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P1020088

I shouldn’t think there is much Thai about this, but it is low in calories, and apparently tastes delicious. I couldn’t find low-fat coconut milk in Sainsbury’s, so after a little Googling, I’ve decided to mix half a 400ml can of the good stuff with water and freeze the rest for next time.

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 400ml can of coconut milk
  • 200ml water
  • 100g mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, chopped into fine match-sticks
  • 4 tsp green curry paste
  • 2 tbsp thai fish sauce
  • 1/2 orange pepper
  • 100g (about half a large) courgette
  • 3-4 spring onions
  • a handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • a squeeze of lime
  • coriander and basil leaves to garnish

Dry fry the chicken. Add the coconut milk and water.

Then toss in the mushrooms, leek and ginger.

Add the curry paste and fish sauce.

Transfer to the oven for 25 minutes.

Then, add the pepper, courgettes and spring onions. They will cook in the heat of the curry.

Finally add a squeeze of lime, and a sprinkle of coriander and basil leaves.

Serve with white rice.

SERVES 2

P1020083

I made this as a thank-you to my friend Ema. There is something very old-fashioned about this cake. It’s not fancy, but it is very tasty.  And the crunch of the demerara topping really lifts it from being a little boring, to something special.

The recipe for the cake is from Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food, but the topping came from something Felicity Cloake wrote in The Guardian.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 125g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • a splash of vanilla extract
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 4 tbsp poppy seeds

For the drizzle

  • 100g demerara sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon

The cake

Set the oven to 180C (fan 160C).

Cream together the butter and sugar and vanilla extract.

Add the eggs one at a time, whisking continuously.

Sieve in the flour and baking powder, then add the zests and the poppy seeds and gently stir through.

Pour into a lined baking tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. (I was surprised how quickly it cooked).

The drizzle

Mix together the lemon juice and sugar for the drizzly topping.

When the cake is cooked but still warm, pierce it with a skewer to make holes for the drizzle. Pour the drizzle all over, and allow to cool and set.

Top tip: check your teeth after eating!

P1020079

Strangely enough as I don’t eat meat, there are very few vegetarian recipes on here. This is a vegetarian version of the chicken tangle pie I made for Jim and his sister Mary.

Ingredients

  • a splash of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 250g mushrooms
  • a good sprinkling of thyme
  • 100ml white wine
  • a handful chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp low-fat creme fraiche
  • 2 sheets filo pastry

Fry the onions until they start to soften and colour. Add a sprinkling of thyme, and then the white wine. Reduce. Add the parsley, and the creme fraiche. Give it a little stir and pour into a pie dish.

Scrunch the filo pastry over the top of the mushroomy sauce. Paint with a little olive oil.

Bake at 200C until the topping is crisp and golden, and the filling gently bubbling.

P1020078

Another day, another meal from The Hairy Dieters. I have made something similar to this before, and thought I had invented it, but as someone clever* once said, “there is no such thing as a new idea”. So here’s a diet version of an old recipe.

I did have a little play around with the ingredients – I used turkey steaks instead of chicken, because I found them in the freezer. Instead of smoked ham, I have used a glazed ham which I made for New Year and had to portion off and freeze because Jim went on a diet immediately after, and the children decided they didn’t like it. I played around with some of Dave and Si’s instructions just for the hell of it. But, I very seriously tried to keep to their portion controls for the sake of the calorie count, which I am told is 429 calories per portion. I also made a vegetarian version for me, which I will post separately.

The ingredients and portions belong mostly to the Hairy Dieters. The instructions are my own.

Ingredients

For the filling

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 medium leek, trimmed and cut into thin slices
  • 100ml white wine
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 4 turkey steaks, about  375g (The Hairy Dieters use 1 kg cooked whole chicken)
  • 100g sliced smoked ham
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 300g half-fat creme fraiche
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the topping

  • 3 sheets of filo pastry each about 38 x 30 cm
  • 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 tsp sunflower oil

The filling

Dry-fry the leeks, onion and garlic over a low heat until soft. Remove from heat and tip into a bowl.

Dry-fry the chicken and ham. Add the white wine and reduce. Add the stock.

Mix two teaspoons of cornflour with a little cold water. Add to the chicken and ham mixture. Bring to a slow boil. Pour in the cooked vegetables and stir. Cool slightly and add the creme fraiche.  Pour into your pie dish.

The topping

Scrunch the filo sheets over your pie. Brush with a light coat of oil.

Bake at 200C for 30-35 minutes until the pasty is crisp, and the filling bubbling. No need for potatoes or rice – I served with broccoli.

