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P1020813

Over the summer we travelled to France by ferry. Sam was very impressed with the pasta box which we bought in the on-board restaurant. Since he so rarely enjoys tomato-based sauces, I did my very best to re-create it once we got back home.

We call it ferry-box pasta because we bought it on the ferry, and it was served in a box.

Obviously the idea behind cutting up the vegetables so small is to cunningly disguise them. I like to keep a few vegetables big enough to pick out so the children have the illusion of control.

Ingredients

  • olive oil for frying
  • 1/4 onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp demerara sugar
  • a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped
  • about 5 small brown mushrooms – finely diced, but keep a couple to one side and cut them into bigger chunks
  • 1/4 courgette, very finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, very finely diced
  • 200ml passata
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • a sprinkle of herbes de Provence
  • a handful of pitted black olives
  • 200g pasta (dry weight)
  • some chopped parsley and basil

Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

Meanwhile, fry the onion over a low heat, until it begins to caramelise. Add the demerara and balsamic vinegar and turn up the heat a little.

Remove the onions from the pan. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until browned.

Now add the mushrooms, courgette and garlic. Cook until they too are nicely browned. Return the onions to the pan.

Add the passata and chicken stock. Reduce. Throw in a handful of olives.

When the pasta has cooked, drain and stir it into the pan with the sauce.

Sprinkle over some chopped parsley and basil.

SERVES 4.

P1020679

This is very much inspired by Nigel Slater’s recipe in the Observer magazine. I’ve made some little tweaks, but do feel free to use the original recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • 3 tbsp five-spice powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 50g cashew nuts
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 200g broccoli
  • 2 spring onions

Cut the chicken into strips and sprinkle the five-spice powder over it. (I didn’t have any five-spice so I substituted it with the following: 1/2 star anise, 1 clove, some fennel seed, a dash of cinnamon, ground ginger, and some dried chilli for extra warmth, all ground together in a pestle and mortar).

Throw the chicken into a non-stick pan with a little olive oil. When the chicken has started to brown, add the garlic and cashew nuts. Take care not to let them burn.

Add the chicken stock and cook through.

Just before you’re ready to eat, add the broccoli and spring onions. Cook with the lid on for a further 3-4 minutes.

SERVES 2.

P1020459

A perfect meal for a wintry June evening… This is a low-calorie, herby chicken dish that could as easily be made in the slow-cooker.

Ingredients

  • 2 rashers of lean, unsmoked bacon, chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into chunks
  • 3-4 shallots
  • a sprinkling of dried rosemary and herbes de provence
  • 1/2 glass of white wine
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 (410g) can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped into chunks
  • a handful of sliced kale

Heat the oven to 200C.

Dry fry the bacon in a non-stick oven-proof dish for about a minute, then remove from the pan. Add the chicken and shallots and allow to brown. Then add your herbs. If you like you could add a splash of white wine here, allow to reduce, then add the chicken stock.

Return the bacon to the dish, along with the cannellini beans and red pepper.

Put in the oven for 25 minutes.

Just before you are ready to eat, add the sliced kale and cook for another five minutes.

If you prefer, you can transfer the cassoulet to a slow-cooker and heat on ‘low’ for 8-10 hours, adding the kale 20 minutes before the end.

SERVES 2.

P1020399

This is a variation of mini chicken roulades. They are fiddly, but a little bit special – and low in calories.

Ingredients

For the roulades

  • 4 boneless, skinless free-range chicken breasts
  • 100g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 small leek, finely chopped
  • 1 small courgette, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • 1-2 tbsp low-fat fromage frais

For the sauce

  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 300ml skimmed milk
  • 2 tbsp cornflour

The roulades

Set the oven to 180C

Place the chicken fillets between two pieces of cling film and bash flat, using a rolling-pin.

Chop the vegetables finely. Cook them in a tiny bit of oil, until just soft. Put half the vegetables to one side to use later in the sauce.

Now turn to the vegetables for the filling:  add enough fromage frais to bind the vegetables together.

Put a teaspoon of the filling on each chicken breast, and roll up, securing with a cocktail stick.

Place the chicken rolls on a piece of tin-foil. Pour over a tablespoon of chicken stock and wrap tightly in the foil (you might want to remove the cocktail stick at this stage).

