Chicken and courgettes with spaghetti

25 Sep

DSCI0560I was caught on the hop the other night. We were supposed to be going out and our plans fell through so I had to pull together a meal from what I had in.  The result was amazing.  In the past I have made off the cuff meals from scratch. I suppose it is a bit like the invention test in Masterchef.  We have had some great meals but I would not write down what I did so they were always a one-off, much to my husbands dismay.  This was one of the reasons my grandson, Danny, talked me into doing a blog.  Well, this is my latest attempt at an invention test.  Hope you like it.

Chicken and courgettes with Spaghetti                    Serves 4

  • Spray olive oil or Frylight
  • 3 rashers of lean bacon, all fat removed, sliced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 courgette, halved lengthways and then sliced
  • About 150g/6 oz leftover roast chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (or 1 chicken breast simmered in chicken stock until cooked the cut up as before)
  • 1 large, ripe tomato, roughly chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300g spaghetti
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan then fry the bacon over a high heat for a couple of minutes until changing colour.
  2. Turn down the heat to low – medium and add the onion and garlic. Mix well and sauté for about 10 minutes until the onion is soft but not coloured.
  3. Add the courgettes, mix well and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and cook for 4 minutes then add the tomatoes. Season to taste then mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down, the chicken is cooked through and the courgettes are tender.
  5. In the meantime, cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  6. Add a couple of tbsp of the spaghetti cooking water to the chicken mix to make a little sauce.
  7. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to the chicken. Toss so the spaghetti is coated with the sauce then serve immediately.

 

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Baked cod with chilli and ginger – delicious!

18 Sep

DSCI0082I love fish but wanted something different that would fit in with my Slimming World eating plan.  This was exactly that! I can honestly say that every mouthful was delicious. I served it with steamed broccoli and stir fried vegetables for added texture, although a side of boiled rice or noodles with the broccoli would be just as nice I’m sure.

The recipe calls for Piquant Peppers (Peppadew) from a jar. These are round in shape, similar to Scotch Bonnets, but there the similarity ends.  They are relatively mild although you will detect a slight heat which is enhanced by the sweetness of the chopped stem ginger.

Peppadew is the brand name of sweet piquanté peppers,  grown in the Limpopo province of South Africa. This type of piquante pepper was first discovered in early 1993 and introduced to market later that same decade.The flavour of the Peppadew fruit is sweet, with mild heat of around 1,177 on the Scoville scale.   To put this into context Jalapeños have 2,500–10,000 Scoville  heat units.

Here is the recipe. I found it in a Woman and Home publication but could not find a link to it on their website

Baked cod with chilli and ginger               Serves 2 (easily doubled)

  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 piece stem ginger, chopped plus 1 tbsp ginger syrup from the jar
  • 4 Peppadew peppers from a jar, drained and sliced
  • 2 pieces of of cod fillet
  • 1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce (Kikkoman)
  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Place the fish in an ovenproof dish. Scatter the garlic, chilli and stem ginger over the top.
  3. Mix together the soy sauce and ginger syrup and pour over the fish.
  4. Bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

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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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Seafood spaghetti

5 Jul

It’s been over two years since I last posted on my blog, partly due to illness. As part of my recovery plan I decided to tackle my health head on and get into peak fitness. Eighteen months later and nearly three stone lighter, thanks to Slimming World, I am just about there.

So, today is a new beginning for my blog. I will not be posting as often as before and will only be posting recipes I have made up myself, using the principles of Slimming World. I’ve been dying to try this recipe which has been floating around in my head ever since I first had a seafood pasta dish in a local restaurant. I’ve used all fresh ingredients and the finished dish was delicious, even if I do say so myself. I’m sure some of my Italian friends will be appalled but hope they will forgive me some creative inspiration. The chilli gives a bit of a kick but doesn’t overpower the dish and can be omitted if you like. Likewise, mix and match the seafood to suit your own personal taste. Cooking is about adventure, having fun and taking a few risks. Go for it, I’m sure it will turn out well but if not there is always the chippy.

Seafood spaghetti.         Serves 2 – 3

  • Spray Olive oil or Frylight
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 small tomatoes, roughly chopped and seeds discarded
  • 1 good pinch dried chilli flakes (option all)
  • 50 mls dry white wine
  • small bunch basil, leaves roughly chopped
  • 125g raw king prawns
  • 125g cooked mussels
  • 1 small jar Calamari antipasti, drained and rinsed
  • Dried spaghetti, enough for 2-3 people
  1. Spray a large skillet or nonstick frying pan with oil or Frylight. Heat gently then add the onion and garlic. Fry over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the onion is soft but not coloured.
  2. In the meantime cook the pasta in boiling salted water.
  3. Add the tomatoes and continue to fry for about 5 minutes until softened then add the wine and cook for a couple of minutes more.  Add the prawns and fry for 5 minutes until pink and cooked through. Add the chopped basil, mussels and squid. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix gently and cook over a low heat until everything is warmed through.
  4. Drain the spaghetti, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and add to the seafood. Toss everything together, adding a little of the reserved cooking liquid if it looks too dry.

 

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Baked Sea Bass with a mild curried ratatouille

29 Mar

imageMy inspiration for this recipe was from the menu of one of our favourite restaurants, 15 in Caleta De Fuste in Fuerteventura. There are fifteen main courses on offer, ordered in customer preference. All of the choices are superb but a particular favourite of mine is the sea bass. I tried to recreate the lovely flavours in my own recipe and, whilst there were obvious differences, I was very pleased with my results and will definitely be making this again.

Baked sea bass with a mild curried ratatouille      Serves 2

  • Low calorie spray oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large courgette, quartered lengthways, deseeded and sliced
  • 125g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 50 ml water
  • 100g low fat creme fraiche
  • 1 tsp sweet mango chutney
  • 1 tsp hot curry paste
  • 2 sea bass, descaled, gutted and fins removed
  • juice half a lemon
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/gas 6.
  2. Spray some oil into a nonstick frying pan. Add the onion and cook over a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic for the last minute.
  3. add the chopped courgette and continue frying gently for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season lightly. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add about 50ml of water and mix well. Continue cooking until all vegetables are tender.
  4. In the meantime, wash and dry the sea bass. Place in an oven dish. Score each side with a knife and squeeze over the lemon juice. Season with salt and black pepper and spray with low calorie olive oil. Bake in the oven until cooked through (about 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Mix the creme fraiche, mango chutney and curry paste together, adjusting to suit personal taste. Stir into the ratatouille gradually, a spoonful at a time and mix in until you have a creamy consistency (about 3 tbsp). Adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve the sea bass with the ratatouille on the side and some boiled new potatoes if you like.

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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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