SERVES 5 if you are doing the 1kg chicken thing. I’ve assumed it serves 2-3 my way, so obviously I’ve messed up the calorie count. That’s why Dave and Si say to be careful to weigh out your ingredients properly and not to mess with the recipe.

*It was Mark Twain, Smartypants.

P1020073

I made Florentines as Christmas gifts, and still have a load of ingredients left over. So, this afternoon I have made some more. The recipe is an adaptation of Kirsty Allsopp’s Christmas Florentines recipe. I believe that when you have made these you should be able to see through them, like lace. I have never achieved this. But I have made some rather scrumptuous Florentines. See what you think.

Ingredients

  • 25g  butter
  • 25g  light brown soft sugar
  • 100g sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • 150g mixed dried fruit, for example: glacé cherries, toasted flaked almonds, desiccated coconut, dried mixed fruit, raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricot, blueberries. This time I opted for the following:
  • 40g glacé cherries
  • 40g dried mixed fruit
  • 40g desiccated coconut
  • 30g toasted flaked almonds
  • 85g dark chocolate for decoration

Set the oven to 180C

Melt the butter and sugar in a non-stick pan. When you can no longer feel the sugar with the spoon, add the condensed milk and heat gently until the mixture is just beginning to bubble.

Stir in the flour and mix until smooth. Then add the fruit and nuts.

Spoon onto lined baking sheets (or even better, a teflon sheet). Remember the mixture will spread a little. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just turning golden brown at the edges.

When the biscuits have cooled, melt the chocolate and spread onto the flat side of the Florentine. Traditionally the chocolate should have wavy ridges (made with a fork). Again, something I didn’t achieve.

But nevermind, they are just so lovely. And they remind you of Christmas.

Makes 10, so it might be a good idea to double the recipe.

P1020053

I should have taken a picture of the smile on Jim’s face, rather than the steak. He absolutely loved this, and it is only (and unbelievably) 308 calories per person. I don’t eat meat so I’ve always been a bit afraid of cooking steak, but this got a big thumbs up. Because this is a quick-to-cook meal, the key here is preparation. The recipe comes, of course, from The Hairy Dieters.

Ingredients

  • 1 lean rump steak (about 325kg), 2cm thick and cut into 2
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbsp flaked salt
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 large, ripe vine tomatoes
  • 75g whole chestnut/brown mushrooms, wiped and quartered
  • 1/4 beef stock cube
  • 150ml just boiled water
  • 3 tbsp half-fat creme fraiche
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp white wine (optional, and I left it out)

Trim all the fat from the meat and cut it into two similar sized pieces, each should now weigh about 140g.

Brush a teaspoon of oil onto both sides of your steaks. Coat them generously with the pepper and salt. (Dave and Si tell you to use a pestle and mortar for the peppercorns – I just use our whizzy electronic pepper mill). Set to one side.

Grill the tomatoes for 5-8 minutes until softened.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms on a high heat for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Set the mushrooms to one side.

Using the same pan, on a medium heat, fry the steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side. I cooked Jim’s for 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second side – he likes his steaks medium rare.

Put the steaks on a warm plate, cover with foil, and leave to rest.

Return the mushrooms to the pan, add the stock and mustard, stir continuously. Add the creme fraiche and stir together for 1-2 minutes until the sauce is nice and thick and hot.

Spoon the mushroomy sauce over the steaks and serve with the grilled tomatoes and a salad. I also sneaked in a tiny baked potato.

Serves 2.

P1020051

So, I have two egg whites left over from the Viennese love biscuits, I have family over for afternoon tea next week. Meringue lasts forever in a sealed container – what am I to do?

Only one option – meringue nests. I use Delia Smith’s recipe. It is incredibly prescriptive – for goodness sakes, she even tells you how many minutes to whisk the eggs on low, medium, and high. This brings out my rebellious streak. But I know from experience not to mess with Delia. And why would I? This recipe always comes out perfectly.

For this reason, it is an exercise in frustration. But if you behave, and do as you’re told, the next morning you will have a delicious surprise waiting in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 110g caster sugar

Set the oven to 150C.

Place the egg whites in a large bowl and, using an electric hand whisk on a low-speed, begin whisking.

Continue for about 2 minutes, until the whites are foamy, then switch the speed to medium and carry on whisking for 1 more minute.

Now turn the speed to high and continue whisking until the egg whites reach the stiff-peak stage. Next, whisk the sugar in on fast speed, a little at a time (about a dessertspoon), until you have a stiff and glossy mixture.

Now all you do is spoon 8 heaped dessertspoons of the mixture on to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Then, using the back of a teaspoon, hollow out the centres to create your nest.

