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Low fat Cottage Pie – really delicious

18 Oct

DSCI0415I seem to have been on a diet all my life and yet I never seem to get any thinner so I have. at long last, decided that I need to eat more healthily and make subtle changes that will see the weight come off gradually.  This recipe is one of many that I love in Judith Wills book ‘Top 200 low-fat recipes’.  Some of the recipe are my most loved dishes and I make them frequently but this was the first time I had tried this one.

So what makes this dish lower in fat and yet taste so good.  Firstly I think it must be because of the addition of some vegetables and baked beans. These not only bulk out the mince but give it a lovely flavour. As I used very leans minced beef this was essential.  She also uses herbs and flavourings to bring all the flavours together. I made a slight change in the herbs I used but it still tasted wonderful.  Finally she has replaced some of the potato with parsnip and has used light mayonnaise and low-fat fromage frais to mash them together instead of butter and cream. You would not believe how tasty the topping was. I think I might use this method of making mash in the future!

Well here is the recipe, only 400 calories for a generous portion.

Cottage pie                                     Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 400g extra lean minced beef
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 200g can baked beans in tomato sauce, lightly mashed down
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and black pepper
  • 300 ml beef stock

For the topping

  • 400g old potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 250g parsnips, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp low fat natural fromage frais
  • 1 tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/170C fan/gas 4.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and sauté the beef until browned, breaking it up as you go. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.  In the remaining fat sauté the onion, carrot and celery over a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until softened. Add a little water if it looks as though it is getting too dry.
  3. Return the meat to the pan and mix well. Add the beans, tomato puree, herbs, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and stock.  Mix together really well then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if it looks too dry and is sticking to the pan.
  4. Meanwhile make the topping. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the potatoes and parsnips and simmer until tender. Drain. Mash them with the mayonnaise and fromage frais, season to taste them mash again. If the potato seems too dry add a little skimmed milk.
  5. when the meat is cooked, adjust seasoning if necessary then pour into a shallow oven dish.  Put the potato mix on top and smooth out then sprinkle with the cheese.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling underneath.

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Keema curry – so versatile and great for kids!

18 Jul

For those who do not know it, keema curry is made from minced beef.  This dish is great for kids as it is mild and really tasty.  It is versatile too.  I use it to make stuffing for my Whole Curried Poussin (recipe to follow at a later date) and it goes great with jacket potatoes for a healthy supper.  Make lots as it freezes really well without the peas, as these have been frozen once.  Just add the peas before reheating, fantastic.  Apparently, Keema curry is one of the least favourite choices in Indian cuisine.  I am as guilty as the next person for never trying it in an Indian restaurant but I will definitely make it more often at home in the future.  Always buy good quality mince meat otherwise you will have a greasy meal but, other than that, this recipe is virtually indestructible.  It is great for novice curry cooks as there is no risk of overcooking the meat or the meat being too chewy and, in the current climate, it makes a fantastic meal for pennies!  Any type of mince will do, even quorn or soy mince for vegetarians.

When mince pies where first made in the 16th Century, they contained shredded meat that was bulked out by dried fruit and spices.  The spices were brought over from the Holy Land and it was thought important to add three spices to the pies to represent the gifts taken to Jesus by the Three Wise Men.  There are a few superstitions about mince pies.  Being a Derbyshire lass I always like to know about these so I have listed a few below.

  • It was thought lucky to eat one mince-pie on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas, ending on the 6th January. 
  • Bad luck would also be the curse if you stir the mincemeat the wrong way when making it.  Always stir it in a clockwise dierction.
  • Refusing a piece of mince pie at Christmas dinner means you will have bad luck for the coming day. Some sources, on the other hand, say you’ll have bad luck for a whole year. So eat up.
  • Mince pies should always be eaten in silence.
  • Never cut a mince pie with a knife as you will cut your luck.
  • Make a wish when you eat your first mince pie of Christmas.

Well here is the recipe.

