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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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Ramen beef and mushrooms

18 Sep

imageThis lovely beef Ramen dish reminded me of two things. Firstly, there are still amazing recipes to try that will shoot straight into your top 20 and secondly, always buy the best you can afford.  In this case I bought fillet steak and the end result was melt in your mouth beef accompanied by soft noodles in an incredibly beautiful spice infused broth.  Overall a sensational combinations of taste explosions in your mouth that I was still savouring for some time afterwards.

The broth is based on Miso, a traditional Japanese staple food and seasoning.  There are two main types of Miso and its popularity varies dependant in where you are in Japan.  The most common types are white miso traditionally consumed in the western part of Japan including Kyoto, while the eastern regions including Tokyo tend to prefer red miso. Miso is typically salty but its flavour and aroma depend on various factors such as ingredients, fermentation and the length of the ageing process. Other important variables that contribute to the flavour of a particular miso include temperature, duration of fermentation, salt content and the variety of koji. These different ingredients and variables result in miso which may be described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity and savoury. You can find Miso soup in most large supermarkets in the UK. Miso paste is more difficult to find. For a great selection of both try the Clearspring on-line shop.

Here is the recipe, a variation of the one I found in a Tesco magazine.

Ramen beef with mushrooms                                              Serves 4

  • 3 sachets of Miso soup (I used the red version)
  • 1 inch piece of root ginger, finely sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 star anise
  • 150g Udon noodles
  • 2 fillet steaks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz shiitake mushrooms, halved if large
  • 4 oz chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1  x 200g pack baby leaf greens, finely shredded
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 6 spring onions, finely sliced
  • A few leaves of coriander for garnish
  1. Dissolve the Miso soup in 1 litre of freshly boiled water in a large pan. Add the ginger and star anise then leave to simmer over a low heat.
  2. Meanwhile cook the noodles as per packet instructions. Drain well.
  3. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Lightly oil the steaks and season well.  When the pan is smoking, griddle them for 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes then slice thinly.
  4. Add the mushrooms to the broth and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Heat a little oil to a clean pan and fry the chilli and spring onions until just turning brown.
  6. Divide the noodles between 4 bowls and ladle over the broth in equal measures. Lay the beef slices on top then scatter with the chilli and spring onions. garnish with the coriander and serve immediately.

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Beef in Oyster Sauce, better than a take away

19 Jun

DSCI0632OK, so all my followers will know by now that I love Chinese food.  I also like Ken Hom recipes so this dish was a reasonably safe bet to turn out well. I was not disappointed.  Mind you, I did go all out with the beef and bought fillet steak. Some may think this was a waste but my husband is really fussy about meat and hates chewy bits in recipes where the meat is in a sauce and so they are well disguised.  This beef just melted in our mouths and was absolutely delicious. In actual fact, there wasn’t that much difference in the price of the fillet to other steaks so I feel my choice was justified.

Another essential is your choice of oyster sauce. Some oyster sauces taste fishy so buying the best you can afford always pays in the end. Ken Hom recommends Lee Kum Kee sauce found in most major supermarkets.

The dish is very savoury so goes well with plain boiled rice.

Here is a link to the recipe on the Good Food website:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/stir-fried-beef-oyster-sauce 

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Individual Beef Wellingtons – delicious!

10 May

DSCI0625I remember the first time we had a Beef Wellington. I loved it but my husband, who hates to eat meat that is too pink or bloody, had to have his flashed off in the frying pan. When I saw this recipe I could feel my mouth watering but I was quite nervous about what my husband would think of it.  The steak is a fillet and it would have been criminal to overcook it so I decided to go with the recipe. Thankfully they turned out perfectly.  The Parma Ham prevented the pastry from having a soggy bottom and added a lovely flavour to the finished dish.  Fillet steak is obviously not cheap but it is well worth the money for such a beautiful dish. Perfect for a romantic meal for two or a dinner party for special friends.  I served mine with green vegetables as I felt there was enough starch in the pastry for a rounded meal.

The origin of the name is unclear. (Wikipedia)

There are theories that suggest that beef Wellington is named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Some theories go a step further and suggest this was due to his love of a dish of beef, truffles, mushrooms, Madeira wine, and pâté cooked in pastry, but there is a noted lack of evidence supporting this. In addition to the dearth of evidence attaching this dish to the famous Duke, the earliest recorded recipe to bear this name appeared in a 1966 cookbook.

Other accounts simply credit the name to a patriotic chef wanting to give an English name to a variation on the French filet de bœuf en croûte during the Napoleonic Wars.

Still another theory is that the dish is not named after the Duke himself, but rather that the finished joint was thought to resemble a Wellington boot, a brown shiny military boot named after the duke.

Here is the link to the recipe:  http://www.olivemagazine.com/recipes/beef-wellingtons/4010.html 

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Beef Stifatho, a fantastic Greek casserole!

6 May

  I remember the first time I ate this dish.  It was in Aegina, a small island not far from the Greek Mainland and the port of Piraeus.  I was in the company of good friends, the wine flowed and I ended up singing with a group of four Greeks, none of whom spoke English.  The owner of the restaurant, Costas,  gave up at 2 am, brought us a final jug of Retsina, turned off all the lights and left us to it.  What a great memory!

Stifatho is a rich casserole of braised meat, and varies from one Greek island to another, and probably one household to another!  Some prefer rabbit in the casserole but I prefer beef.  It’s not that I don’t like rabbit but the tiny bones can be a bit fiddley.  The recipe I love best is one I found in a book written by Pamela Westland, ‘A Taste of the Greek Islands’.  If you ever get the chance to read it you will love it. 