Next, put them on the centre shelf of the oven, immediately reduce the heat to 140C and leave them for 30 minutes.

After that, turn the oven off and leave the meringues to dry out in the warmth of the oven until it is completely cold (usually about 4 hours, or overnight).

I’ve served them with strawberries, raspberries and low-fat yogurt. But if you’re sensible, you’ll use cream.

Ooh Delia, I made 12 instead of 8.

P1020042

Not that long ago, Jim used to take me to Paris for Valentine’s Day. Tonight he went on an emergency mission to Sainsbury’s for cigarettes, worm medicine and white wine. The cigarettes were for him, the worm medicine was for the children, and the white wine for me. Which is another way of saying that tonight we are having a romantic meal at home, instead of a beautiful Paris bistro.

So, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And if you have crabs, make crab linguine. There is nothing better.

This is an Angela Hartnett recipe from The Guardian. My only tweaks: to cut down on the chilli a little, and I add some brown crab, for extra flavour, and lemon, for sharpness.

Ingredients

  • 400g dried linguine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • ½ tsp finely chopped fresh red chilli pepper
  • 300g picked fresh white crab meat (I do a 5:2 ratio white:brown)
  • 25ml dry white wine
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • salt and black pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the linguine for 7–8 minutes, or according to packet instructions, until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the garlic, spring onions and chilli pepper and lemon zest. Fry lightly without colouring for 1 minute. Stir in the crab meat and heat through for another minute.

Add the wine and lemon juice to the pan and allow to bubble and reduce completely.

Drain the linguine and add to the crab mixture. Stir in the parsley and toss everything together to coat evenly. Season to taste and serve immediately.

SERVES 4 – so for a romantic meal for two, best to halve the recipe.

UPDATE (04 April 2013): Felicity Cloake has written a piece in today’s Guardian, comparing the key crab linguine recipes. Read about it here.

P1020040

Well, it is Valentine’s day after all. I had great plans to pipe these biscuits, but the mixture was way too stiff. I resorted, in the end, to a heart-shaped biscuit cutter.

Ingredients

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 75g melted chocolate, for decorating

Set the oven to 180C.

Soften the butter, add the vanilla, and sieve in the icing sugar, plain flour and cornflour. Mix and then bind together with the egg yolks.

Lightly dust your surface with cornflour. Roll out your mixture and cut into beautiful heart shapes.

Bake on a lined tray for 10-12 minutes.

When the biscuits have cooled dip into melted chocolate and allow to set.

Makes 10.

P1020034

Jim came home with a punnet of scotch bonnet chillies yesterday, so I need to find something to do with them. After last night’s over-indulgence, it has to be something healthy, so I’m trying out another recipe from The Hairy Dieters cookbook. It is a new recipe to me so there are none of my own twists (or corner-cutting) yet, although I’m tempted to dry-fry the chicken and other ingredients in the first stage of the recipe.

Ingredients

Stage 1

  • 6 long green chillies
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 200ml cold water
  • 2 tbsp low-fat yogurt

Stage 2

  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered

Stage 3

  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp water

Because I’m using a different kind of chilli to those in the recipe, I’m going to have to be a bit adaptable here. But the instructions in the book are as follows:

Stage 1

Finely chop 4 of the chillies. Split the other 2 chillies from stalk to tip without opening or removing seeds –  I think these last two are mostly garnish.

Cut each chicken breast into 7-8 bite-sized chunks.

Heat the tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, chopped chillies, chopped tomatoes, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, sugar and salt. Fry until the vegetables soften but be careful not to burn.

Next add the chicken pieces and whole chillies. Cook for 3 minutes, turning the chicken regularly.

Pour over 200ml of the water, add the yogurt and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 8 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced by a third.

Stage 2

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and stir-fry the onion and pepper on a high heat until lightly browned. Add the quartered tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes more. The vegetables should be just tender.

Stage 3

Mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of water to form a smooth paste.

When the chicken is cooked, stir in the cornflour paste, simmer, stirring continuously.

Remove from heat, add the stir-fried vegetables and toss together lightly. Serve immediately.

SERVES 4 at 279 calories per portion, although I would add rice, which would obviously push up the calories. Thank you Hairy Bikers.

Here's one I made earlier

Here's one I made earlier

Hi, my name's Helen and I live in London with my husband and two children. When I started piping the potato on my shepherd's pies, my husband suggested that it might be a good idea for me to find an outlet for my creativity, so here we are. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the extra twist is that I don't eat meat (I do eat fish though) and Jim, who loves meat, is always on a diet. Here are a few recipes that I have enjoyed making for my family.

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