Keema curry                                                  Serves 6

  • 2 lb lean minced meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken or vegetarian options)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 inch piece of root ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 4 cloves, ground
  • 1 brown cardamom, ground
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 200ml canned tomato soup (I use Heinz)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 green or red chilli, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint 
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • Wedges of hard-boiled egg to garnish (optional)
  1. Heat half the butter in a large, lidded saute pan and fry the mince for about 10 minutes until brown all over.
  2. In a separate pan or wok, heat the remaining butter and stir fry the onion, ginger and garlic over a medium heat until golden.  Add the turmeric, ground coriander, chilli powder, cloves and cardamom.  Mix well, adding a little water if the mix seems too dry.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190C/180cC fan/gas 5.  Add the stir fry to the mince with the tomatoes and ketchup.  Mix well, cover and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
  4. Take the dish out of the oven and stir in the soup, red pepper, chilli and garam masala.  Return to the oven and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes. 
  5. Switch off the oven and remove the dish.  Stir in the peas, mint and coriander.  Return the dish to the oven for a few minutes to enable the peas to warm through.
  6. Freeze at the end of Step 5 in rigid containers if required and thaw completely before reheating.
  7. Serve with rice, garnished with wedges of boiled egg if desired.

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Corned beef hash with a kick – a great supper dish!

28 Mar

My first taste of corned beef hash was made by my Aunty Bella.  She would be the first to admit that cooking is not her forte, but it tasted delicious, even though it looked a bit off-putting as all the ingredients were mushed together. I made it like this for years, and even packed it into a pie crust to make hash pie.  I have to say that the pastry did make it look more presentable.  Over the years I suppose I have picked up more cooking techniques.  It is true what they say, practice does make perfect although I am a long way from this Utopia at the moment.  The hash I make today is a far cry from my earlier attempts.  Each element of the dish is defined, the potatoes have a crisp outside but are tender and fluffy in the middle, there is an addition of heat from the chopped chillies and the parsley adds a freshness that lifts the dish into a new dimension.

It was interesting to read why the term ‘corned’ was used for this type of beef.  The term “Corned” comes from putting meat in a large crock and covering it with large rock-salt kernels of salt that were refered to as “corns of salt” This preserved the meat. The term Corned has been in the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 888 AD.   Salting meat goes back probably to ancient times in cold areas when they found that meat didn’t spoil if it made contact with enough salt.  This was a boon for soldiers and was actually the mainstay for British Soldiers in the Boer War and World War 1.

I was under the impression that corned beef came from Argentina and Uruguay.  I suppose that is down to Fray Bentos!  It is true that todays supplies come from these countries but, it appears that the origin of corned beef is Ireland.  In the 17th Century Ireland was, in fact, the first Country to make Corned Beef instigated by restrictions on exporting live cattle under the Cattle Acts of 1663 and 1667.  The Irish did not actually et Corned Beef themselves but exported it, canned, in large quantities to England.  The English called it Bully Beef and was the best source of beef during food rationing during the war.  It was the Irish immigrants to America that made the dish ‘Corned Beef and Cabbage’ popular in the US.  This is still eaten in huge quantities on the 17th March, St Patrick’s Day.

Well, here is the recipe.  I serve mine with a fried egg.  Makes a great brunch the morning after the night before, if you know what I mean!

Corned Beef Hash with a kick                 Serves 4

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1kg / 2 ibs waxy potatoes (eg Charlotte), diced into small pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 x 340g can Corned Beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley leaves
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the potatoes, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until they are starting to turn colour.  Add the onion and continue to cook for 10 more minutes until the onion is soft and the potatoes are golden.
  2. Add the chilli and corned beef carefully stir together, then cook for 6 minutes until the hash is starting to go crispy in places.  Stir in the parsley and season with salt and black pepper.
  3. Serve hot, topped with a fried egg.

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Beef Roganjosh – perfect to come home to after early doors at the pub.

31 Jan

 The recipe I have chosen today is one that I have cooked many times over the years.  We normally have some sort of chicken curry on a Friday but this week I fancied beef.  It is difficult to find a recipe for beef curry, as a number of religions, cattle are considered sacred.  Some regions, especially India, have banned the slaughter of cattle and eating the meat is taboo.

It is possible that the cow was considered sacred because it had a major role in the lives of the Vedic people.  They used the milk to make dairy products and the cow itself to till the ground.  Even the cow’s excrement was put to use, as fuel, fertilizer and for producing  psilocybin mushrooms.  These grow naturally from the cow dung and, in modern-day, are known as magic mushrooms!  There are some scholars who disagree that the cow has always been sacred.  They can cite early Hindu scriptures that show cows and oxen were killed and eaten in ancient times.  Today, there are some Hindus who eat beef.  In fact, the Dalit Hindus, who have always eaten meat, often protest about having their cow eating rights taken away from them.

If anyone who reads this recipe does not eat beef for religious reasons,  lamb can be substituted.  The cooking time may, however, need to be reduced.