Costas serves his Stefatho with Krithiraki, a rice shaped pasta, sometimes known as orzo.  Whenever I have cooked this I do exactly the same.  My kids love it and I never have to worry about leftovers.  You can buy it in most large Supermarkets.  The recipe is absolutely perfect for dinner parties, especially served with the krithiraki, as most people will never have had it and, those that have, will relish the memories it brings back of sun-kissed beaches, golden sunsets and friendly Greek people.  It can be prepared ahead and reheats well, it can also be frozen. Perfect for busy people! 

First a bit about the island of Aegina.  Aegina is part of the Saronic Islands, alongside Hydra, Spetses and Poros.  It is a beautiful island, very fertile and green and full of pine and olive trees, pretty villages and lovely beaches.  For those interested, there are also archaeological monuments, such as the Temple of Aphaia.  Aegina is probably best known, however, for pistachio nuts.  They have been grown on the island for as long as records existed and, today, you can buy them prepared in so many ways, roasted and salted in shells, packed into jars of local honey, covered in caramel to make a nut brittle and in their local nougat, just to name but a few.  The island is only small and it is possible to see it all in one day if you hire a car.  If ever I was tempted to live abroad it would be a tough decision as to whether to go to Aegina or Lardos in Rhodes.  For now I am happy to visit all my friends as often as possible and recreate wonderful Greek dishes such as this one.

Beef Stifatho (Braised beef casserole)  Serves 4 – 6

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1kg (about 2 lbs) braising steak
  • 2 small onions, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 200 ml (6 fl oz) red wine
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • salt and black pepper
  • 450g (1 lb) shallots
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  1. Set the oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3.
  2. Heat half the oil in a flameproof casserole and fry the meat over a high heat, stirring, until it is browned all over.  Don’t overfill the pan or the beef will steam rather than sear.  Do it in batches if necessary, depending on the size of the pan.  Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining oil and fry the onions over a medium heat, stirring, until lightly browned.  Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomato puree, vinegar, red wine and sugar.  Return the meat to the pan and mix well.  Put the cloves and cumin seeds either in a muslim cloth or a closed tea strainer.  Add to the dish with the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.  Season, cover and cook in oven for 1.5 hours.
  4. Blanch the shallots in boiling salted water for 1 minute.  Add to the casserole and continue to cook for 1 hour.  Check every now and again to ensure it is not going dry, if so, add a little water.
  5. When meat is tender, remove from oven.  Remove spices and bay leaves.  Stir in the lemon juice and sprinkle with the chopped parsley before serving.

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Cottage Pie! Comfort food at it’s best!!

7 Mar

There are days when nostalgia takes over and you want to eat something great that you remember from your childhood.  This is one of those days!  The sunshine from yesterday has gone, replaced by dark clouds.  Its time to eat something really comforting like Cottage Pie.

I remember eating cottage pie at my Grandmothers on a Monday dinner time.  Dinner time , in those days, was always 1300 hours.  If you were a minute late your dinner would be in the dog!!!!  She would have been a great sea captain! 

There is something fantastic about the smell of cottage pie as it cooks in the oven and the crunch as the spoon breaks through the crispy edges of the mashed potato to reveal the luscious beef mix below.  Yum!!!!!!!!  Grandma used to make hers using the beef left over from Sunday Lunch.  There was never very much beef, not even on the Sunday, so she would mince it and pad it out with chopped up vegetables.  I suppose it was one way of getting her Grandchildren to eat them.  Whatever the agenda, I know that we all loved her pie.  While we are talking of not wasting food, for tea we would eat dripping from the roast beef, spread onto warm toast and sprinkled with a little salt.  Oh, the memories! 

There are all sorts of variations on the cottage pie.  Shepherds pie is the most common, and is associated with minced lamb rather than beef.  Cottage Pie was first recorded in 1791 when the potato was used by the poor.  Cottage came from the work cottages they lived in.

I’ve tried all sorts of Cottage Pie recipes.  One included baked beans, some with cheese mixed into the potato topping, some tending towards an Italian version, using pancetta and red wine in the beef mix.  All were really tasty and healthy too.  My favourite though has to be my Grandmas version.  I am serving it with boiled cabbage and gravy.  Heaven!

Grandmas’s Cottage Pie          (Serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick celery, roughly chopped
  • 500g (1lb) beef mince (lean)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Splash Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)
  • 500 ml (1pt) beef stock
  • 1kg (2 lbs) old potatoes (I use Maris Piper), peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • Knob of butter
  • A little milk.
    1. Heat the oil in a pan then add the onion, carrots and celery.  Fry on a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften but are not coloured.
    2. Add the beef mince, crumbling to break up any large lumps.  When browned, add the tomato puree and Worcestershire Sauce.  Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.  Add the stock, mix well.  Bring to the boil then simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes.
    3. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. 
    4. Meanwhile, make the mashed potato.  Add the potatoes to salted boiling water, cover and simmer over low heat until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).  Drain well then return to pan.  Add the butter and milk and mash everything together until smooth.
    5. When the beef is ready tip into ovenproof dish.  Top with the potato then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is browned and the beef is bubbling around the edges.
    6. If you want to, you can freeze this at the end of Step 4.  Make sure it is cold before you put it in the freezer.  Defrost and continue with Step 5 when you want to eat it. 

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