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes.

The sauce

Cook the remaining vegetables in the stock until it has almost completely reduced. Remove from the heat.

In a large jug, pour a little of the milk into the cornflour and mix well. Add the rest of the milk to the jug.

Pour the milk into the vegetable/stock mixture and slowly build up the heat, stirring continuously. Bring to the boil and simmer for two-three minutes.

SERVES 4 (I usually halve the recipe)

P1020323

This is a lovely, fresh, low-calorie chicken recipe to welcome in the spring.

Ingredients

  • 2 rashers of lean, unsmoked bacon, chopped
  • 4-5 shallots, either left whole, or chopped in half
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size strips
  • 1 baby leek, sliced
  • a splash of white wine (optional)
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 100g frozen petits-pois
  • 1 baby gem lettuce, finely sliced

Heat the oven to 200C.

Dry fry the bacon in a non-stick oven-proof dish for about a minute, then remove from the pan. Add the chicken and shallots and allow to brown. If you like you could add a splash of white wine here, allow to reduce, then add the leeks and the chicken stock. Return the bacon to the dish.

Put in the oven for 25 minutes. Then add in your frozen peas and allow to cook for another four minutes.

Just before you are ready to eat, add the sliced lettuce.

We served with brown basmati rice.

SERVES 2

P1020132

I made this for the first time last night, and it went down very well.  It was quick and easy to make, and a good low-fat dish.

Ingredients

  • 350g turkey steaks
  • 2tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
  • 150g mushrooms
  • 150ml white wine
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 red pepper (capsicum)
  • 10 sugarsnap peas
  • 3 spring onions, cut into 3
  • 150ml low-fat creme fraiche
  • 2tbsp chopped parsley
  • paprika, for dusting

First, slice the turkey into thin strips, put on a plate and dust with cornflour.

In a non-stick pan, fry the turkey (or chicken would do) and onions in a little oil until lightly golden. Add the mushrooms and allow to colour slightly.

Add the white wine, and allow it to reduce. Then pour in the chicken stock and the dijon mustard.

When you are nearly ready to eat, add the red pepper, sugarsnap peas and spring onion.Then pour in the creme fraiche, and give it a good stir. Finally, add the chopped parsley and a dusting of paprika.

This time I served with pasta, but white rice would work just as well.

SERVES 2

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

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.

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.

P1020007

These are a bit more effort than the usual low-fat chicken dishes I do, but all the more special for that. The recipe comes from Rosemary Conley’s 100 Great Low-fat Recipes, albeit with a few little tweaks and simplifications –  I find the way that the recipe is written in the book quite incomprehensible. Here I hope, it is a little more coherent.

My favourite thing about this meal (since I don’t eat meat), is that I get to do some bashing with my rolling-pin.

Ingredients

For the roulades

  • 4 boneless, skinless free-range chicken breasts
  • 1/4 small red pepper
  • 1/4 small green pepper
  • 1/4 carrot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander
  • sprinkle of tarragon
  • 1-2 tbsp low-fat fromage frais

For the sauce

  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 300ml skimmed milk
  • 2 tbsp cornflour

The roulades

Set the oven to 180C

Place the chicken fillets between two pieces of cling film and bash flat, using a rolling-pin.

Chop the vegetables finely. Put half the vegetables to one side to use later in the sauce.

Now turn to the vegetables for the filling: add the herbs, and then enough fromage frais to bind the vegetables together.

Put a teaspoon of the filling on each chicken breast, and roll up, securing with a cocktail stick.

Place the chicken rolls on a piece of tin-foil. Pour over a tablespoon of chicken stock and wrap tightly in the foil (you might want to remove the cocktail stick at this stage).

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes.

The sauce

Cook the remaining vegetables in the stock until it has almost completely reduced. Remove from the heat.

In a large jug, pour a little of the milk into the cornflour and mix well. Add the rest of the milk to the jug.

Pour the milk into the vegetable/stock mixture and slowly build up the heat, stirring continuously. Bring to the boil and simmer for two-three minutes.

Rosemary Conley seems to serve with fancy piped potatoes, but we usually go with rice, and some greens on the side.

SERVES 4 (I usually halve the recipe)

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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