn’t a problem.

Another great love of mine are cooking gadgets. I have recently invested in a slow cooker and could not wait to try it out. This is my first recipe using it. The curry was bubbling gently away all day and was ready for when I returned from my Group meeting. The house smelled divine and the curry was delicious so a great success.  Here is the recipe. It was adapted from a recipe on BBC Food so that it is Slimming World friendly. By my calculations this works out about two Syns for the whole recipe so only half a Syn if used for four people.

Slow-cooker beef curry                          Serves 4

  • Spray sunflower oil or Frylight
  • 800g/1lb 12oz beef braising steak cut into 2.5cm/1in pieces
  • 2 brown onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped, plus extra to taste
  • 2.5cm/1in piece fresh root ginger
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 x 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 200g/7oz 0% fat Greek natural yogurt
  1. Spray a nonstick frying pan with the oil or Frylight and fry the beef in batches over a medium to high heat until browned all over. This will take about 4 minutes for each pan.  The aim is to sear the meat so don’t overfill the pan. Transfer to the slow-cooker.
  2. Spray the pan again, lower the heat and fry the onions for about 5 minutes until they have softened slightly. Add the chillies, garlic and ginger and fry for 2 minutes more, then add the spices and fry for 1 more minute. If the pan appears to be drying out add a little water rather than more oil. Transfer to the slow-cooker.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the slow-cooker plus one empty can filled with water. Mix well then cover and cook on a low setting for 8 hours.
  4. Whisk the yogurt in a bowl and add 50 ml of hot water very slowly whisking all the time. This will stop it curdling when you add it to the curry.  Add the yogurt, mixing continually, to the curry. Add the garam masala and season with salt to taste. If you want the curry a little hotter add a little more chilli.  Cook for a further 30 minutes then serve with boiled rice and, if you like, a side salad.

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Chunky chilli, spicy and low in calories!

26 Feb

 How often do people start a weight loss programme and give in because the food is tasteless and boring.  This dish is just what the doctor ordered, Chili con carne!  I am using another Judith Wills recipe from her book of low fat meals, and I have made it more times than I can remember.  I love the rich flavour and the chunks of beef that gives a much better texture than mince, more commonly used in chilli.  I’m making a huge pan full today, enough for our dinner, meals on wheels for my kids and, hopefully, some left over to freeze for another day.  It’s great served with jacket potatoes, topped with grated cheddar, or simply with rice and maybe a side salad.

Chilli con carne is simply a spicy stew, derived from the Spanish Chilli con carne, and is the official dish of Texas.  In the 1880’s, brightly dressed Hispanic women known as ‘chili queens’ would light fires of wood or charcoal around downtown San Antonio, in areas where the public were likely to gather, and reheat huge cauldrons of precooked chili to serve to passers-by.  The aromas coming from their pots was a potent sales pitch and soon they were accompanied by groups of musicians to make it more of a carnival atmosphere.  In 1937, new sanitary laws came into force, requiring the chili queens to adhere to the same standards as restaurants.  I can hear all the shouts of ‘Health and Safety spoil things again!’.  The street cuisine disappeared overnight, although there was a brief remission in 1939, the laws were made permanent in 1943.

Last year we grew chillies for the first time.  If you have ever done this, you will know how profuse the chillies are on the plant.  I think we must have had at least one hundred.  If you find yourself in the same boat, and don’t know what to do with them, they freeze beautifully, whole, exactly as they are when you pick them.  When you are ready to use simply take a frozen chilli out and it can be used whole, sliced or chopped from frozen.  If you don’t want the seeds, simply knock them out of the frozen slices before you chop.

There are an incredible number of recipes to be found for Chilli con carne, most of which contain beans and tomatoes.  This is my favourite and I promise, you will never know it is low-calorie!  For those on a Slimming World diet, by my calculations, free if you use the spray oil and only 3 for people if you measure the oil accurately.

 

Chilli con carne     Serves 4

  • 1.5 tsp groundnut oil or Fry light sunflower oil spray 
  • 400g (about 1 lb) braising steak, trimmed of fat and sinews, and cut into about 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper. deseeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 fresh red jalapeno chillies, chopped (leave the seeds in if you like your chilli hot)
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 400g can red kidney beans, drained
  • 250ml beef stock
  • salt and black pepper
  • Chopped coriander to serve (optional)
  1. Heat half the oil in a large, lidded, non-stick pan and fry the meat over a high heat until brown all over.  Do this in batches rather than overfill the pan as the meat will steam rather than fry.  Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  2. Add the rest of the oil, reduce the heat and saute the onion, garlic, chillies and pepper for 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally and be careful they do not burn.
  3. Add the paprika, Tabasco and cumin, stir and cook for 1 minute more.
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, tomato puree, beans, stock and seasoning, stir well, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low.  Return the meat to the pan, check for seasoning and ‘hotness’ then cover and simmer for 2 – 2.5 hours until the sauce is thick and rich and everything is tender.

NB:  The heat of the chilli will mature during cooking so when you test for ‘hotness’ you will need to account for this.  It is better to add a bit more Tabasco at the end than try to reduce the heat, which is almost impossible. 

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