Beef Rogan Josh         Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
  • 2lbs braising beef, trimmed of all fat and sinews and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 pint/600 ml hot water


  • 2 brown cardamoms
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 inch piece cinnamon stick

Vegetable Mix

  • 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 150 ml full fat natural yogurt


  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, roasted
  • 1 oz/25 g root ginger
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1.5 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  1. Preheat an oven to 160C/150C fan/gas 3.
  2. Grind the spices in a small grinder.  Melt the ghee in a large pan and fry the beef, bay leaves and spices together for about 15 minutes, over a low heat.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Melt a little more ghee, if necessary, in the pan and fry the onion and cardamom in the vegetable mix together. gently, until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the tomato puree and mix well.
  4. Place all the paste ingredients in a small food processor and blend to a smooth paste.  Mix the paste into the vegetables and cook, stirring continuously, for 5 minutes.  Add the yogurt and cook, stirring, for a further 5 minutes.  Stir in the meat, salt and water.  Transfer to an ovenproof dish with a lid, cover and cook in oven for 2 hours or until the beef is meltingly tender.  Check occasionally to ensure it is not drying out and add a little more water if necessary.

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Paella for a friend.

12 Feb

A friend has asked me to make a Paella dish that does not contain seafood.  I love Paella and often choose it when we are eating out on holiday in Spain.  It can be hit or miss though and, when watching cooking demonstrations in Fuerteventura, I can see why!  It seems adding the ingredients is an exact science.  I am quite nervous that this is going to turn out like a sticky mass.  Still, always up for a challenge!! The first time I had Paella was in 1991, cooked on a wooden fire, on the beach in Nerja.  The cook, Chiringuito Ayo, has been making massive dishes of paella in this way for over 40 years.  Chiringuito is quite famous in Nerja.  When he was a boy, in 1959, he was playing with some friends from his village, Maro, when they climbed through a small hole and discovered the famous Caves of Nerja.  Imagine their surprise when they were confronted with this! The dish originated in the Valentia Region of Spain and is typically made in a large, shallow pan called a paellera.  Making paella is often a man’s activity in Spain.  I suppose this equates to barbecues in the UK, as they make it outdoors on an open fire made of orange and pine wood.  The one thing that appears to come through from my research, is that the recipe is adapted to suit personal taste, with the exception of a few key ingredients.  The Spanish make it look so easy!  I remember this chef doing a cooking demonstration in our hotel once.  The paella was delicious! Well, I’ve dusted off my paella pan that I bought in 1991 and have never used, and here goes.  I have chosen a variety of meats for this recipe.  If you choose to make it, you can add or omit, according to your own taste.  You can also add raw prawns and fresh mussels to make a mixed paella, but leave these until the last 5 minutes of cooking or they will be overcooked.  You will need special rice for this and it must be short grain.  I could not find Paella Rice so I used Carnaroli.  I made mine on the barbecue.  You will need a kettle barbecue and we let the coals burn for 15 minutes before we started cooking (you don’t have to let the coals go grey). The recipe below is for those who do not have a barbecue, just keep the same cooking times if you do! Meat Paella   Serves 4 (hungry people)

  • 12 oz (350g) rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, bone in, cut in half
  • 8 oz (225g) sirloin steak, fat removed, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 8 oz (225g) tenderloin pork, fat removed, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 oz (110g) raw chorizo sausage, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 heaped tsp paprika
  • 1/4 level tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 level tsp saffron strands
  • 8 oz (225g) ripe tomatoes, skinned and roughly diced
  • 20z (50g) frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges to garnish
  1. Prepare everything as per ingredient list before you start making the paella, you will not have time to mess about between each step!
  2. Heat the oil in the pan over a fairly high heat.  Season the chicken and add to pan, saute on all sides until golden brown.  Remove and set aside.  Do the same with the beef and lastly the pork.
  3. Next, add the onion, pepper and chorizo and fry these over a medium heat for 6-8 minutes, or until they are browning at the edges.  Add the garlic, paprika, cayenne and saffron and cook for another minute, making sure the garlic does not burn.  Return the meat to the pan, followed by the tomatoes, plenty of seasoning and 2 pints (1.2 litres) of boiling water.  Bring everything to a gentle simmer, turn down the heat and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Push the meat to the edges of the pan and pour the rice into the centre.  Bring everything back to the boil, give it a stir so all the rice is covered by liquid, and simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to distribute the rice and make sure it is evenly cooked
  5. Add the peas and continue to simmer for 10 minutes until the moisture has been absorbed.  Remove from the heat and cover with a clean tea towel for 5 minutes to absorb the steam.
  6. Serve with lemon wedges.

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